Imágenes de páginas

and money to the princes to rise against Valdemar, who was surprised with his queen and his son while they were resting in a wood, and barely escaped from the pursuit of his brothers. After staying a short time in Norway, where he had taken refuge, he ventured to come back to Sweden, but he was soon taken and shut up by Duke Magnus, who forced him to renounce the crown of Sweden and content himself with the province of East Gothland. Valdemar soon afterwards went over to Denmark, but on his return to Sweden in 1288, he was seized by order of his brother, and kept under mild restraint in the castle of Nyköping until his death, which took place in 1302. His only son, Prince Erik, was then released from the prison in which he had long been kept, and spent the rest of his life in the service of the Swedish kings without making any attempt to gain the crown for himself.

Magnus, 1279-1290.-- In the meanwhile, Magnus, who had been crowned King of the Svea and Gauta, in 1279, proved himself an able ruler. For some years, he had a hard task in putting down all the revolts which were stirred up by his own wealthy and unruly kinsmen of the Folkungar family, but by his firmness he succeeded in crushing their power, and then he set to work to complete the task which his father Birger had begun in making the laws more just towards the poor. He owed his name “ Ladu-laas," Barn-lock, to a law which he caused to be passed in favour of the peasants, and which ordered that travellers of noble birth should pay like other persons for the straw and corn that they used on their journeying from place to place. “No Roman emperor could wish himself a nobler name than Ladu-laas," says the writer of the Old Swedish Chronicle, “and very few could have laid claim to it, for the name of Ladu-Brott,' Barn-breaker, would suit most rulers much better."

The reign of Magnus Ladulaas marks a great crisis in the history of Sweden, for he first settled by law the kind of service to the crown which made men rank as Frälse, free, instead of being classed as Ofrälse, not free. The difference between the two classes was merely in regard to freedom from taxes, and had nothing to do with freedom of person or property, which might exist as fully amongst the Ofrälse as amongst the Frälse, free. But Magnus, who was very anxious to augment the power of the crown, granted freedom from taxation to all who would serve with horses and men against the enemies of the king, and thus established a kind of nobility by service, known by the name of russ-tjenst, and this in the course of time came in Sweden to be an order of knights or cavaliernobles, who were expected to be foremost in the field when the king was at war, and nearest his person as office-bearers at his court in times of peace."

King Magnus kept a brilliant court, and encouraged the nobles in following all the practices of knighthood which were common in the Southern Countries of Europe. He was also one of the best supporters that the church and clergy had ever had among the Swedish kings, and in the course of his reign he caused five monasteries to be founded, and gave large sums to many of the churches in his kingdom. At his death in 1290, his body, by his own desire, was placed in the Franciscan monastery, which he had founded in Stockholm, "in the hope,” as he said in his will, “ that his memory might not pass away with the sound of his funeral bells.”



Birger, 1290-1319.-Magnus left three sons, Birger, Erik and Valdemar, whose unhappy quarrels brought misery and death upon themselves and many of their nearest kindred and friends. Birger was crowned king when only nine years of age, and as long as his father's friend, the Marschal Torkel Knutsson, governed for him, all went well in Sweden. The Finns were again brought under subjection to the Swedish crown, after having fallen away from the Christian religion ; a new and complete code of laws was laid before the people at the Great Thing of 1295, and approved of by them; and many things were done during this period for the good of the country.

This service with men and horses was known as russ-tjenst, horse service, from the old northern word rus or ros, a horse, and tjenst, service.

But as soon as Birger began to reign by himself all went wrong. After long quarrels with his brothers, he made friends with them, and at length in 1306, yielded to their wishes that he should allow them to have the faithful Torkel Knutsson tried for treason, and put to death. As soon as Erik and Valdemar had thus freed themselves from the restraint of the Marschal's influence in the state, they seized upon the person of the king and kept him shut up till he had signed a treaty by which they were left to govern their provinces as if they were free sovereigns. Some years now passed in seeming peace, but the dukes joined with the kings of Norway and Denmark against their brother, and they and their friends laid waste his kingdom in every part, until the unhappy peasants were scarcely able to keep corn enough to feed themselves, and whole districts were stripped of everything that could serve for food for men or cattle.

Then it was that King Birger, by the advice, it is said, of his Danish queen, Marta, daughter of Erik Glipping of Denmark, made up his mind to revenge himself upon his brothers. In the autumn of the year 1317, when Edward II. had been ten years King of England, the King and Queen of Sweden were keeping their court at the castle of Nyköping, and having learnt that Duke Valdemar was on his way from Oeland to Stockholm, they invited him and his brother Duke Erik, to spend the Yule-tide with them. The two princes came, and were welcomed with every appearance of friendship by the king, who expressed his regret that the smallness of the castle would not allow of their servants being housed with them. But as soon as the men had left to take up their quarters in the town, the bridges were raised and the gates locked, and when the king learnt that his brothers were asleep, he gave orders to have them chained, andt hrown into the lowest dungeon of the castle. Two of the knights to whom Birger had committed this charge showed unwillingness to obey him; but when they were put into irons on the spot, no one else attempted to evade his orders. The king looked on while his brothers were being chained to rings fastened for the purpose to the wall of the dungeon, and then, wild with excitement, he


rushed up to the queen, and cried out : “Now all will be right ! At last I have Sweden in my own hands!”

Slow Death of Princes.- For four months the prisoners were left in their wretched prison, while King Birger and Queen Marta lived in the same building, and refused in any way to lessen the misery of their captives. At length the friends and followers of the prisoners clamoured so loudly for their release, and threatened the life of the king so fiercely, that Birger found it would not be possible for him to remain longer at Nyköping. He and the queen then quitted the castle, after they had seen the prison tower made fast

, and the keys thrown into the water, leaving the princes to die of hunger. The sad fate of the brothers became a favourite subject for the popular tales and songs in which the northern nations in that age took such great delight, and in the Swedish Rhyming Chronicle it is related that Duke Erik, who had been sharply wounded when put into the dungeon, lived only three days after the door of his prison was locked for the last time, while Valdemar lingered a full week longer than his brother.

The news of Birger's treatment of the princes raised all Sweden against him. Stockholm closed its gates when he drew near, and the people of Nyköping refused to let him enter the castle, and threatened to take his life unless he produced his brothers. Then the captain of the fort had the dead bodies of the princes wrapped in robes of golden tissue, and laid on biers outside the castle-gates, that the people night see that those for whom they had taken up arms were no longer living. At the sight of their wounded starved bodies the rage and grief of the besiegers knew no bounds; and, rushing forward, they attacked the castle of Nyköping, and razed it to the ground.

Birger for a time had help from Denmark, where his son Magnus had been kept in safety by his brother-in-law, King Erik Menved; but at length he gave up the attempt to struggle against his people, and fled in 1319 with his queen and daughter to the Danish Court.

In the following year young Magnus was taken by his father's foes, and in spite of the pledges of safety given him if he would lay down his arms and disband his Danish soldiers, he was publicly beheaded at Stockholm. The death of this son, a brave and promising youth, caused much sorrow to King Birger, who died in the following year, bowed down by grief, and was buried at Ringsted Abbey, which contains the graves of many of the early Danish kings.



Magnus Smek, 1319.-In Sweden in the meanwhile the people were gathering loyally round the gallant knight, Mats Ketilmundsson, who on Midsummer's Day, 1319, had appeared before the assembly of the Thing at Upsala, and holding up in his arms Duke Erik's little son Magnus, a child scarcely three years of age, had begged the people to receive him as their king. This they pledged themselves they would do, and the next year a number of the highest members of the Thing went into Norway to demand the homage of that kingdom for their little prince, who through his mother, Ingeborg, daughter of Hakon V., was the nearest heir to the Norwegian crown, which his grandfather, the late King Hakon, had caused to be settled upon the children of his daughter.

The people of Norway were well pleased to receive Magnus as their king, and a Council of State was chosen there as well as in Sweden to govern until the young king grew to be a man. This was a happy time for both kingdoms, and there was great rejoicing in Sweden when, in the year 1332, representatives came from the provinces of Skaania, Halland, and Bleking, which had been pawned by Erik Menved and the weak Christopher II. of Denmark to the Swedish Council of State,-and offering to take oaths of allegiance to King Magnus on behalf of themselves and their countrymen, prayed to be joined with the Swedish kingdom. But when Magnus began to rule for himself after the death of his truef riend and adviser, Mats Ketilmundsson, in 1336, there was an end of the prosperity of the kingdom and everything seemed to go wrong, for he and his queen, Blanka of Namur, showed such a taste for

« AnteriorContinuar »