Stockholm Bloodbath

Bloodbath and Coronation of a King

Stockholm Bloodbath is the executions Kristian II of Oldenburg ordered to take place on the town square in Stockholm on seventh to ninth of November 1520 after his coronation to become the king of Sweden. The event was part of an intricate power struggle. Kristian had inherited the former Union of kings quest to free itself from the Hanseatic League’s tireless trade imperialism. In this endeavor, he supported himself on the artisans and other citizens in Denmark and the local trade interests around their kingdoms who found the German competition prevailed. To the enemies he received, in addition to their own undemocratic magnates, also other groups that were dependent on good trade relations with the Germans, for example, the commodity-exporting groups in Sweden. 

Also the Swedish peasantry, which was affected by trade war import barriers and the tax burden that this led to, could easily be persuaded to join the king's enemies.

In order to assert itself against the Hanseatic League Kristian had to make himself the true Lord also of Sweden, which under the rule of the Sture party had made itself independent. In September 1520, he finally defeated the Sture party, and on September 5th, he issued a general amnesty.


A Feast of Flesh

After he conquered Stockholm, he invited all the Swedish nobility to the city so that they could attend his coronation feast. On the 7th of November, the day after the feast Kristian summoned all his coronation guests up to the Royal Palace, where they were gathered in the great hall at noon. It was the chief nobles and their wives and higher clergy and finer Freeman. 

The Gates to the Castle Were Then Shut

King Kristian II then came into the hall and took his throne. Archbishop Gustav Trolle walked up and handed a "letter of complaint" in which he demanded the most severe punishment on those who wronged him and his friends. The letter named several people who belonged to the Sture party, including Sten Sture himself (who by now had been dead for 9 months) and also his widow, mother in law and "mayor, council and city of Stockholm". When this was read out loud the blood faded from the guests' faces and it went a shiver through the hall.

The one who first broke the silence was Sten Sture's widow, Christina Gyllenstierna, who came forward and said that Gustav Trolle's accusations were vague. Anyone in particular could not be held responsible. For what happened to Trolle, had been enforced by a parliamentary resolution of all the imperial council and Estates. As proof, she presented a parliamentary decision made 1517. She thought this would save the accused. A sinister smile passed over the Danish archbishop Didrik Slagheck’s face, and the king grasped greedily after the document, which contained the names to all those who participated in the decision to overthrow Trolle. The king began to interrogate the "guilty".

On the morning of the eighth of November a court would convict the accused. The judge was a Danish bishop, and Trolle was there too. The Court declared the accused for obvious heretic, "conspirators against the holy Church." They had "defied the Holy Father in Rome," because they dared to judge a bishop, which only the pope had the right to do. King Kristian decided the punishment was death - he who promised that the past would be forgiven and forgotten. But Kristian had found a way to break his own promise. If he went after the "ecclesiastical administration of justice" and accused them of heresy, he could go after a papal ruling decided in the year 1235 that said: "even the most sacred promises and commitments were invalid if the person who received them clearly fell into heresy."


Where the Stockholm Bloodbath Took Place

King Kristian II

King Kristian II

Execution and Grave Digging

Over 80 people were executed - and the first victims were the bishops Matthias of Strangnas and Vincentius of Skara, and then followed counselors and other magnates, including Stockholm's three mayor's patricians and even Erik Johansson who was the father of King Gustav Vasa. It is said (according to Olaus Petri) that the bodies remained in the town square from Thursday to Saturday - before they lit a huge bonfire on and burned them, as they were considered suitable for heretics. Even the corpse of Sten Sture was dug up from its grave and thrown on the bonfire.

Perhaps somewhat exaggerated, it is said that "the blood ran from the main square down the side streets," it is clear in any case that Kristian received after this incident nicknamed Kristian the Tyrant.