The Noblewoman, Her Husband And Former Intended.

Margareta Eriksdotter Leijonhufvud born on January 1st 1516 at Ekeberg Castle, Närke situated in Svealand in south central Sweden. Her family was one of  Sweden’s most powerful noble families, daughter of Erik Abrahamsson Leijonhufvud, a man executed in the Stockholm bloodbath, and Ebba Eriksdotter Vasa, a relative of the king.

The Stockholm Bloodbath, or the Stockholm massacre (Swedish: Stockholms blodbad)  took place as the result of a successful invasion of Sweden by Danish forces under the command of King Christian II. The bloodbath itself was a series of events taking place between 7–9 November 1520, climaxing on 8 November, when around 80-90 people (mostly nobility and clergy supporting the Sture party) were executed, despite a promise by King Christian for general amnesty.

On 4 November, Christian was anointed by Gustavus Trolle in Storkyrkan Cathedral and took the usual oath to rule the kingdom through native-born Swedes only. A banquet was held for the next three days.

On 7 November, the events of the Stockholm bloodbath began to unfold. On the evening of that day, Christian summoned many Swedish leaders to a private conference at the palace. At dusk on 8 November, Danish soldiers, with lanterns and torches, entered a great hall of the royal palace and took away several noble guests. Later in the evening, many others of the king’s guests were imprisoned. All these people had previously been marked down on Archbishop Trolle’s proscription list.

The Stockholm Bloodbath.

The following day, 9 November, a council, headed by Archbishop Trolle, sentenced the proscribed to death for being heretics; the main point of accusation was their having united in a pact to depose Trolle a few years earlier. However many of them were also leading men of the Sture party and thus potential opponents of the Danish kings. At noon, the anti-unionist bishops of Skara and Strängnäs were led out into the great square and beheaded. Fourteen noblemen, three burgomasters, fourteen town councillors and about twenty common citizens of Stockholm were then hanged or decapitated.

The executions continued throughout the following day (10 November). According to the chief executioner Jörgen Homuth 82 people were executed.It has been claimed that Christian also took revenge on Sten Sture’s body, having it dug up and burnt, as well as the body of his child. Sture’s widow Lady Kristina, and many other noblewomen, were taken as prisoners to Denmark.

Christian justified the massacre in a proclamation to the Swedish people as a measure necessary to avoid a papal interdict, but, when apologising to the Pope for the decapitation of the bishops, he blamed his troops for performing unauthorised acts of vengeance.

Erik Johansson Vasa a victim os the Bloodbath and Father to King Gustav I of Sweden.

If the intention behind the executions had been to frighten the anti-unionist party into submission, it proved wholly counterproductive. Gustav Vasa was a son of Erik Johansson, one of the victims of the executions. Vasa, upon hearing of the massacre, travelled north to the province of Dalarna to seek support for a new revolt. The population, informed of what had happened, rallied to his side. They were ultimately able to defeat Christian’s forces in the Swedish War of Liberation. The massacre became the catalyst that permanently separated Sweden from Denmark.

Gustav Eriksson addressing men from Dalama in Mora, painting by Johan Gustaf Sandberg.

Gustav became king of Sweden in June of 1523, during the Swedish War of Liberation  Gustav was appointed hövitsman. The rebel force he led grew. In February 1520 it consisted of 400 men, mainly from the area around Lake Siljan. The first big clash in the Dissolution of Kalmar Union that now started, took place at Brunnbäck’s Ferry in April, where a rebel army defeated an army loyal to the king. The sacking of the city of Västerås and with it controlling important copper and silver mines gave Gustav Vasa resources and supporters flocked to him. Other parts of Sweden, for example the Götaland provinces of Småland and Västergötland, also saw rebellions. The leading noblemen of Götaland joined Gustav Eriksson’s forces and, in Vadstena in August, they declared Gustav regent of Sweden.

The election of Gustav Eriksson as a regent made many Swedish nobles, who had so far stayed loyal to King Christian, switch sides. Some noblemen, still loyal to the king, chose to leave Sweden, while others were killed. As a result, the Swedish Privy Council lost old members who were replaced by supporters of Gustav Eriksson. Most fortified cities and castles were conquered by Gustav’s rebels, but the strongholds with the best defences, including Stockholm, were still under Danish control. In 1522, after negotiations between Gustav Eriksson’s people and Lübeck, the Hanseatic city joined the war against Denmark. The winter of 1523 saw the joint forces attack the Danish and Norwegian areas of Scania, Halland, Blekinge and Bohuslän. During this winter, Christian II was overthrown and replaced by Frederick I. The new king openly claimed the Swedish throne and had hopes Lübeck would abandon the Swedish rebels. The German city, preferring an independent Sweden to a strong Kalmar Union dominated by Denmark, took advantage of the situation and put pressure on the rebels. The city wanted privileges on future trade as well as guarantees regarding the loans they had granted the rebels. The Privy Council and Gustav Eriksson knew the support from Lübeck was absolutely crucial. As a response, the council decided to appoint Gustav Eriksson king.

The entry of Gustav Vasa into Stockholm in 1523 after being elected as King of Sweden.

He first married Catherine of Saxe-Laurenburg on September 24th 1531 she was the daughter of Magnus, Duke of Saxe-Laurenberg and his wife Catherine of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, the short marriage was allegedly stormy and remained so after the birth of their son and only child, the future King Eric XIV of Sweden, in 1533. Catherine never learned to speak Swedish, and as her husband’s German was less than perfect, they had difficulty in communicating and did not spend much time together. It has been claimed that Queen Catherine was not popular, was intrigant, melancholy and full of whims, and that she also complained about her husband to Count John of Hoya who was married to her sister-in-law Margaret.

During a visit by her brother-in-law Christian III, the recently crowned King of Denmark (and her sister’s husband as noted above), she allegedly accused Gustav of planning to murder him. At a castle ball, she and Christian fell while dancing, which caused her to have a miscarriage. She died soon after Christian’s departure, on 23 September 1535, two weeks after her fall, and was eventually buried in Uppsala Cathedral after Gustav died in 1560.

Gustav was now in need of another wife and that of course is where Margareta comes in to his story.

Margareta Leijonhufvud.jpg
Margareta Leijonhufvud

Margareta was engaged to Svante Stensson Sture, his father had been killed in the Bloodbath of 1520 his mother was Kristina Nilsdotter Gyllenstierna she was the great granddaughter of King Charles VIII of Sweden who had ruled Sweden from 1448-1457, 1464-1465 and 1467-1470.

Svante Stensson Sture the younger

The king however upon meeting Margareta became infatuated and decided that he would marry her, but her family broke the engagement and married her former fiance was to her sister, Martha Leijonhufvud, instead. A story describes how her sister’s marriage came about. According to tradition, the King caught his new Queen and her former fiancé together alone, with the young man, Svante Sture, on his knees before the Queen. The King reportedly asked in a rage: “What is this?!” upon which Queen Margaret swiftly answered: “My Lord Sture is asking me for the hand of my sister!” At this, the king just as swiftly answered: “Granted!” And so, Svante Sture hastily married the Queen’s sister Martha Leijonhufvud. It does not seem that Queen Margaret and Svante Sture ever again did anything that could be seen as improper. If they did, they were not discovered.

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King Gustav I of Sweden.

Margareta was married to the forty year old king on October 1st 1536 Uppsala, and was crowned Queen there the next day. During the first years of their marriage, Margaret’s mother Ebba played a dominating role in the royal court, and it was said that even the King did not dare to oppose his mother-in-law; her influence, however, was not political. The other members of Margaret’s family were also given prominent positions and frequently seen at official royal ceremonies: several of her male relatives were knighted and appointed members of the royal council, and the following decade became known as belonging to that of the Kungafränderna (The King’s Relatives), meaning the relatives he acquired through the marriage with Margaret.

Margaret was described as intelligent and beautiful, and the marriage was considered a happy one. The King was not known to be unfaithful to her. Queen Margaret is credited with meaningful influence over the monarch. Her influence was of the kind accepted for a queen consort — that of speaking to the King on the behalf of others. She was very active in this regard and often successful, something Gustavus himself admitted, when he reduced a sentence at her request. However, she is not said to have used her influence to promote any personal agenda of any kind, and did not pressure him more than was traditionally suitable for a queen consort. Her behavior contrasted with that of Queen Gunilla Bielke, who was said to meddle in politics. Margaret was not thus not considered politically active.

Margaret allegedly had the ability to keep the monarchs temperament under control, and was a calming influence on him. She managed to get punishments he meted out reduced, and advised him to show mercy and leniency, all of which made her popular.Because of this activity, which is evident by her remaining correspondence, she received a large number of petitions from supplicants who used her as a go-between between them and the King.She made donations to the still active Vadstena Abbey, following the example of her family: her mother was also the benefactor of Vreta Abbey.She remained a Catholic her entire life, and it has been said that it was painful for her to make clothes and curtains of the textiles that the king had confiscated from Catholic convents. Among the objects of her charity were the remaining catholic convents, and she was known to be a benefactor of the Vadstena Abbey.

Queen Margaret devoted her life to domestic duties and family life. This did not apply only to her own children, but also to her birth family, to whom she was loyally devoted her entire life and kept a close connection to. Margaret often used the services of a cunning woman, the peasant-wife Brigitta Andersdotter, whom she often hired to see to the health of herself, her sister Märtha and their children, and who was much appreciated for her skill. Margaret was also a landlord in her own right, and she was closely involved in the management of her personal estates and its dependents.

The monarch trusted Queen Margaret. He gave her tasks, such as supervising the governors of royal estates and power holders such as bailiffs or landholders to prevent power abuse that could breed political unrest. In 1543, he asked her to send spies to Södermanland to investigate whether there was any truth in rumored plans for rebellion there.In the early 1540s, he instructed the governors of the royal castles to keep them for her in her name until his son became of age, if he should die while his heir was still a child. In his succession order of 1544, he stated that if he should die when he successor was still a child, Margaret should rule as regent in a guardian government with representatives of the nobility.

Margareta was almost constantly pregnant, which devastated her health. In August 1551, she and her children made an excursion by boat on Mälaren between Gripsholm and Västerås, and on their return, she took ill with pneumonia. According to the chronicle of Aegidius Girs, Margaret thanked her consort on her death bed for making her queen, regretted that she had not been worthy of it, and asked her children not to quarrel. When she died, she was deeply mourned by the king. Tradition say that an eclipse took place upon her death. She died at Tynnelsö Castle.

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Tynnelso Castle.
Margareta as shown on her grave monument.

Margareta was survived by eight of her ten children her eldest son would go on to succeed his elder half brother and rule as King Johann III of Sweden from 1588-1592, through her eldest daughter Katarina she is the descendant of current Royal House of Windsor in Britain as well as the Bourbons of Spain, her youngest son Carl would rule Sweden from 1604-1611.

Gustav remarried after Margareta’s death to Katarina Gustavsdotter Stenbock the Niece of Margareta like her aunt and predecessor Catherine was engaged when the King decided to marry her, to the noble Gustav Johansson Tre Rosor (His last name meaning Three Roses), and after the marriage to the King, he once heard her say in her sleep: “King Gustav is very dear to me, but I shall never forget The Rose”. When the King came to her parents manor Torpa to propose to her personally, as the law demanded that she give her personal consent, it is said that she ran away and hid behind a bush in the garden. Whether truthful or not, the King had his way.

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Catherine Stenbock, she was thirty nine years younger than King Gustav.

There was, however, opposition among the church against a marriage between the King and the niece of his former spouse, and the arch bishop protested quoting the Books of Moses prohibiting the marriage between a man and the widow of his uncle, which was interpreted as the ban against marriage to the relations of a dead spouse. The King had a commission headed by Georg Norman prove that the Old Testament applied only to Jews and that, in any case, it allowed for a man to marry the sister of his dead wife and thereby a marriage to the niece of his wife must be permitted. The King also had his royal council confirm to the church that the King married upon their request out of the need for a Queen rather than for an infatuation and that he had the right to marry whom he choose, after which the church agreed to the marriage.

The marriage was conducted in the chapel of the Vadstena Abbey 22 August 1552, followed by the coronation of Catherine as Queen the following day. She was dressed in a golden dress during the wedding, and a silver one during her coronation, escorted, as was Queen Margaret during official ceremonies, by her male relatives. The wedding was surrounded what was seen as bad omens: the plague swept through parts of the nation, the city of Turku burned down, and people claimed to see bad omens and evil signs in the sky. The celebrations lasted for three days. When the court departed, the city of Vadstena burned down in a great fire, which was seen as another bad omen.

Gustav in his old age.

Gustav himself in September 1560 at Tre Kronor, Stockholm, Sweden and was buried beside Margareta at Uppsala Cathedral as for Sture he survived both Margareta and the King he died in Uppsala on 24 May 1567 in what is known as the Sture murders, which was where the murders of five incarcerated Swedish nobles by Erik XIV of Sweden, who at that time was in a state of serious mental disorder, and his guards. The nobles, among them three members of the influential Sture family, had been charged with conspiracy against the king and some were previously sentenced to death. Erik’s old tutor, who did not belong to this group, was also killed when he tried to calm the king after the initial murders.


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