Hail the conquering hero
On June 6, 1523, Gustav Eriksson Vasa entered Stockholm after having freed Sweden from the yoke of Danish oppression. At last the sacrifices made by those who’d fought the Danes and lost it all – like his aunt, Kristina Gyllenstierna – were vindicated. Where some years earlier the main square of Stockholm had run red and sticky with the blood of the + 80 men executed by Danish king Christain II (or, as we call him, Christian the Tyrant) now it ran with celebratory wine and ale as the people acclaimed Gustav as their new king.
Not that they knew it then, but Gustav would be the last Swedish king to be elected by his people. Some years later, he’d implement a herditary kingdom which effectively guaranteed that his sons would inherit after his death. But on this sunny June day, Gustav Eriksson mostly celebrated that he was alive, that he had vanquished the Danes and thereby exacted some retribution for the death of his father and other close kin. He was young, he was strong and the world was his oyster.
To this day, we celebrate Gustav Vasa’s entry into a liberated Stockholm – which is why the 6th of June is a red-letter day in Sweden, the Day of the Swedish Flag. Nice and nationalistic, one could say, even if for most Swedes it’s yet another opportunity to eat herring and new potatoes (that’s how we celebrate the big things in life during the summer months).
I’ve written several posts about this period in Swedish history:
My lady of Stockholm – a fighter in skirts is about Gustav’s aunt and her determined and stubborn resistance against the far more powerful Danes. Did not end well, one could say…
The jilted suitor is about Gustav’s son, Erik XIV, and his pursuit of Elizabeth I of England. She was wise enough to refuse him, seeing as he went quite, quite mad.
From sinful princess to pirate – the colourful life of Gustav’s daughter, Cecilia, who was not only caught in flagrante with a young man while still unwed and then went on to harry English merchant ships in the Baltic Sea.
The female touch – of a renaissance king and his wives is about Gustav and his three wives. I must hand it to him: he might have had an awful haircut, but he always treated his women with respect.