Eric XIV of Sweden

Eric XIV (Swedish: Erik XIV; 13 December 1533 – 26 February 1577) was King of Sweden from 1560 until he was deposed in 1568. Eric XIV was the eldest son of Gustav I (1496–1560) and Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg (1513–35). He was also ruler of Estonia, after its conquest by Sweden in 1561.

While he has been regarded as intelligent and artistically skilled, as well as politically ambitious, early in his reign he showed signs of mental instability, a condition that eventually led to insanity. Some scholars claim that his illness began early during his reign, while others believe that it first manifested with the Sture Murders.

Eric, having been deposed and imprisoned, was most likely murdered. An examination of his remains in 1958 confirmed that he probably died of arsenic poisoning.[1]

Eric XIV
Erik XIV (1533-1577) (Domenicus Verwilt) - Nationalmuseum - 18413
Eric XIV by Domenicus Verwilt.
King of Sweden
Reign29 September 1560 –
29 September 1568
Coronation29 June 1561
PredecessorGustav I
SuccessorJohn III
Born13 December 1533
Stockholm Castle, Stockholm
Died26 February 1577 (aged 43)
Örbyhus Castle, Örbyhus
SpouseKarin Månsdotter
Virginia Eriksdotter
Constantia, "Queen of Tividen"
Princess Sigrid
Prince Gustav
FatherGustav Vasa
MotherCatherine of Saxe-Lauenburg
Eric XIV of Sweden outdoor relief 2013 Stockholm Palace
Image of King Eric on a wall of Stockholm Palace.

Early years

Erik XIV, 1533-1577, king of Sweden (Steven van der Meulen) - Nationalmuseum - 38906
Portrait sent to Queen Elizabeth I of England, to further the negotiations regarding the marriage. By Steven van der Meulen 1561.

Eric XIV was born at Tre Kronor castle, at 9 o'clock on the morning of 13 December 1533. Before the age of two, he lost his mother. In 1536, his father, Gustav Vasa, married Margaret Leijonhufvud (1516–51), a Swedish noblewoman.

Eric's first teacher was the learned German Georg Norman, whose services were shortly thereafter needed elsewhere within the Swedish state. He was replaced by French Calvinist Dionysius Beurraeus (1500–67). Dionysius taught both Eric and his brother John, and seems to have been appreciated by both. Eric was very successful in foreign languages and mathematics. He was also an informed historian, a good writer and familiar with astrology.

When Eric started to appear in public, he was referred to as the "chosen king" (Swedish: utvald konung) and after the meeting of parliament in Stockholm in 1560, he received the title of "hereditary king" (Swedish: arvkonung).[2]

In 1557, Eric was assigned the fiefdoms of Kalmar, Kronoberg and Öland. He took up residence in the city of Kalmar.

Against his father's wishes, Eric entered into marriage negotiations with the future Queen Elizabeth I of England and pursued her for several years. Tensions between Eric and his father grew. Eric also made unsuccessful marriage proposals to, among others, Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–87), Renata of Lorraine (1544–1602), Anna of Saxony (1544–77) and Christine of Hesse (1543–1604).


Eric XIV of Sweden grave 2013
Eric's grave in Västerås Cathedral.

He was crowned as Eric XIV, but was not necessarily the 14th king of Sweden named Eric. He and his brother Charles IX (1604–11) adopted regnal numbers according to Johannes Magnus's partly fictitious history of Sweden. There had, however, been at least six earlier Swedish kings with the name of Eric, as well as pretenders about whom very little is known.[3]

In domestic politics, Eric's ambitions were strongly opposed by the Swedish nobility, including his half-brother, later John III of Sweden (1537–92). John was the Duke of Finland and was married to a Polish princess, which made him friendly with Poland. John pursued an expansionist policy in Livonia (now Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) which led to contention between the brothers. In 1563, John was seized and tried for high treason by Eric's order.

Unlike his father, who had been satisfied with ruling an independent state, Eric tried to expand his influence in the Baltic region and in Estonia, beginning the process that resulted in Sweden becoming a great power in the 17th century. This expansionism resulted in a clash with his cousin, Frederick II of Denmark (1534–88). Most of Eric XIV's reign was then dominated by the Livonian War and the Scandinavian Seven Years' War against Denmark (1563–70), during which he successfully repelled most Danish attempts at conquest, but was unable to keep his own acquisitions.

From 1563 onwards, his insanity became pronounced; his rule became even more arbitrary and marked by violence. In 1567, suspicious of high treason, he killed several members of the Sture family (Sture Murders), Eric himself stabbing Nils Svantesson Sture. The King probably thought of the killing as an execution rather than murder.[4]

After the Sture homicides, John was imprisoned and Eric's conflict with the nobility came to its climax. In the fall of 1568, the dukes and the nobles rebelled, and Eric was dethroned. He was then imprisoned by Duke John, who took power. Eric's most trusted counsellor, Jöran Persson (1530–68), took much of the blame for the actions directed against the nobility during Eric XIV's reign and was executed shortly after John III ascended to the throne.

Eric XIV was held as a prisoner in many different castles in both Sweden and Finland. He died in prison in Örbyhus Castle: according to a tradition starting with Johannes Messenius, his final meal was a poisoned bowl of pea soup. A document signed by his brother, John III of Sweden, and a nobleman, Bengt Bengtsson Gylta (1514–74), gave Eric's guards in his last prison authorization to poison him if anyone tried to release him. His body was later exhumed and modern forensic analysis revealed evidence of lethal arsenic poisoning.


Johan Kristiernsson (Vasa)
Erik Johansson (Vasa)
Birgitta Gustavsdotter (Sture)
Gustav I of Sweden (Vasa)
Måns Karlsson (Eka)
Cecilia Månsdotter (Eka)
Sigrid Eskilsdotter (Banér)
Eric XIV of Sweden
John V of Saxe-Lauenburg
Magnus I, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg
Dorothea of Brandenburg
Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg
Henry IV, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Catherine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Catherine of Pomerania-Wolgast

Family and descendants

Catherine of Sweden (1568) by Eric XIV of Sweden c 1575
Karin Månsdotter as drawn by her husband
Erik XIV, King of Sweden (Georg von Rosen) - Nationalmuseum - 18157
Karin Månsdotter, Eric XIV and Jöran Persson, in Georg von Rosen's painting of 1871.

Eric XIV had several relationships before his marriage. With Agda Persdotter he had four daughters:

  1. Virginia Eriksdotter (1559–1633; living descendants)
  2. Constantia Eriksdotter (1560–1649; living descendants)
  3. Lucretia Eriksdotter (1564–after 1574) died young.

With Karin Jacobsdotter:

  1. An unnamed child, died April 1565.

Eric XIV finally married Karin Månsdotter (1550–1612) on 4 July 1568; their children were:

  1. Sigrid (1566–1633; born before the marriage), lady-in-waiting, wife of two noblemen.
  2. Gustaf (1568–1607; born before the marriage), mercenary
  3. Henrik (1570–74)
  4. Arnold (1572–73)

Eric XIV in literature

The life of Eric XIV is the subject of an 1899 play by Swedish playwright August Strindberg (1849–1912). The love story of Eric XIV and Karin Månsdotter is the subject of a 1942 historical novel Karin Månsdotter by Mika Waltari.

See also


  1. ^ Lars Ericson in Johan III, ISBN 91-85057-47-9, p. 109
  2. ^ Eric XIV biography, XS4All, archived from the original on 27 October 2009
  3. ^ Almgren, H. Löwgren, A och Bergström, B. (2007) Alla Tiders Historia Gleerups Utbildning AB page 117
  4. ^ Dahlström, G och Swahn, J-Ö (red). (1984) Bra Böckers Lexikon Bra Böcker AB. Book nr 7-page 76

External links

Eric XIV
Born: 13 December 1533 Died: 26 February 1577
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gustav I
King of Sweden
Succeeded by
John III
1577 in Sweden

Events from the year 1577 in Sweden

1649 in Sweden

Events from the year 1649 in Sweden

Agda Persdotter

Agda Persdotter (died after 1565) also known as Agda i Porten ('Agda of the Gate'), was the official royal mistress of the future King Eric XIV of Sweden during his time as a Crown Prince in 1558-61, and possibly informally in 1563-65.

Anna Hogenskild

Anna Klemetsdotter Hogenskild (1513-1590), also known as fru Anna till Åkerö ('lady Anna of Åkerö') and fru Anna till Hedensö ('lady Anna of Hedensö'), was a Swedish court official and landowner. She served as hovmästarinna to queen Catherine Stenbock of Sweden, and then to the daughter and sisters of Eric XIV of Sweden.

Anna Pehrsönernas moder

Anna Pehrsönernas moder (died 18/21 September 1568, Stockholm), was the mother of the Swedish politician Jöran Persson, the powerful adviser of king Eric XIV of Sweden. She was rumored to be a witch, and considered to have wielded a significant and disliked influence over her son and the affairs of state. Only her first name is known, and she has been referred to by the name Anna Pehrsönernas moder (Anna, Mother of the sons of Per).


Brahe (originally Bragde) is the name of a Scanian noble family that was influential in both Danish and Swedish history but has its family roots in Sweden. The first member of the family is speculated to have been Verner Braghde from Halland. Better documented is Peder Axelsen Brahe who appears in late 14th century records. He fathered two sons, Thorkild and Axel Pedersen Brahe. What later became the Danish branch descended from Axel and what later became the Swedish, descended from Thorkild's daughter, Johanna Torkildsdotter Brahe.Per Brahe was in 1561 granted dignity as a count by Eric XIV of Sweden and in 1620 was the family introduced on the Swedish House of Knights (Riddarhuset) as the first counts.

Constantia Eriksdotter

Constantia Eriksdotter (1560–1649) was the illegitimate daughter of Eric XIV of Sweden and Agda Persdotter. She married the nobleman Henrik Frankelin (d. 1610) in 1594. She was called "The Queen of Tiveden".

Crown of Eric XIV

The Crown of King Eric XIV of Sweden was made in Stockholm in 1561 by Flemish goldsmith Cornelius ver Weiden, for the coronation of king Eric XIV. It is held in the Treasury under the Stockholm Palace along with the rest of the Swedish Royal Regalia.

The crown is the official crown of the King of Sweden, and is still used in ceremonies.

Helmet and spurs of Saint Olaf

The helmet and spurs of Saint Olaf are the oldest preserved war trophies taken by Sweden. They were taken as loot in 1564 during the Northern Seven Years' War from Trondheim by Claude Collart, an army commander in service of Eric XIV of Sweden.

Ingvar Andersson

Carl Ingvar Andersson (19 March 1899 – 14 October 1974) was a Swedish historian and director of the National Archives of Sweden.

Andersson was an associate professor at Lund University from 1928 to 1938 and director of the National Archives from 1950 to 1965. Most of his historical research was focused on the 16th century. Among his works is a biography of Eric XIV of Sweden. In 1950 Andersson became a member of the Swedish Academy.

Monarchy of Finland

The nation of Finland has never been an independent sovereign monarchy: no attempt to establish a fully-fledged Finnish monarchy has been successful. When it finally became established as a modern independent nation-state, it was – despite a very brief flirtation with monarchy – in the form of a republic.

The only royal person buried in Finland is the wife of King Eric XIV of Sweden, Queen Karin Månsdotter.

Northern Seven Years' War

The Northern Seven Years' War (also known as the Nordic Seven Years' War, the First Northern War or the Seven Years War in Scandinavia) was fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and a coalition of Denmark–Norway, Lübeck and Poland between 1563 and 1570. The war was motivated by the dissatisfaction of King Frederick II of Denmark with the dissolution of the Kalmar Union, and the will of King Eric XIV of Sweden to break Denmark's dominating position. The fighting continued until both armies had been exhausted, and many men died. The resulting Treaty of Stettin was a stalemate, with neither party gaining any new territory.

Queen Catherine

Queen Catherine may refer to:

Catherine of Ymseborg (died 1252), wife of Eric "XI" of Sweden

Catherine of Lancaster (1372–1418), wife of Henry III of Castile

Catherine of Valois (1401–1437), wife of Henry V of England

Catherine of Bjurum (died 1450), wife of Carl II of Sweden and Norway

Catherine of St Sava (1425–1478), wife of Stephen Thomas of Bosnia

Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536), first wife of Henry VIII of England

Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg (1513–1535), first wife of Gustav I of Sweden

Catherine of Austria, Queen of Portugal (1507–1578), wife of John III of Portugal

Catherine Parr (1512–1548), sixth and last wife of Henry VIII of England

Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589), wife of Henry II of France

Catherine Howard (c.1523–1542), fifth wife of Henry VIII of England

Catherine Stenbock (1535–1621), third wife of Gustav I of Sweden

Catherine of Austria, Queen of Poland (1533–1572), third wife of Sigismund II Augustus of Poland

Catherine Jagiellon (1526–1583), wife of John III of Sweden

Catherine ("Karin") (1550-1612), wife of Eric XIV of Sweden

Ketevan the Martyr (1565–1624), wife of David I of Kakheti and Saint of the Georgian Orthodox Church

Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705), wife of Charles II of England

Catharine Montour (1710–1804), prominent Iroquois woman

Catherine of Navarre (1468–1517), Queen Regnant of Navarre

Roman Catholic Diocese of Reval

The Bishopric of Reval was created in Duchy of Estonia by Valdemar II of Denmark in 1240. Contradictory to canon law Valdemar II reserved the right to appoint the bishops of Reval to himself and his successor kings of Denmark. The decision to simply nominate the see of Reval was unique in the whole Catholic Church at the time and was disputed by bishops and the Pope. During the era, the election of bishops was never established in Reval and the royal rights to the bishopric and to nominate the bishops was even included in the treaty when the territories of the Duchy of Estonia were sold to Teutonic Order in 1346.Until 1374 the see was suffragan to the Archbishop of Lund after which it was transferred to the Archbishopric of Riga.The Bishopric of Reval came to an end during the Protestant Reformation in the Livonian Confederation. The last titular bishop of the see was Magnus, Duke of Holstein younger brother of Frederick II of Denmark who had bought Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek on the eve of the Livonian War. Magnus landed on Ösel (Saaremaa) in 1560 and soon after the bishop of Reval also resigned his bishopric to Magnus' hands. Magnus' attempt to gain control of the Toompea Castle in Reval was prevented by Gotthard Kettler, the master of Livonian Order. In 1561 Eric XIV of Sweden took control over Reval and after the Livonian war it became the capital city of Swedish Estonia.

Sigrid of Sweden (1566–1633)

Sigrid Eriksdotter of Sweden (15 October 1566 – 1633) was a Swedish princess, the legitimized daughter of King Eric XIV of Sweden and of his lover, later spouse and queen, Karin Månsdotter.

Swedish coronation robes

Several Swedish coronation robes from the 16th to the 19th century are preserved at The Royal Armoury in Stockholm, Sweden. The youngest one, Oscar II's robe coronation robe from 1873 is in the Treasury at Stockholm Palace.

The oldest coronation robes are in a deep purple colour, which differes from the more bright red colour that were in fashion from the 18th century and onward. The purple colour was charged with symbolism and reserved for the elite.The princely mantles, unlike the monarch's, were not purple but blue. This type of mantle has been used by Swedish princes and princesses since at least the 18th century.

Västerås Cathedral

Västerås Cathedral (Swedish: Västerås domkyrka) is the seat of the Diocese of Västerås in the Province of Västmanland, Sweden. It is built in the Scandinavian Brick Gothic style.

The Cathedral houses the sarcophagus of King Eric XIV of Sweden which is visible to the public.


Örbyhus is a locality situated in Tierp Municipality, Uppsala County, Sweden with 1,984 inhabitants in 2010.Örbyhus Castle, located a few kilometers from the village, is where king Eric XIV of Sweden was imprisoned until his death from arsenic poisoning on 26 February 1577.

Örbyhus Castle

Örbyhus Castle (Swedish: Örbyhus slott) is a castle in Tierp Municipality, Sweden. It lies some 12 kilometres east of European route E4, approximately halfway between Uppsala and Gävle.

Known since the 14th century, the estate was turned into a castle during the 15th century by Johan Kristensson Vasa, grandfather of Swedish king Gustav Vasa. The castle has been used as a prison, and its most well-known prisoner was king Eric XIV of Sweden, who died here in 1577.

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