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Title: Historical Tales, Vol. 9 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality. Scandinavian.
Author: Morris, Charles, 1833-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historical Tales, Vol. 9 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality. Scandinavian." ***

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                             Édition d'Élite

                            Historical Tales
                         The Romance of Reality

                              CHARLES MORRIS

_Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the
                            Dramatists," etc._

                            IN FIFTEEN  VOLUMES

                                 Volume IX


                         J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                          PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON

               Copyright, 1908, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

[Illustration: From Stereograph Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N.Y.


HOW KING ROLF WON HIS BRIDE                               9



GORM THE OLD, DENMARK'S FIRST KING                       42




EARL HAAKON AND THE JOMSVIKINGS                          78


OLAF DETHRONES ODIN AND DIES A HERO                      98





THE FRIENDS AND FOES OF A BOY PRINCE                    160

KING VALDEMAR I. AND BISHOP ABSOLON                     169









THE BLOOD-BATH OF STOCKHOLM                             241

THE ADVENTURES OF GUSTAVUS VASA                         252

THE FALL OF CHRISTIAN II. THE TYRANT                    271

THE WEST GOTHLAND INSURRECTION                          283

THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF KING ERIK                           296






THE DISMEMBERMENT OF DENMARK                            358


                     LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



    ANCIENT TOWNS OF SWEDEN.                   _Frontispiece._

HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT, NORWAY                                35

HOME OF PEASANTS, NORWAY                                   50


    PARENTS. BRIGSDAL, NORWAY                              95

NORWEGIAN PEASANTS                                        115

NORWEGIAN FARM BUILDINGS                                  135

LINKOPING FROM TANNEFORS                                  165

VILLAGE LIFE AND HOMES IN SWEDEN                          190


GRIPSHOLM CASTLE, MARI                                    220

SKURUSUND, STOCKHOLM                                      230

SKANSEN RIVER                                             242




STATUE OF GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS                               312

THE RETURN OF CHARLES XII. OF SWEDEN                      340


THE BOURSE, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK                           360


At one time very many centuries ago, we cannot say just when, for this
was in the days of the early legends, there reigned over Upsala in Sweden
a king named Erik. He had no son and only one daughter, but this girl was
worth a dozen sons and daughters of some kings. Torborg she was named,
and there were few women so wise and beautiful and few men so strong and
valiant. She cared nothing for women's work, but was the equal of any man
of the court in riding, fighting with sword and shield, and other
athletic sports. This troubled King Erik very much, for he thought that
the princess should sit in her maiden chamber like other kings'
daughters; but she told him that when she came to succeed him on the
throne she would need to know how to defend her kingdom, and now was the
time for her to learn.

That she might become the better fitted to rule, she asked him to give
her some province to govern, and this he did, making her queen of a third
of his kingdom, and giving her an army of stout and bold warriors. Her
court was held at Ulleraker in Upland, and here she would not let any one
treat her as a woman, dressing always in men's clothing and bidding her
men to call her King Torborg. To fail in this would be at risk of their
heads. As her fame spread abroad, there were many who came to court her,
for she was at once very beautiful and the heiress of a great kingdom.
But she treated all such with laughter and contempt. It is even said that
she put out the eyes of some, and cut off the hands and feet of others,
but this we do not like to believe. At any rate, she drove away those who
troubled her too much with lance and spear. So it was plain that only a
strong and bold man could win this warlike maiden for his wife.

At that time King Götrik who ruled in Gothland, a country in southern
Sweden, had sent his younger son Rolf to be brought up at the court of
his foster-brother King Ring of Denmark. His elder son Kettil he kept at
home, but did not love him much on account of his pride and obstinacy. So
it happened that when Götrik was very old and like to die, he decided
that Rolf, who was very tall and strong, and very fit and able, should
succeed him, though he was the younger son. All agreed to this, even
Kettil, so Rolf was sent for and made king of Gothland, which he ruled
with skill and valor.

One day Rolf and Kettil, who loved each other as brothers should, were
talking together, and Kettil said that one thing was wanting to the glory
and honor of Rolf's rule, and that was a queen of noble birth and goodly

"And whom have you in mind?" asked Rolf.

"There is Torborg, the king of Upsala's daughter. If you can win her for
wife it will be the greatest marriage in the north."

To this advice Rolf would not listen. He had heard of how the shrewish
Torborg treated her suitors, and felt that wooing her would be like
taking a wild wolf by the ears. So he stayed unmarried for several years
more, though Kettil often spoke of the matter, and one day said to him

"Many a man has a large body with little courage, and I fear you are such
a one; for though you stand as a man, you do not dare to speak to a

"I will show you that I am a man," said Rolf, very angry at these words.

He sent to Denmark for his foster-brother Ingiald, son of King Ring, and
when he came the two set out with sixty armed men for the court of King
Erik in Upsala.

One morning, about this time, Queen Ingerd of Upsala awoke and told King
Erik of a strange dream she had dreamed. She had seen in her sleep a
troop of wolves running from Gothland towards Sweden, a great lion and a
little bear leading them; but these, instead of being fierce and shaggy,
were smooth-haired and gentle.

"What do you think it means?" asked the king.

"I think that the lion is the ghost of a king, and that the white bear is
some king's son, the wolves being their followers. I fancy it means that
Rolf of Gothland and Ingiald of Denmark are coming hither, bent on a
mission of peace, since they appear so tame. Do you think that King Rolf
is coming to woo our daughter, Torborg?"

"Nonsense, woman; the king of so small a realm would show great assurance
to seek for wife so great a princess as our daughter."

So when Rolf and his followers came to Upsala King Erik showed his
displeasure, inviting him to his table but giving him no seat of honor at
the feast. Rolf sat silent and angry at this treatment, but when Erik
asked him why he had come, he told him courteously enough the reason of
his visit.

"I know how fond you Goths are of a joke," said Erik, with a laugh. "You
have a way of saying one thing when you mean another. But I can guess
what brings you. Gothland is little and its revenues are small and you
have many people to keep and feed. Food is now scarce in Gothland, and
you have come here that you may not suffer from hunger. It was a good
thought for you to come to Upsala for help, and you are welcome to go
about my kingdom with your men for a month; then you can return home
plump and well fed."

This jesting speech made Rolf very angry, though he said little in reply.
But when the king told Queen Ingerd that evening what he had said she was
much displeased.

"King Rolf may have a small kingdom," she said, "but he has gained fame
by his courage and ability, and is as powerful as many kings with a wider
rule. You did not well to mock him."

The next day Erik, thus admonished, begged Rolf's pardon, saying that the
ale had made him speak foolishly, and thus he became reconciled with his
guest. As for Rolf's desire to win his daughter, he would first have to
gain Torborg's consent, which would be no easy matter. The king promised
not to interfere but would do no more.

Soon after this Rolf and his men arrived at Ulleraker, reaching there
when the whole of Torborg's court were assembled in the great hall.
Fearing a hostile reception, Rolf took wary precautions. He choose twelve
of his stoutest men, with himself and Ingiald at their head, to enter the
court with drawn swords in their hands. If they were attacked, they were
to go out backward fighting, but they were bidden to conduct themselves
like men and let nothing alarm them. The others remained outside, keeping
the horses in readiness to mount.

When the party entered the hall, Rolf at their head, all there were
struck with his great size and noble aspect. No one assailed them and he
walked up the hall, on whose high seat at the front he saw what seemed a
tall and finely formed man, dressed in royal robes. Knowing that this
must be the haughty princess whose hand he had come to seek, he took off
his helmet, bowed low before her, and began to tell what brought him to
her court.

He had scarcely begun when she stopped him. She said that he must be
joking; that she knew his real errand was to get food and that this she
would give him; but he must apply for it to the chief of the kitchen,
not to her.

Rolf had not come so far to be laughed out of the court, and he sturdily
went on with what he had to say, speaking to her as a woman, and
demanding her hand in marriage. At this she changed her jesting manner,
her cheeks grew red with anger, and springing up, she seized her weapons
and called upon her men to lay hold upon and bind the fool that had dared
affront their monarch. Shouting and confusion followed and a sharp attack
was made on the intruders, but Rolf put on his helmet and bade his men to
retire, which they did in good order. He walked backward through the
whole hall, shield on arm and sword in hand, parrying and dealing blows,
so that when he left the room, though no blade had touched him, a dozen
of the courtiers lay bleeding. But being greatly overmatched, he ordered
his men to mount, and they rode away unscathed.

Back to West Gothland they went and told Kettil how poorly they had

"You have suffered a sore insult and affront at a woman's hand," said
Kettil, "and my advice is that it be speedily avenged," but Rolf replied
that he was not yet ready to act.

Torborg had not taken the trouble to ask the name of her wooer, but when
she learned who it was she knew very well that the matter had not reached
its end and that her would-be lover would return stronger than before. As
she did not want him or any man for husband she made great preparations
for an attack, gathering a large body of warriors and having a wall of
great strength and the finest workmanship built round the town. It was so
high and thick that no battering ram could shake it, while water-cisterns
were built into it to put out the fire if any one sought to burn it. From
this we may judge that the wall was of wood. This done, Torborg made
merry with her court, thinking that no lover in the wide world would now
venture to annoy her.

She did not know the kind of man she had to deal with in King Rolf. He
had fought with men and fancied he was fit to conquer a woman. The next
summer he had a battle with Asmund, son of the king of Scotland, and when
it was over they became friends and foster-brothers and went on viking
cruises together. Next spring Rolf armed and manned six ships and, taking
Kettil and Ingiald and Asmund with him, set sail for Upsala. He proposed
now to woo the warrior princess in another fashion.

Queen Ingerd about this time dreamed again, her dream being the same as
before, except that this time there were two white bears, and a hog which
was small but spiteful, its bristles pointing forward and its mouth
snarling as if ready to bite anything that came before it. And the bears
did not look as gentle as before, but seemed irritated.

She interpreted this dream to mean that Rolf was coming again to avenge
the affront he had received, and that the fierce hog must stand for
Kettil, of whose character she had been told.

When Rolf now arrived King Erik received him with honor, and again agreed
to remain his friend, no matter how stormy a courtship he might have.
From Upsala he set out for Ulleraker and sent a herald to Princess
Torborg, asking speech with her. She presented herself at the top of the
wall, surrounded by armed men. King Rolf renewed his suit, and told her
plainly that if she did not accept his proposal he had come to burn the
town and slay every man within its walls.

"You shall first serve as a goatherd in West Gothland before you get any
power over me and mine," answered Torborg haughtily.

Rolf lost no time in assailing the walls, but found them stoutly
defended. The Swedes within poured boiling water and hot pitch on their
assailants, threw down stones and beams, and hurled spears and arrows
from the wall. For fourteen days the siege continued without effect,
until the Goths, weary of their hard fighting and the mockery of the
defenders, began to complain and wanted to return home. The townspeople
derided them by showing costly goods from the ramparts and bidding them
come and take them, and ridiculed them in many other ways.

King Rolf now saw that he must take other measures. He had a cover
constructed of boards and brushwood and supported by stout beams, making
a strong roof which was set against the wall and defied all the boiling
water and missiles of the Swedes. Under its shelter a hole was dug
through the wall and soon the Goths were in the queen's citadel.

To their surprise they found it empty. Not a soul was to be seen, but in
every room they found well-cooked food and many articles of value.

"This is a fine capture," said Kettil. "Let us enjoy ourselves and divide
the spoil."

"Not so," said Rolf. "It is a lure to draw us off. I will not rest till I
have the princess in my power."

They sought the palace through and through, but no one was there. Finally
a secret passage was discovered, leading underground, and the king
entered it, the others following. They emerged in a forest where they
found Torborg and all her men and where a sharp battle began. No warrior
could have fought more bravely than the man-like princess, and her men
stood up for her boldly, but they gradually gave way before the onset of
Rolf and his tried warriors.

Rolf now bade Kettil to take Torborg prisoner, but not to wound her,
saying that it would be shameful to use arms against a woman. Kettil
sprang forward and gave the princess a sharp blow with the flat of his
sword, reviling her at the same time with rude words. In return, Torborg
gave him so hard a blow on the ear with her battle-axe that he fell
prostrate, with his heels in the air.

"That is the way we treat our dogs when they bark too loud," she said.

Kettil sprang up, burning with anger, but at the same moment Rolf rushed
forward and grasped the warlike princess in his powerful arms, so that
she was forced to surrender.

He told her that she was his prisoner, but that he did not wish to win a
wife in the viking manner and that he would leave it to her father to
judge what should be done. Taken captive in his arms, there was nothing
else for her to do, and she went with him to Upsala, where King Erik was
delighted at Rolf's success. As for the warlike princess, she laid down
her arms at her father's feet, put on a woman's garments, and seemed glad
enough to have been won as a bride in so warlike a manner and by so
heroic a wooer.

Soon after this the marriage took place, the festivities being the
grandest the court could afford and lasting for fourteen days, after
which Rolf and his followers returned home, his new queen with him. The
sagas say, as we can well believe after so strenuous a wooing, that
afterwards King Rolf and Queen Torborg lived a long and happy life.


The old sagas, or hero tales of the north, are full of stories of
enchantment and strange marvels. We have told one of these tales in the
record of King Rolf and Princess Torborg. We have now to tell that of
Ragnar Lodbrok, a hero king of the early days, whose story is full of
magical incidents. That this king reigned and was a famous man in his
days there is no reason to doubt, but around his career gathered many
fables, as was apt to be the case with the legends of great men in those
days. To show what these tales were like we take from the sagas the
marvellous record of Ragnar and his wives.

In East Gothland in the ancient days there lived a mighty jarl, or earl,
named Herröd, who was descended from the gods. He had a daughter named
Tora, who was famed for her beauty and virtue, but proved as hard to win
for a wife as Princess Torborg had been. She dwelt in a high room which
had a wall built around it like a castle, and was called Castle Deer,
because she surpassed all other women in beauty as much as the deer
surpasses all other animals.

Her father, who was very fond of her, gave her as a toy a small and
wonderfully beautiful snake which he had received in a charmed egg in
Bjarmaland. It proved to be an unwelcome gift. The snake was at first
coiled in a little box, but soon grew until the box would not hold it,
and in time was so big that the room would not hold it. So huge did it
become in the end that it lay coiled in a ring around the outer walls,
being so long that its head and tail touched.

It got to be so vicious that no one dared come near it except the maiden
and the man who fed it, and his task was no light one, for it devoured an
ox at a single meal. The jarl was sorry enough now that he had given his
daughter such a present. It was one not easy to get rid of, dread of the
snake having spread far and wide, and though he offered his daughter with
a great dower to the man who should kill it, no one for a long time
ventured to strive for the reward. The venom which it spat out was enough
to destroy any warrior.

At length a suitor for the hand of the lovely princess was found in
Ragnar, the young son of Sigurd Ring, then one of the greatest monarchs
of the age, with all Sweden and Norway under his sway, as the sagas tell.
Ragnar, though still a boy, had gained fame as a dauntless warrior, and
was a fit man to dare the venture with the great snake, though for a long
time he seemed to pay no heed to the princess.

But meanwhile he had made for himself a strange coat. It was wrought out
of a hairy hide, which he boiled in pitch, drew through sand, and then
dried and hardened in the sun. The next summer he sailed to East
Gothland, hid his ships in a small bay, and at dawn of the next day
proceeded toward the maiden's bower, spear in hand and wearing his
strange coat.

There lay the dreaded serpent, coiled in a ring round the wall. Ragnar,
nothing daunted, struck it boldly with his spear, and before it could
move in defence struck it a second blow, pressing the spear until it
pierced through the monster's body. So fiercely did the snake struggle
that the spear broke in two, and it would have destroyed Ragnar with the
venom it poured out if he had not worn his invulnerable coat.

The noise of the struggle and the fierceness of the snake's convulsions,
which shook the whole tower, roused Tora and her maids, and she looked
from her window to see what it meant. She saw there a tall man, but could
not distinguish his features in the grey dawn. The serpent was now in its
death throes, though this she did not know, and she called out:

"Who are you, and what do you want?"

Ragnar answered in this verse:

               "For the maid fair and wise
               I would venture my life.
               The scale-fish got its death wound
               From a youth of fifteen!"

Then he went away, taking the broken handle of the spear with him. Tora
listened in surprise, for she learned from the verse that a boy of
fifteen had slain the great monster, and she marvelled at his great size
for his years, wondering if he were man or wizard. When day came she told
her father of the strange event, and the jarl drew out the broken spear
from the snake, finding it to be so heavy that few men could have lifted

Who had killed the serpent and earned the reward? The jarl sent a mandate
throughout his kingdom, calling all men together, and when they came he
told them the story of the snake's death, and bade him who possessed the
handle of the spear to present it, as he would keep his word with any
one, high or low.

Ragnar and his men stood on the edge of the throng as the broken head of
the spear was passed round, no one being able to present the handle
fitting it. At length it came to Ragnar, and he drew forth the handle
from his cloak, showing that the broken ends fitted exactly. A great
feast for the victor was now given by Jarl Herröd, and when Ragnar saw
the loveliness of Tora, he was glad to ask her for his queen, while she
was equally glad to have such a hero for her spouse. A splendid bridal
followed and the victor took his beautiful bride home.

This exploit gave Ragnar great fame and he received the surname of
Lodbrok, on account of the strange coat he had worn. Ragnar and Tora
lived happily together but not to old age, for after some years she took
sick and died, leaving two sons, Erik and Agnar, who grew up to be strong
and beautiful youths. Ragnar had loved her greatly and after her death
said he would marry no other woman. Nor could he comfort himself at home
but began to wander abroad on warlike voyages, that he might drive away
his sorrow.

Leaving Ragnar Lodbrok to his travels, let us take up the strange story
of another fair maiden, who was to have much to do with his future life.
She was named Aslög and was the daughter of King Sigurd Fafnisbane, of
Germany. Soon after she was born enemies of her father killed him and her
mother and all of his race they could find. Her life was saved by Heimer,
foster-father to her mother, who to get her away from the murderers had a
large harp made with a hollow frame, in which he hid the child and all
the treasure he could find.

Then he wandered far as a travelling harper, letting the child out when
they came to solitary woods, and when she wept and moaned silencing her
by striking the strings of the harp. After long journeying he came to a
cottage in Norway called Spangerhed, where lived a beggar and his wife.
Seeing a gold bracelet under Heimer's rags, and some rich embroidery
sticking from the harp, the beggar and his wife killed him during the
night and broke open the harp. They found in it the wealth they sought,
but the discovery of the pretty little girl troubled them.

"What shall we do with this child?" he asked.

"We will bring her up as our own, and name her Kraka, after my mother,"
said his wife.

"But no one will believe that ugly old people like us can have so fair a

"Let me manage it," said the wife. "I will put tar on her head so that
her hair will not be too long, and keep her in ragged clothes and at the
hardest work."

This they did and little Aslög grew up as a beggar's child. And as she
kept strangely silent, never speaking, all people thought her dumb.

One day, when Aslög was well grown, Ragnar Lorbrok came that way,
cruising along the Norway coast. The crew was out of bread and men were
sent ashore to bake some at a house they saw in the distance. This house
was Spangerhed, where Kraka dwelt.

She had seen the ships come up and the men land, and was ashamed to be
seen by strangers as she was, so she washed herself and combed her hair,
though she had been bidden never to do so. So long and thick had her hair
grown that it reached to the ground and covered her completely.

When the cooks came to bake their bread they were so surprised at the
beauty of the maiden that they let the loaves burn while looking at her,
and on being blamed for this carelessness on their return to the ship
said they could not help it, for they had been bewitched by the face of
the loveliest maiden they had ever gazed upon.

"She cannot be as lovely as Tora was," said Ragnar.

"There was never a lovelier woman," they declared, and Ragnar was so
struck by their story that he sent messengers ashore to learn if they
were telling the truth. If it were so, he said, if Kraka were as
beautiful as Tora, they were bidden to bring her to him neither dressed
nor undressed, neither fasting nor satisfied, neither alone nor in
company. The messengers found the maiden as fair as the cooks had said
and repeated the king's demand.

"Your king must be out of his mind, to send such a message," said the
beggar's wife; but Kraka told them that she would come as their king
wished, but not until the next morning.

The next day she came to the shore where the ship lay. She was completely
covered with her splendid hair, worn like a net around her. She had eaten
an onion before coming, and had with her the old beggar's sheep dog; so
that she had fulfilled Ragnar's three demands.

Her wit highly pleased Ragnar and he asked her to come on board, but she
would not do so until she had been promised peace and safety. When she
was taken to the cabin Ragnar looked at her in delight. He thought that
she surpassed Tora in beauty, and offered a prayer to Odin, asking for
the love of the maiden. Then he took the gold-embroidered dress which
Tora had worn and offered it to Kraka, saying in verse, in the fashion of
those times:

               "Will you have Tora's robe? It suits you well. Her
               white hands have played upon it. Lovely and kind was
               she to me until death."

Kraka answered, also in verse:

               "I dare not take the gold-embroidered robe which
               adorned Tora the fair. It suits not me. Kraka am I
               called in coal-black baize. I have ever herded goats on
               the stones by the sea-shore."

"And now I will go home," she added. "If the king's mind does not change
he can send for me when he will."

Then she went back to the beggar's cottage and Ragnar sailed in his ship

Of course every one knows without telling what came from such an
invitation. It was not long before Ragnar was back with his ship and he
found Kraka quite ready to go with him. And when they reached his home a
splendid entertainment was given, during which the marriage between
Ragnar and Kraka took place, everything being rich and brilliant and all
the great lords of the kingdom being present. It will be seen that,
though the Princess Aslög pretended to be dumb during her years of
youthful life in the beggar's cottage, she found her voice and her wits
with full effect when the time came to use them.

She was now the queen of a great kingdom, and lived for many years
happily with her husband Ragnar. And among her children were two sons who
were very different from other men. The oldest was called Iwar. He grew
up to be tall and strong, though there were no bones in his body, but
only gristle, so that he could not stand, but had to be carried
everywhere on a litter. Yet he was very wise and prudent. The second
gained the name of Ironside, and was so tough of skin that he wore no
armor in war, but fought with his bare body without being wounded. To the
people this seemed the work of magic. There were two others who were like
other men.

Since the older brothers, the sons of Tora, had long been notable as
warriors, the younger brothers, when they grew up, became eager to win
fame and fortune also, and they went abroad on warlike expeditions,
fighting many battles, winning many victories, and gaining much riches.

But Iwar, the boneless one, was not satisfied with this common fighting,
but wanted to perform some great exploit, that would give them a
reputation everywhere for courage. There was the town of Hvitaby (now
Whitby, in Yorkshire, England), which many great warriors had attacked,
their father among them, but all had been driven back by the power of
magic or necromancy. If they could take this stronghold it would give
them infinite honor, said Iwar, and to this his brothers agreed.

To Hvitaby they sailed, and leaving their younger brother Ragnwald in
charge of the ships, because they thought him too young to take part in
so hard a battle, they marched against the town. The place was ably
defended, not only by men but by two magical heifers, their charm being
that no man could stand before them or even listen to their lowing. When
these beasts were loosed and ran out towards the troops, the men were so
scared by the terrible sound of their voices that Ironside had all he
could do to keep them from a panic flight, and many of them fell
prostrate. But Iwar, who could not stand, but was carried into battle
upon shields, took his bow and sent his arrows with such skill and
strength that both the magic heifers were slain.

Then courage came back to the troops and the townsmen were filled with
terror. And in the midst of the fighting Ragnwald came up with the men
left to guard the ships. He was determined to win some of the glory of
the exploit and attacked the townsmen with fury, rushing into their ranks
until he was cut down. But in the end the townsmen were defeated and the
valiant brothers returned with great honor and spoil, after destroying
the castle. Thus it was that the sons of Kraka gained reputation as
valiant warriors.

But meanwhile Kraka herself was like to lose her queenly station, for
Ragnar visited King Osten of Upsala who had a beautiful daughter named
Ingeborg. On seeing her, his men began to say that it would be more
fitting for their king to have this lovely princess for his wife, instead
of a beggar's daughter like Kraka. Ragnar heard this evil counsel, and
was so affected by it that he became betrothed to Ingeborg. When he went
home he bade his men to say nothing about this betrothal, yet in some way
Kraka came to know of it. That night she asked Ragnar for news and he
said he had none to tell.

"If you do not care to tell me news," said Kraka, "I will tell you some.
It is not well done for a king to affiance himself to one woman when he
already has another for his wife. And, since your men chose to speak of
me as a beggar's daughter, let me tell you that I am no such thing, but a
king's daughter and of much higher birth than your new love Ingeborg."

"What fable is this you tell me?" said Ragnar. "Who, then, were your

"My father was King Sigurd Fafnisbane and my mother was the Amazon
Brynhilda, daughter of King Budle."

"Do you ask me to believe that the daughter of these great people was
named Kraka and brought up in a peasant's hut?"

The queen now told him that her real name was Aslög and related all the
events of her early life. And as a sign that she spoke the truth, she
said that her next child, soon to be born, would be a son and would have
a snake in his eye.

It came out as she said, the boy, when born, having the strange sign of
which she had spoken, so that he was given a name that meant Sigurd
Snake-in-Eye. So rejoiced was Ragnar at this that he ceased to think of
Ingeborg and all his old love for Kraka, or Aslög as she was now called,
came back.

The remainder of the lives of Ragnar and Aslög and of their warlike sons
is full of valiant deeds and magic arts, far too long to be told here,
but which gave them a high place in the legendary lore of the north, in
which Ragnar Lodbrok is one of the chief heroes. At length Ragnar was
taken prisoner by King Ethelred of England and thrown into a pit full of
serpents, where he died. Afterwards Iwar and his brothers invaded
England, conquered that country, and avenged their father by putting
Ethelred to death by torture. Iwar took England for his kingdom and the
realms of the north were divided among his brothers, and many more were
the wars they had, until death ended the career of these heroes of
northern legend.


To the far-off island of Iceland we must go for the story of the early
days of Norway. In that frosty isle, not torn by war or rent by tumult,
the people, sitting before their winter fires, had much time to think and
write, and it is to Iceland we owe the story of the gods of the north and
of the Scandinavian kings of heathen times. One of these writers, Snorri
Sturlasson by name, has left us a famous book, "The Sagas of the Kings of
Norway," in which he tells of a long line of ancient kings, who were
descended from the gods. Here are some of their names, Aun the Old,
Ingjald Ill-Ruler, Olaf the Wood-Cutter, Halfdan Whiteleg, and Halfdan
the Swarthy. There were others whom we need not name, and of these
mentioned the names must suffice, for all we know of them is legend, not

In those times there was no kingdom of Norway, but a number of petty
provinces, ruled over by warriors who are spoken of as kings, but whose
rule was not very wide. Most powerful among them was Halfdan the Swarthy,
who was only a year old in 810 when his father was killed in battle.

He lived for many years, and he and his wife Ragnhild had strange dreams.
The queen dreamed that a thorn which she took out of her clothes grew in
her hands until one end of it took root in the ground and the other shot
up into the air. It kept on growing until it was a great tree, so high
that she could barely see its top. The lower part of it was blood-red,
higher up it was bright green, and the spreading branches were white as
snow. So widely they spread that they seemed to shade the whole country
of Norway.

King Halfdan did not like it that his wife had such strange dreams and he
had none. He asked a sage why this was so, and was told that if he wanted
to have dreams as strange he must sleep in a pig-sty. A queer recipe for
dreams, one would think, but the king tried it, and dreamed that his hair
grew long and beautiful and hung in bright locks over his shoulders, some
of them down to his waist, and one, the brightest and most beautiful of
all, still farther down.

When he told the sage of this dream, the wise man said it meant that from
him was to come a mighty race of kings, one of whom should be the
greatest and most glorious of them all. This great hero, Snorri tells us,
was supposed to be Olaf the Saint, who reigned two hundred years later,
and under whom Christianity first flourished in Norway.

Soon after these dreams a son was born to the queen, who was named
Harold. A bright, handsome lad he grew to be, wise of mind and strong of
body and winning the favor of all who knew him. Many tales which we
cannot believe are told of his boyhood. Here is one of them. Once when
the king was seated at the Yuletide feast all the meats and the ale
disappeared from the table, leaving an empty board for the monarch and
his guests. There was present a Finn who was said to be a sorceror, and
him the king put to the torture, to find out who had done this thing.
Young Harold, displeased with his father's act, rescued the Finn from his
tormentors and went with him to the mountains.

On they went, miles and leagues away, until they came to a place where a
Finnish chief was holding a great feast. Harold stayed there until
spring, when he told his host that he must return to his father's halls.
Then the chief said:

"King Halfdan was very angry when I took his meat and ale from him last
winter, and now I will reward you with good tidings for what you did.
Your father is dead and his kingdom waits for you to inherit. And some
day you will rule over all Norway."

Harold found it to be as the Finn had said, and thus in 860, when he was
only ten years old, he came to the throne. He was young to be at the head
of a turbulent people and some ambitious men there were who sought to
take advantage of his youth, but his uncle guardian fought for him and
put them all down. Harold was now the greatest among the petty kings of
Norway and a wish to be ruler of the whole land grew up in his soul.

Here comes in a story which may not be all true, but is pretty enough to
tell. It is to the effect that love drove Harold to strive for the
kingdom. Old Snorri tells the story, which runs this way.

King Erik of Hördaland had a fair daughter named Gyda, the fame of whose
beauty reached Harold's ears and he sent messengers to win her for
himself. But the maid was proud and haughty and sent back word:

"Tell your master that I will not yield myself to any man who has only a
few districts for his kingdom. Is there no king in the land who can
conquer all Norway, as King Erik has conquered Sweden and King Gorm

This was all the answer she had for the heralds, though they pleaded for
a better answer, saying that King Harold was surely great enough for any
maid in the land.

"This is my answer to King Harold," she said. "I will promise to become
his wife if for my sake he shall conquer all Norway and rule it as freely
as King Erik and King Gorm rule their kingdoms. Only when he has done
this can he be called the king of a people."

When the heralds returned they told the king of their ill success and
advised him to take the girl by force.

"Not so," Harold replied. "The girl has spoken well and deserves thanks
instead of injury. She has put a new thought into my mind which had not
come to me before. This I now solemnly vow and call God to witness, that
I will not cut or comb my hair until the day when I shall have made
myself king of all Norway. If I fail in this, I shall die in the


Such is the legend of Gyda and the vow. What history tells us is that the
young king set out to bring all Norway under his rule and prospered in
the great enterprise. One after another, the small kings yielded to his
power, and were made earls or governors under him. They collected taxes
and administered justice in his name. All the land of the peasants was
declared to be the property of the king, and those who had been free
proprietors were now made the king's tenants and were obliged to pay
taxes if they wished to hold their lands. These changes angered many and
there were frequent rebellions against the king, but he put them all
down, and year after year came nearer the goal of his ambition. And his
hair continued to grow uncut and uncombed, and got to be such a tangled
mass that men called him Harold Lufa, or Frowsy-Head.

There was one great and proud family, the Rafnistas, who were not easily
to be won. To one of them, Kveld-Ulf, or Night-Wolf, Harold sent envoys,
asking him to enter his service, but the chief sent back word that he was
too old to change. Then he offered Bald Grim, old Night-Wolf's son, high
honors if he would become his vassal. Bald Grim replied that he would
take no honors that would give him rank over his father.

Harold grew angry at this, and was ready to use force where good words
would not prevail, but in the end the old chief agreed that his second
son Thorolf might be the king's man if he saw fit. This he agreed to do,
and as he was handsome, intelligent and courtly the king set much store
by him.

Not only with the Norway chiefs, but with the king of Sweden, Harold had
trouble. While he was busy in the south King Erik invaded the north, and
Harold had to march in haste to regain his dominions. But the greatest
danger in his career came in 872, when a number of chiefs combined
against him and gathered a great fleet, which attacked Harold's fleet in
Halfrs-Fjord. Then came the greatest and hottest fight known to that day
in Norway. Loudly the war-horns sounded and the ships were driven
fiercely to the fray, Harold's ship being in the front wherever the fight
waxed hottest. Thorolf, the son of Night-Wolf, stood in its prow,
fighting with viking fury, and beside him stood two of his brothers,
matching him blow with blow.

Yet the opposing chiefs and their men were stout fighters and the contest
long seemed doubtful, many brave and able men falling on both sides.
Arrows hissed in swift flight through the air, spears hurtled after them,
stones were hurled by strong hands, and those who came hand to hand
fought like giants. At length Harold's berserkers--men who fought without
armor, replacing it with fury of onslaught--rushed forward and boarded
the hostile ships, cutting down all who opposed them. Blood ran like
water and the chieftains and their men fell or fled before this wild
assault. The day was won for Harold, and with it the kingdom, for after
that fatal fray none dared to stand up before him.

His vow accomplished, all Norway now his, Harold at last consented to the
cutting of his hair, this being done by Ragnvald, the earl of Möre. The
tangled strands being cut and the hair deftly combed, those who saw it
marvelled at its beauty, and from that day the king was known as Harold
the Fair-Haired. As for Gyda, the maid, the great task she set having
been accomplished, she gave her hand to Harold, a splendid marriage
completing the love romance of their lives.

This romance, however, is somewhat spoiled by the fact that Harold
already had a wife, Aasa, the daughter of Earl Haakon, and that he
afterwards married other wives. He had his faults and weaknesses, one of
these being that he was not faithful to women and he was jealous of men
who were growing in greatness. One of the men whom he began to fear or
hate was Thorolf, who had aided him so mightily in battle and long stood
highest in his favor.

Thorolf married a rich wife and grew very wealthy, living like a prince,
and becoming profuse in his hospitality. He was gracious and liberal and
won hosts of friends, while he aided the king greatly in collecting taxes
from the Finns, who were not very willing to part with their money.
Despite this service Harold grew to distrust Thorolf, or to hate him for
other reasons, and the time came when this feeling led to a tragedy.

Thorolf had been made bailiff of Haalogaland, and when Harold came to
this province his bailiff entertained him with a splendid feast, to which
eight hundred guests were invited, three hundred of them being the king's

Yet, through all the hilarity of the feast, Harold sat dark and brooding,
much to his host's surprise. He unbent a little at the end and seemed
well pleased when Thorolf presented him with a large dragon ship, fully
equipped. Yet not long afterwards he took from him his office of bailiff,
and soon showed himself his deadly foe, slandering him as a pretext for
attacking him on his estate.

The assailants set fire to Thorolf's house and met him with a shower of
spears when he broke out from the burning mansion. Seeing the king among
them Thorolf rushed furiously towards him, cut down his banner-bearer
with a sword blow, and was almost within touch of the king when he fell
from his many wounds, crying: "By three steps only I failed."

It is said that Harold himself gave the death blow, yet he looked sadly
on the warrior as he lay dead at his feet, saying, as he saw a man
bandaging a slight wound: "That wound Thorolf did not give. Differently
did weapons bite in his hand. It is a pity that such men must die."

This would indicate that King Harold had other reasons than appears from
the narrative for the slaughter of his former friend. It must be borne
in mind that he was engaged in founding a state, and had many disorderly
and turbulent elements with which to deal, and that before he had ended
his work he was forced to banish from the kingdom many of those who stood
in his way. We do not know what secret peril to his plans led him to
remove Thorolf from his path.

However that be, the killing of the chief sent his father to his bed sick
with grief, and he grew content only when he heard that the king's hand
had slain him and that he had fallen on his face at his slayer's feet.
For when a dying man fell thus it was a sign that he would be avenged.

But the old man was far too weak to attack Harold openly, and was not
willing to dwell in the same kingdom with him; so he, with his son Bald
Grim and all his family and wealth, took ship and set sail for Iceland.
But long he lingered on Norway's coast, hoping for revenge on some of
Harold's blood, and chance threw in his way a ship containing two cousins
of the king. This he attacked, killed the king's cousins, and captured
the ship. Then Bald Grim, full of exultation, sang a song of triumph on
the ship's prow, beginning with:

               "Now is the Hersir's vengeance
               On the king fulfilled;
               Wolf and eagle tread on
               Yngling's children."

There were other chieftains who sought refuge abroad from Harold's rule,
men who were bitterly opposed to the new government he founded, with its
system of taxation and its strict laws. They could not see why the old
system of robbing and plundering within Norway's confines should be
interfered with or their other ancient privileges curtailed, and several
thousand sailed away to found new homes in the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and

One of the chief of these, Rolf, or Rollo, son of the king's friend,
Ragnvald of Möre, defied Harold's laws and was declared an outlaw. His
high birth made the king more determined to punish him, as an example to
others, and no influence could win forgiveness for Rolf the Walker, as
men called him, saying that he was so tall and heavy that no horse could
carry him.

We must follow the outlaw in his journey, for it was one destined to lead
to great events. Setting sail with a fleet and a large number of
followers, he made his way to the coast of France, and fixed himself
there, plundering the people for several years. Charles the Simple, king
of France, finding that he could not drive the bold Norseman off, at
length gave him a large province on condition that he would become a
Christian, and hold his land as a vassal of the king. The province was
given the name of Normandy, and from Rollo descended that sturdy race of
kings one of whom conquered England in the following century. Thus the
exile of Rollo led to events of world-wide importance.

When the proud Norseman was asked to kiss King Charles's foot in token of
fealty to him, he answered: "I will never bend my knee before any man,
nor will I kiss any man's foot."

He could hardly be persuaded to let one of his men kiss the king's foot
as a proxy for him. The man chosen strode sturdily forward, seized the
foot of the king, who was on horseback, and lifted it to his lips so
roughly that the poor king turned a somersault from his horse. The
Norsemen laughed in derision while the king's followers stood by grim and

But despite his unruliness at home, Rollo, when he got a kingdom of his
own, ruled it with all the sternness of King Harold, hanging all robbers
that fell into his hands, and making his kingdom so secure that the
peasants could leave their tools in the fields at night without fear of
loss. Five generations after him came to the throne William the
Conqueror, who won himself the kingdom of England.

To go back to Harold, the builder of the kingdom of Norway, we shall only
say in conclusion that he built his rule on sure foundations and kept a
court of high splendor, and died without a rebel in his realm in 933,
seventy-three years after he succeeded his father as ruler of a


In ancient times Denmark was not a kingdom, but a multitude of small
provinces ruled over by warlike chiefs who called themselves kings. It
was not until the ninth century that these little king-ships were
combined into one kingdom, this being done by a famous chieftain, known
by the Danes as Gorm den Gamle, or Gorm the Old. A great warrior he was,
a viking of the vikings, and southern Europe felt his heavy hand. A
famous story of barbarian life is that of Gorm, which well deserves to be

He was the son of a fierce pagan of Norway, Hardegon, who was of royal
blood, being a grandson of the half-fabulous Ragnar Lodbrok. A prince
with only his sword for kingdom, Hardegon looked around for a piece of
land to be won by fighting, and fixed upon Lejre, in the fruitful Danish
island of Sjölland, which was just then in a very inviting state for the
soldier of fortune. Some time before it had fallen into the hands of a
Swedish fortune-seeker named Olaf, who left it to his two sons. These in
turn had just been driven out by Siegric, the rightful king, when
Hardegon descended upon it and seized it for himself. Dying, he left it
to his son Gorm.

It was a small kingdom that Gorm had fallen heir to. A lord's estate we
would call it to-day. But while small in size, it stood high in rank, for
it was here that the great sacrifices to Odin, the chief Scandinavian
deity, were held, and it was looked upon as one of the most sacred of
spots. Hither at Yuletide came the devotees of Odin from all quarters to
worship at his shrine, and offer gifts of gold and silver, precious
stones and costly robes, to the twelve high priests of whom the king of
Lejre was the chief. And every worshipper, whether rich or poor, was
expected to bring a horse, a dog, or a cock, these animals being sacred
to Odin and sacrificed in large numbers annually at his shrine. In the
special nine-year services, people came in great numbers, and it is
probable that on these occasions human sacrifices were made, captives
taken in war or piratical excursions being saved for this purpose.

As one may see, the king of Lejre had excellent opportunity to acquire
wealth, and young Gorm, being brave, clever, and ambitious, used his
riches to increase his landed possessions. At least, the Danish
historians tell us that he began by buying one bit of land, getting
another by barter, seizing on one district, having another given him, and
so on. But all this is guess-work, and all we actually know is that Gorm,
the son of a poor though nobly-born sea-rover, before his death gained
control of all Denmark, then much larger than the Denmark of to-day, and
changed the small state with which he began into a powerful kingdom,
bringing all the small kings under his sway.

The ambitious chief did not content himself with this. Long before his
kingdom was rounded and complete he had become known as one of the most
daring and successful of the viking adventurers who in those days made
all Europe their prey.

Early in his reign he made a plundering cruise along the shores of the
Baltic and joined in a piratical invasion of Russia, penetrating far
inward and pillaging as he went. We hear of him again in 882 as one of
the chiefs of a daring band which made a conquering raid into Germany,
intrenched itself on the river Maas, sallied forth on plundering
excursions whose track was marked by ruined fields and burnt homesteads,
villages and towns, and even assailed and took Aix-la-Chapelle, one of
the chief cities of the empire of Charlemagne and the seat of his tomb.
The reckless freebooters stalled their horses in the beautiful chapel in
which the great emperor lay buried and stripped from his tomb its gilded
and silvered railings and everything of value which the monks had not

The whole surrounding country was similarly ravaged and desolated by the
ruthless heathens, monasteries were burned, monks were killed or
captured, and the emperor, Charles the Fat, was boldly defied. When
Charles brought against the plunderers an army large enough to devour
them, he was afraid to strike a blow against them, and preferred to buy
them off with a ransom of two thousand pounds of gold and silver, all he
got in return being their promise to be baptized.

Finding that they had a timid foe to deal with, the rapacious Norsemen
asked for more, and when they finally took to their ships two hundred
transports were needed to carry away their plunder. The cowardly Charles,
indeed, was so wrought upon by fear of the pagan Danes that he even
passed the incredible law that any one who killed a Norseman should have
his eyes put out and in some cases should lose his life.

All this was sure to invite new invasions. A wave of joy passed through
the north when the news spread of the poltroonery of the emperor and the
vast spoil awaiting the daring hand. Back they came, demanding and
receiving new ransom, and in 885 there began a great siege of Paris by
forty thousand Danes.

King Gorm was one of the chiefs who took part in this, and when Henry of
Neustria, whom the emperor had sent with an army against them, was routed
and driven back, it was Gorm who pursued the fugitives into the town of
Soissons, where many captives and a great booty were taken.

The dastard emperor again bought them off with money and freedom to
ravage Burgundy, Paris being finally rescued by Count Eudes. In 891 they
were so thoroughly beaten by King Arnulf, of Germany, that their great
leaders fell on the field and only a remnant of the Norsemen escaped
alive, the waters of the river Dyle running red with the blood of slain

Gorm was one of the chiefs who took part in this disastrous battle of
Louvaine and was one of the fortunate few who lived to return to their
native land. Apparently it was not the last of his expeditions, his wife,
Queen Thyra, taking care of the kingdom in his many long absences.

Thyra needed ability and resolution to fitly perform this duty, for those
were restless and turbulent times, and the Germans made many incursions
into Sleswick and Jutland and turned the borderlands on the Eyder into a
desert. This grew so hard to bear that the wise queen devised a plan to
prevent it. Gathering a great body of workmen from all parts of Denmark,
she set them to building a wall of defense from forty-five to
seventy-five feet high and eight miles long, crossing from water to water
on the east and west. This great wall, since known as the Dannevirke,
took three years to build. There were strong watch-towers at intervals
and only one gate, and this was well protected by a wide and deep ditch,
crossed by a bridge that could readily be removed.

For ages afterwards the Danes were grateful to Queen Thyra for this
splendid wall of defense and sang her praises in their national hymns,
while they told wonderful tales of her cleverness in ruling the land
while her husband was far away. Fragments of Thyra's rampart still remain
and its remains formed the groundwork of all the later border bulwarks of

Queen Thyra, while a worshipper of the northern gods, showed much favor
to the Christians and caused some of her children to be signed with the
cross. But King Gorm was a fierce pagan and treated his Christian
subjects so cruelly that he gained the name of the "Church's worm," being
regarded as one who was constantly gnawing at the supports of the Church.
Henry I. the Fowler, the great German emperor of that age, angry at this
treatment of the Christians, sent word to Gorm that it must cease, and
when he found that no heed was paid to his words he marched a large army
to the Eyder, giving Gorm to understand that he must mend his ways or his
kingdom would be overrun.

Gorm evidently feared the loss of his dominion, for from that time on he
allowed the Archbishop of Bremen to preach in his dominions and to
rebuild the churches which had been destroyed, while he permitted his son
Harald, who favored the Christians, to be signed with the cross. But he
kept to the faith of his forefathers, as did his son Knud, known as
"Dan-Ast," or the "Danes'-joy."

The ancient sagas tell us that there was little love between Knud and
Harald; and that Gorm, fearing ill results from this, swore an oath that
he would put to death any one who attempted to kill his first-born son,
or who should even tell him that Knud had died.

While Harald remained at home and aided his mother, Knud was of his
father's fierce spirit and for years attended him on his viking
expeditions. On one of these he was drowned, or rather was killed while
bathing, by an arrow shot from one of his own ships. Gorm was absent at
the time, and Thyra scarcely knew how the news could be told him without
incurring the sworn penalty of death.

Finally she put herself and her attendants into deep mourning and hung
the chief hall of the palace with the ashy-grey hangings used at the
grave-feasts of Northmen of noble birth. Then, seating herself, she
awaited Gorm's return. On entering the hall he was struck by these signs
of mourning and by the silence and dejection of the queen, and broke out
in an exclamation of dismay:

"My son, Knud, is dead!"

"Thou hast said it, and not I, King Gorm," was the queen's reply. The
news of the death had thus been conveyed to him without any one incurring
the sworn penalty. Soon after that--in 936--King Gorm died, and the
throne of Denmark was left to his son Harald, a cruel and crafty man whom
many of the people believed to have caused the murder of his brother.


In the year 900 Harold the Fair-Haired, the famous monarch who made a
kingdom of Norway, passed a law which was to work mischief for centuries
to come. Erik, his favorite son, was named overlord of the kingdom, but
with the proviso that his other sons should bear the kingly title and
rule over provinces, while the sons of his daughters were to be made
earls. Had the wise Harold dreamed of the trouble this unwise law was to
make he would have cut off his right hand before signing it. It was to
give rise to endless rebellions and civil wars which filled the kingdom
with ruin and slaughter for many reigns and at last led to its overthrow
and long disappearance from among the separate nations of the earth.

A bold and daring prince was Erik, with the old viking blood in his
veins. When only twelve years of age his father gave him five ships, each
with a sturdy crew of Norsemen, and sent him out to ravage the southern
lands, in the manner of the sea-kings of those days. Many were the
perilous exploits of the young viking admiral and when he came back to
his father's halls and told him of his daring deeds, the old king
listened with delight. So fierce and fatal were many of his fights that
he won the name of Blood-Axe, but for this his father loved him all the
more and chose him to be his successor on the throne.


Before his father died Erik had shown what was in him, by attacking and
killing two of his brothers. But despite all that, when the old king was
eighty years of age he led Erik to the throne and named him as his
successor. Three years later Harold died and Norway fell under the young
sea-king's hand--a brave, handsome, stately ruler; but haughty, cruel,
and pitiless in his wrath, and with the old viking wildness in his blood.

He had married a woman whom men called a witch--cruel, treacherous,
loving money and power, and with such influence over him that she killed
all the good in his soul and spurred him on to evil deeds.

Strange stories are told of the wicked Queen Gunhild. It was said that
she had been sent to Finland to learn the arts of sorcery, in which the
Finns of those days were well versed. Here Erik met her in one of his
wanderings, and was taken captive by her bold beauty. She dwelt with two
sorcerers, both bent on marrying her, while she would have neither of
them. Prince Erik was a suitor more to her liking and she hid him in her
tent, begging him to rescue her from her troublesome lovers.

This was no easy task, for sorcerers have arts of their own, but Erik
proved equal to it, cut his way through all the difficulties in his path
and carried Gunhild away to his ships, where he made her his wife. In
her he had wed a dragon of mischief, as his people were to learn.

She was of small size but of wonderful beauty, and with sly, insinuating
ways that fitted her well to gain the mastery over strong men. But all
her arts were used for evil, and she won the hatred of the people by
speaking words of ill counsel in her husband's ears. The treachery and
violence he showed were said to be the work of Gunhild the witch, and the
nobles and people soon grew to hate Erik Blood-Axe and his cruel wife,
and often broke out in rebellion against them.

His brothers, who had been made kings of provinces, were not ready to
submit to his harsh rule, and barely was old King Harold dead before
Halfdan the Swarthy--who bore the name of his grandfather--claimed to be
monarch in Tröndelag, and Olaf, another brother, in Viken. Death came
suddenly to Halfdan--men whispered that he had been poisoned by the
queen--but his brother Sigfrid took his place and soon the flame of
rebellion rose north and south. Erik proved equal to the difficulty.
Sigfrid and Olaf were in Tunsberg, where they had met to lay plans to
join their forces, when Erik, whose spies told him of their movements,
took the town by surprise and killed them both.

Thus, so far, Erik Blood-Axe was triumphant. He had killed four of his
brothers--men said five--and every one thought that Gunhild would not be
content until all King Harold's brood except her own husband were in the

Trouble next came from a region far away, the frost-king's land of
Iceland in the northern seas, which had been settled from Norway in the
early reign of Harold the Fair-Haired, some sixty years before. Here
lived a handsome and noble man named Thorolf, who had met Erik in his
viking days. He was the son of the stern old Icelander Bald Grim, and
nephew of the noble Thorolf who had been basely slain by King Harold.

Bald Grim hated Harold and all his race, but Thorolf grew to admire Erik
for his daring and made him a present of a large and beautiful ship. Thus
Erik became his friend, and when Thorolf came to Norway the young prince
begged his father to let him dwell there in peace. When he at length went
home to Iceland he took with him an axe with a richly carved handle,
which Erik had sent as a present to his father.

Old Bald Grim was not the man to be bought over by a present. The hate he
felt for Harold he transferred to his son, and when Thorolf set sail
again for Norway his father bade him take back the axe to the king and
sang an insulting song which he bade him repeat to Erik. Thorolf did not
like his errand. He thought it best to let the blood-feud die, so he
threw the axe into the sea and when he met the king gave him his father's
thanks for the fine gift. If Thorolf had had his way the trouble would
have been at an end, but with him came Egil, his younger brother, a man
of different character.

Stern old Bald Grim seemed born again in his son Egil. A man of great
size, swarthy face, harsh of aspect, and of fierce temper, in him was the
old, tameless spirit of the Norse sea-kings, turbulent, passionate,
owning no man master, he bent his strong soul to no man's rule. Rash and
adventurous, he had a long and stormy career, while nature had endowed
him with a rich gift of song, which added to his fame. Such was the type
of men who in those days made all Europe tremble before the Norsemen's
wrath, and won dominion for the viking warriors in many lands.

Thorold when in Norway before had gained powerful friends in the great
nobles, Thore Herse and Björn the Yeoman. On this visit the brothers
became Thore's guests, and Egil and Arinbjörn, Thore's son, became warm
friends. The young Icelander's hot temper soon brewed trouble. Sickness
kept him from going with Thorolf to the house of Björn the Yeoman, whose
daughter, Aasgard, he was to marry; but he soon got well and went on a
visit to Baard, a steward of the king. As fortune decreed he met there
King Erik and Queen Gunhild.

Egil was not the man to play the courtier and his hot blood was under
little control. When Baard neglected him in favor of his royal visitor,
he broke into such a rage that the queen, to quiet him, tried one of her
underhand arts. She bade Baard to mix sleeping herbs with his beer.

Suspecting treachery from the taste of the beer Egil flung his flagon to
the floor, struck Baard dead in his fury, and, fleeing for his life, swam
to an island in the neighboring stream. When men were sent to search the
island and capture him he killed some of them, seized their boat, and
made his escape.

King Erik was furious, but Thore Herse got him to accept a money payment
for Baard's death--as was then the custom of the land--and he agreed to
let Egil dwell in Norway unharmed.

This was not to the queen's liking. She was fond of Baard and was deeply
incensed at Egil for his murderous act, and she stormed at the king for
his mildness of temper till he broke out:

"You are forever egging me on to acts of violence; but now you must hold
your peace, for I have given my kingly word and cannot break it."

Gunhild, thus repulsed, sought other means of revenge. A great feast of
sacrifice to the old heathen gods was to be held at the temple of Gaule,
and at her instigation her brother, Eyvind Skreyja, agreed to kill one of
Bald Grim's sons. Finding no opportunity for this, he killed one of
Thorolf's men, for which act Erik outlawed him.

The remainder of the story of Egil's career is largely that of a viking,
that is, a piratical rover, bent on spoil and plunder and the harrying of
sea-coast lands. With Thorolf he took to the sea and cruised about in
quest of wealth and glory, finally landing in England and fighting in a
great battle under the banner of King Athelstan. He made his mark here,
but Thorolf was slain, so Egil went back to Norway, married his brother's
widow, and sailed for his old home in Iceland, which he had not seen for
twelve years.

Iceland was too quiet a land to hold the stirring sea-king long and news
from Norway soon made him take ship again. Björn the Yeoman, his wife's
father, had died, and Queen Gunhild had given his estate to Berg-Anund,
one of her favorites. Storming with rage, he reached Norway and hotly
pleaded his claim to the estate before the assembly or _thing_ at Gula,
Erik and Gunhild being present. He failed in his purpose, the _thing_
breaking up in disorder; and Egil, probably finding Norway too hot to
hold him, went back to Iceland.

If King Erik now fancied he was rid of the turbulent Icelander he was
mistaken. Rankling with a sense of injury and borne onward by his
impetuous temper, Egil was soon in Norway again, sought the Björn estate,
surprised and killed Berg-Anund, and went so far in his daring as to kill
Ragnvald, the king's son, who was visiting Berg. Carried to extremes by
his unruly temper he raised what was called a shame-pole, or pole of
dishonor, on a cliff top, to the king and queen. On it he thrust the head
of a dead horse, crying out:

"I turn this dishonor against all the land-spirits of this land, that
they may all stray bewildered and none of them find his home until they
have driven King Erik and Queen Gunhild out of this land."

This message of defiance he cut in runes--the letters of the
Northland--into the pole, that all might read it, and then sailed back to

Egil had not long to wait for his curse to take effect, for Erik's reign
was soon threatened from a new source. He had not killed all his
brothers. In the old days of King Harold, when near seventy years old, he
had married a new wife, who bore him a son whom he named
Haakon,--destined in later life to reign with the popular title of Haakon
the Good. This boy, perhaps for his safety, had been sent to England and
given over to King Athelstan, who brought him up almost as his own son.

Erik had been four years on the throne when Haakon came back to Norway, a
handsome, noble youth, kind of heart and gentle in disposition, and on
all sides hailed with joy, for Erik and his evil-minded wife had not won
the love of the people. Great nobles and many of the people gathered
around Haakon, men saying that he was like King Harold come back again,
gentler and nobler than of old and with all his old stately beauty and

The next year he was crowned king. Erik tried to raise an army, but none
of the people were willing to fight for him, and he was forced to flee
with his wife and children. Only a few of his old friends went with him,
but among them was Arinbjörn, Egil's former friend.

Sudden had been King Erik's fall. Lately lord of a kingdom, he had now
not a foot of land he could call his own, and he sailed about as a
sea-robber, landing and plundering in Scotland and England. At length,
to rid himself of this stinging hornet of the seas, King Athelstan made
him lord of a province in Northumberland, with the promise that he would
fight for it against other vikings like himself. He was also required to
be baptized and become a Christian.

Meanwhile Egil dwelt in Iceland, but in bitter discontent. He roamed
about the strand, looking for sails at sea and seeming to care little for
his wife and children. Men said that Gunhild had bewitched him, but more
likely it was his own unquiet spirit. At any rate the time came when he
could bear a quiet life no longer and he took ship and sailed away to the

Misfortune now went with him. A storm drove his ship ashore on the
English coast at the mouth of the Humber, the ship being lost but he and
his thirty men reaching shore. Inquiring in whose land he was, people
told him that Erik Blood-Axe ruled that region.

Egil's case was a desperate one. He was in the domain of his deadly foe,
with little hope of escape. With his usual impetuous spirit, he made no
attempt to flee, but rode boldly into York, where he found his old friend
Arinbjörn. With him he went straight to Erik, like the reckless fellow he

"What do you expect from me?" asked Erik. "You deserve nothing but death
at my hands."

"Death let it be, then," said the bold viking, in his reckless manner.

Gunhild on seeing him was eager for his blood. She had hated him so long
that she hotly demanded that he should be killed on the spot. Erik, less
bloodthirsty, gave him his life for one night more, and Arinbjörn begged
him to spend the night in composing a song in Erik's honor, hoping that
in this way he might win his life.

Egil promised to do so and his friend brought him food and drink, bidding
him do his best. Anxious to know how he was progressing Arinbjörn visited
him in the night.

"How goes the song?" he asked.

"Not a line of it is ready," answered Egil. "A swallow has been sitting
in the window all the night, screaming and disturbing me, and do what I
would I could not drive it away."

At that Arinbjörn darted into the hall, where he saw in the dim light a
woman running hastily away. Going back he found that the swallow had
flown. He was sure now that Queen Gunhild had changed herself into a
swallow by sorcery, and for the remainder of the night he kept watch
outside that the bird should not return. When morning broke he found that
Egil had finished his song.

Determined to save his friend's life if he could, he armed himself and
his men and went with Egil to the palace of the king, where he asked Erik
for Egil's life as a reward for his devotion to him when others had
deserted him.

Erik made no reply, and then Arinbjörn cried out:

"This I will say. Egil shall not die while I or one of my men remain

"Egil has well deserved death," replied Erik, "but I cannot buy his death
at that price."

As he stopped speaking Egil began to sing, chanting his ode in tones that
rang loudly through the hall. Famed as a poet, his death song was one of
the best he had ever composed, and it praised Erik's valor in all the
full, wild strains of the northern verse.

Erik heard the song through with unmoved face. When it was done he said:

"Your song is a noble one, and your friend's demand for your life is
nobler still. Nor can I be the dastard to kill a man who puts himself of
his own will into my hands. You shall depart unharmed. But do not think
that I or my sons forgive you, and from the moment you leave this hall
never come again under my eyes or the eyes of my sons."

Egil thus won his life by his song, which became known as the "Ransom of
the Head." Another of his songs, called "The Loss of the Son," is held to
be the most beautiful in all the literature of Iceland. He afterwards
lived long and had many more adventures, and in the end died in his bed
in Iceland when he was over ninety years of age. Erik died in battle many
years earlier, and Gunhild then went to Denmark with her sons. She was to
make more trouble for Norway before she died.


From the word _vik_, or bay, comes the word viking, long used to
designate the sea-rovers of the Northland, the bold Norse wanderers who
for centuries made their way to the rich lands of the south on plundering
raids. Beginning by darting out suddenly from hiding places in bays or
river mouths to attack passing craft, they in the end became daring
scourers of the seas and won for themselves kingdoms and dominions in the
settled realms of the south.

Nothing was known of them in the early days. The people of southern
Europe in the first Christian centuries hardly knew of the existence of
the race of fair-skinned and light-haired barbarians who dwelt in the
great peninsula of the north. It was not until near the year 800 B.C.
that these bold brigands learned that riches awaited those who dared
seize it on the shores of France, England, and more southern lands. Then
they came in fleets and spread terror wherever they appeared. For several
centuries the realms of civilization trembled before their very name.

"From the fury of the Northmen, Good Lord deliver us!" prayed the
priests, and the people joined fervently in the prayer.

Long before this period the sea was the favorite hunting ground of the
daring sons of the north, but the small chiefs of that period preyed upon
each other, harrying their neighbors and letting distant lands alone. But
as the power of the chiefs, and their ability to protect themselves
increased, this mode of gaining wealth and fame lost its ease and
attraction and the rovers began to rove farther afield.

Sea-kings they called themselves. On land the ruler of a province might
be called either earl or king, but the earl who went abroad with his
followers on warlike excursions was content with no less name than king,
and the chiefs who set out on plundering cruises became from the first
known as sea-kings. Pirates and freebooters we would call them to-day,
but they were held in high distinction in their native land, and some of
the most cruel of them, on their return home, became men of influence,
with all the morality and sense of honor known in those early days. Their
lives of ravage and outrage won them esteem at home and the daring and
successful sea-king ranked in fame with the noblest of the home-staying
chiefs. We have seen how King Erik began his career as a viking and ended
it in the same pursuit; how Rollo, a king's son, adopted the same
profession; and from this it may be seen that the term was one of honor
instead of disgrace.

From all the lands of the north they came, these dreaded sons of the sea,
from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark alike, fierce heathens they who cared
nought for church or priest, but liked best to rob chapels and
monasteries, for there the greatest stores of gold and silver could be
found. When the churches were plundered they often left them in flames,
as they also did the strong cities they captured and sacked. The small,
light boats with which they dared the sea in its wrath were able to go
far up the rivers, and wherever these fierce and bloodthirsty rovers
appeared wild panic spread far around. So fond were they of sword-thrust
and battle that one viking crew would often challenge another for the
pure delight of fighting. A torment and scourge they were wherever they

The first we hear in history of the sea-kings is in the year 787, when a
small party of them landed on the English coast. In 794 came another
flock of these vultures of the sea, who robbed a church and a monastery,
plundering and killing, and being killed in their turn when a storm
wrecked their ships and threw them on shore. As a good monk writes of
them: "The heathen came from the northern countries to Britain like
stinging wasps, roamed about like savage wolves, robbing, biting, killing
not only horses, sheep, and cattle, but also priests, acolytes, monks,
and nuns."

The Norsemen had found a gold mine in the south and from this time on
they worked it with fierce hands. Few dared face them, and even in the
days of the great Charlemagne they ravaged the coast lands of France.
Once, when the great emperor was in one of his cities on the
Mediterranean coast, a fleet of the swift viking ships, known by their
square sails, entered the harbor. Soon word was brought that they had
landed and were plundering. Who they were the people knew not, some
saying that they were Jews, others Africans, and others that they were
British merchants.

"No merchants they," said the emperor. "Those ships do not bring us
goods, but fierce foes, bloody fighters from the north."

The warriors around him at once seized their weapons and hurried to the
shore, but the vikings had learned that the great emperor was in the city
and, not daring to face him, had sought their ships and spread their
sails again. Tears came to the eyes of Charlemagne as he watched them in
their outward flight. He said to those around him:

"It is not for fear that these brigands can do me any harm that I weep,
but for their daring to show themselves on this coast while I am alive.
Their coming makes me foresee and fear the harm they may do to my

This story may be one of those legends which the monks were fond of
telling, but it serves to show how the dread Norsemen were feared. France
was one of their chief fields of ravage and slaughter. First coming in
single ships, to rob and flee, they soon began to come in fleets and grew
daring enough to attack and sack cities. Hastings, one of the most
renowned of them all, did not hesitate to attack the greatest cities of
the south.

In 841 this bold freebooter sailed up the Loire with a large fleet, took
and burned the city of Amboise, and laid siege to Tours. But here the
inhabitants, aided, it is said, by the bones of their patron saint, drove
him off. Four years later he made an attack on Paris, and as fortune
followed his flag he grew so daring that he sought to capture the city of
Rome and force the Pope to crown him emperor.

For an account of this remarkable adventure of the bold Hastings see the
article, "The Raids of the Sea-Rovers," in the German volume of
"Historical Tales." In that account are also given the chief exploits of
the vikings in France and Germany. We shall therefore confine ourselves
in the remainder of this article to their operations in other lands, and
especially in Ireland.

This country was a common field for the depredations of the Norse rovers.
For some reason not very clear to us the early vikings did not trouble
England greatly, but for many years they spread terror through the sister
isle, and in the year 838 Thorgisl, one of their boldest leaders, came
with a fleet of one hundred and twenty ships, with which he attacked and
captured the city of Dublin, and afterwards, as an old author tells us,
he conquered all Ireland, securing his conquest with stone forts
surrounded with deep moats.

But the Irish at length got rid of their conqueror by a stratagem. It was
through love that the sea-king was lost. Bewitched with the charms of
the fair daughter of Maelsechnail, one of the petty kings of the land,
he bade this chieftain to send her to him, with fifteen young maidens in
her train. He agreed to meet her on an island in Loch Erne with as many
Norsemen of high degree.

Maelsechnail obeyed, but his maidens were beardless young men, dressed
like women but armed with sharp daggers. Thorgisl and his men, taken by
surprise, were attacked and slain. The Irish chief had once before asked
Thorgisl how he should rid himself of some troublesome birds that had
invaded the island. "Destroy their nests," said the Norseman. It was wise
advice, and Maelsechnail put it in effect against the nests of the
conquerors, destroying their stone strongholds, and killing or driving
them away, with the aid of his fellow chieftains.

Thus for a time Ireland was freed. It was conquered again by Olaf the
White, who in 852 defeated some Danes who had taken Dublin, and then,
like Thorgisl, began to build castles and tax the people. Two other
viking leaders won kingdoms in Ireland, but Olaf was the most powerful of
them all, and the kingdom founded by him lasted for three hundred and
fifty years. From Dublin Olaf sailed to Scotland and England, the booty
he won filling two hundred ships.

The sea-rovers did not confine their voyages to settled lands. Bold ocean
wanderers, fearless of man on shore and tempest on the waves, they
visited all the islands of the north and dared the perils of the unknown
sea. They rounded the North Cape and made their way into the White Sea as
early as 750. The Faroe, the Orkney and the Shetland Islands were often
visited by them after 825, and in 874 they discovered Iceland, which had
been reached and settled by Irishmen or Scots about 800. The Norsemen
found here only some Irish hermits and monks, and these, disturbed in
their peaceful retreat by the turbulent newcomers, made their way back to
Ireland and left the Norsemen lords of the land. From Iceland the rovers
reached Greenland, which was settled in 986, and about the year 1000 they
discovered North America, at a place they named Vinland.

Such is, briefly told, the story of the early Norse wanderers. They had a
later tale, of which we have told part in their conquest of Ireland.
Though at first they came with a few ships, and were content to attack a
town or a monastery, they soon grew more daring and their forces larger.
A number of them would now fortify themselves on some coast elevation and
make it a centre for plundering raids into the surrounding country. At a
later date many of them ceased to pose as pirates and took the rôle of
invaders and conquerors, storming and taking cities and founding
governments in the invaded land.

Such was the work of Thorgisl and Olaf in Ireland and of Rollo in
Normandy. England was a frequent field of invasion after 833, which
continued until 851, when King Ethelwulf defeated them with great
slaughter. Fifteen years later they came again, these new invaders being
almost all Danes. During all his reign Alfred the Great fought with them,
but in spite of his efforts they gained a footing in the island, becoming
its masters in the north and east. A century later, in 1016, Canute, the
king of Denmark, completed the conquest and became king of all England.

This is not the whole story of the sea-kings, whose daring voyages and
raids made up much of the history of those centuries. One of the most
important events in viking history took place in 862, when three brother
chiefs, probably from Sweden, who had won fame in the Baltic Sea, were
invited by the Russian tribes south of Lake Ladoga to come and rule over
them. They did so, making Novgorod their capital. From this grew the
empire of Russia, which was ruled over by the descendants of Rurik, the
principal of these chiefs, until 1598.

Other vikings made their way southward through Russia and, sailing down
the Dnieper, put Constantinople in peril. Only a storm which scattered
their fleet saved the great city from capture. Three times later they
appeared before Constantinople, twice (in 904 and 945) being bought off
by the emperors with large sums of money. Later on the emperors had a
picked body-guard of Varangians, as they called the Northmen, and kept
these till the fall of the city in 1453. It was deemed a great honor in
the north to serve in this choice cohort at Myklegaard (Great City), and
those who returned from there doubtless carried many of the elements of
civilization to the Scandinavian shores.

To some of these Varangians was due the conquest of Sicily by the
Northmen. They were in the army sent from Constantinople to conquer that
island, and seeing how goodly a land it was they aided in its final
conquest, which was made by Robert Guiscard, a noble of Normandy, whose
son Roger took the title of "King of Sicily and Italy." Thus it was that
the viking voyages led within a few centuries to the founding of kingdoms
under Norse rulers in England, Ireland, Sicily, Russia, and Normandy in


We have told how King Haakon succeeded his brother, Erik Blood-Axe, on
the throne, and how, from his kindly and gentle nature, people called him
Haakon the Good. There were other sons and several grandsons of Harold
the Fair-Haired in the kingdom, but the new king treated them with
friendliness and let them rule as minor kings under him.

He dealt with the peasants also in the same kindly spirit, giving them
back their lands and relieving them of the tax which Harold had laid. But
he taxed them all in another way, dividing the country into marine
districts, each of which was required to supply the king, on his demand,
with a fully equipped warship. Yet as this was for the defence of the
country, the people did not look on it as oppressive. And as Norway had a
long mountainous coast, and important events were often long in becoming
known, he gave orders that the approach of an enemy should be made known
by signal fires lighted all along the coast.

Haakon made other wise laws, in which he took the advice of the ablest
men of the kingdom. But now we have to speak of the most striking event
in the new king's career. Norway at that time was a haunt of idolatry.
Men worshipped Odin and a host of other gods, and there was not a
Christian in the whole land except the king himself, who had been brought
up in the new faith by his foster-father, King Athelstan of England.

An earnest Christian, he looked with sorrow on the rude worship and
heathen belief of his people, but not until he had been many years on the
throne did he venture to interfere with it. Then, about 950, when he had
won the love of them all, he took steps to carry out his long-cherished

Sending to England for a bishop and a number of priests, the king issued
a decree in which the people were forbidden to make sacrifices to the old
gods and ordered to accept the Christian faith.

This came like a thunderbolt to the worshippers of the old gods. To bid a
whole nation to give up at a word the religion which they had cherished
from childhood and which their fathers had held for generations before
them was too much to demand. The king brought together a concourse of the
people and spoke to them of his wish and purpose, but they had no answer
to make except that the matter must be settled by their legal assembly.

When the _thing_, or assembly, was called into session, a great body of
the people were present, for never had so important a question been laid
before them. Earnest and imploring was the speech made by the king, in
which he warmly asked them to accept the God of the Christians and give
up their heathen idols of wood and stone.

These words were followed by an angry murmur from the multitude, and
many dark looks were bent upon the rash monarch. Then a peasant leader,
Aasbjörn of Medalhus, stepped out from the throng and spoke:

"When you, King Haakon, first called us here before you and we took you
for our king, it was with deep gladness, as if heaven had opened to us.
But was it liberty we gained, or do you wish to make thralls of us once
more, that you ask us to give up the faith of our fathers and forefathers
for the new and unknown one you offer? Sturdy men they were, and their
faith did well for them and has done well for us. We have learned to love
you well and have always kept and will always keep the laws made by you
and accepted by us. But in this thing which you now demand we cannot
follow. If you are so resolved upon it that your mind cannot be changed,
then we shall be forced to part from you and choose a new chief who will
support us in worshipping our fathers' gods. Choose, O king, what you
will do, before this assembly has dispersed."

So loud were the shouts of approval with which this speech was greeted
that not a word could be heard. Then, when quiet reigned again, Earl
Sigurd, who had spoken aside with Haakon, rose and said that the king had
no wish to lose their friendship and would yield to their wishes. This
was not enough to overcome the distrust of the peasants. They next
demanded that he should take part in the sacrifices to be given and in
the feast to follow. This he felt obliged to do, though he quieted his
conscience by making the sign of the cross.

When the next Yuletide sacrifice came Haakon was required to eat
horse-flesh at the feast and this time was forbidden to make the sign of
the cross when he drank the usual toasts to the ancient gods of Norway.
This was a humiliation that cut the proud monarch deeply and it was with
an angry soul he left, saying to his attendants that when he came back it
would be with an army to punish those who had thus insulted his faith.
Back he did not come, for new troubles were gathering around him.

To learn the source of these troubles we must return to the story of Erik
Blood-Axe and Gunhild, his wicked wife. After Erik's death that
mischief-loving woman sought Denmark with her sons, who grew up to become
brave warriors and daring viking rovers, infesting the coast of Norway
and giving its king and earls all the trouble they could. At length,
backed by Harold Bluetooth, the king of Denmark, their piratical raids
changed to open war, and they invaded Norway, hoping to win their
father's old kingdom for themselves.

A crisis came in 955. In that year the sons of Erik appeared so suddenly
with a large fleet that they took King Haakon by surprise. He had with
him only a small force, the signal fires had not been lighted, and the
enemy were close at hand before he could prepare to meet them.

"What shall we do?" he asked his men. "Shall we stay and fight, or draw
back and gather men?"

The answer came from an old peasant, Egil Woolsack:

"Often have I fought, King Haakon, with King Harold, your father. Whether
the foe was stronger or weaker the victory was always his. Never did he
ask his friends if he should run; nor need you, for we are ready to fight
and think that we have a brave chieftain for our leader."

"You speak well and wisely, Egil," said the king. "It is not my wish to
run, and with your aid I am ready to face the foe."

"Good words those!" cried Egil joyously. "It has been so long since I saw
the flash of sword that I feared I would die in my bed of old age, though
it has been my hope to fall in battle at my chieftain's back. Now will my
wish be gained."

To land came the sons of Erik, having six men to Haakon's one. Seeing how
great were the odds, old Egil tried strategy, leading ten
standard-bearers to a hidden spot in the rear of the hostile army and
leaving them there in ambush. When the armies had met and the fighting
was under way, he led these men up a sloping hill until the tops of their
standards could be seen above its summit. He had placed them far apart,
so that when the Danes saw the waving banners it looked like a long line
of new troops coming upon them. With sudden alarm and a cry of terror
they fled towards their ships.

Gamle, their leader, was quick to discover the stratagem, and called on
them to stop, that it was all a trick; but nothing could check their
panic flight, and he was swept along with them to the beach. Here a stand
was made, but Haakon rushed upon them in a furious attack in which old
Egil had his wish, for he fell in the storm of sword blows, winning the
death he craved. Victory rested on the king's banners and his foes fled
to their ships, Gamle, their leader, being drowned in the flight.

For six years after this the land lay at peace. King Haakon continued a
Christian and many of his friends joined him in the new faith. But he was
too wise and gentle to attempt again to force his belief upon his people
and the worship of the heathen gods went on. All the people, nobles and
peasants alike, loved their king dearly and he would have ended his reign
in a peaceful old age but for his foes without the kingdom. This is the
way in which the end came.

In the summer of the year 961, when Haakon had been twenty-six years on
the throne, he with many guests was at feast in the royal mansion of
Fitje, in Hördaland. While at table a sentinel brought in the alarming
news that a large fleet of ships was sailing up the fiord.

By the king's side sat Eyvnid, his nephew, who was a famous scald, or
bard. They rose and looked out on the fiord.

"What ships are they, of friends or of foes?" asked the king.

The scald replied in a verse, in which he sang that the sons of Erik were
coming again.

"Once more they take us unawares," said Haakon to his men. "They are many
and we are few. Never yet have we faced such odds. The danger lies before
you. Are you ready to meet it? I am loath to flee before any force, but I
leave it to the wise among you to decide."

Eyvnid sang another verse, to the effect that it would be ill counsel to
advise a man like King Haakon to flee from the sons of Gunhild the

"That is a man's song," cried the king, "and what you say is what I

All around him the warriors shouted their war-cry, and while they ran for
their weapons he put on his armor, seized his sword and shield, and
placed on his head a golden helmet that shone brightly in the sun. Never
had he looked more like a born king, with his noble and inspired
countenance and the bright hair streaming down from under his helmet.

The battle that followed was fierce and bloody. Harold, Gunhild's third
son, commanded the invaders, who far outnumbered Haakon's small force.
And now there was no Egil to defeat the foe by stratagem, but the battle
was hand to hand and face to face, with stroke of sword and thrust of
spear, the war-shout of the fighters and the death-wail of the fallen.

King Haakon that day showed himself a true and heroic warrior. As the
battle grew fiercer his spirit rose higher, and when Eyvnid the scald
greeted him with a warlike verse, he answered with another. But the
midsummer heat growing hard to bear, he flung off his armor and fought
with only his strong right arm for shield. The arrows had now been all
shot, the spears all hurled, and the ranks met hand to hand and sword to
sword, in desperate affray.

In the front rank stood the king, his golden helmet making him a shining
mark for the warriors of the foe.

"Your helmet makes you a target for the Danish spears," cried Eyvnid, and
he drew a hood over it to hide its gleam. Skreyja, Harold's uncle, who
was storming onward towards the king, now lost sight of him and cried

"Where is the Norse king? Has he drawn back in fear? Is he of the golden
helmet a craven?"

"Keep on as you are coming, if you wish to meet the Norsemen's king,"
shouted Haakon, throwing down his shield and grasping his sword with both
hands, as he sprang out before them all. Skreyja bounded towards him and
struck a furious blow, but it was turned aside by a Norse warrior and at
the same instant Haakon's sword cleft the foeman's head down to the

This kingly stroke gave new spirit to the Norsemen and they rushed with
double fury upon the foe, whom the fall of their best warrior filled with
fear. Back to the beach they were pressed, many being slain, many
drowned, a few only, Harold among them, reaching the ships by swimming.

The Norsemen had won against fearful odds, but their king was in deadly
peril. In the pursuit he had been struck in the right arm by an arrow
with an oddly-shaped head, and do what they would, the flow of blood
could not be stopped. It was afterwards said that Gunhild the sorceress
had bewitched the arrow and sent it with orders to use it only against
King Haakon.

In those days it was easy to have men believe tales like that, but,
witchcraft or not, the blood still ran and the king grew weaker. As night
came death seemed at hand and one of his friends offered to take his body
to England, after his death, that he might be laid in Christian soil.

"Not so," said Haakon. "Heathen are my people and I have lived among them
like a heathen. See then that I am laid in the grave like a heathen."

Thus he died, and he was buried as he wished, while all men mourned his
death, even his foes; for before breathing his last he bade his men to
send a ship after the sons of Gunhild; asking them to come back and rule
the kingdom. He had no sons, he said, and his daughter could not take the

Thus death claimed the noblest of the Norsemen, at once heathen and
Christian, but in his life and deeds as in his death a great and good


Chief among the nobles of Haakon the Good, of Norway, was Earl Sigurd of
Hlade; and first among those who followed him was Earl Haakon, Sigurd's
son. After the death of Haakon the Good, the sons of Gunhild became the
masters of Norway, where they ruled like tyrants, murdering Sigurd, whom
they most feared. This made the young Earl Haakon their bitter foe.

A young man then, of twenty-five, handsome, able in mind and body, kindly
in disposition, and a daring warrior, he was just the man to contend with
the tyrant murderers. When he was born Haakon the Good had poured water
on his head and named him after himself and he was destined to live to
the level of the honor thus given him.

It is not our purpose to tell how, with the aid of the king of Denmark,
he drove the sons of Gunhild from the realm, and how, as the sagas tell,
the wicked old queen was enticed to Denmark by the king, under promise of
marriage, and by his orders was drowned in a swamp. Her powers of sorcery
did not avail her then, if this story is true.

Haakon ruled Norway as a vassal of Harald Bluetooth, king of Denmark, to
whom he agreed to pay tribute. He also consented to be baptized as a
Christian and to introduce the Christian faith into Norway. But a
heathen at heart and a Norseman in spirit, he did not intend to keep this
promise. After a meeting with the Danish king in which his baptism took
place, he sailed for his native land with his ship well laden with
priests. But the heathen in him now broke out. With bold disdain of King
Harald, he put the priests on shore, and sought to counteract the effect
of his baptism by a great feast to the old gods, praying for their favor
and their aid in the war that was sure to follow. He looked for an omen,
and it came in the shape of two ravens, which followed his ships with
loud clucking cries. These were the birds sacred to Odin and he hailed
their coming with delight. The great deity of the Norsemen seemed to
promise him favor and success.

Turning against the king to whom he had promised to act as a vassal, he
savagely ravaged the Danish coast lands. Then he landed on the shores of
Sweden, burnt his ships, and left a track of fire and blood as he marched
through that land. Even Viken, a province of Norway, was devastated by
him, on the plea of its being under a Danish ruler. Then, having done his
utmost to show defiance to Denmark and its king, he marched northward to
Drontheim, where he ruled like a king, though still styling himself Earl

Harald Bluetooth was not the man to be defied with impunity, and though
he was too old to take the field himself, he sought means to punish his
defiant vassal. Men were to be had ready and able to fight, if the prize
offered them was worth the risk, and men of this kind Harald knew where
to seek.

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,

In the town of Jomsborg, on the island of Wollin, near the mouth of the
Oder, dwelt a daring band of piratical warriors known as the Jomsvikings,
who were famed for their indomitable courage. War was their trade, rapine
their means of livelihood, and they were sworn to obey the orders of
their chief, to aid each other to the utmost, to bear pain unflinchingly,
dare the extremity of danger, and face death like heroes. They kept all
women out of their community, lest their devotion to war might be
weakened, and stood ready to sell their swords to the highest bidder.

To this band of plunderers Harald appealed and found them ready for the
task. Their chief, Earl Sigvalde, brought together a great host of
warriors at a funeral feast to his father, and there, while ale and mead
flowed abundantly, he vowed, flagon in hand, that he would drive Earl
Haakon from the Norse realm or perish in the attempt. His viking
followers joined him in the vow. The strong liquor was in their veins and
there was no enterprise they were not ready to undertake. When their
sober senses returned with the next morning, they measured better the
weight of the enterprise; but they had sworn to it and were not the men
to retreat from a vow they had taken.

Erik, an unruly son of Earl Haakon, had fled from his father's court in
disgrace and was now in Viken, and here the rumor of the vikings' oath
reached his ears. At once, forgetting his quarrel with his father, he
hastened north with all the men he could gather to Earl Haakon's aid,
preceding the Jomsvikings, who were sailing slowly up the shores of
Norway, plundering as they went in their usual fashion. They had a fleet
of sixty ships and a force of over seven thousand well-trained warriors.
Haakon, warned by his son, met them with three times their number of
ships, though these were smaller and lighter craft. On board were about
ten thousand men. Such were the forces that met in what the sagas call
the greatest battle that had ever been fought in Norway.

Soon the embattled ships met and the conflict grew fast and furious,
hurtling weapons filling the air and men falling on all sides. Great was
the carnage and blood flowed in streams on the fighting ships. Earl
Haakon stood in the prow of his ship in the heat of the fight, arrows and
spears whirling around him in such numbers that his shirt of mail became
so torn and rent that he threw it off as useless. The high ships of the
vikings gave them an advantage which told heavily against their
antagonists, spears and arrows being poured down from their sides.

In the height of the battle Earl Haakon disappeared. As the legends tell
he went ashore with his youngest son Erling, whom he sacrificed to the
heathen gods to win their aid in the battle. Hardly had he done this deed
of blood when a dense black cloud arose and a violent hail-storm broke
over the ships, the hail-stones weighing each two ounces and beating so
fiercely in the faces of the Jomsvikings as nearly to blind them. Some
say that the Valkyries, the daughters of Odin, were seen in the prow of
the earl's ship, filling the air with their death-dealing arrows.

Despite the storm and the supernatural terrors that they conjured up, the
Jomsvikings continued to fight, though their decks were slippery with
blood and melting hail. Only one coward appeared among them, their chief
Earl Sigvalde, who suddenly turned his ship and fled. When Vagn Aakesson,
the most daring of the Jomsvikings, saw this recreant act he was frantic
with rage.

"You ill-born hound," he cried, "why do you fly and leave your men in the
lurch? Shame on you, and may shame cling to you to your death!"

A spear hurtled from his hand and pierced the man at the helm, where
Sigvalde had stood a moment before. But the ship of the dastard earl kept
on and a general panic succeeded, all the ships in the fleeing earl's
line following his standard. Only Vagn Aakesson and Bue the Big were left
to keep up the fight.

Yet they kept it up in a way to win them fame. When Earl Haakon's ship
drew up beside that of Bue, two of the viking champions, Haavard the
Hewer and Aslak Rock-skull, leaped on deck and made terrible havoc. In
the end an Icelander picked up an anvil that was used to sharpen their
spears and hurled it at Aslak, splitting his skull, while Haavard had
both legs cut off. Yet the indomitable viking fought on, standing on his

The onset of the Jomsvikings was so terrific in this last fierce fight
that the earl's men gave back, and might have been all slain had not his
son Erik boarded Bue's ship at this crisis and made an irresistible
charge. A terrible cut across the face severed Bue's nose.

"Now," he cried, "the Danish maidens will kiss me no more."

Seeing that all was at an end, he seized two chests of gold to prevent
their capture by the victors, and sprang with them into the sea,

"Overboard all Bue's men!"

On Vagn's ship a similar fierce fight was taking place, ending only when
all but thirty of the vikings were slain.

Then a savage scene was enacted, one worthy only of those barbarous
times. The captives were taken ashore and seated on a long log, their
feet bound, their hands free. At the funeral feast in Sigvalde's hall
Vagn had boasted that he would kill Thorkill Laiva, one of Erik's chief
warriors, and this threatened man was now chosen as executioner.

At the captives he rushed, with uplifted axe, and savagely struck off
their heads, one after another. Vagn was to be left to the last, that he
might suffer from fear, but instead of this he sat joking and laughing
with his men. One of them sang and laughed so loudly that Erik asked him
if he would like to live.

"That depends on who it is that asks me."

"He who offers has the power to grant. I am Earl Erik."

"Then I gladly accept."

Another made a pun which so pleased the earl that he, too, was set free.

One of the captives had long, beautiful hair, and as Thorkill came near
him on his bloody errand he twisted his hair into a coil and asked the
executioner not to soil it with his blood. To humor him Thorkill asked
one of the bystanders to hold the coil while he struck. The man did so,
but as the axe came down the captive jerked his head aside so that the
axe fell on the wrists of the coil-holder, both his hands being cut off.

"Some of the Jomsvikings are still alive," laughed the captive.

"Who are you?" asked Erik.

"I am said to be a son of Bue."

"Do you wish to live?"

"What other choice have I?"

At Erik's command he, too, was released.

Angry at being thus robbed of his prey, Thorkill now sprang towards Vagn,
determined that at least his special enemy should fall. As he came near,
however, one of the men on the log threw himself forward in such a way
that Thorkill stumbled over him and dropped his axe. In an instant Vagn
was on his feet, seized the axe, and dealt Thorkill a deadly blow. His
boast was kept; Thorkill had fallen by his hand.

Erik saw the bold feat with such admiration that he ordered Vagn to be
freed, and the prisoners who remained alive were also set free at his

While this was going on Earl Haakon sat apart conversing with his
chieftains. As they did so they heard a bow-string twang, and before a
hand could be raised a keen-pointed arrow pierced the body of Gissur the
White, one of the chiefs, and he fell over dead. The arrow had come from
the ship of Bue the Big, and thither men ran in haste. What they saw was
Haavard the Hewer, still standing on his knees, though his blood flowed

"Tell me," he cried, "did any one fall at the tree yonder?"

"Yes; Gissur the White."

"Then luck failed me, for that arrow was aimed for Earl Haakon."

And he fell over on the deck, with death at his heart-strings. The viking
had sent a herald on before, to announce his coming at Odin's court.

It was Haakon who had ordered the murder of the captives, and Erik his
son who gave life to so many of them. The time was near at hand when the
earl was to meet the bloody fate which he had dealt out to others. Though
Erik had done so much to help him in the battle, he was furious with his
son for sparing the life of Vagn Aakesson. As a result they parted in
anger, Erik going south again. Here Vagn joined him and from that day
forward the two were warm friends and comrades.

But Haakon fell into ways of vice as he grew older, and at length he did
a deed that led him to a shameful death. He had his men bring by force
to his palace the wife of a rich peasant, and sent them for another, who
was famed for her beauty. Orm, her husband, refused to let her go and
sent news of the outrage to all the peasants in the valley. From farm to
farm flew the tidings, and the peasants, furious at the shameful deeds of
the earl, seized their arms and gathered in a great band, which marched
upon him at Medalhus.

Earl Haakon was taken by surprise. He had not dreamed of a revolt and
only a few men were with him. These he dismissed and fled for safety,
only one man, his old servant Kark, going with him. Reaching the Gaul
River in his flight, he rode his horse into a deep hole and left his
cloak on the ice, so that his pursuers, finding the dead horse and the
cloak, might think he was drowned.

From there he sought the nearby home of Thora of Rimul, a faithful woman
friend, told her of the hot pursuit and begged her to hide him from his
furious enemies. The only hiding place she could provide was a deep ditch
under her pig-sty, and in this filthy hole the great earl was hidden,
with food, candles, and bedding. Then boards were laid over the ditch and
covered with earth and upon this the pigs were driven.

To Rimul the peasants soon came, filled with fury, and with them came a
man of note who had just landed and was seeking to win the throne. This
was Olaf, a great-grandson of Harold the Fair-Haired, whose claim to the
crown of Norway was far better than that of Haakon. Thinking that Thora
had hidden the fleeing earl the pursuers searched the whole place. The
fugitive not being found, Olaf stood on a large stone near the pig-sty
and called the peasants around him, loudly announcing that any man who
should find and slay Earl Haakon would be given a large reward.

His words were plainly heard in the damp and unpleasant underground den
where Haakon sat shivering. He looked at Kark, the thrall, whose face
showed that he, too, had heard the promise of reward.

"What ails you?" asked the earl. "Your face changes from pale to dark and
gloomy. Do you propose to betray me?"

"No," said Kark.

"We were born on the same night, and if one of us dies the other will
soon follow," said the earl warningly.

For a long time they sat, listening to the sounds above. At length all
grew still and they felt that the night had come. Kark fell asleep, but
the earl sat awake, watching him in deep distrust. The slumbering thrall
tossed about as if in pain and the earl wakened him, asking of what he
had dreamt.

"I dreamed that you and I were on shipboard and that I was at the helm."

"That means that you rule over both our lives. Therefore, Kark, you must
be true and faithful to me, as duty bids you. Better days will soon come
to us both and then you shall be richly rewarded."

Again the thrall fell asleep and again he seemed to dream. The earl woke
him again.

"Of what did you dream?" he asked.

"I dreamed that I was at Hlade and that Olaf Tryggvesson put a golden
ring around my neck."

"That means," said the earl, "that if you seek Olaf he will put a red
ring [a ring of blood] around your neck. Beware of him, Kark, and trust
in me. Be faithful to me and you will find in me a faithful friend."

The night dragged slowly on. The earl dared not let himself sleep, but
sat staring at Kark, who stared back at him. When morning was near at
hand weariness lay so heavily on the earl that he could no longer keep
awake. But his sleep was sorely disturbed by the terrors of that dreadful
night. He tossed about and screamed out in distress and at length rose on
his knees with the horrors of nightmare in his face.

Then Kark, who had all night been meditating treachery, killed him with a
thrust of his knife. Cutting off his head, he broke out of the dark den
and sought Olaf, with the grisly trophy in his hand.

Olaf heard his story with lowering face. It was not to traitors like this
that he had offered reward. In the end, burning with indignation at the
base deed, he ordered the thrall's head to be struck off. Thus Kark's
dream, as interpreted by Haakon, came true. The ring put by Olaf around
his neck was not one of gold, but one of blood.


Many sons had Harold the Fair-Haired, and of some of them the story has
been told. One of them, Olaf by name, left a son named Tryggve, who in
turn had a son to whom he gave his father's name of Olaf. Wonderful was
the story of this Olaf in his youth and renowned was it in his age, for
he it was who drove the heathen gods from Norway and put Christ in their
place. But it is the strange and striking adventures of his earlier days
with which this tale has to deal.

Prince Tryggve had his enemies and by them was foully murdered. Then they
sought his dwelling, proposing to destroy his whole race. But Aastrid,
his wife, was warned in time, and fled from her home with Thorold, her
foster-father. She hid on a little island in the Rand fiord, and here was
born the son who was afterwards to become one of Norway's most famous

The perils of Aastrid were not yet at an end. Gunhild, the sorceress
queen, was her chief enemy, and when her spies brought her word that
Aastrid had borne a son, the wicked old woman sought to destroy the

The summer through Aastrid remained on the little isle, hiding in the
weedy bushes by day and venturing abroad only at night. Everywhere
Gunhild's spies sought her, and when autumn came with its long nights,
she left the isle and journeyed with her attendants through the land,
still hiding by day and travelling only under the shades of night. In
this way she reached the estate of her father, Erik Ofrestad.

The poor mother was not left in peace here, the evil-minded sorceress
still pursuing her. A body of murderers was sent to seek for her and her
son on her father's estate, but Ofrestad heard of their mission in time
to send the fugitives away. Dressed as beggars, Aastrid and her child and
Thorolf, her foster-father, travelled on foot from the farm, stopping at
evening to beg food and shelter from a peasant named Björn. The surly
fellow drove them away, but they were given shelter farther on by a
peasant named Thorstein.

Meanwhile the murderers were hot on their track. Not finding Aastrid at
her father's house, they traced her to Björn's farm, where they were told
that a handsome but poorly dressed woman, carrying a young child, had
asked for help that evening. It chanced that a servant of Thorstein
overheard this and when he reached home he told it to his master.
Suspecting the rank and peril of his guests, Thorstein roused them from
sleep with a great show of anger and drove them out into the night. This
was done to deceive the servants, but Thorstein followed the weary
fugitives and told them the reason of his act. He had driven them out to
save them, he said, and he gave them a trusty guide who could show them
the best hiding places in the forest. They found shelter for that night
amid the tall rushes by the side of a small lake.

When the troop of murderers reached Thorstein's house he set them astray
on the wrong scent and he fed the fugitives in the forest until the
murderous gang had given up the search. In the end he aided them to make
their way to Sweden, where they took refuge with a friend of Prince
Tryggve named Haakon the Old.

Still the wicked queen did not let them rest in peace. Learning where
they were, she sent two embassies to King Erik of Sweden, demanding the
surrender of the mother and child. Each time Erik gave them permission to
capture the fugitives if they could, saying that he would not interfere.
But Haakon the Old was not the man to surrender his guests. In vain
Gunhild's ambassador came to him with promises and threats. The dispute
at length grew so hot that a half-witted servant seized a dung-fork and
rushed at the ambassador, who took to his heels, fearing to have his fine
clothes soiled. The angry thrall pursued him till he was driven off the
estate, Haakon looking on with grim mirth.

Such were the early days of little Olaf, whose life began in a series of
adventures which were the prologue to a most stirring and active life.
Few men have had a more adventurous career than he, his whole life being
one of romance, activity and peril. He became a leading hero of the saga
writers, who have left us many striking stories of his young life and

Aastrid and her son remained with Haakon the Old until Earl Haakon came
into power in Norway. As he was not of royal blood, she feared that he
might seek to destroy all the descendants of old King Harold, and, in
doubt if her present protector was strong enough to defend her, she
decided to seek refuge in Russia, where her brother Sigurd had risen to a
place of power.

With this voyage young Olaf's later series of adventures began. The
merchant ship in which they set sail was taken by a viking pirate craft,
some of the passengers being killed and others sold as slaves. Thorolf
and his young son Thorgills, with the boy Olaf, were sold to a viking
named Klerkon, who killed Thorolf because he was too old to bring any
price as a slave, but kept the boys, whom he soon traded away in Esthonia
for a big ram. As for Aastrid, she was offered for sale at the
slave-market, and here, despite her ragged and miserable plight, she was
recognized by a rich merchant named Lodin. He offered to pay her ransom
if she would become his wife. The poor woman, not knowing what had become
of her son, was glad to accept his offer and returned with him to his
home in Norway.

To return to the story of the boy slaves, the man who had bought them for
a ram, soon sold them for a coat and cape to a man named Reas. The new
master put Thorgills to hard labor, but took a fancy to Olaf and treated
him much more kindly, the young prince remaining with him for six years
and growing up to be a handsome and sturdy youth.

Sigurd Eriksson, Aastrid's brother, and the uncle of Olaf, was a man of
prominence in Esthonia, and one day rode on business of King Vladimir
through the town in which Reas lived. Here he saw some boys playing, one
of whom attracted him by his manly and handsome face. Calling him to his
horse's side, he asked his name.

"Olaf," said the boy.

Olaf! The name was significant to Sigurd, and a few words more taught him
that the lad was his lost nephew. Seeking Reas, he offered him a good
price for his two young slaves and took them home with him, bidding Olaf
not to tell any one else who he was.

The boy was now well-grown, active, and strong for his years. Walking one
day about the town he saw before him the viking Klerkon who had killed
old Thorolf, his foster-father. He had at the moment an axe in his hand
and, with no thought but that of revenge on the murderer, he struck him a
blow that split his skull and stretched him dead on the ground.

The boy was in peril of his life for this impulsive deed. Death was its
legal penalty, and a crowd quickly gathered who demanded that the boy
murderer should be killed. His uncle heard of the act and ran in haste to
his rescue, taking him to Olga, the queen, and telling her who he was,
what he had done, and why he had done it.

The queen looked at the beautiful and bright-faced lad and took a great
fancy to him at sight. She took him under her protection, and gave him a
training in the use of arms and warlike sports, such as beseemed the
scion of a royal race. When twelve years of age King Vladimir, who
esteemed the boy highly, gave him some armed ships and sent him out to
try his hand in real war, and for some years he roved abroad as a viking.
He also served the king well by conquering for him a rebel province.

Olaf might have won high rank in Russia but for the enemies who envied
him and who made the king fear that he would yet find a rival for the
throne in the ambitious boy. Fearing trouble for her protege, Queen Olga
advised him to leave the kingdom and he sailed for the land of the Wends,
on the Baltic shores, where King Burislav received him as a distinguished
young warrior. He did not tell who he really was, but went under the name
of Ole the Russian, and as such married the daughter of the king, who
fell in love with him for his valor and beauty. Many were the valiant
deeds he did for King Burislav, with whom he stayed until the death of
his wife, he being then twenty-one years of age.

The young warrior now grew eager for new adventures, and in response to a
dream determined to go to Greece and become a Christian. His dream
served the cause of Christianity better than this, if the story is true
that he sent a missionary bishop to Russia who converted both King
Vladimir and Queen Olga to the Christian faith.

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,

From Greece Olaf wandered to many countries, including France, Denmark,
Scotland, and Northumberland, and his adventures were very numerous. He
was twenty-five years of age when he reached England and here he met with
an adventure of a new type. The Princess Gyda, sister of an Irish king,
was a widow, but was still young and beautiful and had so many suitors
that it was hard for her to choose between them. Among the most
importunate was a warrior named Alfvine, a great slayer of men.

So many were they and so much did they annoy the fair widow that at last
she fixed a day when she would choose a husband from among them, and
numbers of them came before her, all in their most splendid attire. It
was a championship that attracted many lookers on and among them came
Olaf with some of his companions. He was plainly dressed, and wore a fur
hood and cape. Gyda stood forth and looked over her throng of lovers with
listless eyes until at length she saw among the spectators the tall
stranger with the hood of fur. She walked up to him, lifted the hood, and
gazed long into his eyes. What she saw there riveted her fancy.

"I do not know you," she said; "but if you will have me for a wife, then
you are my choice."

Olaf must have seen as much in her eyes as she had in his, for he warmly

"I know no woman who equals you, and gladly will I accept you."

At once their betrothal was published, but Alfvine, burning with wrath,
challenged the fortunate stranger to mortal combat. Fierce and long was
the fight, but Norse blood and valor conquered and Gyda was enraptured
with the courage and skill of her spouse. They were duly wedded and Olaf
spent several years in England and Ireland, winning fame there as a
doughty champion and growing ever more earnest in the Christian faith.

In the chronicles of the time we are told much of the doings of the
doughty Olaf, who won fame as the chieftain of a viking fleet, which in
994 made many descents upon the English coast. In the end he landed in
Southampton and fixed his winter quarters there, living upon the country.
He was finally bought off by King Ethelred with £10,000, which he divided
among his men. He received confirmation in the Christian faith the same
year, King Ethelred being present, and took a solemn vow, which he never
broke, that he would never again molest England and her people.

Olaf's name was no longer concealed and the fame of his deeds reached
Norway, where they gave no small trouble of mind to Earl Haakon, who
dreaded this young adventurer of royal descent, knowing well how much the
people loved King Harold and his race. Haakon went so far as to try to
compass his death, sending his friend Thore Klakka to Dublin, where Olaf
then was, to kill him if he could, otherwise to entice him to Norway when
he would himself destroy him.

The latter Thore did, finding Olaf ready for any new adventure, and under
Thore's treacherous advice he sailed with five ships and landed in
Hördaland, where Haakon's power was the greatest, and thence sailed
northward to Tröndelag where the earl was and where he hoped to take him
by surprise.

Thore had represented that Olaf would find friends in plenty there, and
much to his own surprise found that he had told more truth than he knew;
for, as told in the last tale, the peasants were then in arms and in
pursuit of the recreant earl. They gladly accepted Olaf as their leader,
on learning who he was, and helped him in the quick and sudden downfall
and death of Haakon, as already described.

All the chiefs and peasants of the district were now summoned to meet in
assembly and with one voice they chose Olaf Tryggvesson, great-grandson
of the renowned Harold, as their king. All Norway confirmed their action
and thus easily did the adventurer prince, who had once been a slave-boy,
sold for half a fat ram, rise to the throne of Norway.


Earl Haakon was the last heathen king of Norway. Olaf, the new king, was
a zealous Christian and was determined to introduce the new faith. And
this was done not in the mild and gentle way in which Haakon the Good had
attempted it, but with all the fierce fury of the viking spirit. Christ
the White the Northmen called the new deity, but it was rather Christ the
Red in Olaf's hands, for, while Christian in faith, he was a son of the
old gods, Odin and Thor, in spirit.

It is not the Christianizing of Norway that we have set out to tell, but
as this is a matter of great importance some space must be given to it.
Olaf, high spirited and impetuous, did by storm what he might not have
been able to do by milder measures. He had little trouble in the south of
Norway, where the Christian faith had been making its way for years, but
in the north the old heathen spirit was strong, sacrifices to the gods
were common, and the rude and cruel barbarism which the old doctrines
favored everywhere prevailed. Here it was that Olaf had a strong fortress
of heathenism to take by storm.

In Tröndelag was the temple of Hlade, ancient and grand, the stronghold
of the Norse gods. Fierce and impulsive in his zeal, Olaf broke into this
old temple, destroyed the altar, burned the idols, and carried away the
treasure. At once the people were in arms, but the resolute king began to
build a Christian church where the temple had stood and also a
fortress-like residence for himself.

In the end the peasants grew so fierce and warlike and were so backed up
by a lusty chieftain named Ironbeard, that Olaf found himself obliged to
promise to take part with them in the feast and sacrifices of the coming

But before this time arrived he appeared again at Hlade and he now
brought with him a strong fleet and numerous armed warriors. Many guests
had been invited to meet him, and these were entertained until they were
all royally drunk. Then the king said to them:

"I have promised to sacrifice with you, and am here to keep my word. I
propose to make a royal sacrifice, not of thralls and criminals, but of
lords and chieftains, for thus we can best do honor to Odin."

He then selected six of his most powerful opponents and said that he
intended to sacrifice them to Odin and Frey, that the people might have
good crops. The dismayed chiefs were instantly seized and were offered
the alternative of being sacrificed or baptized. Taken by surprise, they
were not long in deciding upon the latter, the king making them give
hostages for their good faith.

Soon after came the Yuletide and Olaf was present with a strong force at
Möre, where the sacrifices were to be made. The peasants also came in
force, all armed, with the burly Ironbeard as their leader. They were
rude and noisy and it was some time before the king could make himself
heard. Then he called on them all to accept baptism and acknowledge
Christ the White in place of their bloodthirsty gods. Ironbeard haughtily
replied that they were supporters of the old laws and that the king must
make the sacrifices as all the kings before him had done.

Olaf heard him through and said that he was there to keep his promise.
Then, with many men, he entered the temple, leaving his arms outside as
the law required. All he carried was a stout, gold-headed stick. Stopping
before the statue of the god Thor, around which were rings of gold and
iron, he raised the stick and gave the idol a blow so fierce and strong
that it tumbled in pieces from its pedestal. At the same moment his
followers struck down the other idols. The peasants, thunderstruck at the
sacrilege, looked for support to Ironbeard, but the doughty warrior lay
dead. He had shared the fate of the idols he worshipped, being struck
down at the same moment with them. What to do the peasants knew not, and
when Olaf told them they must either be baptized or fight they chose the
former as the safest. The province of Haalogaland, still farther north,
was dealt with in the same arbitrary fashion, those of the chiefs who
refused baptism being put to death with torture. And in this fierce and
bloody way the dominion of Christ the White was established in the land
of the vikings. It was but a substitute for the heathen gods that was
given them in such a fashion, and years had to pass before they would
become true Christians.

Much more might be said about King Olaf, his kindliness and winning
manners in peace, his love of show and splendor, his prowess in battle
and his wonderful skill with weapons. He could use both hands with equal
effect in fighting, could handle three spears at once, keeping one always
in the air, and when his men were rowing could run from prow to stern of
the ship on their oars. But what we have chiefly to tell is the last
adventure of the viking king and how death came to him in the heat of the

What became of his wife Gyda, the Irish princess, we are not told, but he
had now a new wife, Thyra, sister of King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark, and
it was to this queen he owed his death. She had large estates in Wendland
and Denmark, from which she now received no revenues, and she fretted
Olaf so by appeals, prayers, and tears to win back for her this property
that he had no peace in his palace. The annoyance went on until the
hot-tempered king could bear it no longer and he began to prepare for war
abroad that he might gain peace at home.

Word was sent out to the chiefs of the land, bidding them to join the
king with the ships required by the laws of the kingdom. Among his own
ships was one called the Short Serpent, and he had just finished another
of great size and beauty which he named the Long Serpent. Never had so
noble a ship been seen in the north. It was 112 feet long and had 104
oars, while it could carry six hundred warriors, none being over sixty or
under twenty years of age except the great bowman Thambarkskelver, who
was but eighteen, yet was so skilful with the bow that he could shoot a
blunt arrow through a hanging raw ox-hide.

With sixty ships and as many transports Olaf sailed south to Wendland,
where he was well received by his old friend King Burislav, whose
daughter Geira had been his first wife. The Wend king royally entertained
him and made a just settlement of Queen Thyra's estates, and Olaf
prepared to sail homeward again. But dark clouds of war were gathering on
his path.

Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark was hostile both to Burislav and Olaf and the
king of Sweden was leagued with the Danish king. To detain Olaf while
they gathered their fleets, these kings employed Sigvalde, the cowardly
chief of the Jomsvikings, who had fled from the battle with Earl Haakon,
to visit and lure him into blind confidence.

The treacherous viking succeeded. His smooth, soft ways won Olaf's heart
and the open-minded king put complete trust in him. Sigvalde finally,
after bringing about much delay by his false arts, engaged to pilot Olaf
with his own fleet through the dangerous waters of the coast, and even
induced him to divide his ships by sending part of them in advance.

The traitor meanwhile kept in communication with King Sweyn and promised
to lure Olaf away from his main force and lead him into the snare they
were laying for him. Chief among the enemies of the Norse king was Earl
Erik, the son of Earl Haakon, whom he was eager to avenge, and King Olaf
the Swede, who was present with a fleet.

With sixty or seventy ships of war these foes of Norway's king lay hidden
behind the little island of Svolder, in Olaf's track. For a number of
days they awaited him with impatience. At last Olaf's transports appeared
within view of the leaders of the hostile fleet, who were posted at an
elevated point on the land.

The day was fair, the wind gentle and favorable, and the foremost ships
sailed onward, seeing nothing of the foes. When King Sweyn saw among them
a large and handsome ship he was sure it must be the Long Serpent, and

"Olaf of Norway is afraid to-day, for he carries no dragon-head on his

"That is not the king's ship," said Earl Erik, "but that of Erling of
Sole. I know it by its striped sails. Let it pass, for it will be better
for us to have Erling out of the fray."

On, one by one, came the Norse ships, sweeping proudly by, and at length
Sigvalde's eleven ships came in sight. These, signalled from the shore,
suddenly turned inward round the island, to the surprise of Thorkill
Dyrdill, captain of the Crane, which followed in their wake. Seeing this
fine ship, Sweyn grew eager for the fight and ordered his men on board in
spite of Erik's warning that the time had not yet arrived.

"Are you afraid of them?" sneered the Dane. "Have you lost all desire to
avenge your father?"

"Wait and you will see," retorted Erik. "Before the sun sets you will
find who is most eager for battle, I, or you and your men."

When Thorkill saw the treacherous act of Sigvalde and caught sight of the
ambushed fleet, he let fall the sails of the Crane and awaited the coming
of the king. Soon the Short Serpent came up, its gilded dragon-head
shining brightly in the sunlight. Not long after the Long Serpent
appeared, its golden prow glittering brilliantly as the sunbeams fell
upon it. Those who saw it marvelled at its size and beauty and many
beheld with dread the glittering array of swords and shields as it came
sweeping onward.

But the great body of King Olaf's ships had gone on without thought of a
foeman and were now out of sight. Only eleven of them remained, and some
of his captains advised him not to fight against such odds.

"Down with the sails," he cried cheerily. "Bind the ships together. Never
yet have I fled from battle and I will not do so now. God is my shield
and I will flee from no foe. He is no king who lets fear put him to
flight before his enemies."

Yet his peril was deadly, as was evident when the fleet of more than
sixty ships rowed out from its ambush against Olaf's eleven.

"Who is the leader here before us?" he asked.

"That is King Sweyn with his Danes," said one of the men.

"Let them come on. Danes have never yet beaten Norsemen, and they will
not to-day. But whose standards are those on the right?"

"They are those of Olaf of Sweden."

"The heathen Swedes had better have stayed at home to lick their
sacrificial bowls. We need not fear these horse-eaters. Yonder to the
left; whose ships are those?"

"They belong to Earl Erik, the son of Earl Haakon."

"Then we may look for hard blows from them. Erik and his men are Norsemen
like ourselves, and he has reason not to love me and mine."

While he spoke Queen Thyra, who was with him, came on deck. When she saw
the desperate odds she burst into tears.

"Do not weep," said Olaf. "You have got what was due in Wendland; and
to-day I will do my best to win your rights from your brother Sweyn."

King Sweyn came first into the fray, but after a stubborn fight was
driven off with great carnage. Then the Swedes swarmed to the rescue, and
a second hard battle ensued, in which the Norsemen were outnumbered ten
to one. Yet Olaf, with shining helmet and shield and a tunic of scarlet
silk over his armor, directed the defence, and gave his men such courage
by his fierce valor that the victory would have been his but for Earl

When Erik's great galley, the Iron Ram, came into the fight and Norse met
Norse, the onset was terrific. Greatly outnumbered, worn out with their
exertions, and many of them bleeding from wounds, the men in ship after
ship were overpowered and these cut adrift, their defenders being slain.
At length only the Long Serpent remained, and against it was driven the
Iron Ram.

There was little wind and the damage was not great, and soon the storm of
spears and arrows was resumed. Einer Thambarkskelver, the famous bowman,
saw Earl Erik in the prow of his ship screened by the shields of his men,
and soon Einer's arrows were hurtling around him.

"Shoot that tall bowman," said Erik to one of his own archers.

An arrow sped and hit Einer's bow in the middle, breaking it in twain.

"What is broke?" asked Olaf, hearing the sound.

"Norway broke then from your hands, my king," said Einer.

"Not so bad as that; take my bow and try what it is worth."

Einer caught the bow, bent it double, and threw it back.

"It is too weak," he said.

Desperate was now the strait and no escape was possible. Olaf sent his
spears hurtling on Erik's crowded deck, but he saw that his men were
scarce able to hold their own.

"Your swords bite poorly," he said. "Have your arms lost their strength?"

"No," was the reply, "but our blades are dull and notched."

The king ran forward, opened a chest, and flung out armfulls of bright,
sharp swords.

"Here is what will bite deeply," he said.

But victory was now hopeless; the earl's men swept back the tired
warriors; blood flowed from under the king's armor; all hands were bent
against him, for he loomed above his men. Kolbjörn, a man who resembled
the king, sprang to his side and helped him shrewdly in the fray.

Still the stern combat went on, still the weapons flew, still men fell
groaning, and as the king looked along his deck he saw that only eight
men kept their feet besides himself and his companion. All was lost.
Raising the shield above his head, he leaped over the ship's side.
Kolbjörn followed and was picked up by the earl's men, who took him to be
the king. As for Olaf, the hungry sea swallowed his form.

Legend tells us, indeed, that he was rescued by a ship sent to his aid by
Aastrid, Earl Sigvalde's wife, and that he made a pilgrimage to Rome and
long afterwards lived as a hermit in the Holy Land. But that is one of
the stories based on good wishes rather than sound facts.

It was in the year 1000, when King Olaf was thirty-six years old, that
this famous sea-fight took place. Queen Thyra felt that she had caused
his death and could not be consoled. Erik treated her kindly and promised
her the honors due to her high estate, but her heart was broken by her
loss, and nine days afterwards she died.


The story of Olaf the Saint, the Norse king who comes next into our view,
illustrates the barbarous character of the heathen people with whom we
are dealing. Few warriors in those days died in their beds, death coming
to them in some more violent form. Olaf's grandfather, a son of Harold
the Fair-Haired, was killed by his brother, Erik Blood-Axe, and his
father was burned alive by a royal widow whom he sought to marry. Many
wooers came to seek her hand and she got rid of them by setting on fire
the hall in which they slept.

"I'll teach these little kings the risk of proposing to me," said this
viking widow.

A proud little fellow was Olaf, hot of temper and bearing no opposition.
He knew that he was of kingly birth, and despised his step-father Sigurd
Syr, also a descendant of King Harold, but caring more for his crops than
for the dreams of ambition. Once, when Olaf was ten years old, Sigurd
sent him to the stable to saddle and bring out his horse. When he came
out he led a big goat, on which he had placed the saddle.

"Why do you do that?" he was asked.

"Oh, the goat is good enough for him, for he is as much like a king as a
goat is like a war-horse."

The boy was only twelve when he began to take part in the cruises of the
vikings, and in these quickly showed himself brave and daring. When he
grew to a ripe age and found that the rule of Norway was divided between
two young men, successors of the Olaf whose story we have last told, he
determined to strike for the throne.

The story of how he won the throne is interesting, but must be dealt with
here very briefly, as we have rather to do with the story of how he lost
it. Olaf was fortunate at the start, for he captured a ship on which Earl
Erik, one of these boy kings, was sailing along the coast.

A beautiful youth he was, tall and shapely, with silky golden hair which
fell in long curls over his shoulders. Proud he was too, and answered his
captor's questions with manly resolution.

"Your luck has left you and you are in my power," said Olaf; "what shall
I do with you?"

"That depends on you," answered the fearless young earl.

"What will you do if I let you go unharmed?"

"What do you wish me to do?"

"Only this, that you leave your country and renounce your claim of
kingship, and that you swear never to make war on me."

To this young Erik agreed and sailed away to England to join his uncle,
Canute the Dane, who was then king of both Denmark and England.

With the other young king, Earl Sweyn, Olaf did not find his task so
easy, since Sweyn fought for his rights in a naval battle in which he had
forty-five ships and three thousand men, while Olaf had less than half
that number of men and ships. Olaf won the battle by a shrewd stratagem.
He told his men to act at first only on the defensive, holding back their
weapons until the enemy had thrown away theirs.

On came Earl Sweyn's fleet, fiercely attacking that of Olaf, a cloud of
spears and arrows filling the air. As none came back from Olaf's men,
their opponents fancied they were afraid, and rushed on them eagerly. But
by this time their spears and arrows had grown scarce, and when a storm
of these came from the opposite side they were taken by surprise and many
of them killed. Wild with fear, they now sought to escape, and in the end
their whole fleet broke and fled, leaving victory to the new king.

Sweyn fled to Sweden, whose king promised him help to regain his kingdom.
But he died before his plans were ripe and Olaf was left without a rival
except the king of Sweden, who had won a part of Norway in a former
battle and now held it. This source of trouble was settled by the Swedes
themselves, who had no fancy for fighting to help their king's ambition,
and forced him to agree to yield his claim and give his daughter Ingegerd
to Olaf for wife. So by a marriage Olaf won the remainder of his kingdom
and became ruler over all Norway; but not by marrying Ingegerd, for he
chose instead her sister Aastrid.

There is a pretty story told just here in the sagas, or historical tales
of the Icelanders. Thus it reads: Sigurd Syr, who had married Olaf's
mother Aasta, died in 1018, and Olaf came to her house to help in
settling her affairs. She had three boys, Guttorm, Halfdan, and Harold,
whom she brought into the hall to introduce to their half-brother, the
king. Olaf put the two older ones on his knees and made so fierce a face
at them that they ran away sadly scared. Then he took up little Harold
and stared at him in the same way. The brave youngster was not so easily
frightened as his brothers and stared back at the king. Then Olaf pulled
his hair, but the daring youngster pulled his beard in exchange.

"He will do," said Olaf, setting him down with a laugh.

The next day the king and his mother watched the boys at their play. The
older two amused themselves by building barns, in which they put toy cows
and sheep; but Harold launched mock boats on a pond and watched them
drift away.

"What do you call them?" asked Olaf.

"Ships of war," said the boy.

"Good lad," answered the king; "the day will come when you will command
real ships."

Calling the boys to him, he asked Guttorm, the oldest, what he most
wished for.

"Land," said the boy.

"How much?"

"Enough to sow as much grain every summer as would cover the headland

Ten large farms covered the headland in question.

"And what do you most desire?" the king asked Halfdan.

"Enough cows to cover the shores of the headland when they went to the
water to drink."

"So; one wants land and the other cattle; and what do you want, Harold?"

"Men," said the boy.

"How many?"

"Enough to eat up in a single dinner all brother Halfdan's cows."

"Come, mother," said Olaf, laughing; "you have here a chap in training to
make himself a king."

So it proved, for in later days Harold rose to be king of Norway.

But now we have to tell from what the king gained his title of Olaf the
Saint. It came from his warm endeavors to make Norway a Christian land.
The former King Olaf had forced his people to be baptized, but the most
of them were heathens at heart still and after his death many began to
worship the old gods again. It was the second Olaf that made the
Christian secure in the land, and this still more by his death than by
his life.

When he was still an infant the former King Olaf had baptized him and
given him his own name, and the time came when his little namesake took
up and finished his work. What most troubled the kings of Norway in that
age was the power held by the tribal chiefs, who were difficult to
control and ready to rebel; and this power came from the fact that they
were not only chiefs, but were the priests of the old religion. As
priest-kings their people followed them blindly, and no king could be
sure of his crown while this system prevailed.

Olaf, who had been brought up in the new faith, set himself earnestly to
spread the true principles of Christ's teachings through the land and for
years he worked at it earnestly. But he had hard metal to deal with. It
is said that one chief, when about to be baptized, turned to the priest
and asked him where were his brave forefathers who had died without being

"They are in hell," said the priest.

"Then hell is the place for me," answered the chief. "I would rather be
there with Odin and my hard fighting and noble fathers than in heaven
with cowardly Christians and shaven monks."

This was the spirit of the chiefs. A heaven in which there would be no
fighting and mead-drinking had no charms for them, and to live forever
with the souls of men who had never drawn sword and struck blow was too
dreary a prospect for their turbulent tastes.

But Olaf was ardent in the new faith and persistent in his endeavors,
travelling from end to end of the land in his efforts to break up the old
idolatry. Here is one of the stories told of this missionary work of the

He was then in Nidaros, whose peasantry, called Trönders, were said to be
celebrating in secret the old pagan festivals and offering sacrifices to
Odin and Frey for bountiful crops. When King Olaf came among them they
took arms against him, but afterwards agreed to hold a public assembly
and deal in that way with the religious question that was troubling the

On the day they met it was raining hard. When the king asked them to
believe in the God of the Christians and be baptized, Dale Guldbrand,
their leader, replied:

"We know nothing of the being you speak of; a god whom neither you nor
any one else can see. Now we have a god whom you can see every day,
except a rainy day like this. If your god is so powerful, then let him
arrange that to-morrow we shall have clouds but no rain."

When they met again the next day the weather was what they had asked for,
clouds but no rain. Bishop Sigurd now celebrated mass and preached to the
people about the miracles which Christ had wrought when on earth. On the
third day it was still cloudy. The people had brought with them a great
wooden image of the god Thor, and their chief spoke as follows:

"Where is your god now, King Olaf? You do not look so bold as you did
yesterday, for our god, who rules over all things, is here now and
scaring you with his fierce eyes. You scarce dare look at him, but you
would be wiser to believe in the god that holds in his hand your

"Your god does not frighten me," answered the king. "He is blind and
deaf and cannot move from the spot where you have set him without he is
carried. He will soon meet his fate. Look yonder to the east. There in
the flood of light comes our God."


To the east all eyes were turned, and at that moment the sunlight burst
from the clouds and spread over the scene. As it did so a sturdy warrior,
at a signal from the king, sprang forwards and struck the idol so fierce
a blow with his club that it was shattered to pieces. Out from its hollow
interior sprang great rats, snakes, and lizards, which had grown fat on
the food with which the idol had been fed daily.

On seeing these loathsome things squirm from the interior of their god
the peasants fled from the spot in a panic of fear, rushing to the river
where their boats lay. But King Olaf, forecasting this, had sent men to
bore holes in the boats so that they would not float. Unable to escape,
the frightened peasants came back, quite downcast in spirit.

"You see what your god is worth," said the king. "Has he eaten the bread
and meat you fed him, or has it gone to fatten rats and snakes? As for
the gold and silver you gave him, there it lies scattered. Take up your
golden ornaments and hang them no more on worthless logs. Now I give you
your choice: you shall accept the faith I bring you, or you shall fight
for your own. He will win to whom his god gives the victory."

The peasants were not prepared to fight, and therefore were obliged to
accept baptism. Priests were sent to teach them the tenets of the new
faith they had accepted, and Dale Guldbrand signified his honesty by
building a church to the Christian deity. Other provinces were also won
over to Christ, but there was one great and bold chieftain, Erling by
name, and a sturdy heathen in his faith, who remained hostile to the king
and a war between them became inevitable.

While the king and the earl were making busy preparations to fight for
their faiths, a warrior king and conqueror stepped in to take advantage
for himself of the quarrel. This was King Canute, monarch of Denmark and
England, who was eager to add Norway and Sweden to his dominions and make
himself one of the most powerful of kings. He secretly sent presents to
the discontented Norse chiefs and took other means to win them to his
cause. It was not long before Olaf learned of these underhand doings, and
he at once made an alliance with King Anund of Sweden, whose sister he
had married, and whom he told that Canute would attack him if he should
win Norway. In his turn, Canute sent ambassadors to King Anund, with
splendid presents, hoping to win him over.

Two candlesticks of gold were placed before him by the ambassadors.

"Pretty toys those," said Anund, "but not worth enough to break me from
my good friend Olaf."

Then they brought forth a golden platter, of artistic finish and adorned
with jewels. King Anund gazed at it with covetous eyes.

"A handsome bit of work," he said; "but I will not sell King Olaf for a

Finally two magnificent rings were offered. King Anund laughed when he
saw them.

"Keen and shrewd is King Canute," he remarked. "He knows I love golden
toys, but he does not know that I love honor better. I have known King
Olaf since he was a boy; he is my friend and my sister is his queen. I
will not forsake him to please your king."

On hearing this, King Canute laid aside his plots and made a pilgrimage
to Rome. During his absence his brother-in-law, Earl Ulf, rebelled
against him and allied himself with Kings Olaf and Anund, who sent fleets
to his aid. As it proved, King Canute was not the man to be caught
napping. Back from his pilgrimage he travelled in haste and came near to
capturing both the kings. They fled with all speed, pursued by him with a
more powerful fleet, and went up a little river in southern Sweden, which
they closed by a dam against their strong foe. Canute came soon after and
found the harbor deserted and the river closed against him.

That night orders were given by the kings to break the dam and the
heaped-up water ran down in an immense flood on the Danish ships, doing
them great damage and drowning many of the people on board. But no attack
was made on the disabled fleet, for Earl Ulf now turned traitor to his
allies and joined Canute with his ships, making him too strong to

This ended the war for the time, Canute returning to England. But he had
won over many of the Norse chiefs by his bribes and the next year came
again, sailing north to Nidaros, where the assembled chiefs, whom he had
gained to his side, proclaimed him king of Norway. He appointed Earl
Haakon, grandson of the famous Earl Haakon of a former tale, regent in
his stead, and sailed away again.

In this manner Olaf lost his kingdom, for with all the powerful chiefs
sold to the great King Canute and supported by him, little hope remained.
He kept up the struggle for a short time, but was soon forced to flee to
Sweden, whence he made his way to Russia and to the court of King
Jaroslov, who was his brother-in-law, for he had married Princess
Ingegerd of Sweden, once affianced to Olaf.

Thus easily had Norway been conquered by Canute, but it was not long to
remain under Danish rule at this time. Olaf, it is true, never won the
throne again, though he made a strong effort to regain it. In Russia he
grew more and more given to religious thoughts, until he became looked
upon as a holy man. This made him open to believe in visions, and when in
a dream he saw the former King Olaf, who bade him to go back to Norway
and conquer it or die, he did not hesitate.

Word had been brought him that Earl Haakon was dead and Norway with no
immediate ruler, and against the advice of Jaroslov he set out for his
late kingdom, leaving his son Magnus at the Russian court.

In Sweden the king gave him permission to gather recruits, but now his
religious fanaticism stood in the way of his success. He would have none
but baptized men in his army, and thus rejected many brave warriors while
taking some known to be outlaws and thieves. On reaching Norway he showed
the same unwisdom. He had but four thousand men under his command, while
the army he was soon to meet numbered ten thousand. Yet Olaf rejected
five hundred of his men because they were heathens and, thus weakened,
marched to the unequal fray.

"Forward, Christ's men, king's men!" was the battle-cry of Olaf's army as
it rushed upon the foe. "Forward, peasant men!" cried the opposite army,
charging under its chiefs.

The king's men had the best of it at the opening, but the peasants held
their ground stubbornly, and as the battle went on Olaf's ranks thinned
and wavered. Finding the day going against him, he dashed forward with a
small band of devoted men. One by one they fell. The standard changed
hands again and again as its bearer was struck down. Olaf, severely
wounded, stood leaning against a rock, when he was cut down by spear and
sword. And strangely, at that moment, the sun began to grow blood-red and
a dusky hue fell over the field. Darker and darker it grew till the sun
was blotted out and terror filled the souls of the peasants, who saw in
this strange darkness a token of the wrath of Olaf's God. But the eclipse
came too late to save the king, who lay dead where he had fallen.

Olaf was gone but tradition built a halo around his name. It was reported
that miracles were wrought by his blood and by the touch of his lifeless
hand. Tales of marvel and magic grew up about him, and he became a
wonder-worker for the superstitious people. In time he grew to be the
national hero and the national saint, and lives in history as Olaf the
Saint, while his tragic death and his enthusiasm for the cause of Christ
gave him a strong hold on the people's hearts and aided greatly in making
Norway truly a Christian land.


A famous old king of Denmark, known as Harald Blaatand or Bluetooth, had
many sons, of whom only one, Svend or Sweyn, outlived him. While Harald
was a Christian, Sweyn was a pagan, having been brought up in the old
faith by a noble warrior Palnatoke, to whom his father had sent the boy
to teach him the use of arms.

When the king found that the boy was being made a pagan he tried to
withdraw him from Palnatoke, but Sweyn would not leave his friend,
whereupon the crafty king sought to destroy the warrior. We speak of
this, for there is a very interesting story connected with it. Every one
has read of how the Austrian governor Gessler condemned the Swiss peasant
William Tell to shoot with an arrow an apple from his son's head, but few
know that a like story is told of a Danish king and warrior four hundred
years earlier. This is the story, as told for us by an old historian.

One day, while Palnatoke was boasting in the king's presence of his skill
as an archer, Harald told him that, in spite of his boasts, there was one
shot he would not dare to try. He replied that there was no shot he was
afraid to attempt, and the king then challenged him to shoot an apple
from the head of his son. Palnatoke obeyed, and the apple fell, pierced
by the arrow. This cruel act made Palnatoke the bitter foe of King
Harald, and gathering around him a band of fierce vikings he founded a
brotherhood of sea-rovers at Jomsborg, and for long years afterwards the
Jomsborgers, or Jomsborg vikings, were a frightful scourge to all
Christian lands on the Baltic Sea. In former tales we have told some of
their exploits.

It is said that Sweyn himself, in a later war, killed his father on the
battlefield, while Palnatoke stood by approving, though in after years
the two were bitter foes. All we need say further of these personages is
that Sweyn invaded England with a powerful force in the time of Ethelred
the Unready and drove this weak king from the island, making himself
master of great part of the kingdom. He died at Gainsborough, England, in
1014, leaving his son Knud, then a boy of fourteen, to complete the
conquest. It is this son, known in England as Canute the Great, and the
mightiest of all the Danish kings, with whose career we have to deal.

England did not fall lightly into Canute's hands; he had to win it by
force of arms. Encouraged by the death of Sweyn and the youth of Canute,
the English recalled Ethelred and for a time the Danes lost the kingdom
which their king Sweyn had won. Canute did not find a throne awaiting him
in Denmark. His younger brother Harald had been chosen king by the Danes
and when Canute asked him for a share in the government, Harald told him
that if he wished to be a king he could go back and win England for
himself. He would give him a few ships and men, but the throne of Denmark
he proposed to keep.

Nothing loth, Canute accepted the offer and the next year returned to
England with a large and well appointed force, whose work of conquest was
rapidly performed. Ethelred died and great part of England was
surrendered without resistance to the Danes. But Edmond, Ethelred's son,
took the field with an army and in three months won three victories over
the invaders.

A fourth battle was attempted and lost and Edmond retreated to the
Severn, swiftly followed by Canute. The two armies here faced each other,
with the fate of England in the balance, when a proposal in close accord
with the spirit of the times was made. This was to settle the matter by
single combat between the kings. Both were willing. While Edmond had the
advantage in strength, Canute was his superior in shrewdness. For when
the champions met in deadly fray and Canute was disarmed by his opponent,
the wily Dane proposed a parley, and succeeded in persuading Edmond to
divide the kingdom between them. The agreement was accepted by the armies
and the two kings parted as friends--but the death of Edmond soon after
had in it a suspicious appearance of murder by poison.

On the death of Edmond, Canute called a meeting of the popular assembly
of the nation and was acknowledged king of all England. Not long
afterwards Harald of Denmark died and the Danes chose him, under his
home name of Knud, as their king also. But he stayed in Denmark only long
enough to settle the affairs of the Church in that realm. He ordered that
Christianity should be made the religion of the kingdom and the worship
of Odin should cease; and put English bishops over the Danish clergy. He
also brought in English workmen to teach the uncivilized Danes. Thus,
Dane as Canute was, he preferred the religion and conditions of his
conquered to those of his native kingdom, feeling that it was superior in
all the arts and customs of civilization.

A great king was Canute, well deserving the title long given him of
Canute the Great. Having won England by valor and policy, he held it by
justice and clemency. He patronized the poets and minstrels and wrote
verses in Anglo-Saxon himself, which were sung by the people and added
greatly to his popularity. Of the poems written by him one was long a
favorite in England, though only one verse of it now remains. This was
preserved by the monks of Ely, since they were its theme. Thus it runs,
in literal translation:

               "Merrily sung the monks within Ely
               When Canute King rowed by;
               Row, knights, near the land,
               And hear we these monks' song."

It is said that the verse was suggested to the king when rowing with his
chiefs one day in the river Nene, near Ely Minster, by the sweet and
solemn music of the monastery choir that floated out to them over the
tranquil water. The monks of Ely, to whom we owe much of our knowledge of
King Canute, tell us that he had a strong affection for the fen country
and for their church, and gave the following story in that connection. It
is at once picturesque and humorous.

One year, at the festival of the Purification, when King Canute proposed
to pay his usual visit to Ely, the weather was very severe and all the
streams and other waters were frozen. The courtiers advised the king to
keep the holy festival in some other godly house, which he might reach
without danger of drowning under broken ice, but such was his love for
the abbot and monks of Ely that he would not take this advice.

Canute proposed to cross the ice by way of Soham Mere, then an immense
body of water, saying that if any one would go before and show him the
way he would be the first to follow. The soldiers and courtiers hesitated
at this suggestion, and looked at one another with doubt and dread. But
standing among the crowd was one Brithmar, a churl or serf, who was
nicknamed Budde, or Pudding, from his stoutness. He was a native of the
island of Ely and doubtless familiar with its waters, and when the
courtiers held back he stepped forward and said he would go before and
show the way.

"Go on then, in the name of our Lady," said Canute, "and I will follow;
for if the ice on Soham Mere can bear a man so large and fat as thou
art, it will not break under the weight of a small thin man like me."

So the churl went forward, and Canute the Great followed him, and after
the king came the courtiers, one by one, with spaces between; and they
all got safely over the frozen mere, with no mishaps other than a few
slips and falls on the smooth ice; and Canute, as he had proposed, kept
the festival of the Purification with the monks of Ely.

As a reward to the fat churl Brithmar for his service, he was made a
freeman and his little property was also made free. "And so," the
chronicle concludes, "Brithmar's posterity continued in our days to be
freemen and to enjoy their possessions as free by virtue of the grant
made by the king to their forefather."

There is another and more famous story told of King Canute, one showing
that his great Danish majesty had an abundant share of sound sense. Often
as this story has been told it will bear retelling. The incident occurred
after his pilgrimage to Rome in the year 1030; made, it is said, to
obtain pardon for the crimes and bloodshed which paved his way to the
English throne.

After his return and when his power was at its height, the courtiers
wearied him by their fulsome flatteries. Disgusted with their extravagant
adulations he determined to teach them a lesson. They had spoken of him
as a ruler before whom all the powers of nature must bend in obedience,
and one day he caused his golden throne to be set on the verge of the
sea-shore sands as the tide was rolling in with its resistless might.
Seating himself on the throne, with his jewelled crown on his head, he
thus addressed the ocean:

"O thou Ocean! Know that the land on which I sit is mine and that thou
art a part of my dominion; therefore rise not, but obey my commands, and
do not presume to wet the edge of my royal robe."

He sat as if awaiting the sea to obey his commands, while the courtiers
stood by in stupefaction. Onward rolled the advancing breakers, each
moment coming nearer to his feet, until the spray flew into his face, and
finally the waters bathed his knees and wet the skirts of his robe. Then,
rising and turning to the dismayed flatterers, he sternly said:

"Confess now how vain and frivolous is the might of an earthly king
compared with that Great Power who rules the elements and says unto the
ocean, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no farther!'"

The monks who tell this story, conclude it by saying that Canute
thereupon took off his crown and deposited it within the cathedral of
Winchester, never wearing it again.

After his visit to Rome, Canute ruled with greater mildness and justice
than ever before, while his armies kept the turbulent Scotch and Welsh
and the unquiet peoples of the north in order. In the latter part of his
reign he could boast that the English, the Scotch, the Welsh, the Danes,
the Swedes, and the Norwegians were his subjects, and he was called in
consequence "The King of the Six Nations," and looked upon throughout
Europe as the greatest of sovereigns; none of the kings and emperors of
that continent being equal in power, wealth and width of dominion to King
Canute, a descendant of the vikings of Denmark.

Canute spent the most of his life in England, but now and then visited
his northern realm, and there are some interesting anecdotes of his life
there. Though a devout Christian and usually a self-controlled man, the
wild passions of his viking ancestry would at times break out, and at
such times he spared neither friend nor foe and would take counsel from
no man, churchman or layman. But when his anger died out his remorse was
apt to be great and he would submit to any penance laid upon him by the
Church. Thus when he had killed one of his house servants for some slight
offense, he made public confession of his crime and paid the same
blood-fine as would have been claimed from a man of lower rank.

The most notable instance of these outbursts of uncontrollable anger was
that in which he murdered his old friend and brother-in-law Ulf, who,
after rebelling against him, had saved him from complete defeat by the
Swedes, by coming to his rescue just as the royal fleet was nearly
swamped by the opening of the sluices which held back the waters of the
Swedish river Helge-aae. Ulf took Canute on board his own ship and
brought him in safety to a Danish island, while leaving his men to aid
those of Canute in their escape from the Swedes. Yet the king bore a
grudge against the earl, and this was its cause.

At one time Ulf ruled over Denmark as Canute's regent and made himself
greatly beloved by the people from his just rule. Queen Emma, Canute's
wife, wished to have her little son Harthaknud--or Hardicanute, as he was
afterwards called in England--made king of Denmark, but could not
persuade her husband King Canute to accede to her wishes. She therefore
sent letters privately to Ulf, saying that the king wished to see the
young prince on the throne, but did not wish to do anything the people
might not like. Ulf, deceived by her story, had the boy crowned king, and
thereby won Canute's ill-will.

The king, however, showed no signs of this, nor of resentment against Ulf
for his rebellion, but, after his escape from the Swedes, asked the earl
to go with him to his palace at Roeskilde, and on the evening of their
arrival offered to play chess with him. During the game Canute made a
false move so that Ulf was able to take one of his knights, and when the
king refused to let this move count and wanted his man back again the
earl jumped up and said he would not go on with the game. Canute, in a
burst of anger, cried out:

"The coward Norwegian Ulf Jarl is running away."

"You and your coward Danes would have run away still faster at the
Helge-aae if I and my Norwegians had not saved you from the Swedes, who
were making ready to beat you all like a pack of craven hounds!"
ejaculated the angry earl.

Those hasty words cost Ulf his life. Canute, furious at the insult,
brooded over it all night, and the next morning, still in a rage, called
to one of the guards at the door of his bed-chamber:

"Go and kill Ulf Jarl."

"My Lord King, I dare not," answered the man. "Ulf Jarl is at prayer
before the altar of the church of St. Lucius."

The king, after a moment's pause, turned to a young man-at-arms who had
been in his service since his boyhood and cried angrily:

"I command you, Olaf, to go to the church and thrust your sword through
the Jarl's body."

Olaf obeyed, and Ulf was slain while kneeling before the altar rails of
St. Lucius' church.

Then, as usual with King Canute, his passion cooled and he deeply
lamented his crime, showing signs of bitter remorse. In way of expiation
he paid to his sister Estrid, Ulf's widow, a large sum as blood-fine, and
gave her two villages which she left at her death to the church in which
her husband had been slain. He also brought up Ulf's eldest son as one of
his own children. The widowed Estrid afterwards married Robert, Duke of
Normandy, father of William the Conqueror, who in 1066 became master of

King Canute died in 1035, at thirty-six years of age, and his son Harald
reigned after him in England for four years, and afterwards his son
Harthaknud, or Hardicanute, for three years, when England again came
under an Anglo-Saxon king--to fall under the power of William of
Normandy, a conqueror of Norwegian descent, twenty-four years later.


After the death of King Olaf the Saint, and after the Danes had for some
years ruled over Norway, Olaf's son Magnus, who had been left in Russia,
was brought to Norway and proclaimed king. The Danes had oppressed the
people, and had put over them a woman and her son, and it was this that
made the chiefs drive out the tyrants and put young Magnus, then a boy of
ten years of age, on the throne.

A curious thing then took place, one of those strange political
somersaults which at times come in the history of nations. For as the
Danes had lately ruled over Norway, now a Norseman came to rule over
Denmark. Thus it was that this odd change came about.

The great King Canute was dead and his son Hardicanute had succeeded him
on the throne. This new king claimed Norway as his and prepared to fight
for it. But the chief men in the two countries succeeded in making peace,
with the agreement that if either of the kings should die without heirs
the other should take his throne. A few years later Hardicanute died and
Magnus was proclaimed king of Denmark. Thus, in the year 1042, the two
kingdoms became united under a Norse king, a descendant of Harold the

Magnus, as he grew up, showed an ugly and revengeful temper. Very likely
some of those around him told the boy that he should avenge his father
upon those who had rebelled against and killed him. One of these men was
slain by his orders, others fled from the country, and many were made
poor by the loss of their cattle. This made the people very angry, and
they were ready to fight for just treatment when peace was brought about
in another way, the hot-tempered Magnus being subdued by the power of

One of the poets of the land--scalds they were called--made a song called
the Lay of Candor, which he sang before the king. In it he warned him of
the evil results of a revengeful spirit and told him of the duties he
owed the people who had brought him to Norway and made him king. Magnus,
who had now nearly reached the years of manhood, listened quietly to this
song and afterwards sat long in deep thought. It had a wonderful effect
on him, for it opened his eyes to the injustice of his course, and from
that day he was a new man. All his plans of vengeance fled, he became
kind and gentle and so mild and sweet in manner that he grew to be one of
the best loved of kings. This may be seen in the name the people gave
him, which was that of Magnus the Good.

Now we must tell the rest of his story very rapidly. As the heir of
Hardicanute he claimed to be king of England as well as of Norway and
Denmark, and he might have tried to win the crown of England, then worn
by Edward the Confessor, had he not been kept busy at home. In fact, he
had to fight hard to keep the crown of Denmark, for Sweyn, a nephew of
the great Canute, claimed it and a fierce war followed. Magnus was
victorious in this war, and in one great battle, in which ten thousand
soldiers were slain, it was his skill and courage that won the field.
This display of personal bravery gave him a great name in the north.

Now we must leave the story of Magnus for a time to take up that of
another hero of the north. Those who have read the tale of Olaf the Saint
will remember his amusing talk with his three little half-brothers, and
how while the two elder had an ambition only for land and cows, Harold,
the youngest, wanted men and ships, and Olaf prophesied that the boy
would one day be a king.

When Harold grew up the spirit of the boy was shown in the man. When only
fifteen years old he fought in the battle in which King Olaf was killed,
and received a severe wound. Then he became a wanderer, going first to
Russia and then to Constantinople, where he became the captain of the
Varangians, the body-guard of Norsemen kept by the Greek emperors. A
large, bold, strong, and reckless champion, Harold gained a great name in
the south. He fought against the Saracens and won much treasure; he
fought in Sicily and captured many cities; he had adventures in love and
war and many wonderful stories are told of his exploits. Then he came
back to Russia and married Elizabeth, the daughter of King Jaroslov,
love for whom had sent him abroad to win fame and riches.


Not long after this King Magnus, as he was sailing one day along the
coast of Denmark, saw gliding along the most magnificent ship he had ever
beheld. He at once sent men aboard to learn to whom the beautiful galley
belonged, and they were met by a tall and handsome man, who said that he
had been sent by Harold Sigurdsson, the uncle of King Magnus, to learn
how the king would receive him. Magnus, who was then nineteen years old,
sent word that he would gladly welcome his uncle and hoped to find in him
a good friend. When they met the tall man proved to be Harold himself and
Magnus was highly pleased with him.

He was not so well pleased when Harold asked to be made king also, laying
claim to half the kingdom. And Harold himself was not well pleased when
one of the Norse chiefs said that if Magnus was to share the kingdom with
him, he should divide his great treasure with Magnus.

Harold replied hastily and haughtily that he had not dared death and won
wealth that he might make his nephew's men rich. The chief answered that
he and his friends had not won Norway from the Danes for the purpose of
giving half of it to a stranger, and all the other earls and warriors
agreed with him, so that Harold found that the apple which he wished to
divide was not so easily to be cut.

After that there was war and plundering and the cruel deeds that take
place when the sword is drawn, and a year or two later Harold called an
assembly of the people of one district of Norway and had himself
proclaimed king. Magnus, who did not want to fight his father's brother,
finally yielded to Harold's claim and agreed that they should both be
kings; not to divide the realm, but both to rule over the whole country
together. Thus it was that Harold won the prize which he had craved as a
young child.

Every one would say that a compact of this kind could not work well. A
gentle, kindly, generous-hearted man like King Magnus was ill matched
with a haughty, wealth-loving, tyrannical man like Harold. No doubt many
bitter words passed between them, and the peasants were so incensed by
Harold's oppression and extortion of money from them that they would have
broken into open rebellion only for the love they bore King Magnus. The
latter was often so incensed that he was tempted to put an end to the
double kingship even if he had to remove his troublesome partner by

But this was not to be. One day, while out riding, his horse took fright
and threw him, his head striking a stump. He was at first stunned, but
seemed to recover. Soon afterwards he was taken sick with a violent fever
and gradually sank, so that it became apparent that he would die. On his
death-bed he decided that Sweyn, who had fought so hard to win from him
the crown of Denmark, had a better right to that kingdom than Harold, and
men were sent to inform him of his succession to the Danish throne. But
he had barely closed his eyes in death when Harold sent other men to
intercept these messengers. He proposed to keep Denmark for himself.

The death of King Magnus without an heir left Harold the undisputed
successor to the throne, as the only living descendant in the male line
of Harold the Fair-Haired. Yet the people were far from pleased, for he
had already shown a disposition to treat them harshly and they feared
that a tyrant had succeeded to the throne. By his stern rule he gained
several uncomplimentary titles, the English calling him Harold the
Haughty, the Germans Harold the Inflexible, and the Northmen Harold the
Hardruler. Yet he was able to hold his own over his people, for he was
strong and daring, skilled in the art of war, and a man of unusual
intellect. He was also a poet and won fame by his verses. He would sit up
half the night with the blind scald Stuf Katson, to hear him recite his
stirring songs.

But if absolute ruler over Norway, Harold found Denmark slipping away
from him. Sweyn had in him the blood of the race of Canute, and was no
weakling to be swept aside at a king's will. Magnus had left him the
kingdom and he was bent on having it, if his good sword could win and
hold it. In this he was supported by the Danes, and Harold found that the
most he could do was to make descents on the Danish coast and plunder and
murder the innocent people.

After this idle kind of warfare had gone on for a number of years and
Harold found that all he had gained by it was the hatred of the Danes, he
made an agreement with Sweyn to fight it out between them. They were to
meet at the mouth of the Götha Elv and whoever won in the battle was to
be the king of Denmark. It was a kind of duel for a crown.

But Sweyn tried to gain his end by stratagem. When Harold appeared with
his fleet at the appointed place Sweyn and his ships were not to be seen.
Harold waited a while, fuming and fretting, and then sailed south to
Jutland, where he ravaged the coast, took and burned the city of Heidaby,
carried away a number of women of high rank, and filled his ships with
plunder. Then he turned homeward, with so little fear of the Danes that
he let his ships widely scatter.

The winds were adverse, the weather was foggy, and one morning while they
lay at anchor by an island shore, the lookout saw a bright flash through
the fog. The king was hastily called, and on seeing it cried:

"What you see is the flash of the morning sun on the golden dragon-heads
of warships. The Danish fleet is upon us!"

The peril was imminent. It was hopeless to fight with the few ships at
command. Only flight remained and that was almost as hopeless. The oars
were got out in haste, but the ships, soaked and heavy from their long
cruise, were hard to move, and as the fog lifted under the sun rays, the
Danish fleet, several hundred strong, bore down swiftly upon them. The
emergency was one that needed all the wit and skill of the king to meet.

To distract the enemy Harold bade his men nail bright garments and other
showy spoil to logs and cast them overboard. As these floated through the
Danish ships many of them stopped to pick up the alluring prizes. He also
was obliged to throw overboard casks of beer and pork to lighten his
ships and these also were picked up. Yet in spite of all he could do the
Danes gained on him, and his own ship, which brought up the rear, was in
danger of capture.

As a last resort the shrewd king had rafts made of boards and barrels and
put on these the high-born women he held as captives. These rafts were
set afloat one after another, and the pursuers, on seeing these hapless
fair ones and hearing their wild appeals for rescue, were obliged to stop
and take them up. This final stratagem succeeded and Harold escaped,
leaving Sweyn, who had felt sure of capturing his enemy, furious at his

At another time, ten years and more later, Harold again fell into peril
and again escaped through his fertility in resources. Having beaten his
rival in a naval battle, he entered the long and narrow Lim fiord to
plunder the land, fancying that Sweyn was in no condition to disturb him.
He reckoned too hastily. Sweyn, learning where his foe was, gathered what
ships he could and took post at Hals, the fiord being there so narrow
that a few ships could fight with advantage against a much greater

Though caught in a trap Harold was not dismayed, but gave orders to sail
to the inner end of the fiord. He knew that it ended near the North Sea,
only a narrow isthmus dividing them. Then, with great trouble and labor,
he managed to have his ships dragged across the isthmus and launched on
the sea waters, and away he sailed in triumph, leaving Sweyn awaiting him
in vain.

Finally, with the desire to bring this useless strife to an end, if
possible, a new compact was made to meet with their fleets in the Götha
Elv and fight once more for the kingdom of Denmark. It was now 1062,
thirteen years after the former battle. As before, on reaching the place
designated, no Danish ship was visible. But it is difficult to credit
what we are told, that Harold, after a vain wait, made the same error as
before, dividing his fleet and sending the greater part of it home. With
the remainder, one hundred and eighty ships strong, he sailed along the
coast, and suddenly found himself in the presence of the Danes, with two
ships to his one.

This time Harold did not flee, but joined battle bravely with his enemy,
the contest lasting through a whole night and ending in a complete
victory over the Danes. It was a great victory, yet it brought Harold no
advantage, for Sweyn did not keep to his compact--if he had made one--to
surrender his throne, and the Danes hated Harold so thoroughly for his
cruel raids on their land that they had no idea of submitting to him. Two
years more passed on, and then Harold, finding that the conquest of
Denmark was hopeless, consented against his will to make peace. In this
way Sweyn, after many years of battling for his throne, forced his
powerful antagonist to give up the contest and promise never to disturb
him again.

Two years after this peace was made, in the year 1066, King Harold took
part in another adventure which brought his tyranny and his life to an
end. It is worth telling for another reason, for it was connected with a
great historical event, the conquest of England by William the Conqueror.
For these two reasons it is very fitting that it should be told.

King Harold of England, who was soon to fall on the fatal field of
Hastings, had a brother, Earl Tostig, who, fired by ambition, set out to
conquer that kingdom for himself. He went first to Denmark and tried to
get King Sweyn to join him in the enterprise, but the prudent Sweyn told
him that he had no desire to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Canute,
but was quite content to dwell at home and rule his own kingdom.

Then Tostig sought Norway, where he found King Harold far more ready to
listen to him. So in September of that year, Harold sailed from Norway
with the most powerful fleet and army that had ever left its shores.
Counting what was added in the Orkneys and the force under Earl Tostig,
it numbered about three hundred and fifty ships and thirty thousand men.
Landing in Northumberland, a victory was won and the city of York taken.
Then, leaving about one-third of the army to guard the ships, Harold and
Tostig encamped at Stamford Bridge, seven miles from York.

It was a warm day, there was no reason to fear danger, and the men
lounged about without their arms. In this unwary state they found
themselves suddenly face to face with a large army, led by the English
King Harold, who had marched north in furious haste. Tostig, finding that
they had been taken by surprise, advised a retreat to the ships, but
Harold was not the man to turn his back to his foe, and decided to stand
and fight, ordering the men to arm and prepare for battle. While they
were gathering in ranks for the fray, a party of English horsemen rode up
and asked if Earl Tostig was there.

"You see him before you," said Tostig.

"Your brother Harold sends you greeting and offers you peace and the rule
of Northumberland. If he cannot gain your friendship for less, he will
grant you one-third his kingdom."

"Last year he had only scorn and disdain to offer me," replied Tostig.
"But if I should accept his proposal, what has he to offer my ally, the
king of Norway?"

"He will grant him seven feet of English soil; or more if his length of
body needs it."

"If that is your best offer," said Tostig, "ride back and bid Harold to
begin the battle."

Harold of Norway had heard this brief colloquy, and as the English
horsemen rode away asked Tostig who was the speaker.

"That was my brother, Harold himself," answered Tostig.

"I learn that too late," said Harold grimly.

The battle that followed was hotly contested. It began with a charge of
the English cavalry, which was repulsed, and was followed up fiercely by
the Norsemen, who fancied the flight of the English to mean a general
rout. In this way they broke their ranks, which the king wished to
preserve until reinforcements could reach him from the ships. Forward
rushed the impatient Norsemen, King Harold throwing himself into their
midst and fighting with savage fury. His men seconded him, the English
ranks wavered and broke before the fierce onset, and victory seemed
within the grasp of the invaders, when an arrow pierced King Harold's
throat and he fell in a dying state from his horse.

His fall checked the onset, and the English king, hearing of his death,
offered his brother an armistice. Tostig refused this and led his men
back to the fray, which was resumed with all its old fury. But Tostig,
too, was slain, and the king's brother-in-law, who arrived with
reinforcements from the ships, met with the same fate. By this time the
battlefield was covered with the bodies of the dead, and the Norsemen,
dispirited by the loss of their leaders, gave way and retreated towards
the ships, hotly pursued by their victorious foes. Of their great host
only a small remnant succeeded in reaching the ships.

Thus ended the great fight at Stamford Bridge, and with it the reign and
life of Harold Hardruler, who fell a victim to his ambition and love of
strife. For years thereafter the bones of men lay scattered widely over
that field, for none stayed to bury the dead, the Norsemen fleeing in
their ships, while news of the landing of William of Normandy called
Harold hastily to the south--where he fell in the midst of the fighting
at Hastings as Harold of Norway had fallen on Stamford Field. Harold's
invasion of England was the last great exploit of the vikings of the
north, and though Ireland was invaded later by a Norseland fleet, no
foreign foe after the fatal days at Stamford and Hastings ever landed on
England's shores.


In the year 1177 those people in Norway who loved a joke must have
laughed to their hearts' content, when the tidings reached them that the
son of a cook, followed by seventy ragged and half armed men, had set out
to win the throne of the kingdom. Surely a more extraordinary and
laughable enterprise was never undertaken, and the most remarkable thing
about it was that it succeeded. A few years of desperate adventures and
hard fighting raised the cook's son to the throne, and those who had
laughed at his temerity were now glad to hail him as their king. How
Sverre the adventurer won the crown is a tale full of adventure and amply
worth the telling.

No common man was Sverre and no common woman was his mother Gunhild, a
cook in the kitchen of King Sigurd Mouth. Not handsome was she, but quick
of wit and bright of brain. If the king had had his way the boy would
have had a very short life, for he bade the mother to kill her child as
soon as it should be born. Instead of consenting to this cruel mandate,
she fled from the palace to a ship, which took her to the Faroe Islands,
and here her son was born. She was then serving as milkmaid to Bishop

The little Sverre began his life with an adventure. When he was a few
months old a man named Unas came from Norway to the islands, a smith or
comb-maker by profession. But Gunhild suspected him of being a spy sent
by King Sigurd to kill her son, and she hid the boy in a cavern, which is
still called Sverre's Cave. He acted like a spy, for he followed her to
the cave, found where she had hidden the child, and threatened to kill it
unless she would marry him. Gunhild had no love for this dangerous
stranger, but she dearly loved her little son, and with much reluctance
she consented to marry Unas to save the babe's life.

Such was the first event in the life of the later King Sverre. The
new-married pair went back to Norway, for King Sigurd had died, but when
the boy was five years old they returned to the Faroes, for Bishop
Mathias was now dead, and Roe, the brother of Unas, had been made bishop
in his stead.

The little fellow was made to believe that he was the son of Unas, and as
he grew up Bishop Roe took a great fancy to him, for he showed himself to
be very bright and intelligent. There was no boy in the island his equal,
so the good bishop had him educated for the priesthood and when he was
old enough had him ordained in the lowest priestly grade.

This was much against the wish of Gunhild, his mother, who had higher
hopes for his future, and when he proudly told her that he was now a
priest, and hoped some day to become a bishop, or even a cardinal, she
burst into tears.

"Why do you weep, mother?" he asked in surprise. "I do not know why you
should hear of my honor with sorrow."

"Oh, my son," she cried, "this is but a small honor compared to that to
which you were born. I have not told you of the great station that is
yours by right, but must now say that you are not the son of my husband
Unas, but of King Sigurd of Norway, and you have as good a claim as any
man living to the throne."

This surprising revelation destroyed Sverre's peace of mind. All his
ambition to rise in the priesthood was gone, the crown of a kingdom
seemed to float in the air before him, and his thoughts by day and his
dreams by night were fixed on that shining goal. The great hopes in his
mind kept sleep from his eyes and after days of mental unrest he felt
that life was worthless to him if his high ambition were not fulfilled.

"Since I am born heir to the crown," he said to his mother, "I have as
much right to it as any man, and I will strive at any cost to win it. I
stake my life on this cast, for without it life to me has lost all its

Magnus, the king then on the throne, was not of royal birth. He was the
son of Erling Skakke, a great and ambitious nobleman, who had killed
every descendant of the royal house he could find to make his own son
king. Of the boy who was destined to dispute his claim, the cook's son on
the Faroes, he knew nothing, and when the bright youth landed in Norway,
whether he had gone in spite of the protests of Bishop Roe, not a soul in
the kingdom dreamed that a new claimant for the throne was in the realm.

No one was likely to learn from Sverre until his plans were ripe. He was
too shrewd and cautious for that. He wanted to feel the sentiment of the
people, and was disappointed to find them all well satisfied with their
king. Full of humor and a good talker, everybody he met was pleased with
him, and when he talked with the men-at-arms of Erling Skakke they told
him all they knew about the state of affairs. They were quite won over by
this lively priest from the Faroes. He even made the acquaintance of
Erling Skakke himself and got a thorough idea of his character.

The cunning adventurer was feeling his way and found things not at all to
his liking. To attempt, alone and with an empty pocket, to drive a
favorite monarch from the throne, seemed the act of madness. But the
ambitious youth had dreamed his dream of royal state and had no fancy for
returning to a humble priesthood on the bleak Faroes.

In Sweden, across the border, dwelt Earl Birger, who had married a sister
of King Sigurd Mouth. To him Sverre went, told who he was, and begged for
aid. The earl looked on him as an imposter and would have nothing to do
with him. Then he sought Folkvid the Lawman, with whom lived his
half-sister Cecilia, and told him the same story. Folkvid received him
more graciously, but he had no power to make him king. But the rumor
that a son of the late King Sigurd was in the land got abroad, and soon
made its way to the ears of a band of rebels who hated the king.

Here we must go back a step. All the people of Norway were not content
with the new king. From time to time pretenders to the throne arose,
hornets whom Magnus and his father Erling had some trouble in destroying.
They had their following, and the malcontents gathered at last around
Eystein Meyla (Little Girl), who professed to be the grandson of a former
king. But all this last of the pretenders was able to do was to roam
about in the wilderness, keeping himself and his followers from starving
by robbing the people. They were in so desperate a state that they had to
use birch-bark for shoes, and the peasants in derision called them
Birkebeiner, or Birchlegs. Though little better than highwaymen, they
were sturdy and daring and had some success, but finally were badly
beaten by the king and their leader slain. They might have never been
heard of again had not the greatest of the pretenders just then came to

The rumor that a son of King Sigurd Mouth was in the land reached the
ears of the handful of Birchlegs remaining and, learning where Sverre
was, they sought him and begged him to be their chief. He looked at them,
and seeing what dirty and ragged vagabonds they were, he told them that
he had no fancy for being their leader, that there was no link of
connection between them and him but poverty, and advised them, if they
wanted a chief, to seek one of Earl Birger's sons, who, like himself,
were of royal descent.

The beggarly troop took his advice, but the earl's son would have nothing
to do with them. By way of a joke he told them to go back to Sverre and
threaten to kill him if he would not be their leader. They did so, using
persuasions and possibly threats, and Sverre, seeing no hope of success
among the great, finally consented to become the leader of this ragged
band of brigands. Such was his first definite step on the road to the

In this humble fashion, the ambitious young prince, then about
twenty-four years old, with empty hands and pockets and seventy ragged
followers, began his desperate strife for the throne of Norway.

From Vermeland, where his enterprise began, he led his forlorn seventy
southward toward Viken, his party rolling on like a snowball and growing
in size on its way, until it swelled to four hundred and twenty men. In
spite of his protest, these vagabonds proclaimed him king and touched his
sword to indicate their allegiance. But their devotion to his cause was
not great, for when he forbade them to rob and plunder the peasants most
of them left him. To test the remainder, he ordered them back to
Vermeland and before they reached that region only the original seventy

Desperate was now the position of the youthful adventurer. He had
declared himself a claimant for the throne and any one had the right to
kill him. The peasants hated his robber band and he could get none to
join him. They would rather have killed them all and thus earned the
king's favor.

Had young Sverre been a man of common mind his enterprise must now have
reached its end. But he was a man of wonderful mental resources, daring,
indefatigable, capable of bearing the most extreme reverses and rescuing
himself from the most perilous situations. Followed by his faithful
seventy, he wandered through the pathless mountain wilderness, hopeful
and resourceful. His courage was unfailing. Often they had to live on
bark and frozen berries, which were dug up from under the snow. At times
some of his men, worn out with hunger and exposure, would drop lifeless
on their barren paths; at times he had to sleep under his shield, as his
only protection from the falling snow; but his heart kept stout through
it all, and he chided those who talked of ending their misfortunes by

As an example of his courage and endurance and his care of his men, we
may tell the following anecdote. Once in his wanderings he came to a
large mountain lake which had to be crossed. It could only be done on
rafts, and the men were so exhausted that it proved desperate work to
fell trees and build the necessary rafts. In time they were all
despatched, Sverre boarding the last, which was so heavily laden that the
water rose above his ankles.

One man was still on the shore, so utterly worn out that he had to crawl
to the water's edge and beg to be taken on, lest he should perish. The
others grumbled, but Sverre would not listen to their complaints but
bade them to take the man on. With his extra weight the raft sank till
the water reached their knees. Though the raft threatened to go to the
bottom Sverre kept a resolute face. A great fallen pine on the other side
made a bridge up which the men clambered to safety, Sverre being the last
to leave the raft. Scarcely had he done so when the watersoaked logs
sank. The men looked on this as a miracle and believed more fully than
ever that he would win.

Now came the first success in his marvellous career. He had one hundred
and twenty men on reaching the goal of his terrible journey, but here
eighty men more joined him and with these two hundred followers he
successfully faced a force of fourteen hundred which had been sent
against him. With a native genius for warfare he baffled his enemies at
every point, avoiding their onset, falling upon them at unexpected
points, forcing them to scatter into separate detachments in the pursuit,
then falling on and beating these detachments in succession. While he
kept aware of their plans and movements, they never knew where to look
for him, and in a short time the peasant army was beaten and dispersed.

This striking success gave new courage and hope to the Birchlegs and they
came in numbers to the place to which Sverre had summoned a body of
twelve representatives from the province of Tröndelag. These met and
proclaimed him king of Norway. It was now the summer of 1177.

The Birchlegs were hasty in supposing the beating of fourteen hundred
peasants would bring success to their cause. Erling Skakke was still
alive and active, and on hearing of the exploits of this new leader of
rebels in the north, he got together a large fleet and sailed northward
to deal with him.

The new-proclaimed king was too wary to meet this powerful force and he
sought refuge in the mountains again, leaving to Erling the dominion of
the coast. And now, for two years, Sverre and his men led a precarious
life, wandering hither and thither through the mountain wilderness and
suffering the severest privations. He was like a Robin Hood of the
Norwegian mountains, loving to play practical jokes on the peasants, such
as appearing with his hungry horde at their Yuletide feasts and making
way with the good cheer they had provided for themselves. He was obliged
to forage in the valleys, but he took pity on the poor and more than once
made the great suffer for acts of oppression.

Everywhere he was hated as a desperate brigand; some believed him to be
the devil himself. Naughty children were scared with the threat that the
terrible Sverre would take them, and laundresses, beating their clothes
at the river's brink, devoutly wished that Sverre's head was under the
stone. Yet his undaunted resolution, his fights with the king's soldiers,
his skirmishes with the peasants, and his boldness and daring in all
situations, won him a degree of admiration even among those who feared
and hated him.

Thus for two years his adventurous career went on. Then came an event
that turned the tide in his favor. Erling was still pursuing him and in
June, 1179, was in the coast town of Nidaros, his son, Magnus, with him.
In the harbor lay the fleet. The earl and the king were feasting with
their followers when word was brought them that the Birchlegs were

"I wish it was true," said the earl. "I should like nothing better than
to meet that hound Sverre. But there will be no such good luck to-night,
for I am told that the rascals have gone back to the mountains. You can
go to bed in safety, for Sverre will not dare to trouble us when we are
on the watch for him."

To bed they went, sleeping heavily from their potations, and down on them
came Sverre, who, as usual, was well informed about their situation.

"Now is your time to fight bravely, and repay yourselves for your
sufferings," he said to his men. "A fine victory lies before us. I shall
promise you this. Any one of you who can prove that he has slain a
liegeman shall be made a liegeman himself, and each of you shall be given
the title and dignity of the man you have slain."

Thus encouraged, the poorly-armed adventurers rushed down the hills into
the town. One sturdy fellow who carried only a club was asked where his
weapons were.

"They are down in the town," he said. "The earl's men have them now. We
are going there to get them."

This they did. As they came on the warriors, hastily alarmed and heavy
with their drunken sleep, flocked staggering into the streets, to be met
with sword and lance. The confusion was great and the king had much
trouble in rallying his men. Many chieftains advised flight to the ships,
but the stout-hearted Erling was not ready for that.

"It might be best," he said, "but I can't bear the thought of that
brigand priest putting himself in my son's place."

Leading his men outside the city, he awaited the attack. It came in
haste, the Birchlegs falling furiously upon the much greater force before
them. In the onset the earl was killed and his men were put to flight.
The king, as he fled by, saw the bloody face of his father lying under
the stars. He stooped and kissed him, saying:

"We shall meet again, father, in the day of joy." Then he was borne away
in the stream of flight.

This decisive victory turned the tide of the war. The death of Erling
removed Sverre's greatest opponent. King Magnus was no match for the
priest-king, and the rebel force grew until the contest assumed the shape
of civil war. Sverre no longer led a band of wanderers, but was the
leader of an army.

This was not the ordinary army recruited from the settled classes of
society, but an army made up of the lower stratum of the people, now
first demanding their share of the good things of life. Fierce and unruly
as they were, Sverre knew how to control and discipline them. He kept his
promise, as far as was possible, to reward his men with the honors of
those they had slain, but charged them with the maintenance of law and
order, punishing all who disobeyed his commands. This he could safely do,
for they worshipped him. They had shared peril and suffering together,
had lived as comrades, but through it all he had kept his authority
intact and demanded obedience. Birchlegs they still called themselves,
for they had grown proud of the title, and they named their opponents
Heklungs, from the story that some of them had robbed a beggar woman
whose money was wrapped in a cloak (_hekl_).

For six years afterwards the war for dominion in Norway continued, the
star of King Sverre steadily rising. In 1180 Magnus attacked his opponent
with an army much larger than that of Sverre, but was utterly routed; and
an army of peasants that came on afterwards, to kill the "devil's
priest," met with the same ill success.

Magnus now took refuge in Denmark, abandoning Norway to his rival, and
from there he came year after year to continue the contest. In a naval
battle in 1181, in which Sverre had less than half the number of ships of
his opponent, his star seemed likely to set. The Birchlegs were not good
at sea fighting and the Heklungs were pressing them steadily back, when
Sverre sprang into the hottest of the fight, without a shield and with
darts and javelins hurtling around him, and in stirring tones sang the
Latin hymn, "Alma chorus domini."

This hymn seemed to turn the tide of victory. Magnus, storming furiously
forward at that moment, was wounded in the wrist as he was boarding a
hostile ship. The pain caused him to pause and, his feet slipping on the
blood-stained deck, he fell headlong backward, a glad shout of victory
coming from the Birchlegs who saw him fall.

Orm, one of King Magnus's captains, demanded what had happened.

"The king is killed," he was told.

"Then the fate of the realm is decided," he cried.

Cutting the ropes that held the ships together, he took to flight,
followed by others and breaking the line of battle. Leaping to his feet,
Magnus called out that he was not hurt and implored them not to flee from
certain victory. But the terror and confusion were too great, and Sverre
took quick advantage of the opportunity, capturing a number of ships and
putting the others to flight.

The final battle in this contest for a throne came in 1184. It was one in
which Sverre was in imminent danger of a fatal end to his career. Usually
not easily surprised, he was now taken unawares. He had sailed up the
Nore fiord with a few ships and a small force of men, to punish some
parties who had killed his prefect. Magnus, afloat with twenty-six ships
and over three thousand men, learned of this and pursued his enemy into
the fiord.

Sverre was caught in a trap. Not until he saw the hostile ships bearing
down upon him had he a suspicion of danger. Escape was impossible. Great
cliffs bounded the watery cañon. He had but fourteen ships and not half
his opponent's force of men. The Heklungs were sure that victory was in
their hands. But when Sverre and his Birchlegs dashed forward and
attacked them with berseker fury their confidence turned to doubt. Soon
it began to appear that victory was to be on the other side. Before the
furious onset the Heklungs fell in numbers. Many in panic leaped into the
sea and were drowned, King Magnus among them. Till mid-night the hot
contest continued, by which hour half the king's force were slain and all
the ships captured. The drowned corpse of King Magnus was not found until
two days after the battle, when it was taken to Bergen and buried with
royal ceremony. His death ended the contest and Sverre was unquestioned
king of the whole land.

Shall we briefly conclude the story of King Sverre's reign? For twenty
years it continued, the most of these years of war, for rebellion broke
out in a dozen quarters and only the incessant vigilance and activity of
a great king and great soldier enabled him to keep his throne and his

After all his wars and perils, he died in his bed, March 9, 1202, worn
out by his long life of toil and strain. Never before had Norway so noble
and able a king; never since has it seen his equal. A man was he of small
frame but indomitable soul, of marvellous presence of mind and fertility
in resources; a man firm but kindly and humane; a king with a
clear-sighted policy and an admirable power of controlling men and
winning their attachment. Never through all its history has Norway known
another monarch so admirable in many ways as Sverre, the cook's son.


After the death of the great King Sverre tumult and trouble reigned in
Norway. Several kings came to the throne, but none of them lived long,
and there was constant fighting between the Birchlegs and the opposing
party who called themselves Baglers. Year after year they kept their
swords out and their spears in hand, killing one another, but neither
party growing strong enough to put an end to the other. All this time the
people were suffering and the country growing poorer, and a strong hand
was needed at the helm of the ship-of-state.

It was when King Inge, who was not of royal blood, and whose hand was not
the strong hand needed, was on the throne, that new hope came to the
people, for it was made known that they had among them a boy of kingly
descent, a grandson of the noble Sverre. Men thought that King Sverre's
line had died out, and there was great joy in their hearts when they
learned that his son Haakon had left a son.

This boy was born in 1203, son of the beautiful Inga of Varteig, whom
King Haakon had warmly loved though she was not his wife. The little
prince was named Haakon, after his father, but he was born in the midst
of the Baglers, his father's foes, and the priest who baptized him bade
Inga to keep his birth a strict secret, letting none outside her own
family know that a new prince had come to the land.

The secret was well kept for a time, but whispers got abroad, and Thrond,
the priest, at length told the story to Erland of Huseby, whom he knew to
be on the right side. Erland heard the news with joy, but feared peril
for the little prince, thus born in the land of his enemies. Rumors were
growing, danger might at any moment come, and though it was mid-winter, a
season of deep snows and biting winds, he advised the priest to send the
boy and his mother to the court of King Inge, offering himself to take
them across the pathless mountains.

The difficult journey was made in safety and the boy and his mother were
kindly welcomed by the king, and joyfully greeted by the Birchlegs, who
were strong in that district. Little Haakon was then less than two years
old, and it is said that the old loyalists, who were eager to have a king
of the royal blood, used in playfulness to pull him between them by the
arms and legs, to make him grow faster.

The Birchlegs were in fear of Haakon Galen, the king's brother, who was
ambitious to succeed to the throne. Yet Earl Haakon took a great fancy to
the helpless little child and seemed to love him as much as any of them.
Thus the child prince, though in the midst of plotters for the throne,
who would naturally be likely to act as his enemies, seemed protected by
the good angels and brought safely through all his perils.

Even when he was captured by the Baglers, when four years of age, they
did not harm him, being possibly so taken by his infantile beauty and
winning ways that they could not bring themselves to injure their little
captive. In the end, after many fights and flights, in which neither
party made any gains, the Birchlegs and Baglers grew tired of the useless
strife and a treaty of peace was made between them, the king of the
Baglers swearing allegiance to King Inge and becoming one of his earls.
But new trouble was brewing for the youthful prince, for in 1212, when he
was eight years old, a compact was made that none but those of legitimate
birth should succeed to the throne. As his mother had not been a legal
wife, this threatened to rob little Haakon of his royal rights.

In doing this the plotters were like some politicians of the present day,
who lay plans without consulting the people. They did not know how strong
the sentiment was in favor of the old royal line. One of the old
Birchlegs, on hearing of this compact, was bitterly angry. He had made
frequent visits to the young prince, whom he loved and admired, but on
his next visit he pushed away the playful lad, roughly bidding him

Haakon reproachfully asked, "What have I done to make you so angry?"

"Go away from me," cried Helge, the veteran; "to-day you have been robbed
of your right to the crown and I have ceased to love you."

"Who did that and where was it done?"

"It was done at the _Oere-thing_ [the Assembly at Oere], and those who
did it were King Inge and his brother Earl Haakon."

"Then you should not be angry with me, my kind Helge, nor be troubled
about this. What they did cannot be lawful, for my guardian was not there
to speak on my side."

"Your guardian! Who is he?" asked Helge.

"I have three guardians, God, the Blessed Virgin, and St. Olaf," said the
boy solemnly. "To their keeping I give my cause, and they will guard me
against all wrong."

The old man, at this declaration, caught the boy in his arms and kissed

"Thanks for your wise words, my prince," he said. "Words like those are
better spoken than unspoken."

These words show that the little fellow was coming to think for himself
and had an active and earnest mind. In fact, he was so precocious and
said such droll things as greatly to amuse the king and those around him.
Here is one of his sayings, spoken in a spell of cold weather when the
butter could not be spread on the bread. The prince bent a piece of bread
around the butter, saying:

"Let us tie the butter to the bread, Birchlegs." This was thought so
smart that it became a proverb among the Birchlegs.

Soon after this Earl Haakon died and the little fellow, who had hitherto
lived in his house, was taken to the king's court, where he was treated
like a prince. The king was growing feeble from sickness and he loved to
have the boy with him, finding his talk very amusing and entertaining.
Soon after this he also died, Prince Haakon then being fourteen years

Though Earl Haakon, the king's brother, who had hoped to be king, died,
as we have said, before him, there was another brother named Skule who
was quite as ambitious and of whom the Birchlegs were much afraid. A
body-guard of these faithful warriors took charge of the boy as soon as
King Inge was dead, with orders to follow him day and night.

Earl Skule at once began to plan and plot to seize the throne, and in
this he was supported by the archbishop, but in spite of them the
Birchlegs proclaimed Haakon king and Skule had to yield to the strong
sentiment in his favor. As for the noble then called king by the Baglers,
he too died just at this time and left no children, so that the way was
clear for the boy king, and Haakon soon sailed to the south with a large
fleet and took possession of Viken and the Uplands, the chief dominions
of the Baglers.

By the wise policy of the young king and his advisers the Baglers were
made his friends and the next year they were fighting with the Birchlegs
against the Slittungs or Ragamuffins, who were made up of robbers,
tramps, and wandering vagabonds of all kinds, thousands of whom had been
set adrift by the civil war.

But Haakon's worst foe was Earl Skule, who continued his plots and
intrigues, and who was supported by the clergy, these saying they had
doubts if the boy was really the son of the elder Haakon and grandson of
King Sverre. Such things were not in those days usually settled in courts
of law, but by what was called the ordeal, one form of which was to walk
barefoot over red-hot irons. If not burned the accused was thought to
have proved the justice of his cause.


For a king already in possession of the throne to submit to such a demand
and humble himself by thus trying to prove who he was, was a thing never
done before and an old peasant gave vent to the general sentiment in
these words:

"Who can show in history a case of the sons of peasants prescribing terms
like these to an absolute king? It would be wiser and more manly to bear
another kind of iron--cold steel--against the king's foes, and let God
judge between them in that way."

But Inga, the king's mother, declared that she was ready to endure the
ordeal and Haakon consented to it. Earl Skule now felt sure of
succeeding, not dreaming that the ordeal could be gone through without
burning, but to make more sure, he bribed a man to approach Inga and
offer her an herb which he said would heal burns.

The plot was discovered by the faithful Birchlegs and Inga warned of it;
for to use such herbs would make the test invalid and subject Inga and
her son to opprobrium. But all that Skule and his fellow-plotters could
do proved of no avail, for Inga passed through the ordeal unhurt and
triumphantly proved, in the legal system of that day, the justice of her
cause. How red-hot iron was prevented from burning is a matter which we
cannot discuss, and can only say that this ordeal was common and many are
said to have gone through it unscathed.

We set out in this story to tell how the child Haakon passed through all
the perils that surrounded him and grew up to become Norway's king. Here
then we should end, but for years new perils surrounded him and of these
it is well to speak. They were due to the ambitious Earl Skule, who made
plot after plot against the king's life, and was forgiven again and again
by the noble-minded monarch.

King Haakon's friends sought to put an end to this secret plotting by
arranging a marriage between the young monarch and Earl Skule's still
younger daughter Margaret. But this did not check him in his plots, and
he finally set sail for Denmark to try and get aid from King Valdemar. He
was ready to agree if the kingdom were won to reign as a vassal of the
Danish king; but when he got there no such king was to be found. He had
been captured in battle five days before, and was now with his son in a
prison at Mecklenburg. The disappointed plotter had to sail home and
pretend to be the king's friend as before.

For years Skule's plots went on. He took the field against a new horde of
rebels called the Ribbungs, but he took care never to press them too
closely, and they long gave the king trouble. For more than twenty years
Skule thus continued to plot and plan, the king discovering his schemes
and pardoning him more than once, but nothing could cure him of his
ambitious dream.

In the end, when he was nearly fifty years old, he succeeded in having
himself proclaimed king and in sending out bands of warriors who killed
many faithful friends of King Haakon. He tried to conceal his purpose
until he had gathered a large force, but one man escaped the vigilance of
his guards and brought word of the treachery to Haakon. The latter,
seeing that he must check this rebellion if he wished to sit safely on
his throne, at once took to his fleet, sailed southward with the utmost
speed, and rowed, under cover of a fog, up the Folden fiord to Oslo,
where the rebel was. He had been carousing with his followers the night
before and the wassailers were roused from their drunken sleep by the
war-horns and ran out to see the king's ships driving in towards the

The rebels were quickly scattered, but Skule escaped, and at length was
traced to the woods, where he was wandering with a few friends. The
friars of a monastery took pity on them and hid them in a tower,
disguised with monkish cowls. Despite their disguise they were traced to
their hiding place, and when the friars refused to give them up the
pursuers set fire to the tower. Driven out by the smoke and heat, Skule
stepped from the gate, holding his shield above his head and saying:

"Strike me not in the face; for it is not right to treat warriors thus."

In a minute more he lay dead, slain by Birchleg swords.

The next act in King Haakon's reign was to have himself crowned king, and
thus to rid himself of the blot on his claim to the throne. After some
negotiations with the Pope, a cardinal was sent from Rome, the ceremony
being performed with much pomp and ceremony, and followed with the most
magnificent feasts and festivities Norway had ever seen.

From this time on King Haakon ruled as a wise, noble and powerful
monarch, making his strength felt by his great fleet and setting Norway
high among the nations of the north. He died at length in 1263, loved by
his people and respected by all outside his realm.


The most brilliant period in the history of Denmark was that of the
reigns of the Valdemars, and especially of Valdemar I. and his sons,
whose names and memories are still cherished in that kingdom, the Danes
regarding them as the greatest and best monarchs they ever had.

There were wretched times in Denmark before 1157, when Valdemar came to
the throne, and his early years were passed in the midst of civil wars
and all kinds of sorrows and troubles. When the new king was crowned and
began the business of governing, he found little to govern with. There
were no money, no soldiers, no trade, no order in the kingdom, everything
being at so low an ebb that he found it necessary, as some writers state,
to secure support from Germany by recognizing the Emperor Frederick
Barbarossa as his suzerain and doing homage to him as a vassal in 1162.
But this ceremony did not entail upon him any of the usual duties of a
vassal, and was more of an ordinary alliance than a formal act of

Yet poor as was the state of Denmark when Valdemar came to it as king,
when he died he left it a flourishing, busy and peaceful country, to
which he had added great tracts of land on the pagan shores of the
Baltic, whose people he forced to give up their heathen practices.

During his reign Valdemar made as many as twenty expeditions against
these piratical peoples, gradually subduing them. At first, indeed, he
showed very little courage, and found so many reasons for turning back
before meeting the foe, that the sailors looked upon him as a coward, and
once he overheard one of them say with a laugh, that the king was "a
knight who wore his spurs upon his toes, only to help him to run away the

This made him very angry, but on speaking of it to his foster-brother,
Axel Hvide,--afterwards Bishop Absolon,--he found that the feeling that
he lacked the courage of a warrior was general. This contempt made him so
ashamed that from that time on he faced danger bravely and was never
again known to turn back from any risk.

Though Axel became a bishop, he had begun life as a soldier and was
throughout life bold and daring, a man who loved nothing better than to
command a ship or to lead his men in an assault against some fierce band
of sea robbers. From his castle Axelborg, on the site of the later city
of Copenhagen, he kept a keen lookout for these pirates and sought
manfully to put an end to their plundering raids.

The war against the Baltic heathens continued until 1168, when it ended
in the capture of the town of Arcona, on the island of Rygen, and the
destruction of the great temple of the Slavic god Svanteveit, whose
monstrous four-headed image was torn down from its pedestal and burned in
the presence of its dismayed worshippers.

The taking of this temple is an event of much interest, for it was due to
the shrewdness of a young Danish soldier, who circumvented the heathens
by a clever stratagem.

While the army lay encamped on the island beach, below the town of
Arcona, this man noticed that the high cliffs on which the temple was
built were honeycombed by many deep holes, which could not be seen from
the ramparts above, but were quite visible from the beach below. One day
it occurred to him that by making use of these holes he could roast the
pagan worshippers out of their nests, and he arranged with some of his
fellows to carry out his plan.

Gathering such dry straw and small sticks as they could collect, the
soldiers pretended to be playing at a game of pitch and toss, which if
seen by the sentinels on the ramparts above would not seem suspicious to
them. In this way they caused much of the straw and sticks to lodge in
the holes in the steep cliff. Then, by using spears and stones for a
ladder, one of them climbed for a distance up the steep rock wall and set
fire to some of the inflammable rubbish in the holes.

The effect was stupendous. The flames spread from hole to hole, creeping
up the face of the rock until the wooden spikes and palings at its
summit were in a blaze. This took place unseen by the pagans, who first
took the alarm when they saw flames circling round the great mast from
which floated the banner of their god.

Before they could take any steps to extinguish the flames, and while they
stood in a panic of apprehension, the Danes, headed by Bishop Absolon,
rushed to the assault and succeeded in taking the town.

There was nothing left for them but to accept baptism, on which their
lives depended, and the worthy bishop and his monks were kept busy at
this work for the next two days and nights, the bishop desisting only
when, half blind from want of sleep, he dropped down before the altar
that had been set up beside the fonts, where the converts were received
and signed with the cross.

The work of baptism done, King Valdemar caused the huge wooden idol of
the god to be dragged amid martial music to the open plain beyond the
town, where the army servants chopped it up into firewood. In this work
the new converts could not be induced to take part, for, Christians as
yet only in name, they feared some dread revenge from the great
Svanteveit, such as lightning from heaven to destroy the Danes.

The Christians of that age were quite as superstitious, for they declared
that when the image was being carried out of the temple gates, a horrible
monster, spitting fire and brimstone, burst from the roof and leaped with
howls of wrath into the sea below, which opened to receive it, and
closed over its head with billows of smoke and flame.

Valdemar died in 1182, after making such friends of his people and doing
so much for them, that when the funeral procession, headed by Bishop
Absolon, drew near the church of Ringsted, where the burial was to take
place, it was met by a throng of peasants, weeping and lamenting, who
begged the privilege of carrying the body of their beloved king to his
last resting place.

When the bishop began to read the service for the dead his voice failed
him and he wept and trembled so much that he had to be held up by some of
the assistant monks. After all was over the people went away in deep
grief, saying that Denmark's shield and the pagans' scourge had been
taken from them and that the country would soon be overrun again by the
heathen Wends.

But Absolon kept a firm hand upon the reins of state, and when the young
Prince Knud, Valdemar's son, was proclaimed king at the age of twenty
everything was in order. Knud proved as good and gallant as his father,
holding Denmark bravely against all foes, and when the Emperor Barbarossa
sent to him to appear before the imperial court at Ratisbon and do homage
for his crown, he returned a defiant answer.

The position of Denmark had greatly changed since Valdemar had obeyed
such a summons, and when the envoy of the emperor brought him the
imperial command, he sent back the following proud reply:

"Tell your master that I am as much monarch in my own realm as the kaiser
is in his, and if he has a fancy for giving away my throne, he had better
first find the prince bold enough to come and take it from me."

This ended all question of the vassalage of Denmark, but the emperor
never forgot nor forgave the insult and took every opportunity in after
years to stir up strife against Denmark. In 1184 he incited the pagan
princes of Pomerania to invade the Danish islands with a fleet of five
hundred ships. But they had old Bishop Absolon to deal with, and they
were so utterly routed that when the fog, which had enabled the Danes to
approach them unseen, cleared away, only thirty-five of their ships were
able to keep the sea.

This victory made Knud ruler over all Pomerania and part of the kingdom
later known as Prussia, and he added to his title that of "King of the
Wends and other Slavs." He went on adding to his home kingdom until the
dominion of Denmark grew very wide.

That is all we need say about King Knud, but it must be said of Bishop
Absolon that he was a wise patron of knightly arts and historical
learning and encouraged the great scholar Saxo Grammaticus to write his
famous "History of Denmark," in which were gathered all the old Danish
tales that could be learned from the skalds and poets and found in the
monasteries of the age. Absolon, who had loved and cared for the princes
Knud and Valdemar since their childhood, died in the year 1201 and King
Knud followed him a few years later, leaving the throne to his brother


Prosperous and glorious was the kingdom of Denmark under Valdemar II. in
the early part of his reign, though misery was his lot during many years
of his life. By his victories he won the title of "Sejr," or "the
conqueror," and his skill and goodness as a ruler won him the love of his
people, while the Danes of to-day look upon him as one of the best and
noblest of their kings. He was long regarded by them as the perfect model
of a noble knight and royal hero, and his first queen, Margrete of
Bohemia, was called by the people "Dagmar," or "Day's Maiden," from their
admiration of her gentleness and beauty. In many of their national songs
she is represented as a fair, fragile, golden-haired princess, mild and
pure as a saint, the only sin she could think of to confess on her
death-bed being that she had put on her best dress and plaited her hair
with bright ribbons before going to mass. While the Danes thus regard the
memory of Queen Dagmar, they have no words too bad to use in speaking of
Valdemar's second queen, the black-haired Berangaria, whose name became
with them a by-word for a vile woman.

But Valdemar's tale is largely one of sorrow and suffering and rarely has
monarch had to bear so cruel a fate as was his during many unhappy years
of his life.

Valdemar was the son of Valdemar I., and brother of King Knud, for whom
as a prince he fought bravely, putting down the Sleswick rebels, who had
been stirred to rebellion by the German emperor, and conquering his
enemy, Count Adolf of Holstein. Succeeding his brother Knud in 1202, his
first exploit was the conquest of Pomerania, which Knud had won before
him. This was now added to the Danish dominions, and in 1217 the German
emperor of that date granted to him and the future kings of Denmark all
the territories north of the Elbe and the Elde. Thus Valdemar was made
master of a great part of northern Germany and ruled over a wider
dominion to the south than any Danish king before or after.

His success in the south led him to attempt the conquest of the north,
and armies were sent to Norway and Sweden with the hope of winning these
kingdoms for the Danish crown. In this effort he failed, but in 1219 his
zeal for the Church and love of adventure led him to undertake a great
expedition, a crusade against the heathens of Esthonia.

Gathering an army of sixty thousand men and a fleet of fourteen hundred
ships, a mighty force even for the small craft of that day, he quickly
made himself master of that stronghold of paganism, great numbers of the
people consenting to be baptized. But here he found a new and unexpected
enemy and had to fight fiercely for the privilege of carrying the cross
of Christ to the heathen Esthonians.

His new enemies were the Knights of the Sword, of Livonia, who declared
that the duty of converting the pagans in that region belonged to them,
and that no other Christians had the right to interfere. And from this
ensued a war in which fierce battles were fought and much blood was shed,
for the purpose of deciding who should have the privilege of converting
the heathen. It is doubtful if ever before or since a war has been fought
for such a purpose, and the heathens themselves must have looked on with
grim satisfaction to see their enemies cutting each other's throats to
settle the question as to who had the best right to baptize them.

In one of the battles with the heathens, while Bishop Andreas, the
successor to Bishop Absolon, was praying on a high hill with uplifted
hands for victory, there suddenly fell down from heaven the Danneborg,
the national standard of Denmark. At least, that is what legend tells us
of its appearance.

It is held to be much more probable that this banner, bearing a white
cross on a blood-red field, was sent by the Pope to Valdemar as a token
of his favor and support, and that its sudden appearance, when the Danes
were beginning to waver before the pagan assaults, gave them the spirit
that led to victory. The result, in those days of superstition, naturally
gave rise to the legend.

When Valdemar returned a victor from Esthonia, having beaten alike the
pagans and the Livonian knights, and bearing with him the victorious
Danneborg, he was at the height of his glory, and none dreamed of the
terrible disaster that awaited him. He had made enemies among the German
princes, and they conspired against him, but they were forced to submit
to his rule. Some of those whose lands he had seized did not hesitate to
express openly their hatred for him; but others, while secretly plotting
against him, pretended to be his friends, shared in his wars and his
courtly ceremonies, and were glad to accept favors from his hands.

One of those who hated him most bitterly, yet who seemed most attached to
him, was the Count-Duke of Schwerin, a man who, alike from his dark
complexion and his evil disposition, was known in his own country as
"Black Henry." The king had often been warned to beware of this man, but,
frank and open by nature and slow to suspect guile, he disregarded these
warnings and went on treating him as a trusty friend.

This enabled Count Henry to make himself familiar with Valdemar's habits
and mode of life. He secretly aided certain traitors who cherished evil
designs against the king; but when he found that all these plots failed
he devised one of his own which the king's trust in him aided him in
carrying out.

In the spring of the year 1233 Valdemar invited his seeming friend to a
two days' hunt which he proposed to enjoy in the woods of Lyö, but the
count sent word that he regretted his inability to join him, as he had
been hurt by a fall and could not leave his bed.

His bed just then was his horse's saddle. The opportunity which he
awaited had come, and he spent the night scouring the country in search
of aid for the plot he had in view, which was no less than to seize and
hold prisoner his trusting royal friend. He knew the island well, and
when his spies told him that the king and his son Valdemar had landed at
Lyö with a small following of huntsmen and servants, Black Henry prepared
to carry out his plot.

The king's first day's hunt was a hard one and he and his son slept
soundly that night in the rude hut that had been put up for their use. No
one thought of any need of guarding it and the few attendants of the king
were scattered about, sleeping under the shelter of rocks and trees.

Late that night Count Henry and his men landed and made their way
silently and cautiously through the tired sleepers to the royal hut,
which he well knew where to find. Quietly entering, they deftly gagged
the king and prince before they could awake, and before either of them
could raise a hand in resistance sacks of wool and straw were drawn over
their heads, so closely as nearly to choke them, and strong bonds were
tied round their legs and arms.

Thus thoroughly disabled, the strong king and his youthful son were
carried through the midst of their own people to the strand and laid
helplessly in the bottom of the waiting boat, which was rowed away with
muffled oars, gliding across the narrow sound to the shore of Fyen. Here
waited a fast-sailing yacht to which the captives were transferred, sail
being set before a favoring wind for the German coast.

The next morning, when the king's attendants were searching for the
missing king, he and his son, still bound and gagged, were landed on a
lonely part of the sea-shore, placed on awaiting horses, and tightly
secured to the saddles, after which they were hurried on at full gallop,
stopping only at intervals to change the armed escort, until the castle
of Danneberg, in Hanover, was reached.

This castle had been loaned by its owner to Count Henry, he having no
stronghold of his own deemed secure enough to hold such important
captives. So roughly had they been treated that when the bonds were
removed from Prince Valdemar, who resembled his mother Dagmar alike in
his beauty and her feebleness, the blood flowed from every part of his
body. Yet, without regard to his youth and sufferings, the cruel captor
shut up him and his royal father in a cold and dark dungeon, where they
were left without a change of clothing and fed on the poorest and
coarsest food.

This, many might say, was a just retribution on King Valdemar, for years
before, when as a prince he had put down the rebellion in Sleswick, he
had seized its chief leader, his namesake Bishop Valdemar, and kept him
for many years in chains and close confinement in the dungeon of Söborg
Castle, and had later subjected Count Adolf of Holstein to the same fate.
Bishop Valdemar had been released after fourteen years' imprisonment at
the entreaty of Queen Dagmar, and was ever after one of the most bitter
enemies of the Danish king.

But though a bishop and count might be thus held captive, it is difficult
to conceive of a powerful monarch being kept prisoner by a minor noble
for three long years, despite all that could be done for his release.
Nothing could give a clearer idea of the lawless state of those times.
King Valdemar and his son lay wearing the bonds of felons and suffering
from cold and hunger while the emperor and the Pope sought in vain for
their release, threatening Black Henry with all the penalties decreed by
empire and church for those who raised their hands against a prince.

The shrewd captor readily promised all that was asked of him. He would
release his captives without delay. Yet he had no intention to keep his
word, for he knew that Rome and Ratisbon were too far from Danneberg to
give him serious cause for alarm, especially as the other nobles of
northern Germany were prepared to help him in keeping their common enemy
in prison.

As for Denmark itself, the people were infuriated and eagerly demanded to
be led to the rescue of their beloved king; yet Valdemar's sons were
still young, all the kinsmen of the royal family had been banished or
were dead, and there was no one with the power and right to take control
of public affairs.

For some time, indeed, the fate of the king remained unknown to the
people. Valdemar's nephew Albert, Count of Orlamunde, was on his way to
Rome when the news of the king's capture reached him. He immediately
turned back, collected an army, and gave battle to the German princes who
were helping Count Henry to defend Danneberg. But his hasty levies were
defeated and he taken prisoner, to be thrown into the same dungeon as the
royal captive.

Finally King Valdemar, seeing no other hope of release, agreed to the
terms offered by Black Henry, which were that he should pay a ransom of
45,000 silver marks, give him all the jewels of the late Queen Berangaria
not already bestowed on churches and monasteries, and send him a hundred
men-at-arms, with horses and arms for their use. For assurance of this he
was to send his three younger sons to Danneberg to be kept in prison with
Count Albert until the money was paid.

These terms agreed to, the king and prince were set free. Valdemar at
once hastened to Denmark, which he found in a fearful state from its
having been three years without a head. Humbled and crushed in spirit,
finding all his dominions in Germany set free from their allegiance and
all the kingdoms won by his valor lost to Denmark, he scarcely knew what
steps to take. The ransom demanded he was unable to pay and he grieved at
the thought of subjecting his young sons to the fate from which he had
escaped. In his misery he wrote to the Pope, asking to be released from
the oath which had been exacted from him to let his children go into

The Pope, full of pity for him, sent a bishop to Count Henry, telling him
that if he tried to enforce the demand exacted under durance from the
king of Denmark, he should be deprived of the services of religion and be
heavily fined by the papal power for his cruel and unrighteous act. Thus
called to account for his treachery and wickedness, Black Henry was
forced to forego the final cruel exaction of his traitor soul.

Misfortune, however, pursued Valdemar. When in 1227 the peasants of
Ditmarsh refused to pay the tribute they had long paid the Danish crown,
the insult to his weakness was more than the king could endure. He
marched an army into their lands, but only to find himself defeated and
four thousand of his men killed by the rebels, who were strongly aided by
the German princes of Holstein, and especially by Count Adolf, his former
captive. He himself was wounded in the eye by an arrow which struck him
to the ground, and would have been captured a second time but for the aid
of a friendly German knight.

This foeman had been formerly in Valdemar's service, and when he saw his
old royal master helpless and bleeding, he lifted him to his saddle and
carried him to Kiel, where his wounds were healed, means being then found
to send him back to his kingdom.

Valdemar remained on the throne for fourteen years afterwards, but these
were years of peace. War no longer had charms for him and he devoted
himself to the duties of government and to preparing codes of law for the
provinces of his kingdom. In that age there were no general laws for the
whole country.

The laws of Valdemar continued in force for four hundred and fifty years,
and in 1687, when Christian V. framed a new code of laws, some of the old
ones of Valdemar were retained. In them the old custom of the ordeal was
set aside, being replaced by the system of the jury, one form of which
consisted of "eight good men and true" chosen by the king, and another of
twelve men chosen by the people. The laws were lenient, for most crimes
could be atoned for by money or other fines. Three days after the last of
these codes was approved Valdemar died, at the age of seventy-one,
leaving three sons all of whom in turn ruled after him. His son Valdemar,
who shared his imprisonment, had died long before.


Birger Jarl, who became one of the great men of Sweden about 1250, rose
to such importance in the early history of that kingdom that one cannot
pass him by without saying something about his career. Sweden was then a
Christian kingdom and had been for many years, for the religion of Christ
had been preached there, as the sagas tell, four centuries earlier. But
heathenism prevailed until long afterwards, and it was not until the days
of King Stenkil, who came to the throne in 1061, that an earnest effort
was made to introduce the Christian worship. Finally paganism completely
died out, and when Birger came to the throne Sweden had long been a
Christian realm.

But paganism still had a stronghold in Finland, and when Bishop Thomas, a
zealous churchman, of English birth, proclaimed that the Christians
should have no intercourse with the pagans in Finland or even sell them
food, the Finlanders became so incensed that they invaded the Christian
country and put the people to death with frightful tortures. Their
cruelties created terror everywhere and Bishop Thomas fled to Gothland
where, crazed with horror at the result of his proclamation, he soon

King Erik was then on the throne of Sweden, but Birger, the son of a
great earl of Gothland, became a famous warrior, and as the king had no
sons he made Birger a jarl, or earl, and chose him as his heir. One of
the exploits by which Birger had won fame was the following. The town of
Lübeck, in North Germany, was closely besieged by the king of Denmark,
who had cut it off from the sea by stretching strong iron chains across
the river Trave, on which the town is situated. He thus hoped to starve
the people into surrender, and would have done so had not Birger come to
their rescue. He had the keels of some large ships plated with iron,
loaded them with provisions, and sailed up the river towards the
beleaguered city. Hoisting all sail before a strong wind, he steered
squarely on to the great chains, and struck them with so mighty a force
that they snapped asunder and the ships reached the town with their
supplies, whereupon the Danish king abandoned the siege. This story is of
interest, as these are the first iron-plated ships spoken of in history.

By this and other exploits Birger grew in esteem, and when the Finns
began their terrible work in the north he and the king summoned the
people to arms, and the old warlike spirit, which had long been at rest,
was reawakened in the hearts of the Swedes. The Pope at Rome had
proclaimed a crusade against the Finns, promising the same privileges to
all who took part in it as were enjoyed by those then taking part in the
crusades to the Holy Land, and on all sides the people grew eager to
engage in this sacred war.

Then there was brushing and furbishing on all sides; ancestral swords,
which had long hung rusting on the walls, were taken down and sharpened
anew; helmets and cuirasses were burnished until they shone like silver
or gold; tight-closed purses were opened by those who wished to aid the
cause of Christ; and old ships were made ready for the waves and new ones
launched. Rosy lips were kissed by lovers who would never kiss them
again, and loud was the weeping of the maidens and mothers who saw those
they loved setting out for the war, but they consoled themselves as best
they could by the thought that it was all for the glory of God. Men of
Sweden had gone to the crusades in Palestine, but here was a crusade of
their own at home, and all were eager to take part in it.

A great fleet was got together and set sail under the command of Birger
Jarl. Its course lay up the Gulf of Bothnia, and where it came to land
Birger erected a great wooden cross as a sign that he had come for the
spread of the Christian faith. From this the place was called Korsholm.

The heathen Finns knew of his coming and had gathered in great numbers to
defend their country against its invaders, but nothing could stay the
fury of the crusaders, who were incensed with the cruelties these
barbarians had committed, and drove them back in dismay wherever they met
them, Birger Jarl showing the greatest skill as a leader. He made public
a law that all who became Christians should be protected in life and
property, and within two years he succeeded in introducing Christianity
into that country--perhaps more in appearance than reality. At any rate
he built forts, and settled a colony of Swedes in East Bothnia, and thus
did much towards making Finland a province of Sweden.

While this was going on King Erik the Lame died (in 1250). As he left no
heir there were many pretenders to the crown. The fact that Birger had
been named by the king two years before was lost sight of, and it looked
as if there would be civil war between the many claimants. To prevent any
such result a powerful noble named Iwar hastily summoned an assembly and
through his influence Valdemar, Birger Jarl's son, was chosen as king.
This was all done so quickly that it was completed in fourteen days after
Erik's death.

When the news of this hasty action reached Birger in Finland he was very
angry, and hastened home with all speed, bringing with him the greater
part of his army. He was highly displeased that he had not himself been
named king, as had been promised, instead of a boy, even if the boy was
his son. Calling together those who had made the choice of Valdemar, he
hotly asked them:

"Who among you was so bold as to order an election during my absence,
though you knew that King Erik named me Jarl and chose me for his heir?
And why did you choose a child for your king?"

Iwar answered that it was he that ordered the election and said:

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,

"Though you are indeed most worthy to wear the crown, you are advanced in
years and cannot live to rule us as long as your son."

This answer brought another angry outbreak from Birger and Iwar again

"If you do not like this, do with your son what you please. There is no
fear but we shall be able to find another king."

For a time Birger sat in moody silence, and then asked:

"Who then would you take for your king?"

"I also can shake out a king from under my cloak," was Iwar's haughty

This threw the Jarl into a dilemma. The faces of the people present
showed their approval of what Iwar had said, and at length, fearing that
if he resisted their action the crown might be lost both to himself and
his son, he gave in to their decision.

To give dignity to the occasion, he took steps to have his son crowned
with much magnificence, and shortly after sent his daughter Rikissa with
great pomp and a rich dower to the frontier of Norway, where she was met
by the king of that country and was married with stately ceremony to his
son. The next year Birger's mother died, and as there was a prophecy that
her family would remain in power as long as her head was up, he had her
buried upright, being walled up in a pillar in Bjelbo Church so that her
head should never droop.

Birger Jarl belonged to a great family called the Folkungers, who long
held all the power in Sweden, and many of whom had been aspirants for the
throne. These were so angry at being deprived of what they had hoped for
that they determined to take the throne by force, and their leaders went
to Denmark and Germany, where they collected a large army. When they
landed in Sweden many of the people of that country joined them, and
though Birger had also a large force he began to fear the result.

He therefore sent his chancellor, Bishop Kol, to ask for a personal
interview with the leaders of the opposite force, with solemn promises of
safety. Yielding to the bishop's persuasions, the chiefs accompanied him
across the river that separated the two armies. Then Birger did a
dastardly act. No sooner had the chiefs come within his power than he had
them seized and beheaded on the spot as rebels.

Thus fell a number of the leading men of Sweden, and, the leaders fallen,
Birger attacked and easily dispersed their army, sparing the Swedes, but
cutting to pieces all the Germans that could be overtaken. Thus he added
greatly to the power of his family, but by an act of treachery and
perjury for which Archbishop Lars laid upon him a heavy penance. As for
Bishop Kol, who had been made the innocent agent in this shameful deed,
he never read mass again, and finally resigned his office and left his
country, journeying as a pilgrim to the Holy Land in expiation for his
involuntary crime. He never found peace and rest until he found them in
the grave.

Birger Jarl by these means rose to be the mightiest man in the north. His
son was king of Norway, his daughter was queen of Sweden, and his
daughter-in-law was a princess of Denmark, for when Valdemar became
twenty years of age he sought and won for his bride the beautiful Danish
Princess Sophia. The marriage was one of great pomp, a great hall being
built for the occasion, where the courtiers appeared in new-fashioned
dresses of rich stuffs, and there were plenty of banquets, games, dances,
and even tilts and tournaments, all conducted according to the noblest
custom of the times.

Birger himself had a queen for his wife, having married the dowager Queen
Mechthild of Denmark, and to increase his importance he assumed the title
of duke, never before borne in Sweden. But many of the peasants called
him king, since he governed the kingdom and was married to a queen. But
meanwhile poor Bishop Kol was dying of grief for the deed of shame into
which this proud lord had led him.

Shall we here tell an interesting and romantic story about one of
Birger's brothers? He was a judge in East Gothland, his name being Bengt,
and had fallen deeply in love with a damsel named Sigrid, whose family
was not rich nor great, though she herself was so beautiful that she was
widely known as Sigrid the Fair.

Duke Birger was not pleased with the idea of such a match, thinking the
girl, though of noble birth, of far too lowly rank to mate with a member
of his family. But in such things Judge Bengt had a will of his own and
he married Sigrid without Birger's consent. This so displeased the proud
jarl that he sent Bengt a cloak, half of which was made of gold brocade
and the other of coarse and common baize. This was in token of the
difference in rank of the families of Bengt and Sigrid and a significant
hint that he should separate from his new wife.

But Bengt was equal to the situation. He covered the coarse half of the
cloak with gold, pearls and precious stones so as to make it more
valuable than the other, and this he sent to his brother with no other
answer. This only irritated Birger the more, and he sent back the
message, "that he would speak with his brother face to face about this
affair," adding some harsh words which were also repeated to Bengt.

Then, soon after this, the angry jarl saddled his horse and rode with a
large company to Ulfasa, where Bengt lived. When the judge saw the jarl's
train near at hand he fled from his house to the woods, leaving his wife,
whom he had carefully instructed how to act, to meet his irritated

When the angry jarl rode into the court, fully prepared to call his
erring brother severely to account, he was surprised to see the fairest
woman he had ever beheld come forward to meet him. She was adorned with
the most costly robes and precious ornaments she could command and
everything had been done to enhance the charm of her beauty. Stepping
forth before the jarl, who gazed at her with astonishment, she bowed low
and welcomed him with all honor and courtesy.

So astonished was Birger with the charming vision that he sprang from his
horse and seized Sigrid in his arms, saying, "Had my brother not done
this I should have done it myself."

Leading him to the house, she entertained him with the best cheer, and
Bengt being sent for to the wood, the two brothers were fully reconciled.
Such an effect have the charms of a fair woman over the pride and passion
of men.

A few words must serve to finish the story of Birger Jarl. The greatest
and most valuable service of his reign lay in the new laws he gave the
country and his doing away with many of the old barbarian customs to
replace them with the customs of civilization.

Before this time it was the common practice for the relatives of a
murdered man to avenge him on the family of the murderer, thus giving
rise to long and bloody feuds. This custom Birger forbade, ordering every
one to seek redress for injury at the courts of justice. He also passed
four Laws of Peace, viz.: for the Peace of the Church, of Women, of
House, and of Assize.

Every one was forbidden to assault another in the church or the
churchyard or on the way to or from church. Whoever did so was declared
outlawed, and if the assailed man killed his assailant he was held free
from blame or revenge. This was the Peace of the Church.

Another ancient custom was to carry away a desired bride by force,
without her consent or that of her parents, a fight often arising in
which the bride's father and brothers were killed. Or on the way of an
affianced pair to church the same outrage might take place, the
bridegroom being often killed. This, too, was forbidden under penalty of
outlawry, the new law being that of Peace for Women.

To promote general security he forbade, under the same penalty, the
attacking of any man, his wife, children, or servants, within his house
or on his property. This was the Law of Home-peace or House-peace. All
violence was in like manner forbidden to any one going to or attending an
assembly of the people, this being the Peace of Assize.

Birger Jarl improved the laws in many other ways and made Sweden a far
more civilized country than it had been before his time. Another of his
useful acts was the founding of the city of Stockholm, which before his
day was a mere village on an island, but which he made a stronghold and
city, inviting that commerce to which its situation so excellently
adapted it. This was one of the most important acts of Birger Jarl, who
died soon afterwards, not living to see the rapid growth in importance of
his new city.


In the last tale it was told how Birger Jarl subdued the Finns and
brought then to give up their heathen practices and accept Christianity.
But this refers only to the section of Finland bordering on the Baltic
Sea. Farther east the Finns were pagans still, worshipping idols and
living a savage life in their vast forests, and bitterly hating the
Christians. At times they would come in hordes out of their wild
woodlands and attack the settled people, killing them in the most cruel
way their distorted fancies could contrive.

They had two chief deities, Jumal, the great good one, and Perkel, the
great evil one, and these were supposed to meet in fierce encounters in
which they would throw each other over high mountains. The people kept
wooden images of these deities in their huts, and had also open places in
the forest, with a stone on the centre of each, on which they made
sacrifices to their divinities. When a Karelian, as these people were
called, came to within a fixed distance of the sacrificial stone, he took
off his cap and crawled up to it silently, making sacrifices there of the
bones and horns of elk and reindeer. In case of danger they would
sacrifice goats, cats and cocks, sprinkling their idols with the blood of
these animals.

At that time, shortly before the year 1300, Birger, heir to the throne of
Sweden, was very young, and the country was under the rule of Torkel
Knutson, regent of the kingdom and a wise and energetic man. Exasperated
by the cruelties committed by the Karelians on the Christians, he
determined to put a stop to them and sailed to Finland with a strong
army. Against this force the pagan foresters could not make head and they
were soon obliged to submit. A fort with a strong garrison was built at
Wiborg to keep them in order, and the churchmen who went with the
expedition strove to convert them.

It is not with these savage woodsmen, however, that we are concerned, but
with the Russians, with which people the Swedes now first came into
warlike contact. The forest Russians of that day were as savage as the
Finns and as hard to deal with. They came to the help of the Karelians in
this war, and to punish them the regent took Castle Kexholm, their chief
stronghold, and left in it a garrison under Sigge Lake. It was this that
brought on the first war between the Swedes and the Russians, some of the
events of which are so interesting that it is worth telling about.

After the Swedes had held Kexholm for some time their food supply ran
very low, and as no aid came from home many of them wished to abandon the
fort. This Sigge Lake would not listen to. He had been left there to hold
the place and did not intend to give it up. But only the bravest of his
men remained with him, the others leaving under pretext of sending food
and reinforcements from home.

Neither men nor supplies arrived and the Russians, learning of the state
of affairs, gathered in multitudes around the fort, laying close siege to
it. In the end, after a brave resistance lasting many days, food became
so scarce that the Swedes dared not stay any longer and they determined
to try and cut their way through the besiegers.

The gates were thrown open and Sigge rushed out at the head of his
company, with such force and fury that for a time it seemed as if they
would succeed. But they were weakened by semi-starvation and in the end
the swarming Russians killed them all but two, who alone made their
escape and carried the news of the disaster back to Sweden.

The regent was greatly distressed at the loss of the brave men whom he
had left so long without support. It was too late to save their lives but
he felt it his duty to avenge them. To do so he set sail with another
army, making his way up the river Neva, the stream on which the city of
St. Petersburg was afterwards built. No enemy was seen and the regent
landed on an island in the river, where he built a strong fort which he
named Landscrona, furnishing it plentifully with provisions.

The Russians, when they found what was being done, were infuriated. A
great multitude of them, thirty thousand in number, gathered on the Neva
and made a vigorous effort to burn the Swedish fleet, sending rafts down
the stream on which were great heaps of blazing wood. But the regent
caught these by iron chains which he stretched across the stream, holding
the fire-floats until they burned out.

This effort failing, the Russians made a fierce attack on the fortress,
with such savage violence that though many of them fell the others would
not give up the assault. But so strong and so well defended was the place
that they failed in this also, and in the end were obliged to retreat,
leaving great numbers of dead behind them. Then a young and brave knight
in the garrison, named Matts Kettilmundson, made a sortie against the
Russians and drove them back in panic flight, many more of them being

Shortly after this a party of Russian cavalry, one thousand strong,
appeared in the edge of a wood, not far from the fort, their armor
gleaming brightly in the sunlight. While the garrison were looking at
them from the walls, the brave knight Matts Kettilmundson asked
permission of the regent to ride out against them, saying that "he would
venture a brush with the bravest among them."

The regent having consented, the daring fellow put on his armor and had
his horse led through the gate. Leaping on it he rode out, and when he
had passed the moat, turned back to his friends who lined the wall.

"Strive to live happily," he said, "and do not be troubled about me, for
it depends on God in heaven whether I shall return with a captive foe or
fail to return at all."

He then rode boldly on and sent an interpreter to the Russian lines,
challenging the bravest of the Russians to fight with him for life, goods
and freedom. It must be borne in mind that those were the days of
chivalry and knight-errantry, when such adventures and challenges were
common things and good faith was kept with those who made them. So no
force or treachery was attempted against the daring knight, although we
should hardly have looked for knightly deeds and chivalrous ways in the
Russia of that day.

However, as the story goes on to say, the Russian king appealed in vain
for a knight to try conclusions with the Swedish champion. Not a man in
the troop was ready to make the venture, and Sir Matts sat his horse
there all day long waiting in vain for an antagonist. As evening
approached he rode back to the fortress, where every one congratulated
and praised him for his courage. The next morning the Russians had

Soon after this, the army growing weary and longing for home, the regent
set sail down stream, leaving three hundred men and abundant supplies in
the fort, under a knight named Swen. But as contrary winds detained the
fleet Sir Matts landed with a strong party of horsemen and made long
raids into the country, gathering much booty, with which he returned to
the ships. Then the army continued its way home, where it was received
with much joy.

But the garrison in Landscrona did not find their lot much better than
had the former garrison in Kexholm. The new walls were damp and the
advancing summer brought hot weather, so that their provisions began to
spoil. As a consequence scurvy and other diseases broke out and many of
the men died. Some of those who remained wished to send home for help,
but others objected to this, saying that "they preferred waiting for help
from heaven and did not wish to trouble the regent, who had enough to
attend to at home."

When the Russians gathered around the fort to attack it, as they soon
did, only twenty men in the garrison were fit to bear arms in defence.
These could not properly guard the walls and the Russians steadily
advanced, all losses being made up from their great numbers, until in no
great time the walls were taken. The Swedes retired to their houses,
continuing to fight, but as the Russians set fire to these, the governor
and some others threw down their arms, offering to surrender. They were
at once cut down by the assailants.

The few who remained alive now took refuge in a stone cellar, where they
defended themselves manfully; and refused to submit until the enemy had
offered them their lives. Then they yielded and were carried as captives
into the country, the fortress being razed to the ground. Thus, in the
year 1300, ended the first war between Russia and Sweden. The Swedes
fought well and died nobly, but they lost their lives through the neglect
of their countrymen and rulers.


When the events narrated in the last tale took place, there were three
young princes in the kingdom, Birger, Erik and Valdemar, Torkel, the
regent, ruling in their name. But when the princes grew up Birger, the
oldest, was crowned king, the other two becoming dukes. But very early in
Birger's reign there arose many complaints about the conduct of his
brothers, who showed themselves haughty and insubordinate. The ill-blood
in time grew to such an extent that the king dismissed his brothers from
his presence, giving them until sunset to leave.

"After that," he said, "if you shall fall into my hands, it will go ill
with you."

This gave rise to bitter enmity and the two dukes gave King Birger no end
of trouble, there being war between them three times in succession,
bringing the country into a miserable state. During the second war King
Birger was taken prisoner by his brothers, but he was afterwards set free
under the promise that he would no more disturb Sweden, a third part of
which was left under his rule.

He did not intend to keep his word, but was no sooner set free than he
sought aid from his brother-in-law, the king of Denmark, and invaded the
kingdom with a Danish army. This was the third war above spoken of. It
ended without the king gaining anything but the third of the kingdom,
which had already been promised to him. After each of these wars the
brothers became reconciled, and lived for a time peacefully in their
dominions, but they laid such heavy taxes on the people to support their
extravagant courts that great misery prevailed.

After the last outbreak all remained quiet for nearly ten years, and the
dukes thought that their brother was friendly towards them, not dreaming
that his heart was full of hate and treachery.

In 1317, when Duke Valdemar made a journey to Stockholm, which was in his
section of the kingdom, he stopped at Nyköping to visit his brother
Birger, whom he had not seen for a long time. Birger met him with a great
show of friendliness, making him welcome in every way. Queen Martha was
equally kind, and Valdemar was highly pleased with these tokens of
regard. Before he left the queen complained to him that it gave her great
pain that Duke Erik avoided his brother, saying that God knew she loved
him as much as if he were her own brother.

After spending the night with them Valdemar rode away very well pleased.
His men were equally pleased, for they had been well entertained. On
leaving Stockholm he went to Erik's home in Westmoreland, who told him
that he had just been invited to visit Birger's court, and asked if he
thought it safe to make such a visit.

Valdemar said he had no doubt of it, telling of what a pleasant visit he
had made. Erik, however, had doubts, being distrustful of the queen and
Chancellor Brunke, whom he looked upon as his enemies. But in the end the
brothers decided to accept the invitation and rode away towards Nyköping.
When six miles distant they met a knight who advised them to go no
farther, saying:

"You will cause yourselves and your friends much sorrow if both of you
trust yourselves in the king's hands at the same time."

Valdemar indignantly replied to this that "there are too many who seek to
breed disunion between the king and his brothers."

The knight then rode off, saying no more, and the dukes rode into Swärta,
where they proposed to spend the night. To their surprise no preparations
had been made for them, but a knight met them and saluted them in the
king's name, adding that he earnestly requested them not to repose until
they reached Nyköping, as his longing to meet them was so great that he
could not rest until they arrived.

On receiving this warm request they rode on, reaching Nyköping in the
evening. The king advanced from the castle gate to meet them, greeting
them in an affectionate manner, and taking each of them by the hands as
he led them into the castle. They found a rich feast prepared for them,
at which neither mead, wine, nor fair words were wanting. At length Duke
Valdemar grew suspicious and said to his brother that they were drinking
too much wine. But this was soon forgotten and the feast went on, Queen
Martha showing herself very gay and lively and every one being full of
the spirit of enjoyment.

It was late at night before the merrymaking ended and the dukes went to
their rooms. The queen then said to their men, who had also been well
taken care of:

"Lodging has been prepared for you in the town, as there is not room
enough for you in the castle."

As they went out Chancellor Brunke stood at the gate, making sure that
they had all gone, when he shut the castle gates behind them. Then he
armed the servants and led them to the king. Birger, who seemed in some
doubt, bade them to retire and turned to Sir Knut Johanson, asking if he
would assist in making prisoners of the dukes.

"I will not, my lord," said Sir Knut. "Whoever has counselled you to do
this is leading you into a great treachery. What, would you deceive and
murder your brothers who came here trusting in your good faith? The devil
himself must be your tempter. Let who will be angry on this account, I
will never help you in it."

"Small care you have for my honor," said the king angrily.

"Little honor can accrue to you from such an act," answered Sir Knut
sturdily. "If you should carry out this design your honor will be less

Two other knights warned the king against so treacherous a deed, but he
was so displeased with their words that he ordered them to prison.

Then he led his armed servants to the sleeping apartment of the dukes and
broke open the door, the noise awakening the sleepers. Valdemar sprang
up, and seeing armed men entering the room, he seized one of them and
threw him down, calling on his brother for help.

"There is no use in resisting, brother," said Erik, seeing the room
filling with armed men.

The king now rushed in and called out savagely:

"Do you remember Hatuna? It will not be better for you here than it was
for me there, for you shall have the same fate, though it has tarried so

Hatuna was the place where the king had previously been taken prisoner by
his brothers, in somewhat the same treacherous manner. But they had not
treated him with the same shameful cruelty with which he now treated

They were taken barefooted deep into the tower and fastened in a dungeon,
with a great chain on their legs, while their servants in the town were
taken prisoners and locked up in one ward to the number of twenty, all
their possessions being divided among their captors. This being done, the
king clapped his hands, saying:

"The Holy Ghost bless my queen! Now I have all Sweden in my hand!"

When he set out soon afterwards on an errand of conquest, he left his
brothers in the charge of a Livonian knight, who had evidently been
bidden to treat them harshly, for he removed them to the lowest dungeon
and placed a beam upon their legs. They were fastened to the wall by
thick iron round the throat and chains weighing one hundred and forty
pounds were riveted on their wrists, the other end being fastened to the
beam. When the chain was fastened upon Erik it was done with such
violence that a piece of iron broke out, cutting him on the eye so that
blood ran down his cheek.

Their dungeon was at the bottom of the tower, where they lay on the bare
rock, a pool of water lying between them. Their food was wretched, their
clothing was wretched, and there was every indication that their wicked
brother did not wish to have them leave that prison alive.

But the cruel and treacherous king did not find it so easy to bring all
Sweden under his rule. The news of his wicked act got abroad and spread
through the land, exciting general horror and detestation. When he rode
up to Stockholm to take possession he found it closed against him and the
burghers made a sally against him, putting his forces to flight. It was
the same way everywhere, the whole country rising against him. The wicked
king now began to learn that the way of the transgressor is hard, and in
his fury of disappointment he locked the door of the dungeon in which his
brothers lay and threw the key into the stream, leaving them to die of

But the poor victims were to be thoroughly avenged, for the people were
implacable in their wrath, and in a short time had so environed the king
that the fortresses of Nyköping and Stegeborg were alone left to him, and
both of these were besieged.

Nyköping was soon so severely pressed that the garrison brought up the
dead bodies of the dukes and laid them under a dais outside the castle,
saying to the besiegers:

"Your siege will now answer no purpose, for the dukes are dead and King
Birger is heir to all the kingdom."

"No one can hope to win an inheritance by murder," they replied. "We now
serve as our ruler, Lord Magnus, Duke Erik's son."

The bodies of the murdered dukes were carried to Stockholm, where they
were buried with much ceremony. But the siege of the castle was continued
until the garrison was forced to surrender. On obtaining possession of it
the enraged people razed it to the ground.

Stegeborg, where Prince Magnus, King Birger's son, was in command, held
out much longer. The king and queen, with Brunke, their confederate, were
in Gothland, which province alone they held, and from which they sent a
number of ships to Stegeborg with provisions and troops. These had no
sooner appeared in the river Skares, however, than they were attacked and
taken, leaving Prince Magnus as bad off as ever. When this news was
brought to the king and queen they exclaimed in despair:

"Where shall we turn now, since God has sent us such a misfortune?"

Brunke, the cruel chancellor, volunteered to lead an expedition himself,
saying that he would no more spare the dukes' people than they had spared
the king's. Gathering some vessels, he had them strongly planked all
around, and loading these with provisions and the remainder of the king's
forces, he set out for Stegeborg.

On entering the Skares the people attacked him with stones and other
missiles, but he and his men protected themselves behind the planks.
Seeing this, fire-rafts were sent off from the shore against the ships,
and despite all that could be done to keep them off they drifted upon the
vessels, setting three of them on fire, from which the flames spread to
the others.

Brunke and his men leaped overboard, hoping to escape by swimming, but
they were all taken and Brunke and three of his chiefs sent to Stockholm,
where they were soon afterwards beheaded. Stegeborg was now in a
desperate state and was soon forced to surrender, on the condition that
the life of Prince Magnus should be spared. This condition was not kept,
notwithstanding the fact that he was innocent of his father's crime. The
indignant people were not willing to leave any scion of their wicked king
alive and the poor boy's head was cut off.

Thus the unholy treachery of King Birger met with retribution. Sir Matts
Kettilmundson, the brave knight who had shown such courage in Russia, was
made Administrator of the kingdom and soon defeated a Danish army which
had been sent to King Birger's aid. Then Birger and his wicked queen were
obliged to flee to Sweden, where grief soon brought him to his death-bed.
Queen Martha lived long, but it was a life made bitter by memory of her
crimes and Heaven's retribution.

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,


We have next to tell how the three kingdoms of Scandinavia, between which
rivalry and hostility had often prevailed, became united into one great
Scandinavian realm, under the rule of a woman, the great Queen Margaret.
This was a very important event, as its results continued until our own
day, the subjection of Norway, which was then achieved, not being broken
until the early days of the present century. It is important to describe
the various steps by which this union was brought about.

From 930, when Harold Fair-Haired, the maker of Norway, died, until 1319,
when a king known by the odd title of Haakon Longlegs followed him to the
grave, the throne of Norway had been nearly always filled by some one of
Harold's many descendants. But with the death of Haakon the male line of
King Harold's descendants was finally broken, and only a woman remained
to represent that great royal stock, Princess Ingeborg, the daughter of
King Haakon. This fair maiden was promised in marriage while still a
child to Duke Erik, son of the late king of Sweden. They were married in
1312, and on the same day Duke Valdemar, Erik's brother, married another
princess of Norway, also named Ingeborg. About four years later a son was
born to each of these happy couples, and King Haakon was full of joy,
for he now felt that the old royal line was restored.

One person was not pleased by the birth of these princes. This was King
Birger of Sweden, who had long been at sword's point with his ambitious
brothers and wanted the throne of Norway as well as that of Sweden to
descend to his own son Magnus. He pretended to be pleased, however, for
he had in mind a treacherous plot to destroy his brothers and their
children and thus leave the way clear for his ambitious schemes. The
steps he took to bring this about and their fatal end to his brothers and
his son we have told in the previous tale. After the indignant people had
driven King Birger from the throne the kingdoms of Sweden and Norway were
left in a strange plight. Magnus, the son of Duke Erik and Ingeborg, was
only three years old when his grandfather, the king of Norway, died. This
left him the successor to the Norse realm. But the deposition of King
Birger and the execution of his son left this royal infant the king of
Sweden also, so that these two kingdoms became for the first time united,
and this under the rule of a three-year-old child, with regents to govern
in his name. But the two countries remained separate in everything except
that they had now but one king.

When King Magnus became old enough to act as monarch in reality, he took
the government of both countries into his hands. But he proved unfit to
govern either of them, being a weak and good-natured man, so anxious to
please everybody that he pleased nobody. Born and brought up in Sweden,
he knew little and cared less about affairs in Norway and the people of
that country grew much incensed at his neglect of their interests. They
made him promise, at a public meeting, to divide the two kingdoms between
his two sons; Erik, the elder, to succeed him in Sweden, and Haakon, the
younger, to be given the crown of Norway when he came of age. Events
happened, as will be seen, to prevent this taking place and to combine
all Scandinavia under one great queen.

This is how it came about. King Magnus made a visit to Denmark, where it
was arranged to marry Prince Haakon to Margaret, daughter and heir of the
Danish king, Valdemar. This marriage took place in due time, and not very
long afterwards both King Magnus and Prince Haakon died and Prince Erik
was poisoned by his mother, who was a wicked woman and was angry because
he opposed her in one of her base schemes.

Thus as the death of King Birger had left the crowns of Sweden and Norway
to a boy of three, the deaths here named left these crowns and that of
Denmark also to another child, the son of Haakon and Margaret. This
little fellow, Olaf by name, too young to appreciate how great he had
become, did not live to enjoy his greatness. He died at the age of
seventeen, leaving his royal rights to his mother Margaret.

It is interesting to learn that the turbulent kingdoms named, the land of
the sea-kings and the warlike barbarians of the north, each of which had
needed the hand of a strong man to control them, all now fell under the
sceptre of a woman, who at first reigned over Denmark and Norway and soon
added Sweden to her dominion.

But Queen Margaret was no weakling. She was a woman born to command,
strong in mind and body, and more like a man than a woman. In Sweden, to
which she quickly turned her attention, she had a bitter enemy in Duke
Albrecht of Mecklenburg, who had been declared king of that country after
the death of King Magnus, and who also claimed the crown of Norway, being
remotely related to its royal house.

He bitterly hated Margaret, whom he called "Queen Breechless," and by
other satirical and insulting names. Finally he took the bold step to
call himself king of Denmark and Norway, a baseless claim which he
proposed to enforce. He made a vow never to use a hat until he had driven
out Margaret, and sent her a whetstone several yards long, advising her
to use it to sharpen her scissors and needles instead of using a sceptre.
He was much too hasty, as he had only a weak hold upon Sweden even, whose
nobles did not like his habit of bringing in Germans to fill the posts of
honor and were anxious to get rid of him.

Therefore it came about that he found himself confronted by an army of
Danes, Norsemen, and Swedes, and a battle followed in which Albrecht
riding with his heavy cavalry upon a frozen marsh, broke through the ice
and was taken prisoner. He was now in the power of Queen Margaret, who
had at length the opportunity to repay him for his insults. To replace
the crowns of Norway and Denmark, which he had sought to wear, she put
upon his head a fool's cap, with a tail twenty-eight feet long, and
repaid him for his insults and jests in other ways. After she had done
her best to make him an object of laughter and ridicule she locked him up
in a strong prison cell, where he was given six years to reflect on his

It took these six years for Margaret's army to subdue the city of
Stockholm, which held out stoutly for Albrecht. She won it at last by
setting him free with the proviso that he should pay a ransom of sixty
thousand marks. In ease he could not provide it within three years he was
to return to prison or surrender Stockholm. He did the latter and
Margaret became mistress of Sweden.

This able woman had now won a proud position, reached by none of the
kings before her. She was ruler of the whole of Scandinavia, with its
three ancient kingdoms. The triple crown was hers for the lifting, but
she was not ambitious to wear it, and preferred to put it on the head of
her grand-nephew, Erik of Pomerania, though she retained the power in her
hands until her death in 1412. Representatives of the three kingdoms were
summoned by her to a meeting at Calmar, where, in July, 1397, a compact
uniting the three kingdoms under one ruler was drawn up and signed.

This was the famous Calmar Union, which held Norway captive for more than
four hundred years. From that time until the present century Norway had
no separate history, though her people vigorously resisted any measures
of oppression. In 1536 this ancient kingdom was declared to be a province
of Denmark, being treated like a conquered land; yet there was not a man
to protest against the humiliation. The loss of national standing had
come on so gradually that the people, widely scattered over their
mountain land and absorbed in their occupations, scarcely noticed it,
though they were quick enough to resent any encroachment upon their
personal liberty and rights. There were outbreaks, indeed, from time to
time, but these were soon put down and the Danish rule held good.

This was not the case with Sweden, a more thickly settled and civilized
land. The struggle of the Swedes for freedom continued for some
seventy-five years and was finally accomplished in 1523. How this was
done will be told in other tales. As for Norway, it was ceded by Denmark
to Sweden in 1814, and the people of that mountain land regained their
national rights, with a free constitution, though ruled by the Swedish
king. This union held good until 1905, when it was peacefully broken and
Norway gained a king of its own again, after being kingless for more than
five hundred years.


In the year 1450 and the succeeding period there was great disorder in
the Scandinavian kingdoms. The Calmar Union was no longer satisfactory to
the people of Sweden, who were bitterly opposed to being ruled by a
Danish king. There were wars and intrigues and plots and plans, with
plenty of murder and outrage, as there is sure to be in such troublous
times. There was king after king, none of them pleasing to the people.
King Erik behaved so badly that neither Sweden nor Denmark would have
anything to do with him, and he became a pirate, living by plunder. Then
Duke Christopher of Bavaria was elected king of Scandinavia, but he also
acted in a way that made every one glad when he died. In those days there
was a great nobleman in Sweden, named Karl Knutsson, who had a hand in
everything that was going on. One thing especially made him very popular
at that time, when a new king was to be elected. The spring had been very
dry and there was danger of a complete failure of the crops, but on the
day when Karl landed in Stockholm, May 23, 1450, there came plentiful
rains and the people rejoiced, fancying that in some way he had brought
about the change of weather. So, when the lords assembled to elect a new
king, Karl received sixty-two out of seventy votes, while the people
shouted that they would have no other king. He was then crowned king as
Charles VIII. There had been only one Charles before him, but somehow the
mistake was made of calling him Charles VIII., and in later years came
Charles IX., X., etc., the mistake never being rectified.

All this is in introduction to a tale we have to tell, that of a bold
champion of King Charles. For the new king had many troubles to contend
with. The king of Denmark in especial gave him much trouble, and the
southern province of West Gothland was in danger of seceding from his
rule. In this dilemma he chose his cousin, Sir Tord Bonde, a young but
daring and experienced warrior, as the captain of his forces in that
province. He could not have made a better choice, and the stirring career
of Sir Tord was so full of strange and exciting events that we must
devote this tale to his exploits.

Lödöse, a stronghold of Gothland, was still held by the Danes, and Sir
Tord's first adventure had to do with this place. On a dark, rainy, and
stormy night he led a party of shivering horsemen towards the town,
galloping onward at headlong speed over the muddy road and reaching the
place before day-dawn. Utterly unexpectant of such a coming, the Danes
were taken by surprise and all made prisoners, Sir Tord's men feeding
luxuriously on the enemy's meat and wine as some recompense for their wet
night's journey.

Master of the place without a blow, Sir Tord found there a bag of
letters, containing some that had to do with plots against the king.
These letters he sent to King Charles, but they put him upon a new
adventure of his own. One of the traitors was Ture Bjelke, master of
Axewalla Castle, and Sir Tord, fancying that the traitor would be as
welcome a present to the king as his letters, set out for the castle with
thirty men.

On arriving there Ture, not dreaming that his treason had been
discovered, admitted his visitor without hesitation. The troopers were
also permitted to enter, Sir Tord having told them to come in groups of
five or six only, so as not to excite suspicion by their numbers.

That night, while they sat at table, and just as the cabbage was being
carried in, Sir Tord sprang up and seized Ture firmly by the collar,
calling out that he arrested him as a traitor to the king. The knight's
men sprang up to defend him, but Sir Tord's men attacked them with sword
and fist, the matter ending in the men as well as their master being
taken prisoners, and the castle falling into Sir Tord's hands.

On receiving the letters, Charles laid them before the senate at
Stockholm, but the traitors were men of such power and note, and there
was so much envy and jealousy of Charles among the lords, that he dared
not attempt to punish the plotters as they deserved, but was obliged to
pardon them. As for Ture and his men, they managed to escape from the
place where they had been left for safe keeping, and made their way to

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,

Meanwhile Sir Tord Bonde was kept busy, for King Christian of Denmark
several times invaded the land. On each occasion he was met by the
valiant defender of West Gothland and driven out with loss. On his final
retreat he built a fortress in Smaland, which he called Danaborg, or
Danes' castle, leaving in it a Danish garrison; but it was quickly
attacked by Sir Tord with his men-at-arms and a force of armed peasantry
and the castle taken by storm, the Danes suffering so severe a defeat
that the place was afterwards known as Danasorg, or Danes' sorrow.

Sir Tord, to complete his chain of defences, had built several fortresses
in Norway, then claimed by King Christian as part of his dominions. He
had with him in this work about four hundred men, so small a force that
Kolbjörn Gast, one of Christian's generals, proceeded against him with an
army three thousand strong, proposing to drive the daring invader out of
the kingdom.

Weak as he felt himself, Sir Tord determined to try conclusions with the
Danes and Norsemen, proposing to use strategy to atone for his weakness.
One hundred of his men were placed in ambush in a clump of woodland, and
with the remaining three hundred the Swedish leader marched boldly on the
enemy, who were entrenched behind a line of wagons. Finding that he could
not break through their defences, Sir Tord and his men turned in a
pretended flight and were hotly pursued by the enemy, who abandoned their
lines to follow the flying Swedes. Suddenly Sir Tord turned and led his
men in a fierce attack upon the disordered pursuers, falling upon them
with such bold fury that he had two horses killed under him. At the same
time the hundred men broke from their ambush, sounding their war-horns
loudly, and fell on the flank of the foe, though they were so badly armed
that they had no iron points on their lances.

Confused and frightened by the double attack and the blare of the
trumpets, the Norsemen broke and fled, crying out that "all the might of
Sweden was in arms against them"; but they were pursued so closely that
the leader and all his men were taken by the brave four hundred.

Thus the bold and skilful Sir Tord defended the king's cause in those
quarters, winning victories by stratagem where force was lacking and
keeping off the attacks of the Danes by his watchfulness, bravery, and
sound judgment; until men came to say, that his brave cousin was the
king's chief support and that his secret enemies dared not undertake
anything against him while he had so skilful and courageous a defender.

There are two ways of disposing of a troublesome foe, one by fair and
open warfare, one by treachery. As Sir Tord could not be got rid of in
the former manner, his enemies tried the latter. Jösse Bosson, one of his
officers, though born a Dane, had proved so faithful and won his
confidence to such an extent that the valiant Swede trusted him
completely, and made him governor of the fortress of Karlborg. He did
not dream that he was nourishing a traitor and one capable of the basest

During the warfare in Norway Sir Tord reached Karlborg one afternoon,
proposing to spend the night there. He was received with much show of joy
by Jösse, who begged him to take the repose he needed, promising to keep
strict watch in the fortress during his stay there. Without a thought of
danger Sir Tord went to the chamber provided for him. Jösse said the same
to the followers of his guest, and as they were weary they were glad to
go to their beds.

Having thus disposed of his visitors, Jösse got his boats ready, loaded
them with his most-prized effects, and then turned the key on the
followers of his trusting guest, hid their swords, and even cut their
bowstrings, so much was he afraid of the heroic soldier who had been his
best friend.

Then, axe in hand, he entered the room of Sir Tord. The sleeper, awakened
by his entrance, raised himself a little in the bed and asked what he
wanted. For answer the murderous wretch brought down his axe with so
heavy a blow that the head of Sir Tord was cleft in twain to the
shoulders. Then, taking to his boats, the assassin made his escape to the
Danes, by whom his bloody act was probably instigated.

With the death by treason and murder of the brave Sir Tord, the chief
bulkwark of the realm of King Charles, this tale should end, but the
later career of Charles VIII. is so curious a one that it will be of
interest to make some brief mention of it.

Never has king had a more diversified career. With the death of his brave
defender, enemies on all sides rose against him, his great wealth and
proud ostentation having displeased nobles and people alike. Chief among
his enemies was the archbishop of Upsala, who nailed a letter to the door
of the cathedral in which he renounced all loyalty and obedience to King
Charles, took off his episcopal robes before the shrine of St. Erik, and
vowed that he would not wear that dress again until law and right were
brought back to the land. It was a semi-civilized age and land in which
churchmen did not hesitate to appeal to the sword, and the archbishop
clad himself in armor, and with helmet on head and sword by side, set out
on a crusade of his own against the man he deemed an unworthy and
oppressive king.

He found many to sustain him, and Charles, taken utterly by surprise,
barely escaped to Stockholm, wounded, on a miserable old horse, and with
a single servant. Besieged there and unable to defend the town, he hid
part of his treasures, put the rest on board a vessel, and while going on
board himself was accosted by one of the archbishop's friends, who asked

"Have you forgotten anything?"

"Nothing except to hang you and your comrades," was the bitter reply of
the fugitive king.

King Christian of Denmark was called in by the archbishop to take the
vacant throne, Charles was pronounced a traitor by his enemies, and for
some years Christian ruled over Sweden. Then his avarice and the heavy
taxes he laid on the people aroused such dissatisfaction that an
insurrection broke out, Christian's army was thoroughly defeated, and he
was forced to take ship for Denmark, while Charles was recalled to the
throne and landed in Stockholm in 1464, a second time king of Sweden.

This reign was not a long one. Christian, who had imprisoned the
archbishop because he opposed the heavy taxation of the peasants, now
sought his aid again and sent him with an army to Sweden. As a result
Charles found himself once more shut up in Stockholm and was again forced
by his enemies to resign the crown, being given instead of his kingdom
the government of Raseborg Castle in Finland. And instead of having
treasures to take with him, as before, he was now so poor that he could
not pay a debt of fifty marks he owed in Stockholm. He expressed his
state of poverty in the following verse:

               "While I was Lord of Fogelwich,
               I was a mighty man and rich;
               But since I'm King of Swedish ground
               A poorer man was never found."

But his career was not yet ended. He was again to sit on the throne.
Friends arose in his favor, the people again grew dissatisfied with
Danish rule, and the archbishop, his greatest enemy, died. Charles was
recalled and returned from Finland, a third time standing on Swedish
ground as king.

He had still a hard fight before him. A Swedish nobleman, Erik Wase,
sought to win the throne for himself, and Christian of Denmark sent a new
army to Sweden; but by the aid of a brave young knight, Sten Sture, Nils
Sture, his cousin, and some other valiant friends, all his enemies were
overcome and thus, after years of struggle and a remarkably diversified
career, he was at length firmly seated on the throne.

But the unfortunate monarch was not long to enjoy the quiet which he had
so hardly won. He fell seriously ill in May, 1470, and feeling that death
was near, he sent for Sten Sture and made him administrator of the
kingdom, with control of the castle of Stockholm. But he earnestly warned
him never to seek for the royal power, saying:

"That ambition has ruined my happiness and cost me my life."


Historical tales have much to do with war and bloodshed, with rides and
raids, with schemes and stratagems, with plunder and piracy, and with
outrage and oppression. These are the things to which historians give the
most space in their pages and which many readers find fullest of interest
and excitement. In the present tale we have to do wholly with scenes of
war, for we propose to tell the story of one of the most remarkable
battles ever fought on Swedish soil.

This is what led to it. After the death of Charles VIII. and the
appointment of Sten Sture as administrator of the kingdom, Christian I.
of Denmark, whom the brave Sture had driven away with his army, fancied
that the way was open to him again, and that Sweden, without a king, was
a ripe plum ready to drop into his mouth. He was to find it a sour plum,
for in Sten Sture he had to deal with a man of notable ability, just and
upright in his dealings, wise and prudent in government, and brave and
skilful in war. He was a man who did not swear to keep his word, but who
never broke it. "I promise by my three water-lilies" (the arms of the
Stures) was his form of affirmation, but this simple promise was more to
be trusted than the solemn oaths of many kings and potentates. The
people loved and trusted him, and on the 1st of May, 1471, the late
king's appointment was confirmed at a general diet of the people, which
accepted him by acclamation as the administrator and captain-general of
the realm.

He soon had work cut out for him. Christian of Denmark equipped a great
fleet and sailed to Stockholm, where he anchored in the harbor and opened
negotiations with the Swedish senate, then the great source of power in
the land. He promised to govern the kingdom in the way they might decide
upon and be to them a mild and merciful father. While some of them were
seduced by his specious promises, the majority had no fancy to make him
their "father." But they made a truce with him until the matter could be
decided, the Danes being allowed to buy provisions in the town, and on
their side selling salt to the citizens, this being at that time very
scarce in Stockholm.

Thus matters went on for seven weeks, at the end of which time Christian
concluded that the Swedes were playing with him, seeking to spin out the
time until all his provisions would be consumed and winter with its
storms would be at hand to destroy his fleet. As it began to appear that
nothing was to be gained by peace, he resolved to try the effect of war,
and on the 1st of September landed his army and laid his plans to besiege
the city.

His camp was pitched on the hill of Brunkenberg, near the city,
connection being made with the fleet by a strong bridge built from the
shore to an island in the harbor. Bulwarks and ramparts of earth were
thrown up on the side next the town, and were mounted with cannon, with
which he soon opened a bombardment. He enticed some of the Swedish
peasants into his camp by promise of an abundance of salt, but his main
army consisted of the Danish nobles and their troops and of German and
Scottish soldiers of fortune, brave, stout, able warriors who exercised
themselves daily in military sports and led a merry and careless life in
camp, heedless of everything except pay and plunder.

When the proud Danish king was told that Sture was collecting an army of
peasants with which to fight him, he sneeringly said:

"Herr Sten sneaks along ditches and dikes, but I shall punish my little
gentleman with the rod like a child, and teach him to keep himself

Threats were also made by the foreign mercenaries against the citizens,
but these only served to rouse their anger and make them more resolute in
the defence of the city.

As for Herr Sten, he went on raising troops and driving out the Danes
whom he found infesting the seaboard lands, not marching towards the city
until he had got rid of all hostility in his rear. On his march he was
met by his brave cousin, Nils Sture, with an army of the bold Dalmen of
the north, and the united armies marched on to Jerfva, in the vicinity of
the beleaguered city.

From this point Sture wrote to King Christian, offering him safe passage
home, if he would leave Sweden without the need of blows; but he only
roused the wrath of the king, who loudly swore:

"By God's five wounds, I have not gone to so much trouble and expense to
go home without finishing what I came for."

All that could be done in the cause of peace had been done without avail,
and events had reached a point in which the affair could be settled only
at sword's point and cannon's mouth.

It was the 10th of October, 1470. Long before the sun rose on that
memorable day the Swedes of Sture's army were awake and busy preparing
their arms for the coming fray, in which the mastery of their kingdom was
to be decided. At an early hour the whole army was called to the solemn
service of the mass, after which holy and impressive ceremony they
refreshed themselves with a hasty meal and returned to their ranks ready
for battle.

Nils Sture was already on the march with a third of the army, secretly
leading them around a clump of woodland with the purpose of attacking the
Danish camp at Brunkenberg from the east. As the ranks of the main army
formed for the attack, their brave leader was gratified to see a body of
gallant horsemen, in shining armor, riding to join him. They were
thirteen hundred in number, and had been sent from the town of Kungsholm.

Advancing before his people, Sture spoke to them with few but telling

"If you ever desire to enjoy peace and security in Sweden stand by me
this day and cling one to another. I shall do my part. I fear not the
king nor his Danes and mercenaries, but gladly venture life and blood and
all that I possess on the event of this battle. If you will do the same,
lift up your hands."


"That will we do with God's help," came the roar of response, followed by
a great shout and wild clanging of arms. Immediately the advance began,
the men singing the verse of a psalm written for the occasion. It was now
the hour of eleven.

King Christian and his army boldly awaited the assault, looking down from
their commanding position on the Swedes, who came on heedless of the roar
of guns and flight of arrows. Reaching the foot of the hill, they began
its ascent, met as they did so by the Danes, who rushed down upon them
with lance and sword. In a moment more the hostile lines met and the
bloody work of war began.

On the summit of the hill proudly waved the Danneborg, the sacred
standard of Denmark. In the midst of the Swedes fluttered their country's
flag, borne resolutely up the hill. Around these banners gathered the
bravest of the champions, fighting with heroic fury--the Danes, under
their ambitious king, fighting for glory and riches; the Swedes, under
their patriot leader, striking for peace and freedom from foreign rule.

While the battle was thus raging outside the town, Knut Posse, its
governor, a skilful soldier, was not idle. He was not content to rest
within the walls while his countrymen were fighting so vigorously for
his relief. The heat of the fight had left the bridge leading from the
shore to the ships without a guard, and he sent some men in boats to row
towards it and with saws and axes to sever the supports beneath it. This
was successfully done and the men returned unseen.

While this was being accomplished the warlike governor, seeing that the
Swedes had been checked in their ascent of the hill, made a sally from
the town with two thousand of the garrison, taking possession of the
Danish fortifications in that quarter and setting them on fire. His
position, however, could not long be held, for Sten Sture's troops had
been driven down the hill and Christian was free to lead a heavy column
against him, forcing him back with his handful of men. In the struggle,
however, the bold governor advanced so vigorously upon the king, that he
received a wound from Christian's own hand.

While Knut Posse was thus being driven back into the town Sten Sture was
seeking to infuse new spirit into his defeated people, telling them that
"it would be to their eternal shame if they suffered themselves thus to
be repulsed."

Marshalling them into orderly ranks as quickly as possible he led them
again towards the hill, and the battle recommenced with its old fire and
vigor. Sture rode valiantly at their head, encouraging them with a
display of heroic valor. While he fought on horseback, by his side ran a
peasant named Björn the Strong, who kept pace with the horse and at
times ran before it, swinging his broad battle-axe with such strength
that he opened a road for his leader to ride through. Though surrounded
by enemies, the two held their own with the fiery energy of the
berserkers of an earlier day, dispensing death while not receiving a

King Christian, on the other hand, showed himself not wanting in valor,
keeping well in the front rank of his men. In the midst of the fight a
ball struck him in the mouth, knocking out three of his teeth and so
disabling him that he was carried fainting from the field. In the end the
Swedes, who had borne their banner to the summit of the hill, where they
looked in vain for the expected aid from Nils Sture and his men, were
driven back again and a second time forced down the hill, the victorious
Danes driving them well into the plain at its foot.

Three hours of hard fighting had now passed and both armies were wearied.
Trotte Karlsson, a Swedish renegade who had been fighting against his
country in the ranks of its foes, seated himself on a stone to rest,
taking off his helmet that he might breathe the fresh air. As he did so a
ball from the Swedish ranks struck him between the eyes and he fell
dead--a traitor fighting with strangers against his native land.

Though twice beaten Sten Sture had no thought of giving up the fight. For
some reason Nils Sture, who with the large force under his command had
been depended upon to make a diversion in their favor, had not appeared.
Bad roads had detained him and he was still struggling onward towards
his assigned position.

Looking around him, and satisfied that it was hopeless to dislodge the
enemy from their post of vantage, Sten now attempted a diversion by
sending a force to attack the troops stationed at the convent of St.
Claire. The Danes on the hill, seeing the danger of this detachment, and
thinking that they had thoroughly beaten off the Swedes, rushed down to
the aid of those at the convent, and Sten, with the skill of an able
commander, took advantage of this movement and at once marshalled his men
for a third attack.

They did not need much encouragement. Though twice beaten they were not
dispirited, but rushed forward shouting: "Now the Danes come to us on
equal ground! Let us at them and swing our swords freely!"

Some bright streaks appearing on the sky, the cry ran through the ranks:

"St. Erik is waving his sword over his people to aid them and point the
way to victory."

On the enemy they rushed, with a valor not weakened by their previous
repulses, and Knut Posse, who had been watching the fight with keen eyes,
made a fresh sally from the town. Soon the battle was on again with all
its former fury, the Danes fighting at first for victory, then, as they
were forced to give way, striking resolutely to defend their standard,
the Danneborg. Knut Posse made a fierce onset upon the proud banner, but
was not able to reach it until five hundred noble Danes, who gathered
around it as a guard of honor, had fallen under the swords of the Swedes.

When the Danes saw their great standard fall they gave way, but only with
the intention to regain the height and defend themselves on its summit.
It was at this critical juncture that Nils Sture appeared with his
long-delayed troops and attacked the enemy from a fresh side. Before this
unlooked-for and powerful force the Danes gave way in a panic, their
ranks being broken and the fugitives rushing in wild flight down the hill
to take refuge in their ships.

Now the stratagem of Knut Posse became effective, the weakened bridge
swaying and sinking under the multitude of fugitives who crowded it,
plunging them by hundreds into the water. Others leaped into boats to row
to the vessels, but these were so crowded that many of them sank, their
occupants being drowned. In all, nine hundred men were drowned in the
flight, while as many more who were not able to escape threw down their
arms and surrendered. Christian succeeded in escaping with that portion
of his army which had reached the ships, while Sten Sture marched in
triumph into Stockholm with his victorious troops, there to be received
with shouts of gladness, and with tears of joy by his wife Fra Ingeborg,
who had been in the city and with the noble ladies of the place had
prayed earnestly for victory while their friends and husbands fought.

For four hours the battle had lasted. It was one of vast importance for
Sweden, since it brought to that country many years of peace and repose.
King Christian dared not attack the Swedes again and the country got on
prosperously without a king under the able government of Sten Sture.


The name of Ditmarshers was given to the inhabitants of a broad, marshy
region adjoining the district of Holstein on the Baltic shores of
Germany. They were not pure Germans, however, but descendants of the
ancient Frisian tribes who had long occupied the northwest parts of
Germany and Holland and were known as far back as the times of the Romans
for their courage and love of liberty.

For age after age this people had shown the same bold spirit and made
many a gallant stand against the princes who sought to subdue them. Geert
the Great and other princes of Sleswick and Holstein had suffered defeat
at their hands, and the warlike Valdemar III. of Denmark had been sadly
beaten by them. At a much later date the Emperor Frederick had formally
given the lands of the Ditmarshers to Christian I. of Denmark, to be
joined to Holstein, but the marshmen declared that they were not subjects
of Denmark and would not be given and taken at its king's will.

It was in the year 1500 that the most striking event in the history of
the Ditmarshers took place. King Hans, the son of Christian I., then
ruled over Denmark and Norway and five years before had been crowned king
of Sweden. It was due to his dealings with the bold sons of the marshes
that he lost the latter throne. This is the story of this interesting

When Hans was made king of Denmark his ambitious brother Frederick, who
had sought to obtain the throne, was made duke of Sleswick-Holstein, and
called upon the Ditmarshers to pay him taxes and render homage to him for
their lands. This they declined to do, not recognizing the right of the
Emperor Frederick to hand them over to Denmark and to decide that the
country which had belonged to their fathers for so many centuries was
part of Holstein.

Finding that he had tough metal to deal with in the brave marshmen,
Frederick induced his brother Hans to invade their country and seek to
bring them to terms. King Valdemar had done the same thing three
centuries before, with the result of losing four thousand men and getting
an arrow wound in his eye, but undeterred by this, if they knew anything
about it, the nobles and knights, who were very numerous in the army led
by Frederick and Hans, went to the war as lightly as if it were an
excursion of pleasure.

Disdaining to wear their ordinary armor in dealing with peasant foes,
they sought to show their contempt for such an enemy by going in their
ordinary hunting costume and carrying only light arms. It was a piece of
folly, as they were to learn. The marshmen fought like their fathers of
old for their much-valued liberty, and the knights found they had no
cravens to deal with.

It is true that the royal troops took and sacked Meldorf, the chief town
of the Ditmarshers, cruelly killing its inhabitants, but it was their
only victory. It proved a lighter thing to get to Meldorf than to get
away from it, and of the Danes and Germans who had taken part in the
assault few escaped with their lives.

It was the depth of winter, cold, bitter weather, and as the army was on
its march from Meldorf to Hejde the advance guard suddenly found itself
in face of a line of earthworks which the marshmen had thrown up in front
of a dike. This was defended by five hundred Ditmarshers under their
leader, Wolf Isebrand.

The German guards rushed to the attack, shouting:

"Back, churls, the guards are coming!"

Three times they forced the marshmen to retreat, but as often these bold
fellows rallied and came back to their works. In the midst of the
struggle the wind changed, bringing a thaw with it, and as the troops
struggled on, blinded with the sleet and snow that now fell heavily, and
benumbed with the cold, the men of the marshes opened the sluices in the
dike. Through the openings poured the waters of the rising tide, quickly
flooding the marshes and sweeping everything before them.

The soldiers soon found themselves wading in mud and water, and at this
critical juncture the Ditmarshers, accustomed to make their way through
their watery habitat by the aid of poles and stilts, fell upon the
dismayed invaders, cutting them down in their helpless dilemma or
piercing them through with their long lances.

The victory of the peasants was utter and complete. Six thousand of the
invaders, nobles and men-at-arms alike, perished on that fatal day, and
the victors fell heir to an immense booty, including seven banners. Among
these was the great Danish standard, the famous Danneborg, which was
carried in triumph to Oldenwörden and hung up in the church as the
proudest trophy of the victory.

As for King Hans and his brother Duke Frederick, they barely escaped
falling into the hands of the marshmen, while the estimate of the losses
in money, stores, and ammunition in that dread afternoon's work was
200,000 florins.

King Hans lost more than money by it, for he lost the kingship of Sweden.
The nobles of that country, when the news of the disastrous defeat
reached them, rose in revolt, under the leadership of Sten Sture, drove
the Danes out of Stockholm, and kept his queen, Christina of Saxony,
prisoner for three years. Hans had no more armies to send to Sweden and
he was obliged to renounce its crown.

Norway also rose against him under a brave leader, and his power over
that country was threatened also. It was finally saved for him by his son
Prince Christian, who used his power so cruelly after order was restored
that he nearly routed out all the old Norwegian nobles.

Thus, from his attempt to make the Ditmarshers pay taxes against their
will, King Hans lost one kingdom and came near losing another. The only
successful war of his reign was one against the traders of Lübeck, who
had treated him with great insolence. In a war which followed, the fleet
of the Lübeckers was so thoroughly beaten that the proud merchant princes
were glad to pay 30,000 gulden to obtain peace. Then, having this one
success to offset his defeat by the Ditmarshers, King Hans died.


The most cruel tyrant the northern lands ever knew was Christian II. of
Denmark, grandson of Christian I., whose utter defeat at Stockholm has
been told. For twenty-seven years Sweden remained without a king, under
the wise rule of Sten Sture. Then Hans of Denmark, son of Christian I.,
was chosen as king, in the belief that he would keep his promises of good
government. As he failed to keep them he was driven out after a four
years' rule, as we have told in the last tale, and Sten Sture became
practically king again.

How Christian, who succeeded Hans as king of Denmark, and had shown
himself a master of ferocity and bloodthirsty cruelty in Norway and
Denmark, overcame the Swedes and made himself king of Sweden, is a story
of the type of others which we have told of that unhappy land. It must
suffice to say here that by force, fraud, and treachery he succeeded in
this ambitious effort and was crowned king of Sweden on the 4th of
November, 1520.

He had reached the throne by dint of promises, confirmed by the most
sacred oaths, not one of which he had any intention of keeping, and the
Swedes might as well have set a wolf on their throne as given it to this
human tiger. One thing he knew, which was that the mischief and disquiet
in Sweden were due to the ambition of the great lords, and he mentally
proposed to ensure for himself a quiet reign by murdering all those whom
he feared.

[Illustration: SKANSEN RIVER.]

Under what pretence of legality it could be done, and leave to him the
appearance of innocence in the matter, was a difficult question. To
attempt the bloody work with no ostensible motive might lose for him the
crown which he had striven so hard to win, and in the dilemma he
consulted with his confidential advisers as to what should be done.

Some of them proposed that a quarrel and uproar between the Danes and
Swedes in the town should be fomented, which the lords might be accused
of bringing about. But there was danger that such a pretended quarrel
might become a real one, and endanger his throne. Others advised that
gun-powder should be laid under the castle and the lords be accused of
seeking to blow up the king. But this was dismissed as too clumsy a

Finally it was proposed to proceed against the lords as heretics, they
having some years previously been excommunicated by the Pope for
heretical practices. The king, indeed, had solemnly sworn to forget and
forgive the past, but his cunning advisers told him that while he might
speak for himself, he had no warrant to speak for the Church, the laws
and rights of which had been violated. This pretext was seized upon by
Christian with joy and he proceeded to make use of it in a way that every
churchman in the land would have condemned with horror.

On the 7th of November, the day after the coronation festivities ended,
the king proceeded to put his treacherous plot into effect. A number of
noble Swedes who had attended the festivities were brought to the castle
under various pretences, and were there ushered into a large and spacious
hall. With alarm they saw that the doors were closed behind them so that
none could leave, though others might enter.

When all were gathered Christian entered and took his seat on the throne,
with his council and chief lords about him. Archbishop Trolle was also
present as representative of the Church, but without knowledge or
suspicion of the secret purpose of the king, who had brought him there to
sanction by his presence the intended massacre.

The charge which it was proposed to bring against the senators and lords
was that of trespass against the archiepiscopal dignity and to demand
retribution for the same, and this charge was accordingly brought in the
name of the Church. The king then turned to the archbishop and asked:

"My Lord Archbishop, do you intend to have this matter brought to peace
and friendship according to the counsel of good men or will you have it
judged by the law?"

Archbishop Trolle answered, "The offence being one against the Church,
the cause of the accused should be judged by the Pope."

This was a mode of settling the matter which by no means conformed with
the king's intention, and he answered:

"This is a matter not to be referred to the Pope, but to be terminated at
home in the kingdom, without troubling his Holiness."

In this decision he was not to be shaken, knowing well that if the
archbishop's proposal to refer the matter to the Pope were carried out
his secret sanguinary purpose would be defeated. What he proposed was the
murder of the lords, and he had no intention of letting the matter escape
from his control.

Lord Sten Sture, against whom the accusation had been chiefly directed,
was dead, but his widow, the Lady Christina, was present, and was asked
what defence she had to offer for herself and her husband. She replied
that the offences against the archbishop were not due to Lord Sten alone,
but were done with the approbation of the senate and the kingdom and she
produced a parchment in proof of her words, signed by many of the persons
present. Christian eagerly seized upon the incriminating document, as
giving him a warrant for his proceedings and evidence against those whom
he most hated and feared.

All whose names were attached to it were brought up, one after another,
there being among them several bishops, who had taken part in the matter
on patriotic and political grounds, and a number of senators. Every one
tried to excuse himself, but of the whole number Bishop Otto was the only
one whose excuse was accepted. At the end of the examination all those
accused were seized and taken from the hall, the whole number, senators,
prelates, noblemen, priests and burghers, being locked up together in a
tower, the two bishops among them being alone given a better prison. The
true reason for proceeding against the churchmen was that they had been
the friends of Sten Sture and might prefer their country to the king. The
wicked tyrant, who in this illegal manner had sought to make the Church
responsible for his bloodthirsty schemes, hesitated not to condemn clergy
and laity alike, and ended the session by the arbitrary decision that all
the accused were heretics and as such should die.

Irreligious, illegal, and ruthless as had been this whole proceeding,
into which the artful king had dragged the archbishop and sought to make
him a consenting party to his plot, Christian had gained his purpose of
providing a pretext for ridding himself of his political enemies, actual
or possible, and proceeded to put it into execution in the arbitrary
manner in which it had been so far conducted, regardless of protests from
any quarter.

The next day the city gates were closed, so that no one could enter or
leave. Trumpeters rode round the streets in the early morning,
proclaiming that no citizen, on peril of life, must leave his house,
unless granted permission to do so. On the chief squares Danish soldiers
were marshalled in large numbers, and on the Great Square a battery of
loaded cannon was placed, commanding the principal streets. A dread sense
of terrible events to come pervaded the whole city.

At noon the castle gates were thrown open and a great body of armed
soldiers marched out, placing themselves in two long lines which reached
from the castle to the town hall. Between these lines the accused lords
were led, until the Great Square was reached, where they were halted and
surrounded by a strong force of Danish soldiers. Around these gathered a
great body of the people, now permitted to leave their houses. Alarm and
anguish filled their faces as they saw the preparations for a frightful

On the balcony of the town hall now appeared Sir Nils Lycke, a knight
newly created by the king, who thus addressed the agitated multitude:

"You good people are not to wonder at what you now behold, for all these
men have proved themselves to be base heretics, who have sought to
destroy the holy Church; and moreover traitors to his Majesty the King,
since they had laid powder under the castle to kill him."

At this point he was interrupted by Bishop Vincent from the square below,
who called out indignantly to the people:

"Do not believe this man, for all he tells you is falsehood and nonsense.
It is as Swedish patriots that we are brought here, and God will yet
punish Christian's cruelty and treachery."

Two of the condemned lords also called out to the people, beseeching them
"never in future to let themselves be deceived by false promises, but one
day to avenge this day's terrible treachery and tyranny."

Fearing an outbreak by the indignant people, if this appeal should
continue, the soldiers now made a great noise, under order of their
officers, and the king, who is said to have gloatingly witnessed the
whole proceedings from a window in the town hall, ordered the execution
to proceed, Klas Bille, an official, placing himself to receive the
golden chain and ring of each knight before he was beheaded.

The prisoners implored that they might confess and receive the Holy
Sacrament before they were slain, but even this was refused, and Bishop
Matthew was led forth first. While he was kneeling, with clasped and
uplifted hands, two horrified men, one of them his secretary, rushed
impulsively towards him, but before they could reach the spot the fatal
sword had descended and the good bishop's head rolled to their feet on
the ground.

They cried out in horror that this was a frightful and inhuman act, and
were at once seized and dragged within the circle, where they would have
suffered the fate of the victimized bishop had they not been rescued by
some German soldiers, who believed them to be Germans.

Bishop Vincent next fell beneath the encrimsoned sword, and after him the
senators, seven in number, and thirteen nobles and knights of the senate.
These were followed by the three burgomasters of Stockholm and thirteen
members of the town council, with fifteen of the leading citizens, some
of them having been dragged from their houses, without the least warning,
and led to execution. One citizen, Lars Hausson by name, burst into
tears as he beheld this terrible scene, and at once was seized by the
soldiers, dragged within the fearful circle, and made to pay by death for
his compassion.

With this final murder the executions for that day ended, the heads being
set on poles and the dead bodies left lying where they had fallen. A
violent rain that came on bore a bloody witness of the sanguinary scene
into the streets, in the stream of red-dyed water which ran down on every
side from the Great Square.

On the next day Christian said that many had hid themselves who deserved
death, but that they might now freely show themselves for he did not
intend to punish any more. Deceived by this trick some of the hidden
leaders made their appearance and were immediately seized and haled to
the square, where the work of execution was resumed. Six or eight of
these were beheaded, many were hung, and the servants of the slaughtered
lords, who happened to come to the town in ignorance of the frightful
work, were dragged from their horses and, booted and spurred as they had
come, were haled to the gallows.

The king's soldiers and followers, excited by the slaughter and given
full license, now broke into many houses of the suspected, murdering the
men, maltreating the women, and carrying away all the treasure they could
find, and for some hours Stockholm seemed to be in the hands of an army
that had taken the city by storm.

For a day and night the corpses lay festering in the street, their bodies
torn by vagrant dogs, and not until a pestilent exhalation began to rise
from them were they gathered up and hauled by cartloads to a place in the
southern suburbs, where a great funeral pyre was erected and the bodies
were burned to ashes.

As for the tyrant himself, his bloody work seemed to excite him to a sort
of madness of fury. He ordered the body of Sten Sture the Younger to be
dug from its grave in Riddarholm Church, and it is said that in his fury
he bit at the half-consumed remains. The body of Sten's young son was
also disinterred, and the two were carried to the great funeral pile to
be burnt with the others. The quarter of the town where this took place
is still named Sture, in memory of the dead, and on the spot where the
great pyre was kindled stands St. Christopher's Church.

Such was the famous, or rather the infamous, "blood-bath of Stockholm,"
which still remains as a frightful memory to the land. It did not end
here. The dreadful work he had done seemed to fill the monster with an
insatiable lust for blood. His next act was to call Christina, the widow
of Sten Sture, to his presence. When, overwhelmed with grief and despair,
she appeared, he sneeringly asked her whether she would choose to be
burned, drowned, or buried alive. The noble lady fell fainting at his
feet. Her beauty and suffering and the entreaties of those present at
length softened the tyrant, but her mother was enclosed in a bag and
thrown into the stream, though she was permitted to be drawn out by the
people on their promise to the tyrant that he should have her great
wealth. But she, with her daughter Christina and many other women of
noble descent, were carried as hostages to Copenhagen and shut up in a
dreadful prison called the Blue Tower, where numbers of them died of
hunger, thirst and cold.

The massacre was not confined to Stockholm; from there the executions
spread throughout the country, and the old law of 1153 was revived that
no peasant should bear arms, Danish soldiers being sent through the
country to rob the people of their weapons. The story is told that some
of them, enraged by this act of tyranny, said:

"Swords shall not be wanting to punish the tyrant so long as we retain
our feet to pursue and our hands to revenge."

To this the reply was that "a hand and a foot might well be cut from the
Swedish peasant; for one hand and a wooden leg would be enough for him to
guide his plough."

This report, improbable as it was, spread widely and caused a general
panic, for so terrified were the people by the reports of Christian's
cruelty that nothing seemed too monstrous for him to undertake.

In December the tyrant prepared to return to Denmark, leaving Sweden
under chosen governors, with an army of Danes. But his outgoing from the
country was marked by the same sanguinary scenes. He caused even his own
favorite, Klas Hoist, to be hung, and two friends of Sten Sture being
betrayed to him, he had them quartered and exposed upon the wheel. Sir
Lindorm Ribbing was seized and beheaded, together with his servants. And,
most pitiable of all, Sir Lindorm's two little boys, six and eight years
of age, were ordered by the tyrant to be slain, lest they should grow up
to avenge their murdered father.

The scene, as related, is pathetic to the highest degree. The older boy
was beheaded, and when the younger saw the streaming blood and the red
stains on his brother's clothes, he said with childish innocence to the
executioner: "Dear man, don't stain my shirt like my brother's, for then
mamma will whip me."

At these words the executioner, his heart softened, threw down the sword,

"I would rather blood my own shirt than yours."

But the pathos of the scene had no effect on the heart of the tyrant, who
witnessed it unsoftened, and called for a more savage follower to
complete the work, ending it by striking off the head of the
compassionate executioner. With this and other deeds of blood Christian
left the land where he had sown deeply the seeds of hate, and the
terrible "blood-bath" ended.


In the parish of Orkesta, in Upland, Sweden, there may be seen the
remains of an old tower, now a mere heap of stones, but once the centre
of the proud manor-seat of Lindholm. It was a noble and lordly castle,
built of red bricks and grey granite, seated on a high hill between two
lakes, and commanding a wide prospect over mountain, wood, and water.
Here, in the year 1490, was born Gustavus Vasa, the son of Sir Erik and
Lady Cecilia Vasa, and destined to win future fame as one of the greatest
heroes of Sweden and the liberator of his native land.

At the age of six the boy was sent to be educated at the court of Sten
Sture, then the administrator and virtual king of Sweden. Here he was not
spoiled by indulgence, his mode of life and his food were alike simple
and homely, and he grew up with a cheerful spirit and a strong body, his
chief pleasure being that of hunting among the rocks and forests with his
companions, all of whom grew to love and admire him.

King Hans, when monarch of Sweden in 1499, on a visit to Sten Sture
noticed the boy playing about the hall and was much pleased by his fine
and glowing countenance. Patting him on the head, he said:

"You will certainly be a man in your day, if you live to see it."

He afterwards, thinking of the high descent of the boy and that he might
grow to be a future foe of Denmark, asked Sten Sture to let him take the
lad to Copenhagen and bring him up in his court. The wise Lord Sten
quickly fathomed the king's thoughts and answered that the boy was too
young to be taken from his parents. He soon after sent him to his father,
then in command at Aland.

"The young wolf has slipped out of my net," said King Hans in later
years, when he was told of the splendid development of the boy as he grew
to manhood.

At the age of twenty-four he left the academy at Upsala, where he had
been educated in the arts and sciences, and repaired to the court of Sten
Sture the Younger, where he was soon a general favorite, loved for his
amiable character and admired for his wit and vivacity. At that time the
war by which Christian II. made himself master of Denmark was going on
and young Vasa aided by his courage in winning victory on more than one
hard-fought field.

In 1518, during a negotiation between Sten Sture and Christian, then in
sore straits in his fleet, the latter agreed to go ashore to confer with
the Swedish leader if six gentlemen were sent on board his fleet as
hostages. This was done, but before the conference took place a favorable
change of wind changed the treacherous king's intention and he sailed off
for Denmark with his hostages, all of whom were imprisoned and held to
secure the neutrality of their relatives in Sweden.

Among these captives was young Gustavus Vasa, who, thus perfidiously
taken, was cruelly confined. Finally, at the request of Herr Erik Baner,
a distant relative of the Vasas, the young man was set free, Baner
binding himself to pay a heavy penalty in money if he permitted him to
escape. Thus it was that Vasa found a new home at Kallö Castle, in
Jutland, where his deliverer lived, and where he was well treated and
given much freedom.

"I shall not cause you to be strictly guarded nor put you in
confinement," said good old Baner. "You shall eat at my table and go
where you please, if you faithfully promise not to make your escape or
journey anywhere without letting me know."

To this the young man bound himself verbally and by writing, and was
given liberty by his generous warder to go where he pleased within six
miles of Kallö. At first he was always accompanied by an attendant, but
as he won the old man's love and confidence he was suffered to go alone.

But he could not forget the perfidy by which he had been made prisoner,
and in 1519, when King Christian was preparing a great expedition against
Sweden, the boasts of the young Danish nobles of what they proposed to do
chafed his proud soul. Day and night his bitterness of spirit grew, and
finally, as the time came for the expedition to set sail, he could bear
it no longer but resolved to break his parole and escape to his native

It was in the summer of 1579 that he set out, having dressed himself in
peasant clothing. Starting in the early morning and avoiding the open
roads, he made his way by by-paths, and at noon of the following day
reached the town of Flensburg, where he fortunately met some Saxon
traders driving a herd of cattle from Jutland to Germany. He joined
these, and on September 30 reached the free town of Lübeck. Here the
authorities gave him permission to remain, with a warrant for his
personal safety while in the town.

Meanwhile Sir Erik Baner had been wrathfully seeking him, and appeared in
Lübeck shortly after he reached there, complaining of his ingratitude for
the good treatment given him, and threatening the senate of Lübeck with
Christian's enmity if they should protect one of his foes.

Gustavus boldly answered that he was no lawful prisoner, but a man seized
by breaking a solemn compact, and therefore that he had the right to set
himself free. As for the six thousand riks-thalers, which Sir Erik had
bound himself to pay, he would return them with interest and gratitude
when he got home.

"I trust to this," he concluded, "that I am in a free town, on whose
word, when once given, I should be able to depend."

This appeal won his case with the senate, and Sir Erik was obliged to
return without his ward.

But to make his way to Sweden, then torn and distracted by war, and the
seas held by hostile craft, was no easy matter and he was forced to
remain eight months in Lübeck while his country was being rapidly subdued
by its invaders. They were not idle months, for Gustavus learned much
while there of political and industrial economy and the commerce and
institutions of the Hanseatic League and its free towns, knowledge which
became of much service to him in later years. In the end he succeeded in
making his way to Sweden in a small trading vessel, and on the 31st of
May, 1520, landed secretly on its shores, with nothing but his sword and
his courage to sustain him against an enemy who had, step by step,
subjugated nearly the whole land.

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,

Of the cities, only Stockholm and Calmar remained in the hands of the
Swedes, and the latter, in which he had landed, seemed full of cowards
and traitors. The place was not safe for a declared patriot, and he left
it, making his way up the country. Here he learned with indignation how
envy, avarice, and private feuds had induced many Swedes to betray one
another to the enemy, and his efforts to exhort the people to unity and
resistance proved vain. Most of them were weary of the war, and Christian
had won over many of the peasants.

"He is a gracious master to us," they said, "and as long as we obey the
king neither salt nor herring will fail us."

When Gustavus sought to win them over to more patriotic views they became
angry and threatening, and in the end they assailed him with arrows and
lances, so that he was obliged to make his escape. His position, indeed,
became so critical that he was forced to disguise himself and proceed
through forests and unsettled lands. Finally he reached the manor-house
in which resided his sister Margaret and her husband, Sir Joachim Brahe.

They received him with the highest demonstrations of joy, as they had
feared that they would never set eyes on him again; but their delight in
his presence was turned into consternation when they learned that he was
there with the purpose of seeking to foment an insurrection against
Christian, who had then made himself complete master of Sweden and was on
the point of being crowned king.

Joachim Brahe and his wife were at that time preparing to attend
Christian's coronation at Stockholm, and were deeply disturbed by what
seemed to them the mad purpose of the young patriot. Joachim offered to
do his utmost to reconcile Gustavus to the king, and Margaret threw
herself in tears and distress on his neck, beseeching him to desist from
an undertaking which she felt sure would bring death to him and ruin to
his whole family.

But Gustavus was not to be persuaded, and on the other hand he warned
Joachim against trusting himself in Christian's hands, speaking of him as
a base wretch whom no one could trust. Joachim proved equally hard to
move, and the three soon parted, Joachim and his wife for
Stockholm--where death awaited him at the hands of the traitor king--and
Gustavus for a place of concealment where he could foment his plans.
During this interval he met the old archbishop, Jacob Ulfsson, who
earnestly advised him to go to Stockholm and warmly promised to plead his
cause with the king. But the fugitive knew Christian far better than the
aged churchman and had no idea of putting his head within the wolfs jaws.
Little did the good archbishop dream of the terrible tragedy that was
even then taking place in Stockholm.

The news of it came to Gustavus in this way. One day while out hunting in
the vicinity of his hiding-place, he unexpectedly met the faithful old
steward of his brother-in-law Joachim, who was so choked with grief on
seeing him that he found it impossible to speak and could answer the
young lord's question only with tears and gestures. Finally he succeeded
in telling the fearful tale of that bloody day at Stockholm, the death
under the executioner's sword of the father and brother-in-law of the
horror-stricken listener, the imprisonment of his mother and sisters, and
the fact that he would soon become a hunted fugitive, a high price having
been set upon his head.

Who can describe the bitter grief of the son and brother at these
terrible tidings, the hot wrath of the patriot, the indignation of a true
and honest heart! On that fatal day the young fugitive had lost all he
loved and cherished and was made a hunted, homeless, and almost penniless
outlaw. But his courage did not fail him, he could foresee the
indignation of the people at the dastardly act, and he determined to
venture liberty and life against the ruthless tyrant.

A series of striking adventures awaited him, which it needed his utmost
resolution to endure. He was then concealed at Räfsnäs, one of his
paternal estates, but felt it necessary at once to seek a safer refuge,
and collecting what gold and silver he could, he set out with a single
servant for Dalarna. They had not gone far before they reached the ferry
at Kolsund, which he crossed, leaving his man to follow. But the fellow,
who had no faith in his master's project, took the opportunity to mount
his horse and flee, taking with him the gold and jewels which had been
entrusted to his care.

Seeing the act of treachery, Gustavus in all haste recrossed the ferry,
and pursued the runaway so hotly that he leaped from his horse in alarm
and hid himself in the woods. Recovering the horse and its valuable
burden, the fugitive pursued his course, paying no further heed to the
treacherous servant.

It was late in November when Gustavus reached Dalarna. He was now
completely disguised, having exchanged his ordinary dress for that of a
peasant, cutting his hair round, wearing the round hat and short baize
jacket of the countrymen, and carrying an axe on his shoulder in the
fashion of peasant-lads seeking work. No one would have dreamed of his
being the sole heir of the great house of the Vasas.

His first service was with a rich miner named Anders Persson, in whose
barn he threshed grain for several days. But his fellow threshers soon
saw that he was not accustomed to the work and his general manner did not
seem that of a common farm-hand, while one of the women caught the
glimpse of a silk collar under his coarse jacket. These suspicious
circumstances were told to the miner, who sent for Gustavus and quickly
recognized him, for he had often seen him in former days at Upsala.

Anders received him hospitably, but when he heard from him of the
Stockholm massacre and his aid was requested in the liberation of the
country, he grew alarmed. Fearing to entertain so dangerous a guest, he
advised him to go farther north and to change his place of abode

Accepting this advice, Gustavus set out for Ornäs, but on his way, while
crossing a newly frozen stream, the thin ice broke under him and he was
plunged into the chilling water. Light and active, he soon got out again,
drying his clothes and passing the night at the house of the ferryman.

Reaching Ornäs the next day, he went to the house of a former friend, but
who now, unknown to him, had become connected by marriage with the Danes
and was devoted to the interests of the new king. It was a critical
situation for the friendless fugitive. His treacherous host craftily
welcomed him and pretended to approve his purpose, in which he offered to
assist him and to seek adherents to his cause among his neighbors.

The guest was conducted to a garret at the top of the house and here,
weary from his wanderings and gratified at having found a sympathizing
friend, he lay confidingly down and was soon lost in slumber. Meanwhile
Arendt, the treacherous host, sought a neighbor, Mans Nilsson, whom he
told of the rich prize he had found and asked his aid in capturing him
and gaining the high reward offered for him by the king. He was mistaken
in his man. Mans hated treachery. But Arendt found others who were less
scrupulous and in the early morning returned to his home heading twenty
men, collected to aid him in the capture of his unsuspecting guest. To
his utter surprise and dismay, on entering the garret to which Gustavus
had been led he was nowhere to be found. He had unaccountably
disappeared, and search as they could no trace of the fugitive was

There was a woman concerned in this strange escape, which had happened
thus. Barbara, Arendt's wife, though Danish in her sympathies, had a
warm, romantic interest in Gustavus Vasa, and when she saw her husband,
on his return from his visit to Mans Nilsson, drive past the house and in
the direction of the house of the Danish steward, she suspected him of
treachery and determined to save their too-confiding guest.

Ordering Jacob, one of her men, to harness a sledge with all haste and
secrecy and keep it in waiting behind the building, she sought the
garret, woke Gustavus, and told him of his peril and of her desire to
save him. Not venturing to bring him down into the house, she opened the
window, and though it was eighteen feet from the ground, she aided him in
his descent with a long towel, such as were then in common use. Gustavus
then sprang into the sledge and was driven briskly off.

Arendt, when he learned of how his expected victim had fled, was
furiously angry with his wife, and, as we are told, never forgave her and
refused ever to set eyes on her again.

This was the most extreme danger that the fugitive patriot ever passed
through, and at that interval his hope of freeing his country from the
yoke of the foreigner seemed the sheerest madness. But other perils lay
before him and only vigilance and good fortune saved him more than once
from death or capture. Surrounded by foes and with scarce a friend who
dared aid him in the whole district, his final escape seemed impossible.

The friendly Barbara had advised him to seek Herr Jon, the priest of
Svärdsjö, and his driver took the road over the frozen Lake Runn, they
ascending its banks in the smoke coming down from the Fahun copper mines,
and about sunrise reaching a village on the northeast end of the lake.
Jacob was unacquainted with the country beyond this point and Gustavus
went to a house to inquire the way. As he was on the point of entering
he saw within a miner, Nils Haussen, whom he knew to be a Danish partisan
and who would have recognized him at sight. Quickly and without being
seen, he turned behind the door and went towards another village beyond.
Here he met a friendly smelter who agreed to guide him on the way. When
they parted Gustavus gave him a silver dagger, saying gratefully:

"If God helps me, seek me, and I will richly repay you for your aid."

As night came on he sought quarters in a road-side cottage, and as he sat
before the fire in the evening the good-wife said to him:

"Young man, make me some pudding skewers, since you have nothing else to

Gustavus laughingly replied that he would be glad to do so if he only
knew how. This adventure has an interesting resemblance to that of King
Alfred, when, hidden from the Danes in the swine-herd's hut, he let the
good woman's cakes burn on the fire.

Reaching the parsonage of Herr Jon on the following day, he first went to
the barn and helped the laborers to thresh, at the same time asking them
what side their master took. Learning that he was no friend of the Danes,
he made himself known to him and was graciously received, staying with
him for three days.

But this place soon became unsafe. One day Herr Jon's housekeeper entered
a room where Gustavus was washing, the priest standing by, towel in

"Why are you holding the towel for this common fellow?" she asked.

"That is none of your affairs," said the priest.

But fearing that the woman would talk, he thought it best for his guest
to seek a safer retreat, and sent him to Swen Elfsson, gamekeeper for the
crown, who lived not far away.

Meanwhile the Danish steward, who had been told by the treacherous Arendt
of the character of his guest, had his agents out in search of the
fugitive and some of them entered the cottage of the gamekeeper. At that
moment the good-wife was about putting her bread in the fire, and
Gustavus was standing by the hearth in his peasant's dress, warming
himself. The men who entered inquired for the fugitive, but before
answering the woman raised her bread shovel and struck Gustavus hastily
on the back, exclaiming:

"What are you doing here gaping at strangers? Have you never seen a man
before? Pack yourself off to the barn and go on with your threshing."

Never dreaming that the man who had been so angrily treated by a
peasant's wife could be the young lord they sought, the steward's
messengers left the house to continue their search elsewhere.

But the incident warned the gamekeeper that his guest was not safe
anywhere in that vicinity, and to get him away unobserved he hid him in a
large load of hay and drove off towards the forest. On the way some of
the Danish scouts were met, and these, having some suspicion of Swen,
began poking their lances through the hay. One of these wounded Gustavus
in the leg, but he lay silent and motionless and the scouts soon went
their way.

But the cut on the concealed man's leg bled so freely that blood soon
began to run from the cart and tinge the snow. Seeing this, Swen, fearing
that the trail of blood might betray him, opened his knife and thrust it
into the leg of his horse, so that if any one should perceive the blood
stains he could assign this as their cause.

He finally delivered his charge to the care of some loyal gamekeepers on
the edge of the forest; but these, not considering their houses safe as
hiding-places, took him into the forest, where he lay hidden for three
days under a great fallen fir tree, they bringing him food and drink.
Finding even this place insecure, he went deeper into the woods and
sought shelter under a lofty fir tree which stood on a hill in the midst
of a marsh. The place has ever since been called "The King's Height."

Finally the effort of the Danish agents to find him relaxed and his
faithful friends conducted him through the vast forests to Rättwik's
Church, at the eastern end of the great Lake Silja.

His perils were yet by no means at an end. He spoke of his purpose at
this place to an assembly of the peasants and was pleased to find that
they listened to him with willing ears. Having thus sown his first seed
in favorable soil, he proceeded to Mora on the northern end of the lake,
where the priest received him in a friendly manner. But he was being
sought by the Danes in that district and the priest did not dare to hide
him in his own house, but committed him to the care of a peasant named
Tomte Mattes. As the search was becoming active he was concealed in a
vaulted cellar, reached by a trap-door in the floor.

He had not been long there when the Danish scouts, who were searching the
whole district, reached the peasant's house, where they found his wife in
the midst of her brewing of Christmas ale. As they entered, the shrewd
woman turned a great tub over the trap-door, so that they did not
perceive it, and thus for the third time the future king of Sweden owed
his liberty and life to a woman's wit.

Shortly after that, at one of the Christmas festivals, as the men of Mora
were leaving the church, Gustavus called them to him where he stood on a
low mound beside the churchyard and addressed them in earnest tones,
while they gazed with deep sympathy on the manly form of the young noble
of whose sufferings and those of his family they were well aware.

He spoke of the risk to his life that he ran in venturing to speak to
them at all, but said that his unhappy country was dearer to him than
life. He pointed out the persecution which Sweden had formerly endured
from Danish kings, and of how they had robbed the country of its wealth.

"The same times and the same misfortunes have now returned," he said.
"Our land swims, so to say, in our own blood. Many hundred Swedish men
have been made to suffer a disgraceful and unmerited death. Our bishops
and senators have been cruelly murdered. I myself have lost father and
brother-in-law," he continued, his eyes streaming with tears, "and the
blood of all these martyrs cries for redress and retribution on the

The men of Dalarna, he said, had long been noted for their courage when
their land was in danger. They were renowned for this in history, and all
Sweden looked upon them as the firmest defenders of its liberties.

"I will willingly join with you for our land's deliverance," he
concluded, "and spare neither my blood nor my sword, for these are all
the tyrant has left me to use in your cause."

Many of the Dalmen heard him with cries of vengeance, but the most of
them stood in doubt. They did not know Gustavus personally and had heard
that Christian was cruel only to the great, but was kind and generous to
the peasantry. They could not yet make up their minds what to do, and
begged him to seek safer quarters for himself, since he was being
everywhere diligently sought by his pursuers.

In fact, his peril continued extreme and for some days he was forced to
lie hidden under Morkarlely Bridge, near Mora Church, though it was in
the dead of a Swedish winter. He was able at length to resume his
journey, but it was with an almost despairing heart, for he could see no
hope either for himself or for his country. His led way over mountains
and through desolate valleys, his nights being spent in wayside sheds
which had been built for the shelter of travellers. On he went, through
forests filled with snow and along the side of mountain torrents, and
finally came within view of the lofty mountains beyond which lay the
sister kingdom of Norway.

Never had patriot more reason to be disheartened than the unhappy and
hunted fugitive, never had the hope of liberating an oppressed country
seemed darker, and the fugitive would have been justified in abandoning
his native land and seeking a refuge in the bleak hills of Norway. Yet
the adage has often held good that it is the darkest hour before the dawn
of day, and so it was to prove in his case. While he waited in that
desolate quarter to which he had been driven, events were shaping
themselves in his favor and the first rising took place against the

The stirring speech of the young noble at Mora Church had not been made
in vain. Many of those who heard it had been strongly taken by his
manliness and his powerful language, and, strangely, the most deeply
impressed of all was Rasmas Jute, a Dane who had served the Stures and
was now settled in Dalarna.

Hearing that a Danish steward had come to that quarter to seek the
fugitive and was now at the house of the sergeant of Mora parish, he
armed himself and his servants and fell on the steward unawares, the
first to take arms for Gustavus being thus a man of Danish birth. Soon
afterwards a troop of Danish horsemen, a full hundred in number, was
seen marching over the frozen surface of Lake Silja. So numerous a body
of soldiers was unusual in those parts, and suspecting that they were in
search of Gustavus, and might do something to their own injury, the
peasants began ringing the church bells, the usual summons to arms.

The wind carried the sound far to the northward, and on hearing the
warning peal the peasantry seized their arms and bodies of them were soon
visible hasting down the hills towards Mora. The Danish troopers, on
seeing this multitude of armed men, shut themselves in the priest's
house. Here they were attacked by the furious Dalmen, who broke open the
doors and rushed in. The terrified Danes now fled to the church and took
refuge in its steeple, whither they were quickly followed. Only by
dejected appeals and a promise not to injure Gustavus Vasa did they
succeed in escaping from the tower, and the Dalmen, thinking that some of
them might remain concealed in the narrow spire, shot their arrows at it
from every side. For more than a hundred years after some of these arrows
remained sticking in the old wooden spire.

Dalarna being looked upon as a centre of Swedish patriotism, a number of
the persecuted noblemen took refuge there, and those confirmed all that
Gustavus had told the people. And when Lars Olssen, an old warrior well
known to them, arrived and told them of the gallows which Christian had
erected, of the new taxes he had laid on the peasantry, and of the report
that he had threatened to cut a hand and a foot off each peasant, with
other tales true and false, they were deeply stirred. When Lars learned
that Gustavus had been there and what had passed, he reproached them for
their folly in not supporting him.

"Good men," he said, "I know that gentleman well, and tell you that if
yourselves and all the people of the country are not to be oppressed and
even exterminated Gustavus Vasa is the only one who has sense and
knowledge enough to lead us and lay hand to so great a work."

While they were talking another fugitive came from the forest, who
confirmed all that Lars had said and gave them a full account of the
blood-bath at Stockholm and of how the body of Sten Sture, their beloved
leader, had been torn from the grave and dishonored.

These stories filled their hearers with horror, terror, and fury; war and
bloody retribution was their only cry; their hearts were filled with
remorse that they had let Gustavus, their country's chief hope, depart
unaided. Two of them, the fleetest snow-skaters of the region, were
chosen to follow him and bring him back, and off they went through the
forests, following his track, and at length finding him at Sälen, the
last village in that section, and immediately at the foot of the lofty
Norwegian mountains. A few words sufficed to tell him of the great change
of feeling that had taken place, and with heart-felt joy Gustavus
accompanied them back, to begin at length the great work of freeing his
native land.


It was in November, 1520, that Christian II. of Denmark was crowned king
of Sweden. Norway was his as well and he was monarch of the whole
Scandinavian world. He had reached the highest point in his career, but
so great had been his cruelty and treachery that all men feared and no
man trusted him and he was on the brink of a sudden and complete
overthrow. The man who had worn the crowns of three kingdoms was to spend
years within the narrow walls of a dungeon, with none to pity him in his
misery, but all to think that he deserved it all and more. Barely has
tyranny met with such retribution on earth, and the "Fall of the Tyrant"
will serve as a fitting title to an impressive tale.

So sudden and successful was the rebellion of the Swedes under Gustavus
Vasa, that in the summer of the year after the massacre in the Great
Square of Stockholm the Danes held only that city and a few other
strongholds in Sweden. One after another these fell, Calmar and Stockholm
in 1523, and in June of that year Gustavus was chosen king of the land
which his hand had freed. A young man still, he was at the beginning of a
great and glorious reign.

Before he became king, Christian, his great enemy, had ceased to reign.
He had shown the same inhuman spirit in Denmark and Norway as in Sweden
and had sown his whole dominion thick with enemies.

This is the way his fall was brought about. In 1522 he issued a code of
laws for Denmark of a wise and progressive character, especially in
freeing the peasantry from the slavish condition in which they had been
held, they before being open to purchase and sale like so many brute
animals. Christian declared that every man should be his own master and
took steps to limit the power and wealth of the clergy and to improve the
commerce of the kingdom.

These changes, while wise and important, were difficult to introduce
against the opposition of the lords and the clergy and needed the hand of
a prudent and judicious administrator. Such Christian was not. He
undertook them rashly and endeavored to enforce them by violence. Even
the people, whom the new laws so favored, were incensed by a great
increase in their taxes. No one trusted him; every one hated and feared
him. Even the monarchs of other countries detested him and would not aid
him in his extremity.

The details of the blood-bath in Stockholm had reached the ears of the
Pope and he sent a legate to inquire into the atrocities committed under
the implied sanction of the Church. As they were not to be concealed,
Christian attempted to excuse them, and, driven to extremity, accused one
of his chief favorites, Didrik Slaghök, as the originator of the

Slaghök had just been named archbishop of Lund, but was brought to
Copenhagen, examined under torture, condemned to death, and carried to
the gallows and thence to a funeral pile on which he was burned alive,
Christian leaving the town that he might not witness the cruel death of
his late favorite.

This cowardly sacrifice of his devoted friend and servant, instead of
winning the favor of the people, redoubled their abhorrence of the
bloodthirsty tyrant. Shortly afterwards the Lübeckers invaded the
kingdom, and Christian, not trusting his people, called in foreign
soldiers to repel them. Needing money for their pay, he called a diet to
meet on December 10, 1522. Few attended it, and in anger he called a new
meeting for the following January.

Before the date arrived rumors were set afloat that he intended to
butcher the Danish nobles as he had done those of Sweden, that chains
were being provided to secure them, and that he would have disguised
executioners among his guards; also that new and heavier taxes were to be
laid on the peasants.

These rumors, widely circulated, incensed and frightened the nobility and
a meeting was held by the nobles of Jutland in which they determined to
renounce their allegiance to Christian and offer the crown to his uncle,
Frederick, duke of Holstein.

Magnus Munk, one of these lords, was chosen to deliver their decision to
Christian and sought him for this purpose. But it was far from safe to
offer King Christian such a document openly, and Munk pretended to be
making a friendly visit, conversing and drinking with the king until a
late hour of the night. On rising to retire, he thrust into Christian's
glove, which had been left on the table, the letter of renouncement of
the Jutland nobles.

Instead of going to bed, Munk hastened to the vessel in which he had come
and sailed to Holstein, where he made to Frederick the offer of the
crown. As may be imagined, there was little hesitation in accepting it.

The next morning a page of the palace found the king's glove on the table
and took it to him. On reading the letter which he found in it the tyrant
was filled with fear and fury. He sent guards to seize Munk, but when
told that he was not to be found, his terror grew intense. He knew not
where to turn nor what to do. He might have gathered an army of the
peasants, to whom he had just given freedom, to fight the nobles, but
instead he wrote to the lords, abjectly acknowledging his faults and
promising to act differently in the future.

They were not to be won, no one trusting him. Then the terrified tyrant
hurried to Copenhagen and rode round the streets, imploring the citizens
with tears to aid him, confessing his errors and vowing to change his
ways. Many of the people, unused to see a king in tears, were moved by
his petitions, but no wise man trusted him, few came to his assistance,
and the sedition rapidly gained strength.

At length he took a desperate step. In the harbor lay twenty large
warships, which he might have used for defence, but in his terror he
thought only of flight. All the treasure he could lay hands on was
carried to these vessels, even the gilt balls on top of the church spires
being taken. Sigbrit, a detestable favorite, who had given him much evil
counsel and dared not show herself to the enraged people, was carried on
board in a chest and placed among his valuables. He, his wife and
children, and a few faithful servants, followed, and on the 20th of
April, 1523, he set sail from his native land in a passion of grief and
despair. A violent storm scattered his ships, but the one that bore him
reached Antwerp in safety. Sigbrit, who had crept from her trunk, sought
to console him by saying that if he could no longer be king of Denmark he
might at least become burgomaster of Amsterdam.

Thus did this cruel and contemptible coward, who less than three years
before had been unquestioned monarch of all Scandinavia, lose the crown
he was so unfit to wear, and land, a despised fugitive, in a Dutch city,
with but a handful of followers. His fall was thoroughly well deserved,
for it was an immediate consequence of the detestation he had aroused by
his deed of blood in Stockholm, and there was scarce a man in Europe to
pity him in his degradation.

It was a sad thing that the salutary laws he had promulgated in the last
year of his reign came from so evil a source. Frederick was forced by the
nobles to whom he owed his throne to abrogate them, and the code was even
burned as "a dangerous book contrary to good morals." The peasants fell
back into their former state of semi-slavery and for centuries afterwards
failed to enjoy the freedom accorded to the people of their sister states
of Norway and Sweden.

In the years that followed the deposed king went from court to court of
the German princes, seeking help to regain his throne, but meeting with
scorn and contempt from some of them and refusal from all. He still
retained much of the wealth of which he had robbed Copenhagen, and now,
in despair of obtaining assistance, he took into his service a number of
soldiers of fortune whom a treaty of peace had lately thrown out of

With these sons of adventure, twelve thousand in all, he ravaged Holland,
which had recently afforded him refuge, doing so much mischief that he
was at length bought off. The emperor, Charles V., then ruler over
Holland and brother-in-law to the adventurer, paid him the fifty thousand
gulden still due on his wife's dower and gave him twelve battle-ships in
addition. The Dutch whom he was plundering helped in this as the easiest
way to be quit of him, and, with a body of experienced troops, with
funds and a fleet, the hope of winning back his old dominions arose in
his soul.

There were many malcontents then in Sweden, ready to aid him in an
invasion, and the clergy and nobility of Norway, dissatisfied with
Frederick's rule, subscribed large sums in money and plate for his aid.
Finally, thus strengthened and encouraged, Christian set sail for the
Northland with twenty-five ships and an army of eight thousand men.

Unfortunately for him the elements proved adverse, a violent storm
scattering the fleet and sending nearly half of it to the bottom. He had
only fifteen ships and a reduced number of men when, in November, 1531,
he landed at Obslo, Norway.

The nobles and people, however, discontented with Frederick's government
and eager for a king of their own choice, declared for him and at a diet
held at Obslo proclaimed him king, only a few nobles dissenting. These,
however, held the strongest fortresses in the kingdom. One of these was
Magnus Gyllenstierna, governor of Aggerhus. Against this stronghold
Christian led all his force and might easily have taken it, for it was
lacking in provisions, but for a stratagem by which Magnus saved himself
and his fortress.

He sent word to Christian that the place was too weak for him to attempt
to hold and that he had seen the king's success with pleasure; but, to
save himself from the imputation of cowardice, he begged leave for time
to ask King Frederick for assistance. If none came before the 1st of May
he would willingly surrender the place.

Adept in deceit as Christian was, he this time suffered himself to be
tricked. At the suggestion of Magnus a thousand men were sent from
Denmark, and led by secret paths over mountains and through forests in
all haste, throwing themselves into Aggerhus while Christian was watching
the seas to intercept them. In a rage he hurried back to renew the siege,
but the shrewd commandant was now strong enough to defy him.

Ture Jönsson, one of the Swedish nobles who had joined Christian, led a
portion of his forces against the fortress of Bohus, writing to its
commandant, Klass Bille, a letter in which he set forth the great change
for good which had come upon King Christian and begging him to side with
his Grace. He closed in the manner customary in those days: "Commending
you, with your dear wife, children, and friends, hereby to God's

On the next day he received the following answer:

    "Greeting suited to the season.

    Learn, Ture Jönsson, that I yesterday received your writing with
    some of your loose words with which you sought to seduce me from my
    honor, soil my integrity and oath, and make me like yourself, which
    God, who preserves the consciences of all honest men, forbid. To the
    long and false talk which your letter contains, I confess myself,
    by God's providence to be too good to give you any other answer than
    this which my letter conveys. You have so often turned and worn your
    coat, and it is now so miserably thread-bare on both sides, that it
    is no longer fit to appear among the apparel of any honest man. No
    more this time, I commend you to him to whom God the Father
    commended that man who betrayed His only Son,

    _Ex Bohus._

    Sunday next before Lady-day, 1531."

Klass Bille proved as good with an answer by balls and blows as by pen,
and the Castle of Bohus defied all attempts to take it.

Meanwhile the Swedish exiles were writing to their friends at home, and,
elated by the capture of a Swedish fort, Christian marched his army
towards the frontier, and made ready to invade the kingdom from which he
had been driven two years before.

But Gustavus and Frederick were not idle. They recognized the danger of
this invasion and prepared to meet it, renewing their treaties that they
might work loyally together. Gustavus wrote to his officers not to fight
with Christian unless they were from four to six times as strong, as he
wished to give him a reception that would cure him of all future desire
to return to Sweden.

The forces of Christian and Gustavus first met at Kungelf, where
Christian looked with disturbed eyes on his antagonists as he saw them
marching across a frozen river, among them three thousand men in armor of
polished steel. Turning to Ture Jönsson, who stood beside him, he said

"You said that there was not a man-at-arms in Sweden. What see you
yonder? Do you think those old women?"

The next morning Ture Jönsson's body was found lying headless in the
street, whether thus punished by Christian for his lies or by some Swede
for his treason, is not known.

The war began with equal fortune at first to each side, but later fortune
turned in favor of the Swedes, while food grew scarce in Christian's
army, his foragers being beaten back wherever they appeared. Soon, with
an army dwindled to two thousand men, he was forced to march back to

So far Gustavus's army had been fighting alone, and it was not until
March, 1532, that some Danish ships of war arrived. But their coming soon
ended the war. They burned Christian's vessels and reinforced Aggerhus,
and in May sailed towards Obslo.

Christian's hopes of success were now at an end. He had made his final
effort and had failed. His men were forsaking him in troops and
resistance to his foes became impossible. As a last resort he tried a
crafty expedient, contriving to get some forged letters distributed in
the Danish camp to the effect that twenty Dutch men-of-war, with five
thousand troops, were coming to his aid.

The Danish commander, alarmed at this report, hastened to conclude peace
with him, on condition that all who had taken part in the rebellion
should be pardoned. Christian was to cross to Denmark, and if he could
not agree with Frederick was to be free to go to Germany, on giving a
solemn oath never again to make any attempt on the three Scandinavian

Before this treaty was confirmed messengers arrived from Frederick who
discovered the condition of Christian to be hopeless and insisted on an
unconditional surrender. But Knut, the Danish admiral, who had been given
full power to act, took Christian on his ships and sailed with him to
Denmark, where he insisted that the conditions he had made should be

Frederick and his council were in a strait. To let this tiger loose again
was too dangerous, and finally some pretext for breaking the treaty was
made and Christian was sentenced to a life imprisonment in the Castle of
Sanderberg on the island of Femern. Frederick and his son were obliged to
confirm this sentence by a written promise to the Danish nobles that they
would never release the detested prisoner.

When Christian learned that the convention had been broken he wept
bitterly, lamenting that "he had fallen into the hands of men who cared
neither for oaths, promises, nor seals."

These complaints no one heeded. He was taken deep into the dungeons of
Sanderberg Castle, and locked up in a dark and narrow prison vault
destitute of every convenience, his only companion being a half-witted
dwarf who had long been in his service. With the harshness common in
those days, and which in his case was well deserved, the door of the
cell was walled up, only one small opening being left through which he
could receive the scanty allowance of food brought him, and a little
barred window through which some sparse light could make its way.

In this dreadful prison the captive remained twelve years without the
slightest amelioration of its conditions. Then the door was opened and
fresh air and other conveniences were allowed him, but a strict watch was
kept up. Finally in 1549, five years later, it being believed that no
harm could possibly come from an old man sixty-eight years of age, he was
taken to Kallendborg Castle, where he was permitted to entertain himself
by hunting or in any other manner he pleased. He lived ten years later,
ending in 1559 a life whose misfortunes were a just reward for his
faithlessness and cruelty in his day of power.


Sweden never had a wiser or more judicious ruler than King Gustavus Vasa,
but in that land of turbulent lords and ambitious mischief-makers the
noblest and most generous of kings could not reign without secret
plotting and rebellious sentiments. So it fell out in Sweden in 1529,
after Gustavus had been six years on the throne.

The leader in this movement was one Ture Jönsson, a hoary old conspirator
of great influence in West Gothland, where he and his ancestors had long
been judges and where he was looked upon by the people as their lord and
chief. By a decision of the court he was obliged to restore to the king
certain property which he unjustly held, and he vented his feelings
bitterly against the heretic and tyrant, as he called him. In fact, he
hatched a conspiracy, which spread widely, through his influence, among
the nobles of West Gothland.

In Smaland there was much discontent with the teaching of the Lutheran
doctrines and an outbreak took place, the king's sister and her husband
being taken prisoners by the insurgents. These sent letters to Ture
Jönsson in West Gothland, asking him to be their captain, and also wrote
to East Gothland, inciting the people to rise and expel their monarch.

Ture Jönsson had three sons, one of them a distinguished soldier in the
king's service, while the second was a man high in the king's favor. The
old rebel had high hopes of aid from these two, and wrote them letters
inciting them to rebellion. But they were not to be drawn from their
allegiance, and took the letters with unbroken seals to the king,
promising to devote their lives to his cause.

The third son, Herr Göran, dean in Upsala, was of different mold and
sentiment. Opposed to the king on religious grounds, he gathered a body
of peasant runaways, a hundred in number, and, afraid to stay in his
house, he took them to a wood in the neighborhood, felled trees for
barricades, and laid up a supply of provisions in his impromptu fort.

From there he proceeded to Bollnäs, gathering more men and growing
bolder, and fancying in his small soul that he was the destined leader of
a great rebellion. But his valor vanished when a priest of the vicinity,
named Erik, a man faithful to the king, called together a body of his
parishioners and marched against the would-be insurgent.

Dean Göran was standing at a garret window when he saw these men
approaching. At once, with a most unsoldierlike panic, he rushed in
terror down stairs and fled through a back door into the forest, without
a word to his men of the coming danger. The house was surrounded and the
men made prisoners, the king's steward, whom they held captive, being
released. Erik spoke to them so severely of their disloyalty that they
fell on their knees in prayer and petition, and when he told them that
the best way to gain pardon for their act was to seek and deliver their
fugitive leader, they gladly undertook the task.


The scared leader of rebels meanwhile was wandering in anguish and alarm
through the wide wood, not knowing what to do. Coming at length to a
large forest lake, he entered a little boat that he found and pushed off
from land, thinking thus to be in greater safety.

As he thus sat, lost in his unquiet thoughts, some of his late followers
reached the lake and saw him. So absorbed was he in his bitter
reflections that he failed to see other boats gliding out towards him,
and they were close upon him before he perceived them. Then, leaping up
in wild fright, he sought in his despair to jump into the water, but
before he could do so some of the peasants had rowed up and seized him.
In his bitterness of spirit he tore the gold chain from his neck and the
rings from his fingers and flung them into the lake, resolved that they
should not become the spoil of the king he hated.

But Gustavus was not the man to trouble himself about such small fry of
conspirators as this. The dean was taken to Upsala and thence to
Stockholm, where he was kept in confinement, though with every comfort,
until the rebellion incited by his father was quelled. Then the king,
taking into account his brothers' loyalty and his own insignificance,
freed him and restored him his property. He could well afford to be
lenient to a rebel of his calibre.

If this was all we had to tell, it would not be worth the telling, but
the conspiracy in West Gothland went on and led to events of far greater
interest. A born plotter, old Jönsson kept at his work, and to prevent
any news of what was taking place from reaching the king, a guard of a
thousand men was placed to watch the highway and stop all messengers. At
the head of this guard was a priest called Nils of Hvalstad, a thorough
hater of the king. To him the insurgents sent their letters, to be
forwarded to those for whom they were intended. Such was the state of
affairs, the designs of the plotters ripening while the king was in this
way kept in ignorance of matters of such importance to him.

Now we come to the dramatic means by which the king was advised of the
plot. A scout was needed to pass the guards set by the rebels and bring
word to Gustavus of what was going on in West Gothland, and for this
purpose was chosen a young town-sergeant of Stockholm, so famed for
boldness that the people called him Hans Hardy. He had been born in West
Gothland and was familiar with the people and the roads of that province
and was therefore well adapted for the work. He accomplished it in a
manner much better than was expected.

Making his way through forest paths and along little-frequented by-ways,
he succeeded in crossing the river that bordered the province and passing
the rebel outposts, making his way to his old home, where he spent
several weeks with his relations, meanwhile secretly gathering the
information needed.

On his return he pursued a different course. Buying a quantity of West
Gothland cheese, he went directly towards the ford of the Tiweden and so
managed as to let himself fall into the hands of the guard, who brought
him to their leader, Nils of Hvalstad.

The rebel priest charged the seeming peasant roundly with being a spy,
but the cunning fellow pretended to be very simple and bucolic, saying
that it had been four years since he had been in Upland and he now wanted
to go there and sell his cheese.

Nils was not so easily to be hoodwinked, but bade his men take the
supposed spy to the sergeant's house at Hofwa, where four men were set
over him as guards. The pretended simpleton seemed well-enough pleased,
eating and drinking freely, talking cheerfully of country affairs with
his guards, and spending his money freely, so that the sergeant grew to
like the jovial country lad.

After a few days, however, Hans pretended to be sick, sighing and
groaning as if in severe pain. Finally he took to his bed and seemed in
such a sad state that they all pitied the poor cheesemonger and his
guards often left him for hours alone, thinking his sickness was all the
security that was needed.

Hans Hardy had a purpose in this. He had discovered that Nils kept a box
in a dark corner of the room and imagined that it might contain something
of importance to him in his mission. In fact he had thrown himself in his
hands for the purpose of fathoming his plots. One day, while left alone,
he got up and examined the box, and to his joy found in it a number of
letters from the chief conspirators, containing full evidence of their
complication. Having read enough of them to gain an idea of their
character, he put them back, shut the box, and pushed it again into its
dark corner.

Then he took to his bed once more and when his guards returned they found
him moaning more sorely than before and seeming in such sad case that
they thought him at the point of death. Pitying the poor fellow, they
deemed it idle to watch him and went contentedly to their beds. The next
morning, when they rose, the sick man had vanished and with him the box
and its contents. Hans had got off with the precious burden into the
forest, with whose paths he was thoroughly familiar, leaving his late
guards his cheese for consolation.

He reached Stockholm in safety with his budget of letters and took them
to the king, who rewarded him liberally for his valuable service and bade
him to keep it secret. This he did, and it was long before any one knew
where Hans Hardy had been or what had become of the lost letters. King
Gustavus kept his counsel and bided his time.

Meanwhile the work of the conspirators went on, they going so far as to
nominate a new king, their choice falling upon Mans Bryntesson, Ture
Jönsson's brother-in-law, a handsome and eloquent young man, far more
suitable in person than in mind for a king. He was soft, irresolute, and
somewhat foolish, and when treated with royal honors by the conspirators,
he began holding court with princely pomp, borrowing money from his
friends for this purpose when his own was exhausted.

Having gone so far with his plans, Ture called a convention of the people
of the province to meet on Larfva Heath, saying that he had matters of
the highest importance to lay before them. Here was a great plain, where
the Gothlanders for ages had held their public meetings, and where Ture's
summons brought together a goodly number.

With the insurgent lords around him, and proud of his power and
authority, Sir Ture now addressed the peasants, in full confidence of
their support. His principal charge against the king was that he had
accepted the Lutheran doctrines and wished to introduce a new faith into
the country to the ruin of the common people.

"Now," he continued, "I have always understood that the good West
Gothlanders have no mind to become Lutherans, but prefer to retain the
old faith which their fathers and forefathers have had before them. If
you will from this day renounce King Gustavus I will give you a mild and
gracious sovereign, who will preserve for you your good old customs."

Bishop Magnus followed with a brief address, after which Sir Ture,
convinced from the intent silence of the peasants that they were with
him, said:

"Let him who gives his consent to take a new king stretch up his hands."

To his consternation not a hand was lifted, while a threatening murmur
was heard among the peasants. Neither the lords nor the bishop knew what
to make of this. They had gone on with their plots without a dream that
the people would not be with them. As for the newly chosen king, who had
been eagerly waiting to receive their homage, he fell back white and
trembling. At length two young peasants stood forth to speak for the
people, one of them loudly declaring:

"We have nothing to charge against King Gustavus, but owe him deep
gratitude for having freed us from the cruel and tyrannical rule of King
Christian, and kept the land in law and right as well as in peace and
quiet. What you, good sirs, say of the new faith, we peasants can neither
judge nor understand; perhaps it may not be so bad as fame reports.
Change of rulers generally costs the peasants and the land dear, and we
might by these means draw upon ourselves and our children long disquiet
and disorder. It seems, therefore, best for us to remain in the faith
and allegiance which we have sworn and promised to our lawful lord and
master Gustaf Eriksson."

These words had evidently the full approval of the people, to judge from
their upstretched hands and their loud acclamations, and at once the
courage of the conspirators fell to the ground. What to say or to do they
knew not. They had foolishly gone forward with their plots without
consulting the people and now found themselves in a sore dilemma. Instead
of coming to their aid, as they had expected, there was reason to fear
that the peasants would seize them and hand them over to the king. In his
utter dismay Ture Jönsson faltered out:

"My very good friends, I only wished by this trial to test your fidelity.
None of the lords have a thought of deserting the king. A fortnight hence
we hope to meet you here again, to consult further on our mutual

This ended the meeting on Larfva Heath. The peasants returned to their
homes and the lords in dismay sought their castles. The bottom had
suddenly dropped out from the rebellion and the conspirators were in a
perilous position. War against the king was impossible, and in haste they
sent a message to Nils of Hvalstad ordering him to break up the camp on
the Tiweden and bidding him to come to them without delay.

When he came they asked him what he had done with the letters which had
been put in his care. Not daring to tell that they had been stolen, he
said that he had burnt them on hearing of the result of the Larfva
meeting. Another custodian of letters was also sent for and asked the
same question. He had really sent his letters to the king, but he
produced a budget of papers which he now threw into the fire, telling
them that they might be at rest about these perilous papers, which could
now never appear against them.

Somewhat relieved in their minds by this act, Mans Bryntesson, Ture
Bjelke, and Nils Winge, three of the leading conspirators, decided to
remain at home. To become wandering outlaws was too bitter a fate; they
had not spoken at Larfva Heath, their letters were burnt, there was no
evidence against them. But as for Ture Jönsson and Bishop Magnus, they
had put themselves openly on record. The pretence that the meeting had
been called to test the loyalty of the people would have no weight with a
man like King Gustavus. To remain would be to risk their lives, and
collecting their money and valuables they made all haste to set foot on
Danish territory, Ture Jönsson finally to meet a tragical death in the
invasion of Norway by the deposed King Christian, as described in the
preceding tale.

The embers of the rebellion were easily extinguished and the nation
returned to its peaceful and satisfied condition, the officers of the
king holding meetings with the malcontents and promising full pardon to
those who would confess and renounce their disloyal acts. This offer of
pardon was accepted by nearly the whole of the conspirators, the only
ones who held out being Mans Bryntesson, the mock king, Nils Winge, and
Ture Bjelke. Trusting to their letters having been destroyed they wrote
to the king, saying that, as they felt entirely guiltless, they could not
plead guilt and implore pardon, and thus put themselves under suspicion.
They begged him to appoint a meeting at which their conduct could be
investigated. This he agreed to, the 17th of June being fixed as the

When the time came the three lords appeared before the appointed tribunal
and were exhorted to confess their share in Ture Jönsson's rebellion.
Mans Bryntesson answered for the three, boldly declaring:

"We did not venture to set ourselves against Ture Jönsson on account of
his great influence in the province; we often heard him speak
disrespectfully of the king, but we bore with him in this for the sake of
amusement, attributing it to his old age and childishness. But it can
never be shown that we bore any share in his treason."

"What will you venture that this cannot be proved against you?" asked the

"Our neck to the sword and our bodies to the wheel, as the law exacts,"
they confidently replied.

"Take care," said one of the counsellors. "Do not venture so much.
Perhaps you may yet be found guilty."

They replied by a haughty "No," and insisted on their innocence. Gustavus
then spoke again, his gaze now stern and threatening:

"Choose one of these two. Either to confess yourselves guilty and accept
pardon, or to be tried and condemned according to law."

"We choose to be judged according to the law," they replied; "and if we
be found partakers in this rebellion we will willingly suffer and pay for
it, as may be adjudged against us."

These words, and the stern dignity of the king, impressed all in the
hall. Complete silence reigned and all eyes were fixed on his face. He
gave a signal to his servants and two boxes were carried in. These were
opened and a number of letters were produced. The king asked the culprits
if they recognized these letters. This they stoutly denied. Then a number
of them were read aloud and complete proof of their complicity in the
rebellion was shown, the judges recognizing the hand and seal of the

Pale and thunderstruck, they listened tremblingly to the reading of the
fatal letters; then fell upon their knees, weeping and imploring mercy.
Their repentance came too late. The king bade the council to examine into
the matter at once and pronounce sentence. This was that the three
criminals should suffer the fate which they had declared themselves ready
to bear; they were condemned as traitors and sentenced to loss of life
and estate.

The trembling culprits were taken to a room above the school-house,
locked in and a strong guard set before the door. Here they were left to
the contemplation of their coming fate. Despairingly they looked around
for some means of escape, and a shade of hope returned when they fancied
they had discovered one. There were no bars to their window, but it was
far above the ground. But beneath it stood a pear tree, so near the
building that they thought they might leap into its branches and climb
down its trunk to the ground.

Waiting until night had fallen, they prepared to make the effort, Mans
Bryntesson being the first to try. He missed the tree and fell to the
ground, breaking his leg in the fall. The others, seeing his ill fortune,
did not venture to follow. In great pain he crept from the garden into an
adjoining field. Here his strength gave out and he lay hidden in the
half-grown rye.

Missed the next morning, his trail through the grass was easily followed
and he was found and carried back to prison. Soon after the prisoners
were taken to Stockholm, where Mans Bryntesson and Nils Winge were
beheaded and their bodies exposed on the wheel. Their estates, however,
were restored to their widows and children. The third, Ture Bjelke, being
less guilty, was pardoned, but was obliged to pay heavy penalties for his
treasonable acts. And thus, with the death of these two criminals and the
exile of two others, ended the West Gothland insurrection.


We have written much of war and bloodshed; a chapter devoted to the
lighter themes of courtship and marriage may here be of interest,
especially as it has to do with the love affairs of princes and
princesses, kings and queens, personages whose every movement are deemed
by many worthy the world's attention.

Prince Erik, the eldest son of King Gustavus, grew in due course of time
to marriageable age and, as young men will, began to look about for a
wife. His thoughts first turned towards the Princess Elizabeth, of
England, then in the height of her youthful charms, of which exaggerated
accounts were brought to the ardent young Swede.

When Erik sought his father's consent to the suit, saying that it might
bring him not only a lovely bride but the throne of two kingdoms, the
prudent old monarch threw cold water on the project, saying:

"Even if Erik should gain Elizabeth, which I do not think likely, in view
of her many suitors, it would be more to the harm than the profit of both

But Erik, a high-tempered and passionate youth, with a tendency to
something like madness, became so violent and determined that his father
at length gave way and a lover's embassy was sent to England to ask for
the fair lady's hand. But Princess Elizabeth was too much beset with
lovers to accept any of them easily, and the embassy returned with the
answer that the royal English maiden was in no haste to marry and
considered an unmarried life the happier.

In 1558 Queen Mary died and Elizabeth mounted to the throne which she was
long to adorn. This added to Erik's passionate desire to win her. One of
his agents, Dionysius Beurreus, remained in London, where he lived in
great display, keeping open table at Erik's expense, and sending in all
haste to the ardent prince every kind word which the crafty Elizabeth let
fall. Credulous in his ardent passion, Erik now felt sure of winning the
queenly maiden's hand, and sent a second embassy to England, his brother
John going with it.

Prince John was sumptuously equipped for the journey, the expenses of the
courtship eating deeply into the king's revenues, and being added to by
Erik's lavishness, for he was now so sure of the success of his suit that
he ordered a hundred dresses of the most expensive and splendid kind to
be made for him at Antwerp.

When John reached London he was courteously received by the queen, but he
found it impossible to bring her to a definite answer. If she ever
married, of course she would be happy to win so charming a spouse as
Prince Erik, but it was hard to marry a man she had never seen, and the
idea of marriage was not to her taste. In the end Elizabeth wrote to
Gustavus begging him to seek another bride for his son, as she had
decided to live unmarried.

This should have ended the matter, but it did not. One of the lover's
agents had said that the queen of England would never consent unless Erik
in person were able to win her heart, and Prince John reported her as
saying that, "though she had no desire for marriage, she could not answer
what she might do if she saw Erik himself."

Fired by the baits held out to his eager heart, Erik determined to go
himself to England, but incognito, disguised as the servant of some
foreign lord. Thus he would see and conquer the coy maiden queen. The
warnings and expostulations of his friends failed to move him from this
romantic project, but at length it reached the king's ears, and he
strictly forbade the wild-goose project as hazardous and undignified.
Erik, however, finally got his father's permission to visit England and
make his suit to the queen in his own person. But there were many
postponements of the journey, and when finally he left Stockholm to begin
the voyage to England the shock of his departure threw the old king into
a serious illness. That afternoon Gustavus went to bed, never to rise
again, and before Erik had left the kingdom word was brought him that his
father was dead. This definitely changed the situation and thus it came
about that Erik never saw Elizabeth.

The fact of his being king, indeed, did not put an end to his desire to
possess the English queen. In 1561 he determined to visit her as a king,
and on the 1st of September set sail. But the elements were not
propitious to this love errand, a violent storm arising which forced the
captains to run back to harbor. Then he decided to go overland, through
Denmark, Holland, and France, but while he was laying his plans for this
journey, an effort was made by certain love emissaries to turn his
thoughts towards Mary Stuart, the widow of a French king and heiress of
the throne of Scotland. He listened to these representatives and was so
pleased with their description of Mary's charms that his single-minded
devotion to Elizabeth was shaken.

The loveliness of Mary Stuart was a strong inducement to the young king,
but the high estate of Elizabeth was a greater one, and he did not cease
his efforts to win her hand. Being told that the chief obstacle in his
way was the handsome Earl of Leicester, he grew violently jealous of this
favored courtier. He at first challenged him to mortal combat, but as
this could not conveniently be carried out, he secretly bade his agent in
London to hire an assassin to deal with the earl, promising protection
and a rich reward to the murderer. This villainy the agent refused to
perform, and Erik now, hoping to frighten Elizabeth to give him a
favorable answer, spread a report in England that he was courting the
Scottish queen. The effect was different from what he anticipated, for
Elizabeth at once positively rejected his suit and all seemed at an end.


About this time a third lady fair came into the game. Erik was told of
the charms and rare character of the Princess Renata of Lotringen,
granddaughter of the late Christian of Denmark, and at once opened
negotiations for the hand of this princess. At the same time the crafty
Elizabeth pretended to relent and Erik was again on fire for her hand.
Thus he had now three love projects under way, from two of which, those
for Mary Stuart and Princess Renata, favorable answers were returned.

But the volatile lover, before receiving these answers, had added a
fourth string to his bow of courtships, having decided to propose for the
Princess Christina of Hesse. By this time he had spent on his threefold
courtship vast sums of money and had gone far towards making himself the
laughing-stock of Europe.

Erik's new course of love did not run smooth. The fates seemed against
him in his marriage projects. His first proposal for Christina, indeed,
received a favorable reply and it was decided that the selected bride
should arrive at Stockholm in the following May, some eight months later.
But other emissaries whom he sent in February were detained in Denmark,
and on some weak pretence were seized and imprisoned, the whole being a
ruse of King Frederick to prevent a marriage between Erik and the
Princess of Hesse, of which for political reasons he did not approve.
There was peace at that time with Denmark, but these events presaged war.

May at length arrived and Erik equipped a fleet to meet the promised
bride. There were twelve men-of-war, which were got ready for fighting if
necessary, James Bagge, a famous seaman of those days, being admiral of
the Elephant, with command of the fleet. The assigned purpose of the
expedition was to bring the bride over from Lübeck, but it is said that
Admiral Bagge had secret orders to seek and attack the Danish fleet, and
thus punish King Frederick for his treachery.

The two fleets met on May 30 off Bornholm, and the Danish ship Hercules
immediately opened fire. This fire was at once returned and a fierce
fight ensued that lasted five hours, and resulted in the capture of the
Hercules and two other ships and the flight of the rest. The Swedes now
sailed on to Lübeck, whence ambassadors were sent to Hesse to bring back
the bride. They returned in two weeks without her, the excuse being that
her trousseau was not ready. The truth was that the landgrave of Hesse
was afraid to trust his daughter in the turbulent north, from which
tidings of the naval battle had just come.

This delay was fatal to Erik's hopes, mainly through his own fault. The
first succeeding step was a request from the landgrave for a safe conduct
for his daughter through Denmark. Frederick, who dreaded ill results
from the marriage, refused this, and also refused to let ambassadors to
Hesse pass through his kingdom.

And now Erik spoiled all by his faithless versatility. On the 11th of
October he sent an order to some agents of his in Germany to proceed to
Hesse with a betrothal ring, worth six thousand thalers, for the
princess. Four days later he wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth, saying
that his addresses at the court of Hesse had never been serious, and that
he still loved and hoped to win her.

Before this was sent actual war with Denmark had broken out, and to
prevent the discovery of the letter, he concealed it in a stick and sent
it by a secret messenger. This messenger was captured by a privateer and
carried to Copenhagen; in some way his mission was suspected and the
letter found; and the Danish king, in ecstasies at his discovery,
despatched the incriminating love-missive immediately to the landgrave of

All was going well there when the letter arrived. The landgrave had
favorably received Erik's emissaries and the prospects of their returning
with the bride seemed fair, when the unlucky letter was put into his
hands. It fell like a thunderbolt. In a rage at seeing himself and his
daughter thus made sport of, the landgrave ordered the Swedes to leave
the town before sunset, under peril of his high displeasure. This ended
the suit for the fair maiden's hand, later ambassadors sent by Erik were
dismissed with contempt, and through having too many irons in the fire
at once the love-sick lord of Sweden found himself without a bride.

His brother, Duke John, was more fortunate, though his courtship also led
to war and his marriage brought him into dismal misfortune. Before
completing the story of Erik's love affairs, the episode of John's
matrimonial venture, with its dire results, may fitly be told.

A marriage had long been arranged between Duke John and Princess
Catharine, sister of King Sigismund of Poland. But obstacles arose and
once more the course of true love did not run smooth. Sigismund had an
older sister Anna, whom he wished married first; but this impediment was
removed by an agreement that John's brother Magnus should marry Anna.

Next the czar of Russia proposed for Catharine, but some dispute about
the marriage contract brought about a refusal. The result was typical of
the rudeness of the times. The Poles had always hated the Russians, and
to show their contempt for them Sigismund had a white figure dressed in
splendid garments and sent to the Russian court, in lieu of the
looked-for bride. Mad with rage at this bitter insult, the czar invaded
and cruelly ravaged Poland, the people, as is so often the case, being
made to suffer for the quarrels and the folly of the kings. From that
time forward the czar hated Sigismund and John, his fortunate rival.

John also had difficulty in getting his brother's consent to go to
Sigismund's court, and after he had set out an envoy was sent after him
ordering him to return. But in disregard of this he went on, and was
favorably received at the Polish court, being a handsome, courteous and
cultivated prince. Catharine was highly pleased with him, but King
Sigismund now repeated his demand that he should marry the elder sister.

Finally, after many efforts to change the king's mind, he asked Catharine
if she really desired to marry John. The princess blushed and was silent;
but her sister spoke for her and implored their brother not to prevent
her marriage with the man she loved.

At this appeal he gave way and the marriage was quickly solemnized, for
there was imminent peril of war between Sweden and Poland unless the
affair was consummated. A body of Polish troops escorted the newly wedded
couple into Livonia, lest the angry czar should seek to carry them off,
and John reached Sweden with his bride.

He was very ill received, by Erik's orders, and hastened to his own
duchy, whence he sent an invitation to the king to attend his wedding
banquet. The king came in another fashion.

Angry at John for disobeying his orders, and fearing him as a possible
aspirant for the throne, Erik cherished evil intentions against his
brother. Suspicious and superstitious by nature, he had read in the stars
the prediction that a light-haired man would deprive him of the throne,
and this man he believed to be his newly married brother. He also
fancied that John had secretly allied himself with Denmark and Poland,
and there was soon open enmity between the brothers.

The whole story of what followed is too long to be told here, but seeming
evidence against John was obtained by the torture of some of his friends
and he was attacked in his castle and taken prisoner after a two months'
defence. Erik ordered his incarceration in a dungeon, but his wife was
offered a residence with her ladies in one of the king's castles. If she
wished to accompany him to prison she could take only two of her maids
with her.

When Catharine heard this she fervently exclaimed:

"I would rather die than be separated from my husband," and fainted away.

When she recovered she was asked what she intended to do. Taking her
betrothal ring from her finger and holding it up, she said:

"Read what stands there."

They saw engraved on it, "_Nemo nisi mors"_ (none but death).

"I will stand by it," said Catharine. And she did.

The imprisoned dependents of John, all of whom had shared in his
resistance to the king, were nearly all condemned to death and executed,
more than a hundred bodies being exposed at once at the place of
execution. That John would suffer the same fate was highly probable. His
brothers, sisters, and other relatives implored Erik to let him live;
his enemies advised his execution; the king hesitated, and postponed his
decision, finally deciding that John might live, but in perpetual
imprisonment. He was mildly and kindly treated, however, and four years
later, during a spasm of fraternal feeling in Erik, was released.

We shall not tell the remaining story of King Erik, of his wars, his
temporary madness, his violence and cruelty to some of the noblest of the
sons of Denmark, his ruthless persecution and final murder of the Stures,
descendants of one of the most famous families of Sweden and men who had
played a great part in its history. It was the story of his love episodes
with which we set out and these were not yet ended. Erik finally got a
wife and a queen, though not a queen or a princess for a wife. Love
instead of policy lay at the basis of his final courtship.

This is the story of the final and real love affair of this suitor of
princesses and queens. A soldier named Magnus, of peasant birth, who rose
to the rank of corporal in Erik's life-guard, had a daughter named
Katrina or Catherine, shortened to Karin, who as a child sat selling nuts
in the market-place at Stockholm. Here Erik one day saw her, then about
thirteen, and was so struck by her great beauty that he had her placed
among the maids-of-honor of his sister Elizabeth.

The pretty little Karin was quick to learn her duties, and in deportment
was modest and very loveable. Her beauty also grew with her age, until
she became looked upon as the fairest of the fair. Erik thought her such
and grew greatly attached to her, showing her much attention and winning
her regard by his handsome face and kindly manner. In fact she grew to
love him dearly and gave herself up entirely to him, a warm affection
existing between them.

Karin in time became everything to the king. He no longer sought for a
bride in foreign courts, no other women had attraction for him, and at
length, when the charming peasant girl had borne him a son, he determined
to find a way to make her his queen. Those were days when it was not safe
to meddle with the love affairs of a king. One unfortunate young man
named Maximilian, who had loved Karin and sought her hand in marriage,
one day intruded into the women's apartment of the palace, where he was
seized. Erik, burning with jealousy, had him condemned on a false
pretence, sewed up in a bag, and cast into the lake.

After that no one dared interfere with the love episode of Erik and
Karin. Men said she had bewitched him by a love-philter. Some of the
courtiers who feared her influence upon the king sought to disgrace her,
with the result that her intercession alone saved their lives from the
incensed monarch.

Erik's love for Karin never seemed to change. On beautiful summer
afternoons, when he would sail with a merry party on Lake Malar, Karin
was always of the party and the object of his tender attention. As they
rowed home at night he would sit beside her, contemplating the beauty of
the starry northern skies and listening to the songs from the shore or
from distant boats. These were executed by his orders, the words and
music often being his. One of these songs, in which he praises his
"Shepherdess," promises to love her forever, and bids her a "thousand
good-nights," is still extant.

The time at length came--this was after the period of his foreign wars
and his insanity--that he asked permission of the legislative body to
marry whom he pleased, at home or abroad. After this was given he
privately married Karin, and subsequently determined upon a public
celebration of his marriage and her coronation as queen. The chief
families of the country were invited to the ceremony, but they neither
came nor sent excuses. The coronation went on, notwithstanding, and the
peasant's daughter Karin became queen of Sweden as Queen Catherine.

Not alone by this marriage, but in a dozen other ways King Erik had made
enemies and he was now near the end of his career. A rebellion soon broke
out against him, headed by Duke John, who had some time before been
liberated, and by his younger brother Duke Charles. Though Erik fought
with skill and courage, the insurrection was successful, he being taken
prisoner and losing the throne. John was chosen to succeed him as king.

Erik spent the remainder of his life in prison, where he was far more
harshly treated than John had been by him, his greatest consolation being
when his wife and children were permitted to visit him. After eight years
of this close confinement John, fearful of an attempt at the release of
the captive, had him poisoned in his cell. Thus ended the career of the
elder son of Gustavus Vasa. It was a fate which he had brought upon
himself by the cruelties of his career.

A few well-deserved words may well be given to Queen Catherine. She had
never interfered in Erik's government, except to restrain him from
cruelty. Her mildness of disposition won her favor on all sides, which
was increased by her loving devotion to him while in prison. After his
death she was granted an estate in Finland, and there she lived, loved
and esteemed by all who knew her and winning the warm devotion of her
children and grandchildren. She survived to a good old age, withdrawn but
happy, and the memory of her virtues and benevolence still lives among
the peasantry of the neighborhood of her abode.


With the accession to the throne of Sweden in 1611 of Gustavus Adolphus,
grandson of Gustavus Vasa, that country gained its ablest king, and the
most famous with the exception of the firebrand of war, Charles XII., of
later date. For courage, judgment, administrative ability, generous
devotion to the good of his country, and military genius this great
monarch was unequalled in his time and won a renown which has placed his
name in the roll of the great rulers of mankind.

The son of Charles IX., the third and ablest son of Gustavus Vasa to fill
the throne, he was carefully educated in all the lore of his time and
when a boy of sixteen won a brilliant victory over a Danish invading
army. During the same year he ascended the throne, his father dying on
November 30, 1611.

During the preceding reigns Sweden had taken a prominent part in the
affairs of northern Europe, having frequent wars with Russia, Poland, and
Denmark, and the young king fell heir to these wars, all of which he
prosecuted with striking ability. But a conflict soon broke out that
threatened all Europe and brought Sweden into the field as the arbiter of
continental destinies. This was the famous "Thirty Years' War," the
greatest and most ferocious religious war known in history. Into it
Sweden was drawn and the hand of Gustavus was potent in saving the
Protestant cause from destruction. The final event in his career, in
which he fell covered with glory on the fatal field of Lutzen, is dealt
with in the German "Historical Tales." We shall here describe another
equally famous battle of the war, that of Leipsic.

It was in 1629, when Denmark was in peril from the great armies of
Ferdinand II. of Austria, and Sweden also was threatened, that Gustavus
consented to become the champion of the Protestants of northern Europe,
and in June, 1630, he landed in Pomerania at the head of eight thousand
men. Here six Scottish regiments joined him, under the Duke of Hamilton,
and he marched onward, taking towns and fortresses in rapid succession
and gaining large reinforcements from the German states.

Three great leaders headed the Austrian armies, the famous Wallenstein,
the able but ferocious Tilly, and the celebrated cavalry leader
Pappenheim. All these skilled soldiers Gustavus had to face alone, but he
did so with the support of the best-drilled army then in Europe, a body
of soldiery which his able hands had formed into an almost irresistible
engine of war.

What spurred Gustavus to the great battle to be described was the capture
by Tilly on May 20, 1631, of the city of Magdeburg, and the massacre of
its thirty thousand citizens, men, women, and children. From this scene
of frightful outrage and destruction Tilly failed to call off his men
until the city lay in ruins and its people in death. A tall, haggard,
grim warrior, hollow-cheeked, and wild-looking, with large bright eyes
under his shaggy brows, Tilly looked capable of the deeds of ferocity
with which the world credited him.


While all Christendom shuddered with horror at the savage slaughter at
Magdeburg, the triumphant Tilly marched upon and captured the city of
Leipsic. Here he fixed his headquarters in the house of a grave-digger,
where he grew pale at seeing the death's-head and cross-bones with which
the owner had decorated his walls. These significant emblems may have had
something to do with the unusual mildness with which he treated the
citizens of that town.

The cause of Protestantism in Germany was now in serious jeopardy and
Gustavus felt that the time had come to strike a hard blow in its behalf.
The elector of Saxony, who had hitherto stood aloof, now came to his aid
with an army of eighteen thousand men, and it was resolved to attack
Tilly at once, before the reinforcements on the way to join him could
arrive. These statements are needful, to show the momentous import of the
great battle of September 7, 1631.

In the early morning of that day the two armies came face to face, Tilly
having taken a strong and advantageous position not far from Leipsic,
where he hoped to avoid a battle. But he was obliged, when the enemy
began to move upon him, to alter his plans and move towards the hills on
his left. At the foot of these his army was drawn up in a long line,
with the artillery on the heights beyond, where it would sweep the
extensive plain of Breitenfeld in his front. Over this plain the Swedes
and Saxons advanced in two columns, towards a small stream named the
Lober, which ran in Tilly's front.

To prevent this crossing Pappenheim had early moved at the head of two
thousand cuirassiers, a movement which Tilly reluctantly permitted,
though strictly ordering him not to fight. Disregarding this order
Pappenheim charged the vanguard of the Swedes, only to find that he had
met an impregnable line and to be driven back in disorder. To check
pursuit he set fire to a village at the crossing-point, but this had no
effect upon the movement of the advancing troops nor his own disorderly

The army of Gustavus was organized for the coming battle in the following
manner. On the right the Swedes were drawn up in a double line; the
infantry being in the centre, divided into small battalions that could be
rapidly manoeuvred without breaking their order; the cavalry on the
wings, similarly drawn up in small squadrons, with bodies of musketeers
between; this being done to make a greater show of force and annoy the
enemy's horse. On the left, at a considerable distance, were the Saxons.

It was the defeat of Pappenheim which obliged Tilly to abandon his first
strong position and draw up his army under the western heights, where it
formed a single extended line, long enough to outflank the Swedish army;
the infantry in large battalions, the cavalry in equally large and
unwieldy squadrons; the artillery, as stated, on the slopes above. The
position was one for defence rather than attack, for Tilly's army could
not advance far without being exposed to the fire of its own artillery.
Each army numbered about thirty-five thousand men.

These forces were small in view of the momentous nature of the struggle
before them and the fact that two great generals, both hitherto
invincible, were now to be matched in a contest on which the fate of the
whole war largely depended and to which the two parties battling for the
mastery looked forward with fear and trembling. But of the two, while
Gustavus was cool and collected, Tilly seemed to have lost his usual
intrepidity. He was anxious to avoid battle, and had formed no regular
plan to fight the enemy when forced into it by Pappenheim's impetuous
charge. "Doubts which he had never before felt struggled in his bosom;
gloomy forebodings clouded his ever-open brow; the shade of Magdeburg
seemed to hover over him."

The lines being ready for action, King Gustavus rode to the centre of his
front, reined in his horse, took off his hat, and with the sword in his
right hand lowered to the ground, offered in a loud voice the following

"Almighty God, Thou who holdest victory and defeat in the hollow of Thine
hand, turn Thine eye unto us Thy servants, who have come from our
distant homes to fight for freedom and truth and for Thy gospel. Give us
victory for the honor of Thy holy name. Amen!"

Then, raising his sword and waving it over his head, he commanded:

"Forward in the name of the Lord!"

"God with us!" was the battle-cry as the Swedes, inspired by his words,
prepared for the fatal fray.

The battle, which had lulled after the defeat of Pappenheim, was now
resumed with the thunder of the cannon, which continued for two hours,
the west wind meanwhile blowing clouds of smoke and dust from ploughed
and parched fields into the faces of the Swedes. To avoid this they were
wheeled to face northwards, the movement being executed so rapidly and
skilfully that the enemy had no time to prevent it.

The cannonading ending, Tilly left the shelter of the heights and
advanced upon the Swedes. But so hot was their fire that he filed off
towards the right and fell impetuously upon the Saxons, whose ranks
quickly broke and fled before the fierce charge. Of the whole force of
the elector only a few regiments held their ground, but these did so in a
noble manner that saved the honor of Saxony. So confident now was Tilly
of victory that he sent off messengers in all haste to Munich and Vienna
with word that the day was his.

He was too hasty. The unbroken army of Sweden, the most thoroughly
drilled body of soldiers then in Europe, was still to be dealt with.
Pappenheim, who commanded the imperial left, charged with his whole
force of cavalry upon the Swedish right, but it stood against him firm as
a rock. Here the king commanded in person, and repulsed seven successive
charges of the impetuous Pappenheim, driving him at last from the field
with broken and decimated ranks.

In the meantime Tilly, having routed the small remnant of the Saxons,
turned upon the left wing of the Swedes with the prestige of victory to
animate his troops. This wing Gustavus, on seeing the repulse of his
allies, had reinforced with three regiments, covering the flank left
exposed by the flight of the Saxons.

Gustav Horn commanded here, and met the attack with a spirited
resistance, materially aided by the musketeers who were interspersed
among the squadrons of horse. While the contest went on and the vigor of
the attack was showing signs of weakening, King Gustavus, having put
Pappenheim to rout, wheeled to the left and by a sharp attack captured
the heights on which the enemy's artillery was planted. A short struggle
gave him possession of the guns and soon Tilly's army was being rent with
the fire of its own cannon.

This flank attack by artillery, coming in aid of the furious onset of the
Swedes, quickly threw the imperial ranks into confusion. Hitherto deemed
invincible, Tilly's whole army broke into wild disorder, a quick retreat
being its only hope. The only portion of it yet standing firm was a
battalion of four veteran regiments, which had never yet fled the field
and were determined never to do so.

Closing their ranks, they forced their way by a fierce charge through the
opposing army and gained a small thicket, where they held their own
against the Swedes until night, when only six hundred of them remained.
With the retreat of this brave remnant the battle was at an end, the
remainder of Tilly's army being then in full flight, actively pursued by
the Swedish cavalry, which kept close upon their tracks until the
darkness of night spread over the field.

On all sides the bells of the villages pealed out the tidings of the
victory, and the people poured forth in pursuit of the fleeing foe,
giving short shrift to the unhappy fugitives who fell into their hands.
Eleven thousand of Tilly's men had fallen and more than five thousand,
including the wounded, were held as prisoners. On the other side the
Saxons had lost about two thousand, but of the Swedes only about seven
hundred had fallen. The camp and artillery of the enemy had fallen into
the hands of Gustavus, and more than a hundred standards had been taken.
The rout was so complete that Tilly had left with him only about six
hundred men and Pappenheim less than fifteen hundred. Thus was destroyed
that formidable army which had long been the terror of Germany.

As for Tilly himself, chance alone left him his life. Exhausted by his
wounds and summoned to surrender by a Swedish captain of horse, he
refused. In an instant more he would have been cut down, when a pistol
shot laid low the Swede. But though saved in body, he was lost in spirit,
utterly depressed and shaken by the defeat which had wiped out, as he
thought, the memory of all his past exploits.

Though he recovered from his wounds, he never regained his former
cheerfulness and good fortune seemed to desert him, and in a second
battle with Gustavus on the Lech he was mortally wounded, dying a few
days later.

As for Gustavus, he had won imperishable renown as a military leader. All
Germany seemed to lie open before him and it appeared as if nothing could
prevent a triumphant march upon Vienna. He had proved himself the ablest
captain and tactician of the age, his device of small, rapidly moving
brigades and flexible squadrons being the death-blow of the solid and
unwieldy columns of previous wars. And his victory formed an epoch in
history as saving the cause of Protestantism in Germany.

The emperor, in despair, called again into his service the disgraced and
disgruntled Wallenstein, granting him extraordinary powers. But this
great captain also was beaten by Gustavus on the field of Lutzen, where
the career of the Swedish hero came to an untimely end. His renown as a
great soldier will live long in history.


When Charles X., nephew of Gustavus Adolphus, succeeded Christina, the
daughter of Gustavus, on the throne, the "Thirty Years' War" was at an
end, but new wars awaited the new king. Sweden had won large possessions
on the southern shores of the Baltic and had become one of the leading
powers of Europe. But Charles found these southern provinces hard to
hold, having to battle for them with Russia and Poland.

A worthy successor of his great uncle, Charles showed his warlike ability
by a rapid march into Poland and the overthrow of its army by a three
days' battle at Warsaw. But his progress was checked by a new and dark
cloud which appeared upon the sky. Suddenly and unexpectedly, on the 2d
of May, 1657, Denmark declared war against Sweden, and at the same time
an Austrian army invaded Poland with the purpose of aiding that kingdom
and destroying the Swedish army.

This double attack left Charles in a quandary. An able and experienced
soldier, who had learned the trade of war in Germany during Queen
Christina's reign, he was well fitted to deal with one foe, but could not
readily cope with two widely separated ones. He therefore determined to
abandon Poland, though leaving garrisons in its more important cities,
and devote his attention to Denmark. This Danish war had much in it of
interest, and showed that the new Swedish king had been taught in the
best school of the military art.

Frederick III. of Denmark had declared war without making preparations
for it, fancying that Charles would be forced to remain with his army in
Poland and that he would have abundant time to act. He quickly learned
his mistake. With an army of eight thousand well-trained veterans Charles
marched at all speed from Poland, and a few months after war was declared
stood with his compact little army on Denmark's shores.

Taken by surprise, the Danish general, Bilbe, retreated hastily northward
and the whole peninsula of Jutland was quickly overrun by the Swedes.
Bilbe had much the larger army, but they were mainly raw recruits, and he
dared not face the veterans of the Thirty Years' War. The Danes had
projected an invasion of Sweden, for which they had been deliberately
preparing, and were overwhelmed to find their army in retreat and a force
of six thousand men closely besieged in the Fredericia fortress. A night
attack by General Vrangel won this stronghold for the Swedes, with its
garrison and a large amount of arms and provisions.

So far the movement of Charles had been brilliantly successful, but his
position was very dangerous. Enemies were advancing on him from various
sides, a Polish army having invaded Pomerania, an Austrian army having
advanced into Prussia, while the elector of Brandenburg had joined his
enemies. His ally, England, had promised to aid him with a fleet, but it
failed to appear, and the situation was growing daily more critical. From
his awkward position he was rescued by a combination of daring and the
favoring influences of nature.

The winter of 1658 proved extraordinarily cold. Never within the memory
of man had such bitter weather been known. The sea that flowed between
the Danish islands was tightly frozen, a natural bridge of ice connecting
them with one another and the mainland. With bold resolution King Charles
determined to cross to the island of Fyen.

The enterprise was full of risk. The ice swayed perilously beneath the
marching hosts. At places it broke. But the island shore was safely
reached, the troops guarding it were beaten, and soon the whole island
was in Charles's possession.

But a more daring and perilous enterprise confronted the king. There was
a broader arm of the sea to cross, the Great Belt, about twelve miles
wide. The ice was examined and tested by the quartermaster-general, who
said that he would answer with his life for its being strong enough to
bear the army.

King Charles heard this tidings with delight, clapping his hands
energetically and exclaiming:

"Now, Brother Frederick, we will converse with each other in good

Dahlberg, the quartermaster-general, testified to his confidence by
riding at the head of the column over the wide field of ice, the army
following in safety to the coast of Zealand. Meeting with no opposition,
Charles and his army were soon near Copenhagen, whose fortifications were
in bad condition, and the danger of losing his capital was so imminent
that Frederick was glad to accept the severe terms of peace which Charles
offered him. These included the surrender of half a dozen Danish
provinces to Sweden and the independence of the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
from Danish control. Denmark had paid sorely for making a declaration of
war with no preparation to carry it out.

But Charles X. was so eager for war that in the end he lost most of what
he had gained. He was full of schemes of conquest in Germany, but feared
that Denmark might take advantage of his absence with his army to take
revenge for her losses. The fleets of Holland were threatening the coasts
of the Baltic Sea, and Charles sought to make a treaty with Denmark which
would close this sea to foreign ships. Denmark refused to enter such an
alliance and Charles thereupon determined to make a complete conquest of
that kingdom.

Breaking without warning the treaty of peace he had recently made, he
suddenly landed with an army on the coast of Zealand. By this unwarranted
and stealthy assault he filled the souls of the Danes with the courage of
despair, changed Holland from a secret to an open enemy, and lost the
most of his former gains.

The Danish people, threatened with the loss of their independence, flew
to arms, determined to defend their country to the last extremity.
Charles, his army being small, delayed his attack upon Copenhagen, which
might easily have been taken by an immediate assault. When he appeared
before it he found all its people converted into armed soldiers, while
King Frederick declared that he was ready to die in his capital like a
bird in its nest. Every soul in the city burned with patriotism, and
nobles, burghers, and laborers alike manned the walls, while even women
could be seen wielding spade and axe in the repair of the neglected
defences. When the siege began the citizens made several successful
sallies against their foes and hope arose in their breasts.

But their position soon grew critical, the Swedes seizing the castle of
Cronberg and other points commanding the Sound and pushing forward their
lines until they had possession of the outer works of the city. The great
weakness of the citizens lay in the absence of provisions, which grew so
scarce that they would have had to surrender from sheer stress of hunger
but for the activity of their allies.

The Dutch had enlisted in their cause, and a fleet sent from Holland
under Admirals Opdam and DeWitte passed Cronberg and other fortifications
held by the Swedes, met the Swedish fleet under Admiral Vrangel in the
Sound and fought a bloody battle for the mastery. For six hours the
thunder of cannon echoed from the neighboring shores, then the Swedes
were put to flight and a favoring wind bore the Dutch ships triumphantly
to the beleagured city, bringing food and help to the half-starved

Their coming saved Copenhagen. Charles, baffled in his efforts, drew
back, and threw up works of defence ten miles from the city. Suddenly the
tide of fortune had turned and began to run strongly against him. Into
Holstein pressed an invading army of Austrians, Poles, and
Brandenburgers. The Swedes were forced to evacuate Jutland. The newly won
provinces were ready to revolt. Part of those held in Norway were taken
by the Danes, and the Swedish garrison in the island of Bornholm was
annihilated by a sudden revolt of the inhabitants.

When winter came and the waters were closed by ice against invading
fleets, the Swedish king determined to make a vigorous effort to take the
city by assault. The attack was made on the night of February 10, 1659,
Generals Stenbock and Spane leading a storming party against the
fortifications. Fortunately for the people, they had information of the
coming assault and were fully prepared for defence, and a desperate
struggle took place at the walls and in the frozen ditches. The fire of a
multitude of cannon served to light up the scene, and the attacking
Swedes found themselves met with the frantic courage of men and women
fighting for their homes. A shower of bullets and stones burst upon them,
many women taking part, throwing burning brands, and pouring boiling tar
upon their heads. In the end the Swedes were forced to draw back, leaving
two thousand dead and wounded in the hands of their foes.

Relinquishing his attack upon the city, Charles now turned furiously upon
the small islands of Laaland, Falster, Moen, and Langeland, which had
offended him by supplying provisions for the city, and subjected them to
all the horrors of invasion by troops to whom every excess of outrage was
allowed. Yet new misfortunes gathered round him, the peninsula of Fyen
being taken by the allies of Denmark, while the Swedish troops near
Nyberg were attacked and taken prisoners, their commander alone escaping
in a small boat.

The intervention offered by the neighboring powers was refused by the
proud Swedish king, who, surrounded by dangers on all sides, now issued a
call for a meeting of the estates of the realm at Gothenburg, while at
the same time preparing to invade Norway as a part of the Danish
dominions. At this interval he was suddenly taken sick and died soon
after reaching Gothenburg. A treaty followed with the widowed queen,
regent of Sweden, and Frederick preserved his realm, though not without
loss of territory.


On the 27th of June, 1682, was born one of the most extraordinary of men,
the Alexander of modern times, one of those meteors of conquest which
have appeared at rare intervals in the history of the world. Grandson
alike of Charles X. of Sweden and Frederick III. of Denmark, Charles XII.
of Sweden united in himself all the soldierly qualities of his ancestors,
his chief fault being that he possessed them in too intense a degree,
being possessed by a sort of military madness, an overweaning passion for
great exploits and wide-spread conquests. In his career Sweden reached
its greatest height of power, and with his death it fell back into its
original peninsular status.

His daring activity began almost with his birth. At seven years of age he
could manage a horse, and the violent exercises in which he delighted to
indulge gave him the vigorous constitution necessary for the great
fatigues of his later life, while he developed an obstinacy which made
him a terror to his advisers in later years.

Charles was extraordinary in the fact that he performed the most
remarkable of his exploits before he reached the age of manhood, and in a
just sense may be given the name of the boy conqueror. His mother died
when he was eleven years of age and his father when he was fifteen, his
grandmother being appointed regent of the kingdom, with a council of five
nobles for her advisers.

Sweden, when he came to the throne, had risen to a high rank among the
powers of Europe. In addition to its original dominion, it possessed the
whole of Finland, the finest part of Pomerania, on the southern shores of
the Baltic, and also Livonia, Carelia, Ingria, Wismar, Viborg, the
Duchies of Bremen and Verden, and other realms, all of long possession
and secured by conquest and treaty. But it had dangerous enemies with
whom to deal, especially Peter the Great of Russia, then bent on bringing
his barbarian dominions into line with the great powers of the continent.

Such was the inheritance of the fifteen-year-old king, who quickly showed
the material of which he was composed. One day in the first year of his
reign, after reviewing a number of regiments, he was seen by his special
favorite, Charles Piper, in a spell of abstraction.

"May I ask your Majesty," said Piper, "of what you are thinking so

"I am thinking," replied the boy monarch, "that I am capable of
commanding those brave fellows; and I don't choose that either they or I
shall receive orders from a woman."

He referred in this irreverent and boastful speech to his grandmother,
the regent.

He was crowned on the 24th of December following his father's death, the
ceremony being performed by the archbishop of Upsala. But when the
prelate, having anointed the prince in the customary manner, held the
crown in his hand ready to put it upon the new king's head, Charles took
it from his hand and crowned himself, his eyes fixed sternly upon the
dismayed churchman. This act of self-willed insubordination was applauded
by the people, who also received him with loud acclamations when he rode
into Stockholm on a horse shod with silver and with a sceptre in his hand
and a crown on his head. The oath of fidelity to his people, usual on
such occasions, was not taken, and in fact Charles had no thought of
being faithful to anything but his own ambitious designs and his
obstinate self-will.

He soon showed his unfitness for the duties of quiet government. The
money collected by his father was quickly squandered by him, and with the
eagerness of an untutored boy he plunged into every kind of daring
amusement that presented itself, risking his life in break-neck rides,
mock fights, bear hunts, and other dangerous sports and exercises. He
also gave much attention to military manoeuvres, his time being spent
in all sorts of violent activities, with little thought to the duties of
government, these being confided to his chief friend and confidant,
Charles Piper.

The tidings of the manner in which the new king of Sweden occupied
himself spread to the neighboring monarchs, who, fancying that they had
nothing to fear from a frivolous and pleasure-loving boy, deemed this a
good opportunity to recover some of the lands conquered from them by the
preceding Swedish kings. A secret understanding to this effect was
entered into by Frederick IV. of Denmark, King Augustus of Poland, and
Peter the Great, czar of Russia, and the ball was opened early in 1700 by
an invasion of Livonia on the part of the Polish king, while the Danes
attacked Holstein-Gottorp, ruled by Charles's brother-in-law, taking
Gottorp and laying siege to Tonnigen. Peter of Russia was the most
dangerous of the three confederates, he being then full of the idea of
introducing western civilization among his rude subjects and making
Russia a sea power. To accomplish this he was eager to gain a foothold on
the Baltic by the conquest of Finland.

The kingly conspirators, who had begun war against Sweden without a
declaration, little dreamed of the hornet's nest they were arousing.
Filled with consternation, some of the Swedish councillors of state
proposed to avert the danger by negotiation. Charles, then a youth of
eighteen and of whose real metal no one dreamed, listened to these words
with a grave face, and then rose and spoke:

"Gentlemen, I am resolved never to begin an unjust war, nor ever to end a
just one but by the destruction of my enemies. My resolution is fixed. I
will attack the first that shall declare war against me, and having
conquered him, I hope I shall be able to strike terror into the rest."

The old councillors were surprised by the resolute demeanor of the young
king, who seemed suddenly transformed into a man before them. They little
knew the boy. Familiar with the careers of Alexander and Cæsar, he was
inspired with the ambition to attempt the rôle of a great conqueror and
prove himself one of the world's ablest soldiers.

Forsaking his favorite sports, he set himself with intense energy to
prepare for the war which had been precipitated upon him, and sent word
to the Duke of Holstein that he would speedily come to his assistance,
eight thousand men being at once despatched to Pomerania for this
purpose. Instantly the natives were stirred up, Central Germany sending
troops to reinforce the Danes, while England and Holland sent fleets to
aid Sweden and seek to preserve the balance of power in the north.

Such were the preliminary steps to Charles's first great campaign, one of
the most remarkable in the whole history of war. On the 8th of May, 1700,
he left Stockholm, in which city he was never to set foot again. With a
large fleet of Swedish, Dutch, and English vessels he proposed to attack
Copenhagen, thus striking at the very citadel of Danish power. The
assault began with a bombardment of the city, but, seeing that this was
having little effect, Charles determined to attack it by land and sea,
taking command of the land forces himself.

A landing was made at the village of Humlebek, Charles, in his impatience
to land, leaping into the water, which came nearly to his waist, and
wading ashore. Others followed his example, the march through the waves
being made amid a shower of bullets from the enemy. Springing to land,
the young king waved his sword joyously above his head and asked Major
Stuart, who reached the shore beside him, what was the whistling sound he

"It is the noise of the musket balls which they are firing at your
Majesty," said the major.

"That is the very best music I ever heard," he replied, "and I shall
never care for any other as long as I live."

As he spoke, a bullet struck the major in the shoulder and on his other
side a lieutenant fell dead, but Charles escaped unscathed.

The Danes were soon put to flight and Charles made the arrangements for
the encamping of his troops with the skill and celerity of one trained in
the art of warfare, instead of a boy on his first campaign and to whom
the whistle of a musket ball was a sound unknown. He showed his ability
and judgment also by the strict discipline he maintained, winning the
good will of the peasantry by paying for all supplies, instead of taking
them by force in the ordinary fashion of the times.

While the camp was being made and redoubts thrown up towards the town,
the fleet was sent back to Sweden and soon returned with a reinforcement
of nine thousand men, who had marched in haste to the shore and were
drawn up ready to embark. The Danish fleet looked on at this movement,
but was not strong enough to interfere.

The rapidity with which this invasion had been made struck the people of
Copenhagen with terror and they sent an embassy to Charles, begging him
not to bombard the city. He received them at the head of his guards,
while they fell upon their knees before him. His ultimatum to the
petitioners was that he would spare the city on the payment of four
hundred thousand rix-dollars. They were also commanded to supply his camp
with provisions, for which he promised they would be honestly paid. They
did not dare refuse, and were very agreeably surprised when Charles kept
his word and paid good prices for all he got.

Charles now sent word to King Frederick that he had made war only to
require him to make peace, and he must agree to act justly towards the
Duke of Holstein or the city of Copenhagen would be destroyed and his
dominions laid waste with fire and sword.

Frederick, utterly taken aback by the warlike vigor of King Charles, was
very glad to accept this proposal and thus to escape from the dangerous
position in which he had placed himself, and the negotiations were driven
through by Charles with the same abrupt energy he had shown in his
military movements. In less than six weeks from the beginning of the war
it was ended and the treaty made, a surprising achievement for the first
campaign of an eighteen-year-old warrior. The treaty was favorable to
Frederick, Charles exacting nothing for himself, but demanding that the
Duke of Holstein should be repaid the expenses of the war.

The boy king had reason for haste, for the town of Riga, in his
dominions, was being invested by a combined army of Russians, Poles, and
Saxons. The treaty was no sooner signed than he sailed in all haste to
its relief. It had made a gallant and nearly desperate defence under
General Dahlberg, but the besiegers did not wait for the impact of
Charles's army, hastily retreating and leaving the field open to him for
a great feat of arms, the most famous one in his career.

The town of Narva, in Ingermanland, was then invested by a great Russian
army, sixty thousand--some say eighty thousand--strong, the Czar Peter
being in supreme command, the Duc de Croy commanding under him. But the
unskilled Russians had not proved very successful in the art of
besieging, having failed for six weeks to take a city that was very
poorly fortified and whose governor, Baron Herre, had but a thousand
regular troops in his garrison.

It was in mid-November, 1700, that the czar heard that the Swedish king
had landed an army of about thirty-two thousand men, and was coming to
the relief of Narva. Not content with his great force, Peter hurried
forward a second army of thirty thousand men, proposing to enclose King
Charles between these two hordes and hoping thus to annihilate him. He
reckoned without his host. Charles landed at Pernow and made a forced
march to Reval, followed by his cavalry, fourteen thousand strong, but
with only four thousand foot soldiers.

Marching, in his usual ardent manner, in the van of his army, he did not
wait for the rear, making his way onward by nearly impassable roads and
coming before the outposts of the supplementary Russian army with only
eight thousand men. With apparently utter indifference to the vast
disproportion in numbers, the Swedish firebrand rushed forward, the
Russians, not dreaming of such mad temerity, being sure that he had his
whole army behind him.

The advance guard of the Russians, five thousand strong, was posted in a
rocky pass where a body of a hundred resolute men might have checked the
progress of an army, yet it fled in dismay before the onset of the
Swedes. The twenty thousand men behind them shared their panic and joined
in their flight, terror and confusion pervading the whole army. In two
days' time Charles carried all their posts, winning what might have been
claimed as three distinct victories, yet not delaying an hour in his
advance. Having thus disposed of the army sent to intercept him, Charles
marched with all speed to Narva, leaving his main army still far in the
rear. With his eight thousand men, exhausted with their long march and
their hard fight, he suddenly appeared before the czar's great force of
sixty or eighty thousand men and one hundred and fifty cannon.

Giving his weary men scarcely any time for rest, Charles advanced against
the Russians with the impetuosity which had so far marked his career. A
general warned him that the danger was very great.

"What!" he replied. "Do you not think that with my eight thousand brave
Swedes I may easily beat eighty thousand Russians?"

Whether the general believed so or not, he did not venture any further
remonstrances, and, at the signal of two musket shots and the war-cry of
"With the aid of God!" the king and his handful of men marched forwards.
It was now about mid-day on the 20th of November, 1700.

A breach being made with their cannon in the Russian works, Charles led
his men on with fixed bayonets, a furious snow-fall behind them driving
full in the face of the enemy and making their position a very difficult
one. After an engagement of three hours the entrenchments were stormed on
all sides, the right wing of the Russians fleeing to the Narva and
crowding the bridge with its retreating hosts. So dense was the mass that
the bridge gave way beneath them, precipitating them into the stream, in
which eighteen thousand of the panic-stricken wretches were drowned. The
left wing then broke and fled in utter confusion, so many prisoners being
taken that the best the captor could do was to disarm them and let them
disperse where they would.

Thus ended this extraordinary battle, almost without a parallel in
history and spreading the fame of the victor widely over Europe. For a
boy little over eighteen years of age to achieve such a feat, defeating
with eight thousand men an army of nearly a hundred thousand, raised him
in men's minds to the level of the most famous conquerors. Unfortunately
for himself, it redoubled his self-will and vanity, the adulation given
him leading him into a course of wild and aimless invasion that brought
upon him eventually misfortune and defeat and nearly ruined his kingdom.

Having disposed of two of the enemies who had plotted his destruction, in
the following year Charles advanced against the third, King Augustus of
Poland, led his victorious army into that kingdom, took Warsaw, its
capital city, by storm, and in the battles of Klissov and Pultusk so
thoroughly overthrew the forces of Augustus that he was forced to give up
the throne of Poland and retire into his native dominion of Saxony, a
Polish noble being proclaimed king in his place. The Swedish conqueror
even pursued Augustus into Saxony, defeated his armies wherever met, and
forced him at last to beg humbly for peace.

Such was the first era of the brilliant career of the young Swedish
firebrand of war, who in four years had utterly overthrown his enemies
and won a reputation for splendid military genius which placed him on a
level, in the opinion of the military critics of the age, with Alexander
the Great, whom he had taken as the model of his career.

But Charles had two great enemies with whom to contend, and as a result
his later history was one of decline and fall, in which he lost all that
he had won and remained for years practically a prisoner in a foreign

One of these enemies was himself. His faults of character--inordinate
ambition, inflexible obstinacy, reckless daring--were such as in the end
to negative his military genius and lead to the destruction of the great
power he had so rapidly built up. The other was Czar Peter of Russia. It
was unfortunate for the youthful warrior that fate had pitted him against
a greater man than himself, Peter the Great, who, while lacking his
military ability, had the other elements of a great character which were
wanting in him, prudence, cool judgment, persistence in a fixed course of
action. While the career of Charles was one of glitter and coruscation,
dazzling to men's imaginations, that of Peter was one of cool political
judgment, backed by the resources of a great country and the staying
qualities of a great mind. What would have been the outcome of Charles's
career if pitted against almost any other monarch of Russia that one
could name it is difficult to imagine. But pitted against Peter the Great
he was like a foaming billow hurling itself against an impregnable rock.

While it is not our purpose to tell the whole story of the exploits of
Charles XII., yet his life is so interesting from the point of view of
military history that a brief epitome of its remainder may be given.

After his great victories Charles remained in Saxony, entertaining the
throng of princes that sought his friendship and alliance and the crowd
of flatterers who came to shine in his reflected glory. For six years in
all he remained in Poland and Saxony, fighting and entertaining, while
Peter the Great was actively engaged in carrying out the important
purpose he had in mind, that of extending the dominion of Russia to the
shores of the Baltic and gaining an outlet on the northern seas. As an
essential part of his purpose he began to build a new city on the banks
of the Neva, to serve as a great port and centre of commerce.

It was long before Charles awakened to the fact that Peter was coming
threateningly near to the Swedish territories, and when he finally
realized the purpose of his great enemy and set out to circumvent it, he
did so without any definite plan. He decided, as Napoleon did a century
later, to plunge into the heart of the country and attack its capital
city, Moscow, trusting by doing so to bring his enemy to terms. In this
he failed as signally as Napoleon did in his later invasion.

In June, 1708, with an army of forty-three thousand men, Charles crossed
the Beresina and soon after met and defeated the Russian army near
Smolensko. He considered this his most brilliant victory, and, as we are
told by Voltaire, Peter now made overtures for peace, to which Charles,
with the arrogance of a victor, replied, "I will treat with the Czar at

He never reached Moscow, but was constrained to turn southward to the
Ukraine, where he hoped to gain the aid of the Cossacks, under their
chief, Mazeppa, a bitter enemy of the czar. In this march his men
suffered terribly, more than half of them dying from hunger and cold. He
had met that same enemy which Napoleon afterwards met in Russia, a winter
of bitter severity. In the spring he had only about eighteen thousand
Swedes and about as many Cossacks under his command, but he persisted in
his designs. During the wintry cold he had shared in the privations of
his men, eating the same coarse food, while his only means of warming his
tent was to have heated cannon balls rolled along the floor.

The crisis came in the summer of 1709. Peter, who was keenly on the
alert, had succeeded in winning to his side the Cossack chiefs, leaving
Mazeppa without any followers. Then he intercepted the Swedish general
Levenhaupt, who was marching with a new army to the aid of his king, and
overwhelmed him with an immense force of Russians. Losing all his baggage
and stores and more than half his men, Levenhaupt succeeded in reaching
the king's camp with only six thousand battered and worn soldiers.

Charles had now only eighteen thousand men, and was in such sore need of
food and clothing that he laid siege to the city of Pultowa, hoping to
obtain supplies by its capture. Here he was met by Peter with an army
three times his strength, and in the decisive battle that followed
Charles was wounded and his army utterly defeated, only three thousand
escaping death or capture. Charles himself narrowly escaped the latter,
and only by a hazardous and adventurous flight over the steppes reached
the town of Bender, in the Turkish realm.

[Illustration: From stereograph, copyright by Underwood and Underwood,

Here the sultan, the bitter enemy of Russia, gave him refuge and treated
him with much kindness, though he found the young Swede a very
troublesome guest. In fact, at Charles's suggestion, the sultan went to
war with Russia and got the czar into such a tight place that he only
escaped by bribing the Turkish vizier.

Infuriated at his enemy's escape, Charles became so violent and unruly
that the sultan tried to get rid of him, giving him large sums of money
to pay his debts and make preparations to leave. When Charles spent all
this and asked for more the sultan grew so angry that he ordered the
arrest of his troublesome guest. It needed an army of men to take him,
for he locked himself in his house and fought furiously with the few
hundred of men under his command. Many Turkish soldiers were killed and
he was only captured by setting fire to his house and seizing him as he
fled from the flames.

The "Iron Head," as the Turks called him from his obstinacy, was guarded
in a Turkish village for ten months by a force of Janizaries. Most of
this time was spent in bed on pretence that he was dangerously ill. At
the end of that time, finding that he could get no more help from the
Turks, he resolved to escape. Accompanied by two persons only, he rode
in the incredibly short period of fourteen days from Adrianople through
Austria, Hungary, and Germany, reaching the Swedish post of Stralsund on
November 7, 1713. Doubtless the sultan was glad to hear of his escape,
since he had borne with his restless and unwelcome guest for more than
four years.

When he came to the gates of Stralsund he presented himself to the guard
under the name of Captain Peter Frisch. The guard was long in recognizing
him, for he was haggard and worn in face and ragged and dirty in person,
having never changed his clothes and rarely left the saddle, except to
change horses, during his long and weary ride.

His long and needless absence in Turkey had left Sweden exposed to its
enemies and it had severely suffered, the greater part of its territory
south of the Baltic being seized, while Sweden itself had been attacked
by the Danes and Saxons and only saved by an army of peasants, so poorly
equipped and clothed that they were nicknamed the "Wooden Shoes."

As for Charles, his era of brilliant invasion was over and he was obliged
to fight in self-defence. When he reached Stralsund it was under siege by
an army of Russians, Saxons, and Danes. Taking command here, he defended
it obstinately until the walls were blown up and the outworks reduced to
ashes, when he went on board a small yacht and crossed the Baltic safely
to Sweden, though a Russian admiral was scouring that sea to prevent his

A few words must suffice to complete the story of this remarkable man. He
found Sweden largely depleted of men and money and in the new army which
he sought to raise he was obliged to take boys of fifteen into the ranks.
With these he proposed, in the cold winter of 1716, to invade Denmark by
leading an army over the Sound to the Danish islands, but a thaw set in
and put an end to this adventurous project.

Then he invaded Norway, as a part of the Danish realm, and after some
unsuccessful efforts, laid siege to the fortress of Frederikshald. Here
the end of his strange career was reached. On the morning of December 11,
1718, while leaning over the side of a breastwork and giving directions
to the men in the trenches, he was seen to stagger, his head sinking on
his breast. The officers who ran to his aid found him breathing his last
breath. A bullet had struck him, passing through his head and ending his
remarkable career at the early age of thirty-six.

With the death of this famous soldier ended the military glory and
greatness of Sweden. As a result of his mad ambition and his obstinate
persistence in Turkey, Sweden lost all the possessions won in previous
reigns, losing them never to be regained. And with him also vanished the
absolute rule of the Swedish kings. For with his death the nobles
regained their lost influence and drew up a compact in which the crown
was deprived of all its overruling control and the diet of the nobles
became the dominant power in the state.


The Napoleonic wars filled all Europe with tumult and disorder, the
far-northern realms of Norway and Sweden and the far-eastern one of
Turkey alone escaping from being drawn into the maelstrom of conflict.
Denmark, the Scandinavian kingdom nearest the region of conflict, did not
escape, but was made the victim of wars with which it had no concern to a
disastrous extent.

Christian VII. was then the Danish king, but he was so feeble, both in
mind and body, that the Crown Prince Frederick was made regent or
joint-ruler in 1784, and was practically king until his father's death in
1808, when he came to the throne as Frederick VI. Count Bernstorf was
minister of foreign affairs and kept Denmark at peace until his death in
1799, when troubles at once broke out between Denmark and England.

It was a different state of affairs now from that far-off time of Canute
and the vikings, when the Danes overran England and a Dane filled its
throne. The tide had long turned and Denmark was an almost helpless
victim in the hands of the great maritime island, which sought to control
the politics of the whole continent during the terrible struggle with

For some years the English made complaints against Denmark, saying that
it was carrying food and forage into French and German ports in defiance
of the laws of neutrality. As these laws were of English origin the Danes
did not feel inclined to submit to them, and after the death of Bernstorf
Danish men-of-war were sent to sea to protect their merchant vessels.

Quarrels and hostile feeling arose from this, but the crisis did not come
until the summer of 1800, when Russia, Sweden, and Prussia formed a
treaty for an "armed neutrality" and invited Denmark to join it. England
at once took alarm. While the other nations were powerful enough to defy
her, Denmark was poor and quite unprepared for warlike operations, and
when, in the spring of 1801, a fleet under Admirals Parker and Nelson
appeared on her waters she was by no means in readiness for such a

Taken by surprise as they were, however, the Danes had no thought of
weakly submitting to this hostile movement, and did their best to prevent
the English from passing the Sound. Their chief defence was the fortress
of Cronberg, near Elsinore, where heavy cannon were mounted to command
the narrow strait here separating Sweden and Denmark. But by closely
hugging the Swedish coast Parker kept beyond the range of these guns, and
in April, 1801, cast anchor in the harbor of Copenhagen. His fleet
consisted of fifty-one vessels, twenty of them being line-of-battle

Alarmed by the coming of the fleet and taking advantage of the delays in
its movement, the Danes had made every possible preparation for a
vigorous resistance. Strong batteries defended the city and an imposing
array of heavily armed ships, drawn up behind a shoal, presented a
formidable line of defence.

Some delay took place, against the wish of the fiery Nelson, who was
second in command of the fleet. Nelson was eager for an immediate attack,
and finally Parker gave way and left the matter in his hands.

Nelson was in command of the Elephant, but finding that ship too large
for the waters before him he removed his flag to the St. George and led
the way to the attack with the smaller vessels of the fleet, Parker
remaining at anchor some miles distant with the larger vessels.

A fierce and bloody conflict ensued, lasting from four to five hours.
Nelson closed on his foe by getting within the shoal, but he met with a
stout and vigorous resistance, the Danish seamen, under their able
commander Olfert Fischer, fighting with the daring for which their people
had been noted in the far past. Three times the aged Fischer left one
burning ship to hoist his flag on another, and several of the younger
captains fought their ships against Nelson's larger vessels as long as
the shattered hulks kept above water.

So protracted and obstinate was the defence that Parker grew alarmed and
signalled Nelson to retreat. This was the last signal to be thought of
by a man like Nelson and, clapping the glass to his blind eye, he said,
"I really do not see the signal," and kept on fighting.

Nelson was between two fires, that from the shore batteries and that from
the ships, and though he destroyed the first line of the Danish defence
and threatened the capital with serious injury, the batteries were not
silenced and the English ships were suffering severely.

He therefore sent an English officer on shore with a flag of truce,
declaring that unless the Danes on shore ceased firing he would burn the
ships in his hands without being able to save the crews, and pointing out
that these crews were the worst sufferers, as they received a great part
of the fire of both parties.

A suspension of hostilities was agreed upon to permit of the prisoners
being removed, and in the end the crown prince, against the wishes of his
commanders, stopped all firing and agreed to discuss terms of peace. Thus
ended a battle which Nelson said was the fiercest and best contested of
the many in which he had taken part.

The peace that followed lasted for several years, and Denmark, freed from
connection with the hostilities existing in southern Europe, rapidly
increased in trading activity. During these years, indeed, the Danes
served as the commerce carriers for the other countries of Europe, and
this prosperous state of affairs lasted till 1807, when new troubles
arose and England repeated her violent act of 1801.

The English government either had, or fancied it had, good grounds for
suspecting that Denmark had joined Alexander of Russia in a treaty with
France, and on the plea that the fleet of Denmark might be used in the
cause of the French emperor, an array of fifty-four ships of war was sent
to demand its immediate delivery to England.

Denmark was taken more fully by surprise than before. Its army was absent
in Holstein to guard against an attack which was feared from Germany, and
Copenhagen was thus left without protection. General Peymann refused to
comply with the preposterous demand of the English admiral, whereupon an
army of thirty-three thousand men was landed and the city attacked by
land and sea.

For three days a fierce bombardment continued, and not until a large
portion of the almost unprotected city was laid in ashes and the
remainder threatened with like destruction did the general consent to
admit the English troops into the citadel of Frederikshavn.

The outcome of this brigand-like attack, which had nothing more definite
than a suspicion to warrant it, and is ranked in history as of the same
type with the burning of Washington some years later, was the seizure of
the entire Danish fleet by the assailants. The ships carried off included
eighteen ships-of-the-line, twenty-one frigates, six brigs and
twenty-five gunboats, with a large amount of naval stores of all kinds.

The act was no more warrantable than were the viking descents upon
England centuries before. The latter were the acts of barbarian
freebooters, and England, in an age of boasted civilization, put herself
in the same position. The Danes were nearly crushed by the blow and many
years passed away before their bitter resentment at the outrage


The political result of it was that Denmark allied herself with Napoleon,
a measure which gave that unhappy land no small amount of trouble and
distress and led in 1814 to the loss of Norway, which for four hundred
years had been united with the Danish realm. Norway was handed over to
Swedish rule, while England took for her share of the spoils the island
of Heligoland, which she wanted to secure for the command of the Elbe.
Thus the birds of prey gathered round and despoiled the weak realm of
Denmark, which was to be further robbed in later years.


The career of Napoleon, which passed over Europe like a tornado, made
itself felt in the Scandinavian peninsula, where it gave rise to radical
changes. In the preceding tale its effect upon Denmark was shown. While
the wars which desolated Europe did not reach the soil of Sweden and
Norway, yet these countries were deeply affected and their relations
decidedly changed.

The work began in 1808 in the obstinate folly of Gustavus IV., who
defiantly kept up an active trade with England when Russia and Prussia
had closed their ports against British ships. As a result Russia declared
war against Sweden, sent an immense army into Finland, and after a
desperate struggle compelled the Swedes to evacuate that region. In this
way Sweden lost a great province which it had held for six hundred years.

This was one result of a weak king's setting himself against the great
powers of Europe. By his lack of political good sense and his obstinacy
Sweden lost nearly half its territory and Gustavus lost his throne, for
the bitter indignation of the Swedes against him was such that he was
taken prisoner by conspirators and forced to sign a deed in which he
renounced the throne of Sweden for himself and his descendants. Not a
hand was raised to help him and he spent the remainder of his life as a
wandering exile.

It was this series of events that in time brought a soldier of the French
army to the Swedish throne. How this came about is well worth the
telling. After the abdication of Gustavus, Duke Charles of Sodermanland
was elected king as Charles XIII., and as he had no children, a Danish
prince was chosen to succeed him.

But this heir to the throne, Charles Augustus by name, died suddenly the
next year. The people believed he had been poisoned, and on the day of
the funeral, suspecting the haughty old Count Fersen of his death, they
seized him and in their fury literally tore him to pieces.

It was now proposed to take the brother of the deceased prince as heir to
the throne, but little could be done in those days without the Corsican
emperor being consulted about it, and the young Baron Mörner was sent to
Paris to inform Napoleon of what was proposed. The youthful envoy was an
admirer of the conqueror, and thinking to please him he suggested that
one of the French generals should be chosen to rule over Sweden.

Napoleon was highly gratified with the suggestion, but when the baron
named Marshal Jean Bernadotte as his choice the emperor was much less
pleased. He would much rather have chosen some one else, Bernadotte being
too independent in character to please him. Difficulties were thrown in
the way, but Mörner obtained Bernadotte's consent, and by his argument
that Sweden needed an able and experienced soldier to regain its old
power the Swedish Ricksdag was brought over to his side.

In the end Napoleon gave his consent, and the marshal was elected Crown
Prince of Sweden. But the French emperor evidently doubted him still, for
on parting with him he used these significant farewell words: "Go, then,
and let us fulfil our several destinies." He had reason for his distrust,
as the events of later years showed.

This selection ranks with the remarkable instances of the mutations of
fortune. The new crown prince had begun life as the son of a poor French
lawyer and in 1780, at the age of sixteen, entered the army as a common
soldier. When the wars of the Revolution began he had risen to the rank
of a sergeant, which was as high as a man of common birth could rise in
the old army of France.

But he made rapid progress in the army of the Revolution, being a man of
great courage and unusual military genius. Under Napoleon, whose
discerning eye no soldier of ability escaped, Bernadotte became one of
the most successful of the French generals, was made governor of a
province, ambassador, and minister of war, and had much to do with
winning the great victories of Austerlitz, Jena, and Wagram. Finally he
was made a marshal of France and prince of Ponte Corvo in Italy.

But Napoleon had doubts of him. He was too independent. He opposed the
emperor's ambitious plans and defended the liberties of the people, and
was distrusted by the conqueror for other causes. The astute Corsican
feared that he would not be the man to reduce Sweden to a province of
France, and the event proved that Napoleon was right.

It was in 1810 that Crown Prince Bernadotte, who adopted the name of
Charles John as the title of his new rank, arrived in Sweden with his son
Oscar. The people were delighted with his appearance. A handsome and
imposing man, with black wavy hair, an eagle nose, keen, penetrating eyes
and the manner of one accustomed to command, also a clear and eloquent
speaker, polished in address and courteous in his dealings with all, they
felt that in him they had a true king; while his reputation as one of the
leading soldiers in Napoleon's great army gave them assurance that, if
war should arise, their armies would be ably led.

Sweden, when Bernadotte set foot on its soil, was in a helpless state of
decadence, having become little better than a dependency of France. If
ever it needed a strong ruler then was the time, but Charles XIII. was
incapable as a monarch, and from the time of his landing the new crown
prince ruled the country as though there were no king on the throne.

He at once renounced Catholicism and was admitted into the Lutheran
church, the state religion of Sweden. Proposing to consult the best
interests of his new country and not to rule as a vassal of Napoleon, he
was indignant when the emperor ordered that Sweden should declare war
against England. In the existing condition of the country he felt
compelled to submit, but he secretly advised the British government that
the declaration of war was a mere formality and not a gun was fired on
either side.

He also made a secret alliance with Alexander of Russia. None of these
movements could be made public, for the Swedes were then fervent admirers
of Napoleon and hoped by his aid to gain the lost province of Finland and
win revenge upon Russia, their old enemy. Bernadotte saw farther than
they, feeling that the inordinate ambition of Napoleon must lead to his
downfall and that it was best for Sweden to have an anchor out to
leeward. But all these political deals had to be kept from the knowledge
of the Swedes.

A change in public opinion came when Napoleon, suspecting the loyalty to
him of his former marshal, heaped insults upon Sweden, and finally, in
the beginning of 1812, invaded Swedish Pomerania, intending by this act
to frighten the Swedes into submission. Instead, he exasperated them and
lost their friendship, thus giving Bernadotte the opportunity he had

"Napoleon has himself thrown down the gauntlet, and I will take it up,"
he said, and at once began to prepare for the struggle which he foresaw.

With the incitement of the invasion of Pomerania the Crown Prince Charles
John--Prince Karl Johan, as the Swedes called him--began active
preparations for war. The army was largely increased, new levies being
raised and arms and equipment purchased, while alliances were made with
foreign powers. It came as a surprise to the Swedes when the fact leaked
out that it was not against Russia, but against France, that these
warlike movements were being made.

Napoleon now, seeing the state of affairs his injudicious act had brought
about, sought to gain the friendship of Sweden, making alluring offers to
his late marshal. His change of front came too late. Bernadotte had no
confidence in him and came into closer relations with his enemies,
encouraging the perplexed Alexander to a firm resistance against the
French emperor in the great invasion threatened.

Everyone knows the disastrous end of this invasion. When Napoleon was
marching on Moscow Alexander and Charles John met at Abo and a treaty was
formed in which Sweden was promised recompense for the loss of Finland in
the acquisition of Norway, while a friendship sprang up between the two
which lasted till the end of their lives.

Events now moved rapidly. The Corsican conqueror entered Moscow. It was
burned and he was forced to retreat. A terrible winter and hostile forces
destroyed the Grand Army, only a handful of which escaped. Then came the
death struggle in Germany of the greatest soldier in modern history. On
every side his enemies rose against him and in the spring of 1813
Bernadotte joined them with an army of thirty thousand Swedes.

This army took part in the several battles that followed, and made its
mark especially at Dennewitz, where Marshal Ney commanded the French.
Bernadotte thought that the Prussians should bear the brunt of this
battle, since Berlin was threatened, and for this reason he held the
Swedes in reserve. But when the right wing of the Prussians was broken,
Ney cheering his soldiers by shouting, "My children, the victory is
ours!" he deemed it time to take a hand, and ordered General Cardell, his
artillery chief, to support the Prussians.

Cardell won the day by a brilliant stratagem. He ordered the caissons
into line with the guns and deployed his regiments so that they bore the
appearance of a division of cavalry, the mounted artillerists bearing
down upon the French at a gallop, with drawn swords.

Failing to see the guns, and thinking that they had only cavalry to deal
with, the French closed their lines and with fixed bayonets awaited the
Swedes. Suddenly the line halted, the guns were rushed forward and
reversed, the men sprang to their pieces, and from a long line of
frowning cannon poured a fiery hail of grape and canister that tore
remorselessly through the solid ranks of the French. The results were
awful: dead and dying strewed the ground; the survivors fled in
confusion; that deadly volley turned the day in favor of the French, and
Ney and his braves were forced to make a hasty retreat.

In the great battle of Leipsic no section of the Swedish army but the
artillery took part. When the English agent, Sir C. Stewart, sought by
threats to drive Bernadotte into action, he haughtily replied:

"Do you forget that I am Prince of Sweden and one of the greatest
generals of the age?"

Bernadotte was considering the uplifting of his new kingdom rather than
the overthrow of his old master. He was saving his army for the campaign
he proposed against Denmark. Of this campaign we need only say that it
ended in the acquisition of Norway. The Danes were beaten and their king
disheartened, and in the peace of 1814 he ceded Norway to Sweden,
receiving Swedish Pomerania in exchange.

For centuries Sweden had sought to absorb Norway, and now, by the action
of this crown prince from a foreign land, the result seemed achieved. But
the brave Norwegians themselves remained to be dealt with. They did not
propose, if they could avoid it, to be forced into vassalage to the
Swedes. A party arose in favor of the independence of Norway, a
government was formed, and their Danish governor, Prince Christian
Frederick, was elected king of Norway.

It was a hasty act, which could not be sustained against the trained army
of Sweden. Norway was poor, her population small, her defences out of
order, her army made up of raw recruits under untried officers, yet the
old viking blood flowed in the veins of the people and they were bent on
striking for their freedom.

Bernadotte returned to Sweden in the summer of 1814 and at once led his
army into Norway. Little fighting took place, the Swedish crown prince
showing himself favorably disposed, and peace and union finally came,
Charles XIII. of Sweden being elected king of Norway. Yet it was not as a
subject nation, but as an independent and equal kingdom that Norway
entered this union. All her old rights and privileges were retained and
the government remained free from any interference on the part of Sweden.

It was to the wisdom of Bernadotte that this result was due. An enforced
union, he knew, would yield only hatred and bitterness, and to drive a
brave people to the verge of despair was not the way to bring them into
the position of satisfied subjects. Norway remained as free as ever in
her history, dwelling side by side with Sweden, with one king over both

In 1818 the weak Charles XIII. died and the strong Bernadotte, or Charles
John, ascended the throne as Charles XIV. The remainder of his reign was
one of peace and growing prosperity, and when he died in 1844, leaving
the throne to his son Oscar, the grateful people of Sweden felt that they
owed much to their soldier king.


The time once was when, as we have seen, all Scandinavia, and England
also, were governed by Danish kings, and Denmark was one of the great
powers of Europe. Since that proud time the power of the Danish throne
has steadily declined, until now it is but the shadow of its former self.

A great blow came in 1814, when it was forced to yield Norway to Sweden.
All its possessions on the Baltic had vanished and its dominion was
compressed into the Danish peninsula and its neighboring islands, with
the exception of the duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg lying south of the
peninsula. The time was near at hand when it was to lose these and more
and be reduced to a mere fragment of its once great realm.

The new trouble began in 1848, when the French revolution of that date
stirred up all the peoples of Europe to fresh demands. North of Holstein
lay the duchy of Sleswick, occupying the southern half of the peninsula,
its inhabitants, like those of Holstein, being nearly all Germans. These
duchies had long chafed under Danish rule, though for centuries they had
formed part of Denmark, and now they made an eager demand for union with
what they termed their true "Fatherland."

A new king, Frederick VII., ascended the Danish throne in January, 1848.
In February the French revolution broke out. Almost instantly the duchies
were in a blaze of revolt, and on the 23d of April a Danish army of
eleven thousand men met one of nearly three times its strength, composed
of the insurgents and German allies, and was defeated after a hard fight
and forced to take refuge on the little island Als, where it was
protected by Danish ships of war.

This was the beginning of a struggle that continued at intervals for
nearly three years, the great powers occasionally intervening and
bringing about a truce. In 1849, the Danes gained some important
successes, followed by a second truce. The most severe battle was that of
July 24, 1850, when a Danish army nearly forty thousand strong attacked
the insurgents and battle went on amid mist and rain for two days, ending
in the triumph of the Danes.

New successes were gained in September, Sleswick being fully occupied and
Holstein invaded, when a strong Austrian army marched into the latter
province and again the war was brought to an end. Sleswick was left under
the Danish king, but a joint commission of Danes, Austrians, and
Prussians was formed to govern Holstein until its relations to Denmark
could be determined.

For the thirteen years following all remained at rest. But in that year
King Frederick VII. of Denmark died and immediately the eldest son of the
Duke of Augustenburg, who claimed the duchies, hastened into them and
proclaimed himself as ruler, under the title of Duke Frederick VIII., of
the united and independent province of Sleswick-Holstein.

[Illustration: Reproduced by permission of the Philadelphia Museum. THE

This impulsive act led to most important
results. All the German powers to the south, large and small alike,
supported the pretensions of the self-styled Frederick VIII., and before
the end of the year Austrian and Prussian armies entered the province,
which they proposed to hold until the claims of the house of Augustenburg
should be definitely settled.

This threw Denmark into a difficult position. If she wished to avoid
dismemberment she must fight, and to fight against these two great powers
seemed madness. Yet Prussia and Austria pressed one condition after
another upon her, each more galling than the last. England, however,
offered herself as umpire between the parties, strongly favoring Denmark.
In consequence, fully expecting aid from England, a Danish army of forty
thousand men crossed the border and attacked the Prussians.

But England sent no aid and the Danes were forced to retreat and once
more take refuge upon Als Island. As England showed no intention of
helping them with armed assistance, despair followed the patriotic effort
of the Danes, who were left single-handed to oppose their powerful foes.
Yet in spite of their greatly inferior power they made a gallant defence,
their courage and endurance winning the sympathy of those who looked on.

Yet to struggle against such fearful odds was hopeless. The Prussians
occupied one strong point after another until they had penetrated to the
most northerly point of the peninsula. Then, to save his kingdom from
utter destruction, Christian IX. gave way and accepted the terms offered
him, agreeing to renounce all claims on the duchies of Sleswick-Holstein
and Lauenburg and to abide by the decision of Prussia and Austria as to
the future fate of these provinces.

Thus were the weak dealt with by the strong, in the rude old fashion, and
of its once proud dominion Denmark was left only the northern half of the
peninsula, consisting of Jutland and its neighboring islands, a pocket
kingdom of some 15,000 square miles extent in lieu of its once great and
proud dominion.

Yet it was not without satisfaction that the despoiled Danes looked on
when their two powerful enemies, quarreling over the division of the
spoils, sprang at one another's throats like two dogs snarling over a
bone, a great war arising between Austria and Prussia over this question,
at a cost far greater than the value of the provinces fought for.

Prussia being the victor, the rights of Denmark and the claims of the
Duke of Augustenburg alike were quietly laid aside and the matter settled
by the absorption of the provinces into the German empire, Denmark being
left to thank God that Bismarck did not decide to take the rest.


In the year 1388 the people of Norway chose the great Queen Margaret of
Denmark for their ruler, and from that date until 1905, more than five
hundred years later, the realm of the Norsemen continued out of existence
as a separate kingdom, it remaining attached to Denmark until 1814, when
it came under the rule of the king of Sweden. In 1905 Norway broke these
bonds and for the first time for centuries stood out alone as a fully
separate realm. With a description of this peaceful revolution we may
fitly close our sketches of the Scandinavian countries.

During these centuries of union ill feeling frequently arose between the
nations involved. Though the union with Denmark had been on terms of
equality, the Danes in later years often acted towards Norway as though
it were a subject country, at times creating great irritation in the
proud sons of the sea-kings. It was the same with the Swedish union, the
Swedes at times acting towards Norway as though it were a conquered
country, won by the sword of Prince Bernadotte and subject to their will.

This was a false view of the relations of the two countries. The act of
1815 states that "The union is not a result of warfare but of free
convention, and shall be maintained by a clear acknowledgment of the
legal rights of the nations in protection of their mutual thrones." It
further states that "Norway is a free, independent, indivisible, and
inalienable kingdom, united with Sweden under one king."

This must be kept in mind in considering the recent events. Norway was in
no sense subject to Sweden, but had simply accepted the king of Sweden as
its monarch. They were not one nation, but two nations under one king,
being otherwise independent in every respect, each with its own
constitution, its own parliament, and its own laws.

In fact, Norway has had a constitution since 1818, granted by Bernadotte
when he came to the throne, while Sweden was not granted one until over
forty years later. And while the constitution of Norway makes it the most
democratic monarchy in Europe, that of Sweden gives much greater power to
the throne. Thus the people of Norway for many years had reason to be
well content with the situation, though they jealously kept watch over
the preservation of their rights, and at times radical parties promoted
an irritation that might have led to blows had it been sustained by the
people at large.

The difficulty that led to their final separation was a commercial one.
Norway has always been a country with the sea for its province, rugged
and unproductive as compared with Sweden, but with a long sea-coast
inviting maritime pursuits. As a result, during the century its commerce
grew much more rapidly than that of Sweden and it ended the century with
a shipping three times as great. Its commercial interests thus made
free-trade the economic doctrine of Norway, while protection became that
of Sweden, and this was the wedge that in time forced the two countries

In 1885 began the disagreement which led to separation twenty years
later. In that year the king made the minister of foreign affairs
responsible to the Swedish parliament, thus depriving Norway, as she
claimed, of any important influence in foreign politics. Negotiations
followed, but Sweden resisted, and irritation arose. Finally the question
of a Norwegian minister of foreign affairs was dropped and only that of
the right to a separate system of foreign consuls remained.

Let us now very briefly epitomize the course of events. In 1891 Norway
established a consular commission and made a strong demand for separate
consuls to represent her interests in foreign ports. Violent quarrels
with Sweden followed, but no agreement was reached. In 1898 the question
became serious again, but still there was no agreement, and the same was
the case when it came up once more in 1901.

A new consular commission was appointed in 1902, its report favoring the
demands of Norway, and finally, in 1903, King Oscar gave his sanction to
an agreement for separate consuls. But the king's voice did not settle
the question; it came before parliament, and after long consideration a
decision was reached which avoided the point in dispute and announced
principles which were declared in Norway to be in violation of its
constitution and at variance with the king's sanction of 1903.

This ended the negotiations. The incensed Norwegian legislators appointed
a new cabinet to carry out the wishes of the people and a consular
service law was passed. Events now proceeded rapidly. In February, 1905,
King Oscar retired from active government on account of age and ill
health, Crown Prince Gustavus being appointed temporary regent. On
considering the subject he dissented from his father's opinion and
offered the following proposition for a settlement of the question at
issue: first, a common minister of foreign affairs; second, a separate
consular service for each country, the consuls to be under the direction
of the one foreign minister. This proposition was voted on favorably by
the Swedish parliament and the main point in dispute seemed settled.

But on May 27 King Oscar returned to the throne and immediately
repudiated this action of his son and the parliament, vetoed the law for
separate consuls passed in Norway, and when the cabinet of that country
resigned in a body refused to accept their resignation.

The crisis was now reached. A general wave of indignation swept through
the realm of Norway. The feeling of the people was shared by their
legislators. Norway's only connection with Sweden was that they had the
same king--but the Norwegians had no use for a king that would place the
interests of one country in precedence of those of another. The decisive
move was made on June 7, when the Storthing--the parliament of
Norway--announced itself as no longer in union with Sweden or under the
rule of King Oscar, declaring that he had admitted that he was unable to
govern Norway according to its constitution and therefore had ceased to
rule as its king. The union flag was lowered from the government fortress
in Christiania, where it had floated since 1814.

In its address to the king the Storthing said that "the course of events
has proved more powerful than the desire or will of individuals," but to
show that good feeling existed towards Sweden, the king was requested to
name a prince of his own house for the throne of Norway, who was to
relinquish his right of succession to the Swedish throne.

The die was cast. Would war result? Would Oscar seek to force Norway back
into the Union as Bernadotte had done in 1814, when it rebelled and chose
a king of its own? The occasion seemed critical. Oscar refused to
abdicate, there was much talk of war, the Swedish Ricksdag--or
parliament--disapproved of letting Norway depart in peace. If war had
been declared the hope of Norway sustaining her independence was very
doubtful, as her population was only half that of Sweden and her army
and navy much weaker. Yet there was sufficient doubt of the outcome to
make all men hesitate.

Many of the leading men of Sweden disapproved of the idea of war,
thinking that hostilities were not called for and that Sweden's stake in
the question was not sufficient to justify the attempt to hold Norway by
force. A significant event at this juncture was the declaration of the
powerful Socialist party in Sweden that they would not bear arms against
their brethren in Norway. In this the Socialists made the first
international declaration of their opposition to war.

As the weeks passed on the war feeling cooled. Oscar withdrew his refusal
to abdicate, and said: "Of little use would the Union be if Norway had to
be forced into it." As regards the feeling of the people of Norway
regarding separation, it was decisively shown on August 13, when a vote
was taken upon the question. It resulted in 368,200 votes in favor of to
184 against dissolution of the union.

The chief question to be settled was that of the abolition of the
frontier fortresses, of which Norway had a number on the border while
Sweden had none. Norway held on to hers mainly from patriotic reasons, as
several of them were of very ancient date and had great historic
interest. The difficulty was finally settled by an agreement to dismantle
the new portions and let the ancient ones remain.

The final treaty of separation, as approved on September 23, 1905,
covered the following points: 1st. There was to be arbitration of all
questions arising between the two countries. 2d. A neutral zone was to be
established and all forts within this zone to be destroyed or made
useless for war purposes. 3d. The grazing rights of Swedish Laplanders in
Norway were to be maintained. 4th. The laws of each country were to apply
to the portion of waterways crossing each. 5th. No obstacle was to be
placed on the commerce between the two countries.

The question of the form of government of the new nation had before this
arisen. The request to King Oscar for a descendant of his house had been
at first refused. He subsequently reconsidered it and was willing to let
his son Charles fill the vacant throne, but meanwhile it had been offered
to Prince Charles of Denmark and accepted by him. The offer of the throne
by the Storthing needed in democratic Norway to be confirmed by a vote of
the people, and one was taken in October. The sentiment for a republic in
Norway was supposed to be very strong, but the election resulted in a
vote of four to one for a kingdom against a republic, and Charles of
Denmark, grandson of King Christian, was formally chosen for the reigning
monarch of the new kingdom. In compliment to the nation he chose for
himself the national title of Haakon VII. and conferred on his son and
heir the Norwegian name of Olaf.

Formal offer of the throne was made to the new king at Copenhagen on
November 20 by a deputation from the Norwegian parliament, King Christian
accepting it for his grandson, and saying:

"The young king does not come as a stranger to Norway, for he claims
relationship to former Norwegian kings. Nor will the kingdom of Norway be
strange to him, for everywhere in the land common recollections of the
history of the kingdom and the history of his race will meet him."

On the 25th of November the new monarch, with his wife, daughter of King
Edward of England, made his formal entrance to Christiania, the capital
of his new realm, where he was received with the highest demonstrations
of joy. On their voyage from Copenhagen the royal pair were escorted by
Norwegian, Danish, British, and German warships, while in their new realm
elaborate preparations had been made for their fitting reception.

At noon on November 27 Prince Charles was formally inaugurated king, as
Haakon VII., before a distinguished assembly consisting of the highest
state dignitaries, the diplomatic corps in full costume, and a brilliant
concourse of men in uniform and women in court toilets. Entering the
richly decorated Parliament house, surrounded by their suites, the king
ascended the throne, the queen taking a seat by his side.

The ceremonies were brief, consisting of the king's taking the oath to
support the constitution of Norway, and pledging himself in a brief
speech "to exert all his will and strength to serve the Fatherland and
promote its peace and happiness." An interesting feature of the ceremony
was a despatch of congratulation from Oscar, late king of Norway, in
which he said: "I beg that you be persuaded that every effort looking
towards good relations between our two countries will be given a
sympathetic reception on my part."

Thus, after for five hundred and seventeen years standing empty, the
throne of Norway was filled with a king of its own, and that old land,
once more single and separate, swung back into the tide of the nations.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historical Tales, Vol. 9 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality. Scandinavian." ***

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