Swedish War of Independence

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Swedish War of Independence

The Swedish War of Independence (Swedish: Befrielsekriget, War of Independence), also known as the Rebellion of Gustav Vasa and the Secession of Sweden, was the rebellion and civil war of the Swedish nobleman Gustav Vasa between 1521 and 1523. Gustav Vasa successfully managed to leave the Kalmar League, which was led by Christian II.

Pre-war situation
Archbishop Gustav Trolle, the son of a royal and pro-union nobleman, tried to destroy Sture, the separatist party among the nobility, with the Stockholm Massacre. The king was hated for lending high taxes on farmers. In addition, the fact that most Swedish castles were under the control of German nobles and commoners was one of the reasons that drove the Swedish people to revolt.

Swedish War of Independence 1
The Entry of King Gustav Vasa of Sweden into Stockholm, 1523 (Carl Larsson) – Nationalmuseum – 23935

The war began in January 1521 with the appointment of Gustav Vasa as hövitsman (commander) by the delegates of the northern part of Dalarna. After Gustav Vasa plundered Västerås and the copper mine at Kopparberg, the number of soldiers under his command increased. In 1522, Lübeck, a member of the Hanseatic League, allied himself with the Swedish rebels. After the capture of Stockholm in June 1523, Sweden was effectively controlled. On 6 June, Gustav Vasa was proclaimed King of Sweden in Strängnäs. In September, the Österland was controlled by supporters of the de Vasa. According to the Treaty of Malmö, signed on September 1, 1524, Sweden seceded from the Kalmar Union.

In 1520, Gustav Vasa went to Dalarna disguised as a farmer to hide from the King’s watchmen. In December, he arrived in the city of Peloponnese, where he asked the people to help Christian II by rising up against him. But the people refused. So Gustav Vasa went further north to find people who would not support him. Shortly after his departure, some refugees arrived in the Peloponnese and spoke of Christian II’s persecution of farmers. After this news, the people of the Peloponnese decided to support the rebellion of Gustav Vasa and sent two climbers to search for him. They caught up with him in Sälen.

On the eve of 1521, in the Peloponnese, Gustav Vasa was declared “hövitsman” by all the envoys of North Dalarna.

In February, Gustav Vasa and 100 of his men left the Peloponnese and plundered Kopparberg. Soon after, Bergslagen’s farmers joined Gustav Vasa. Thus, Gustav Vasa’s army exceeded 1,000 men.

Battle of Brunbäcks färja
News that the Swedes rebelled 2. When he reached Christian’s ear, the king sent some Landsknechten soldiers there. In April 1521, the troops of the unit met the men of Gustav Vasa at Brunnbäck. The king’s army was defeated. This gave Gustav Vasa’s men great morale.

The rebellious army advanced to Västerås and conquered and plundered it. As Gustav Vasa’s successes spread throughout Sweden, the supporters of the Sture family decided to support the rebellion.

By the end of April 1521, Gustav Vasa had the territories of Dalarna, Gästrikland, Närke, and Västmanland under his control.


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