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Gustav I, King of Sweden was born Gustaf Eriksson of the Vasa noble family and later known as Gustaf Vasa (May 12, 1496 – September 29, 1560). Gustaf Eriksson, a son of Cecilia Månsdotter Eka and Erik Johansson Vasa, was probably born in 1496. The birth most likely took place in Rydboholm Castle, northeast of Stockholm, the manor house of the father, Erik. The newborn got his name, Gustaf, from Erik’s grandfather Gustaf Anundsson.

Erik Johansson’s parents were Johan Kristersson and Birgitta Gustafsdotter of the dynasties Vasa and Sture respectively, both dynasties of high nobility. Birgitta Gustafsdotter was the sister of Sten Sture the Elder, regent of Sweden. According to genealogical research, Birgitta Gustafsdotter and Sten Sture (and consequently also Gustaf Vasa) were descended from King Sverker II of Sweden, through King Sverker’s granddaughter Benedikte Sunesdotter (who was married to Svantepolk Knutsson, son of Duke of Reval). One of King Gustav’s great-grandmothers was a half-sister of King Carl VIII of Sweden.

Gustaf I, King of Sweden

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

The election of Gustaf Eriksson as a regent made many Swedish nobles, who had so far stayed loyal to King Christian II of Denmark, Norway and Sweden switch sides. Some noblemen, still loyal to the king, chose to leave Sweden, while others were killed. As a result, the Swedish Privy Council lost old members who were replaced by supporters of Gustaf Eriksson. Most fortified cities and castles were conquered by Gustav’s rebels, but the strongholds with the best defences, including Stockholm, were still under Danish control.

Christian II, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

In 1522, after negotiations between Gustaf Eriksson’s people and Lübeck, the Hanseatic city joined the war against Denmark. The winter of 1523 saw the joint forces attack the Danish and Norwegian areas of Scania, Halland, Blekinge and Bohuslän. During this winter, Christian II was overthrown and replaced by Frederik I. The new king openly claimed the Swedish throne and had hopes Lübeck would abandon the Swedish rebels. The German city, preferring an independent Sweden to a strong Kalmar Union dominated by Denmark, took advantage of the situation and put pressure on the rebels. The city wanted privileges on future trade as well as guarantees regarding the loans they had granted the rebels. The Privy Council and Gustaf Eriksson knew the support from Lübeck was absolutely crucial. As a response, the council decided to appoint Gustav Eriksson king, ending the Union of Kalmar

The ceremonial election of the regent Gustaf Eriksson as king of Sweden took place when the leading men of Sweden got together in Strängnäs in June 1523. When the councillors of Sweden had chosen Gustaf as king, he met with the two visiting councillors of Lübeck. The German representatives supported the appointment without hesitation and declared it an act of God. Gustaf stated he had to bow to what was described as the will of God. In a meeting with the Privy Council, Gustaf Eriksson announced his decision to accept. In the following ceremony, led by the deacon of Strängnäs, Laurentius Andreae, Gustaf swore the royal oath.

The next day, bishops and priests joined Gustaf in Roggeborgen where Laurentius Andreae raised the holy sacrament above a kneeling Gustaf Eriksson. Flanked by the councillors of Lübeck, Gustaf Eriksson was brought to Strängnäs Cathedral where the king sat down in the choir with the Swedish privy councillors on one side, and the Lübeck representatives on the other. After the hymn “Te Deum”, Laurentius Andreae proclaimed Gustaf Eriksson king of Sweden. He was, however, still not crowned. In 1983, in remembrance of the election of Gustaf Ericsson as King of Sweden on June 6 that date was declared the National Day of Sweden.

Originally an elective monarchy, Sweden became a hereditary monarchy in the 16th century during the reign of Gustaf Vasa, though virtually all monarchs before that belonged to a limited and small number of families which are considered to be the royal dynasties of Sweden.

His 37-year rule, which was the longest of a mature Swedish king to that date (subsequently passed by Gustaf V and Carl XVI Gustaf) saw a complete break with not only the Danish supremacy but also the Roman Catholic Church, whose assets were nationalised, with the Lutheran Church of Sweden established under his personal control. He became the first truly autocratic native Swedish sovereign and was a skilled bureaucrat and propagandist, with tales of his largely fictitious adventures during the liberation struggle still widespread to date. In 1544, he abolished Medieval Sweden’s elective monarchy and replaced it with a hereditary monarchy under the House of Vasaand its successors, including the current House of Bernadotte. Due to a vibrant dynastic succession, three of his sons, Erik XIV, Johan III and Carl IX, all held the kingship at different points.