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Significance of the Reformation for consolidation of independence and state sovereignty of the Kingdom of Sweden

Significance of the Reformation for consolidation of independence and state sovereignty of the Kingdom of Sweden

One of the main specific features of the Reformation in Sweden is connected with the fact, that reforms in the ecclesiastic field in the country were conditioned not only by the state of its internal socio-political development, but approximately to the same extent by the factors of foreign policy. The point is about the struggle around the union of Kalmar. Denmark had dominated within that union. Its two other participants - Sweden and Norway - had found themselves in unequal position. Norway had been increasingly coming under the Danish influence and eventually lost its national sovereignty. Swedish history of the fifteenth century was connected with the struggle between the partisans and the opponents of the union at the court.

Conflict between the regent Sten Sture den Yngre (Junior), hostile to the union, and the pro-Danish party, with the archbishop Gustav Trolle at its head, entailed Danish interference on the side of the latter. In 1520 the Danish king Christian the 2nd got hold of Stockholm and managed to place Sweden under his control. But in the next year the popular uprising against the occupation, headed by a nobleman Gustav Ericsson Vasa, close to the former regent, resulted in expulsion of the Danes. Gustav became ruler of Sweden and several years later he was crowned.

In backing the ecclesiastic reforms, initiated by the brothers Olaus and Laurentius Petri (Olof and Lars Petersson), who had adopted the ideas of the Lutheran Reformation, the king Gustav consolidated his own power, won sympathies of the broader strata of gentry and burghers, weakened position of the great nobles and the bishops, among which there were partisans of Denmark, as well as managed to neutralize influence of the Holy See upon the Swedish internal affairs. In the 1540s it was appropriate to speak about completion, in the main, of the Swedish Reformation.

The situation changed after the second Gustav’s son Johann the 3rd, having deposed his elder brother Eric, ascended to the throne in the late 1560s. His was married with the princess Catherine, sister of the King of Poland Sigismund Augustus, and was influenced by her Polish Catholic environment. Under his rule some measures were undertaken, which represented certain concessions in the ecclesiastic field in favor of the old belief. It gave the Holy See a reason to believe in possible reunion with the Swedish Church. But corresponding negotiations came to nothing, since the parties failed to agree upon the main points of a possible agreement.

After Johann’s death in 1592 the Swedish throne was inherited by his son from the first marriage Sigismund the 3rd, who had already held for several years the Polish crown. So the same person occupied the Polish and the Swedish thrones. It made it possible for the Polish magnates to scheme a Polish-Swedish union and spread of the Polish influence upon Sweden. One of the main means of these intentions was revival of the Roman Catholic faith in Sweden. The new king was convinced Catholic and pursued the corresponding ecclesiastic policy.

This attempt of counter-Reformation, however, entailed in Sweden a strong resistance from the part of not only the gentry and the city strata, but also of the most part of the bishops and the clergy as a whole, who had been brought up on the Lutheran ideas. These forces were headed by Gustav Vasa’s third son and Johann’s younger brother Carl. In the struggle, which was going on in the middle and the late 1590s, Sigismund and his followers suffered a defeat, in the political field, as well as in the ecclesiastic one. Carl became ruler of the country (later he was crowned as Carl the 9th). Victory of the Reformation was finally achieved in Sweden, which at the same time signified consolidation of sovereignty and independence of the Swedish state.

Vadim Musaev