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Charles IX of Sweden

Charles IX (1550-1611), king of Sweden, was the youngest son of Gustav I of Sweden and Margareta Lejonhufvud. By his father’s will he got, by way of appanage, the Duchy of Sudermania, which included the provinces of Nerike and Vermland; but he did not come into actual possession of them till after the fall of Eric XIV of Sweden, 1569.

Charles IX

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Duke Charles In 1568 he was the real leader of the rebellion against Eric, but took no part in the designs of his brother John III of Sweden against the unhappy king after his deposition. Indeed, Charles’s relations with John were always more or less strained. He had no sympathy with John’s High-Church tendencies on the one hand, and he sturdily resisted all the king’s endeavours to restrict his authority as Duke of Sudermania on the other. The nobility and the majority of the Riksdag of the Estates supported John, however, in his endeavours to unify the realm, and Charles had consequently (1587) to resign his pretensions to autonomy within his duchy; but, fanatical Calvinist as he was, on the religious question he was immovable. The matter came to a crisis on the death of John III in 1592). The heir to the throne was John’s eldest son, Sigismund of Sweden, already king of Poland and a devoted Catholic. The fear lest Sigismund might re-catholicize the land alarmed the Protestant majority in Sweden, and Charles came forward as their champion, and also as the defender of the Vasa dynasty against foreign interference.

It was due entirely to him that Sigismund was forced to confirm the resolutions of the council of Uppsala, thereby recognizing the fact that Sweden was essentially a Protestant state. In the ensuing years Charles’s task was extraordinarily difficult. He had steadily to oppose Sigismund’s reactionary tendencies; he had also to curb the nobility, which he did with cruel rigour. Necessity compelled him to work rather with the people than the gentry; hence it was that the Riksdag assumed under his government a power and an importance which it had never possessed before. In 1595 the Riksdag of Söderköping elected Charles regent, and his attempt to force Klas Flemming[?], governor of Finland, to submit to his authority, rather than to that of the king, provoked a civil war. Technically Charles was, without doubt, guilty of high treason, and the considerable minority of all dasses which adhered to Sigismund on his landing in Sweden in 1598 indisputably behaved like loyal subjects. But Sigismund was both an alien and a heretic to the majority of the Swedish nation, and his formal deposition by the Riksdag of the Estates in 1599 was, in effect, a natural vindication and legitimation of Charles’s position.

King Charles IX Finally, the Riksdag at Linköping, February 24, 1600 declared that Sigismund and his posterity had forfeited the Swedish throne, and, passing over duke John, the second son of John III, a youth of ten, recognized duke Charles as their sovereign under the title of Charles IX. Charles’s short reign was an uninterrupted warfare. The hostility of Poland and the break up of Russia involved him in two overseas contests for the possession of Livonia and Ingria,while his pretensions to Lappland brought upon him a war with Denmark in the last year of his reign. In all these struggles he was more or less unsuccessful, owing partly to the fact that he had to do with superior generals (e.g. Chodkiewicz and Christian IV of Denmark) and partly to sheer ill-luck. Compared with his foreign policy, the domestic policy of Charles IX was comparatively unimportant. It aimed at confirming and supplementing what had already been done during his regency. Not till March 6, 1604, after Duke John had formally renounced his rights to the throne, did Charles IX begin to style himself king. The first deed in which the title appears is dated March 20 1604; but he was not crowned until March 15, 1607. Four and a half years later Charles IX died at Nyköping, October 30, 1611. As a ruler he is the link between his great father and his still greater son. He consolidated the work of Gustav I, the creation of a great Protestant state; he prepared the way for the erection of the Protestant empire of Gustavus Adolphus. Swedish historians have been excusably indulgent to the father of their greatest ruler. Indisputably Charles was cruel, ungenerous and vindictive; yet he seems, at all hazards, strenuously to have endeavoured to do his duty during a period of political and religious transition, and, despite his violence and brutality, possessed many or the qualities of a wise and courageous statesman.

Children He married, firstly, Maria of Palatinate-Kleeburg (1561-1589), daughter of Louis VI of Palatinate (1539-1583) and Elisabeth of Hesse (1539-1584). Their children were:

  1. Margareta Elisabeth (1580-1585)
  2. Elisabeth Sabina (1582-1585)
  3. Louis (1583-1583)
  4. Catherine (1584-1638)
  5. Gustav (1587-1587)
  6. Maria (1588-1589)

In 1592 he married his second wife Christina of Holstein-Gottorp[?] (1573-1625) and their children were:

  1. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (Gustav II Adolf) (1594-1632)
  2. Charles Philip, Duke of Finland (1601-1622)
  3. Maria Elisabeth (1596-1618)
  4. Christina (1593-1594)

He also had a son with his mistress, Karin Nilsdotter:

  1. Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm, Field Marshal

See also: History of Sweden - Rise of Sweden as a Great Power


Preceded by:
Sigismund I
List of Swedish monarchs Succeeded by:
Gustavus Adolphus

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