Gustav I – The Early Life & Noble Family

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Family Background

Gustav Eriksson was a nobleman by birth, according to some sources the family had roots in the Baltic countries. His family had been inhabiting Mälardalen, a central part of Sweden with cities like Stockholm, Västerås and Strängnäs in the area. On both his father’s and his mother’s side there were a lot of people with noble titles to say the least. Among them were bishops, lord of the manor, drots and more.

Gustav I never called himself “Vasa” which is the name under which he is known in Sweden. His father was Erik Johansson, hence Gustav I bore the name Gustav Eriksson (Eriksson means “son of Eric” or “Eric’s son”). Eric was a Privy Councilman and a county commissioner which meant he controlled the court system in the area of his home.  Eric was although a noble man, not always known for his nobility. Alledgedly, he murdered a man in 1490 for trespassing and during the anti-union fighting of 1497 he pillaged a priest’s estate which almost led to him being banned for good. However, as part of the peace arrangements, an amnesty was offered which gave Eric a chance to go free. Not only pardoned, he was actually knighted in connection to the peace arrangements. It was at this point in time he became a Privy Councilman, but his questionable methods continued: he used his titles and power to peform legal fights about inheritance and methods being very closely similar to pure theft. Once more he almost got banned: a servant of his had burglarised a church in 1516, but Eric got off the hook thanks to his political ties.

Gustav’s mother was Cecilia Månsdotter Eka, also of noble blood. Both families had been involved in Swedish politics and wars for some time, but little did they know what role the new born son would play in Swedish history.

Gustav’s grandparents on his father’s side were Johan Kristersson and Birgitta Gustafsdotter. Johan was part of the Vasa dynasty and Birgitta of the powerful Sture dynasty. Sture the older and Sture the younger had both been very powerful men in Sweden, and Sture the younger still was. When Sture the older died, Gustav’s father Eric inherited estates in the procinves Uppland and Södermanland from him. Birgitta Gustafsdotter as well as Sten Sture are direct descendants from King Sverker 22 of Sweden according to genealogical research.

Early Life

Gustav I was born on 12th of May (although sources claim different dates so this should be taken with a grain of salt) the year of 1496 at his mother, Cecilia Månsdotter Eka’s family’s estate Lindholm or at Rydboholm Castle, Gustav’s father’s estate, the sources are not agreeing on the actual place of birth. (Most sources claim Rydboholm. Gustav had three sisters (four other siblings died very young): Margareta, Emerentia and Märta.

According to the somewhat doubtful source of the chronicles ordered by Gustav I himself, he went to Uppsala to study when he was thirteen. Upon completion of his education, he was sent to Sten Sture the younfers court for further education in practical things important for a young nobleman such as etiquet, fencing etc. At this time, he also received military education to become an officer as so many noblemen before him. Gustav also got involved in politics early on, being part of the powerful family that he was. He would also to try himself in battle in his early twenties, namely the battle at Vädla and the battle at Brännkyrka (1517 and 1518 respectively). Gustav I did manage to get employment within the Kingdom’s administration, but was too young to receive any higher status titles or occupations.

But, this was going to change, quite quickly even.. To continue reading about Gustav’s way to power, go to Gustav I – part I.

Go back to the main parts about Gustav I, part I, part II.

Sources: (Swedish only) (Swedish and English information)
“Fogdemakt och bondevrede”, Mats Adolfsson, Natur och Kultur (Swedish only) (Swedish only)


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