Swedish National Day is celebrated because of two things.
First on June 6, 1523, Gustav Vasa was elected King. The second reason Swedish
National Day is celebrated also is since on June 6, 1809, the country adopted a
new constitution. About 1000, the first king known to rule over both Svealand and Götaland was Olof Skötkonung, but the later history
with the kings whose periods of actual power unclear. In the 12th century,
Sweden was still dealing with the struggles between the Erik and the Sverker clans, which finally
ended when a third clan married into the Erik clan and founded the Folkunga dynasty on the throne.
This dynasty gradually consolidated a pre-Kalmar-Union Sweden to a strong
state, and king Magnus IV also ruled over Norway and Scania. Following the Black
Death, this union was severely weakened, and Scania was lost to
Denmark. During the early Middle Ages, the Swedish state also expanded to
control Norrland and Finland. Historians don’t know
how this exactly happened; some of the crusades to christen the Finns
that are mentioned in some sources are considered unhistorical. What is clear
is that this expansion sparked tension with the Russian states, tension that
was to continue through Swedish history. Margareta was born in 1353 and learned
politics from her father, King Valdemat Atterdag. She was married to King Hakon
of Norway in 1363 at ten years of age. In 1370, at the age of 17, she has a
young boy named Olav. But her husband was often gone, with the treasury having
little money, so Margareta had to handle affairs, both domestic and state. In
1376, she got Olav approved as the King of Denmark, and 1385 as King of Norway.
 In 1387, Olav died of an illness. She exerted her power and influence,
though, to have Denmark and Norway agree let her select the heir, and they
would acknowledge her choice as their king. In 1390 her heir, Erik of
Pomerania, was also made the King of Sweden. Thus, for a short time, this Union
of Kalmar united Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under a single ruler. After
Margareta’s death in 1412, though, her successor could not live up to what was
needed to keep the the lands united. Erik  appointed foreigners to many
Swedish and other governmental positions, which violated an agreement he made.
Also, he attempted to conquer more of the Baltic coast but met heavy resistance
from the Hansa. To continue the war, he pushed heavy taxes upon the people.
Thus dissent grew and with him continuing to break his agreement by hiring more
foreigners, as well as ignoring Swedish council advice, caused great strife.
Rebellion grew, but it was put down through the death of the leader Engelbrekt,
not by Erik, but by a personal enemy. The Danish though, sensing Erik’s
weakness as a king, elected a new king in 1439 to take his place. This was King
Kristofer, and he was accepted by Norway and Sweden as well in 1442, but he
died on his way to Sweden in 1448, causing chaos. Sweden and Norway recognized
one leader, while Denmark elected their own king. Through the constant wars to
regain the right to rule, the death of kings, and constant rebellions, no man
would become king of all three countries. Thus, the Kalmar Union collapsed.
After this collapse, intermittent wars would continue to break out between the
countries. One such war was the conflict between the King of Denmark, Kristen
I, and Sten Sture of Sweden.

In 1518, Gustav Vasa was
one of six hostages sent by Sten Sture as part of an armistice between Sture
and King Kristen I. Kristen violated the agreement and returned to Denmark
along with the hostages. Gustav Vasa would escape Denmark and King Kristen and
in September of 1519 he made his way to Lubeck, from where he went to Sweden,
where he arrived in 1520. Word reached him of the Stockholm bloodbath. The
Stockholm bloodbath took place during the invasion of Sweden by Danish forces.
This occurred between November 7-9, 1520, when around 80-90 people were
executed. Despite King Christians promise to agreeing to give people a fair
trial. During this Gustav Vasa’s father and two uncles were executed, and his
mother, aunt, grandmother and three sisters were imprisoned. He then made his
way to Delarna and was hailed as a Captain, and in January of 1521 the war of
liberation began. In February of 1521 he led a raid, gaining fame as well as
the Dalarma seal and the right to make official proclamations due to this. As
his fame increased, more and more volunteers joined him and people revolted in
his honor. Whenever Vasa arrived to his destination, he was almost immediately
accepted as the new leader. On August 23, 1521, Vasa was named the regent.
Still, there were some high ranking holdouts that Vasa had to convince. He
promised them that he would consult them on decisions and thus won their
support. However, supplies and money were low and thus Vasa needed to turn to
the nearby country of Lubeck for aid. Vasa sent them a shipload of silver,
along with many special privileges, and in return they offered military and
naval support. With opposition and many problems at home in Denmark, the new
king Frederik did not push to attack Sweden. Sweden, not wanting to waste time
in case they were attacked, elected Gustav Vasa as the official King of Sweden
on June 6, 1523. However, Vasa still had many problems to contend with, mainly
Lubeck and the Church. Lubeck was constantly demanding the privileges promised
as well as more privileges to be granted for their aid, which was a large
factor in Vasa’s victory, and thus he was in their debt. Lubeck began to slowly
strangle the Swedish economy, as they were free from taxes, and decreed that
Sweden could not trade outside of the Baltic Sea. As this occurred, anger was
also building among the nobles and common folk. The peasants complained of the
high taxes and their little voice in the government, while the nobles wondered
why Vasa, and not one of them, was king. When Kristina Sture, a powerful widow,
was released and returned to Sweden, she began to spark rumors of her
establishing a powerful political alliance with a general to elevate her son to
the throne. Vasa stopped this threat by forcing out the general she formed an
alliance with and had the widow married to his supporter. Another revolt
occurred soon after, though. This was to make Nils Sture, who was actually an
imposter and not the real Nils Sture, the new king. Nevertheless, this revolt
was stopped by Vasa. Due to his actions, many future revolts may have been
prevented due to fear, and ones that did occur would be stopped. Also, Vasa was
coming to power, Protestantism was spreading northward, and Vasa soon came into
conflict with the church. He demanded money from them, as well as land, as the
church owned one-fifth of the land. He proclaimed that it was for the common
good and that the church’s money really belonged to the people and not
specifically the church. This made the church, which could become a strong
rival for power to Vasa, weaker while also making Vasa more powerful. As time
increased, Vasa began to separate the church from Rome in order to make it
under his control. In November 1531, the exiled King Kristen II tried to make a
comeback and regain his throne. He marched through Norway but was defeated by
the combined efforts of Vasa and the Danish king, Frederik I. Soon after,
Lubeck went to war with the Netherlands. They called for Sweden’s aid, as they
were allies, in order for the debt Sweden owed them to be paid back. Vasa,
though, sensing an opportunity to be freed from Lubeck’s power, refused to help
them. Lubeck then went into war with the Danish, who Vasa helped crush Lubeck
and also a few of Vasa’s enemies in the process. Sweden would later reestablish
trade ties with Lubeck, but this time under Swedish discretion. In the summer
of 1542, Vasa sent his chief diplomat, Conrad von Pyhy, to arrange a meeting
with King Francis I of France. Unfortunately, the riches and splendor in France
went to Pyhy’s head. He spent massive amounts of money, promised France to send
25,000 men and 50 ships, and hired German knights to return to Sweden to stop
an imminent revolt in Smaland. The people of and around Smaland were angry
about the church money being taken away, the high taxes due to constant wars,
and that the nobility were forcing them to trade at a faraway Swedish market
instead of a nearby Dutch market in order for the profits to go to Sweden. Nils
Dacke, the protest leader, gathered a massive amount of peasants and then began
a full fledged revolt. The German mercenaries hired by Pyhy couldn’t cope with
the Swedish guerilla tactics and were thus useless. Vasa was forced to manage
the propaganda himself with Pyhy gone. He made a speech detailing all the
improvements made to the country and how it would be foolish to throw it all
away with rebellion. In the spring of 1543, Vasa was able to raise a devastating
army and crush the rebellion along with Nils Dacke, the revolt leader, who was
killed in battle. With the rebellion taken care of, there was peace once more.

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He then turned to
matters of an heir, of which he had ten children, ensuring his line would not
die out, and then to military matters. Many of the church schools had been
underfunded and so abandoned after Vasa significantly cut church funds, thus
resulting in a mass shortage of Swedish men who were qualified enough to handle
governmental matters. Consequently Vasa had to trust foreigners, most of whom
were German, with governmental and military affairs in which loyalty could
become a glaring issue. Thus, in 1544, for the first time in fourteen years,
the national legislative body of Sweden, the Riksdag, was called. They revised
how the succession of monarchs would work so that it would be in birth order
and reorganized the military system. In wartime universal service would still
be expected, but in peacetime one out of six Swedish men would be drafted in
order to have a standing army, significantly lessening the need for German
mercenaries. Sweden would be the first country in Europe to have a standing
army, even in peacetime, due to Gustav Vasa’s influence. Vasa would die on
September 29th, 1560. He changed
Sweden from a constant war of different factions into a unified people under a
common ruler who could defend their own borders and have Swedish officials.
Vasa, more than anyone else, was responsible for the creation of the Sweden we
know today.

After Gustav III’s
assassination in 1792, the throne went to his lazy brother, Duke Karl, who did
not want the job, however, and turned it over to his friend. His friend,
Reuterholm tried to be a strong and clever leader, but failed and was exiled
when Gustav IV was old enough to take the throne. Gustav IV had a horrible
reign, and his one accomplishment was the agricultural revolution in Sweden,
which took place during his reign, and was headed by Rutger Maclean.  In
1805, he waged a disastrous war on France, but when France allied themselves
with Russia, Russia invaded Finland and conquered it.  Gustav tried to
fight Russia but failed miserably in his tactics, and thus revolt and dissent
grew. In 1809, he lost his throne due to incompetence on military, diplomatic,
and economic affairs. On March 13, 1809, the king was arrested by one of the
generals conspiring against him, along with a few guards. No one made any
significant moves to help the king, due to his massive unpopularity. On May
1st, 1809, the riksdag was called, and on May 12th a constitutional committee
began work on a constitution. It included a balance of power between the three
branches, which were executive, legislative, and judiciary. If the king was
absent for over a year, the riksdag could do what was necessary, continuing the
long running theme of Sweden that the riksdag could make and destroy a king.
The king could also veto the riksdag’s laws, and the riksdag could veto his
decisions.  On June 5th, the riksdag improved the constitution, and on
June 6th it was approved by Duke Karl, who was reluctant to take the throne but
did, and then was immediately made King Karl XIII. Thus, the national
constitution of Sweden was born. This constitution would last until the 1970s
with only some minor modifications over time.