- Project Runeberg -  The History of the Swedes /
44

(1845) Author: Erik Gustaf Geijer Translator: John Hall Turner
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in Upper Sweden was undoubtedly his work.
Before him there were, even at Upsala, neither priests
nor a conveniently built house for the
congregation, wherefore he first applied himself to
complete the Church “now called Old Upsala, and
appointed clerks for the ministry of the altar [1].”
An old table of kings denominates him the Lawgiver,
and the rights of Swedish matrons to the
place of honour and housewifedom, to lock and
key, to the half of the marriage-bed, and the legal
third of the property, as the law of Upland
expresses it, are said to have been conferred by the
law of St. Eric. Against the heathens of Finland,
whose piracies harassed the Swedish coast, he
undertook a crusade, and by introducing Christianity,
as also probably by transplanting Swedish
colonists thither, he laid the foundation of the
connection which so long subsistsd between Sweden
and that country. St. Henry, the first bishop of
Upsala, of whose active exertions in propagating
Christianity history has preserved some record,
accompanied the king on this expedition; he was
the first apostle of the Finns, and suffered at their
hands the death of a martyr. At last, Eric was
unexpectedly beleaguered in Upsala by the Danish
prince Magnus Henryson, during the celebration of
divine service. The king heard the mass out, and
marched against the enemy. After a short but
valiant resistance he fell dead covered with wounds,
at East Aros, the present Upsala, on the 18th of
May, 1160. His virtues, and the austerity of his
life, procured him after death the reputation of
a saint. He was reverenced as the Protector of
Sweden; his banner waved in the field to
encourage the Swedes in battle with the enemies of
the realm; the anniversary of his death was kept
sacred throughout all the provinces; the town of
Stockholm bears his effigy on its arms, and the
cathedral of Upsala still preserves his relics, once
the objects of veneration. By the Church he was
never canonized, although a hundred years after
his death, the papacy, informed of the homage
which the people continued to pay to his memory,
exhorted the devout to make pilgrimages to his
tomb. The Romish court, however, was far from
being well-inclined to him at a period nearer his
own, for in a papal rescript of 1208 his family is
represented as having violently usurped the crown,
to the injury of the house of Swerker, its legitimate
owners. The old accounts unanimously assign him
a reign of ten years; he was therefore raised to
the crown in 1150, five years before the death of
Swerker. His sovereignty at first extended only
over Sweden Proper; indeed he was acknowledged
but for a time in Gothland, whose inhabitants had
nominated Charles Swerkerson. The latter is said
to have held real possession of the government for
two years before the death of St. Eric [2], and is even
accused of having been a party to the plot against
him.

The Danish prince Magnus Henryson was
descended from Stenkil by his mother, who was
daughter of the elder Ingo’s son, and was thereby a
coparcener of those hereditary estates in
West-Gothland devolving on the Danish royal family,
which according to Saxo were the source of so
much strife. It is expressly said that Magnus
claimed the throne as his inheritance in right of
his mother, and that he obtained a powerful native
party of supporters. If we consider that he
already possessed by his descent the strongest claim
on the attachment of the West Goths, and that the
latter had once before called a Danish prince to the
crown upon a like occasion, we shall probably
conclude that this was the last attempt at the
restoration of the Westgothic dynasty. Magnus
Henryson, who is charged with having been privy to the
murder of the old king Swerker [3], was in effect
elected, and the Westgothic catalogue of kings
mentions him as the fourteenth Christian sovereign
of Sweden. He was not long allowed to remain in
the enjoyment of his new dignity; the people
revolted, and Charles Swerkerson also turning his
arms against him, he was defeated and slain in the
year 1161. Canute, son of St. Eric, was constrained
to flee into Norway, where two of his
sisters afterwards married [4]; he had a brother
named Philip [5] of whom nothing is known.

Charles Swerkerson is the first whom we find
mentioned as king of the Swedes and Goths [6]; he
is likewise, so far as is known, the first Swedish
king who bore the name of Charles. In the fabulous
and partly invented list of sovereigns of early
ages given by Joannes Magnus, Charles Swerkerson
was made the seventh of his name among
Swedish kings, a computation which usage
afterwards sanctioned [7]. During the reign of Charles was
established, in 1163, the archbishopric of Upsala.
Bishops of Skara, Linköping, Strengnas, Westeras, and
shortly afterwards of Wexio and Abo, are mentioned
as suffragans of his see; and he was himself
subordinate to the archbishop of Lund, who bore the title
of Primate of Sweden. This precedence, however,
was afterwards brought into question, and finally
abrogated. Papal briefs to the archbishops and
their suffragans begin now to throw some light on
the condition of the Swedish Church. Complaints are
made that secular persons, at their own caprice or
for money, and without the consent of the spiritual
authorities, often ordained as priests runaway
monks, homicides, or other malefactors; that they
embezzled the revenues of the churches, especially
during the vacancy of benefices, and even broke
open and plundered the sacred buildings; that
they cited the clergy to appear before secular
tribunals, subjecting them to the ordeals of battle,
red hot iron, or boiling water, and if they refused
to obey the summons, burning down their houses.
Repeated mention of these remonstrances shows
that the disorders complained of long continued.
Bequests to the Church, in particular, furnished
incessant matter of dispute. Pope Alexander III.
had himself enacted that no man should be allowed
in this way to dispose of his whole property, but only,


[1] Life of St. Eric, ibid. ii. 273. From the account of his
death, it appears that he also built a church at East Aros, or
the present Upsala.
[2] Chronica Erici Olai.
[3] Saxo, l. xiv.
[4] Margaret married the Norwegian king Sverre in 1185.
[5] Liljegren, Swenskt Diplomatarium, p. 95.
[6] In a letter from Pope Alexander III. in 1161.
[7] Just as St. Eric is styled Eric IX., although this is in
some measure defensible, if we include all the heathen kings
of this name in the calculation. He was himself the first
Christian king of the name, whence his grandson is called in
the old chronologies and catalogues Ericus Secundus, and
his son again, Eric Ericson, actually entitles himself Ericus
Tertius.

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