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Gustavus I

Gustavus I (gəstāˈvəs) [key], 1496–1560, king of Sweden (1523–60), founder of the modern Swedish state and the Vasa dynasty. Known as Gustavus Eriksson before his coronation, he was the son of Erik Johansson, a Swedish senator and follower of the Sture family. Gustavus was treacherously imprisoned by Christian II, the Danish king who was attempting to assert his control over Sweden under the Kalmar Union. In 1520 his father was one of the nationalist leaders killed in the massacre Christian ordered at Stockholm after he had defeated Sweden. Having escaped from prison, Gustavus led the peasants of Dalarna to victory over the Danes and was elected (1521) protector of Sweden. In 1523 the Riksdag at Strangnas elected him king, ending the Kalmar Union. In 1527, Gustavus convinced the Riksdag at Vasteras to establish a national Protestant Church. To help create a strong monarchy, he wanted the revenue controlled by the Roman Catholic Church and a state Church subservient to his needs. Gustavus organized a national army of Swedish volunteers and built an efficient navy. Because the German city of Lübeck had supported Gustavus against Christian, it had gained extensive trading privileges in Sweden. A temporary Danish-Swedish alliance led to victory over Lübeck in 1537 and freedom for the Swedish economy to grow; native industries were developed and foreign trade expanded. Gustavus firmly established royal authority, crushed several peasant and clerical revolts, limited the power of the nobility, and in 1544, by the Pact of Succession, made the throne hereditary in the Vasa family, thereby ending the practice of electing Swedish kings. At his death his eldest son succeeded him as Eric XIV, while his other three sons were named royal dukes with wide powers.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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