History Files

European Kingdoms

Northern Europe


Sweden (Swedes / Suiones) (Scando-Germanic)

FeatureMuch of the northern and central areas that make up modern Sweden were occupied from the end of the last ice age by Sámi tribes and the preceding hunter-gatherer clans whom they had absorbed. Following the arrival of Finno-Ugric tribes (Finns and Kvens) and Indo-Europeans in the third millennium, it also became home to various Germanic groups (in the southernmost third of its territory) which made an impact on the history of northern Europe, and even further afield. The birth of the modern Swedish nation took place following the Viking Age, along with the simultaneous arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia. Before that, the Scandinavians were contained entirely within the very southern sections of Sweden and Norway. The rest was part of a poorly-defined and attested territory known in modern times as Kvenland, which stretched all the way east into modern Russia (see the link, right, for an examination of the origins of 'Scandinavia' as a name).

Pre-Christian Sweden was home to more than just the early Swedes (which itself is a label that cannot really be pinned to any specific people but was more probably a kind of amalgam of peoples, in the same way that the early English were an amalgam of several tribes and kingdoms of Germanic peoples). The Gepids, Goths, Heruli, Rugii, Scirii, Vandali (probably), and Warini originated in Sweden, before migrating into Eastern Europe in the first century. The Danes and the Geats also originated there, and the latter are sometimes connected with the Goths (some claim a connection based on naming similarities in the original language while others suggest that the two are separate peoples linked, perhaps, only by their location in Sweden). The Danes largely migrated into Jutland and the Cimbric peninsula following apparent dynastic battles in the fourth or fifth century. In the territory of the 'Swedes' themselves, the early kings emerged from semi-legendary beginnings.

The first mention of Swedes in history comes from Tacitus in AD 98, who calls them Suiones. Jordanes in the sixth century calls them Suehans and Suetidi (the same people but possibly in two divisions). They initially occupied the region of Svealand in what is now lower central Sweden, which is how they were named: Sverige, the people of Svea (and later, kingdom of Svea).

The name as written down by Tacitus - Suiones - has the Latin plural '-es', added to the ancient Germanic definite article '-on' (still used in modern Swedish), which leaves 'sui', otherwise 'svea'. Due to the presence of the definite article, it seems that the people are not named after the region, but quite the reverse. But what 'sui/sve' mean? A best guess uses the proto-Germanic 'swinan', meaning 'swine'. Proto-Germanic suffixes were often reduced or entirely eliminated over time, so '-an' would be eliminated, and the terminal '-n' reduced to silence. By this they would be calling themselves after the fierce and quite dangerous male pigs, or 'suion', meaning 'the boars'.

The early kings were all Ynglings (Scylfings, also the ancient house of the kings of the Danes before their migration to the Cimbric peninsula, which probably reflects a shared heritage). Based on medieval accounts, the roots of the early Ynglings were in Kvenland. Whether those roots were on the modern Swedish or Finnish side of the northern arm of the 'Kven Sea' (the modern Gulf of Bothnia), is unclear, but until the medieval period all of this was part of Kvenland anyway. Based on some evidence, such as statements by Snorri Sturluson, the Ynglings appear to have originated from the Finnish side of the gulf, known in Sweden as 'Österland' at the time of Sturluson's accounts. Whether they were actually Kvens themselves is open to (somewhat intense) debate. It is just as likely that they were Scandinavians who had migrated eastwards before returning to play a leading role in the creation of a Scandinavian kingdom.

The Ynglings account for the earliest rulers, and those of them without a firm footing in history may still have existed. To show their lack of historical connection, they are listed here with a lilac backing. Alternate dates are shown in red text alongside relevant entries. There seems to be a lot of confusion and contradiction regarding ninth century kings, and the information shown here is an amalgam of several sources, creating the most comprehensive list possible under the circumstances.

The numbering of Swedish kings began around the time of Gustav Vasa and his sons in the sixteenth century. Karl IX and Erik XIV based their numbering on the king list made up by (pseudo-) historian Johannes Magnus, the last Roman Catholic archbishop of Sweden who later ended his life in exile in Italy. He wanted to give the Swedes an impressive history, as Saxo Grammaticus had done with the Danes. He based his work on the available legends, such as those of the Ynglings, but he wanted to start Swedish history with Noah's son Magog, and to fill the gaps he simply invented a great number of kings. There are no known rulers named Karl before Karl VII. They were completely made up. The present king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, is de facto Carl X Gustaf. Some of Johannes Magnus' thirteen Eriks were also invented, and he missed a few others that might well have existed. Unlike Karl, it is possible to collect more than fourteen Eriks, although there is no accepted way of numbering them before Erik IX.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, Erik Uppenberg (on the earliest Swedish kings and their numbering), Jonathan Nyberg, and Per Söderberg, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content which is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).

c.AD 50 - 150

MapGermanic peoples have occupied the far southern areas of modern Sweden and Norway for many centuries, remaining relatively isolated at first. Penned in by the native Kvens to the north, they also appear to have been dominated by the Western Celts (Gauls) for a time before beginning a period of military growth and expansion, not only northwards but also into northern and Eastern Europe in the first centuries BC and AD.

Map of Scandinavia c.AD 100
Early Germanic peoples in Scandinavia were clustered for the most part along the coasts of southern Scandinavia, and only began to expand inland from the third century AD or so (click or tap on map to view full sized)

One of the earliest major migrations of this kind that can be charted with any degree of certainty is when the Gothic peoples leave southern Sweden and move into Willenberg Poland in the first and second centuries AD (possibly following an earlier path trod by the Langobards). The migration has a great impact on the population around the Baltic shores, resulting in many of them moving towards eastern Lithuania. Probably as another chapter in this general wave of migration, the Warini may also leave Sweden at this time, as they are to be found on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea by AD 70.


Writing around this time, the Roman writer Tacitus mentions the Suevi, listing their constituent tribes which cover the larger part of Germania. Noted for their custom of twisting their hair and binding it up in a knot, the various divisions of the Suiones (Swedes) form part of their number. The latter have a strong military with a strong fleet, according to Tacitus, while modern historians believe that southern and central Scandinavia is overpopulated at this time, accounting for waves of migration into mainland Europe at this time. Burgundians (probably), Gepids, Goths, Heruli, Langobards (also probably), Rugii, Scirii, Vandali and Warini can all be found along the southern Baltic coast around this time, and all are thought to have a Scandinavian origin.

Kings of Upsal (Swedes)

The birthplace and the governing centre of the early kingdom of the Swedes, based on much evidence, was the area of Uppland, on the eastern coast (just north of the modern city of Stockholm). Uppland had previously been part of the amorphous territory of Kvenland, and it still bordered Kvenland during the Viking Age. The early Swedes probably moved into the region from the south during the second to fourth centuries AD, absorbing or pushing back the Kven population that remained and creating a proto-Swedish territory (the blending that might have taken place if Kvens were absorbed into the territory can be seen in the kingdoms of Hwicce and Lindsey in fifth and sixth century Britain). In addition, the early 'Swedes' were probably an amalgam of various peoples in the region rather than a specific cultural or ethnic group. They may have emerged with this identity in much the same way as the idea of the 'English' emerged in Britain from a disunited collection of Germanic kingdoms and tribes.

The traditional list of kings of the early Swedes begins with Frey-Yngvi, but the list remains legendary until at least the mid-fifth century, passed down by oral tradition alone. Most of these early kings were born and lived in Upsal (modern Uppsala in eastern Sweden), and are often called kings of Upsal, which is almost certainly the extent of their early, tribal territory. They existed around the northern edge of a land that was occupied by other tribes, including the Danes and Geats. A few other petty Swedish kingdoms, such as Götaland, Scania, and Tiundaland, also existed, although according to the available evidence they were rarely long-lasting. Dates for the kings of Upsal vary widely from the first century to the fifth century AD, but the latter seems much more likely given the more concrete dates for some of their descendants.

FeatureThis early Swedish period was one in which, as Edward Dawson points out, it seems likely that Norse magical tradition was inherited from the Finns and/or Kvens. It shows the characteristics of the shamanism of Uralic and Altaic speakers and related groups across northern Eurasia. An absolute characteristic of the Eurasian shamanic cosmogony is the higher/middle/lower worlds division, quite evident in the nine worlds of Norse myth if you have magical knowledge and know the subject properly. The Germanic peoples, who originated as a recognisable group in southern Scandinavia, show evidence of strong contact and influence from Celts and Finns/Kvens. Of their deities, there seems to be only one direct descendant from Indo-European tradition, that of Tyr or Tiu (who is cognate with 'deus' or 'dyus'). The others appear to be either invented (Heimdall means 'home valley'), or borrowed (Thor was the Taranus/Taranis of the Celts), or they are deified humans such as Wotan (the Woden of the Angles).

The reason that Thor is traced back via Taranus (and not directly to the older Indo-European Perkwunos) is down to the competition between cults of various deiwaz (deva) and the various ansuraz (asura). This competition resulted in some co-existence, but mostly in one cult dominating the other. In India both coexist. In Greek and Roman cults the devas won. In German cults - and apparently Celtic cults - the asuras won. Taranus has been explained here as a mangled form of 'your protector' (Tu waranos), which descended from Warunaz and was cognate with Varuna and Uranus (a similar process of constructing a name is visible in Te-ushpa-a of the Cimmerians).

(Information on the earliest Swedish kings and their numbering by Erik Uppenberg. Additional information by Jonathan Nyberg, Edward Dawson, Per Söderberg, from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page, from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, and from External Links: Kings of Sweden, and Sandby Borg (dead link).)


By this time, the Suevi have formed a wide-ranging confederation of tribes which are all known individually but which are counted as being Suevi.

The vast number of tribes included in the confederation include the Aestii, Angles, Aviones, Buri, Cotini, Eudoses, Gutones, Hermunduri (who have virtually ceased to exist as a recognisable independent people), Langobards, Lugii (a name applied to several tribes: the Harii, Helisii, Helveconae, Manimi, and Naharvali), Marcomanni, Marsigni, Naristi, Nuitones, Osi, Quadi, Reudigni, Semnones, Sitones, Suardones, Suiones (Swedes), and the Warini.

Njord / Niord 'The Rich'

Legendary ancestor figure and a god of the Vanir.


Nephew. First king of Upsal. Founder of the Ynglingers.

Frey establishes Upsal as the capital of the territory of the Swedes. He oversees a prosperous period which makes his people believe that he controls the seasons and the weather. When he dies, his earls built a mound over him and kept his death a secret for three years. When the people find out that he has died but the harvest is still good, they believe it will remain so as long as his body remains in Sweden. Therefore, his body is not cremated according to tradition. The Northmen make sacrifices to him for a good harvest for hundreds of years afterwards. He is also known as Yngvi, considered a name of honour, and one which gives birth to the name of Ynglinger for his descendants.

Finnestorp buckle, Västergötland
A miniature face on a fifth century gilded cast copper-alloy display buckle discovered at Finnestorp in Västergötland in southern Sweden

It is from the 'jul' festival (or 'Yule', the Christmas and midwinter period) to Frey and his twin sister, Freya, that the tradition of making a New Year's resolution descends. Each year, a boar is brought into the feasting hall where the men lay hands on it and make oaths and promises about what they will do or accomplish in the coming year. Then the boar is sacrificed, cooked, and eaten.


Son. Powerful, and lucky in holding the peace. Drowned.

Svegdir / Svegde / Swegder

Son. An explorer.


Son. A great warrior.


Son. Burned to death in his own house by his two sons.


Son. Oversaw a great famine. Put to death to end it.


Son. Uncle of Nori, founder of the kingdom of Norway.

Nori is the legendary founder of the kingdom of Norway. He is mentioned in several medieval Scandinavian texts, which establish that he is either the son of Danp (who himself is the brother-in-law of Domar), or one of the sons of King Ypper of Uppsala (the other two being Dan, who later rules Denmark, and Østen, who later rules the Swedes (possibly the Östen of the late sixth century)). Nori is also claimed as a descendant of King Fornjótr of Kvenland.

c.400 - 500

The Dene, or Danes, migrate during this period from southern Sweden into Jutland and the Cimbric peninsula. The migration comes at a time when Danish rule is fragmented and new dynasties of rulers are emerging.

Dygvi / Dygve


Dag the Wise


Agni / Agne

Son. Led a victorious expedition against the Finns.

The Ynglinga Saga mentions the earliest-known military expedition to Finland. 'It happened one summer that King Agne went with his army to Finland, and landed and marauded. The Finns gathered a large army, and proceeded to the strife under a chief called Froste. There was a great battle, in which King Agne gained the victory, and Froste fell there with a great many of his people. King Agne proceeded with armed hand through Finland, subdued it, and made enormous booty.' It is unclear whether this attack is against a chief of the vast territory of Kvenland, the coastal Finns, or the later northwestern region of Finnmark (now northern Norway).

Eric IV

Son. The first Eric, despite the numbering. Fought against Jorund.

Alrek / Alric

Brother and co-ruler.

fl c.440s?

Eric and Alrek are correctly placed here, following Agni, although there is a suggestion that they should be closer to Jorund and Egil, below, given that Jorund and Eric are opponents. However, a fully accurate list of these early kings is impossible to assemble, and as Jorund also has a brother named Eric, perhaps instead it is these two who fall out and fight.

Yngvi / Yngve

Son of Alrek. Not the same as Frey-Yngvi, founder of the kingdom.


Brother and co-ruler.

450s / 460s

From this point, the legendary kings of the Swedes emerge partly into history, or at least become less legendary. The ancient dynasty of the Ynglings (or Scylfings) is now occasionally mentioned in various sources other than the Norse sagas, including the Old English epic poem, Beowulf, and the Ynglinga Saga by Icelandic Bishop Snorri Sturluson. Their group or tribal name is the same as that of the ancient kings of the Danes prior to their migration, suggesting common links between the two peoples. The Swedes are still limited at this time to Svealand in the north - although this 'north' is in fact part of the southernmost third of modern Sweden. The rest is Kvenland and is not Swedish at all. On the contrary, it seems likely that these early kings of the Swedes have distinct Kven origins (or mixed Germano-Kvenish origins) on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia.

Hugliek / Hugleik

Son of Alf. Assumed the throne as Jorund was an infant.

c.450 - 500

One of the biggest mysteries of the Migration Period takes place at some point in the late fifth century or early sixth. The long and narrow island of Öland in the Baltic Sea, close to Sweden's south-eastern coast, is becoming important as a crossroads for Baltic trade. Commanding it means power and status. Archaeology on the island has shown that the gradual disintegration of the Roman empire has left a large number of former soldiers deposited here. Presumably this is after having followed the trade routes themselves or returning home after having offered themselves for service to Rome, as no Roman outpost had ever been established this far north. These soldiers have probably found that some degree of their experience is required on the island, but they also largely turn their hands to a more pastoral existence.

A Swedish borg of the type used on Oland island
This model at Kalmar County Museum shows the layout of the typical borg, with high walls and limited entrance points (although without the Roman gates), food stores inside the walls and a temporary village structure in the centre, presumably for times of need or perhaps the depths of winter

Several massive fortifications known as borgs have been established on the island, with earthen walls and Roman-style gates around 4.5 metres which encircle small villages and food stores. These borgs appear to be temporary residences rather than permanent settlements. One such borg is now attacked and defeated, its hundreds of inhabitants brutally executed, some with their mouths stuffed with goat and sheep's teeth. Greeks and Romans both buried warriors with coins in their mouths to pay for their transportation into the afterlife, but Germanic tribes also have a similar practice, suggesting a shared Indo-European origin for the practice. This version, however, seems to be a parody of that custom.

The bodies are left unburied, rotting where they lie. None of the considerable wealth that is left behind is plundered. Leaving behind such valuable plunder, not only at the time of the massacre but for every generation afterwards until the settlement is overgrown and hidden by nature, suggests something greater than mere political warfare. It suggests dire warnings against trespass across the generations, with parents instructing their children not to go near the cursed site. Usually only plague sites can generate such an impact, although the cause in this borg's case is still unknown.

One other theory is that some sort of religious or shamanistic involvement is responsible. Fifth century Romans are Christians, while Scandinavians are staunchly pagan. If the borg with its large Roman population has been Christianised and is attempting to 'infect' the rest of the island, the local pagan priests may be responsible for organising an attack. Orders will have been given that nothing be touched. The priests may themselves may have gone in and taken and destroyed Christian objects, forbidding anyone else from touching anything in the fear that a cross may be found that they have missed. Such priestly commands would be even more unbreakable that a fear of disease.


Son of Yngvi. An infant at the time of his father's death.

Jorund and his brother, Eric, remain on their warships while Hugliek is king, and they prove to be great warriors. They maraud in Norway where they fight and capture King Gudlog of Hålogaland. They hang him at Stomones and allow his men to raise a mound over him. Presumably Jorund returns to Upsal upon the death of Hugliek.

fl 490s - c.515

Egil / Ongentheow / Egil Tunadogil

Killed in battle by the Geats.


Describing a Europe of about AD 500, the Old English poem Widsith mentions several Germanic peoples, not all of whom can be properly identified. Several of them can be located in Sweden or in the islands which surround it in the Baltic Sea, including the Brondings and Hälsings, and Ongendþeow (Ongentheow ) himself.


During the Swedish-Geatish Wars, Hæþcyn of the Geats kidnaps Ongentheow's wife. He goes to rescue her, and Hæþcyn is killed in the fighting. His brother Hygelac arrives with Geatish reinforcements a day later and one of his warriors, Eofor, kills Ongentheow.

Geat warriors
A depiction of the fearsome Geat warriors of the time of Hygelac and Beowulf, according to twenty-first century Hollywood

c.515 - ?

Ottar / Ohthere / Ottar Wend-crow

Son, according to Beowulf.

The name of the new king of the Swedes, 'Ohthere', derives from the proto-Norse *Ōhta-harjaz or *Ōhtu-harjaz. The 'harjaz' element is common in Germanic names and means 'warrior' or 'army' (the English 'Harry' has the same root). The 'oht' element is less frequent, and has been tentatively interpreted as 'fearsome' or 'feared'. Harjaz (Härja in modern Swedish) also means 'to raid' 'pillage'. Today, there is a burial mound at Husby in Uppland in Sweden that is traditionally known as Ottarshögen and which is linked to Ohthere. The area is very close to the modern parish of Vendel, which contains boat burials of a kind that strongly links it to the East Angles of King Raedwald of the sixth century, while the name Vendel suggests a direct link to the Vandali.

? - c.530

Áli / Ale / Onela

Brother. 'Hinn Upplenzki', from Uppland.


Onela plays a central part in the Swedish-Geatish wars. When he seizes the throne following the death of his elder brother, Ohthere's sons, Eanmund and Eadgils, find refuge with the Geats. Onela attacks the Geats and Eanmund is slain (by Weohstan), as is the Geatish king. Beowulf succeeds to the Geatish throne and helps Eadgils to kill Onela.

c.530 - 575

Adils / Aðils / Eadgils


Hrólf Kraki of the Danes is claimed in Gautreks saga as a contemporary of King Adils. Vikar, king of Agder in Norway is also claimed as a contemporary, seemingly contradicting other mentions of him that seem to place him a century later. Gautrek himself, king of Götland, is also placed in the same generation as Adils, and is thought to flourish around the 620s, so it can clearly be seen that chronology is not especially strict in the sagas.


Jordanes mentions a tribe called the Theustes who are situated in the Tjust region of Småland in south Götaland, the land of the Geats. Tjust is in the north-eastern corner of the region, but nothing more is known of the tribe. They may be a branch of the Geats, although the region maintains its own laws and traditions right up to the early Middle Ages and retains self-rule until about 1350, when a unified code of law is imposed throughout the country.

Jordanes also lists many more tribes in Scandinavia (these being the ones situated in modern Sweden and Finland): the Screrefennae (Sámi peoples of Kvenland) and the Suehans (Swedes) on the eastern edge, the latter being noted for their splendid horses. Further south there are far more tribes living shoulder to shoulder: the Theustes, Vagoth (Gotlanders?), Bergio (probably in the region of Skåne), Hallin (southern Halland), and Liothida (again probably in Skåne), Further southwards are the Ahelmil (probably in the region of Halmstad), Finnaithae (in Finnveden), Fervir (Fjäre Hundred), and Gauthigoth (the Västergötland Geats). Then come the Mixi, Evagre, and Otingis. Southernmost in Scandinavia live the Ostrogoths (the Östergötland Geats), Aeragnaricii, and the most gentle Finns. Similarly located are the Vinoviloth (either Kvens or the Reudigni), Suetidi (Swedes again), and Dani (Danes), the latter being responsible for driving out the Heruli.

Östen / Eystein


Wiglaf, son of the Weohstan who killed Eanmund circa 530, becomes king of the Geats. This seems to signal the beginning of increasing control over the Geats by the Swedes, either during Wiglaf's reign or those of his immediate successors.


Ingvar / Yngvar Harra

Son of Eystein. Killed fighting Estonians, early 7th century.

early 7th century

Ingvar ventures into Estonian lands to pillage from the Eastern pirates in retribution for attacks on Sweden. When he arrives at an unidentified place named Stein, he is attacked by a great Estonian army which had been assembled much further inland. The Estonians overwhelm the Swedish force and Ingvar falls. The surviving Swedes withdraw and Ingvar is buried in a mound on the Estonian shore.

c.600 - 630s?

Following the death of Stóvirk (Stórvirkr), his son Starkad is brought up in the court of Harald, king of Agder in Norway, along with Harald's son, Víkar. King Herthjóf (Herþjófr) of Hördaland makes a surprise attack on the kingdom one night and kills Harald, taking Víkar hostage so that the young king's subjects remain subjugated. Herthjóf is the grandson of Fridthjóf the Bold, the main protagonist in Fridthjófs saga ins frækna. Vikar waits some years before gathering some men and striking back, killing Herthjóf and regaining his kingdom, along with some of the lands of his fallen oppressor.

Now that he has been restored to his rightful inheritance, Vikar of Agder kills Herthjóf's brother, King Geirthjóf of Oppland, at the First Battle of Telemark. He also gains Thelemark itself from Geirthjóf's other brother, Fridthjóf, after the Second Battle of Telemark. In this Vikar is aided by King Óláf the Keen-Eyed of Nærríki in Sweden and by Starkad. Unfortunately, Vikar is subsequently killed by Starkad in order that the latter might 'gain the blessings of Odin', which sounds suspiciously like an attempted coup.

Anund / Önund / Road-Onund / Braunt

Son. Anund and his son, Ingjald, are the last of the Ynglings.

fl c.620s

Svipdag the Blind

Son. Minor king of Tiundaland, near Uppsala.


This period sees the ending of the Ynglings and the emergence of a new, more powerful Swedish kingship, seemingly as part of a process of expanding the power of the Swedes at the expense of their presumably weaker neighbours.

Kings of the Swedes

At least as late as the ninth century, the area of modern Sweden was still inhabited by Danes, Geats, Gutes (of the island of Gotland, or Götaland), Kvens (perhaps), Norse, Sámi (in northern Kvenland - specifically the poorly-defined Finnmark region), and Sveas (Swedes). The Sveas, however, were becoming dominant by that stage, and were already beginning to absorb the Geats and others to create the idea of a Swedish nationhood. The Geats were easily the equals of the Swedes during the fifth and sixth centuries and, if they had remained so, modern Sweden could have been Geatland. Similarly, not only could the Kvens be counted amongst the inhabitants of neighbouring Kvenland, so too could many other tribes that also became Finnish, including the Tavastians, Karelians, Savonians, and others.

Ingjald Illrade was a powerful ruler in Norse stories, although he appeared not to govern a single Swedish kingdom. Various petty kingdoms also existed at this time, mostly on the edges of Swedish central authority, and the Swedish throne that later governed the entire country could also at this stage be described as a petty kingdom, albeit a powerful one. However, none of the other petty kingdoms seem to have retained independence for long, appearing briefly into history and then disappearing again.

The chieftains of Södermanland were appointed by the Swedish king between about 640-700, followed by a possible sequence of unknown minor chieftains until about AD 900, which pinpoints this as the period in which a single Swedish kingship gained dominance over the other Swedes, and then began to exert dominance over the other peoples of the region. This region still formed only the southernmost third of modern Sweden, with the rest remaining part of Kvenland, and the Swedish kingdom itself still remained little more than a powerful petty kingdom.

(Additional information by Per Söderberg, from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page, and from Norna-Gests Þáttr saga, from Egil's saga, from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, and from External Links: The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA.)

623 - 647?

Ingjald Illrade / Ingjald 'Ill-Ruler'

Son of Anund. King of Norway & Sweden. m Gauthild of the Geats.


According to Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, the Geatish King Algaut rules 'West Götaland'. In events that can be tentatively dated to the 620s thanks to their occurrence during the reign of Ingjald Illrade ('Ill-Ruler'), Algaut is burnt to death by Ingjald, his own son-in-law.

fl c.630s


Son. Minor king of Södermanland on the Baltic coast.

fl c.630s


Co-ruler of Södermanland.


Ingjald Illrade's daughter is Åsa, and she marries Guðröðr (Guthrothr), son of King Halfdan of Denmark. She persuades her husband to murder Halfdan and become king there.

Gotland standing stone
This standing stone was found on the island of Götaland, immediately to the east of modern Sweden, and depicts Vikings with their boats and armaments, which were a development of those of the early Germanic settlers around the Scandinavian coastal regions


Åsa is behind the death of her husband, Guðröðr, and she escapes to her father in Sweden after the deed is done. King Ivar Vidfamne of Denmark musters a large army and besieges King Ingjald and his daughter at Ræning, forcing the pair to committed suicide by setting fire to the hall which contains them and the king's retinue. One Olav Tree-cutter appears to rule areas of Sweden after Ingjald, and is perhaps removed by Ivar Vidfamne who, with no other rival, is able to conquer Sweden by about 655.

c.647? - c.655

Olav Tretelgia ('Tree-cutter')

Son of Ingjald. King of Värmland on Swedish border.


By now Swedes have established the stronghold of Seeburg (near modern Grobina) in Courland. This is succeeded by a trading post which survives until the beginning of the ninth century, when the invaders are defeated by the local population.

Swedish forces also establish strongholds at Truso and Viskiautias, in the territory of the Prussians. According to some sagas, Scandinavian kings are likely to rule over all the countries on the eastern shores of the Baltic, although in reality this probably means various strongholds and trading centres along the coastline.


Olaf Tretelgia is said to flee Sweden, probably in the face of Ivar's opposition, and settles in Norway where he founds its first (historical) royal house. However, although perhaps dominant in Norway, Olaf cannot be said to be the ruler of a single kingdom. The historical existence of his descendants of the eighth and early ninth centuries is doubted by some scholars, but the names probably reflect real persons, even if the stories surrounding them may be fanciful. Olaf himself founds a kingdom named Värmland, situated on the modern border between Norway and Sweden.

King Ingjald Illrade of the Swedes
Olav Tretelgia 'Tree-Cutter', son of the Ingjald Illrade who slaughtered his own kin as shown in this engraving, was ousted from his inheritance by a Danish invasion so that he had to found his own small territory on the border with the Norwegian kingdoms

c.655 - 695

Ivar Vidfamne / Vidfadme

Founder of the house of Ivar Vidfamne. King of Denmark.

c.660s - 680s

The Icelandic and Norwegian sagas, recorded in the thirteenth century although they hark back to prehistoric songs, commemorate the successes of King Ivar Vidfamne. Ivar is said to conquer 'Kurland, Saxland, and Eisland', and all the countries in the east to Gardarike in Karelia (Hervarar Saga). Harald Hildetand re-establishes Viking rule in those territories.

695 - 735

Harald Hildetand / Hildetonn 'Wartooth'

Nephew. Or d.c.750. King of Denmark.

700 - 750

Two ships filled with Viking warriors who have been killed in battle are uncovered by archaeologists on the island of Saaremaa in 2008. The carefully stacked remains of thirty-three men have been buried in the ship that brought them from Scandinavia to Saaremaa more than a century before the Vikings are thought to have been able to sail across such distances. They are almost certainly Swedes who have been conducting a raid but have been defeated by the island's determined defenders - a sign of many battles to come.

735 - 756

Sigurd Ring

Or c.770-812. King of Denmark & Raumarike in Norway.


As mentioned by the Norna-Gests Þáttr saga, Sigurd fights off a heavy raid by Couronians and Kvens into the southernmost region of Swedish lands. Sigurd also seems to be king of Raumarike, in Norway, as does his son Randver after him. This does not seem to fit in with the king list which can be assembled for Raumarike, but it's possible that Sigurd is over-king there without ruling directly. This would place either Eystein I Halfdansson or his son, Halfdan II hinn Mildi, as his vassal king there.

756 - 794

Randver / Ragnar

King of Denmark & Raumarike in Norway.


Kvens and Norse cooperate in battling against the invading Karelians, according to Egil's saga, written around 1240. This is not the same event as the battle of about 873 which includes Faravid of the Kvens.

late 8th century

Eystein Beli / Östen Beli

Or 860. Sub-king of Sweden under Randver.

c.780s - 794

Jarl Eystein defeats an attack by Eric and Agnar, two of the sons of King Randver of Denmark, but falls during a subsequent attack by Randver's wife and two remaining sons, one of which is Björn Järnsida. It seems possible that, given the Dano-Swedish control of Raumarike in Norway, the subsequent ruler of Raumarike could be a son of Eystein - one Sigtryg Eysteinsson.

Map of Norway
This map shows a host of the many petty Norwegian kingdoms in eighth and ninth century Scandinavia, most of them arranged along the coastline, although penetration into the interior is clearly beginning (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Once Randver himself passes away, Björn Järnsida becomes king of the Swedes. With this act Sweden's kings become more solidly rooted in history. Björn's supposed barrow cemetery on the island of Munsö gives the dynasty its name, but it is also known as the Ynglings (probably an attempt establish continuity with the ancient Swedish kings), and the house of Uppsala. The Norse Hervarar saga is one of the best sources for establishing the genealogy of the kings in this period.

794 - 804

Björn Järnsida ('Ironside')

Or c.856. Son of Randver.

804 - 808

Erik Björnsson

Or d.c.870. Son. Not included in the numbering for Erics.

808 - 820

Erik Refilsson

Grandson of Björn by Refil. Also not numbered with the Erics.

820 - 859

Anund / Edmund I

Son of Erik Björnsson. Joint ruler, at Uppsala.

820 - 859

Björn II

Brother. Joint ruler, at Hauge.


The earliest European reference to the Rus Khaganate comes from the Frankish Annals of St Bertin. A group of Vikings, who call themselves 'Rhos' (Rus) have visited Constantinople around this year. Fearful of returning home via the steppe which would leave them vulnerable to attacks by the Magyars, they are returning via East Francia.

When questioned by the Emperor Louis 'the Pious' at Ingelheim, they inform him that their leader is known as chacanus (Latin for 'khagan'), and that they live in the north of what is now Russia (which probably means Aldeigja-Ladoga or early Novgorod). Their ancestral homeland, though, is amongst the Swedes.


In his work, Vita Sancti Anscharii, Rimbert, a disciple of Archbishop Ansgar of the Bremen-Hamburg diocese provides a detailed description of the wars waged by Danes and Swedes against the Couronians in the middle of the ninth century. He mentions that at the time at which Archbishop Ansgar visits the Swedish homeland for the second time, somewhat after 850, the Danes undertake a military expedition by sea to Couronia, but suffer a crushing defeat. Half the Danes are killed, half their ships are captured, and the Couronians gained a large war booty of gold, silver and weapons.

859 - 873

Eric V Anundsson 'Väderhatt'

Son of Anund.


Viking interest and exploration into the Slavic lands to the east of the Baltic states has been building up for some time. According to tradition, in this year a Kven Viking named Rurik founds the 'Rus' state with his headquarters at Novgorod and with a population which is made up of Eastern Slav, Finno-Ugric, and Baltic people. His brothers Sineus (Signiutr) and Truvor (Thorwardr) govern the Slav centres at Beloozero (modern Belozersk) and Izborsk (bordering the Aestii) respectively.

869 - 870

Eric has taken command of Värmland and is collecting scat (a form of land tax) from all the forest settlers. He has clearly taken advantage of the fact that Haraldr Hárfagri of Norway has been campaigning on the western shores of the Norwegian lands for the past four years. He has claimed the whole country in that region north to Svinasund and west along the sea, and is referring to it as West Götaland (or Gautland), making it an extension of the western Geat district (Svinasund or Svinesund forms part of the modern Norwegian-Swedish border). In 870 Haraldr Hárfagri campaigns in Värmland and seizes it, killing all of Eric's men that he can find and restoring his hold over the entire region.


It is around this point in time that the Swedes begin to take a greater interest in Kvenland, with Swedish settlers beginning to migrate along the coast. Eventual domination follows of this northern and eastern region. For many centuries afterward the eastern parts of Kvenland are known by that very name alone - Österland (much of which is now part of Finland).

860 - 865

Ragnar Lodbrok

Or 750-794. King? Also powerful in Denmark (c.860-865).

873 - 923

Björn Eriksson

Son of Eric V.

873 - 923

Björn Eriksson is often named as king for this period, but the name can often be confused with the Björn of 820-859, who is also a son of an Erik. The Heimskringla of Snorre Sturleson correctly names this later Bjorn as son of Eirik Eymundson, recording that he is 'king of Svithjod for fifty years'.


The Norse Viking, Ottar, reports his findings to King Alfred of Wessex, who has his account included in the additions to the Universal History of Orosius, which the king republishes. The book is a shared work between Orosius and King Alfred. The Kven Sea is mentioned as the northern border of Germany. The location of Kvenland is also explained in the following ways: 'Ottar (Ohthere) said that the Norwegians' (Norðmanna) land was very long and very narrow... and to the east are wild mountains, parallel to the cultivated land. Sámi people inhabit these mountains... Then along this land southwards, on the other side of the mountain, is Sweden... and along that land northwards, Kvenland (Cwenaland).

'The Cwenas (Kvens) sometimes make depredations on the Northmen over the mountain, and sometimes the Northmen on them; there are very large freshwater meres amongst the mountains, and the Kvens carry their ships over land into the meres, and thence make depredations on the Northmen; they have very little ships, and very light.'

911 - 912

Extant documents begin to speak of a Varangian-Rus presence in Eastern Roman military service, starting in this period in which seven hundred Rus (Rhos) are recruited as naval troops in the unsuccessful imperial expedition against Arab-held Crete. For this service they are paid one kentenarion, equivalent to thirty-two kilograms, perhaps of gold.

923 - 930

Olaf I Ring


c.930 - 950

Eric VI (V) Ringsson / Olofsson

Son. Confused with Eric the Victorious.


A Varangian (almost certainly a Swede) called Ragnvald Olafsson establishes himself in Polotsk, making it one of the earliest Eastern Slav states. Unfortunately, he runs foul of the ruling Rurikid dynasty of Kyiv when Vladimir the Great returns from exile in Scandinavia to try and claim the Kievan throne from his brother.

950? - 965

Edmund II


965 - 970

Olaf II



Eric VII becomes king of the Swedes, the first in history to be acknowledged as king of all the Swedes. His acceptance heralds the formation of a single, unified kingdom of Sweden. Despite this, a single kingdom has not been permanently established in everyone's mind, and various divisions and minor independent kingdoms continue to crop up for a time after Eric's reign.

Kingdom of Sweden
c.AD 973 - Present Day

Modern Sweden is bordered to the west by Norway and Denmark, to the south and east across the Baltic Sea, by Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and on its eastern border by Finland.

Precisely when a single, unified kingdom was formed in Sweden is uncertain. Since the departure of the Danes in the fifth century, the country was largely dominated by two main tribes, the Swedes and the Geats, located in the north and south respectively. There were other more minor tribes and peoples too, and Sweden even in the tenth century was still limited to the southernmost third of the territory that modern Sweden encompasses. By this stage the Swedes were beginning to absorb the people to the south to form a unified Swedish kingdom. The Geats retained a distinct cultural identity for a further century or two but that unified kingdom existed by then. The Swedes were also beginning to advance to the north and east to absorb the Kvens, Sámi (in northern Kvenland - specifically the poorly-defined Finnmark region), and Finns (in southern Kvenland). They called this captured territory Österland, literally 'eastern land'. Much of it was eventually formed into a Finnic duchy, although this was subsequently lost to Russia during the collapse of Sweden's seventeenth century 'Northern Empire'. By that time, many thousands of Forest Finns had migrated into central Sweden, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, to settle in wilderness areas which they cleared and farmed. Their descendants form a large proportion of modern Sweden's population.

There is not much information about the rulers of the various petty kingdoms in Sweden at all, and almost everything dates from the legendary period, before the tenth century. These kingdoms, such as those of Bornholm, Götaland (Gotland), Scania, and Tiundaland, became provinces ('landskap') in Sweden, now without their own kings. Even so, in the eleventh century the house of Sverker was based in Östergötland, fighting the house of Erik, based in Västergötland, two of the most prominent provinces. Most genealogies show Eric VII as the first confirmed king of Sweden, and the present royal family traces its lineage back to him, and beyond into the less certain semi-historical period before.

It was around this period, from the eighth century onwards, that the Scandinavian Vikings began to expand outwards, building up extensive trading networks across Europe and farther afield. The Norwegians and Danes largely went west, while the Swedes went eastwards. It was they who penetrated deep into the vast lands of modern Russia, following the navigable rivers and making trading connections as far south as the Byzantine empire. By the ninth century they were creating trading settlements in the eastern Baltic and in the lands of the Rus, and founding their own states in which a Viking nobility ruled a population which was largely Slavic, such as that of Polotsk.

Accepted wisdom translates the word 'viking' as someone who goes on a raid, but this is much more likely to be a later interpretation of the word based on their reputation for attacking the medieval kingdoms of England, France, and so on. The word was originally used to denote a trader, simply that and nothing more. Indo-European languages contain many cognates of the root word for trader, such as the Latin 'vic', along with 'wic' (primarily Anglo-Saxon) and 'wich' (Germanic), all of which relate to Scandinavian 'vik'. A Viking was more likely to be someone who goes to 'wics' or 'wichs' to trade. There is also the problem of 'vik' meaning an inlet in Norse, and this has created considerable confusion. Norway is called that precisely because it is the north way, a sea path. Without roads the only reliable travel is by water, so trading centres would be sited in protected inlets. This meant the use of 'vik' being transferred over time from the trade location or village to its location on inlets. In England, this usage did not go so far, but many Anglo-Saxon trading villages still retain their trading names, such as Harwich, Ipswich, and Norwich, while Hamptonwic has been modified as Southampton.

(Additional details on the sometimes confusing order of rule by Erik Uppenberg, and additional information by Per Söderberg, Edward Dawson, and Ulf Tennfors, from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page, from The Formation of Muscovy 1304-1613, Robert O Crummey, from Eric's Chronicle, from the 15th Yearbook of the Estonian Learned Society in Sweden, 2010-2014 (Eesti Teadusliku Seltsi Rootsis aastaraamat XV. 2010-2014), Ants Anderson (Ed, Stockholm, 2015), from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from Architectural Archaeology Surveys at Saaremaa's Maasi Castle, Garel Püüa (Saaremaa Museum, Lossihoov), from Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis' Starshego i Mladshego Izvodov, A N Nasonov (Ed, ANSSR, 1950), from The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016-1471, Michell & Forbes (Eds, Translators, Offices of the Society, London, 1914), and from External Link: History and Organization of the Swedish Lutheran Church (dead link).)

c.970 - 1001

Eric VII (VI) Segersäll 'the Victorious'

Son of Björn or Olaf. King of the Swedes, Geats & Wends.


Styrbjörn the Strong

Cousin, according to legend. Killed in battle by Eric.


Styrbjörn leads an attack on Eric's core territory in Uppland, in a conflict that will decide the future ruler of Sweden. Eric rallies his forces and the two armies meet on the plain of Fýrisvellir (in modern Uppsala). In a bloody fight with men on both sides firmly standing their ground, Eric is victorious at the Battle of Fýrisvellir.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1000
Barely threatened at all by attack from outside Scandinavia during the medieval period, Sweden was able to develop into a strong regional state by the twelfth century, while above is a map of Scandinavia around AD 1000 showing the extent of the Norwegian kingdom (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Grand Prince Vladimir I of the Kievan Rus dispatches four or six thousand (sources vary) Varangians to Constantinople at the request of the emperor. With this supply of men the Eastern Roman emperor is able to formally establish the Varangian Guard. In effect, the guard are the Byzantine formalisation of the practice of using Varangians that goes back at least to 911.


King Olaf I Tryggvason of Norway is attacked by a united army under the command of (soon-to-be?) Olaf III Skötkonung of Sweden and Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. The pair have determined that Norway will be conquered and divided between them. They duly defeat Olaf I at the Battle of Svolder and divide the country. A Dane-friendly earl of Lade, Eric son of Haakon, holds the Norwegian throne as regent from this point, while the Swedes gain border territories from part of Trøndelag and modern Bohuslän.

1001 - 1026

Olaf III Skötkonung / Skutkonung

Son of Eric VII. Perhaps ruled 995-1022. First Christian king.

1026 - 1051

Arund Jakob Kolbrenner / Anund Jacob

Son. 'Kolbrenner' means coal-burner.


One of Sweden's earliest-known churches outside Scania is erected around this time. The stone church is located at Varnhem, in the south-west of modern Sweden, but a Christian burial site may exist nearby from the late ninth century onwards (this is not unusual - the same progression from preaching post and burial site to formal church can be observed in Anglo-Saxon England between the ninth and eleventh centuries). In fact, Arund's successor, is known to oppose the priests of the archbishop of Bremen in Germany in favour of Osmundus, an English missionary.

1051 - 1056

Edmund III Slemme 'the Old'

Brother. 'Slemme' means 'the bad', possibly misreading for 'old'.


The Geats have long been subjugated by the Swedes to form the southern central section of the modern country. Now, referred to as ethnic Swedes, they supply the first of several Geatish kings to the Swedish throne in the form of Stenkil.

1056 - 1066


Son-in-law. Of Geatish ancestry. Based in Östergötland.

1066 - 1067

Stenkil's death triggers a war between two Eriks for the throne. Neither Erik is well known by historians, being mentioned only by one source, that of Adam of Bremen, and only by their first names, so the surnames are conjectural. Both Eriks die in the conflict, leaving the way open for Halsten to claim the throne.

1066 - 1067

Erik Hedning 'the Pagan'

Known only from Adam of Bremen.

1066 - 1067

Erik Stenkilsson

Son of Stenkil, of Geatish ancestry. Known from Adam of Bremen.

1066 - 1067


Brother. Elected to the empty throne.


Halsten is quickly deposed but then appears to co-rule with his brother, Inge I. This is supported to an extent by a letter of 1081 from Pope Gregory VII. However, their rule of Sweden seem not to be complete. A little-known ruler called Håkan the Red appears to flourish for about a decade, probably from about 1070. According to one historian, Adolf Schück, Håkan the Red and the Blot-Sven of 1080 could be one and the same person. Another ruler of Sweden is Anund Gårdske, but he is apparently deposed for the very same reason as Inge the Elder, and could well be the very same person as Inge.

1067 - 1080

Inge I the Elder

Brother. Deposed by Blot-Sven.

1067 - 1070


Restored as co-ruler? Died.

1070? - 1080?

Håkan the Red

King in Västergötland?


Anund Gårdske

King of Sweden. Possibly the same as Inge I the Elder.


Inge appears to have accepted Christianity, as has much of Sweden by now. However, the people of Uppland, the ancient core of the kingdom, are still holding out. When Inge refuses to conduct a sacrifice at Uppsala, his brother-in-law, Sven (Håkan the Red?), steps forward to take his place, and his crown. Inge gains revenge just three years later when he attacks Uppsala and sets fire to Sven's home with him still inside. Sven is killed trying to escape.

1080 - 1083

Blot-Sven / Sweyn 'the Sacrificer'

Brother-in-law. The last pagan king of the Swedes. Killed.

1083 - 1110

Inge I the Elder


1087 - 1088

Inge's rule is opposed by Eric Årsäll, who contests his right to hold the throne. However, Eric's existence is ascribed to two different centuries by different historians and some doubt his very existence.

1087 - 1088

Eric VIII (VII) Årsäll / Arsaell

Son of Blot-Sven. Attempted to gain Sweden.

1110 - 1118

Filip Halstensson / Philip

Son of Halsten.

1118 - 1125

Inge II the Younger

Brother. The Westrogothic Law's king list says he was poisoned.


In the rather uncertain succession of kings and various contemporary sources that rarely agree with one another, one Ragnvald Knaphövde is called king of Sweden around this time by the Westrogothic Law, which claims that he succeeds Inge the Younger. No known familial connections exist between him and previous kings, and if he rules at all, it is probably only briefly, perhaps as an opponent of Magnus Neilsson.

fl c.1125?

Ragnvald Knaphövde

Mentioned in the Westrogothic Law as successor to Inge.


Ragnvald Knaphövde is murdered by Geats after entering their territory without taking the precaution of securing hostages. The Geats elect Magnus Neilsson as his successor. The son of Niels the Elder of Denmark and grandson of Inge the Elder, he is sometimes incorrectly termed Magnus I (a later ruler who accedes in 1275).

1125 - 1130

Magnus Neilsson

Danish prince. Apparently deposed by 1130. Died 1134.


Sverker the Elder is acknowledged king, probably in Uppland, because he soon goes on to conquer Västergötland, removing Magnus Neilsson. Little else is known of him.

1130 - 1156

Sverker I the Elder

Son of Kol or Cornube. Murdered.


The First Novgorod Chronicle notes the first conflict between Swedes and the people of Novgorod after a century or so of peace due to dynastic marriages. Both sides are vying for dominance of the Gulf of Finland, and this first-known case of hostilities is directed against merchants from Novgorod, presumably for infringing on Swedish trading territory. A long-running series of tit-for-tat raids and attacks follows.

1156 - 1160

St Eric IX Jedwaerdsson / Jedvardsson

Erik the Holy, Saint Erik, patron saint of Stockholm. Murdered.


In his geographical chronicle, Leiðarvísir og borgarskipan, the Icelandic Abbot Níkulás Bergsson (Nikolaos) provides descriptions of the lands near Norway: Closest to Denmark is little Sweden (Svíþjóð), there is Öland (Eyland); then is [the island of] Götaland; then Hälsingland (Helsingaland); then Värmland (Vermaland); then two Kvenlands (Kvenlönd, perhaps Kvenland itself and Finland to the south, on the northern shore of the Baltic Sea), and they extend to north of Bjarmia (Bjarmalandi, the land of the Bjarmians).

Eric IX
Eric IX, otherwise known as Eric the Saint, the Lawgiver, and the Holy, became the patron saint of Sweden after his relics became very popular with Swedes following his death

1160 - 1161

Eric the Saint is ambushed and killed as he leaves church. The deed is carried out either by Emund Ulvbane, an assassin who has been hired by agents of the Sverkers who want their throne back, or by Magnus Henriksson, a usurper who claims the throne for himself but holds it only briefly. In the following year, he in turn is murdered by his own rival, Karl Sverkerson of Götaland (in the far south). (For an explanation of Karl's numbering, see the main introduction at the top of the page.)

1160 - 1161

Magnus Henriksson

Son of Henrik Skatelår & great-grandson of Sweyn II of Denmark.

1161 - 1167

Karl / Charles VII Sverkerson

Ruler in Götaland until 1161. Murdered by Knut VI.


It is during the reign of Karl VII that the bishopric of Uppsala is raised to an archbishopric. The bishops of Uppsala had been established in the eleventh century, under the authority of the archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. The archbishopric remains the primate of Sweden to the present day.


In the course of forming the bishopric of Lund in Sweden, the monk Falco of France is appointed bishop of Estonia. It appears that an Estonian-born monk named Nicolaus is appointed to be his assistant, although their attempts to establish Christianity in Estonia can hardly be considered successful. King Karl is murdered in the same year by supporters of Knut Ericksson.

1167 - 1169

Burislev Sverkersson / Boleslaw

Son of Sverker. King of Östergötland, and possibly Sweden.

1167 - 1173

Kol Sverkersson

Brother. King of Östergötland, and claimant for Swedish throne.

1167 - 1173

The murder of Karl VII by Knut VI triggers a rush for claimants to the throne. Knut is opposed by Burislev Sverkersson, probably the legitimate son of Sverker I the Elder, and his elder brother, Kol. Until Kol's death, Knut is unable to claim that he rules all of Sweden, being excluded from Östergötland by the Sverkerssons.

1167 - 1196

Knut VI / Canute Ericsson

Son of Eric. Also Knut I, as the first five were later inventions.


Sverris saga says that King Sverre's brother, Erik, spends three years around 1185 looting Estonian coastal areas and then sails back to Svitjod in Svealand, to King Knut Eriksson of the Swedes, to whom he is related. Svitjod would seem to be Sigtuna, the most important centre in Svealand.


FeatureThe 'pagans of the Eastern Sea' (Estonians of Saaremaa, Couronians, and Sambians (Zembs) of Old Prussia) conquer Sigtuna, the most important town of the Swedes, which they then burn down. The Swedish Eric's Chronicle of 1335 blames the Finnish Karelians for the attack. More recently, Professor Kustaa Vilkuna has suggested that the raid is in revenge for Sigtuna's merchants having intruded upon Kven fisheries on the River Kemijoki and the hunting grounds of the Karelians. The medieval naming of a settlement in the village of Liedakkala by the River Kemijoki as 'Sihtuuna' may be additional confirmation of this.

Viking remains found on Saaremaa
Two ships were filled with Viking warriors who were killed in battle between AD 700-750, as uncovered by archaeologists on the island of Saaremaa in 2008 and proof of a Viking raid more than a century before the Vikings are thought to have been able to sail across such distances

1196 - 1208

Sverker II the Younger

Son of Karl VIII. Killed in 1210.


The Scandinavian-type pirate ships of the men of Saaremaa - the pyraeticas - land at the settlement of Listerby in what is now Blekinge County in Sweden. There they raid in a continuous cycle of hit-and-run raids between the 'eastern pirates' and the Scandinavians.

1203 - 1205

The four sons of Knut VI have been living at Sverker's royal court, but in 1203 they begin to stake their own claims for the throne. Sverker has them exiled to Norway, but they return with troops in 1205, supported by the Birkebeiner faction of Norway's nobility. Sverker is victorious at the Battle of Älgarås in which three of Knut's sons are killed. The surviving son retires back to Norway.


The surviving son of Knut VI is Eric. He returns for a second time with Norwegian support and defeats Sverker at the Battle of Lena. Sverker is forced into exile in Denmark while Eric seizes the throne. Sverker is subsequently defeated and killed at the Battle of Gestilren in 1210 when he tries to recapture his throne.

1208 - 1216

Eric X Knutsson 'the Survivor'

Son of Knut VI. Died of a fever.

1216 - 1222

John I

Son of Sverker II. The last male in the Sverker line.


As recorded both by the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia and the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, The Swedes establish a presence on the island of Saaremaa. Earl Karl Döve is the cousin of King John I, and he and the king's chancellor, Bishop Karl Magnusson, lead an expedition to the Estonian island which is confronted and defeated at the Battle of Lihula on 8 August 1220. The defeated Swedes withdraw, ending their country's involvement in Estonia for the next three centuries.

Despite the Danes having conquered Lindanäs in northern Estonia, their control certainly does not extend to western Estonia. Neither does that of Livonia to any great extent, as the fiercely independent and powerful 'Vikings' of Saaremaa are still a force to be reckoned with. Now they cross the Moonsund with a great host and liberate Rotalia County in western Estonia from the people of Svealand, who have conquered Lihula Castle. How long they remain there is unclear, but the fight against the Swedes continues in 1226 when the men of Saaremaa sail back home from Svealand with a great deal of loot and a large number of prisoners.

1222 - 1229

Eric XI 'the Lame'

Son of Eric X. Acceded aged 6.

1222 - 1229

Knut Holmgersson / Canute

Member of the regency council.


The young King Eric XI, who is still a minor, is overthrown at the Battle of Olustra. He flees to the protection of his uncle, King Valdemar II of Denmark, while his former regent, Knut Holmgersson, is crowned king in his place. Knut's reign is brief, allowing Eric to return in 1234.

1229 - 1234

Knut VII 'the Long'

Former regent. Died.


King Lamikis signs an agreement which accepts Christianity into Couronian territory. The Danes are probably hoping that with this act the Couronian Vikings will stop raiding and devastating Danish and Swedish kingdoms and carrying away church bells and other objects.

1234 - 1249

Eric XI



A great force behind the unification of the Swedish territories, Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo establishes Swedish rule over the Finns of Österland, and the Swedish king soon begins to appoint a governor or duke to manage the populace. Additional, localised, governors are placed in Vyborg, while the bishops of Turku also wielded some authority. Despite Eric's restoration as king, it is Birger Magnusson who is the true source of power in Sweden.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1300
The medieval Swedes and Norse may have liked to think that they had the natives of Kvenland conquered by the thirteenth century, but intermittent raiding was continued by both sides in the struggle for superiority in Scandinavia and Fenno-Scandinavia, while above is a map of Scandinavia around AD 1300 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1250 - 1275


Son of Eric X or Birger Magnusson.

1250 - 1266

Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo

Former ruler of Österland. The real power behind the throne. Died.

1275 - 1290

Magnus I

Brother of Valdemar. Duke of Södermanland.


Birger's son, Bengt, becomes duke of Österland in 1283. Bengt's mother is almost certainly the late Ingeborg of Sweden (some sources conflict, but Ingeborg, who had died in 1254, is the most likely candidate). Ingeborg is the daughter of Eric X, making King Valdemar and King Magnus I of Sweden his brothers.


Duke Bengt of Österland becomes bishop of Linköping in southern central Sweden, one of the older dioceses in the kingdom (its first historical mention dates to 1104). The city also forms the capital of Östergötland.

1290 - 1318

Berger / Birger

Son, and brother of Prince Waldemar of Finland.


Torkel Knutsson, constable of Sweden, governor of Finland, and virtually king during the early years of the young King Berger, is arrested and, in February 1306, he is executed. Prince Waldemar, duke of Finland, divorces his wife, the late constable's daughter, and in 1312 marries Ingeborg Eriksdottir, daughter of the late King Eric II of Norway.

1317 - 1318

To end the continuing conflict caused by the opposition of Prince Waldemar of Finland and his brother Duke Eric of Södermanland to Berger's reign, the king has them both arrested and chained at the Nyköping Banquet (Nyköpings gästabud) on the evening of 10 December 1317. The two rebellious princes die mysteriously soon afterwards, possibly by being starved to death. However, in 1318, Berger is ousted by the supporters of the prince and goes into exile. His son, Prince Magnus Birgersson, is executed in Stockholm.


The three year-old son of Duke Eric, King Magnus VII of Norway, is raised to the throne as Magnus II of Sweden under the regency of his mother, Duchess Ingeborg, and his grandmother, Queen Helvig. Ingeborg's position effectively makes her Sweden's first queen, although she is not proclaimed as such.

1319 - 1365

Magnus II

Also Magnus VII of Norway.

1319 - 1326


Mother and regent. Queen in all but name. Died 1361.

1319 - 1324


Grandmother of Magnus and co-regent. Died.


King Magnus is conducting a series of campaigns of conquest against the Finno-Ugric Izhorians along the River Neva (to the immediate east of today's St Petersburg). His campaign also threatens the Novgorodian fortress of Oreshek on the same river (today's Shlisselburg). Future posadnik of Novgorod, Ontsifor Lukinich, and his colleagues manage to clear the area, causing the Scandinavians heavy casualties. The fortress still falls, later in the year.


Bengt Algotsson is created duke of Finland. He is a descendant of Duke Canute of Reval, through the latter's younger son, Svantepolk of Skarsholm (died 1310). Bengt repudiates his wife in 1356, and her powerful relatives have him exiled at the same time as a civil war begins against the Swedish king.

1356 - 1359

Eric XII

Also duke of Finland. Died.


King Valdemar of Denmark seeks the return of Scania, which has been mortgaged to Sweden since 1332. With diplomacy and politics taking too long to achieve this, he invades Scania in June 1359, under the guise of supporting King Magnus II against Eric XII, rival for the throne and also duke of Finland. Eric's death in the same year ends Valdemar's pretence of being an ally of Magnus. Duke Eric is the last of the dukes to govern the Finns of Österland, and a more normalised system of governors takes over from this point onwards. Sweden gradually includes an increasing amount of Österland (the heart of old Kvenland).


Despite Eric's death, Valdemar does not withdraw. Instead he proceeds to invade the island of Götaland, the key to controlling the Baltic Sea. A counterattack by the island's natives (not aided by the governing German nobility) is defeated on 27 July 1361. After a failed attempt to take Helsingborg, the joint Swedish and Hanseatic army has to give up, and Magnus is forced to accept the situation.

1365 - 1388


Duke Albert III of Mecklenburg (1379-1412). Deposed.

1371 -1386

Albert proves unpopular with his subjects, so much so that the governor of the Österland Finns, Bo Jonsson Grip, rules the territory as an independent state in opposition to him.


The husband of Queen Margaret of Denmark is Haakon VI of Norway. His death allows Margaret to proclaim their son, Olaf, as king there. This creates the Union of Denmark and Norway, while Denmark also gains Greenland and Iceland. In reality, Margaret is the de facto ruler, as Olaf is still a minor.

1387 - 1388

The sudden death at the age of seventeen of Olaf of Denmark and Norway puts Margaret firmly in the driving seat as queen regent. In effect, Norway is ruled as an appendage of Denmark. The nobility of Sweden, already unhappy with their own King Albert, invite Margaret to invade and take the throne. In 1388 she is accepted, at her own insistence, as 'Sovereign Lady and Ruler' of Sweden.

Queen Margaret I of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden
Acting as regent for her young son in Denmark and Norway, Olaf IV, Margaret ended up being queen when he died unexpectedly at seventeen, with Sweden also accepting her in 1388

1387 - 1397

Queen Margaret I

Queen of Denmark, Norway & Sweden.


Having promised to find a ruling king for the Scandinavian nations under her control, Margaret proclaims her great-nephew, Bogislaw of Pommern-Stolp, king of Norway with her ruling alongside him as specifically agreed for Norway. He receives the more acceptable Scandinavian name of Eric as he takes up his new position, although he is still a minor, so Margaret returns to the role of regent.

1389 - 1439

Eric XIII of Pomerania

Also Eric VII of Denmark, III of Norway, and I of Pommern-Stolp.

1389 - 1412

Queen Margaret I

Regent and former queen. Remained de facto ruler.


In order to fully unite the three kingdoms under her control and promote her aim of securing peace and prosperity for Scandinavia, Margaret convenes the Congress of the Realm at Kalmar in June 1397. Eric is crowned king of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under the terms of the Union of Kalmar. Margaret remains regent for the rest of her lifetime so that even when Eric reaches his majority, she remains in control. (Eric is removed by the nobles in 1439 and returns to Pommern-Stolp.)

Silver coin of Eric XIII of Pomerania
Shown here are two sides of a silver coin which was minted at the Lund mint during the reign of Eric XIII of Pomerania, king of Sweden and Denmark, and then also of Norway

1439 - 1448


Son of Eric XIII. Also Christopher III of Denmark & king of Norway.


Christopher dies suddenly. In Norway, Sigurd Jonsson becomes regent in Norway for the second time while the nobles of the three nations decide who to elect as the new king. Sweden selects Karl while Denmark chooses Christian of Oldenburg. Norway debates selecting a third candidate for its own throne but eventually it also goes with Christian of Oldenburg (in 1450), although a portion elects Karl in opposition to Christian. Karl and Christian now jostle for supremacy in Scandinavia, and Karl is soon forced by the nobility to relinquish his claim on Norway.

1448 - 1457

Karl / Charles VIII Knutsson

Son of Knut Tordsson, a knight.


Karl is deposed by a rebellion, led by Archbishop Jöns Bengtsson (of the powerful Oxenstierna family) and a nobleman by the name of Erik Axelsson Tott. Karl is forced into exile, leaving for Danzig in Poland. The ringleaders take control while they organise the election of Christian of Oldenburg as king.

1457 - 1463

Christian I of Oldenburg

King of Denmark & Norway.

1463 - 1464

Christian is unhappy with the taxation policies being used by Archbishop Jöns Bengtsson and the two fall out. The archbishop is imprisoned, causing his powerful relatives to rebel, and Christian himself is driven out of the country. Charles is reinstated by the rebels.

1464 - 1465

Karl / Charles VIII Knutsson


1465 - 1470

The restoration of Karl as king is short-lived. His relations with the archbishop are even more disastrous than Christian's, and war breaks out. Despite the body of German and Polish mercenaries that Karl had brought back with him, he is again deposed following two bloody battles over the course of the winter. Erik Axelsson Tott becomes the country's regent until Charles is selected again by him to rule once more, although this time in cooperation with parliament.

1465 - 1467

Erik Axelsson Tott

Regent during the interim period.

1465 - 1467

During this second break in his rule of Sweden, Karl holds the position of 'Lord of Finland', where he is recorded under the name of Karl Knutsson Bonde.

1467 - 1470

Karl / Charles VIII Knutsson

Restored for a second time. Died.

1470 - 1481

The Swedish throne remains vacant following the death of Karl, apparently because Christian of Oldenburg still retains a valid claim on it despite being rebuffed in battle in 1471 by the regent, Sten Sture, but also because Sweden had agreed to elect his son, John, following Christian's death. That death comes in 1481 but John is not accepted as king in Sweden. Instead, Sten Sture retains control.

1470 - 1497

Sten Sture the Elder

Regent of Sweden and de facto ruler.


In his efforts to preserve the Scandinavian unity that had been established by the Union of Kalmar, King John of Denmark finally secures the Swedish throne following a short, decisive campaign. Sten Sture is defeated at the Battle of Rotebro, and surrenders himself in Stockholm, where he and the new king are reconciled.

1497 - 1501

John / Hans II

Also John of Denmark & Norway.

1500 - 1501

John attempts to conquer Dithmarschen (now in Schleswig-Holstein). The region is one that Denmark has long seen as its own but which in fact is an independent peasant republic which loosely accepts the overlordship of the prince-archbishopric of Bremen. The fighting becomes dirty, with John's mercenary Black Guard being trapped at Hemmingstedt. Defeated and damaged, in the following year Sweden renounces John as its king. Despite fighting an increasingly bitter war against the restored regent, Sten Sture, and his successor Svante Nilsson, John is never able to return to Stockholm.

1501 - 1503

Sten Sture the Elder

Regent of Sweden and de facto ruler for the second time.

1503 - 1512

Svante Nilsson

Regent of Sweden and de facto ruler. Died.


Sweden agrees to a declaration which recognises John of Denmark as king of Sweden in principle, although he is still not permitted entry into the land.


Eric Trolle

Regent of Sweden and de facto ruler.

1512 - 1520

Sten Sture the Younger

Son of Sten Sture. Regent of Sweden and de facto ruler.


The successor of King John of Denmark, Christian II, decides to force the issue in terms of Sweden's refusal to accept him into the country as its ruler. He invades, and Sten Sture the Younger is mortally wounded at the Battle of Bogesund on 19 January 1520. Christian is enthroned and many of his enemies are killed in the Stockholm Bloodbath later in the same year.

1513 - 1523

Christian II 'the Tyrant'

King of Denmark & Norway.

1521 - 1523

Gustavus I Vasa

Self-proclaimed regent. Expelled Danish dominance.


Initiating sweeping reforms in Denmark and throughout the Union, Christian is seem by some as an old-fashioned monarch by divine right rather than an elected king, and his subjects don't take to this kindly. Sweden revolts (as early as 1521, in the Swedish War of Liberation), leaving the Union of Kalmar in order that it might be in complete control of its own affairs. It is Gustav Vasa, son of the Erik Johansson Vasa who had been murdered during the Stockholm Bloodbath, who becomes the self-proclaimed 'Protector of Sweden' and leads the expulsion of the Danes. He also ends the union and becomes the first monarch of an hereditary monarchy, ending the principal of elected kings in Sweden.

1523 - 1560

Gustavus I Vasa

Son of Erik Johansson Vasa.


Sweden's part in the Reformation is to remove its church organisation from the control of Rome. The Church of Sweden is founded by Gustav Vasa. Over the next few years the king oversees the appointment of bishops and the country's archbishop. On a more pragmatic level, the move is ideal for solving Gustav's budget crisis, with the Crown heavily in debt following the costly wars to remove Danish dominance.

Siege of Stockholm in 1521-1522
Gustav Vasa had several paintings commissioned that apparently showed episodes of his reign which he felt were important, with this apparently showing his successful siege of Stockholm in 1521-1522


At the parliament meeting in Västerås, Sweden is proclaimed an evangelical kingdom with the king as its head. Gustav Vasa is now in a position to gain the wealth that had previously been going to the Roman Catholic Church along with church lands and other properties. The power of the monarchy also extends to the church, with the sovereign being responsible for ensuring that God's law applies to the realm, and that the Gustav Vasa Bible of 1540-1541 is used in services.


The first known Norwegian tax records mention Kvens. This is at a time, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that the Swedish government is encouraging settlement in many wilderness and border areas in order to secure territories against fears of expansionism by the Russians. Even Sweden proper has its wilderness areas which require settlement.

Thanks to this policy, many Finns migrate westwards across Scandinavia. Thousands of farmers from Savonia and Northern Häme make the journey as far as eastern Norway and central Sweden and become known as the Forest Finns. They help to turn forests to farmlands using slash-and-burn agriculture, and in return they are given land. More of them head north to Ostrobothnia and Kainuu, east towards Northern Karelia, and south towards Ingria (Swedish land in the sixteenth century, but now within Russia). An estimated ten or fifteen per cent also cross the Baltic Sea in search of largely uninhabited land fit for their needs.

Those Kvens who settle in Norway prior to the twentieth century - and in some cases prior to the Second World War - and their descendants are called Kvens today, as they had originated from the medieval area of Kvenland. Also, the descendants of all the native Kvens in northern Scandinavia continue to be known by that name.

1560 - 1568

Eric XIV

Son. Opposed by his half-brother, Duke John of Finland. Died 1577.

1561 - 1562

During the Livonian Wars (1558-1583), Tallinn in North Estonia, together with its vassals of Harju-Viru and Järva, asks Sweden for military support, and in June 1561 they pledge allegiance to King Eric to be incorporated into the kingdom as the duchy of Estonia. Sweden also gains Ingermanland, creating a Scandinavian empire.


Duke John of Finland has opposed the reign of his half-brother, Eric XIV. For this he is imprisoned in this year, only to be subsequently released, probably due to Eric's increasing insanity. John rejoins the opposition and deposes Eric, becoming king himself in 1568. Eric is imprisoned and dies in 1577.

1566 - 1568

Ösel (Saaremaa) is invaded by Swedes as an act of the Northern Seven Years War. They pillage the entire island and leave with a huge quantity of loot. Being unable to defend another castle besides Kuressaare if the Swedes attack again, the Danes destroy Maasi Castle in the same year. They soon began to regret that decision and instead reinforce the castle again. The Swedes return in 1568, this time in eighteen ships. On 14 August Maasi Castle is handed over to them, together with Pöide and the island of Muhu.

1568 - 1592

John / Johan III

Brother. Grand duke of Finland. Grand Prince of Finland (1581).

1581 - 1583

The reign of John III sees Finland raised to a grand duchy, with the king himself holding the title and governors being appointed to handle the day-to-day running of the country. This is part of the king's policy of opposing the various grand duchies claimed by Czar Ivan IV of Russia. Ingria, Karelia, and Livonia are similarly raised, creating a line of grand duchies along the border with Russia. In the same year, 1581, the Estonian county of Läänemaa is conquered by Sweden, giving it control of all of North Estonia. The following year an armistice agreement is concluded between the Russian czar and the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom proclaiming Livonia a possession of the latter. In 1583, Russia concludes a similar agreement with Sweden, acknowledging its supreme power in North Estonia.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1581
In the near-three centuries since 1300 the Norwegians and Swedes had massively increased their dominance of the once-uncharted northern depths of Fenno-Scandinavia, although Denmark now dominated Norway (click or tap on map to view full sized)


John's son, King Sigismund III of Poland-Lithuania, inherits the Swedish throne, but his inflexible politics and passionate Catholicism causes opposition from the Swedish Protestant population, forcing the king to return to Poland. He does not relinquish his claim to the throne, however, which leads to conflict.

1592 - 1595


Son. King of Poland-Lithuania. Forced abdication. Died 1632.


The Teusina Treaty agrees peaceful terms between Sweden and Russia. Kvenland ('Kaianske landet') is mentioned for the first time in an official government document as a territory that is governed by Sweden, although this claim seems not entirely to be merited as there is territory in the northern reaches of Scandinavia and Fenno-Scandinavia which is unlikely to be under any direct administration at this point.

1595 - 1604

Karl / Charles IX

Regent during the interim period along with Privy Council.

1599 - 1604

In the absence of Sigismund, the Swedish Diet elects his uncle, Karl, duke of Södermanland, to be the new ruler. In 1604 he is crowned, but by then hostilities are already underway between Sweden and Poland-Lithuania.

The First Polish-Swedish War sees Swedish troops assembled in Tallinn in order to attack Livonia, but instead the army suffers significant losses at Cesis and Koknes, in spite of the fact that Poland-Lithuania's main forces are fighting the Ottomans. The Swedes are driven out of Livonia in 1601. Further attacks on Riga in 1604 and Courland in 1605 also fail.

1604 - 1611

Karl / Charles IX

Uncle. 'King of the Caijaners'. Died.


Having strengthened his hold on the Swedish crown, Karl IX adds the title 'King of the Caijaners', referring to the inhabitants of Kainu, otherwise known as Kvenland, apparently using the title for the first time on 16 March 1607. However, Kvenland is recognised as being distinct from the rest of Finland for a long time to come.

The pre-Indo-European Kainu continued to enjoy a notably different way of life even when this photo was taken in 1900

1610 - 1617

Conflict between Poland-Lithuania, Sweden, and the Russian czarate has already begun in 1605, largely triggered by the struggle of wills between Poland and Sweden, and by the dynastic problems of the Russian czarate that are known internally as 'The Times of Troubles'. The fighting is not continuous, and the sides switch constantly as objectives and opportunities evolve. The Russians themselves spend a good deal of the conflict fighting one another, both with and without Swedish or Polish allies, and the aristocracy of the Polish commonwealth also lead their own private or mercenary armies against targets of their choosing as they attempt to expand into czarate territory.

The war is not formally declared by Poland until 1609, with Sweden's formal involvement taking place as part of the Ingrian War (1610-1617). With Sweden seemingly allied more closely to Russia, Sigismund III of Poland launches a pre-emptive attack, capturing Moscow and Smolensk. Resistance by the population of Moscow eventually forces the invading army out, but the fighting rumbles on until 1618, when an armistice is agreed in the village of Deulino.

1611 - 1632

Gustavus II Adolphus 'the Great'

Son. Elevated Sweden to a 'Great Power'. Killed in battle.

1611 - 1613

The Kalmar War sees Denmark-Norway successfully defend itself from Sweden. Karl IX's use of the title 'King of the Caijaners' has been part of a concerted effort by Sweden to avoid paying fees for the use of the Danish-controlled strait which accesses the North Sea. Karl is even collecting taxes in the north, from Norway's territory. Denmark-Norway attacks him to safeguard its territory and rights and confirms its own position as a militarily-competent state.

1617 - 1629

Hostilities between Poland and Sweden flare up again in 1617, but this time the reorganised Swedish forces are unstoppable, taking Riga under the leadership of Gustavus, the 'Lion of the North', and pushing into Lithuanian and Polish territories. The 1629 Treaty of Altmark concludes the First Polish-Swedish War by recognising the Swedish capture of most of Poland's southern Estonian and Livonian territories, with Poland retaining just Latgallia in the east of Livonia. Poland is also forced to temporarily cede the port cities of Braunsberg (Braniewo in Ermland), Elbing (Elblag), Memel (Klaipeda), and Pillau (Baltiysk). The territory is termed Swedish Prussia, but it is regained in 1635.


FeatureOn 10 August 1628, the most expensive warship of its time, the Vasa, with its magnificent painted carvings and colourful flags, sets sail from the quayside beneath the royal palace in Stockholm. The families of the crew are allowed on board for the ship's maiden voyage into the archipelago. The winds are light. Yet, twenty minutes later and just over a kilometre from the shore, the Vasa capsizes. About fifty people, and the ship's cat, are drowned.

French troops during the Thirty Years War
The onset of the Thirty Years War was marked by the newly-elected Holy Roman emperor, Ferdinand II, imposing religious uniformity on all his lands, which meant that all Protestants would have to covert - an impossible demand

1630 - 1632

Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War in summer 1630. As part of the military funding, tolls and food supplies secured in Swedish Prussia are pivotal assets. The first major victory of the Protestant forces in the war is at the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, which ensures that the northern German Protestant states will not be forced to reconvert to Catholicism. The forces of Sweden and Saxony force the Catholic League's line to collapse, and serious casualty figures are inflicted on the armies of the Holy Roman empire, Hungary and Croatia. Tragically for Sweden, the king is killed at the Battle of Lützen on 6 November 1632. Axel Gustafson Oxenstierna, governor-general of Swedish Prussia, becomes supreme commander of the Swedish troops in Germany and then regent for the king's daughter, Christina.

1632 - 1654

Queen Christina

Daughter. Acceded aged 6. Abdicated. Died 1689.

1632 - 1644

Axel Gustafson Oxenstierna

Regent. Former governor-general of Swedish Prussia.

1637 - 1638

The death of Bogislaw XIV sees Pomerania taken under Swedish control. The following year, the first wave of Swedish and Finnish settlers arrive in the New World colony of New Sweden, settling around Fort Christina (in modern Wilmington, Delaware).

Fort Christina
Founded by the first settlers of New Sweden, Fort Christina on the lower Delaware was named in honour of Queen Christina of Sweden


One of Christina's first acts is to negotiate the peace with Denmark. She does so successfully, gaining all of modern Estonia when the Danes hand over the island of Ösel (Saaremaa) under the Treaty of Brömsebro, along with the island of Götaland. As a constituent of Danish holdings, Norway also has to concede territory, this being the districts of Härjedale and Jämtland which remain part of Sweden to this day. Christina adopts the style 'Prince of Ösel'.


The near-constant warfare and rapid change brought about by the Reformation and its Papal response, the Counter Reformation, is finally ended by the Peace of Westphalia, as is the Thirty Years' War. As part of the treaty's terms, Sweden loses Bremen-Verden and Further-Pomerania to Brandenburg-Prussia. However, Nearer-Pomerania remains in Swedish hands. The reward is Sweden gaining a seat in the imperial diet of the Holy Roman empire.


Queen Christina, titled 'Queen of the Swedes, Goths and Vandals', causes a scandal when she converts to Catholicism and abdicates the throne. She retires to Rome, while Karl Gustav, son of John Casimir, the Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg is elected as her successor. Aside from King Christoper in the mid-fifteenth century, Karl is the first of the Bavarian Wittelsbach kings of Sweden.

1654 - 1660

Karl / Charles X Gustav

Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg. Died aged 37.

1655 - 1660

The colony of New Sweden in the Americas has its main settlement at Fort Christina captured in 1655 in retaliation for a brief Swedish occupation of one of the Dutch forts in New Netherland. This ends the Swedish colony. In the same year, seeing a golden opportunity following the Russian capture of large areas of Lithuania in 1654, Swedish troops enter the duchy of Courland, triggering the Second Polish-Swedish War. Karl X declares himself 'Protector of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth'. This only ends when Livonia is officially ceded to Sweden following Poland-Lithuania's signing of the Treaty of Oliva.


MapThe Treaty of Roskilde sees Denmark-Norway hand over Bohuslän in south-eastern Norway and Skåneland (Scania) in southern Sweden to the kingdom of Sweden. At least part of Bohuslän had formerly been part of the Norwegian pre-unification kingdom of Alfheim, while Scania had been a Danish minor kingdom.

1660 - 1697

Karl / Charles XI

Son. Acceded aged 5. Died aged 41 of cancer.

1660 - 1672

Queen Hedvig Eleonora 'the Elder'

Regent and mother.

1697 - 1718

Karl / Charles XII 'Madman of the North'

Son. Killed.

1700 - 1710

The Great Northern War (1700-1721) is fought when Sweden finds itself facing Russia, Poland, and Denmark (alternatively entitled the Second Northern War). Sweden's expansion at the end of the Livonian Wars had antagonised several states, notably those on the receiving end of defeats such as Russia and Denmark. The latter state takes the opportunity presented by the death of Charles XI of Sweden to organise an anti-Swedish coalition.

An attack on the unified kingdom of Saxony and Poland in 1702 sees Sweden occupy large areas of Poland until 1710. The situation deteriorates rapidly at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, when Sweden suffers a disastrous defeat at the hands of Peter the Great of Russia, and the following year loses control of Finland, Ingria, Estonia and Livonia to the Russians. Karl XII seeks refuge within the Ottoman empire from the field of battle at Poltava and remains there, in exile.

Capture of Malmo 1709
The capture of the town of Malmo in 1709 by Count Magnus Stenbock was probably one of the last Swedish victories of the Great Northern War as Russia and her allies defeated the Swedes later the same year


The most important Swedish scientist of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Olaus Rudbeckius, publishes Atlantica. The territories of Västerbotten, north of Piteå, and Österbotten in northern Scandinavia and Fennoscandia are referred to as Kvenland.

1713 - 1714

Ulrika Eleonora 'the Younger'

Sister and regent in Karl's absence. Died of smallpox.


Karl's voluntary exile within the Ottoman empire has turned into imprisonment following Swedish abuse of their host's hospitality. Karl now manages to escape Constantinople, riding the breadth of Europe to regain Sweden. He finds his kingdom still at war with Denmark, England, Hannover, Russia, and Saxony, with all of them planning a concerted attack on Sweden itself, the first time the state has come under direct threat from anyone other than its fellow Scandinavians. In 1716, Karl invades Norway, a vital component in Denmark's strength, but Swedish efforts are largely rebuffed. A repeat with greater numbers ends prematurely when Karl is killed by a shot through the brain, and under potentially suspicious circumstances.

Karl had won his nickname, one of many attributed to him, thanks to his unpredictable tactics, which have ranged between impetuous to downright insane, and which have frequently seen him outnumbered in battle but careless of the risk and quite often victorious nonetheless. His death leaves Sweden in a perilous situation. Succeeded by his sister in Sweden, Salic law states that she is not also able to succeed him as Count Palatine of Zweibrücken. This passes instead to a cousin.

1718 - 1720

Queen Ulrika Eleonora 'the Younger'

Last monarch to use the title 'Grand Princess of Finland'.


Having renounced the rights of absolute monarchy in return for being confirmed as queen, Ulrika now abdicates in favour of her husband, Landgrave Frederick of Hessen-Kassel. She had preferred the idea of a co-monarchy in the style of England under Mary II and William III, but this has not been allowed in Sweden since the fifteenth century. Parliamentary rule is reinstated in Sweden with the monarchy greatly limited in power.

1720 - 1751


Husband. Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel (1730-1751).


Sweden regains Finland as part of the terms of the Treaty of Nystad, which conclude the Great Northern War. However, it is forced to cede Ingria, Estonia, and Livonia, although they have already been occupied by Russian troops since 1710, along with large sections of eastern territory above Lake Ladoga. Large numbers of Ingrian Finns (not to be confused with Izhorian-speaking Ingrians) migrate back into Finland proper as Russia starts to impose its own rule on the region.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1721
The Great Northern War of 1700-1721 was Sweden's undoing as it had stretched itself too far - Russia was able to secure Livonia, Estonia, and Ingria, and Prussia gained Nearer-Pomerania in 1720 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1741 - 1743

A Swedish attempt to regain territory lost to Russia backfires in the Russo-Swedish War (known as the Hats' Russian War in Sweden), which is part of the greater Austrian War of Succession. The Russian forces sweep the Swedes back to Helsinki where they surrender, and Finland is again occupied while peace negotiations rumble on. The Lesser Wrath, as this event is known, sees Sweden further diminished as a great power when it is forced to hand over the Finnish towns of Hamina and Lappeenranta, along with a strip of territory lying to the north-west of St Petersburg. The River Kymi is set as the new border.


Frederick dies without having produced an heir. In Hessen-Kassel he is succeeded by his brother, William VIII. Sweden elects Adolphus Frederick, son of Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp and Margravine Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach. Despite the instigation of the Russo-Swedish War by parliament and the country's humiliating defeat, the monarchy still has little real power, with the result that Adolphus Frederick is a weak ruler.

1751 - 1771

Adolphus Frederick

Son of Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, 'Prince of Eutin'.


For the past two centuries, Forest Finns have been settling a swathe of land in Norway from a point about 150 kilometres north of Oslo and covering a long stretch of border land between Norway and Sweden. That border is only now properly established between the two countries.

1772 - 1792

Gustavus III

Son. Seized throne in a coup, stifling parliament. Shot and died.

1778 - 1790

Having secured the throne through force, Gustavus reintroduces an absolute monarchy, forcing parliament to accept a secondary role. Despite two failed military campaigns in 1788-1790, first to capture Norway and then to recapture the Baltic Provinces from Russia, he is still able to restore Sweden's military power and restore to the country some of its former sense of greatness.

1792 - 1809

Gustavus IV Adolphus

Son. A minor in 1792. Forced to abdicate. Died in exile.

1792 - 1796

Karl / Charles XIII

Son of Adolphus Frederick. Regent.

1802 - 1805

Prince Karl Gustaf

Son of Gustavus. Last 'Grand Prince of Finland'. Died aged 3.

1807 - 1809

Sweden loses Nearer-Pomerania to Napoleonic France, which occupies it until all of Pomerania is regained by Sweden in 1809. In the same year, 1809, Sweden permanently loses its provinces in Finland to the Russians as a result of the Finnish War. Only the westernmost of them remain in Swedish hands, and these continue to be referred to as Österland. The disaster triggers a revolt against the king. He is seized by army officers and forced to abdicate in favour of his uncle, Karl XIII. The power of the monarchy is again strictly limited.

1809 - 1818

Karl / Charles XIII

Former regent. No natural heirs.


The aged and infirm Karl XIII is in no condition to properly handle the duties of his office. In its search for a suitable successor, parliament has selected Jean-Baptist Bernadotte, a marshal of Napoleon Bonaparte's French First Empire. The marshal is a favourite of Sweden's military, primarily due to his lenient treatment of Swedish prisoners taken in recent actions but also with an eye to impending problems with Russia and the possible need of military solutions.

Swedish Troops in the Napoleonic Wars
Swedish troops were notable in the part they played during the 1813 campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte in Germany, being present at the Battle of the Nations - Leipzig

1814 - 1815

France is defeated at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Sweden gains Norway from Denmark as part of the reshuffle of territories and power that follows during the Congress of Vienna. However, Pomerania is lost to Prussia. As with the rest of Europe, Sweden enjoys a long period of peace, prosperity and advancement during the nineteenth century.

1818 - 1844

Karl / Charles XIV John / J-B Bernadotte

Adopted son. Ex-marshal of French First Empire. King of Norway.

1844 - 1859

Oscar I

Son. King of Norway.

1857 - 1859

Karl / Charles XV

Son and regent until the death of his father.

1859 - 1872

Karl / Charles XV

Former regent. King Charles IV of Norway.

1872 - 1907

Oscar II

Brother. King of Norway.


Tension has been building between Sweden and Norway, which are joined in personal union under the king. The possibility of war is in the air, so it is with tactful negotiation and understanding that Sweden withdraws from the union on 7 June 1905. Oscar renounces his claim to the Norwegian throne, formally dissolving the union. Prince Carl of Denmark is elected to the Norwegian throne, acceding on 18 November under the name Haakon VII.


Oscar II is married to Sophia of Nassau, sister of the late Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg. With the death of her husband, her eldest son, Gustavus V ascends the Swedish throne. He eventually gains the record of being the country's second-longest reigning monarch, and its oldest monarch in terms of his age.

1907 - 1950

Gustavus V


1914 - 1918

When the First World War erupts on Continental Europe, all three of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, remain neutral. Sweden asserts its right to continue trading with the countries of its choice, whatever side they have taken in the war. In practice this favours Germany so the Allies, especially Great Britain's Royal Navy, blockade Sweden, causing a severe food shortage in 1916.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1917-1944
The twentieth century wrought great changes on the borders of the Nordic countries with Finland, controlled from Moscow since 1809, now becoming a battleground between Soviet and German interests, while Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1918 - 1919

The Baltic Provinces are formally transferred to German authority by Russia in 1918 following the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk and of Berlin. However, Germany is in no position to enforce its power and Estonians quickly push for independence, with the declaration being delivered on 23 February 1918. Power is transferred to a new council for the island on 18 November 1918. On 16 February 1919, the last Swedish administrator of the island of Ösel, or Saaremaa, is assassinated by Bolsheviks on his estate, amid a local peasants' revolt at the lack of services and provisions.

1939 - 1945

As in the previous war, Sweden manages to remain neutral throughout the Second World War. Despite this, there are unofficial breaches of that neutrality on behalf of both sides in the war. German troops are shipped along Sweden's railways during their invasion of Russia in 1941, while the Allies are allowed to use Swedish airbases from 1944. There are several further examples. Neighbouring Denmark and Norway are both invaded and occupied by the Nazi Germans.

1950 - 1973

Gustavus / Gustav VI Adolph

Son. Died aged 90.

Prince Gustaf Adolf

Son. Duke of Västerbotten. Died 1947.


Prince Gustaf Adolf, heir to the throne, is killed in an airplane crash on 26 January at Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen, in Denmark. He and two companions are returning from a hunting trip and a visit to Princess Juliana of the Netherlands (shortly before she accedes to the Dutch throne). Gustaf's son, Karl, becomes heir to the Swedish throne in his place.

1973 - Present

Karl / Charles XVI Gustav

Son. Born 30.04.1946.

Crown Princess Victoria

Dau and heir. m Daniel Westling in 2010.

2010 - 2012

Crown Princess Victoria marries her former fitness instructor, commoner Daniel Westling, on 19 June 2010. He assumes the title of Prince Daniel, duke of Västergötland. Within a year the couple announced that their first child is on the way. That child is a daughter, Princess Estelle, duchess of Östergötland, born on 23 February 2012, and second in line to the throne.

Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Estelle
The heir to the Swedish throne, Crown Princess Victoria, and her first child, next in line to the throne, Princess Estelle

Princess Estelle

Dau and heir. Born 2012. Duchess of Östergötland.

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