Three Ways To Depose Karl Knutsson

karlThe 12-15th centuries are reckoned as Sweden's Middle Ages. Politically, it was a highly volatile period, where the average tenure of a ruler was less than 11 years. One trait that can look modern to a present-day observer is that some of these tenures were divided up into several separate terms interleaved by other rulers. The man who managed most terms – four of them – was Karl Knutsson.

Karl was born in 1408/9 and first ruled Sweden/Finland from age 29/30, becoming elected Steward of the Realm in 1438 after taking part in Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson's uprising against the king of the Scandinavian Union. Karl would in all likelihood have preferred to rule uninterrupted until his death in 1470, but instead he lost power three times and had to fight to regain it.

1440. Insufficient support for his stewardship from the Swedish nobility. Karl hands over power to the Danish king and moves to Finland. Elected king of Sweden/Finland in 1448 and of Norway the following year, becoming ruler of much the greater territorial part of the Union nominally ruled by the Danish king.

1457. War with the Danes. Populace unhappy about paying for this. Archbishop leads an uprising and Karl flees to Gdansk. Regains power in 1464.

1465. Archbishop leads an uprising and Karl flees to Finland. Regains power in 1467 and keeps it until his death.

Karl ruled Sweden/Finland for a total of about 15 years, which was above average. It is the more remarkable because Medieval Kings tended to leave the office feet first on a stretcher. This is a sign of an important difference between the early and late parts of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Over time, political power became far more grounded in negotiations, intrigue and money, and less in battlefield prowess and luck. Karl's recurring problem was the Swedish high nobility, from which Archbishops were recruited. Only in the following century would a King of Sweden come to terms decisively with this problem.

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"...come to terms decisively with this problem" in the manner of Henry VIII. Although Gustav did not need to actually kill any archbishop. (but he killed enough peasants to make up for it)

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 29 Apr 2014 #permalink

Henry VIII was an opportunist. He wrote a screed against Martin Luther's Reformation, for which the Pope awarded him the title of "Defender of the Faith". Which title he retained after his own revolt against the Catholic Church, who were trying to enforce the quaint custom that a king could not divorce his wife at will.

But without a Martin Luther, I suspect none of this happens. In the 15th century, the Catholic Church was too politically powerful throughout Europe for anyone to defy them so openly. I presume that Karl Knutsson was not so secure in his position that he could suggest to his henchmen, "Will nobody rid me of this troublesome priest?" (as an earlier English king did) and be reasonably sure that a few of them would take the hint.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Apr 2014 #permalink

Of course, if you were a prince of the church (cardinal) it was open season on other cardinals and bishops, at least in Italy. Being the local poison expert must have been a good gig.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

They've got that wrong.

By John Massey (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

Anyone who has ever tried to water a garden growing in sand in a hot arid climate during a prolonged dry spell (i.e. not Dutch physicists performing silly little laboratory tests with remoulded sand samples that do not in any way reproduce field conditions) knows exactly what happens - the water pools on top of the sand instead of soaking in and wetting the sand. You actually have to add chemical 'wetting agents' to make the water soak into the sand to wet it and produce the effect they are talking about. This happens in soils which are almost pure sand, rather than soils which have a substantial clay fraction. It is not what you would expect to happen from a simplistic physical model of sand grains, because it has to do with molecular attraction.

The ancient Egyptians undoubtedly found that pouring water on the sand in front of the sled made it easier to pull the sled, as depicted in the wall painting - that is because the sled would be sliding on a layer of water lying on top of the sand, which would greatly reduce the friction between the sled and the ground. It has nothing to do with the stiffness of the sand at different moisture contents.

'We' know a lot more than 'they' think we do about the behaviour of granular media in field conditions. 'They' should show a bit more humility and do a bit more homework before pontificating that 'we' do not know much about it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

Anyway, never mind that bit of trivia - this could be important:… "The Atlas project: a geographic guide to the genomics and archeology of prehistoric Sweden"

There's a beta project site here:

That's hot on the heels of the latest publication by Pontus Skoglund et al. on, inter alia, genomic data from ancient Swedish foragers (but which has implications for a lot more than Swedish ancestry - for one thing, it's yet another nail in the coffin of the wretched Solutrean Hypothesis which, zombie-like, just won't go away):…

I previously referenced Razib Khan's discussion on that important paper, and Dienekes Pontikos has also discussed it - basically, everyone is very excited about the amount of important ancient genomic information pouring out now which potentially greatly helps to untangle and clarify ancient population movements - it seems to me, particularly the synergy possible from archaeology, linguistics and genomics being brought together in a cooperative manner.

I understand that Dr Skoglund has now moved from Uppsala to Harvard. People are predicting we will see a lot more papers from him. All I can say is - more power to him.

By John Massey (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Meanwhile, you can play with this forever.

You need to download the pdf file to your computer to be able to read it - it summarises a huge amount of information. It's a shame whoever plotted it used yellow, but it is what it is. On the basis of this, people are now predicting/guessing at what Mal'ta Boy (MA1), and the 'ghost' populations of Ancient North Eurasians and Basal Eurasians looked like.

But one thing is for sure - the Solutrean Hypothesis is dead and buried, and it is only going to become more dead and more deeply buried from now on. The peopling of the Americas may well turn out to be more complex and a bit earlier, there is more to be explained there (not helped by some obviously unhinged people working in that field and some really lousy dating), but the Solutrean Hypothesis - no, sorry. That's gone.

By John Massey (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

The yellow really doesn't help, but if you are looking for Mal'ta Boy (MA1), the 24,000 year old Siberian boy with close affinity to another ancient child in Montana, he is in the far top right hand corner of the PCA plot.

By John Massey (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

This guy arranged a viscious campain in Scania in 1462 based on plunder, murder and burning in Helsingborg, Landskrona, Borgeby, Lund and Åhus. His troops had a stay at Uppåkra after they burned down Lund.

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

@ Thomas - but of course they stayed at Uppåkra. Where else does one stay after razing Lund to the ground?

As a refresher, MA1 had close genetic affinity with Anzick 1, the baby boy buried in Montana 12,600 years ago.…

The reference to Anzick 1 being of East Asian origin is potentially somewhat misleading - they mean by that a geographical origin in eastern Siberia, not that he was fully ancestrally derived from people who are now grouped as East Asians - Chinese, Korean and Japanese. In fact, ancestrally he was a hybrid of a 'ghost' population termed Ancestral North Eurasian (ANE) and a 'Chinese-like' population, which explains the confusing array of features which people have seen in ancient North American remains, some 'European-looking' and some 'Asian-looking'.

The Mal'ta people were Siberian steppe mammoth hunters. They no longer exist as a distinguishable people, nor do the ANE, hence the term 'ghost' population. So, people are guessing about which modern populations are likely to be most like those people. One guess is that the Ket people of central Siberia are most like ANE. Someone else has guessed Pashtun, someone else Lezgins, Pathans and Kalash (who are themselves really interesting people).

MA1 is obviously shifted eastwards from those populations because he was ancestrally a hybrid of ANE and an early East Asian population - the sort of hybridisation that occurred in Central Asia when a West Eurasian population and an East Eurasian population encountered one another and erm became good friends - got married and had kids, or whatever the relevant equivalent of pair-bonding and reproducing was at the time - most people seem to use the term 'marriage' for convenience. This was not some one-off chance encounter, this was a hybrid population that arose from the meeting and inter-mingling of east and west population groups, as in the case of numerous Central Asian peoples, for which there is a cline right across Central Asia from east to west. The term 'hybrid' might sound somewhat offensive, but it simply signifies a population derived from the mixing of two populations that had previously been geographically isolated from one another for a long period of time - the Uyghurs are an example of an ancient hybrid population that are about 50-50 West and East Eurasian, as are the Hazara (although much less ancient than the hybridisation that gave rise to the Mal'ta people and the first people to move into the Americas).

In some sense we are all the result of hybridisation - so, no offence, to hybrids ancient or modern.

So, anyway, for the early peopling of the Americas, case closed - they migrated from Siberia through Beringia, and they had ancestral affinities that were both 'Europeanish' (although that term meant little or nothing then) (actually more correctly West Eurasian-ish) and 'East Asianish'.

I like to think she would have been pleased to know:…

By John Massey (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Actually, in light of Skoglund et al.'s most recent paper, that's not right - Anzick1 was an ANE/East Asian hybrid, MA1 was ANE, with no East Asian ancestry.

By John Massey (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Or as someone else put it: "Correction, MA1 is Asian. MA1 lived deep in Asia, and differentiated itself there, regardless of how close he was to other Asians."

Referencing to modern populations vs geography is really confusing.

By John Massey (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

"This guy arranged a viscious campain in Scania in 1462 based on plunder, murder and burning in Helsingborg, Landskrona, Borgeby, Lund and Åhus."
Depressingly, "Black Adder" was a documentary of medieval politics...

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Karl Knutsson was thinking small. The year he was burning, raping and murdering in a small province, the Spaniards prepared for doing the same to two continents.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

(OT) Some religious Americans think UFOs, bigfoot, ghosts, psychic powers, etc., are all really demons trying to delude people. Here is another example:…
See Genesis 6:4 – “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days–and also afterward–when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them.” Angels love them some human ladies. Also, Mars apparently needs women*. (*title of cheesy B-film)

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Karl Knutsson tour in Scania in 1462 was the first "appetite for destruction" tour long Before 'Guns and Roses'. The first villain and war criminal of Scandinavia after the vikings?

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Birger @16: Actually, Spain as a country didn't exist yet. There were separate kingdoms of Castilla and Aragón (plus several others), which were alternately fighting each other and fighting toward the common goal of driving the Moors out of Iberia (which they finally did 30 years later). The Spain that we know today was created with the merger of Castilla and Aragón when their monarchs, Fernando and Isabel (I don't recall offhand which was which), married each other.

That business about destroying other continents was set off the same year the Moors were driven out of Iberia, when some Italian guy with a lowball estimate of the Earth's circumference talked Fernando and Isabel into backing his expedition to reach Asia by sailing west. Luckily for the Italian dude, there was another land mass in the way.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 May 2014 #permalink

Me haz bad eyesight. . 1462 iz not 1492.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 02 May 2014 #permalink

I've enabled something called Jetpack in Wordpress. Trying out the comments function. Not really seeing any change?

Change of what? I'm trying the notification function with this comment.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 May 2014 #permalink

I don't know what changes to expect, really. I enabled some "like" buttons and mainly just got a second set of the ones I already had.

"The submarine landslide and resulting tsunami are not someone’s wild imagining" -- I want to read that on the paper slip from my post-dinner fortune cookie!

I'm not seeing any 'like' buttons on the comments, just the usual one on the post.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 May 2014 #permalink

I also didn't get an email notification of your response.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 May 2014 #permalink

I do however love the work emails I get, under the category of 'employee engagement' - "Cookie baking for Mother and Father's Day with the Mental Health Association."

According to me, if you have mental health, you tell Mother and Father to bake their own cookies.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 May 2014 #permalink

Everyone knows that Daddy goes violently insane unless you bake him cookies for Father's Day.

My daughter has an excellent way of controlling me - when I ask her to promise she will flip my "off" switch/turn off my life support/whatever once I become a raving drooling useless idiot, she says "Only if you behave yourself."

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 May 2014 #permalink