Engelbrekt rebellion

Statue of Engelbrekt at Kornhamnstorg in Stockholm. The statue, inaugurated in 1916, present the leader of the rebellion in the shape of the hero and "freedom fighter" William Tell. Engelbrekt and his army appear on an image on the tall base, while the memory of Eric of Pomerania is represented by a statue in the gardens of the Stockholm City Hall.[1]

The Engelbrekt rebellion was a rebellion in 1434–1436 led by Swedish nobleman Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson against Eric of Pomerania, the king of the Kalmar Union. It resulted in the deposing of Eric as well as erosion of the union.


In 1434, Sweden was part of the Kalmar Union, a personal union that united Sweden with Denmark and Norway under a single monarch, the current monarch being Eric of Pomerania. The Swedes were not happy with the Danes' frequent warfare on Schleswig, Holstein, Mecklenburg, and Pomerania, which were a disturbance to Swedish exports (notably iron) to the Continent. During the Danish-Holstein-Hanseatic war, while the exports were brought to a halt, the collection of taxes continued, enraging Swedish peasants. Furthermore, the centralization of government in Denmark raised suspicions. The Swedish Privy Council wanted to retain a fair degree of self-government.


The rebellion was ignited by the tax situation, where Eric of Pomerania, King of the Kalmar Union, showed arrogance by not negotiating with the four Estates of the Swedish realm at a Diet.

In the summer of 1434, enraged miners and peasants burned the castle of Borganäs near Borlänge. The tension spread, causing several assaults on castles across the country. Nobleman Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson stood out as the rebel leader, commanding a peasant army. Negotiations with king Eric took place in Vadstena in August 1434, but this was unsuccessful.

In January 1435 Engelbrekt summoned representatives from the four Estates to a Diet in Arboga, which later has been called the first Riksdag of the Estates (although it is uncertain whether the peasants really participated). Engelbrekt was elected Captain (Rikshövitsman) of the Swedish realm. The antagonism abated when king Eric promised changes for the better. However, as before, people felt these promises were not being fulfilled, hence the rebels picked up their axes once more. On April 27, 1436 a rebel army unit was sent marching towards Stockholm, where people still supported king Eric due to strong and influential Danish presence in the city.

A certain degree of inner tension among the rebelling forces occurred because the Nobility and Clergy decided to support Karl Knutsson Bonde, who in 1436 had risen to the position of Rikshövitsman. Neither dared remove Engelbrekt completely because of his strong support among the two lower Estates (Burghers and Peasants). However, Engelbrekt fell sick and came somewhat in the background. In a twist of fate highly beneficial to Knutsson, Engelbrekt was assassinated on May 4 by Måns Bengtsson (Natt och Dag), the cause being an unrelated, personal conflict. Consequently, Knutsson won the power struggle (and became king Charles VIII of Sweden in 1448). A man named Erik Puke attempted to rally Engelbrekt's old supporters in the Pukefejden, but it was too late. Puke was apprehended and executed in Stockholm in 1437.


The Engelbrekt rebellion caused the unity of the Kalmar Union to erode, leading to the expulsion of Danish forces from Sweden. Although later Danish kings regained influence over Sweden, the rebellion had set a precedent for Swedish claims to sovereignty.

Furthermore, where it is uncertain whether all four Estates participated in the Diet (Riksdag) in Arboga, this was in fact the case in 1436, when a Diet was held in Uppsala following the death of Engelbrekt. Thus, the Engelbrekt rebellion marked the start of a democratic institution which to a certain extent included the peasants.


  1. Martin Stugart (2005-08-24). "Varför står Wilhelm Tell staty vid Kornhamnstorg?" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 2007-04-23.

See also

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