Charles VIII of Sweden

Last updated
Carl II of Sweden 15th century by Bernt Notke 1982 .jpg
Wood sculpture of Charles by his contemporary Bernt Notke. Made posthumously (c. 1480s), but considered to have real likeness. [1] [2]
King of Sweden
Reign20 June 1448 – 24 February 1457
9 August 1464 – 30 January 1465
12 November 1467 – 15 May 1470
Coronation 29 June 1448, Uppsala
King of Norway
Reign20 November 1449 – June 1450
Coronation20 November 1449, Trondheim
Born5 October 1409
Ekholmen Castle, Veckholm, Uppsala
Died14 May 1470(1470-05-14) (aged 60)
Stockholm Castle, Stockholm
Riddarholm Church, Stockholm
Spouse Birgitta Turesdotter (Bielke)
Katarina Karlsdotter
Kristina Abrahamsdotter
among others...
Magdalen Karlsdotter
Full name
Karl Knutsson Bonde
House Bonde
FatherKnut Tordsson Bonde
MotherMargareta Karlsdotter
Religion Roman Catholicism
Royal coat of arms, created by Charles in 1448. It has served as template for Sweden's greater coat of arms since. Blason de Charles VIII de Suede et de Norvege (1408-1470).svg
Royal coat of arms, created by Charles in 1448. It has served as template for Sweden's greater coat of arms since.
Carl's 16th century grave monument in Riddarholm Church Carl II of Sweden effigy by Lucas van der Werdt.jpg
Carl's 16th century grave monument in Riddarholm Church

Charles VIII of Sweden (1408 Uppsala - 1470 Stockholm, in reality Charles II), Charles I of Norway, also Carl (Swedish : Karl Knutsson), was king of Sweden (1448–1457, 1464–1465 and from 1467 to his death in 1470) and king of Norway (1449–1450).

Uppsala Place in Uppland, Sweden

Uppsala is the capital of Uppsala County and the fourth-largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö. It had 168,096 inhabitants in 2017.

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 960,031 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.5 million in the urban area, and 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the capital of Stockholm County.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Both Norwegian and Danish are generally easier for Swedish speakers to read than to listen to because of difference in accent and tone when speaking. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages.


Regnal name

Charles was the second Swedish king by the name of Charles (Karl). Charles VIII is a posthumous invention, counting backwards from Charles IX (r. 1604–1611) who adopted his numeral according to a fictitious history of Sweden. Six others before Charles VII are unknown to any sources before Johannes Magnus's 16th century book Historia de omnibus gothorum sueonumque regibus, and are considered his invention. Charles was the first Swedish monarch of the name to actually use a regnal number as Charles II (later retrospectively renumbered VIII), on his queen's tombstone (1451) at Vadstena. [3]

Charles IX of Sweden King of Sweden

Charles IX, also Carl, was King of Sweden from 1604 until his death. He was the youngest son of King Gustav I and his second wife, Margaret Leijonhufvud, brother of Eric XIV and John III, and uncle of Sigismund who was king of both Sweden and Poland. By his father's will he got, by way of appanage, the Duchy of Södermanland, which included the provinces of Närke and Värmland; but he did not come into actual possession of them till after the fall of Eric and the succession to the throne of John in 1568.

Charles VII of Sweden King of Sweden

Charles VII or Carl was ruler of Götaland, and then King of Sweden from c. 1161 to 1167, when he was assassinated.

Johannes Magnus Roman Catholic archbishop

Johannes Magnus was the last functioning Catholic Archbishop in Sweden, and also a theologian, genealogist, and historian.

Early life

Karl Knutsson was born in October 1408 or 1409, at Ekholmen Castle, the son of Knut Tordsson (Bonde), knight and member of the privy council (riksråd), and Margareta Karlsdotter (Sparre av Tofta), the only daughter and heiress of Charles Ulvsson, Lord of Tofta. His father Knut was first cousin of Erik Johansson Vasa's father. King Charles died 14 May 1470. His first marriage, in 1428, to Birgitta Turesdotter (Bielke) (died 1436) gave him his daughter Kristina. His second marriage, in 1438, to Katarina Karlsdotter (Gumsehuvud) (died in 1450) produced his second daughter Magdalena, who married Ivar Axelsson (Tott). He also had two children by his third wife (and former mistress) Kristina Abrahamsdotter, Anna and Karl. His father was said by contemporary legends to descend from a younger brother of King Eric IX (Saint Eric). His mother, an important heiress, descended from Jarl Charles the Deaf and consequently from some ancient Folkunge earls of Sweden, as well as from Ingegerd Knutsdotter, a daughter of Canute IV of Denmark and Adela of Flanders.

Ekholmen Castle

Ekholmen Castle is a castle in Sweden.

Privy Council of Sweden Cabinet of medieval origin consisting of magnates (Swedish: stormän) which advised, and at times co-ruled, with the King of Sweden

The Council of the Realm, or simply The Council, was a cabinet of medieval origin, consisting of magnates which advised, and at times co-ruled with, the King of Sweden.

Charles of Tofta, a.k.a. Karl Ulfson was a 14th-century Swedish magnate and High Constable of Sweden.

Growing influence

In 1434 he became a member of the Privy Council of Sweden and in October of the same year he assumed one of its most senior offices, Lord High Constable of Sweden, or Riksmarsk. Because of the growing dissatisfaction with King Eric of Pomerania among the Swedish nobility, Charles was in 1436 made Rikshövitsman , an office equating to Military Governor of the Realm, and finally replaced the king as an elected regent from 1438 to 1440, as the result of the rebellion by Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson. During Charles's brief regentship, the so-called Rebellion of David (a peasant rebellion) took place in Finland. Eric of Pomerania was forced to step down from the throne and in 1440 Christopher of Bavaria, was elected king of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. At the coronation of Christopher in September 1441, Charles was dubbed a knight and appointed Lord High Justiciar of Sweden, or Riksdrots. In October he resigned as Lord High Justiciar and resumed his office as Lord High Constable. From 1442 he was the military governor, hövitsman, at Vyborg in Finland (margrave of Viborg).

The Lord High Constable was a prominent and influential office in Sweden, from the 13th century until 1676, excluding periods when the office was out of use. The office holder was a member of the Swedish Privy Council and, from 1630 and on, the head of the Swedish Council of War. From 1634, the Lord High Constable was one of five Great Officers of the Realm.

Eric of Pomerania King of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Kalmar Union

Eric of Pomerania KG was the ruler of the Kalmar Union from 1396 until 1439, succeeding his grandaunt, Queen Margaret I. He is numbered Eric III as King of Norway (1389–1442), Eric VII as King of Denmark (1396–1439) and Eric XIII as King of Sweden. Today, in all three countries he is more commonly known as Erik av Pommern. Eric was ultimately deposed from all three kingdoms of the union, but in 1449 he inherited one of the partitions of the Duchy of Pomerania and ruled it as duke until his death.

Swedish nobility socially privileged class in Sweden

The Swedish nobility has historically been a legally and/or socially privileged class in Sweden, and part of the so-called frälse. The archaic term for nobility, frälse, also included the clergy, a classification defined by tax exemptions and representation in the diet. Today the nobility does not maintain its former privileges although family names, titles and coats of arms are still protected. The Swedish nobility consists of both "introduced" and "unintroduced" nobility, where the latter has not been formally "introduced" at the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset). The House of Nobility still maintains a fee for male members over the age of 18 for upkeep on pertinent buildings in Stockholm.

Charles acquired extensive fiefs, for example in Western Finland. His first seat was in Turku. Soon, Christopher's government began to take back fiefs and positions and Charles was forced to give up the castle of Turku. Charles's next seat was the castle of Vyborg, on Finland's eastern border, where he kept an independent court, taking no heed of Christopher and exercising his own foreign policy in relation to such powers in the region as the Hanseatic League, the Russian city of Novgorod and the Teutonic Knights in what are today Estonia and Latvia.

Hanseatic League Confederation in Northern Europe

The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe. Growing from a few North German towns in the late 1100s, the league came to dominate Baltic maritime trade for three centuries along the coasts of Northern Europe. Hansa territories stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages, and diminished slowly after 1450.

Estonia Republic in Northern Europe

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second most spoken Finnic language.

Latvia republic in Northeastern Europe

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

King of Sweden

At the death of Christopher in 1448, without a direct heir, Charles was elected king of Sweden on 20 June and on 28 June he was hailed as the new monarch at the Stones of Mora, not far from Uppsala, mostly due to his own military troops being present at the place, against the wishes of regents Bengt and Nils Jönsson (Oxenstierna). The Danish had in September 1448 elected Christian I as their new monarch. A rivalry ensued between Charles and Christian for the throne of Norway, which had also been ruled by Christopher, with both kings gaining support from various factions in the Norwegian Council of the realm. In 1449 a portion of the Norwegian council elected Charles King of Norway, and he was crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 20 November. However, Christian also continued pursuing his claim to Norway. The Swedish aristocracy was reluctant to back Charles in a war against Denmark over Norway, and already in 1450, Charles was forced to relinquish the throne of Norway in favour of Christian.

Stones of Mora place where ancient Swedish kings were elected

The Stones of Mora is a historic location in Knivsta where Swedish kings were elected until 1457. The origin of the tradition is unknown.

Nidaros Cathedral Church in Trøndelag, Norway

Nidaros Cathedral is a Church of Norway cathedral located in the city of Trondheim in Trøndelag county, Norway. It is built over the burial site of King Olav II of Norway now Saint Olav, the King of Norway in the 11th century, who became the patron saint of the nation, and is the traditional location for the consecration of new Kings of Norway. It was built over a long period of 230 years, from 1070 to 1300 when it was substantially completed. But additional work, additions and renovations continued occasionally intermittently for seven more centuries until 2001, and designated as the cathedral for the Diocese of Nidaros in 1152. After going the turmoil and controversies of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, it was taken from the Catholic Church by the newly reformed established state Church of Norway in 1537, which adopted and following the teachings and reforms of the German Catholic priest, Augustinian friar and university professor Martin Luther (1483-1546), Phillip Melancthon (1497-1560) and others, becoming Evangelical Lutheran. Norwegian Christian faith was heavily influenced by the events and theological debates further south in continental Europe in the Holy Roman Empire and German Confederation under Emperor Charles V. Nidaros is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.

Trondheim City in Norway

Trondheim is a city and municipality in Trøndelag county, Norway. It has a population of 193,501, and is the third-most populous municipality in Norway, although the fourth largest urban area. Trondheim lies on the south shore of Trondheim Fjord at the mouth of the River Nidelva. The city is dominated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), St. Olavs University Hospital and other technology-oriented institutions.

From 1451, Sweden and Denmark were in state of war against each other. Because of devastating warring, a growing opposition against Charles emerged among the nobility in Sweden. The strongest opponent was the Swedish church which opposed Charles's efforts to concentrate royal and secular power. Other opponents were the family group of Oxenstierna and the House of Vasa, which had been on the opposing side in the election of king and lost.

Later reigns

During the next 20 years, Charles was deposed twice, only to regain the throne and reign three times (1448–57, 1464–65, 1467–70).

In 1457, a rebellion took place, led by Archbishop Jöns Bengtsson (Oxenstierna) and a nobleman, Erik Axelsson Tott. Charles went into exile to Danzig (Gdańsk). The two leaders of the revolt took the regentship, and organized the election of Christian I of Denmark as king (firstly in Turku, then in Stockholm).

In 1463, King Christian quarrelled with the Archbishop because of his taxation policies. The Archbishop was imprisoned, which resulted in a rebellion by his relatives, and led to Christian being driven out of Sweden. Charles was recalled by the rebels and returned at the head of a force of German and Polish mercenaries. Upon arrival in Sweden he found himself at war with the Archbishop and after two bloody battles in the winter of 1464–1465 Charles was again exiled. In 1467, the regent Erik Axelsson Tott, now having reverted to support Charles, once more had him crowned. Charles then reigned for three years, sharing power with the Riksråd, until his death in Stockholm in May 1470.


With Birgitta Turesdotter (Bielke):

With Catherine of Bjurum  :

With Kristina Abrahamsdotter  :

He left only one young son, born of his mistress, Kristina Abrahamsdotter, whom he married on his deathbed. Though she was recognized as Queen, the Swedish government did not allow the boy, suddenly legitimized as Prince Charles (Karl Karlsson) to succeed him, but appointed one of their number, Sten Sture the Elder (who was Charles's nephew) as regent.

Detail of Queen Catherine's gravestone at Vadstena Abbey, where her husband the king is called Carl II. KatarinaVadstenaJTD-2.jpg
Detail of Queen Catherine's gravestone at Vadstena Abbey, where her husband the king is called Carl II.


Charles represented a growing nationalist tendency among the Swedish aristocracy which tried first to subjugate the other Scandinavian countries under Sweden but soon focused on dissolving the Kalmar Union. In the next century, when the union was finally dissolved, Charles received some respect as an early champion of Swedish independence.

Charles's fight for power and kingship was more successful than his experience thereof. He allegedly recognized this himself and described his life in a brief poem:

When I was Lord of Fågelvik, (pronounced: foegle-veek)

Then I had wealth and might unique.
But once I was King of the Swedish land,

I was a poor and unhappy man. [4]

Charles's great-granddaughter Christina Nilsdotter Gyllenstierna was married to Sten Sture the Younger whose regentship represented similar values: nationalism and Swedish independence.

Though the Bonde family, not descendants of Charles himself but just his collateral relatives, remained prominent among the Swedish nobility and in politics into the 20th Century, Charles's own descendants did not ascend nor inherit any thrones until Prince Christian zu Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg became Christian IX of Denmark in 1863. Charles's descendants have since ascended the thrones of Norway, Greece and Great Britain.

His distant direct descendant, Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha married the Hereditary Prince of Sweden in the 20th century, and with Sibylla's son, king Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, Charles's blood returned to the Swedish throne.

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  1. "Karl Knutsson (Bonde)". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon . Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  2. "Karl 1 Knutsson Bonde". Norsk biografisk leksikon . Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  3. "Karl" in Nordisk familjebok ; and Johan Henrik Schröder: Anteckningar om Drottning Catharina, Konung Carl Knutssons Gemål, och Dess Graf-Monument i Wadstena Klosterkyrka. Iduna, Stockholm 1820, p. 378.
  4. Harrison, Dick (2002). Karl Knutsson: en biografi (in Swedish). Lund: Historiska media. p. 13. ISBN   91-89442-58-X. LIBRIS   8693772.
Karl Knutsson
Born: 5 October 1408 Died: 15 May 1470
Regnal titles
Title last held by
King of Norway
Title next held by
Christian I
King of Sweden
Title last held by
Christian I
King of Sweden
Vacant King of Sweden
Title next held by
John II