Tre Kronor (castle)

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Tre Kronor
Slottet Tre Kronor 1661.jpg
The castle in a painting from 1661 by Govert Dircksz Camphuysen.
General information
Town or city Stockholm
Country Sweden
Construction started13th century
Demolished1697 (fire)

Tre Kronor (Swedish pronunciation:  [ˈtreː ²kruːnʊr] ; "Three Crowns") was a castle located in Stockholm, Sweden, on the site where Stockholm Palace is today. It is believed to have been a citadel that Birger Jarl built into a royal castle in the middle of the 13th century. The name "Tre Kronor" is believed to have been given to the castle during the reign of King Magnus IV in the middle of the 14th century.

Three Crowns

Three Crowns is a national emblem of Sweden, present in the coat of arms of Sweden, and composed of three yellow or gilded coronets ordered two above and one below, placed on a blue background.

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 962,154 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.

Stockholm Palace is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch

Stockholm Palace or the Royal Palace is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch. Stockholm Palace is located on Stadsholmen, in Gamla stan in the capital, Stockholm. It neighbours the Riksdag building. The offices of the King, the other members of the Swedish Royal Family, and the offices of the Royal Court of Sweden are located here. The palace is used for representative purposes by the King whilst performing his duties as the head of state.


Most of Sweden's national library and royal archives were destroyed [1] when the castle burned down in 1697, making the country's early history unusually difficult to document.


When King Gustav Vasa broke Sweden free from the Kalmar Union (a series of personal unions between Denmark, Sweden and Norway since 1397) and made Sweden independent again, Tre Kronor Castle became his most important royal seat. Gustav Vasa expanded the castle's defensive measures, while his son John III of Sweden later rebuilt and improved the castle aesthetically, turning it into a renaissance style castle and adding a castle church.

Kalmar Union former country; personal union of the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway

The Kalmar Union was a personal union that from 1397 to 1523 joined under a single monarch the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, together with Norway's overseas dependencies. The union was not quite continuous; there were several short interruptions. Legally, the countries remained separate sovereign states, but with their domestic and foreign policies being directed by a common monarch.

A personal union is the combination of two or more states that have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct. A real union, by contrast, would involve the constituent states being to some extent interlinked, such as by sharing some limited governmental institutions. In a federation and a unitary state, a central (federal) government spanning all member states exists, with the degree of self-governance distinguishing the two. The ruler in a personal union does not need to be a hereditary monarch.

John III of Sweden Swedish king

John III was King of Sweden from 1568 until his death. He was the son of King Gustav I of Sweden and his second wife Margaret Leijonhufvud. He was also, quite autonomously, the ruler of Finland, as Duke John from 1556 to 1563. In 1581 he assumed also the title Grand Prince of Finland. He attained the Swedish throne after a rebellion against his half-brother Eric XIV. He is mainly remembered for his attempts to close the gap between the newly established Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Catholic church.

The keep may have existed previous to the 16th century, but in a much smaller form than on the pictures from the beginning and end of the 16th and 17th centuries. The tower was then about the half of the height in the end of the 16th century. The castle consisted of two parts, the main castle (högborgen) and the walled in gardens surrounding it (ekonomigården) with the high tower in the middle. [2]

Keep type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility

A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the castle fall to an adversary. The first keeps were made of timber and formed a key part of the Motte-and-Bailey castles that emerged in Normandy and Anjou during the 10th century; the design spread to England as a result of the Norman invasion of 1066, and in turn spread into Wales during the second half of the 11th century and into Ireland in the 1170s. The Anglo-Normans and French rulers began to build stone keeps during the 10th and 11th centuries; these included Norman keeps, with a square or rectangular design, and circular shell keeps. Stone keeps carried considerable political as well as military importance and could take up to a decade or more to build.

The fire

Johan Fredrik Hockert's realistic and dramatic painting from 1866 of the Castle Fire "Slottsbranden ... ", showing young King Charles XII of Sweden with his grandmother and sisters escaping ahead of his recently deceased father's body and his crown jewels coming down the stairs behind them. Slottsbranden i Stockholm den 7 maj 1697 (1866).jpg
Johan Fredrik Höckert's realistic and dramatic painting from 1866 of the Castle Fire "Slottsbranden ... ", showing young King Charles XII of Sweden with his grandmother and sisters escaping ahead of his recently deceased father's body and his crown jewels coming down the stairs behind them.

On May 7, 1697 a large fire broke out in Tre Kronor that completely demolished the majority of the then more-than-400-year-old castle. The fire was discovered by the castle's keeper, Georg Stiernhoff. The fire marshal, Sven Lindberg, informed the royal staff that he could not get to the fire extinguishing equipment because the fire blocked his access to it. The royal family and court were forced to evacuate the castle. The servants attempted to save as much as possible of the royal possessions. The fire spread quickly to all parts of the castle. Since the castle was made out of wood and copper, the hot copper plates set the roof on fire. Due to the fire most of Sweden's national library and royal archives were destroyed. [3]

Shortly after the fire died out, the investigation was launched into why it was not discovered earlier. A royal court found three possible culprits. Sven Lindberg the fire marshal for the castle and Anders Andersson and Mattias Hansson, soldiers on fire watch for the night, reporting to Sven Lindberg. It is revealed that Anders Andersson was running an errand for the fire marshal's wife, against fire watch regulations. Mattias Hansson had left his post, going into the kitchen to get some food. Hanson claimed that the fire marshal's wife had given permission to do so a statement she denied.[ citation needed ]

The royal court concluded that the fire marshal had used the soldier for his and his wife's private errands. It was also found that he had accepted bribes in exchange for hiring people into certain positions at the castle. In February 1698 the sentences were handed out. Sven Lindberg and Mattias Hanson were sentenced to death since they had both neglected their duty. Anders Andersson was sentenced to run the gauntlet. The death sentences were both later commuted to running the gauntlet and six years of forced labour at Carlsten fortress. Lindberg died while running the gauntlet.[ citation needed ]


Plans were made to rebuild a new castle on the old foundation. Nicodemus Tessin the Younger was the architect in charge of rebuilding. The new building, Stockholm Palace, was completed in 1754. Nicodemus died in 1728 and did not get to see it completed. [4]



A 1/3rd scale replica of Tre Kronor was created as part of The General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm (1897) (Swedish : Allmänna konst- och industriutställningen) also known as "Stockholm World's Fair" (Stockholmsutställningen).

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  1. Alf Åberg Karl XI Wahlström & Widstrand, Stockholm 1958 p. 201
  2. Hernow, Ulf. "Tre Kronor – Renässansslottet" [The Three Crowns – The Renaissance castle]. (in Swedish). StockholmGamlaStan. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  3. Malmborg, Boo von; Palmstierna, Carl-Fredrik (1971). Slott och herresäten i Sverige, ett konst- och kulturhistoriskt samlingsverk [Castles and manors in Sweden] (in Swedish). 1, Kungliga slottet i Stockholm. Malmö: Allhem. p. 39.
  4. Hernow, Ulf. "Kungliga slottet – Byggnationen" [The Royal Palace – The construction]. (in Swedish). StockholmGamlaStan. Retrieved 6 December 2014.

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Coordinates: 59°19′36″N18°04′18″E / 59.32667°N 18.07167°E / 59.32667; 18.07167