The Connection Between the Revolts of the 1430s

1. The Reasons for the Revolts 1436-1438

From 1350 to 1380, the first period after the Black Death, when Håkon VI ruled in Norway and in the next time period of 1380 to 1412, when Queen Margrete Valdemarsdaughter ruled most of the time, both the high and the low in the nation tried to maintain the old manner of governance.

Men from the old high nobility occupied positions in the district governments and at the most important fortresses and the positions of bishops, like the well-known Bishop of Oslo, Eystein Aslaksson. He edited that great cadaster in the 1390's where, among other things, all the districts in the Gjerpen Deanery, that is, Lower Telemark, are included. The Royal Official in the Skien District, Gaute Eiriksson, was a member of another Norwegian family belonging to the high nobility. At that time, we can still find people of the old lower nobility as priests and other prominent men in the districts.

The Old is Forced Down -- Toward the end of the reign of Queen Margrete, this was changed. Bishop Eystein died in 1406 and Lord Gaute died six years later and soon Danes occupied both of these important positions. The changes were noticed already around 1405 when Erik of Pomerania was on his only trip to Norway. He managed to remove the Norwegian Nobleman, Ogmund Berdorsson Bolt, as Castellan at Akershus. A foreigner was then appointed to this position also.

At Kalmar in 1397, Erik was crowned as the Union King for those three Nordic Kingdoms, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. For him, Denmark was the most important nation and he would rule the other two nations with the help of his own men. Swedes and Norwegians wanted as much as possible to have their own regents as they had earlier. In these reversals lay the beginnings of the great conflicts of the future.

Erik was just as impetuous against his neighbors to the south, the German Hanseatic League, as he was against his own subjects in Norway and Sweden so that was another cause for strife.

The Hanseatic League and the North -- From the end of the 1300s, the North German merchant association, the Hanseatic League, gained greater and greater power over commerce in Norway and, after a while, developed its system with a foundation in the strong position the Hanseatic League held in Bergen.

Erik of Pomerania wanted to build up a strong Nordic Baltic Sea Empire. Such a policy had traditions in both Sweden and Denmark but was outside the interests of the Norwegians. This trade policy soon came into conflict with the interests the North German towns had in the area of the Baltic Sea. Because of this, the policy King Erik conducted there also had a great effect on circumstances in Norway.

In 1426, the Hanseatic League began a regular war against the Nordic Union. From the following year and six years into the future, the German Merchants stayed away from Bergen. Imports of products were difficult even though the English attempted to take over after the Hanseatic League. In 1428 and the following year, the Hanseatic League plundered Bergen and in 1429 defeated the Norwegian fleet of conscripted warships which, according to what we know, was then gathered for the last time. More unrest than on the West Coast of Norway, however, developed in other areas of the Union, in Eastern Norway and in certain areas of Sweden.

The war cost a great deal and the King proceeded energetically to strengthen the army. Extra taxes were levied and enforced with a strong hand. Both Queen Margrete and King Erik levied new taxes on the people and allowed the collectors to proceed as harshly as they wanted just so the money was gathered.

Great Changes in the Society took place in these three or four first decades of the 1400s. This manifested itself earliest in the position of the bailiff. His title was new, in many ways his functions were also new and the man was often a foreigner. For the common people, the bailiff stood as a symbol for that which was new and foreign so it is not surprising that anger was directed toward him.

Lawlessness was, among other things, a result of the ineffective central government which the King in Copenhagen attempted. Large land areas were combined and turned over as fiefs to trusted chieftains. They could be of varying size but the Akershus Main Fief in the year 1500 reached from the Idde Fjord around the Oslo Fjord and as far south as to Nedenes and included all the territory inland. The feudal Lord was situated at Akershus and had only a few bailiffs to help rule that great Fief, that is, settle conflicts and gather fines and taxes. The Fief of the Tønsberg Fortress was a Main Fief until 1503 and the Feudal Lord at the Tønsberg Fortress was present at the meeting of the National Council in 1437. The Skien District was often enfeoffed to Feudal Lords who had important tasks elsewhere so they had bailiffs to take care of the governance.

For the most part, the bønder themselves took responsibility for the legal conditions in the district with a bonde as sheriff who controlled several districts. The bailiff was only involved in the collection of taxes and fees for the King. For the people, however, it was mostly unclear if they were levied by the King or if they were something that the bailiff imposed. This was particularly the question concerning demands which were new and which the bønder were not familiar with from ancient times.

In Old Norse times, each church had its own priest and, until the year 1400 and a little later, the people in the districts attempted to uphold the old customs but, after a while, more and more church parishes were combined under a main parish.

The foremost ecclesiastical administrator in Eastern Norway was the Bishop in the Oslo Diocese, the Dane Jens Jakobsson. He had a completely different position, both ecclesiastically and temporally, than the Bishop in Hamar Diocese. This is particularly clear since Lord Jens was also the Norwegian Kingdom's Chancellor, a position which earlier had belonged to the Dean at the royal Maria Church in Oslo. This change was seen by both the laity and the clergy as illegal.

This is some of the background for the unrest of the 1420s and 1430s. The anger was directed toward the "foreign assailants" and among them Bishop Jens Jakobsen was an important symbol.

The Governance by Bailiffs -- We have seen how the Danish Bailiff, Herlaug Pedersson of the lower nobility, replaced that Norwegian Royal Official in the Skien District, Gaute Eiriksson, who was of the high nobility. Not only was the title different but also the specifics of this important position. The Royal Official was the King's man and was directly responsible to him. The Bailiff was the servant of the Feudal Lord and gave an accounting to him. Throughout the District, people were accountable to the Bailiff. For example, although the Royal Official had his residence in Skien, the Feudal Lord never appeared there nor in any part of the whole Skien District.

It was thus the Bailiff who ruled in the rural districts. That at least is how the common people saw it and so it was in reality. The Bailiff demanded the taxes and the fees with a strong hand and often with brutality. After a while, the bailiffs were blamed for all that was wrong, even for that which was not their fault, for example, the large taxes levied by the King, the new feudal government and the central instructions from abroad. Soon there was unrest in many districts and people wanted their bailiffs removed. As early as in 1426, in the Borgar District they demanded that the foreigner, Herman Molteke, be removed. He was, as were many prominent foreigners, married to a Norwegian.

The Swedes felt just as much plagued by the foreign bailiffs as did the Norwegians. Particularly ill liked was the Bailiff in charge of Västermandland, Bergslagen and Dalarna whose name was Jøsse or Jønes Eriksson. He was married to Birgitta Ulvsdaughter, sister of Peder Ulvsson of Ervalla who was among the foremost leaders of the revolt against King Erik and his bailiffs in Sweden. Jøsse Eriksson was beheaded on the 9th of December 1436.

Propaganda Campaign -- The Church in Sweden also opposed King Erik. The conflict about the Archbishopric at Uppsala was at this time particularly a strongly contributing factor in this opposition. This strife occurred together with the Council Action which sought to reform the Catholic Church. There was unrest at that time in every place. The Chapter House of the Cathedral in Uppsala contributed many arguments which opponents to a strong Union King could use in the verbal strife.

The propaganda from the Church reached out to the people in Sweden in various ways. The rhymed chronicles had particularly great effect. They had their main origin from ecclesiastical sources. It was claimed that the Bailiff Jøsse Eriksson at Bergslagen was a direct cause of the uprising there. About him it is said, among other things, in the rhymed chronicle:

The poor bönder in Dalarna's land
had a bailiff who plagued them
with taxes beyond the ability
and daily services of horse and man.
He did not tire of threatening and forcing them;
if they defied him, he let them hang in the smoke hood.

From Protest to Open Strife -- From the middle of the 1420s, a string of complaints developed against the bailiffs who collected taxes in a hard handed manner. These complaints went through the regular channels with resolutions at the district legal assemblies and jurors who were supposed to transmit them to the governmental powers. When these verbal protests had no effect in either Sweden or Norway, armed revolt resulted.

There is no indication that social unrest or class struggle was curbed either in Sweden or Norway. The lower nobility and the bønder joined forces. In Sweden, the rebellion was so strong that after a while the people of the high nobility found it best to join that rebellion. In Norway, the support of the rebels never became so strong that there was any danger to the leaders in the Kingdom. The people of the high nobility gave no support to the rebellion.

The men of the lower nobility were the leaders of the rebellion in both 1436 and two years later. Gudmund Helgesson of Ullensaker was a participant both times. Probably this was true of other members of the lower nobility. They were the ones who had lost most economically from the success of the foreigners and so they joined forces with the bønder who were those who most noticed that the lawlessness had increased greatly.



2. The Rebellion in 1436

The rebellion under the leadership of Amund Sigurdsson Bolt began early in the year of 1436, probably in February. The first known document which mentions it is a letter from the Swedish rebel leader, Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, dated in Kalmar on the 10th of March 1436. He tells that he has received a letter from the leaders of the opposition in Norway and that there was thus a rebellion there. The letter to the Swedes aimed for cooperation with the Swedish rebel leaders. The letter is printed in Hansercesse von 1431 bis 1476 I, s. 25, see also HT 3, number I, page 490.

In addition, there are three contemporary documents which specifically tell about the rebellion. They are dated 16 April 1436, 23 June 1436 and 18 February 1437. Regarding the letter mentioned first, there has been doubt about the date which is "Magnusmass in King Håkon's 26thyear". Gustav Storm -- HT 1892 -- points out that it must be 16 April, the Magnusmass in the spring and not the one on 13 December, the Magnusmass just before Christmas. Storm says that "Magnusmass was frequently used as a calendar date but then it was always the 16th of April; since the letter is dated from Magnusmass, that must be the case."

The Bishop's Residence in Oslo was also an important objective for the rebels. The Bishop's residence was situated in Old Oslo west of Eikaberg and was a kind of castle with soldiers and was therefore rather strongly defended. The Bishop's castle was very important strategically but even more important for propaganda purposes since the Dane Jens Jakobsson was situated there with both the castle and the position of bishop. He was on one of his many lengthy stays in Denmark when the rebels from his Diocese marched toward the castle.

Among the names and residences of a long list of those who participated in the revolt of Amund Sigurdsson are found not only people from Oslo Diocese. Not one who can be identified as being from the Hamar Diocese participated. We hear of people from Båhuslen, Østfold, Romerike, Solør, Aker, Bærum, Lier, Vestfold and the Skien District. Upper Telemark in the Hamar Diocese belonged to the Skien District but it is not possible to identify any of those who are mentioned in the revolt of 1436 as being resident there. Actually, it was mainly only people from Oslo Diocese who participated. The letter about this was composed on Magnusmass Day -- DN III 528. Somewhat abbreviated, it is as follows:

To all men who see or hear this letter, I Amund Sigurdsson, send God's and my greetings and make it known that on Magnusmass Day I had the Bishop's residence in my custody. Then Lord Svarte Jøns, Sigurd Jonsson, Simon Bjørnsson, the Lagmann in Oslo, and all the citizens arrived and surrounded me up there and wanted to deprive me of the residence. I then cooperated in the negotiations as advised by the aforementioned noblemen. They gave me the advice that I should no longer oppose my Lord the King nor his National Council in Norway. These negotiations proceeded in all regards as shall now be recounted: the aforementioned Lord Svarte Jøns, Sigurd Jonsson, Simon Bjørnsson and the other good and honest men who were in the City promised to do their best to secure mercy for me from my King. Should they not succeed, something that God may forbid, then I should nevertheless be allowed to live in a safe place. ("komma i mitt behald", see Söderwall behald in the Dictionary of the Swedish Language of the Middle Ages.) I then turned over the Bishop's residence to Lord Svarte Jøns on behalf of St. Hallvard and my King and I promised on my best assurance and veracity together with all my men who were then at the residence with me, that neither I nor they will ever again oppose the King, the Kingdom or the Kingdom's men in Norway or in the City of Oslo, whether in word, counsel or deed. And if I now receive my Lord King's mercy, I will remain in his mercy in intention and service with life and property according to my greatest assets. And I willingly ask for his mercy and furthermore as surety that this letter and all those earlier written articles shall stand fast and inviolate, these good men place their seals below this letter together with mine. They are Tormod Gunnarsson, Bård Toresson, Niklis Ivarsson, Hallvard Toresson and Gudmund Helgesson who were then at the Bishop's residence with me and who at the same negotiations have promised the same in behalf of all our company. This letter is offered in Oslo, in the year and on the day which are written earlier.

The Rebels and the Bishop's Residence -- Amund Sigurdsson and his men were thus not any longer Lords at the Bishop's residence. The Castellan at Akershus, Svarte Jøns, came there with soldiers. After the negotiations and the promise that the grievances of the rebels would be taken up by the Norwegian National Council, they gave the Bishop's residence over to Svarte Jøns.

In spite of the letter from Amund Sigurdsson, it is somewhat unclear what happened. Svarte Jøns was accused of having had rather much regard for the rebels, perhaps even sympathizing with them. The transcription of a letter in a Swedish letter book tells something about this. The letter is dated in Oslo on the 28th of May 1438 -- DN XXI 283 -- and says that Lord Erlend Eindridsson has asked the town officials and citizens in Oslo to give testimony about what happened when after negotiations Amund Sigurdsson left the Bishop's residence, "where he had come with force and with help from the common people".

The two documents about this can be found in transcription in the Swedish archives, now printed in the Diplomatrium Norvegicum. The first, dated in Oslo on the 28th of May 1438, intends to give testimony about what happened when Amund Sigurdsson Bolt made an agreement with Castellan Svarte Jøns at Akershus about relinquishing the Bishop's residence. The letter is thus in DN XXI 283:

To all men who see or hear this letter, the City Officials and Citizens in Oslo send God's and their greetings and we make known that nobleman Erlend Eindridsson sent for us and ordered and commanded us to give testimony about how Amund Sigurdsson was out-negotiated and accompanied out of the Bishop's residence in Oslo. He had occupied it by force and with the help of the common people. We witness by this open letter that we poor Citizens and City dwellers surrounded -- "bestellethe" -- see Söderwall in Document References -- Amund Sigurdsson in the Bishop's residence and we then sent a message to Akershus for Svarte Jøns. He came but did not rely on getting Amund away by any other means than by negotiations. It was then said and promised that Amund Sigurdsson should leave the Bishop's residence, turn it over to Svarte Jøns and that Amund would never more oppose "my Lord King". He would remain, with two men, at Akershus until a message arrived from the King about what mercy he would give to Amund. We do not know the reason why this agreement was not kept but later Lord Svarte Jøns and Amund Sigurdsson were at the Bishop's residence with their people and remained there. Later Erlend Eindridsson came to Oslo and wanted to seize Amund Sigurdsson but the common people would not allow him to do that. Lord Erlend said, "It is, by God, wrong that I was not able to seize that traitor." As verification, we set the City's seal under this letter which was written in Oslo on Wednesday before Pentecost in 1438.

Svarte Jøns denied all of these accusations about having been passive or actually having helped the rebels in 1436. During the summer of 1438, his position must nevertheless have been weakened; both on the 1st of August and on the 9th of August we find him as Castellan at Akershus together with Olav Bukk. In the letter of 1 August, the suspicion clearly appears. City Dweller Harald the Goldsmith had presented accusations against Svarte Jøns who therefore demanded that his situation at the time of the revolt be investigated. That was done and on 1 August 1438 Olav Bukk, Dean Anders Mus at the Maria Church, the Lagmann in Oslo, two members of the lower nobility, five members of the City Council and twelve jurors gave Lord Svarte Jøns full satisfaction. The contentions of Harald the Goldsmith proved to be incorrect. The City's seal had also been used without permission on the letter he produced.

The Rebels and The King -- In the National Council Erlend Eindridsson was probably the only person who was completely against the demands of Amund Sigurdsson. The Council wrote to the King and asked him to grant the demands. The King on his side demanded that the National Council should eliminate the unrest and invited them to come to Kalmar for discussions but no one went there. The King had thus not agreed with anything when the National Council held its meeting with Amund Sigurdsson and the representatives of the bønder on Jersøya outside of Tønsberg in June of 1436 -- see below.

Even by the summer of 1438 the King had not accepted the demands from Amund Sigurdsson and the National Council. The rebels who participated in 1436 and in 1438 had thus not broken any agreements with the King since no such agreements had been made.

The Meeting on Jersøya Near Tunsberg was held on 23 June 1436 -- DN III 525. Twelve members of the National Council and squires met there with Amund Sigurdsson and the most prominent of his men who were Nisse Sveinsson, Hallvard Toresson, Torleiv Tovesson, Amund Assarsson, Gunnar Jonsson, Jeppe Engelbrektsson, Eirik Olavsson, Anund Andresson, Arne Pålsson, Borgar Sigurdsson, Herman Torsteinsson, Einar Einarsson, Jon Toraldsson, Torbjørn Hallvardsson, Sigurd Olavsson, Niklis Torkelsson, Sigge Jonsson, Asbjørn Alvsson, Steinar Aslaksson, Anund Smidsson, Anund Andresson, Reidar Aslaksson, Ketil Alvsson, Gjest Guttormsson, Tormod Eivindsson and Asgaut Jonsson.

The participants agreed that there would be peace among all until Morten's Day -- 11 November. Before that day, the National Council and the five lagmenn would gather fourteen days after Michaelmas -- 29 September. Then everyone, both rich and poor, would come there with the lawful complaints of theirs. The Danish Bailiffs, Herlaug Pedersson and Jusse Tomasson, would be allowed to remain until Morten's Day while the other Danes could only remain until St. Olaf's day -- July 29. Those Danes who served the men of the nobility and who had inheritances in the nation were allowed to remain.

In the letter itself, it is stated that Amund Sigurdsson had with him 24 representatives but 26 signed the letter. The name of Anund Andresson is listed two times but we do not know if this is one and the same man. It is not stated where these men are from but some of them are known from other documents. The leader Amund Sigurdsson has listed his own name first, then comes Nisse Sveinsson, Hallvard Toresson, etc. see above. We notice that only Hallvard Toresson is among those who put their names under the letter from the Bishop's residence in Oslo together with Amund Sigurdsson. We shall return to this matter. First we shall look a little closer at the leader.



3. The Leader, Amund Sigurdsson Bolt

The leader of the 1436 revolt, Amund Sigurdsson, belonged to a noble family from Våler in Østfold. The family can be traced back to a Kolbein on Flesberg and Løken in Våler who was mentioned early in the 1300s. He had three sons about whom we know, Sigurd, Aslak and Berdor or Bergtor Kolbeinsson. Berdor died around 1380. He had at least four offspring: Amund, Rønnaug, Kolbein and Sigurd. The latter, who died in 1411 or the year after that, was the father of Amund Sigurdsson.

In 1418 the man who later was the Archbishop, Aslak Harniktsson Bolt, calls Amund Sigurdsson his kinsman -- DN XII 122. Aslak mentions his sister Elsebe and her husband Bjarne Amundsson. The mother of Bishop Aslak was named Sigrid and she was probably a daughter of Aslak Kolbeinsson Bolt.

The Family's Connection to Sweden -- The Swedish Nobleman Peder Ulvsson -- Roos of Ervalla -- in 1434 and in the following years belonged to the Swedish Independence Party and he was probably a kind of link between the Swedish and Norwegian rebels. This seems reasonable when one looks at the background of Lord Peder.

Peder Ulvsson was the son of Ulv Jonsson of Ervalla but Ulv's father was Jon Haftorsson who was a member of the Norwegian National Council and a member of the Sudreim family. Ulv served on the Norwegian Council as late as 1388 when Queen Margrete was chosen as "Norway's Lady and Master of the Household", but shortly thereafter Ulv moved to Sweden where he inherited much property from his mother. He lived on the manor Ervalla in the Åkerbo parish in Västmanland but was buried in the Vadstena Cloister on the 23rd of December 1415.

Peder Ulvsson was married to Gjertrud Amundsdaughter Bolt. Her father was a brother of Sigurd Kolbeinsson Bolt who was the father of the rebel leader. Amund Sigurdsson Bolt thus had a close family connection with the people at Ervalla. The grave stone for Peder Ulvsson and Gjertrud Amundsdaughter is still in existence in the Vadstena Cloister Church -- see the Heraldic Journal 1984, pages 256-258, "A Norwegian-Swedish Escutcheon Stone" by Jan Raneke.

In 1434, Peder Ulvsson was the leader of the bönder in Värmeland in the revolt of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson. Peder captured and destroyed the Bailiff's Castles Agneholm, Dalaborg and Edsholm, all of which were in the vicinity of that great Lake Vänern.

It has earlier been contended by historians and genealogists that probably the mother of Amund Sigurdsson Bolt as a widow was married to Peder Ulvsson of Ervalla and that the Amund Bolt who in 1445 was mentioned as a brother of Ulv Pedersson and his siblings was the same as the rebel leader Amund Sigurdsson Bolt. More recent research shows that his cannot be correct -- see Research References and Notes. There is not much about Amund Sigurdsson which we know for certain.

Amund Sigurdsson Bolt is mentioned in the sources for the first time in 1432 -- DN III 530. That year he was present at Kirkeberg in Eiker. He, at that time, was probably married to the rich widow Ingrid Torbjørnsdaughter. Ingrid was the daughter of Hustru Asgerd at Kirkeberg in Eiker and her second husband. Ingrid was probably born around 1380. Her father, Torbjørn Taraldsson died before 1387. His father was no doubt Tarald Torbjørnsson who lived at Kirkeberg and used the Bolt coat-of-arms -- DN III 280.

This family had a close connection with families in Vestfold and Grenland -- the present day Lower Telemark. Amund Bolt therefore certainly came in contact with people in these parts of the nation and they strongly supported him during the revolt in 1436.

The Rebel Leader -- It has been considered probable that Amund Sigurdsson was born between 1390 and 1400. After 1432 we meet him in the sources again during the revolt early in the year of 1436 and then he was probably a man in his 30s or 40s. He is mentioned in three documents in connection with these struggles and the last is dated on 18 February 1437 -- see above. A day later he composed a letter exchanging land property -- DN III 738. This is the last time we can for certain say that Amund Sigurdsson Bolt is mentioned. He was thus alive on the 19th of February 1437.

Amund Bolt was also mentioned later than 1437 but this is probably a different Amund Bolt than the leader of the revolt. Gøsta Aldener, in an article in HT 34, 1946-48, "Contributions to the History of Rebel Leader Amund Sigurdsson Bolt", has gathered what we know for certain about Amund Sigurdsson Bolt and about the above mentioned Amund Bolt who was mentioned later than 1437 and about the others whose names are also Amund Bolt and who are mentioned in 1445 and later. Aldener deduces that the ones who are mentioned from 1445 to 1488 are two men other than Amund Sigurdsson. One is Amund Håkonsson Bolt -- mentioned in 1445 as Amund Bolt; in his seal it says "S'anund (or S'amud) hakoniss'". The other was a knight Amund Pedersson. He affixed his seal to a letter on the 8th of May in 1459 which was written at Göksholm east of Örebro not far from Ervalla. The seal is extant and shows a rose. The transcription is probably Amund Pedersson, says Aldener. This is the only time Aldener finds Pedersson as the patronymic with Amund Bolt but then he also added a "probably".

Amund Bolt After the Revolt -- After the revolt, the National Council came to an agreement with Amund Sigurdsson in February of 1437. The Council agreed to ask King Erik to give Amund the Faroe Islands as a fief with all its royal rights and in addition the spring and autumn tax income "this year" from the four skipreida in the Borgar District. We do not know if he actually received that which he was offered as a prospect. Much indicates that he did not receive it.

At any rate, he was out of the power play in Norway and we cannot say for sure whether he was alive after 1437. In 1447, there was an "Amundh Bolth aa vapn" present at Brunla with Hartvig Krummedike -- DN III 573. It is hardly likely that this was Amund Sigurdsson Bolt. From the previous year we have some letters from Eiker where, among others, Royal Official Gaute Kane appears as a representative of Fru Ingrid Torbjørnsdaughter, his mother's sister". Amund Sigurdsson is not mentioned.

Kersten van den Gheren has in his chronicles from the 1400s -- printed in Hanische Geschichtsquellen, Neue Folge, Band II, Berlin 1900 -- a discussion about Amund Sigurdsson whom he says was burned in Bergen. Gheren mentions that Amund had made demands of Norway's Throne as an heir to the old Norwegian Kings.

Gheren is considered by most historians to be an uncertain source. He says, for example, that Amund was burned in 1436 but he undoubtedly was alive in February 1437. This, however, is not enough of a reason to ignore completely the information from Gheren. One of the few historians who has not ignored this is O. A. Johnsen -- in Noregsveldets Undergang, Kristiania, 1924, page 125, note 1. He contends that it is true that Amund Sigurdsson may have "died in a violent manner not long after he had laid down his weapons". Johnsen considers that there could have been talk about attack and murder. If this were so, it can certainly also be true that Hallvard Gråtopp exercised great care concerning his own person during his revolt.

Gheren was in Bergen early in the 1450s and must have heard about the events while he was there. Although he made a mistake about the year, his information may nevertheless be correct. Amund Sigurdsson may have arrived in Bergen in 1437 and in some manner have been killed. It is not unthinkable that the Castellan at Bergenhus, Olav Nilsson from Skåne in Sweden, was behind this. He is known as a ruthless man.



4. A National Meeting at the Bishop's Residence on the 18th of February 1437.

After 1389, the National Council in Norway was never called together by the King to a meeting where all members were present. The result of the events in 1436 was that the National Council found that it must meet with the foremost rebels from the Oslo Diocese in order to arrive at an agreement. This meeting was held in Oslo on the 18th of February in 1437.

The National Council had developed as an institution from the time after the death of Håkon the Fifth. He had always surrounded himself with a group of prominent men who served as advisors. He attempted to develop this clique into an agency in the service of royal power. He considered this Council to be the leaders of the National Government in case that after his death he left an heir who was not yet of age. The Council of twelve men would be divided into two groups with four who would be responsible for the current central government, the Chancellor being one of them. Two bishops would join those four to control the finances. The other eight would live out in the districts and exercise control over the local governments. Together these twelve would decide important issues. In the time between 1319 and 1349, the National Council found its form as an independent National Institution along side the King's power. After a while the growth of the National Council resulted in the disappearance of the King's bodyguard which the Norwegian Kings had around them. It was "gode men", that is, noblemen, who were in the National Council.

The Representatives for the Common People in the Oslo Diocese who were present at the meeting in Oslo in February of 1437 were these -- DN II 544: Jusse Gunnarsson, Aslak Pedersson and Jon Haraldsson from Viken, that is Båhuslen, Anund Assarsson, Erik Olavsson, Anund Andresson, Jens Olavsson, Hoskoll Jonsson and Jon Jonsson from Ytre Borgarsyssel, Hallvard Sigurdsson from Solør, Lodin at Gjelstad and Bjørn at Gravdal from Vestfold, Tord Ketilsson from the Skien District, Magnus Gunnarsson from the Nes administrative district in Romerike, Anstein Alvsson from Lier, Ørjar Tordsson from the Oslo Parish, Bjørn Aslaksson from Marker, Tjostolv Holk Gunnarsson, Niklis Niklisson, Tord Anundsson, Sigurd Torsteinsson, Magnus Niklisson, Tord Anundsson and Kolbjørn Aslaksson. These men met on behalf of "the common people from the whole Oslo Diocese" together with many other common people from there and from other districts and other diocese of Norway.

The seven last mentioned in the document are not noted as coming from any specific district but we recognize, for example, Tjostolv Holk Gunnarsson. He was the father of Gunnar Holk, Bishop of the Oslo Diocese from 1453 to 1483. Earlier he was Dean at the Maria Church in Oslo and is mentioned in that position and as the Norwegian Kingdom's Chancellor on 27 October of 1442 -- DN X 136. Tjostolv no doubt had a family connection with the family from Lindheim. The design of his seal was like that of the Bolt family.

The National Council's Members Who Met were Archbishop Aslak Bolt, Bishop Audun in Stavanger, Knight and Castellan at Akershus Svarte Jøns, Simon Bjørnsson, the Lagmann in Oslo, Torleiv Olavsson, Dean at the Church of the Apostles in Bergen who had with him a letter from the King to the National Council, Eindrid Erlendsson who was Knight and Castellan at Tønsberghus, Erlend Eindridsson, Mattis Jeppsson, Kolbjørn Gerst, Henrik Skakt, Benkt Harniktsson and Torgaut Benktsson and, in addition, Eirik Sæmundsson and the five Lagmenn in Oslo, Bergen, Tønsberg, Viken and the Skien District.

It was an impressive gathering of prominent men who would decide about the "discord and disagreements" which had arisen when some of the common people had chosen Amund Sigurdsson as their captain and counsel for the defense, it is stated in a document which they composed.

An agreement was reached regarding a list of "arrangements and articles" which the National Council promised to present in writing to the King.

The Agreement of Eight Points or arrangements were arrived at in this meting. In the first point the National Council promised to hold Erik as the "King for all his living days....We shall not choose any castellan without agreement between him and the National Council. Anyone who opposes this, secretly or openly whether he is a layman or educated, knight or swain, merchant or bonde, high or low, rich or poor, shall be a real traitor and have forfeited his life and property".

The National Council promised, on behalf of the King, that he would keep the common people by law and rights and all descendants in peace and mercy, in defense and protection, and hold both the laity and the clergy in his royal affection.

The National Council would, together with the representatives of the common people, write to the King and ask him to make good their requests and to enfeoff to Amund Sigurdsson the Faroe Islands with all their royal rights in exchange for his helping the common people with the law and their rights. He promised by humbly kneeling and making an oath that he would never again oppose the King, the National Council or those who live in the Kingdom.

The National Council furthermore promised to write to the King to hear if he would refuse to begrudge Amund the spring and autumn tax income from those four skipreida, Idd, Ingedal, Skjeberg and Åbygge. If he unjustly was driven from the Faroe Islands, the National Council wanted the King to give him other support and another fief instead.

The National Council and the Rebels, according to this document which they composed, were completely in agreement about these demands which the National Council would ask the King to grant.

The common people agreed that Erik should continue as King. This was essential for the leaders in the National Council who no doubt wanted a Union King who did not reside in their own nation. In that way it was easier for them to maintain their own political power. It is probable that Amund Sigurdsson had a completely different view of the situation. This is not indicated in the document but it is striking that he, a rebel against the King, received the full support of the National Council to ask the King to give him a reward for the revolt in the form of the Faroe Island as a fief and more besides.

The National Council would hardly have agreed to this without there being a strong threat of something worse. It is known that Erik of Pomerania was not well liked by most of the people in Norway and many among the nobility had the same assessment of him. The leaders of the National Council must have restrained the opponents in the National Council and those among the common people and the rebels themselves by accepting the other demands and by giving Amund Sigurdsson the prospect of a good and honorable retreat.

Those Granted Demands were foremost that the King should no longer appoint foreigners as government officials in Norway, whether secular or ecclesiastical. Only those who were married to Norwegian "do we want, tolerate and endure during their lifetimes", but they should not have any power. Finally, a Norwegian Drottsete should be chosen, Norwegian money be established, and the National Seal be brought back to the nation again. The National Council also wanted to ask the King to decrease the harsh taxes.

The National Council only took responsibility for asking the King for all this and that was done. The agreement about peace between the National Council and the common people was intended to apply to the whole nation. The Council sent the comprehensive document together with a covering letter to the King but it was a long time before the King replied. In the meantime, nothing was done about the demands. On the contrary, Bishop Jens Jakobsson came back from Denmark and continued as Bishop in Oslo and as Chancellor.

It appears that King Erik tried to strengthen his position in Norway during that time. According to the Gehrens chronicle, Amund Sigurdsson Bolt, as well as others, was killed. This was reason for a new revolt.



5. The Connection With the Revolt in Sweden

Norway and Sweden, in many ways, experienced the same developments under Queen Margrete and King Erik. The nations were governed from Denmark with the help of foreigners and men of the nations' own nobility who were faithful to the King. Under Erik, men of the well known Losna Family, Eindrid Erlendsson and later his son Erlend, were the foremost of the King's Norwegian supporters. Those two and Archbishop Aslak Bolt and Bishop Audun in Stavanger signed the covering letter when the National Council sent the agreement document of the 18th of February 1437 to the King.

The Connection Between the Upper Classes in Norway and Sweden was ancient. Many marriage bonds were formed between members of the leading families in these two nations, particularly beginning from 1300. One of the most prominent chieftain families at that time was the Sudreim family from Sørom in Romerike. Haftor Jonsson at Sudreim -- circa 1275 to 1331 -- in 1302 was engaged and before 1312 married to Agnes, daughter of King Håkon the Fifth, and their descendants were leaders in Norway for a long time. Their son, Jon Haftorsson, was married to the Swedish noblewoman Birgitta Knutsdaughter of the Folkung family. Their son Ulv Jonsson was the progenitor of the Swedish noble family of Roos at Ervalla which is mentioned above. Ulv was a leading man in the Swedish revolt in 1434.

Sigurd Haftorsson took over Sudreim after his brother Jon. The daughter of Sigurd, Agnes Sigurdsdaughter was married to the Swedish nobleman Jon Marteinsson who settled on Sudreim and became a member of the Norwegian National Council. Their son, Sigurd Jonsson, became the Norwegian Drottsete in 1439, the first in many years.

The High Nobility and The Low Nobility -- The King's bodyguard was in the 1200s still divided into several classes of rank with different privileges but, according to the document listing the rules of behavior or conduct for the king's bodyguard, it was only the foremost class, the feudal lords, who had permission to have armed swains. Because new feudal lords were no longer appointed, the basic characteristics of the upper class were changed. Into the 1300s, the Norwegian Nobility was changed and the economic situation determined whether a chieftain could keep armed swains. It was in this way that the chieftains were able to win political power for themselves.

Developments occurred in the same direction in all three of the Nordic countries. Bønder and men of the lower nobility sought protection from the mightiest in exchange for vows of allegiance and service. This was also a factor in establishing the division of the upper classes into the high nobility and the low nobility, into knights and squires. The latter were close to the bønder.

The High Nobility and Royal Power -- For the chieftains, the permanent castles and the positions as feudal lords became the bases for increased political power. It was this aristocracy which, into the 1300s, more and more strongly demanded their own political power over against the King's power. Toward the end of the century, the situation was nevertheless such that the chieftains in those three kingdoms found themselves best served by supporting Queen Margrete. Her wise strategy in the strife with the German Hanseatic League worked particularly to her advantage.

The grandson of Margrete's sister, Erik of Pomerania, did not show the same wisdom, either toward the chieftains themselves or toward the Hanseatic League. The Swedish aristocracy were the first to reject King Erik but it was Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson and the lower class with members of the lower nobility in the leadership who forced them to it. Later, the chieftains themselves took over and became the leaders in the opposition against the Union King.

In Norway, the men of the lower nobility and the bønder were much weaker and they did not manage to force the men of the higher nobility in the direction they wished. Although the connection with the Swedish revolt was good within certain circles, nevertheless it had nothing decisive to say concerning the two revolts in Norway in the 1430's.



6. Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson and the Men of Dalarna

Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson owned property in the Norberg parish in Bergslagen and probably lived there. Norberg is located north of Västerås and now belongs to the Västermanland Province.

Norberg is mentioned the first time in written sources in 1303 and at that time an ore mining operation was well established. That year King Birger obtained by exchange the part of the mine which the Lord High Constable Torgils Knutsson had. Being a part owner in mines was usual through the centuries. There were therefore a number of part owners in the many mines in Bergslagen. The operation of the mines resulted in a large population in that area. The mines sustained many people and trade with the foreign merchants was lively.

From a German Immigrant Family -- Engelbrekt was descended from an immigrant German mining family. They probably arrived in Bergslagen as early as the end of the 1200s or at the beginning of the following century. Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson was a member of the fourth known generation of the family in Sweden so he was genuinely Swedish.

The mine owners were, as mentioned, part owners or so-called bergmenn and not mine owners as in later times. Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson was a member of a mining family of the lower nobility. The family coat-of-arms was composed of three half lilies turned outward and set in a triangle.

The people of Dalarna had become extremely dependent on trade with the merchants of the Hanseatic League. This trade was much more important to them than to people in other places in the Nordic countries. The Union among those three Nordic Kingdoms was partly a result of the North-German economic and military predominance in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea nations. A Duke from Mecklenburg had become King in Sweden and he also wanted to rule Norway and Denmark.

This threat caused the chieftains in these three countries to unite and take Queen Margrete as their common regent and thus the Kalmar Union developed. The representatives of Mecklenburg were chased away and Margrete managed to lessen the power of the Hanseatic League to some degree. King Erik went farther and in 1423 embargoed the Hanseatic League and thus prevented it from doing business directly with the people in the counties.

The Hanseatic League responded by going to war in order to force the Union to submit but it did not manage to obtain Erik's acquiescence. He had built up both army and fleet by hard handed means and successfully withstood the Hanseatic League's power. At the peace discussions which began in Vordingborg in 1434, it appeared that the Union had won a first step toward independence from the German merchants' power.

In the middle of the peace discussions, the revolt in Sweden began. During the war with King Erik, the Hanseatic League had set in motion an effective trade blockade. This hit Bergslagen particularly hard. The export of ore stopped and the importation of grain and other merchandise was blocked. When the King simultaneously increased the taxes in order to obtain money for the war and allowed the bailiffs to collect them with a hard hand, the revolt resulted.

The Men of Dalarna Go Toward Stockholm -- In June of 1434, a large bonde army under the leadership of Engelbrekt went south from Dalarna. The King's bailiffs and his military men did not succeed in stopping them. Some smaller forts were burned and leveled to the ground; the larger ones were captured to serve as support bases for the rebels. In July, the Stockholm Palace was surrounded but not captured. The rebels' main strength remained there while Engelbrekt went to Vadstena where the National Council of Sweden was meeting.

The men of Dalarna were, according to the possibilities of that time, well armed. Among other things, they had that new weapon, the crossbow, a bow of iron which they stretched with the help of the foot. An iron arrow from such a bow could go right through a man. There was a rich supply of iron in Bergslagen and the smiths were exceptionally capable. The men from Dalarna carried weapons which were almost the equal of those the bailiffs and the feudal lords had. The population in Dalarna was large considering the times and it could supply large numbers of men who were not forced to take care of work on home estates as the men Hallvard certainly were.

The program of the rebels was straightforward. Sweden should become as in the good old days when there were no customs duty or taxes or any other burdens. Using a modern expression, we can call the program populist. It was not a program, however, which would benefit the national policy.

The Swedish National Council had supported the King in the conflict with the Hanseatic League but was opposed to his autocratic central government. These issues divided the National Council into several factions but all of the Council members were gathered at the meeting in Vadstena in August on 1434.

The Meeting of the National Council in Vadstena -- Engelbrekt arrived in Vadstena while the Swedish National Council was gathered there. This meeting had a great influence on the developments in the Nordic Nations. On the 16th of August in 1434, the Swedish National Council disavowed service and allegiance to King Erik in a letter:

When we were gathered in Vadstena, we were attacked by Engelbrekt who was accompanied by a great military force. He threatened our lives, property and honor if we would not join the bönder in order to protect the Kingdom against heavy taxes and other injustices with which You and several of Your representatives have plagued the people. We are in agreement with the common people of Sweden that You and Your government have forced them to these measures. We therefore disavow our service, counsel and allegiance to You.

When this letter reached Copenhagen, some members of the Norwegian National Council were gathered with Erik. He managed to get them to write a reply to the Swedes and the King noticed especially that the Swedish National Council had been coerced by a great "superior force". The King hoped that the National Council had reconsidered and would return to the right way and would escape from those who had overpowered them.

After that the Swedish National Council had to take a clear stand for or against King Erik. In September of 1434, they sent a letter to the Norwegian National Council and to the Hanseatic Cities. The Council took over the responsibility for the uprising and developed their own program. Erik's tyranny against the Church and his harsh taxation could not be tolerated, they said. He had also broken his pledge to govern with native born men and not foreigners.

The truth is that when the men in the National Council did not see any way of defeating Engelbrekt and his army, they joined him and took the lead in the struggle against King Erik. Engelbrekt himself was accepted as a member of the National Council which in this way gained control of both him and his army. He and the other rebel leader, Erik Puke, were given fiefs, Engelbrekt the Örebro Castle and Fief. An agreement was reached between King Erik and the National Council. When Erik Puke was dissatisfied with the fief he was given, he was supported by Engelbrekt and a disagreement developed between them and leading families of the National Council.

The Murder of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson -- Knut Karlsson of the Bonde Family was among those who came into conflict with Engelbrekt and Erik Puke. More serious was the strife between Engelbrekt and Bengt Stensson of the Dag och Natt family which had been among King Erik's foremost men. The basis of the strife evidently had been that Bengt when a bailiff had taken property which belonged to the Hanseatic League and that resulted in Erik Puke burning Bengt's Castle.

The National Council pointed to Engelbrekt and Erik Puke as elements of unrest but it was the Council itself, under the leadership of the Lord High Constable Karl Knutsson Bonde, who initiated a new revolt against the King. Karl was chosen by the National Council as the chieftain under the protest of Engelbrekt. This ended by the two of them becoming placed on an equal footing. Karl was to be in Stockholm while Engelbrekt went with the army of rebels out into the countryside to capture the King's fortresses, among them Kalmar. It is the letter which he and two others sent from there on the 10th of March in 1436 which first mentions the revolt in Norway under the leadership of Amund Sigurdsson. In this letter which was addressed to the Hanseatic League, the leaders of the revolt requested that diplomatic relations be established.

From Kalmar, Engelbrekt went south and west and then north to Örebro again. There he reached an agreement with Bengt Stensson that their case should be settled by the National Council. Engelbrekt then went toward Stockholm. While he was resting on a small island in Lake Mälaren, he was attacked and murdered by Magnus or Måns, the son of Bengt Stensson. The day was the 27th of April in 1436. Magnus later became the Lagmann in Närke.

Engelbrekt had attempted to assert himself against the old families of the National Council but it resulted in his losing his life. Karl Knutsson belonged to those old families and he gave the murderer free safe conduct. Erik Puke was also eliminated by being convicted and executed early in the year of 1437.

What Engelbrekt had accomplished was mainly that he settled the Hanseatic League's victory over Erik of Pomerania and in that way the Hanseatic League's ultimate victory over the Nordic Union. Engelbrekt's destiny and sudden death was soon exploited by the leaders of the struggle against Erik of Pomerania. For the common people he became a martyr who fell in the struggle against foreign bailiffs and foreign misrule.

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Chapter IV

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