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Marcin Kromer - A True Story of the Sorrowful Adventure of His Highness, John, Duke of Finland
A TRUE STORY
OF THE SORROWFUL ADVENTURE
OF HIS HIGHNESS, JOHN, DUKE OF FINLAND,
Presently King of the Swedes, Goths, and Vandals,
and Her Highness, the Polish Princess, Catherine, His Consort
Cracow: Szarffenberger, 1570
translated from the Polish by
Since it always happens and everywhere that such matters as signify the special ways of Providence are held in high esteem by wise men and are handed forth to the coming age through writing for memory's sake, it seemed to me a necessary thing to write down properly: a most sorrowful adventure and God's exceptional power attending a great dissimilarity of fortune within royal houses, and the Lord's stern visitation; likewise the great consolation of His Highness, John the Third, the Swedish King, once Finnish Duke, and of Her Highness, the Polish Princess, Catherine, his consort, presently Swedish Queen; how it came to be from the beginning up to the arrival of that widespread misfortune and from what causes came that disturbance between those brothers and kingdoms wherein I have taken the firmest viewpoint in order that men in this and in ages to come could understand that all power, fortune, and chance rest in divine hands and that God never abandons those that trust in Him.
Thus the matter begins with the clan of Sweden's kings, wherein, when the king stepped down heirless in the Swedish kingdom, a certain noble lord with the permission of all estates, was chosen governor: Sten Ture, eques auratus, a dubbed knight who administered that kingdom and all lands attached to it with honesty and renown. Then Christian, Danish king, desirous of gaining that kingdom, placing hope in the aid of Charles the Fifth, the emperor, whose very sister he had to wife, surrounded Stockholm and laid siege for a whole year, during which this Sten Ture was shot in the leg and perished. Hence when he could not take Stockholm by force, Christian took up with the wife of the local governor, promising to wed her – she knew he was not living well with his own wife – in order that she help him be accepted as lord. While she did accede, the provinces and councils did not wish to accede. Still she arranged that he be permitted to enter alone with three aids; when they allowed this, he secretly led his entire army in and so occupied the capital of that kingdom, promising to grant them rights and to preserve the same, unimpaired, unmolested.
This done, Christian set out for his Danish kingdom. Thereupon the gentry, the lords of the council, and the commoners began to consult about another ruler seeing that this one was a great brute, a tyrant. Having heard this, he came back to Stockholm; having called the diet together, he invited to a great banquet all the members of the nobility, as many as there were in the kingdom. At that feast he asked them what would he deserve who conspired against his own overlord while choosing for himself another. They said that such would deserve to be punished at the throat. Having shown them letters and proof of their earlier meeting, he cut down every last nobleman and ordered Sten Ture dug up from his grave and his bones burned. There and then he formed a council of peasants leaving Danes as elders in the castles and fortified towns. This completed, he returned to Denmark.
Whether through illness or delayed by fortune's favor, somehow Gustav Eriksson, whose father was cut down with the others, escaped from his country to Holstein and, concealing his person, tended cattle like a simple peasant until he came to Lubeck. When he arrived there, he entrusted himself to the lords of the Lubeck council asking them for aid. Having thereupon divested him of that shepherd's dress, which even today they keep as a memento, the Lubeckers received him warmly and provided for all his needs and, having dispatched him with three wellprovisioned boats, they sent him off to Sweden, to be sure, in so secret a fashion that it be most covert.
Having sailed there Gustav made for Dalekarlia territory. Then, having again changed into peasants' dress, he threshed, he attended horses, worked among peasants in that region, but especially for the wealthier people who hold silver mines in their hands, and from those shafts sell silver to the king, and he hired himself out to a very wealthy peasant. After he had been there some time, they began to say that Gustaw is in the country and in the county of Dalekarlia, that he is in hiding but would like to attain the kingdom. It was proclaimed everywhere that whoever would catch him dead or alive would be well-rewarded for this. He, the peasant, took a good look at his hired man and said to his wife, "Surely he must be the one about whom it has been proclaimed for it's clear that this is no peasant nature; there's something noble-minded here; it befits him to be a respected nobleman; this must be the one about whom they are proclaiming amongst us."
The peasant's daughter, hearing this, proceeded to observe through a hole what he was doing in his room as he rose at midnight and, having knelt at his bed, began to read books of prayer with great devotion; a golden chain was visible on him with the figure of the Lord's Passion. Taking pity on him, she proceeded to knock to him. When he opened the door, she says: "I see that thou art a man of respectable birth and the one about whom it has been here proclaimed. And already hath my father gone to the neighbor and, having come to an agreement with him, they are to pass this on to the authorities, and soon shall they come and seize thee for I listened as father spoke to mother of this; and so, poor soul, flee all the more swiftly for surely thou shall soon be seized and executed."
The poor fellow, having thanked her, slipped away thence forthwith, and, wishing to make certain, went to the other neighbor; having entered the barn, he asked the plowboys at work: "Have ye heard it said here that Gustav Eriksson, who wants to be king, is supposed to be here in our country?" "We've heard and just now did our master go to his neighbor to seize him, and by now they will find him sleeping there, and shall forthwith deliver him to the castle where they'll execute him. For great rewards have been proclaimed to whomever should capture him and together with his master our master is set to hand him over to the castle. "Having realized this, he bolted to a parson with whom he had good relations: the latter quickly supplied him with a horse and came to his rescue with money putting him forth on his way so that he might escape all the more swiftly. Soon a search party pursuing him arrived at the priest's and the priest was arrested and jailed forthwith: he, however, rode off to one of his subjects who had also become a member of the royal council. When he revealed himself to him, he said: "I cannot well recognize you in peasant garb." But having strung a crossbow and arrow he set it toward his heart: "Well, if you be the true Gustav, then I know you're to have a mark on your body, and I'll thence help you to the kingdom. If you have no mark, I'll kill you forthwith." He bared himself till he found the mark. He ordered the bells be rung at once, a great multitude of people gathered, all of them peasants.
That peasant, the councilor, having stepped up to a higher spot, made a speech, asking if they wanted to consider how all might be delivered from this tyranny and bondage. They answered him: they would be very glad if some upright man were found who would care to deliver them from this bondage, and especially if that Gustav appeared who, it's said, has sailed here from Lubeck. Gustav's peasant, the true councilor, says: "And would you firmly accept him as lord, were he to show up before us?" "Why yes, had we to lay down our lives at his side, we'd see him through to the kingdom and with his counsel and help and constancy we'd drive from this land that soulless tyrant, the unjust brute." And thereupon he presented them Gustav whom they received with great joy and quickly vowed him their fealty and fidelity. And thus with those people for an army he marched to his master and the neighbor; there he quick seized them; from their cellars he took away great loads of silver; now with the treasure in his hands he soon took in more people; towns, castles soon gave themselves up to him, till finally with a considerable army he marched on Stockholm, the capital of the Swedish kingdom: the populace soon surrendered and placed their elder in his hands. After this he marched on Kalmar and laid a long siege. But as he could not capture it, upon agreeing to grant the town elder safe passage with all his property, it gave itself up to him. Still, after he let that elder through to sail out the port, the wind chased him back into the port in a few days, so that he yet fell into King Gustaf's hands.
Now then having pacified the kingdom, he sought the state of marriage and as his first wife took Catherine, daughter of the Saxon prince, Alamberg, following the matchmaking efforts of John, Duke of Heyden, whom he gave in marriage his own sister for these services and with her the Duchy of Finland. And of this Saxon princess was born Eric, Swedish king, who was presently in prison. His second sister, Dorothy, on the other hand, was taken to wife by the Danish king, Christian, father of the present Danish king, Frederic, who is thus cousin to Eric. Yet this John, the Duke of Heyden, again ran over to the Danes and conspired with them against his brother-in-law, King Gustav, for which later King Gustav took Finland away from him; and being in trouble with the Danes against the Swedes, he himself was killed: and his consort sailed away first to Reval, then to the Netherlands with one of her sons who later became bishop of Osnabruck in Westphalia.
King Gustav then took from Eric Sten a second wife, Margaret, his one time subject, a maiden who had been engaged to one of his subjects, an upright man; when, however, he was invited as matchmaker to their wedding, he took a fancy to the bride: he negotiated with the bridegroom and with friends in order that he (the groom) take the (bride's) younger sister while he be permitted to marry the one, to whom he (the groom) was engaged. Wherefore both marriages were celebrated so that instead of matchmaker he became brother-in-law to one of his own subjects. Thence were born the princes: John of Finland, the present day Swedish king, secondly Magnus, third Karl; and the daughters: Catherine, who married the Duke of Ostfriesland; Cecilia, whose hand was sought by his own brother, Hanus, but since he (the latter), groundlessly offending the royal dignity, had entered the princess' (Cecilia's) quarters, he was imprisoned for a year; only through the emperor's intercession was his throat spared; just as with Princess Cecilia so were great indignities perpetrated against others; Sophia whom King Eric's uncle married, Franciscus, Duke of Saxony and Lamberg, and Ha(l)ska who still remains a maiden. After this wife's death, he took a third – Catherine, daughter of Gustav Olay, a dubbed knight; she remained infertile and is today a widow.
When Christian learned that he had been deposed from that kingdom, he went to Karl, the Emperor, demanding aid, so that he could again take over the Swedish kingdom; but when his subjects in the Danish kingdom rose up against him, he wanted to gain that kingdom by force. The Danes, seeing they would have nothing but trouble with him, devised a legation and sent it to ask him that he not entangle himself in losses and difficulties but rather, leaving behind his armies and armaments, return to his true and tested subjects, taking an oath to which, they signed their names in blood. Trusting their promises and signature, and having left his armies behind, he returned to Denmark. When he approached St. Anne's bridge and got off his horse, he was received in such fashion that one Dane, the dubbed knight, Magnus Guldenstern, slapped his face at first sight and ripped the chain off his neck and he was forthwith seized and driven away to jail in Kalcenburg where he spent his life in a wretched and squalid cell until his death. Through all his days he was a man godless and mean, an insufferable brute, one who spurned his wife, the sister of Emperor Karl the Fifth for he drove her away from him and she died in great sorrow. The man had such customary cruelty and love for it that even in jail he crushed flies, adding that it gives him great sorrow not to be able to crush people so. When he spotted a nail of some kind or a hook in the wall, he praised it: "Oh my," he says, "it's splendid; one could hang two peasants on it; too bad there's no one to hang." Thus throughout his life he did nothing honest nor pious.
At this time the Danes sent a legation to ask King Sigismund to accept them as his subjects; but though a great man, a certain bishop, together with a royal Councilor, strongly supported this, he dismissed them ungraciously saying: "Prince, do you think us as greedy for kingdoms as you are for benefices. It's enough for us to rule one kingdom piously and steadily without accepting others." This Christian had two daughters with the Emperor's sister: one married the Duke of Lorraine; she is the rightful heir to the Danish kingdom; of her were born the dukes of Lorraine and the duchesses, one of whom was sought by Eric so as to have access to the Danish kingdom. Therefore, to this day the Burgundians each year give a certain goodly sum to the Dukes of Lorraine signifying closeness to the Danish kingdom.
So when Gustav died, the Danes concluded a forty-year treaty with the Swedish kingdom – just after Eric ascended the throne. Although the country wanted John as king, he – honoring primogeniture, which in those countries tends to be closely observed – yielded to his older brother. Now King Gustav had a servant, a German chancellor, Ezechias Gebfart, a Silesian, who, being in the King's good graces was always better disposed toward the present King, John, than to Eric and caused to make certain the king divided the treasure evenly amongst his sons. Eric opposed this, arguing that the royal state had greater needs, and quarrelled with this Ezechias, who made him feel so angry at his father, so much so that the father wanted to seize and jail him till finally he fled and exiled himself to Smaland slipping from one island to another until his own father's death. King Gustav had given this Ezechias a certain, well-built house. Having become king, Eric took this house from him and gave it to another. When he reminded him of his services to his father, Eric said: "Show me that by which you lay claim." Since he had no title to this, he told him: "You've no just claim to this, so I've given the house away to another. But if you be as faithful to me as you were to my father, I'll provide you with something greater." Feeling wronged, Ezechias sided with the present King John. And thereupon King John began efforts at forging a link to our lord for the hand of Princess Catherine. Eric, realizing that the advice came from Ezechias, fell into discord with the present King John.
But here one must briefly return to the question of whence arose the strife between the two kings: the Dane, Frederic, and the Swede, Eric, cousins since they were born of those two sisters, the Saxon princesses from Lauenburg. Under the terms of that forty-year treaty the Danish king raised a sizable army, over which he placed the highest hetmans: Gunther von Schwarzburg, Jurgen von Holle, and Hilmar von Munchhausen and entered Sweden. There through an act of treachery he took Elfsborg, a mighty castle: having called its elder out to him, he seized the man and thus the castle fell, though it had been so secure that he would have been hard pressed to take it by force. Not stopping at this, having allied himself with the Lubeckers, he sent a herald with a declaration of war to his cousin, the Swedish king. Now between the Lubeckers and the Swedes the cause of strife was this: the Lubeckers sent legates to Eric to see if he would come to terms with the Danish king; wherever he wished, they were willing to help him with this. He dismissed them herewith: theirs is to trade and to barter, not to make peace between kings; they ought to mind their business and pursue their interests with his merchants, not him. Moreover, he admonished them not to send their ships and wares to the Muscovite port, Narva, to the shame and sin of all Christendom and, should they be inclined not to heed his admonishment, he would turn them out of their ports and strictly forbid this. Not stopping at this injunction, he sent to them his legate, Georg Campensius, an upright nobleman, directing them to give up such navigation to the enemy of all Christendom for it's unseemly to rescue with firearms, gunpowder, armaments, and other needs the open enemy of all Christendom, as if tearing apart one's own bosom. They both received the legate insincerely and contemptuously and answered him coldly and almost arrogantly thus: no, they shan't give up their trade even were he to view it with his very eyes within the reach of cannon fire; they want to sail freely and neither he nor anyone else shall forbid them this.
Hereupon Eric contacted the Landgrave of Hesse requesting his daughter to wife and through his legates had .just sealed that marriage so that the maiden was to be brought to Rostock on the first day of May; concerning this the Danish king had sent letters to Eric guaranteeing safe conduct over his lands and over his seas. Yet despite those assurances, to wit, the letters of safe conduct, he quickly had the sea occupied from Lubeck out so that no one could travel to Sweden or from Sweden and those envoys, upright people, who were coming to meet the future queen he seized and threw into a grim jail. He wrote ahead through his bailiff that he had done this not out of any ill will or hostility but – since there were certain border disputes between the Swedes and the Danes – he had need of such upright persons in order to reconcile this matter and that is why he held them; and indeed he ought to send further commissioners who might finally bring this matter to conclusion. To this piece of writing the Swedish king responded by way of his own bailiff who was promptly seized and murdered in jail. Hereat the ships of the Danish king called upon Stockholm bearing three crowns as the Danish king's coat-of-arms. When John, the Finnish Duke, saw this, he seized a pole-axe from his pikeman and tore asunder the coat-of-arms with the three crowns saying that Christian, who had been Swedish and Danish and Norwegian king could carry this coat-of-arms but Frederic, who does not possess the Swedish kingdom is not worthy to carry it, for it is unseemly to carry more crowns than kingdoms ruled. This the Danish king took as a great offence and when he wrote Eric expostulating on the matter, the Swedish king answered that this is small cause for hostility and if, moreover, from this a battle should result, it would not befit nations to come to blows over this or that Christian blood be spilt through this. Hereto the Danish king wrote asking that several barrels of gold or several hundred thousand gulden be lent him for his needs, since he, Eric, had come to possess great wealth from his father.
Eric promised to give the legates a proper and worthy answer concerning this twofold request. Indignant over their earlier rebuff involving the coats-of-arms, they did not wait long for his answer. They returned to their king telling him that the Swedish king treats him as if he were some clown or cad. And herefrom was begotten that long, bitter, and cruel struggle, so that almost from nothing mutual enmity entered between them much in the manner of the saying: "the grace of great men is lighter than moss which the slighest breeze carries forth but their anger is heavier than lead." And when they start to swell in their obstinacy, their subjects needs be suffer much evil and innocent blood must be spilt amongst them. When finally the Swedish king recognized the Lubeckers to be his open, avowed enemies, he laid an ambush for them as they sailed back from Narva. Starting out from Reval, where the Swedish king's people gathered, they seized them, their sables, much merchandise, and other expensive wares. Yet he ordered nothing be moved from the ship and was willing to return all to them if they betook themselves to him and were wont to live as neighbors as of old. But to this very day they fight against him with the Danish king. So the fight between those kings and their nations has lasted a long time with great harm and weakening of Christian power.
[Observing this our most illustrious king Sigismund August by the grace of God took great pains in concert with other Christian lords to dissolve such great venom between these kings. And towards their reconciliation more than once he sent his envoys to Rostock at considerable expense in very difficult times; but their work always came to naught until came that time when for this purpose His Highness, the priest, Marcin Kromer, coadjutor of the Bishopric of Heilsberg, was dispatched, a man who knows the world, of inborn reason and great skill. When he arrived in Stettin with his entourage in the year past, 1570, first through the grace of dear God, then through his own great efforts and his colleagues', brought an end to that whole vain and heavy discord, and reconciled the kings so embittered to the great joy not only of their immediate neighbors but of all Christendom. But let us return to the story.]
Hence King Eric, seeing that he could not bring any people here over the sea, not even a wife, dispatched John, the Finnish prince, as envoy to England, to seek the hand of the English queen. When he arrived there, albeit the English queen turned his brother down, he himself found such favor in her eyes, that he could have easily advanced his own interests in this affair. Yet mindful of his brother's and the king, his lord's, anger, he did not want to risk that which would give further cause to the fraternal discord. And when he had engaged as his servant the same Ezechias with whom Eric was so indignant over his father's disfavor, he initiated efforts for the hand of her Highness, the Princess, with the Polish king, through the Lord of Tęczyn, for which purpose Ezechias enlisted the services of Jan Bertilsson, his countryman. Fearing that this marital filiation might end up in treason or obstruction and recognizing this as the work of Ezechias, King Eric undertook to forestall his brother, John, the Finnish prince, from doing this. When he (John) had sailed from Finland to Gdansk with the Lord of Tęczyn, Eric had letters sent after him, urging him to return without fail.
So His Majesty, the Finnish Prince, dared tread that rather distant road. And now fortune favored him thus: Though the Lord of Muscovy himself, in all his worldly might, firmly petitioned for her hand, as did with like urgency many Italian and German princes – for the piety of her manners and comeliness of her features were renowned throughout Christendom – they could not prevent her being given to him in a quite impressive wedding and his situating her in a respectable house and in good health. And another notable cause for King Eric's enmity lay in the fact that he sought to prohibit the Finnish Duke from allying himself with so powerful a king. And since he dared this and brought it to pass, he envied him this as well as his lending of a certain amount of money to the Polish king for Livonian castles. Hence ripened to fullness his enmity towards his brother.
To be continued...