1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charles IX. (King of Sweden)

CHARLES IX. (1550–1611), king of Sweden, was the youngest son of Gustavus Vasa and Margareto Lejonhufrud. By his father’s will he got, by way of appanage, the duchy of Södermanland, which included the provinces of Neriké and Vermland; but he did not come into actual possession of them till after the fall of Eric XIV. (1569). In 1568 he was the real leader of the rebellion against Eric, but took no part in the designs of his brother John against the unhappy king after his deposition. Indeed, Charles’s relations with John III. were always more or less strained. He had no sympathy with John’s high-church tendencies on the one hand, and he sturdily resisted all the king’s endeavours to restrict his authority as duke of Södermanland (Sudermania) on the other. The nobility and the majority of the Riksdag supported John, however, in his endeavours to unify the realm, and Charles had consequently (1587) to resign his pretensions to autonomy within his duchy; but, fanatical Calvinist as he was, on the religious question he was immovable. The matter came to a crisis on the death of John III. (1592). The heir to the throne was John’s eldest son, Sigismund, already king of Poland and a devoted Catholic. The fear lest Sigismund might re-catholicize the land alarmed the Protestant majority in Sweden, and Charles came forward as their champion, and also as the defender of the Vasa dynasty against foreign interference. It was due entirely to him that Sigismund was forced to confirm the resolutions of the council of Upsala, thereby recognizing the fact that Sweden was essentially a Protestant state (see Sweden: History). In the ensuing years Charles’s task was extraordinarily difficult. He had steadily to oppose Sigismund’s reactionary tendencies; he had also to curb the nobility, which he did with cruel rigour. Necessity compelled him to work rather with the people than the gentry; hence it was that the Riksdag assumed under his government a power and an importance which it had never possessed before. In 1595 the Riksdag of Söderköping elected Charles regent, and his attempt to force Klas Flemming, governor of Finland, to submit to his authority, rather than to that of the king, provoked a civil war. Technically Charles was, without doubt, guilty of high treason, and the considerable minority of all classes which adhered to Sigismund on his landing in Sweden in 1598 indisputably behaved like loyal subjects. But Sigismund was both an alien and a heretic to the majority of the Swedish nation, and his formal deposition by the Riksdag in 1599 was, in effect, a natural vindication and legitimation of Charles’s position. Finally, the diet of Linköping (Feb. 24, 1600) declared that Sigismund and his posterity had forfeited the Swedish throne, and, passing over duke John, the second son of John III., a youth of ten, recognized duke Charles as their sovereign under the title of Charles IX.

Charles’s short reign was an uninterrupted warfare. The hostility of Poland and the break up of Russia involved him in two overseas contests for the possession of Livonia and Ingria, while his pretensions to Lapland brought upon him a war with Denmark in the last year of his reign. In all these struggles he was more or less unsuccessful, owing partly to the fact that he had to do with superior generals (e.g. Chodkiewicz and Christian IV.) and partly to sheer ill-luck. Compared with his foreign policy, the domestic policy of Charles IX. was comparatively unimportant. It aimed at confirming and supplementing what had already been done during his regency. Not till the 6th of March 1604, after Duke John had formally renounced his rights to the throne, did Charles IX. begin to style himself king. The first deed in which the title appears is dated the 20th of March 1604; but he was not crowned till the 15th of March 1607. Four and a half years later Charles IX. died at Nyköping (Oct. 30, 1611). As a ruler he is the link between his great father and his still greater son. He consolidated the work of Gustavus Vasa, the creation of a great Protestant state: he prepared the way for the erection of the Protestant empire of Gustavus Adolphus. Swedish historians have been excusably indulgent to the father of their greatest ruler. Indisputably Charles was cruel, ungenerous and vindictive; yet he seems, at all hazards, strenuously to have endeavoured to do his duty during a period of political and religious transition, and, despite his violence and brutality, possessed many of the qualities of a wise and courageous statesman. By his first wife Marie, daughter of the elector palatine Louis VI., he had six children, of whom only one daughter, Catherine, survived; by his second wife, Christina, daughter of Adolphus, duke of Holstein-Gottorp, he had five children, including Gustavus Adolphus and Charles Philip, duke of Finland.

See Sveriges Historia, vol. iii. (Stockholm, 1878); Robert Nisbet Bain, Scandinavia (Cambridge, 1905), caps. 5-7.  (R. N. B.)