Heraldry up north

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Swedish 13th century knights ride out a misty winter morning. From this time a few heraldic designs are known but there is also great uncertainty regarding colours and use. Another problem is naming of the knights. They often have a name, the son being named after the father by adding -sson to the father’s surname. Thus the grandfathers name can be Sverker Eriksson, the father Erik Sverkersson and then Sverker Eriksson [the younger] again. They are also often named after heraldic symbols and homes to try to sort lineages out. Some of them have nicknames. A big problem for historians of this period in Swedish history is that the national archives were lost in fires.

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To the left is Sigtrygg Bengtsson Boberg from a family of lawmen of Boberga farmstead on the north side of lake Mälaren. A fleur-de-lis with antlers, actual coloration is unknown. The family had considerable possessions in Västmanland and the sparsely populated Värmland. Their coat of arms have been found during archaeological surveys at Ölme, a small fief. They disappear from history around 1350.

Next is Björn Näf Färla from Västergötland, the friend of King Birger Jarl and teacher to his son Magnus Ladulås. The historians think that the “färla” was used to punish students and children and the Näf family had two of them crossed on their coat of arms. Colours are unknown. The Näf family soon died out.

The Finsta family used two folded white wings on a field of red. Here is Peter Israelsson Finsta. Not much is known about him but he traveled to Outremer and came back. The Finsta family seems very religious including bishops and one saint, Heliga Birgitta. They had large holding in Uppland north of the capital.

Elof the Bastard was the half brother of king Birger and not much is known about him except his strong loyalty to the Crown, he have been mentioned in letters as a staunch defender of the King. He possibly used a golden red winged arrow over a field of blue, at least his descendants did.

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A larger group of Swedish knights. From left to right they are:

Sigtrygg Bengtsson Boberg.

King Erik Eriksson the Lisp and Lame (three white leopards on a field of blue).
During Erik’s time the borders were extended to the east, a new tax system strengthening the Crown was introduced and the Swedish church was reformed. Most historians today agree that his reign was successful even though he had to cope with two rebellions, one forcing him to flee to Denmark for a while.

Bishop Thomas of Åbo (keys and fleur-de-lis on a field of red)
The Finnish Bishop was forced to resign in 1245 after admitting several felonies, such as torturing a man to death, and forging a papal letter.

Peter Israelsson Finsta.

Ingevald Estridsson Hammersta (yellow dots on a field of red?)
The early history of Hammersta family is largely unknown but Ingevald was Bailiff in the capital Stockholm. Hammersta was a fief later built on the coastline in Södermanland.

Folke Algotsson (black griffin head on yellow)
Folke was a knight and judge. In 1288 he robbed away his love Ingrid Svantepolksdotter and fled to Norway. He was declared an outlaw and the King confiscated all his properties. His brother Karl Algotsson, who was accused of being the one who planned the abduction, was arrested and executed in 1289. The family’s keep was besieged and destroyed.

Birger Magnusson Bjälbo (yellow rearing lion with white ribbons and red roses on blue)
Upon the death of King Erik he became Jarl of Sweden in 1250 securing the throne for his son Magnus. Birger also led the Second Swedish Crusade to Finland, which established Swedish rule. Additionally, he is traditionally attributed to have founded the Swedish capital around 1250. His tomb was opened in 2002 and DNA taken.

Björn Näf Färla.

Elof the Bastard.

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Household men of King Erik Lisp and Lame.

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Crossbows of King Erik.

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Peasants.

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15th century. Erik Nilsson Puke of Rossvik revolted against the King in 1437. He is here seen with his ally Bailiff Hans Mårtensson holding the banner of Rossvik featuring a white boat and yellow star on field of blue. Erik Puke with an army of peasants and miners managed to beat the King in the engagement at Hällaskogen. The King’s German and Danish mercenaries mounted a frontal assault in the wooded terrain but was beaten back by the polearm and crossbow armed peasants. The Swedish peasant armies were quite successful. Although badly beaten at Wisby in 1361 they proved able to win battles during the 15th century. The success made them prone to fight again and they became a power to be reckoned with. Some historians find this to be the explanation of power sharing in late medieval Swedish politics and absence of serfdom. Erik Puke and Hans Mårtensson was however betrayed and executed.

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