Monday, April 27, 2009

Question from Emilia - Henry VIII and Sweden

I am a swedish Tudor-enthusiast and I wish to have some information (if there are any) regarding connections between Sweden and Henry VIII.
Were there a Swedish ambassador present at court?
Did Henry VIII and the swedish king Gustav Wasa have any interaction of any kind?
I am happy to know whatever little information there is about Sweden and the Tudors!
I am planning a trip to London (and it´s surroundings) and wish to see as much as I can regarding Henry VIII and his wife´s. I would be very pleased to get som recommendations concerning where I should go and what is worth seeing? I sadly discovered that the exhibition att the british library will close before my visit can take place...
Is Hever castle just a tourist-trap? I visited the castle´s webpage and kind of got that impression...
Sincerely / Emilia


Foose said...

I don't recall any formal diplomatic contacts between Sweden and the court of Henry VIII. Catherine of Aragon's niece Ysabeau/Isabel of Austria was married to Christian II of Denmark, who also ruled Sweden until Gustav Vasa and his followers revolted against Danish rule. Henry did meet Christian II and Ysabeau when they visited England in Charles V's company in 1522.

Denmark seems to have been pals with Scotland, and Christian called on his first cousin James IV to supply men and money when he first tried to suppress the rebellion in Sweden. France seems to have been looped in too, possibly through the Scots connection. Henry does not seem to have been engaged in this effort.

On principle, Henry may have disliked the idea of rebellious subjects succeeding and becoming king. However, as he drew apart from the Emperor, and continued to be wary of the Franco-Scots alliance, Letters & Papers shows various attitudes to king "Gustofius."

I can't find a record of a Swedish embassy to England (although the Swedes sent a big delegation to France in the 1542), but Gustavus Vasa seems to be initially characterized as "the pretended king of Sweden" and a "very usurper" by English diplomats (although they could be parroting the Imperial line). There was occasional trouble over English ships trading in the Baltic. An English envoy sussed out Gustavus in 1532, reporting to the duke of Norfolk:

" ... has made inquiry, and discovered that the King [Gustavus] has a most quiet disposition and no desire of dominion. He has many relatives, both by blood and affinity. His mother comes from a noble family in Upper Germany. His first wife was the [daughter] of the marquis of Brandenburg, by whom he has a son, duke of Holsatia," etc.

In January 1536, there is a long document presenting the argument of one Bernard, evidently a captain from Saxony, who is trying to interest Henry in supporting his efforts to invade Sweden - he believes that Gustavus Vasa is dead. He has some interesting comments on Sweden:

"... Sweden has never been quiet, except when foreign kings have ruled, for when nobles rule, as has been the case for a long time, there is always strife and war. Their nature is such that they cannot bear the rule of an equal ..."

In the 1530s, Cromwell seems to have gotten the present of an elk from Gustavus, perhaps as he sought to ally England with the Protestant powers on the Continent.

By the 1540s, Gustavus seems to be referred to as simply "the king of Sweden," thus tacitly acknowledging him as a fellow monarch. English-Swedish contacts really ripened in Elizabeth's reign, when the queen was courted by both Eric XIV and his brother, Duke John, and their sister Princess Cecilia came for an extended visit. kb has mentioned Helena Snakenborg, a Swedish lady who also came and wound up marrying Catherine Parr's elderly brother, the Marquess of Winchester. Meanwhile, Scotland continued to pursue links with Denmark -- it looks as though each country fostered its preferred Scandinavian connection.

Foose said...

Oops, the king referred to by the English envoy in 1532 is actually Frederick I of Denmark (Christian II's uncle and usurper), rather than Gustav Vasa of Sweden. Sorry about that! The affairs of Denmark and Sweden are frequently paired together in L&P and you have to read carefully to make out which king is being referred to.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Foose' answer is amazing. Just was going to say that the main embassadors at the English court in Anne Boleyn's time were generally Venetian ( main interest was about trade), French, Spannish and Holy Roman Empire. Also the Burgundian (low countries)embassador. This is stated by Eric Ives.

If you want to do something a bit special, how about seeing Anne Boleyn's first letter in French to her father. It is in the library of the Corpus Christi college in Cambridge.

Tim Powell said...

Both the Tower of London's Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill, and Hampton Court Palace's Henry VIII: heads and hearts will still be open until January 2009.

Further details available from

Tim Powell
Historic Royal Palaces

TheAnneBoleynFiles said...

See for a full rundown of Henry VIII events that are happening in and around London this year - I'm sure that there will still be something on for you to see.

As regards Hever Castle, I haven't yet been able to go but want to go soon and I don't get the impression that it's a tourist trap. It has a collection of Tudor portraits and also has Anne Boleyn's own Book of Hours, plus it's a beautiful building.

Tracey said...

Hever Castle, for true Tudorphiles, is a definite must-see. The entire place has been modernized for comfort and convenience, but Anne would still recognize her old home.

Just for the ambiance alone the visit is worth it. Henry and Anne strolled these grounds, and altho the formal gardens weren't there, nor was the maze, they don't detract from the 'castle' itself.

Tourist trap? In the sense that there is a gift shop and cafe. But then hardly any property in England doesn't have those two takers-of-tourist-money.