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Part 1




The Realm

The Ruler

The State

Armed Forces







The medieval era in Sweden was characterized by a significant expansion of activity, largely toward the east. Many Viking expeditions set off from Sweden to both plunder and trade along the Baltic coast and the rivers that stretched deep into present-day Russia. The Vikings traveled as far as the Black and Caspian Seas, where they developed trading links with the Byzantine Empire and the Arab kingdoms. Christianity first reached Sweden with a mission led by Ansgar, who visited in the 9th century, but the country was not converted to Christianity until the 11th century.

The various regions of Sweden were absorbed around 1000 into a single unit, but the crown began to gain significant influence only during the late 13th century. In 1280 King Magnus Ladulås (1275–90) issued a statute authorising the establishment of a nobility and the organization of society on the feudal model.

Trade grew during the 14th century, especially with the German towns grouped under the leadership of Lübeck. By the mid-16th century, this group, known as the Hanseatic League, dominated Swedish trade, and many towns were founded as a result of lively commercial activity.

In 1389, the crowns of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were united under the rule of the Danish Queen Margareta. In 1397, the Kalmar Union was formed, with the three Scandinavian countries under a single monarch. However, the union (1397–1523) was scarred by internal conflicts that culminated in the ‘Stockholm Bloodbath’ in 1520, when 80 Swedish nobles were executed at the instigation of the Danish union king, Kristian II. The act provoked a rebellion, which in 1521 led to the deposition of Kristian II and the seizure of power by a Swedish nobleman, Gustav Vasa, who was elected king of Sweden in 1523.

The foundations of the modern Swedish state were laid during the reign of Gustav Vasa (1523–60). The church was nationalised, its estates confiscated by the crown, and the Protestant Reformation was introduced. Power was concentrated in the hands of the king and hereditary monarchy came into force in 1544.

Since the dissolution of the Kalmar Union, Swedish foreign policy had been aimed at gaining dominion over the Baltic Sea, leading to repeated wars with Denmark from the 1560s onward. After Sweden intervened in 1630 with great success in the Thirty Years’ War on the side of the German Protestants, and Gustav II Adolf became one of Europe’s most powerful monarchs, Sweden defeated Denmark in the two wars of 1643–45 and 1657–58. Finland, provinces in northern Germany and the present-day Baltic republics also belonged to Sweden, and after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the Peace of Roskilde with Denmark in 1658, Sweden was a great power in northern Europe. The country even founded a short-lived colony in what is now Delaware in North America. However, Sweden had a largely agrarian economy and lacked the resources to maintain its position as a great power in the long run.

After its defeat in the Great Northern War (1700–21) against the combined forces of Denmark, Poland and Russia, Sweden lost most of its provinces on the other side of the Baltic Sea and was reduced essentially to the same frontiers as present-day Sweden and Finland. During the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden surrendered Finland to Russia. As compensation, the French marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, who had been elected heir to the Swedish throne in 1810, succeeded in obtaining Norway, which was forced into a union with Sweden in 1814. This union was peacefully dissolved in 1905 after many internal disputes.

After the death of the warrior king Karl XII in 1718 and Sweden’s defeat in the Great Northern War, the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) and council were strong enough to introduce a new constitution that abolished royal absolutism and put power in the hands of parliament.

In the 1940s and 1950s, there were calls for a modernization of the 1809 constitution resulting in a new Constitution adopted in 1974, stating that all public power is derived from the people, who are to select the members of parliament in free elections. The monarch is still the head of state, but in name only.






Modern society is usually composed of a realm, possessed by a ruler and regulated by a state.

A realm is traditionally symbolized by a sun radiant but in Europe such a realm is defined in a narrower sense of a specified territory inhabited by a specified population and governed by its institutions of state. For that reason the modern state is usually symbolized by an other symbol sometimes developed from the medieval arms of the ruler was invested with the executive powers. A reason for that is that the arms, which were a badge of armed power, were more individualized than a crown, being the badge of administrative power. Soon indeed both badges were combined in the royal emblem.



The Realm


From the nordic countries there is some evidence that the realm was symbolized also by a sun in prehistoric times. A sun cart dating from the 14th century BC. was for example unearthed in Trundholm swamps in Denmark. From Sweden there is no such evidence available nor are there round shields preserved which could be interpreted as sun-discs like in some other ancient cultures.

A better candidate for fullfilling the rôle of symbol of the realm in Sweden however is the huge snake called Jörmungandr meaning “huge monster” also known as the Midgard Serpent (Miðgarðsormr) or World Serpent It is a sea serpent, the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and the norse god Loki. According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki's three children by Angrboða, the wolf Fenrir, Hel and Jörmungandr, and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. Jörmungandr grew so large that he was able to surround the earth and grasp his own tail. For that reason, he received the name of Miðgarðsormr. When he lets go, the world will end.


Such a Miðgarðsormr is often depicted on Rune stones in Sweden and is usually carrying an inscription naming the donor and/or some other message.

A runestone carved with such a Miðgarðsormr  is located for example near the ruins of the old king's dwelling at Alsnö hus near Hovgården on the island of Adelsö in Sweden. It has the Rundata designation  U 11.

It represents a coiled snake bearing the inscription (transliterated in Latin letters):

raþ| |þu : runaR : ret : lit : rista : toliR : bry[t]i : i roþ : kunuki : toliR : a(u)k : gyla : litu : ris... ...- : þaun : hion : eftiR ...k : merki srni... haku(n) * (b)aþ : rista

(You read the runes! Right let cut them Tolir, bailiff in Roden, to the king. Tolir and Gylla let carve (these runes), this pair after themselves as a memorial... Håkon bade carve)

The Håkon of the inscription is believed to be the reigning king Håkan the Red, who is generally accepted as ruling during the 1070s just after the end of the Vikimg Era. [1]


Æ See illustration in the head of this chapter.


In the roman tradition however the realm is symbolized by a globe, in christian times crested with a square cross symbolizing administrative authority or a latin cross symbolizing religious authority. This globe is derived from the Akakia (akakia = literally: innocent). [2]

The swedish orb was represented on the royal seal from about the middle of the 12th century.


Seal of Majesty 1164-‘67

Crowned king, seated on his throne, [a sword in his right and] an orb in his left.



The orb now belonging to the regalia was made for the coronation of King Erik XIV in 1561.


Orb of King Erik XIV, 1561

Royal Treasury, Stockholm


The orb consists of a world-globe representing the continents known in Europe in the time of Erik XIV. It reflects the efforts of King Erik for the geographical exploration of the world. The globe is crested by another, smaller globe representing the universe and topped with a square cross.


Since 1908 the emblem symbolizing the realm of Sweden is the arms of the realm (Rikets vapen) of which there are several versions: the larger arms of the realm which can be displayed with or without a mantle and a smaller arms of the realm which can be displayed with or without the collar of the Order of the Seraphim.


These versions each have a different historical background being the royal arms, the royal achievement, the arms of state and the arms of the head of state.


Unionsvapnet av år 1844. Bilaga till statsrådsprotokoll den 20 juni 1844. En av anmärkningarna mot unionsvapnet var att det kröntes av tre kronor, inte en.


Efter unionsupplösningen 1905 blev det självklart vapnet från 17 maj 1844 som blev Sveriges stora riksvapen. Nu fastställdes det för första gången med både vapenbeskrivning och bild i svensk författningssamling (15 maj 1908). Avslutningsvis kan anmärkas, att beslutsdatum, 17 maj, är påfallande. Det var – och är – ju den dag, då norrmännen firar sin fria författning från 1814. Karl Johan hade endast med ovilja accepterat detta. Därför är det lätt att föreställa sig att Oskar I velat markera sin


Lag om rikets vapen

den 15 maj 1908


1 §. Rikets vapen äro två, stora vapnet och lilla vapnet.

2 §. Stora riksvapnet består af en genom ett utböjdt guldkors fyrdelad sköld med hjärtsköld.

Hufvudsköldens fyra fält  äro blå, första och fjärda fältme med tre kronor af guld, två  ställda öfver den tredje, samt andra och tredje fälten med tre ginbalksvis gående str”mmar af silver, belagda met ett krönt gyllene lejon med röd utsträkckt tunga.

Hjärskölden är klufven i två fält. Första fältet är bandvis tredeladt i blått med i silvervatten  stående bro i tre spann med två krenelerade torn af silfver. Öfver bron sitter en gyllene örn, och i fältets öfversta del synes karlavagnens stjärnbild af guld.

Sköldhållare äro två tillbakaseende lejon af guld met klufna svansar och röda utsträckta tungor. Lejonen krönas med kunglig krona.

Skölden täckes af en kunglig krona, och kring densamma hänga serafimerorden insignier.

Hela vapnet omgifves af ett vapentält under kunglig krona.

Stora riksvapent må brukas äfven utan sköldhållare, odensinsignier eller vapentält.

3 §. Lilla riksvapnet utgöres af en blå sköld med tre kronor af guld, ställda två öfver den tredje. Skölden är täckt af en kunglig krona och omgifven af serafimerordens insignier. Vapnet må dock brukas äfven utan dessa insignier.

4 §. Brukar någon offentligen vapen eller märke, som utgör efterbildning af stora eller lilla riksvapnet, sådana desamma blifvit i 2 och 3 §§ här ofven beskrifna, men i väsenliga delar skiljer sig från det efterbildade, böte från och med 10 till och med 100 kronor,. Samma lag vare , där någon till salu håller vapen eller márke, som nu sagts.

5 §. Böter, som enligt denna lag ådömas, tillfalla kronan. Saknas tillgång til böternas fulla gäldande, skola de fövendlas enligt allmän lag



Denna lag träder i kraft den 1 januari 1909; dock att hvad i 4 § är stadgadt icke tillämpas i afseende å dessförinnan registreradt varumärke, så länge skydd därför åtnjutes.

Det alla, etc.


Lag (1982:268) om Sveriges riksvapen


1 § Sverige har två riksvapen, stora riksvapnet, som också är statschefens personliga vapen, och lilla riksvapnet. Riksvapnen används som symboler för den svenska staten.

     Stora riksvapnet bör endast när det finns särskilda skäl användas av andra än statschefen, riksdagen, regeringen, departementen, utrikesrepresentationen och försvarsmakten.

     Statschefen kan ge andra medlemmar av det kungliga huset tillåtelse att som personligt vapen bruka stora riksvapnet med de ändringar och tillägg som statschefen bestämmer.


2 § Stora riksvapnet utgörs av en blå huvudsköld, kvadrerad genom ett kors av guld med utböjda armar, samt en hjärtsköld som innehåller det kungliga husets dynastivapen.

Huvudsköldens första och fjärde fält innehåller tre öppna kronor av guld, ordnade två över en. Huvudsköldens andra och tredje fält innehåller tre ginbalksvis gående strömmar av silver, överlagda med ett upprest, med öppen krona krönt lejon av guld med röd tunga samt röda tänder och klor.

     Hjärtskölden är kluven. Första fältet innehåller Vasaättens vapen: ett i blått, silver och rött styckat fält, belagt med en vase av guld. Andra fältet innehåller ätten Bernadottes vapen: i blått fält en ur vatten uppskjutande bro med tre valv och två krenelerade torn, allt av silver, däröver en örn av guld med vänstervänt huvud och sänkta vingar gripande om en åskvigg av guld samt överst Karlavagnens stjärnbild av guld.

     Huvudskölden är krönt med en kunglig krona och omges av Serafimer ordens insignier

Sköldhållare är två tillbakaseende, med kunglig krona krönta lejon med kluvna svansar samt röda tungor, tänder och klor. Lejonen står på ett postament av guld.

     Det hela omges av en med kunglig krona krönt hermelinsfodrad vapenmantel av purpur med frans av guld och uppknuten med tofsprydda snören av guld.

     Stora riksvapnet får brukas även utan ordensinsignier, sköldhållare, postament eller vapenmantel.


3 § Lilla riksvapnet består av en med kunglig krona krönt blå sköld med tre öppna kronor av guld, ordnade två över en.

Skölden får omges av Serafimerordens insignier.

Såsom lilla riksvapnet skall också anses tre öppna kronor av guld, ordnade två över en, utan sköld och kunglig krona.

Myndigheter som använder lilla riksvapnet får till vapnet foga emblem som symboliserar deras verksamhet. Innan ett vapen med sådant tillägg tas i bruk, bör yttrande inhämtas från statens heraldiska nämnd.


The Ruler


In Swedish prehistory, the Vendel Period (550-790) comes between the Migration Period and theViking Age. The migrations and upheaval in Central Europe had lessened somewhat, and two power regions had appeared in Europe: the Merovingian kingdom and the Slavic princedoms in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. A third power, the Catholic Church, had begun to expand its influence.

In Scandinavia, the Germanic clan society was still very much alive. In Uppland, in what today is the east-central part of Sweden, Old Uppsala was probably the centre of religious and political life. It had both a well-known sacred grove and great Royal Mounds. There were lively contacts with Central Europe, and the Scandinavians continued to export iron, fur, and slaves; in return they acquired art and innovations, such as the stirrup.


Vendel era helmet, in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.


Finds from well-preserved boat inhumation graves at Vendel and Valsgärde show that Uppland was an important and powerful area consistent with the account of the Norse sagas of a Swedish kingdom. Some of the riches were probably acquired through the control of mining districts and the production of iron. The rulers had troops of mounted elite warriors with costly armour. Graves of mounted warriors have been found with stirrups and saddle ornaments of birds of prey in gilded bronze with encrusted garnets.

These mounted elite warriors are mentioned in the work of the 6th century Goth scholar Jordanes, who wrote that the Swedes had the best horses beside the Thuringians. They also echo much later in the sagas, where king Adils is always described as fighting on horseback (both against Áli and Hrólf Kraki). Snorri Sturluson wrote that Adils had the best horses of his days.


In the Viking-era kingship was a combination of military- and religious  leadership. After the conversion of the Swedes religious authority was vested with the church and in particular with the archbishop of Lund, then still situated in Denmark. In 1164 Sweden became an archdiocese. The seat of this archdiocese was in Uppsala. The kings of the line of St. Eric then moved at the end of the 12th century their residence to  Stockholm. Only after the Reformation the Vasa-kings returned to Uppsala.

The military and administrative authority then became veste in kingship.


The House of Sverker

The study of the bearing of arms of the swedish kings in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, is hampered by the fact that little is known from this period of the swedish history. This gives the opportunity on the one hand for more or less wild speculations, having the advantage that they cannot be proved. A method to get some grip on the matter is to compare the scarce information we have with information from the rest of Europe to which Sweden came to belong in this period. The relations between the ruling families were tight in that time and the parafernalia of kingship and the military were spread quickly by diplomatic relations and by artists like seal cutters and painters. Certainly there was a need for a rapid adoption of new martial techniques and the developments in the arms industry. New arms and techniques came available mainly by the contacts with the Hanze by which Sweden was provided with the products of german armorers. The modernization of warfare was also stimulated by the permanent state of war of Sweden because of its “crusades” to Finland and Russia. For sure the developments in heraldry, that is to say the introduction of (new) military symbols in civic administration in Western Europe was followed closely in Sweden.

            Early Kings of Sweden

Yngling House

Erik the Victorious

Olof Skötkonung


Emund the Old





House of Stenkil

Stenkil Ragnvaldsson


Håkon the Red

Inge I, te Elder


Inge I, the Elder


Inge II, the Younger









House of Sverker and Erik

Sverker I, the Elder

St. Erik Jedvardsson

Magnus Henriksson

Charles Sverkersson

Kol Jonsson

Knut Eriksson

Sverker II, the Younger








In 1152 Cardinal Nicholas of Albano, later Pope Adrian IV, visited Sweden and held a provincial synod at Linköping. He had been commissioned to establish an independent Church province in Sweden, but the matter was deferred, as the Swedes could not agree upon the see of the archbishop. In 1164 Pope Alexander III established a separate ecclesiastical province of Sweden with the see at Uppsala. The suffragans were the Bishops of Skara, Linköping, Strängnäs and Västerås; at a later date the diocese of Växjö, as well as the diocese of Åbo in neighbouring Finland (which came to be ruled by the Swedish crown) were added

In any case Charles was admitted to the community of european princes by this visit .

Charles was succeeded by his nephew Kol Jonsson and by Knut Eriksson but the dates are very uncertain (i.e. 1167-1173 and 1167/1173-1196 respectively). It is certain that they were elected by the adversaries of Charles. The seals of Canute are seals of majesty  (n°s 3 & 4). On the seal of the Jarl of Canute is a lily sceptre (n° 5, Birger Bengtsson, 1180-1202) which apparently symbolizes the office of Jarl, and can be compared with the thunderbolts on the shields of many officials occupying elswhere like offices like bailiff, seneschal, constable or commander of the royal guard.

Of the descendants of Charles Sverker II (1196-1202) and John I (1216-1222) no seals are known.


Two rune stones from Skokloster

Representing riders, one with a spear the other with a sword but both without a shield


Charles Sverkersson




Seal of Majesty 1164-’67  (n°1) [3]

Crowned king, seated on his throne, [a sword in his right and] an orb in his left.


Equestrian Seal  1164-’67

Crowned rider with spear and shield


National Archives Stockholm


As the king is usually holding a sceptre the reconstruction of the sword in his right hand may not be free of doubt.

On the equestrian seal the name of Götland appears for the first time in the royal title. The spear in the hand of the rider is a continuation of the spear of the Vendel warriors. Also, a rider was the common way a commander was represented on his seal, he being a king or not.


Kol Jonsson & Burislev

 Pretenders 1167-1173


Knut Eriksson




Seal of majesty 1167 (n° 3)

Seal of majesty 1185 (n° 4)


On this seals the king is represented in the usual European way, sitting on his throne, crowned and keeping is sceptre and orb in his hands. This imago respresents him vested with military and administrative authority, the crown symbolizing his rank of king.


Sverker II the Young



Erik X Knutsson


King of Sweden 1208-1216



1210-1216  6. Konung Erik Knutsson. Konungen sittande, med krona, spira och riksglob. Numera återstår endast det mörkare tecknade midstycket. Allt det öfriga, jemte inskriften  X sigillvm erici d. g. regis sveorvm, är hemstadt från Peringskjölds originalteckning, återgiven i träsnitt i hans Ättartal, p. 57.

Sv. Dipl. N. 137, odateradt. Då Peringskjölds ritning gjordes, fanns af originalet föga mer i behåll, än nu, men han uppgifver sig hafva följt »en gammal afritning«. När eller af hvem denna blifvit gjord upplyses icke. Att den, åtminstone til;l någon del, uppgjorts  på fri hand, torde kunna antagas. - Med kontrasigill  (n° 6)


1210-1216 7. Samma Konung Eriks kontrasigill. Med inskrift på Peringskjölds ritning: X clipevs . erici. d.g. regis . sveorvm). Två mot hvarandra gående, krönta lejon med framvända hufvud.

Sv. Dipl. N. 137, på baksidan af No 6. Om detta gäller allt hvad vid N. 6 blifvit anmärkt. Den teckning Jph. Schefferus bifogat sin afhandling De antiquis verisque Regni Sveciæ Insignibus, Tab. G. N. XXVIII, visar tydligt att redan då detta arbete utgafs (1678) endast funnits ett obetydligt fragment af detta sigill. (n° 7)

Two and three lions passant.

On the first seal of King Erik Knutsson there are two crowned lions respecting in an attitude of two supporters. This may have been the insignia of the comes stabuli as in later times such lions were the emblem of a megas dux and a maximus ammiratus, offices that have evoluated from the Roman office of  Magister Æquitum. Such lions are known from the Spanish Kingdom of the Visigoths but also from the Sicilian Kingdom. Also, it is supposed that on the shield of  Richard Lionheart when merely Duke of Normandy, there were two lions respecting. Later, two lions passant were the arms of amongst other things of the duke of Jutland and the duke of Brunswick. It is therefore likely that Erik Knutsson presents himself here as a duke marshall of Sweden, in fact the commander in chief of the Swedish warriors. On the other side of his seal he is represented as a king with his parafernalia, in fact the ruler of Sweden in all its aspects.

His successor and son Erik XI Eriksson presented himself in a different way as a head of state controlling the army, the police and adminsitration symbolized here by three crowned lions passant. These offices were delegated by Magnus Birgersson to new offices of state, the drots, marsk and kansler, corresponding roughly to those of lord high steward, marshal or constable, and chancellor replacing the office of Jarl.


John I Sverkersson

Jarl 1202-1206



Seal of Majesty 1219  (n° 8)


Equestrian Seal 1219  (n° 9)



Erik XI Eriksson





Seal of majesty, 1224

Crowned king on his throne with lily-sceptre an orb. L.: SIGILLVM ERICI DEI GRACIA REGIS SVEORVM. (n°  10)


Counterseal, 1224

Three crowned lions passant guardant.

L.: X clipevs . erici . dei . gracia . regis sveorvm . (n°  11)


Knut Långe

Regent 1222-1229

King 1229-1234


Canute II the Tall (Knut Långe till Sko; Knut Holmgersson), was King of Sweden from 1229 until his death in 1234. His father Holmger was called a “nepos” of King Canute I of Sweden, which usually meant nephew. It can thus be assumed that Canute II was a grandnephew of King Canute I. He would then have been a great-grandson of King Eric the Saint; legends give Philip Ericson, King Eric’s youngest son, as the father of Holmger, Canute’s father. Canute was closely allied with Folkungs, who wanted to limit the powers of the church and king.

Canute was a member of the council that ruled Sweden from 1222 until 1229, during the early reign of Eric XI. In 1229 Eric was overthrown after the Battle of Olustra in Södermanland. Canute was crowned in 1231, but his time in office was short. After his death Eric returned and ruled until his own death in 1250.

Canute was married to Helena, whose parentage and date of death vary between researchers. One source alleges that she died before 1227, and that she was the daughter of jarl Folke Birgersson. Both of their sons - Holmger (†1248) and Philip (†1251) - died in the Folkung uprisings fighting against Birger Jarl.


Knut issued several types of coin. One such a coin shows an early 13th century shield with three barrulets (sometimes interpreted as three barrulets and a fess wavy between the first and the second).



An other coin shows a (crowned?) lion passant to the sinister.


To the left the coin from Kila defense tower.

To the right a coin from Eskilstuna found in 1879 in a hoard containing different types of coins minted by Knut.  The coins show a lion and the legend Kanvtvs,  the Latin form of Knut.


Referring to the arms with the barrulets, as well as a coat of arms with barrulets and a lion over all are the arms on the 14th century tomb cover said to be of the son of Knut Långe, Holmger Knutsson (†1248).  On it are two arms:

1. Shield charged with three barrulets of different tinctures. These arms are usually attributed to Knut Långe or his family, the shield blue, the barrulets Argent and Or.

2. Arms: Azure, three barrulets Argent, a lion rampant Gules over all. These arms are thought to be of a member of the Bjelbo or Folkung family.


Both arms were certainly known in the 14th century and the arms with the barrulets may have once been of Knut Långe and his son. The attribution of the other arms to Holmger may not be free from doubt as the image on the cloth is certainly not his but of an other official.  Also these arms are those of his ennemy Birger Æ The tomb cover of Holmger Knutsson


The arms of  Knut Långe and Folkunge

On the Tomb Cover of Holmger Knutsson from Skokloster. 14th century


We may however be sure of the arms with the barrulets and of the lion passant as a badge of rank of Knut Långe, the last probably referring to his office of regent.

This lion is probably on the arms: Azure a lion Or of  le.Roi desues in Wijnbergen Roll (n° 1278) from about the middle of the 13th century.  [4].


Arms of the King of Sweden, 13th cent.


Accepting this theory would solve many enigma’s about the origin of the arms of Sweden.


Erik Eriksson

Restored 1234-1250


As Erik Eriksson had become king of Sweden at the the age of six he could be passed over by Canute II. After Canute had died at the battlefield in 1234 Erik, now having the age of 18, was restored but he died without issue at te age of 34.  He was succeeded by the eldest son of his sister, Waldemar, then being of the age of seven. During his minority the regency was executed by his father Jarl Birger Magnusson,


House of Bjelbo (Folkung)


The Folkungs.

With the House of Folkunge the bearing of arms changes thoroughly. Probably this has to be put into the context of the changing views on kingship in which the former authorities of king and jarl were combined and administration and supreme command were centralized. In historical studies the authors seem to agree in any case that after the middle of the 13th century there was not such a thing as a United Kingdom of Sweden.

By all children of Birger Magnusson his arms as a regent and jarl was adopted unchanged. This consisted from 1250 until 1257 of a shield strewn with hearts with three bends sinister and a lion over all. In the Eric Chronicle the tinctures are descibed: The shield is Azure, the hearts Gules, the bends Argent and the lion Or. These arms can be qualified as being the arms of the House of Folkunge. Only the reigning ruler, beginning with Magnus I Ladulås added a crown, being a royal emblem, on the head of the lion. These arms were borne by all Swedish kings from the House of Folkunge until 1364.



A problem is posed by the explanation of the hearts. In Denmark the personal arms of the King (the arms he bore as a domicellus: Or, three lions passant Azure) was augmented with hearts at his coronation. In West Europe the adding of symbols on the field meant a reduction of military command. This would mean in the Danish case that the king after his inauguration retired (partially) from military life and delegated the supreme command to his successor. From elsewhere we know that it was not appreciated that the king took the risk of being killed in battle, reason why he took a place in the rearguard or did not participate in the battle at all. This was particularly the case where kingship was defined as a civic office namely of those kings who could consider themselves as the successors of Roman vicars (administrators of a diocese) in Italy, Gallia, Vienna, Brittannia and Hispania. This also applied to the emperor and the pope.

In agreement with the Danish example the hearts in the arms of Waldemar and his father Birger would mean that they had some royal authority but did not participate in military actions. This is true in any case for seven-year old Waldemar. Unexplained remains why Birger Magnusson changed the hearts on his shield into roses in 1257, introducing at the same time a coat of arms with a lion for the title of a Swedish duke. Probably Waldemar was declared of age when attaining the age of fourteen. At the same time th office of jarl should have been discontinued and replaced by the office of a duke. This would mean that Birger Magnusson has taken up arms again after 1257.  Alas no seals of Waldemar nor of Birger Magnusson from the period  of 1257-’66 have been preserved. It is explained however that Waldemar omitted hearts and crown after his deposure (no royal authority but military active).


Birger Magnusson’s Children

The four sons of Birger Magnusson were donated differently. Waldemar with the Swedish throne, Magnus with the ducal title of Svealand and Birger with episcopal title of Linköping. Of Eric, who died at an early age, nothing is known. This way of proceeding matches the typology of families in Europe determined by Emanuel Todd by which the Swedish system is a tribal system characterized by an authoritarian father and unequal brothers. [5] The arms of Bengt (Or, three bend sinister Argent/Gules, a lion Azure)  represented a much lower rank in heraldry than the arms of his father  (Azure, a lion Or). (It is supposed in that case that the episcopal title did not comprise the title of Duke of Gotland.) From the daughters of Birger, Rixa and Catharina  nothing more is known that they were married with Haakon the Younger of Norway and a prince of Anhalt-Zerbst respectively .







Seal of majesty 1252


Seated king with crown, sceptre and orb. L.: X WALDEMARVS ..... SVEORVM. (n° 14)

Heraldic Seal 1252


Arms: Strewn with hearts, three crowned lions passant guardant. L. .X............[SVEOR]VM  (n°  15)

Heraldic seal of Waldemar, 1289


Arms: Three lions passant guardant. L.: SIGILLVM WALDEMARI FR[atr]IS REGIS SVECIE (n° 40)


Magnus I. Ladulås


Duke of Sweden 1266 ca.-1275

King 1275-1290


Duke of Sweden



As a king he added a crown on the head of the lion. On his couterseal his arms are surrounded by three crowns.

N° 24, 25. Samma Konung Magnus’s kontrasigill. Inskriften borta. Ett uprest krönt lejon gâende öfver tre ginbalkar. Skölden, beströdd met hjertan, omgifves af tre kronor.

Sv. Dipl. N. 586, 593, 621, 631, 638, 640, på baksidan af N. 24. Peringskjölds teckning har inskriften: clipevs magni dei gracia regis sweorvm, med hvilken torde vara samma förhållande, som blifvit anmärkt, vid N. 24. De tre kronorna förekomma här första gången i ett Svenskt konungasigill. När de sedermera insattes inom skölden, blefvo de blott, till följd af sköldens form, satta i annan ordning, 2 och 1. Jfr dock anmärkningen vid Johan Sverkerssons kontrasigill här ofvan, N 9.


Seal of majesty 1276


Heraldic Seal 1276

Arms: Strewn with hearts three bends sinister and a crowned lion rampant over all


Arms: Strewn with hearts, three bendlets sinister and a crowned lion rampant over all (n°s  25, 27 (1275), n°  29 (1276)


Birger Magnusson


Co-king 1284



Arms: Strewn with hearts, three bendlets sinister and a crowned lion rampant over all (n° 45, 1304; n° 53, 1310; n° 55, 1311).


Fresco in the choir of  St Bendts church of Ringsted, Denmark.


Birger was buried in St. Bendts church in Ringsted. This fresco was made ca. 1350 or about thirty years after the death of Birger. Above the portrait is the inscription X BYRG..  .. REXX. The arms are: Azure, three bendlets sinister a lion Or. The crest is of two horns set with ten pennons Azure a lion Or. As there are no hearts on the arms they probably mean that the bearer is ex officio (no royal authority but military active) which was indeed the case with Birger after 1319. Such a coat of arms was also borne by his brother Erik Magnusson on his seal of 1312.


Magnus VII/II



Erik XII Magnusson

Håkon VI Magnusson


King of Norway 1319-1355

King of Sweden 1319-1364

Co-regent 1356-1359

Co-regent 1362-1364


Magnus II Eriksson, (*1316, Norway - † 01Dec.1374, Sweden), king of Sweden (1319–‘63) and of Norway (1319–‘55, as Magnus VII) who devoted himself to defending his Swedish sovereignty against rebellious nobles aided by various foreign leaders, most notably Valdemar IV Atterdag, king of Denmark.


The son of Ingeborg, daughter of the Norwegian king Haakon V, and of Duke Erik, brother of the Swedish king Birger Magnusson, Magnus was accepted as ruler of both Norway and Sweden on Haakon V’s death (1319). A regency, of which his mother took part (1319-’27 in Norway and 1319-’26 in Sweden) controlled his two dominions until he came of age in 1332. Since Magnus spent nearly all his time in Sweden, the leading Norwegian nobles arranged in 1343 for his son Haakon to succeed him, becoming King Haakon VI when Magnus abdicated in Norway in 1355.

Magnus soon aroused the opposition of many Swedish nobles when he imposed higher taxes to purchase the former Danish province of Skåne. After introducing a new national law code (1350), integrating the various provincial laws, he further irritated the magnates in 1352 by curbing the economic power of the church and the landed nobility. His son Erik emerged as the champion of his opponents, who were supported by King Valdemar IV of Denmark and, after 1356, by Pope Innocent VI as well. Magnus was forced to cede to Erik about half of his Swedish kingdom, and he began to make concessions to the nobility. He then made peace with Valdemar IV and arranged (1359) the marriage of his son Haakon VI to Valdemar’s daughter Margaret, paving the way for the eventual union of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in 1397, the Kalmar Union.

Magnus renewed his attempt to check the power of the leading Swedish nobles after reuniting with Valdemar IV, who had betrayed him in 1360 in retaking Skåne. The nobles responded by offering the Swedish throne to his sisters’ son Albert of Mecklenburg and by launching a military offensive. Taken prisoner in the ensuing hostilities, Magnus was not released until 1371, and then left for Norway.


Secret Seal of Magnus Eriksson. 1341


Arms: Strewn with hearts, three bendlets sinister and a lion rampant over all.

Crest: Recrowned crown and peacocks tails (?))



Seal of Majesty  1344


Crowned king with orb and sceptre. On his left the arms of Norway. L.: ÓÓÓ SIGILLVM MAGNI DEI GRACIA SWEORVM GOTORVM ET NORVEGIE REGIS. (n° 59)


 Royal Counterseal, 1344


Arms:  Strewn with hearts, three bends sinister,  a lion rampant over all. L.: X CLIPEVS MAGNI DEI GRACIASWEORVM GOTORVMQUE REGIS ILLVSTRE (N° 60)


Arms of King Magnus VII/II of Norway and Sweden (1319-‘55)

Gelre fol. 66: dye conïc vā  noorwegë


Arms: ¼ 1&4: Gules a crowned lion keeping an exe upright Or; 2&3: Azure, stewn with hearts Gules, three bendlets sinister and a crowned lion Or over all.

Crest: A five-pointed screen of the arms of Norway set with peacocks feathers 



On this page are the arms of Magnus Eriksson between 1355 and 1363 (the hearts uncoloured).

In the upper right corner are the arms of Albrecht of Mecklenburg (*1338, king of Sweden 1363-’89)

The three other arms all called ‘of Sweden’ may be of: 

1. The arms of Haakon VI (co-king 1362-’64 †1380)

2. Olaf son of Haakon VI (†1387)

3. Euphemia Eriksdotter, sister of Magnus? †1370


This is the Folkunge ruling family at the wedding of Haakon VI with Margaretha of Denmark in 1359 when Sweden was reunited.


All these arms are derived from the arms of Magnus I (king of Sweden 1275-’90) who bore: Azure, strewn with hearts Gules, three bends sinister Argent and a lion Or over all.


The arms with the lion on the shield per bend sinister are those of Karl Ulfsson, Marshal (Riksmarsk) of Albrecht (1364-’71).


The tomb cover of Holmger Knutsson


Holmger Knutsson (*1210ca - 1248), son of Knut Långe

On his tomb cover  from Skokloster, Uppland. 2nd half 14th cent.


Thin green silk with support fabric of blue linen tabby.

Embroidered decoration in gold, silk and satin application.

Applied figure of Holmger Knutson, with a crown between the letters b and o above, and two arms below, surrounded by plant creeper and framed by a text border.

Swedish labor, the figure attributed to Albert Pärlstickare. Gift SHE 1703.

L.: 239 cm W.: upper edge: 108.6 cm., bottom: 108.1 cm. 

(Coll. Statens Historiska Museet inv. n° 350)


Holmger Knutsson was the eldest son of King Canute II of Sweden and Helena Pedersdatter Strange. At his father's death in 1234, Holmger seems to have been on his way to be the new king, but he was side-tracked by Jarl Ulf Fase and earlier King Eric XI who had been exiled in Denmark since 1229. Holmger's whereabouts after that are not known, but it has been speculated that he held Gästrikland north of Uppland for the next thirteen years.

Together with folkungs, Holmger made an unsuccessful attempt for the crown in 1247. He was defeated by Birger Jarl at the Battle of Sparrsätra north of Enköping. According to Erikskrönikan, after his defeat Holmger fled to Gästrikland but was captured, quickly brought to trial and beheaded in 1248.

He lies buried next to his father in Skokloster (Sko Abbey) Church in Håbo, near Uppsala.

His tomb was covered in the second half of the 14th century, probably during the rule of King Albrecht (1364-’82) with a cloth, portraying him together with two arms. This kind of rehabilitation of Holmger came in the time after rule of the last king from the House of Bjelbo, the descendant of Birger Jarl, the adversary of Holmger. The two arms honour the adversaries of the Folkunge and at the same time ascribe the arms with the barrulets and the lion over all to Holmger, making him the rightful  jarl. A paralel may have been found in the position of Albrecht after another battle near Enköping (1365) when Magnus was defeated and taken prisoner by Albert.


The arms

In the upper part is a crown between the initials b and o of ‘b(eatus) h(olmgerus)’. The arms have been interpreted as of the Folkungs on the right and as the crest of the Erik clan on the left, but are probably the arms of an other family. The same arms are on coins from the Knut Lange's government, but is otherwise unknown.

The legend in Latin on the cloth  reads:


(Holmger born of Swedish illustrious royal family, himself of high moral standing, was convicted to a bitter death and was beheaded here. But his death, Precious, shows itself in the usual manner to be delightful through many signs.)


ù The time of manufacture and Skokloster as the place of origin, more point at King Magnus, fallen into disgrace and detested by the nobility, whose memory was also unpleasant to King Albrecht. His memory has indeed been wiped out by the legend on the cloth, likely changed or added later.


King Magnus in his National Lawcode in a manuscript from 1450 ca




Erik XII Magnusson


co-regent 1356-1359


In 1343 Erik and his brother Haakon were elected heirs of Sweden and Norway, respectively. That Haakon got the Norwegian throne in 1355 (causing the union between Norway and Sweden to split) while Erik didn't get any position in the Swedish council might have affected his choice to lead a rebellion against his father in 1355. In 1357 the rebellion had forced Magnus to share Sweden with his son Erik who got to rule most of Southern Sweden and Finland. Sweden was reunited again in 1359 when father and son became reconciled, and co-ruled Sweden until Erik's death a few months later. While dying Erik accused his mother Blanche of Namur of poisoning him. Quite soon after his death his wife Beatrice died too. It is generally believed that they died of the Black Death.



Arms: Strewn with hearts three bendlets sinister and a lion rampant over all

Crest: On a crowned helmet



Håkon VI Magnusson


King of Norway 1355-1380

co-regent 1362-1364


Magnusson Den Yngre king of Norway (1355–80) whose marriage to Margaret, daughter of the Danish king Valdemar IV, in 1363 paved the way for the eventual union (1397) of the three major Scandinavian nations - Denmark, Norway, and Sweden - the  Kalmar Union. Haakon was deeply embroiled throughout his reign in political conflicts with Sweden, Denmark, and the cities of the north German trading confederation, the Hanseatic League.

The younger son of Magnus VII Eriksson, king of Norway and Sweden, Haakon was named his father’s successor in Norway in 1343 and became king there in 1355, The Swedish nobility under the leadership of Haakon’s brother Erik, rebelled against the rule of Magnus VII. Haakon came to his father’s aid and was named joint king of Sweden in 1362 after Erik’s death.

Haakon again assisted Magnus against the rebellious Swedish nobles in 1364, but the two kings were defeated, and Haakon retreated while his father was taken prisoner. A temporary agreement (1370) with the leaders of the Hanseatic League, who had launched a war against Norway and Denmark in 1367, freed him to rescue his father in 1371. He conceded special trading privileges to the Hanseatic merchants in a final peace treaty (1376), which helped secure the right to the Danish throne for his son Olaf V (1370–87) by placating Danish magnates apprehensive for Hanseatic intervention.


House of Mecklenburg


*1338 ca-†1412

Counter King 1364-1374

King 1374-1389

Duke of Mecklenburg 1384-1412


He was the second son of Duke Albert II of Mecklenburg and Euphemia Eriksdotter, the sister of King Magnus IV of Sweden. He married Richardis of Schwerin, daughter of count Otto of Schwerin; †1377 and is today buried in Stockholm.

In 1384 he inherited the ducal title of Mecklenburg and united it with Sweden in a personal union. Albert based his claims on the Swedish crown upon two family ties with the Swedish House of Sverker, both through Albert's mother, through whom he was granted the first place in the Swedish succession order, and through Kristina Sverkersdotter, a daughter of Sverker II of Sweden, also known as Sverker the Young. Sverker II had been the king of Sweden between 1196 and 1208.


The arms of the king of Sweden and his vassals

From Armorial du Heraut de Gelre, fol 65 v°.


Arms: ¼: 1.Sweden; 2. Mecklenburg; 3.Schwerin; 4. Rostock

Crest: Two horns Or, decorated with 2´6 pennons of the arms of Sweden.


The arms on this leaf are from

Magnus Eriksson (†1374) Magnus’ party

Knut Karlsson (†1389)

Kettil Jonsson (†1395 ca)

Karl Ulfsson, Marshal (†1407) Alberts’party

Bo Jonsson Grip Hereditary Senechal  Officialis generalis 1369; drots 1371 (†1386) Alberts’ party

Bengt Bogh (†1392)



In 1363, members of the Swedish Council of Aristocracy, led by Bo Jonsson Grip, arrived in the court of Mecklenburg. They had been banished from the country after a revolt against king Magnus Eriksson, who was unpopular among the nobility. At the nobles' request, Albert launched an invasion of Sweden supported by several German dukes and counts. Several Hanseatic cities and dukes in Northern Germany expressed support of the new king. Stockholm and Kalmar, with large Hanseatic populations, and also welcomed the intervention.

Albert was proclaimed King of Sweden and officially crowned on 18 February 1364. The coronation took place at the Stones of Mora. In Värmland, Dalarna and some partsof Västergötlands he was no recognized


In 1364 Albrecht took the three crowns of the Council of the Realm for himself, creating the arms of the Swedish Head of State being Azure, three crowns Or, crested of the Bjelbo crest.


House of Norway

Margaret I

Queen of Denmark and Norway 1387-1396

Queen of Sweden 1389-1396


House of Pomerania


Later developments of the Royal Arms.

Soon the arms of the ruling house were quartered with the arms with the three crowns of State. In the beginning of the 15th century these became a quarterly of the arms of the House of Bjelbo, interpreted as the arms of Götaland, and the Arms of State to which the dynastical arms of the ruling king were added on an escutcheon in nombril point.This scheme is maintained until the present day.


Eric VII


King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden 1396-1439


Seal of Erik of Pomerania1398-1435


Arms: ¼: 1. Denmark; 2. Sweden; 3. Folkunge; 4. Wenden. And a cross over all charged with and escutcheon Norway. L.: X s’ erici dei gra regnorum [ dacie swecie norwegie.....] regis ac ducis pomeran. (Petersen n° 61 [6] )


House of the Palatinate

Christopher III of Bavaria

King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden 1440-1448


Arms of Christopher of Bavaria

As in Ulrich Richentals Konzil zu Konstanz (1415-’17) [7]


Arms: ¼ 1. Denmark; 2. Sweden; 3. Norway; 4. Rostock; and a cross Argent fimbriated Gules over all charged with a quarterly of Wittelsbach and Palatinate of the Rhine (Bavaria).


The inscription reads: (Das CV blat (Der durchleuchtig hochgeboren künig Cristoffel künig ȝu Tanimarck ȝu ſchweden zu norwegen ȝu lauland und pfalſen eȝ graf bey rein und herȝog in bayerland.


The arms are a - probably apocryphic - rearrangement of the arms on his seal of 1444.


Seal of Christopher of Bavaria, 1444


Arms: ¼ of Palatinate of the Rine and Wittelsbach with a cross over all, charged with ¼ of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Rostock

L.: s cristoffori dacie swecie norwegie xc regis comitis palatini reni ducis bavarie (Petersen N°68)


House of Denmark

Charles VIII Knutsson

Regent of Sweden 1438-1441

King of Sweden 1448-1457

King of Norway 1449-1450


The generally accepted opinion is that the quarterly of Sweden and Götaland with the dynastic arms in nombril point was the invention of Charles VIII imitattig, it is true, the fashion introduced by his predecessors. In the arms and the title Götaland is represented for the second time. This was introduced by Bo Jonsson (Grip) who had stated in his will of 1384 that the kingdom consisted of Swerige (Sweden, i.e. Svealand), Österland (i.e. Finland) and Göthaland (i.e. Götaland). As Finland was but a duchy its name was not a part of the royal title.


1st Secret Seal of Karl Knutson

 Æ 73mm. Statens Historiska Museum inv. nr. 21263


Arms: ¼ Sweden and Folkunge. Escutcheon: Bonde. L.: SECRETUM KAROLI DEI GRACIA SVERORUM GOTHORUMQUE REGIS.


The arms of Bonde were: Or, a boat Gules, on its bow and stern a bunch of peacock’s feathers proper:



2nd Secret Seal of Karl Knutsson 1449-‘50


Arms: ¼ Sweden and Norway and a cross fimbriated over all charged with an escutcheon Bonde. L.: SECRETUM KAROLI DEI GRACIA SVEORUM GOTHORUMQUE REGIS.





Statuette of Karl VIII Bonde in Gripsholm Castle, bearing the arms Sweden-Norway, the cross Gules, fimbriated Argent.


Christian I

King of Denmark and Norway 1448-1481

King of Sweden 1457-1464

Signet of Christian I, 1460-‘80


Arms: ¼ 1. Denmark; 2. Sweden; 3 Norway; 4. ¼ Schleswig & Holstein. In nombril point: Oldenburg. L.: signetu Christierni Regis (Petersen, 79)


Charles VIII Knutsson

restored 1464-1465



Christian I

restored 1465-1467



Charles VIII Knutsson

restored 1467-1470


The arms of Charles VIII as in ‘Das Wappenbuch Conrads von Grünenberg’ (1480 ca). The arms Bonde misunderstood. The arms are on the page of the arms of the king of Denmark and its dependencies. [8]



The inscription reads: Der könig von ſchweden Dye haubt ſtat yn ſchweden iſt gehauſſe in ſtockſhalm.


Sten Sture the Elder


Regent of Sweden 1471-1497


Foto Lennart Karlsson.

Arms of Sten Sture the Elder in Storkyrkan, Stockholm.


The arms are:  Or, three hearts per bend Sable


John II of Denmark


Seal of John II (1484-1512)


Arms: ¼ 1. Denmark; 2. Sweden; 3 Norway; 4. ¼ Schleswig & Holstein. In nombril point: Oldenburg.

L.: signatu : iohannis dacie swecie norwegie : ic : regis. (Petersen, N° 88)


Sten Sture the Elder

regent of Sweden 2nd time 1501-1503



Svante Nilsson Sture



Seal of Svante Nilsson.

Riksarkivet Stockholm


Arms: Per fess Or and Azure

Crest: Five Peacock’s  feathers proper  between two pennons of the arms.

L.: s svante nielsson


Sten Sture the Young



Sten Sture the Younger

On an altar in Västerås Cathedral







Christian II

King of Denmark and Norway 1513-1523

King of Sweden 1520-1521


Seal of Christian II  (1515-’19)


Arms: ¼: 1. Denmark; 2.Sweden; 3.Norway; 4 Sclavonia, and a cross (Argent, fimbriated Gules) over all, charged with and escutcheon ¼: 1&4 Schleswig, 2. Holstein, 3.Stormarn; and Oldenburg  in nombril point.



Arms of Christian II

On a  portrait of Christian I and his queen  in Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark. [9]


In these arms the emblem of Rostock has been replaced by the arms of Sclavonia: Gules, a dragon Or.



To Æ The Royal Arms Continued


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© Hubert de Vries 2015-09-10




[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uppland_Runic_Inscription_11

[2] A cilindrical poach of purple silk filled with a handful of dust carried by the Byzantine Emperor in his right hand at ceremonies. The akakia symbolizes the transitority of temporal power and the  humbleness of the mortal carrying it.

[3] Numbered seals from:  Fleetwood, Harold: Svenska medeltida kungasigill. Stkh., Tryckt med bidrag från längmanska kulturfonden..1936. Leks8vo. Orig. omsl. Uoppsk. 74 s. + 84 figurer. Ill.

[4] Adam-Even, Paul & Léon Jéquier: Un Armorial français du XIIIe siècle, l'armorial Wijnbergen. In: Archives Heraldiques Suisses. 1951 pp. 49-62, pp. 101-110, 1952 pp. 28-36, 64-68, 103-111, 1953 pp. 55-77.

[5] Todd, Emanuel:  Origine des systèmes familiaux. Paris 2011

[6] Petersen, Henry: Danske Kongelige Sigiller samt Sonderjydske Hertugers, 1185-1559. Kjobenhavn, 1917.

[7] Universtitätsbibliothek Heidelberg. http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/ir00196000/0205

[8] Grünenberg, Konrad: Das Wappenbuch Conrads von Grünenberg, Ritters und Bürgers zu Constanz - BSB Cgm 145, [S.l.], um 1480 [BSB-Hss Cgm 145] img 42

[9] The inscription on the portrait reads: Christian der erste Konig zu Dennemarcken Schweden vnd Norwegen hertzog zu Schleswig Holstein K. Friderich des ersten vatter.  This makes the time of creation of the painting after 1523-’33.

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