Earl Birger Magnusson. King without a crown

Earl Birger Magnusson. King without a crown
The duel between Alexander and Birger in the painting by N. Roerich (1904).
Canonized only in 1547, Alexander is already crowned with a halo

The most famous ruler of Sweden in our country is, of course, Charles XII, the opponent of Peter I in the Northern War (born in 1682, ruled 1697–1718). But the honorable second place went to Jarl Birger, who lived back in the 1240th century, only because it is believed that in XNUMX, in a small-scale battle, he entered into a duel with the Novgorod prince Alexander Yaroslavich (Nevsky) and was wounded in the face.

It must be said that Birger Magnusson is a very famous and popular person in Sweden. This is what is said about him in the anonymous “Chronicle of Eric” compiled in 1320:

“He ordered the city of Stockholm to be built,
arrange life in it sensibly and intelligently.
The castle is threatening, I will say without embellishment,
lined up - it was the earl's order.
That castle guards the way to the lake,
The intrigues of the Karelians no longer frighten them.
The lakes of water came to life again -
there are nineteen parishes along the banks
seven cities were also located.
Quiet and joyful. Burning traces
there is no trace of it near the peaceful shore.
There are no pagan terrible raids either.”

This statue by Benedict Erland Fogelberg can be seen in Stockholm on Knight's Island (Riddarholmen), 19th century

We will talk about Birger in this article.

Origin of the Jarl

Birger Magnusson was born into the noble family of Folkung ("house of Bjelbu"), most likely in 1210 (at least so they believe in Sweden). However, some sources indicate the year 1216. On his father’s side, he descended from the “authoritative” Swedish leader Folke Tolstoy, and on his mother’s side, from the king of this country, Sverker I.

Birger coat of arms

This is a reconstruction of Birger's face by Swedish archaeologist and artist Oskar Nilsson (Museum of Medieval Stockholm):

About his appearance, Nilsson wrote:

“The jarl’s face is wide with a pronounced chin. There is a dimple on the chin. The nose and mouth are relatively small. We could very well meet a person who looks like this somewhere on Queen’s Street in Stockholm. The faces have not changed so much since those long ago, and such a person would be quite normally perceived among us now.”

Let’s leave it to Nilsson’s conscience to mention the “dimples on the chin,” the presence or absence of which cannot be determined from the skull.

In the same situation, M. Gerasimov completely unreasonably depicted Andrei Bogolyubsky with an epicanthus (part of the fold of the upper eyelid at the inner corner of the eye) and made the Russian prince a Mongol - on the grounds that his mother was a Polovtsian princess. But it has already been proven that the Polovtsians are Caucasians, this is what a Polovtsian warrior looks like from a burial near the village of Kvashnikovo on a correct and strictly scientific reconstruction by G.V. Lebedinskaya, head of the laboratory of plastic reconstruction of the Institute of Ethnography of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology of the Russian Academy of Sciences), author methodological manual “Facial reconstruction from the skull” published in 1998:

Let's return to Earl Birger and his appearance.

The aforementioned Oscar Nilsson calls him a man 175 centimeters tall with a “fairly worn out” spine.

For the first time, the name of the hero of our article in historical documents found in 1237, when the wedding of Birger and the sister of King Eric XI the Lisp, Ingeborg, took place. This marriage produced 8 children.

About King Eric XI, the anonymous Chronicle mentioned above says:

“The king had an unsteady command of his tongue, had a lisp, and was also lame.”

He was also childless, and the country was actually ruled by Birger Magnusson’s cousin, Jarl Ulf Karlsson, who even had the right to mint his own coin. His nickname, Fasi, according to one version, meant “Terrible.” He died only in 1248.

Thus, in 1240 Birger was neither the ruler of Sweden, nor even the Swedish king (“king of the Romans”), as stated in the “Tale of the Life of Alexander Nevsky”.

Swedish sources, by the way, say nothing about the battle on the banks of the Neva, nor about Birger being wounded in it - and nothing at all is reported about the events of 1240. Perhaps the clash with the Russians was so insignificant that they did not even consider it necessary to mention it.

But in 1238, Birger acted very actively: he acted as a judge in the litigation of the Nydala monastery and the surrounding peasants, and then suppressed the pagan uprising of the Finnish Häme tribe (according to Russian chronicles) - this happened as part of a small crusade declared in 1237 by Pope Gregory IX .

Perhaps it was then (in 1238 or a little later) that some kind of border skirmish occurred between the Swedish and Novgorod detachments. This, of course, was not about a direct threat to Novgorod: Birger simply did not have the strength or authority for a big war at that time. But he could well try to impose tribute on the Baltic tribes, who were already paying it to Novgorod. And then the indignant Novgorodians had to order Prince Alexander (who, like all the other Novgorod princes, was just the “Minister of Defense” of this trading republic) to deal with the foreign “raiders.”

What do Russian sources tell us about those events?

Battle of the Neva, Alexander Yaroslavich and the mysterious leader of the Swedes

You can read about the battle on the banks of the Neva in the Novgorod First Chronicle, the Pskov First Chronicle and “The Tale of the Life of Alexander Nevsky” (“The Tale of the Life and Courage of the Blessed and Grand Duke Alexander”). Moreover, it is believed that “The Tale of Life” was written independently of the chronicles - as a literary work of the hagiographic genre. And none of these sources mentions the name of the leader of the Swedish detachment, and the story of his duel with Alexander is contained only in the Tale.

There are 13 versions of “The Tale of the Life of Alexander Nevsky,” and 11 complete copies have survived. In some of them, the prince fights with a sword, and researchers note similarities with “The Life of the Blessed Prince Dovmont, in the Holy Baptism of Timothy,” which says:

“Then he took out his sword and resolutely attacked the pagans with a small squad... and he himself severely wounded the master himself in the face. The remaining Germans picked up their dead and filled their ships; They were overcome with great fear and began to run away.”

In other copies of the Tale of the Life of Alexander Nevsky, this prince fights with a spear:

“And there was a great slaughter with the Romans, and the prince killed countless numbers of them, and on the face of the king himself he left the mark of his sharp spear.”

And before that, the “Tale” talks about the “vision of Elder Pelugius,” which immediately reduces the degree of confidence in this source:

“And there was one man, the elder of the land of Izhora, named Pelugiy, and he was entrusted with the night watch at sea. He was baptized and lived among his family, the pagans, and his name was given in holy baptism Philip, and he lived godly, observing fasting on Wednesday and Friday, which is why God deigned him to see a wonderful vision on that day.”

In short:

“Having learned about the strength of the enemy, he went out to meet Prince Alexander to tell him about the enemy’s camps. He stood on the seashore, watching both routes, and spent the whole night without sleep. When the sun began to rise, he heard a strong noise on the sea and saw one boat floating on the sea, and standing in the middle of the boat were the holy martyrs Boris and Gleb in red robes, holding their hands on each other’s shoulders. The rowers sat as if covered in darkness.

Boris said: “Brother Gleb, tell us to row, and let us help our relative Prince Alexander.”

Seeing such a vision and hearing these words of the martyrs, Pelugius stood trembling until the attack disappeared from his eyes. Soon after this, Alexander came, and Pelugius, joyfully meeting Prince Alexander, told him alone about the vision.”

Vision of Elder Pelugius before the Battle of the Neva. Miniature from the manuscript of the life of Alexander Nevsky, 16th century.

It is curious that Alexander either did not believe in this “vision” or was afraid that others would not believe:

“The prince told him: “Don’t tell anyone about this, brother, until God does it as he wants.” After that, Alexander hastened to attack the enemies..."

So, the name of the “King of the Romans” is not mentioned even in the “Tale of the Life of Alexander Nevsky”. Eric XI, as we remember, sat on the Swedish throne, and Jarl Ulf Fasi ruled the country.

Where did Birger come from?

From the works of N. Kostomarov, who identified the “King of the Romans” with Birger. In particular, he writes:

“Alexander himself caught up with Birger and hit him in the face with a sharp spear.”

Although, you must admit that it is much easier to “grab” a fleeing enemy not in the face, but in the back or back of the head.

The duel between Alexander and Birger in an engraving from the book by M. Khitrov “The Holy Blessed Grand Duke Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky” (1893). No one runs away, the opponents come face to face.

But, since the leader of the Swedes is called the king, A. N. Kirpichnikov and R. G. Skrynnikov proposed to consider him Ulf Fasi. And some even claim that both Ulf and Birger arrived on the banks of the Neva. But, if Birger, who fought in Finland in 1238, still had some chance to meet the Novgorodians in battle, then the ruler of Sweden, Ulf Fasi, had more important things to do.

The way to power

In 1248, after the death of Earl Ulf Fasi, Birger expelled his son Charles from the country. In 1260, he died in the Battle of Durbe (Courland), in which the Teutons and their allies the Swedes, Danes, Estonians and Curonians were defeated by the troops of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Troinat.

And what did Ulf Fasi Birger, who took the place, do?

Having come to power, he again went to fight in Finland, but returned in 1250, receiving news of the death of King Eric XI. The noble people of the country did not allow him to take the throne himself, but Birger's 11-year-old son with the name Valdemar, atypical for Sweden, was proclaimed the new king.

The fact is that his mother came from a Danish dynasty, where this name became popular since the time of King Valdemar I, born to the daughter of Grand Duke Mstislav Vladimirovich and named after his grandfather, Vladimir Monomakh. Birger's wife was the granddaughter of Waldemar I (who was also married to some Russian princess Sophia) and the fourth cousin of Alexander Nevsky. Birger became regent under his son, calling himself "Duke of Sweden" (Dux Sweorum - Latin), but the Swedes called him "king without a crown."

But Birger... abolished the title of Jarl - some believe because he wanted to become the last jarl in the history of Sweden.

Regent Birger in an engraving from 1700

In 1251, his own relatives rebelled against him, but were defeated.

In 1254, Birger's first wife, Ingeborg, died. In 1261, he married Mechthild of Holstein, widow of the Danish king Abel, who bore him a daughter, Christina.

Jarl Birger and Andrey Yaroslavich

In 1252, the Grand Duke of Vladimir Andrei Yaroslavich fled to Sweden.

Andrei Yaroslavich on the Vladimir throne, miniature of the Front chronicle vault

Then his brother Alexander (Nevsky) spoke out against him, who was not too lazy to go to the Horde and personally bring the notorious “Nevryuev’s Army” to Rus' - this was the first Mongol campaign against Rus' after Batu’s invasion. And, as many historians believe, it was even more terrible: because now the Mongols were led by the Russians, who helped them look for the peasants hiding in the forests. Kuremsa’s army was sent against Andrei’s potential ally, Daniil Galitsky. Well, you remember:

"There's a lot of crap here
It has arrived in Russia.
What a day, then brother to brother
He brings news to the horde..."

(A.K. Tolstoy “History of the Russian State from Gostomysl to Timashev”).

The chronicler conveys the words of Andrei Yaroslavich:

“How long will we quarrel among ourselves and bring on the Tatars; It’s better to flee to a foreign land than to be friends with the Tatars and serve them!”

Andrei's warriors who were captured were blinded - on Alexander's personal order.

The Sofia First Chronicle reports that in Sweden Andrei was received “with honor” - only Birger could accept him like that at that time. In the Icelandic “Saga of Hakon, son of Hakon” you can read that Andrei Yaroslavich in 1253 accompanied the regent on his trip to Gothenburg, where a peace treaty was concluded between Norway, Sweden and Denmark:

“Birger Earl had 5 men. There were with him many noble men... and many other noble leaders from Sweden. Andres, king of Suzdal, brother of Alexander, king of Holmgard, was also with the jarl; he fled from the east from the Tatars."

In 1256, Andrei Yaroslavich returned to his homeland, reconciled with Alexander and recognized the power of the Mongols, and in 1257 he went to the Horde. In 1263 (after the death of Alexander Nevsky), in accordance with the right of ladder, he asked Khan Berke to transfer the Great Reign of Vladimir to him, but he chose in favor of his younger brother Yaroslav. However, two of his descendants still received the grand-ducal throne - Alexander Vasilyevich in 1328–1331. and Dmitry Konstantinovich Suzdal in 1359–1362.

Andrei Yaroslavich is known as the ancestor of the Shuisky princes (who descended from the Suzdal and Nizhny Novgorod princes). The most famous descendants of Andrei were the commander Mikhail Vasilyevich Skopin-Shuisky and Tsar Vasily Ivanovich IV Shuisky (reign: 1606–1610).

Led by Sweden

Image of Birger at Varnhem Monastery, Sweden

Birger was a very successful and popular ruler. In Sweden, taxes began to be collected regularly, which made it possible to build many fortresses and churches. On the initiative of Birger, Hämeenlinna was founded in 1249 (currently this city is located in Finland) in 1250 or 1252 - Stockholm. But until then there were only 4 cities in the Kingdom of Sweden - Sigtuna, Skara, Visby, Kalmar.

Swedish girls received the right to claim their fathers' inheritance - their share had to be no less than half of their brothers' share. Torture with hot irons was prohibited. International connections expanded. Birger married his son, King Valdemar I, to the daughter of the King of Denmark, Sophia.

Bust of Waldemar I Birgersson in Skara Cathedral

His younger brother Magnus also became King of Sweden. Their descendants ruled Sweden until the mid-14th century.

Erik Birgersson became Duke of Småland, Bengt became Bishop of Linköping and Finland. The eldest daughter, Rikica Birgersdottir, became Queen of Norway, Katharina married Siegfried of Anhalt-Kötten, Ingeborg married Johann of Saxony. Trade agreements were concluded with England, Lubeck and Hamburg.

The regent and duke (Dux Sweorum) Birger did not fight against Novgorod. Perhaps there were some minor border skirmishes, but they did not receive mention in the Swedish chronicles and Russian chronicles.

Birger Magnusson died in 1266. Here is how the anonymous “Chronicle of Eric”, already quoted here, reports his death:

“Birger Jarl in Elbolunga has died out.
Young and old grieved at this hour,
hearing that death had overcome the earl.
Every woman felt sorry for the jarl.
He legitimized their equal rights,
eradicating cruel customs.
The law protected women from harm.
Anyone who disobeyed could be killed.
The jarl was taken to the monastery by his soldiers.
Worthy people gathered there then.
The gray brothers lived in the monastery,
They plowed the land and fished.
Varnham was the name of the monastery.”

Birger's gravestone in Warnham Church

Birger's cenotaph at Stockholm City Hall
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  1. 0
    1 March 2024 05: 34
    Thank you!
    A little about the insignificance of the Neva Battle. In fact, this is the first bright event in the military field after Batu’s invasion. You can argue for a long time about the role of Alexander Yaroslavovich, meanings and meanings, but the main thing is different. Jarl Birger, as regent, tried to have friendly relations with Novgorod and Pskov.
    In fact, I never took advantage of the situation. Isn't it surprising?
    Have a nice day, everyone!
  2. +3
    1 March 2024 06: 31
    was shot in the face
    An osteological examination of the jarl's remains, carried out in 2002, revealed intravital facial trauma suffered by Birger Magnusson Folkung. However, it was not possible to establish at what age the injury occurred. From studies of other burials, it is known that some of the most common spear injuries were inflicted on the face and feet, as the most unprotected parts of the body. Considering that the earl fought a lot, the injury could have been received in any of the campaigns.
    Thank you, Valery!
    1. +3
      1 March 2024 09: 46
      Considering that the jarl fought a lot, the injury could have been received in any of the campaigns.
      And from what sources did Russian chroniclers learn about Birger’s injury? But Swedish sources don’t say in which of the campaigns Birger was injured?
      1. +3
        1 March 2024 10: 00
        Russian chroniclers

        But the article states that
        “The Tale of Life” was written independently of the chronicles - as a literary work of the hagiographic genre. And none of these sources mentions the name of the leader of the Swedish detachment, but the story about his duel with Alexander is contained only in the Tale.

        That is, it turns out that the source talking about the wounding of the Swedish leader in that battle is not too serious. And besides, the name of this Swedish commander is not named, it is just a 19th century assumption that he is Birger. So it might just be a coincidence.
        1. +1
          1 March 2024 10: 26
          So it might just be a coincidence.
          What is the coincidence? Swedish sources do not report Birger being wounded in the face during his other campaigns. Apparently, he ran into a branch somewhere in the forest. A domestic injury.
  3. +4
    1 March 2024 07: 45
    But, if Birger, who fought in Finland in 1238, still had some chance to meet the Novgorodians in battle, then the ruler of Sweden Ulf Fasi had more important things to do
    Such events had to be led by the current jarl. However, Fasi was an extremely unpopular figure even among the Volkungs, as he supported the coup d'état of Cnut II. In these circumstances, Ulf could well fear for his position in his homeland, being away from it, and delegate his powers to his cousin Birger.
  4. +6
    1 March 2024 08: 46
    “Nevryuev’s army” - this was the first Mongol campaign against Rus' after Batu’s invasion

    Alexander Nevsky... Still, there are a lot of “skeletons” in the “closets” of this prince. for the "holy and faithful". I think he himself would be incredibly surprised if he found out. that he will be canonized in half a thousand years.
    1. +7
      1 March 2024 10: 55
      Quote: vet
      canonized in half a thousand years.

      Three hundred years later, in 1547, under Metropolitan Macarius.
      1. +3
        1 March 2024 13: 53
        In three hundred

        Yes, I miscalculated something.
  5. +3
    1 March 2024 09: 27
    Kuremsa’s army was sent to attack Andrei’s potential ally, Daniil Galitsky.

    Kuremsa, it seems, then “did not live up to the high level of trust.” Later, they had to send a more serious person - Burundai, who forced Daniel to pay tribute. After all, Subudai’s comrade-in-arms defeated the Vladimir army in the City and took Kyiv.
  6. +1
    1 March 2024 10: 47
    Valery, only you, on the site, are “friends” with the sagas.
    Even without a signature I recognized you
  7. +1
    1 March 2024 15: 56
    Please, do not play with words and replace documentary historical sources with documentary narrative sources.
    I'm talking about this of yours
    For the first time the name of the hero of our article in historical documents found in 1237, when the wedding of Birger and the sister of King Eric XI the Lisp, Ingeborg, took place. This marriage produced 8 children. About King Eric XI, the anonymous Chronicle mentioned above says:
    According to official historical source studies, chronicles and annals do not belong to historical documents, but to historical narrative sources. hi
  8. +2
    1 March 2024 22: 02
    Thanks for the interesting presentation of the material!
  9. 0
    2 March 2024 07: 45
    Debunking myths about the exploits of those considered the creators of history?
    I remain a believer in Alexander Nevsky.
  10. 0
    3 March 2024 15: 58
    The strange thing is that, when speaking about Alexander Nevsky, historians completely exclude the religious component from the analysis. They carefully conceal the fact that in 1240, the heir to the winner of Constantinople, Pope Innocent III (Constantinople was taken during the crusade of 1204), Pope Gregory IX (Pontiff from 1227 to 1241) blessed the European knighthood for a crusade against the Russian schismatics - the Orthodox. . This is not surprising, since the crusade is the only form of tolerance accessible to European understanding.
    One can argue about what exactly happened in 1240 on the banks of the Neva River, but what is certain is that it was the first crusade against Rus'. At the same time, as part of this crusade in the same 1240, the Livonian Order invaded the Pskov lands.
    Alexander Nevsky first broke in on the Swedish crusaders on the banks of the Neva in 1240, and then in 1242 he broke in on the crusaders of the Livonian Order on Lake Peipsi. Thus, the crusade announced by Pontiff Gregory IX completely failed. This is precisely the reason that mentions of him were removed from the Swedish chronicles. The Catholics have gotten too dirty, and all the chronicles were written by monks. They were embarrassed to write about their defeat.
    You don't have to look far for an example. In the West, the USSR was excluded from the ranks of the victors in World War II. Not just a hundred years later, but now Stalin has been declared an ally of Hitler, who dropped atomic bombs on the peaceful Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore, let historians not make me laugh with Swedish chronicles. By the way, it should be said that modern historians, in exactly the same way and for the same reason, refute the victory of Alexander Nevsky on Lake Peipsi. What kind of massacre is this?! It was a minor border incident involving no more than five knights! God forbid it should be said that this was the end of the crusade declared by Gregory IX.
    1. -1
      4 March 2024 07: 53
      As I understand it, a representative of the self-saints, one of the invaders of churches from believers of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, downvoted me? Salah to the heroes! Salad to the heroes! As we see, the minusist has no other arguments.
  11. 0
    4 March 2024 10: 14
    As I remember the broadcasts, crusades, and such “domestic” ones, of which there were many, were declared against pagans - Litvins, Estonians, etc.
    but against the Orthodox who have not yet completely diverged from the Catholics - no. On the contrary, embassies and intrigues due to the threat of Mongol invasion....

    IMHO, myths from the 90s? Who knows more specifically?

    And skirmishes and battles happened like everywhere else, almost every year. Who will supposedly milk the local peasants....
    1. +1
      6 March 2024 05: 43
      As I remember the broadcasts, crusades, and such “domestic” ones, of which there were many, were declared against pagans - Litvins, Estonians, etc., but not against Orthodox Christians who had not yet completely separated from Catholics.
      - as I understand it, you don’t have a basic understanding of the Crusades, at least to the extent of a school textbook on History.
      From yours
      IMHO, myths from the 90s? Who knows more specifically?
      It follows that you are not even aware of the existence of the Great Schism. For reference.
      The division of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, also the Great Division, the Great Schism or the Great Schism - a church schism that occurred in 1054, after which the division of the united Christian Church finally occurred into the Roman Catholic Church in the West, with its center in Rome, and the Orthodox Church in the East , with its center in Constantinople.
      The Fourth Crusade ended with the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders. They took it on April 13, 1204 and subjected it to merciless destruction. The Turks, who put an end to the Byzantine Empire by taking Constantinople in 1453, were much more humane than the Catholics.
      After the capture of Constantinople, the crusaders created a protectorate of Rome on the lands of the former Byzantine Empire called the “Roman Empire” (Latin: Imperium Romaniae). In history it is known as the Latin Empire or the Empire of Constantinople. In the same 1204, the Venetian Thomas Morosini was elected Catholic Patriarch of the Latin Empire.
      The capture of Constantinople gave rise to the most savage massacres of schismatics and heretics throughout Europe.
      In 1215, Pope Innocent III created a special ecclesiastical court of the Catholic Church called the Inquisition. Bonfires with heretics flared up, and military campaigns began against schismatics. For example, the Albigensian Wars.
      The Albigensian Wars - The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) were a series of military campaigns initiated by the Roman Catholic Church to eradicate the Cathar heresy in the historical region of what is now France, Languedoc. Compared to the atrocities of the Catholics, Christ, crucified on the cross, enjoyed rest.
      After the Albigensian Wars in 1240, it was the turn of the schismatics in Rus'. The calculation was that after Batu’s invasion, Rus' would be conquered and Catholicized. Thanks to Alexander Nevsky, who broke this scenario. Otherwise…
      Prussia is the historical region of the Prussian Slavs who once lived there. In 1218, the Pope declared a crusade in Prussia, equivalent to the crusades in Palestine. After 1230, people began to talk about the Prussians only in the past tense. This is said for those who dream of sausages and Bavarian dark under the shadow of the German flag.
      On July 25, 1261, the Latin Empire fell, the Catholic Patriarch Giustiniani fled to France. Upon learning of the defeat of the Latins, Pope Urban IV began to call for a crusade to return Constantinople, but this crusade did not take place for reasons beyond the pope's control.
      How do you write about Catholics and Orthodox Christians who did not completely separate in 1240?
  12. 0
    4 March 2024 12: 41
    Alexander Nevsky is a prince who won feudal disputes. Otherwise, at most he would have been a holy martyr, and not a faithful one. The rest is all a matter of taste. IMHO