Erik XIV, King of Sweden

King Erik XIV

As crown prince, Erik tried to arrange a marriage with Elizabeth I of England, but his plans failed. As monarch, he aimed to create a territorial and trading empire around the Baltic Sea, which brought him into conflict with Polish interests.

Erik's attempts to strengthen the royal power also resulted in conflict with the nobility. His marriage to Karin Månsdotter was the last straw. The scandal was not that Erik had married a commoner, but that he had made her queen and had her crowned. This challenge to his brothers and the nobility proved to be his final provocation against the strict social structure of the time.

In 1568, the nobility – together with the king's brothers Johan (III) and Karl (IX) – rose up and imprisoned Erik. On 26 February 1577, Erik died in his prison at Örbyhus Castle.

Detailed textile, chemical and medical analyses were carried out in the 1950s, concluding that "the findings as a whole… fully support the assumption that Erik XIV was poisoned with arsenic".

Painting of King Erik dating from 1561, by the Dutch-English artist Steven van der Meulen. The painting hangs at Gripsholm Castle, and is part of the Swedish State Portrait Collection. Photo: Nationalmuseum

Erik XIV

Born 13 December 1533, died 26 February 1577
Reign 1560–1568

Royal Motto

God gives to whom He will


1561 Uppsala Cathedral


1577 Västerås Cathedral


Gustav Vasa


Johan III


Karin Månsdotter


Sigrid (1566–1633)
Gustav (1568–1607)
Henrik (1570–1574)
Arnold (1572–1572)

The Vasa dynasty