Karin Mnsdotter (1954)

 

 

 

Director:     Alf Sjberg. 

Starring:     Ulla Jacobsson (Karin Mnsdotter),  Jarl Kulle (King Erik of Sweden),  Ulf Palme (Gran Persson),  Olof Widgren (Castle vicar),  Stig Jrrel (Olof Gustafsson Stenbock),  Erik Strandmark (Welam Welamsson),  Bengt Blomgren (Max),  Kurt-Olof Sundstrm (Hertig Johan),  ke Claesson (Svante Sture),  Per Oscarsson (Anders),  Birgitta Valberg (Queen Dowager),  Ulla Sjblom (Agda).

15501612, started as mistress and ended as Swedish Queen to Eric XIV (reign 1560-1568)

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"This film takes us to a time when freedom was won on the battlefield and in the hearts of men, just as it is today.  Then, as now, the world was split into two irreconcilable camps -- those of freedom and reaction.  Erik XIV of Sweden and his advisor Gran Persson were waging an uneven battle against the Sture family nobles who were aided by Erik's stepmother and brother Johan.  This battle steered the fate of one woman -- little Karin of the court, and this film tells her story in three different ways: . . ."

The King and Gran are together and the King asks why is he drawn downward so much? 

The first of the ways to tell the story is in the form of a ballad about little Karin's ascendancy, which is much like a silent movie. 

The second way, the main story,  is to tell it as told by a great poet, August Strindberg. 

The third way is by telling a few visions based on the meager facts known about Erik's last days. 

The First Way.

Karin is running away, but two soldiers catch up with her.  They take her back home.  There Karin leads a life of Cinderella.  She is ill-treated by two elder sisters.  A man named Max asks her why she ran away?  She says she went to the inn to talk to Agda.  The man suggests that they get married and he can take care of her. 

Crown Prince Erik will relieve his advisor Persson of his duties.  A messenger arrives and says that the King is dead!  Long live the King!  This will be Erik if everything goes okay. 

Coronation Day.  Karin is at home being abused as usual.  The women tease her about them going to the ceremony, while Karin has to stay behind.  When the nasty sisters are gone, a servant comes to take Karin to the castle.  At the castle Persson talks to her, but she only day dreams of the prince, marrying him and becoming the queen.  Persson shows her that the King has many mistresses.  Karin is repelled at the sight of the multiple mistresses.   She runs away. 

Erik talks to Persson about the blonde that is written in the stars for him.  He says he has seen her face somewhere before. The woman named Agda comes in to ask where is Karin?   They say that Persson took her.  Persson gets irritated and takes them to Karin who is in another room in the castle.  She is spinning cloth on a spinning wheel.  He says to the king that he wanted to spare Karin the fate of being in the harem.  He also says he thought that since Karin is so fine and good, she would open the King's eyes.  Persson and Agda leave.  He picks up their child and he and Agda leave the castle.

Alone with Karin, the childish king tells her that she's not so good.  In fact, he says:  "There are no good people."  He starts crying saying that he is not worthy of being king.  He says his brother Johan deserves to be king more than him. Karin starts to leave, but he stops her.  He asks her how old she is and she tells him 14.  The king suddenly realizes that she is a blonde.  He tells her that there is a blonde in his stars.  He then asks:  "Is she sent by God?"  He tells her that she must never leave him. 

The king now goes gaga over Karin.  He dresses her in royal style.  Karin looks very happy.  A tutor teaches her how to read and write.  Karin is introduced at court.  She and the king go rowing and dancing.  One day Karin faints. 

At Karin's home, one of the sisters says that Karin has had a baby.  And it's the talk of the town!  She claims that she is just so ashamed.  A man close to Karin named Max leaves the house saying that none of this would have happened if they had shown Karin a little kindness. 

Part Two.  Scenes from August Strindberg's "Erik the 14th".

Stockholm Castle.  Karin is outside on the patio doing some craftwork.  She tells Max to be careful because the King is watching them.  He asks Karin to come with him.  Karin asks what would they do with her children?  Max says they shall be his.  Max also says that the king wants to marry Elizabeth of England.  He warns her about what King Henry VIII did with his wives.  The warning is that Elizabeth would also be willing to take drastic measures against those who offended her. 

Karin tells Max to go because the King has spotted him.  Max leaves after the King starts throwing things at him from the second floor window .  Persson comes back.  He tells Karin that Elizabeth of England does not want to marry Erik.  Persson tells Karin to be with the king when the news arrives, for he will not take it well.  Erik now starts throwing things down at Persson.  The man just starts prancing around stepping around the things thrown on the patio.  Erik says he's coming down.  Persson runs away.  The goldsmith arrives with the King's crown.  Erik is very happy to see it.  He puts it on Karin's head to show her how light it is. 

Now Erik asks where did Persson go?  His stepmother arrives and he tells her that the six precious stones in the crown stand for the nations he will rule:  Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Scotland and Ireland.  Just then the nobleman Nils Sture with two men arrives.  Karin starts to leave, but Erik stops her.  From Sture, the King learns that he has been rejected by Elizabeth.  Erik now says that the three men were all laughing at him.  Karin says no they weren't.  Erik now turns on her saying that she is in on the conspiracy with the others.  He now screams for everyone to get out.  He starts grabbing things and throwing them at the people around him.  Everyone starts running for places where they can hide from the missiles.  The king even throws a spear, but it misses.  He cries.  Gran returns.  He sits down.  Erik lays his head on his lap.

Max saw what happened and he tells Karin that she should come with him.  She again says she has to stay for the sake of the children.  Karin hears Erik laughing outside.  He stops laughing and gets angry about the Sture family whose blood is the same as that of his stepmother and he hates his stepmother.  Persson tells the king that he loves Agda.  He thinks he may marry her one day.  Erik asks Persson who will be his bride?  Persson tells him, of course, it will be Catherine of Poland.  That will at least give them the Baltic lands. 

Erik rushes to a guard to tell him to arrest Duke Johan dead or alive.  A man tells Erik that Johan has already wed the Polish princess.  Erik is very upset, but Persson says that they are saved!  The Duke has entered into an alliance with a foreign power.  Persson tells the king to send Admiral Horn after Johan.  As Persson walks away, the king tells him:  "You are too strong, Gran."  Persson shouts back:  "No, it's you who are too weak."

Persson has made a surprising political move.  The King's stepmother is aghast when she sees the document:  High Court Proceedings.  Lord Sture goes to Persson and asks him what is the meaning of this court proceeding?  Svante Sture says he is the head of the king's Council.  Persson counters with the fact that he is the king's procurator.  Sture is very shocked and says that this is a revolution.  He leaves. 

Max now comes to see Persson, who tells Max that he overhead Max talking with Karin.  He says that Miss Karin could be queen one day, if Max would just leave her be.  But Max refuses to do this.  Persson replies:  "Your days are numbered."  The king comes in and Max hides from him.  A little later Max sneaks out of the room.  The king tells Persson that he has been thinking about the commoner Karin as a possible queen. 

Karin's father comes in to see Persson.  He is not happy when he sees the king is with him.  Dad says he will marry Karin off.  The king gets concerned and says the father will not marry off his betrothed.  Dad says that the king has shamed Karin.  He leaves.  The king is worried that the father will try to take Karin and their children away from him.  He asks Persson what he should do and Persson suggests there should be a wedding.  Persson talks with one of the soldiers.  He tells him to find Karin's friend Max, tie him up and throw him in the river.  And he is to make sure that he drowns.  

Persson receives a report on the nobles who support the jailed Duke Johan.  He tells the king about it and says they are accomplices.  Speaking of the nobles, Persson adds:  "We must strike now!"  He wants to kill the nobles working against Erik. 

The king is in Uppsala castle north of Stockholm.  Karin brings the children in to see their father.  The king will give a speech against the nobles and Duke Johan.  Persson tells Karin that good things are at hand for her and her children.  The widow queen wants to speak with Karin.  She wants her to use her influence to spare her brother and his friends.  Karin tells her that she that she has no real influence over her husband, so she can't pardon anyone.  The widow queen then asks:  "Then it's not true that you shall be queen?"  She also asks if Karin is so powerless with Erik, why doesn't she just leave?  Karin says she has no place to go.  Her father won't see her and her sisters ignore her.  And the last of her friends, Max, has simply vanished.  It's only now that Karin learns that Max is dead.  "They murdered him." 

The widow queen tells Karin to come with her to a castle where the nobles are gathering against the mad king.  Karin is still musing about her friend Max.  She says the king has killed her only friend:  ". . .the only heart that cared for me."  She also says that she can no longer look at Erik.  And worst of all, although she knows her husband loves their children, she believes he is capable of killing them too. 

The king returns from his speech all upset.  He says he misplaced his speech and then went wild, making all kinds of unsupported charges against many of the nobles.  The members of the court laughed at him, then freed the nobles.  Now the king himself stands accused of wrong doing.  The nobles were all acquitted.  Persson says that traitors must die.  The king suddenly realizes that no one but the two of them are there.  He rings the bell, but no one answers.  He collapses on the floor when he learns that Karin and the children have left for Horningholm.  He calls his wife a whore and goes crazy again.  Persson repeats that traitors must die and the nobles are traitors. 

Word arrives that Duke Johan has escaped.  Persson's woman Agda has also left him.  The king laughs at Persson's discomfort, especially since Persson had waxed so eloquently about his woman's purity.  The king says he feared being abandoned by his own.  He calls children the best thing life has to offer.  The king gets so angry that he decides he wants to kill Svante Sture, who he can hear singing from his jail cell.  The king grabs his knife and runs to the jail.  The corporal in charge there sees an enraged king coming for the kill and he decides that it must be time to slaughter the nobles in the jail.  He sends his men out to kill all the nobles.  They also go to kill Svante Sture, but Svante yells to the king that if he is harmed, they will kill the hostages, the King's children.  The king tells his men to stop, but it's too late.  They have killed Svante and all the other nobles. 

The king rushes back to the room where Persson still sits.  Persson seems almost as lost as the king.  He says he cannot understand any of this and now waits asking himself:  "What now?"  The king asks his advice, but Persson says that he has no advice to give him.   The king runs off and running around the grounds shouting out for Karin.  He rows a boat on a lake calling out for Karin.  Meanwhile, the nobles are uniting to take action against the king.  The king now shouts:  "Long live Johan III!  Bravo!"  He works his way over to the childhood home of Karin and asks her dad where she is.  Karin is sitting on the floor close to him.  He kneels before her and bows his head to rest on her gown on the floor.  Karin lifts his head up and she kisses his forehead.  They hug. 

Erik now asks the father for his daughter's hand in marriage.  He says he will make her queen.  The king also tells the father:  "I forgive you, for I myself require forgiveness."  The two young people leave,  Karin marries the king and she is made queen.  Erik, however, is not happy because there are no nobles at the castle.  Karin says it will be a time of reconciliation. 

The king also frets that the nobles may banish Persson from the coronation.  Persson comes in.  Erik runs to him.  Persson is his old self again.  He says that after the king left Uppsala, he forced a judgment on the lords.  Erik frets over the fact that he has already apologized to and declared the slain innocent.  Persson says, now they are lost! 

Karin rushes to the nobles shouting:  "Reconciliation!"  Meanwhile, Persson says that the nobles stayed away from the king and his court because Karin warned them that they must stay away.  Now the king grieves over his wife's betrayal.  Karin lets the nobles into the castle.  The nobles come in to see Erik alright, but they have not come for reconciliation.  The nobles and their troops come into the hall and surround Persson and Erik.  They capture Persson and Erik and take them away. 

The king, figuring this was all due to Karin, calls her a street whore and a false devil.  He asks her if she is happy with what she has done?

Johan is now king.  The now former queen realizes with horror what she has unleashed on her husband. 

Epilogue.

Erik watches as they cut off the head of Persson.  He shouts out through the window:  "I am your royal majesty!"  Someone comes into the room, pulls the king away from the window and cuts his forehead slightly with a knife. 

The family is taken to Abo and then to Gripsholm.  Karin is with child.  Their current quarters are very meager to say the least.  Lt. Anders whispers to the queen that they are prepared for a quick attack on Stockholm.  The peasants are rising in revolt.  The royal family should head south to Kalmar where the rebels are gathering. 

The king seems to have had another spell of madness and Karin bears the brunt of it.  The lieutenant tries to wipe some blood from the face of the former queen.  She tells him not to because all this was her fault and the king is right to beat her. 

The king and his family have now been moved to Orbyhus.  Karin's most recent child dies.  She is deeply depressed.  Erik asks her for forgiveness, but she just stares straight ahead.

Lt. Anders tells Karin that her escape has been well prepared.  They will flee south.  He will take her to the rebels.  He adds that she is all that matters, not Erik.  Karin says she'll go:  "We're all drowning in hate and guilt."  The lieutenant says that the people want her son to be king.

The conspiracy to save Erik has been discovered.  Therefore, the lieutenant will go with Karin and her children to another location.  Those responsible for the conspiracy have been put to death.  Erik himself will be kept in prison until things calm down.  Karin will be under house arrest at Vendel's rectory. 

Karin and the children, accompanied by Anders, leave.  Along the way, the wagon with her son, splits off from the caravan.  Karin sees it and has her coach stopped.  She tells Lt. Anders to chase after the other wagon.  He does so. 

The king is imprisoned.  He keeps calling out for Karin.  He writes to Karin everyday.  A man reads to Karin one of the letters from Erik.  In the letter Erik says he misses his family a great deal.  What will be the answer of Karin?  She asks if any of his nonsense will bring back her son?  Karin blames her husband for them taking her son from her.  But she also says:  "God is punishing both of us."  She tells those in the room that her answer back to her husband is:  "He deserves not better than he has."

Lt. Anders starts to talk about plots again.  Karin becomes angry with him and tells him to tell the truth for the truth is that he desires her.  She says to him that she wants no more of his lies and plots.  She wants to be alone!  Anders falls at her feet saying that there are no plots.  He apologizes to Karin for making it up.  It's just that he loves her so and he wanted to help her.  Karin says she does believe he loves her.  She now embraces him saying:  "Hide me!  Let me hide in you!"  Her daughter Sigrid hears all this and it makes her sadder than she already is. 

Erik renounces his crown and wealth.  The orders come to kill Erik.  They are transferring Karin to an estate in Finland.  She will not be under house arrest there.  Karin starts thinking about having more freedom of movement.  But she tells Anders that he is not to speak of God or love to her.  She says love of one's self in now all that is important.  Karin says she's heading south to the rebels.  She'll give her daughter to them and they will love her.  Anders warns her that they will proclaim her daughter queen and the civil war will recommence.   

A priest comes to to tell Karin that her husband is dying.  And the king is quite mad.  He thinks he rules the universe.  Lt. Anders tells the man to leave Karin alone.  They are only making things worse for her.  He adds that everyone knows that the king is killing his brother. 

Karin suddenly consents to go and the priest is happy.  But as they approach the cell of the former king, the priest has second thoughts.  He has a strong suspicion that Karin means to harm the king in some way.  He says he won't permit it.  Karin answers that the king won't even know she is there.  But one thing for certain is that she must see him in his despair.  She pushes her way into the room and sees Erik behind bars.  He looks so forlorn that she forgets about her hatred of him.  He talks of their children.  Karin lies to make it seem the family situation is better than it is. 

Erik says he knows that Karin suffers.  He says about himself:  "I became so evil."   She now says:  "I loved you, Erik . . ."  Karin even asks her husband to forgive her.  While in the process of talking, the former king dies. 

Anders asks Karin if her husband set her free?  She nods her head yes.  Karin watches them take Erik's body out from his jail cell. 

Karin leaves with only her daughter to go to Finland. 

    

Good movie, but a sad one.  The relationship between Erik and Karin was never going to run smoothly because of the husband's mental instability.  This instability was also the real reason for the downfall of King Erik XIV of Sweden.  Maybe Karin made some mistakes here and there, but it was the mental illness that was the cause of what happened to them.   Karin blames herself at times and sometimes her husband, and the king does something similar, but the real villain of the story is the illness. 

I thought that Jarl Kulle as King Erik of Sweden was made a little too effeminate, but he did convince as a king gone mad.  Ulla Jacobsson as Karin Mnsdotter was very good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

1550  -- birth of a commoner known as Karin Mnsdotter.

c. 1560  -- both of Karin's parents die. 

Karin had a finance, a soldier named Maximilian. 

1565  --  becomes mistress to King Erik IV.  He then dismissed all his other mistresses.  The King was deeply in love with her.  Erik was mentally unstable and Karin with her calm personality was the only one who seemed able to sooth him.  Therefore, his relatives thought Karin was very good for him.  She was also a good counterforce against the King's advisor Jran Persson.

Maximilian sneaks into the palace and is discovered.  The King has him killed. 

1566-1633  -- birth of Princess Sigrid of Sweden, before the marriage).

1567  --  the Sture Murders in Uppsala 1567.  Eric suffers a mental breakdown.  He imprisons several men of the noble family Sture, among them count Svante Sture.  Countess Mrta Sture, sister of the former queen Margaret Leijonhufvud, appeals to Karin to protect her imprisoned family members.  Karin tells her that no one will hurt the prisoners. That same morning, the king begs Svante Sture to be his friend, but later in the day the Sture prisoners are all executed.

1568-1607  --  birth of Prince Gustav of Sweden, born before the marriage.

1568  --  Erik marries Karin.  It was considered a scandalous marriage and my have contributed to his downfall.  Immediately after the marriage, Eric's brothers rebel and imprison the king and his family. 

1568 (September 18-21)  --  Eriks's key advisor Jran Persson is arrested, sentenced, broken on the breaking wheel, severely tortured and beheaded.

1570-1574  --  birth of Prince Henrik of Sweden.

1572-1573  --  birth of Prince Arnold of Sweden.

1573  --  Queen Karin and her children are separated from the former king to prevent the birth of any more legitimate offspring.  The family without the king is taken to the Castle of Turku (bo) in Finland. She is under house arrest there until the death of her husband (four years later).

1573  --  death of Prince Arnold of Sweden. 

1574  -- death of Prince Henrik of Sweden. 

1575  --  Karin's son take away and sent to Poland to be brought up by the Jesuits.  She does, however, get to keep her daughter.

1577  --  Erik dies.  Karin is given a manor in Kangasala, Finland.  She lives there for the rest of her life.

1577  --  Karin returns to the Swedish court to ask for economic support, but no aid was given.

1582  --  Karin met with Queen Catherine Jagiellon and Queen Dowager Katarina Stenbock in what was called the "Three Queens Visit".

1587  --  her daughter Sigrid is appointed lady-in-waiting to the new king's daughter, Princess Anna of Finland, in Warsaw, Poland.  She goes with Sigrid to Warsaw.  She meets her son Gustaf after twelve years of separation. He could only speak Polish and she only Swedish. 

1595   --  Karin saw Gustaf again.  He now was poor and worked as a mercenary.  After this, she never saw him again.  But Sigrid did marry two Swedish noblemen and often visited Karin. 

1596-1597  --  during the great rebellion in Finland called the Cudgel War, the rebels spared her estate from plundering.  .

1612  --  death of Karin.  She is buried in the Cathedral of Turku. 

 

 

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