Monday, 12 December 2011

Scientists find King Magnus Ladulås is not in his grave

This spring the grave of King Magnus Ladulås and his family in the Riddarholmen Church in Stockholm was opened with the purpose of comparing his DNA with the remains in Varnhem Church which are believed to be those of his father, Duke Birger Magnusson. The grave opening was the subject of an exhibition in the Riddarholmen Church this summer, but on Friday the final results were presented at a press conference at the Medieval Museum in Stockholm and they were certainly a surprise: the remains in King Magnus’s grave are not those of King Magnus!
King Magnus died in 1290 and stated in his will that he wished to be buried in the Riddarholmen Church. In the 1570s King Johan III commissioned impressive tombs for King Magnus Ladulås (pictured above) and King Karl Knutsson. When King Magnus’s tomb was opened this summer the remains of nine people were found beneath the floor, but the test results show beyond doubt that these remains are all of people who died between the 1430s and the 1520s.
The scientists will now ask the royal court for permission to open the tomb of King Karl Knutsson, which they hope they will be able to do next spring, but in the worst case not until 2014. The new theory is now that King Karl Knutsson, who reigned thrice as King of Sweden in the fifteenth century (and briefly as King of Norway 1449-1450) but did not have royal ancestry, was buried in the grave of King Magnus Ladulås to “borrow” legitimacy. The tomb of Karl Knutsson was opened a century ago, when a skeleton was found 140 centimetres below the floor. Apparently one now thinks that this might be Magnus Ladulås rather than Karl Knutsson.
What puzzles me is why one seems to reject the idea that the two tombs may simply have been placed over the wrong graves in the 1570s. Given that King Karl Knutsson died in 1470 one wonders if his remains might be among the nine skeletons from the 1430s-1520s in the grave which has until now been believed to be Magnus Ladulås’s. Apparently the scientists have not stated anything about whose bones they think these are.

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