The story of Emerentia Krakow – How one woman faced down a King.

Today is the anniversary of one of the most epic – and strangely forgotten tales in Swedish history; the defence of the castle of Gullberg during the Calmar war, between the old ruler of Denmark and the newly-found country of Sweden, which was fighting for its identity and very survival against the forces of King Christian of Denmark.

I have included this amazing tale of one woman’s defiance into my latest book, and have reproduced this snippet of history – only the second snippet released from my current epic work, to remember her tale:

“As Rantzau was thus trying matters with Gustavus, so Christian of Denmark had led an attack along the west coast, finally reaching the castle of Gullberg, which he set himself to taking by storm in the small hours of 27th January. The town, commanded by the governor Marten Krakow, met Christian’s force of 4,000 men with defiance, throwing back the storming ladders and meeting the attack with a shower of shot, plus bombs, rocks and missiles thrown and dropped down over the walls, which smashed ladders and men and sent the first wave of the attack stumbling back into the darkness. Krakow fell wounded in the arm by a shot, and retired to the rear, but his redoubtable wife Emerentia now stepped up to command the defence.

Seeing the attackers now approach the gate with a petard, she assembled a group of soldiers wives and piled up a barricade of barrels, carts, vats and other impedimenta, so that when the gate was blown in, the Danes met with a secondary line of defence, from which the attackers repelled them with pikes and muskets, but seeing that the barricades could not hold, she soon removed herself to the flat roof of a nearby house overlooking the gate, to which she had the men of the town drag two cannon. Lacking shot, the formidable Emerentia soon had her army of wives gather up an arsenal of horseshoes, nails, spent shot, cutlery and old iron, and crammed the barrels to capacity. Finally, as the barricades were torn down and the triumphant Danes charged in, her cannon belched forth their fury and tore the attackers to shreds, soon sending them reeling back through the gateway.

As more units came up for the next assault, so the incredible Emerentia now ordered up vats of alcohol, heated over fires to boiling point, and this time met the charge at the main gate with a deluge of boiling liquor, which soon had them shrieking “Like scalded pigs” as the lady herself recalled. By now, it was becoming light, and the defenders fired from the walls, though three other smaller gates were blown in by petards and several more assaults repelled with difficulty. By now, the defenders’ powder store was running out, and Emerentia distributed what remained amongst the soldiers and sent one of the town’s senior men to gather the last of the powder from the powder room, but finding him not returning, it was soon reported that through cowardice, the man had locked himself in the room and stabbed himself. Undaunted, the great lady still encouraged the defenders to stand fast and make a bold front, and some time between seven and eight in the morning it was fully light, and Christian ordered his battered assault columns back.

Emerentia had thus bloodied the nose of the King of Denmark, having thrown back five major assaults over six hours by her cunning and determination, but she was not quite done. As she stalked along the walls, she noticed at some distance a Danish nobleman sitting on a white horse in the surrounding meadows, and determined to make a last show of defiance. Shoving a soldier to one side and taking hold of his gun, she took aim and fired. The man upon whom she had vented her fury was none other than King Christian himself, and the shot struck his horse full in the head, the horse slumping to the floor and pitching the king to the floor covered in blood and brains. At this, Christian had had enough, and after his request to bury his dead was refused by the lady (who refused him saying that; “As God has given us the good fortune to kill them, so we shall also bury them.”) he pulled back, leaving 200 men killed, at least as many wounded and thirty prisoners behind him.”

What an epic story, which, I hope, shall not be lost to history, as it very almost is.

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