Alternate History

John III of Gothenland (The Kalmar Union)

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John III
John III Goth (The Kalmar Union).png
John III
Co-King of Gothenland
Reign 24th February, 1318 - 30th September, 1331
Predecessor Eric II
Successor Karl V
Spouse Sofia Jansdotter
Issue Karl Janssen

Elisabeth Jansdotter
Kunigunde Jansdotter
Premyslas Janssen

House Piast
Father Boleslaw II of Mazovia
Mother Kunigunde of Bohemia
Born c. 1292
Died 30th September, 1331
Husaby, Gothenland

The joint rule of John III and Sofia marked a dramatic shift in Gothenland's outlook. Whereas it had always held a measure of the balance of power in Scandinavia it now looked firmly to the other side of the Baltic for power and glory, in a sense leaving Denmark, Viken and Svealand to fight it out for supremacy.

The early deaths of Sofia's brothers Karl IV and Eric II had left the succession on a knife edge. To ensure the continued rule of the Sverkers the Gothenlandic nobles looked either to John II's nephew, the newly crowned King of Hordaland, Olaf V, or to John II's youngest daughter, Sofia, married to the young but landless John of Plock, son of Boleslaus of Mazovia. The Gothenlandic nobles had no particular desire for union with Hordaland, or to be ruled distantly from Bergen and so plumped for the Polish option, though it was made perfectly clear that John only ruled jointly with his Gothenlandic wife.

Of course Olaf V had no intention of allowing this slight to be un-avenged and gathered a fleet, calling on Wizlaw II of Viken to assist. Wizlaw however had grown wealthy on Baltic trade and was uninterested in seeing Olaf prove victorious. Denmark for its part wanted to maintain Gothenland's support in Pomerania and, worried that Olaf would direct its energies to Britannia, was also opposed. In the summer of 1319 the well-maintained and large Hordalandic fleet appeared off the coast of Gothenberg, apparently still holding out for Vikene support. It was not forthcoming however and the smaller Gothenlandic fleet drew it off into the fjords of Viken where it was defeated. Olaf slunk home humiliated, not only by the defeat but by the Vikene lords who had rescued him and his men and then extorted a considerable ransom for his release. Now that John was freed from threats from Hordaland he could concentrate on the project that would take up the rest of his life: regaining his birthright.

In 1306 his Premyslid cousin, Wenceslaus III, had died leaving the thrones of Poland, Bohemia and Hungary in dispute. John, despite being the youngest of Boleslaw II and Kunigunde of Bohemia's children, now staked a claim to all three. As both a Piast and Premyslid he expected the various nobility to rally to his cause. However political reality soon caught up with him. Hungary had fallen to the predations of the Bezier family who were proving extremely able and John quickly sidelined this claim. Bohemia was quickly ruled out too as it was settling down into Luxembourg rule (via his cousin Elizabeth of Bohemia) but John would still face the Luxembourg forces on the battlefield as John I of Bohemia claimed Poland too. Wladyslaw I had succeeded in being recognised as king of Poland in 1320 and had forged alliances with Hungary and Lithuania to support his rule.

Sofia Goth (The Kalmar Union).png
Co-Queen of Gothenland
Reign 24th February, 1318 - 8th June, 1329
Predecessor Eric I
Successor John III
Spouse John III
House Sverker
Father John II
Mother Helena of Rugia
Born 1299
Died 8th June, 1329
Jönköping, Gothenland

John therefore trod carefully. Gothenland had held various fortresses on the opposite shore of the Baltic for many years and used these are launch-pads for attacks, mainly against the Duchy of Pomerelia. However it was only in 1326 when the Polish-Teutonic War roared into life that John landed a full Gothenlandic army, capturing Danzig from the Teutonic Knights, later swapping this for Swiecie. John's elder brother Wenceslaus, ruling the Duchy of Plock, bore the brunt of Poland's ire and both John and Wenceslaus would subsequently campaign with the Teutonic Knights. Wenceslaus would waver however, switching back to supporting Wladyslaw in return earning invasion from John of Bohemia and having to switch his allegiance to the Luxembourg claimant. John's hostility to both Wladyslaw and John of Bohemia did him no favours militarily and defeats at Strzelno and Inowrocław severely limited his field of operations.

While John pursued his military aims in Poland Sofia remained in Gothenland. With assistance from her bishops and senior nobles she instituted a unified code of law for the entire country replacing the various codes of the lands. This however annoyed Gotland which rebelled in 1324, requiring John to cancel several month's worth of campaigning to suppress it. The law also strengthened the hand of the monarch and formalized the right of succession but made important concessions to right of the Riksdag to meet. In addition she commissioned a series of translations of romantic verse from German, Czech and French, a move which began or at least contributed to an interest in the chivalric ideal in Gothenland. She was also rumoured to have the largest collection of books in Scandinavia, a small part of which survives in the collection of the University of Jönköping.

In 1329 Sofia died. After a long and heated session of the Riksdag the nobles eventually agreed to John's continued reign however John was formally called to return to Gothenland. Reluctantly he did so but was granted taxes in return, enough to reinforce the Baltic fortresses and buy off Lithuanian attacks. He would die in 1331 leaving Gothenland and its wars to his son, Karl V.

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