What is the Sture Strongbox?

With the possible unlawful mudres of Svante Stensson Sture, and his two sons Erik and Nils by King Erik Vasa of Sweden in 1567 at Uppsala Castle in a rather bloody fashion, Svantes widow Marta Leijonhufvud placed the garments into a heavy iron box to be placed over their graves. It appears this was done as a form of protest perhaps at the murders. Inside this large iron box was the clothing of Erik, Svante and Nils, which toatled to be 3 pairs of breeches, 2 doublets of velvet and one of leather, 4 shirts, 4 hats, a glove with letters woven into it, and a wreath of straw.

Why were the Stures murdered?

King Erik Vassa, who was succumbing to some form of paranoid schizophrenia was made aware of a plot to remove him from power. So in his state of paranoia, he ordered for all the heads of the most powerful familes in Sweden at the time to be rounded up and imprisoned at Svartsjo Castle. The people who were imprisoned were, Sten Baner, Ivar Liljeorn, Svante, Nils and Erik Sture, Abraham Stenbock and Sten Leijonhufvund. King Erik from the beginning of his reign had a fear of the upper classes, which may have contributed to his paranoia.
It appears that a odd fashion of treatment between King Erik and Nils Sture existed for a few years prior to his death. In 1566 Nils was summoned by the King to stand before a tribunal on trial of gross neglect of duty. It is not clear how genuine these charges were. Rather than suffering death, he was condemned to a more humiliating punishment of walking around Stockholm with a crown of straw. On about the 17th of June 1566 he was reappointed Ambassador and dispatched back to Lorraine where he was to negotiate for King Erik to marry Princess Renata of Lothringen. Nils was unsuccessful in this as the King really wanted to marry Karen Mansdatter, who was the daughter of a common soldier. This was an unpopular move by the King and did not meet with much favour. a Riksdag (collection of nobles, religious representatives) was summoned to Uppsala to judge the accused.

Nils returned to Uppsala Castle on 21st of May 1567 and was promptly imprisoned with his father and brother. Although a verdict had not been reached, the king, in a fit of rage killed Nils Sture on the afternoon of the 24th of May. He was stabbed 5 times in the heart region, once in the right side of the neck and 4 times in the waist by a sharp pointed dagger. Guards killed Erik and Svante later that day.
All of the Stures were buried in the chapel, which later came to be known as the Sture Chapel. The strongbox was then placed above their graves, where it remained for some time. Uppsala Cathedral records indicate that in the 1970s the outfits were examined prior to the museum, based at the Cathedral opening. At this time Janet Arnold examined the outfits.

Svante Stures Clothing


Svantes clothing consisted of a shirt (non-surviving), a doublet and some breeches. The doublet is trimmed with bias cut strips of velvet, which is then slashed in two rows. This is sewn down (and to hide the edgings of) strips of a grey silk. The grey silk is doubled over, and cut with small V’s creating an embattled look. In the centre of the two rows of slashings on the velvet is a black silk cord. In the picture to the right, the grey silk is visible at the edgings of the trimmings. Details of the finishings can be found in detail, in Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold. The doublet cut itself has quite a few gusset alterations that suggest Svante put on weight. In between the back and front, there appear to be 2 gussets of differing shapes. The gusset connected to the front is a strip slightly tapering to the bottom by around 3cm. The gusset connected to the back is of a wedge shape, tapering around 5m to a point at the bottom. Alterations have also been carried out to the wings around the waistline to accommodate the new fit. The doublet is made of black velvet, lined with a reddish tan linen warp cotton weft fustian. There is extensive damage to the right torso and upper sleeve from blood staining.The breeches or more commonly known as plunderhosen, was a popular style in Germany. The codpiece, made from a fustian foundation layer, is then covered in black velvet. Around the top of the codpiece is slashed into 3 slashes.
Silk taffeta sections are gathered at each end and sewn to the edgings of the slashes, with the centre pulled through to create the puffed look. There is a set of two eyelets at each side of the codpiece to allow tying to the waistband of the plunderhosen which is in turn, tied to the doublet waistband. This was done to help support the weight of the plunderhosen, as they are quite heavy due to the quantity of fabric involved in their construction. An interesting feature of these plunderhosen is the pocket, which is visible just by the right sleeve below the doublet wing in the picture to the right. The pocket is closed by two eyelets in the waistband and in a drawstring fashion. These particular plunderhosen are not the most fashionable, were built for an elderly man and come to just below the knee.

Nils Stures Clothing


Nils clothing is a good example of a practical and warm outfit from 1567. This type of outfit because of the material used would have been well suited to hunting, riding and other hard wearing tasks. The doublet, made of a chamois leather is thought to have been black. There is evidence of a brushed on black pigment around the inside of the pockets. The doublet is of typical construction, long narrow
sleeves, high neck and tailored waist. In many aspects it is similar to Eriks. The doublet does have evidence of Nils untimely death at the hand of the Kings rage. There are 5 incisions around the heart, one in the right side of the neck and 4 in the hip. All incisions were made with a “sharp tipped object” unlike the stab marks in the hip of Erik which were made with a stiletto. The plunderhosen worn by Nils were made of wool and velvet panes, with an underlying layer of linen warp/silk weft fustain. The plunderhosen themselves measure around 60cm long from waistband to leg gathering. The underlying foundation of the top section of the plunderhosen are lined with leather, and then layered over in sections of velvet where visible. The remainder was covered by the baggy sections of the wool. Unlike Svante and Eriks breeches and plunderhosen there is no pocket present in this set. The codpiece is of a very similar style to Eriks, yet a very different construction. The waistband is doubled over linen and then has several eyelets put in for attaching your underwear (breeches) and plunderhosen to your doublet. Doing this generally doesn’t restrict motion or movement as much as something like applying heavier interlinings to the doublet. In the picture to the right is a visible section of the shirt Worn by Nils Sture. I have not seen a picture of this shirt Unfolded, so one has to assume is is of the typical nature And style of the average shirts of this time. The shirt is very obviously Nils, and determined by the amount of blood still on the shirt, and location of stab marks.Also in this photo is shown the glove. The glove is of
linen and, as the common theory is, used as a favour from his lady. It was attached to the brim of the hat in an unknown mannor. His lady at the time would have kept the other glove.


Erik Stures Clothing

Eriks clothing to a lot of degree is one of the most interesting outfits in that it shows a good example of how clothing was altered when the owner put on weight. The doublet, which is of a black velvet lined with linen was altered during Eriks lifetime. Gussets have been inserted at the side seams, armpits, elbows and neck. Embellishments on the doublet consist of gathered cuffs, embattled neck and braid appliquéd on. Close up photos of the doublet indicate that the panels of the doublet were trimmed before sewing, as they don’t line up at the seams, especially around the neck. The Plunderhosen are supported by a reinforced band on the lining with eyelets. The band sits just below the seam for the wings. The sleeves on this doublet are very tight, however the double armpit gusset allows for a full range of motion to still be achieved.The Plunderhosen are made of a leather foundation around The hips, covered in velvet and the taffeta added on top. The long trimmed panes are sewn to a cuff at the bottom of
each leg which the taffeta is also gathered in and sewn to. The linen tabby lining which would have lined the entire set of plunderhosen would have been shorter than the panes to provide the lift and stopping the cuffs from falling down the leg to the maximum length and showing.A portrait of Erik exists in the Gripsholm Castle collection showing him wearing this outfit, along with a matching velvet cloak. He would have been 19. The painting is by an unknown artist.