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7 May 2009

On this day in history: Stockholm Castle fire, 1697

In the afternoon of 7th May 1697, fire broke out in the Tre Kronor (three crowns) castle in Stockholm, seat of the royal family of Sweden. The fire spread quickly; according to one eye witness the entire building was ablaze within half an hour. In spite of this, guards, officials and servants managed to save much of the contents of the castle, including the body of King Charles XI, who had died only a month earlier. Unfortunately, many records and other historical documents were lost, as were around three quarters of the collection of books in the Royal Library, and of those books saved from the flames many were damaged by being thrown out of the windows when the stairwells became impassable.

Within days a court was convened to discover who was at fault for the fire. Three men were found guilty of neglect of duty: the fire marshall, Sven Lindberg; and the two soldiers on fire watch, Mattias Hanson and Anders Andersson (who was away from his post running an errand for Lindberg's wife). Initially, Lindberg and Hanson received the death sentence, but the king commuted this sentence to running the gauntlet seven times followed by six years hard labour. Andersson ran the gauntlet five times. Lindberg died from the wounds he received from running the gauntlet, which involved running between two rows of soldiers who rained blows upon the guilty party.

To find out more about this subject see 'The Stockholm Castle fire of 1697' at the web site dedicated History of the Codex Gigas (a historical copy of the Bible).

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