King Gustav Vasa Knife Incident Plaque - Atlas Obscura

King Gustav Vasa Knife Incident Plaque

This bronze marker acknowledges an embarrassing royal blunder. 


While plaques featuring monarchs often commemorate significant events or contributions made by royalty, an unusual example of the opposite can be found in the center of Malmö. Situated in a region of southern Sweden that was once under Danish rule, a modern marker embedded in the pavement wryly mocks a 16th-century Swedish king: “During the peace meeting in August 1524, at this location, the foreign guest, Gustav Vasa, pulled a knife against the German merchant Herman Iserhel.”

The visit of Gustav Vasa of Sweden to the Danish city of Malmö in 1524 was characterized by negotiations for peace with Frederik I of Denmark, mediated by Germans. Despite initially optimistic expectations, the Swedish king soon found himself outmaneuvered, resulting in Denmark reclaiming Blekinge County and retaining control of the Baltic island of Gotland.

Furthermore, the eagerly anticipated prospect of a favorable marriage with Frederik I’s daughter proved to be another disappointing setback for Vasa, as the arrangement failed to materialize.

Frustrated, the Swedish king confronted German diplomat and merchant Herman Iserhel, accusing him of manipulating the invasion of Gotland and deceitfully inviting him to Malmö. A scuffle erupted in the main square, during which the monarch drew his knife but was restrained by his entourage. Iserhel escaped with sheer terror and under threat: “You shall one day be ashamed for this, you wicked traitor!”

The royal blunder might have faded into obscurity as a trivial footnote in Vasa’s records, had it not been for the diligent efforts of the king’s chronicler, Peder Svart, and the decision of local newspaper Sydsvenskan in 1990 to humorously memorialize the embarrassing knife incident with a bronze plaque.

Know Before You Go

The marker is available 24/7 and is situated at the intersection of Stortorget and Hamngatan in central Malmö, directly outside the entrance of the Espresso House branch. Be aware that parking in the square, where the plaque is located, is often very crowded. Train travelers can reach the location in a 5-minute walk from the central station.

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