Birger Jarl or Earl Birger, (1210-1266), Swedish statesman, full name Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo, son of Magnus Minnesköld of Bjälbo and Ingrid Ylva, nephew to the Earl Birger Brosa, and the most famous member of the ancient noble family of the Folkung or Folkungaätten, which had so much to say for itself in early Swedish history. Birger was created Jarl (Earl) by King Erik Eriksson in 1248 and had earlier married the king’s sister Ingeborg Eriksdotter.
On Erik’s death in 1250 Birger’s son Valdemar was elected king while his father acted as regent. During the sixteen years of his sway Sweden advanced greatly in fame and prosperity. In 1249 he led an expedition to Finland, built the fortress of Tavastehus, and thus laid the foundations of Sweden’s oversea empire. He also built Stockholm, and enriched it by making it the chief mart for the trade of Lübeck, with which city he concluded a commercial treaty. As a lawgiver Birger laboured strenuously in the interests of civilization.
Ingeborg died in 1250 and in 1261 he married the daughter of King Abel of Denmark, the queen dowager Mechtild of Holstein. There is a fine statue of the great earl in the Riddarholm church at Stockholm, erected by Fogelberg at the expense of the Over-Governor of Stockholm in 1884. He is also the central figure of Fr. Hedberg’s drama Bröllopet på Ulfåsa (1865).
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