Archive for the ‘Swedish kings’ Category

Swedish kings from Eric the Victorious to King Carl XVI Gustaf and the 1792 assassination of King Gustav III

June 4, 2017



(Photo Credit: Daniel Jonason)

Swedish monarchs date back about 1,000 years under 11 dynasties.  The current dynasty, the House of Bernadotte, has ruled the longest.

Sweden’s current king, King Carl XVI Gustaf, is the seventh monarch of the House of Bernadotte.  He became the King in 1973, at age 23, when his father King Gustaf Adolph died.  King Carl XVI Gustaf is married to Queen Silvia Sommerlath, a German-Brazilian who was born in Germany.  The King and Queen live at Drottningholm Palace, which is just outside Stockholm.

The King of Sweden is the head of state but, under Sweden’s 1974 constitution, has no political affinity and no formal powers.  The King’s duties are mainly of a ceremonial and representative nature.

Some of the most famous Swedish monarchs were Gustav II Adolf (1622-1632), Kristina (1632-1654) and Gustav III (1771-1792).  The Swedish government set forth short biographies on these three monarchs:

GUSTAV II ADOLPHUS (GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS THE GREAT) — The Riksdag elected Gustav Adolphus king in 1523. By intervening in the Thirty Years’ War, Gustav II Adolph came to assume great political importance, and internationally is the best known of Sweden’s kings. Under his rule, Sweden became a leading military power. Gustav II Adolphus was killed in 1632 at the Battle of Lutzen, which was fought during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

Battle in the Thirty Years’ War.  “The Protestant army, led by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, had advanced into southern Germany with 20,000 men.  In September 1632, [General Albrecht von ] Wallenstein invaded Saxony with 30,000 men, threatening Gustavus’s lines of communication. Gustavus was forced to respond, marching north before entrenching to wait for reinforcements. At this point, Wallenstein split off a third of his army. Hearing this, Gustavus rushed to attack. The two armies made contact on the evening of 15 November, and spent the night drawn up in battle formation, with the Imperial army defending a ditched road. On the morning of the 16th, a mist delayed the start of the battle, and Gustavus was not able to attack until 11.00 am. Gustavus led a cavalry charge, which forced the Imperial musketeers from the ditch, and pushed the Imperial cavalry back.  Wallenstein set fire to the town of Lutzen, and the smoke from the town temporarily blinded the Swedish center, which was then surprised by an Imperial cavalry charge. The line held, and was reinforced by Gustavus, who led his cavalry back to aid his center.  At this point, the Protestant cause suffered a serious blow — Gustavus himself was killed during the cavalry fight that followed.  Command was taken over by Bernard of Saxe-Weimar.  At this point, the force that Wallenstein had detached earlier in the campaign, and had urgently recalled on the 15th, arrived on the battle field, and temporarily forced the Swedish army back across the ditched road. Despite this temporary setback, Bernard of Saxe-Weimar was able to force the Imperial troops to retreat into Lutzen, abandoning their artillery and baggage, before being forced to fall back on Halle  The Imperial army lost 12,000 men, while the Swedes lost 10,000 men as well . . . .”  Source: The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgewood (1938).

The phrase “Lutzendimma” (Lutzen fog) is still used in the Swedish language to describe thick fog.

(King Gustavus Adolphus died at age 37.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church on the island of Riddarholmen, close to the Royal Palace in Stockholm.)




KRISTINA — Excepting the short caretaker government of Queen Ulrika Eleonora 1719-20, Kristina is the only female monarch of the modern Swedish kingdom. She succeeded Gustav II Adolf in 1632, just before her sixth birthday, and ruled for 22 years. Kristina abdicated in 1654, converting to Catholicism and settling in Rome, and was succeeded by her cousin, Karl Gustav. When he died in 1660, she traveled to Sweden in the hope of reclaiming the throne. Her claim was rejected by parliament, however, and Kristina returned to Rome.  (She died at age 62.  She is buried at St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City.)

GUSTAV III — Usually called the Theatre King, Gustav III was a keen patron of the arts, and founded the first opera in Stockholm in 1782, the Swedish Academy and the Royal Academy of Music. His reign was not popular with the high nobility, however, and opposition culminated in a conspiracy in 1792, when he was shot at a masked ball held at the opera. He died shortly thereafter.  (He died at age 46.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

Gustav III legalized Catholic and Jewish presence in Sweden.  In 1782, Gustav III was the first formally neutral head of state in the world to recognize the United States during its war for independence from Great Britain.  It was said that Gustav III personally profited from the transatlantic slave trade.  From 1789-90, Gustav III conducted a war with Russia known as the Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790.  The war involved the greatest naval victory ever achieved by the Swedish Navy.  Russia lost one-third of its fleet and 7,000 men.

Among those involved in Gustav III’s assassination — about midnight of March 17, 1792 — were Jacob Johan Anckarstrom,  Adolph Ribbing, Claes Fredrik Horn, Carl Pontus Lilliehorn and Carl Fredrik Pechlin.  Upon entering the masked ball, Gustav III was surrounded by Anckarstrom and his co-conspirators.  The conspirators were all wearing black masks and accosted him him French with the words: “Good day, fine masked man.” Anckarstrom used a pistol to shoot Gustav III in the left side of his back.  The wound became infected and Gustav III died on March 29, 1792.  His final words were: “A few moments of rest would do me good.” Anckarstrom was arrested and immediately confessed.  Horn and Ribbing were also arrested and confessed.  On April 27, 1792, Anckarstrom was executed by beheading. His right hand was cut off before he was executed. Anckarstrom’s family changed their name to Lowenstrom. The Lowenstrom family donated funds for a hospital as a gift of appeasement. This resulted in Lowenstrom Hospital — Lowenstromska Lasarettet — in Upplands Vasby north of Stockholm. Ribbing was sentenced to death but was pardoned and exiled to France. Pechlin died four years later in prison.  Horn died in 1823 in Copenhagen. Lilliehorn was exiled to Germany where he assumed the name of Berg von Bergheim. The story of the assassination was the basis of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1891 opera “Un ballo  in maschera,” translated into English as “A Masked Ball.”  Author/playwright August Strindberg wrote a play about Gustav III’s assassination.  It was adapted for Swedish TV in the 1970s.

French origins of the Royal Family — A publication by the Swedish government notes that the Royal Family has French origins. The publication states:

“Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was the first Bernadotte on the Swedish throne. Born in France in 1763, he was named heir to the Swedish throne in 1810. His name as king was King Karl XIV Johan. The Swedish Royal Family is related to all the reigning royal courts of Europe.”

Eric the Victorious (modern Swedish: Erik Segersall) was the first Swedish king about whom anything definite is known.  He is from the “House of Munso” and is said to be the son of Bjorn Eriksson.  He ruled from 970-995.  He is sometimes referred to as King Eric V or VI based upon counting backwards from King Eric XIV (1560-68).  He acquired the name “Victorious” because he defeated an invasion from the south in the Battle of Fyrisvellir located close to Uppsala.  In all probability he founded the town of Sigtuna, which still exists and where the first Swedish coins were stamped for his son and successor, Olof Skotkonung.  (Source: — topic: Eric the Victorious.)




Swedish monarchs since the death of Gustav II Adolphus at the Battle of Lutzen:

QUEEN KRISTINA — She is discussed above.

KING CHARLES X GUSTAV (KARL X GUSTAV) — King from June 6, 1654 to his death on Feb. 13, 1660 at Gothenburg.  He was born at Nykoping Castle.  (He died at age 37. He is buried at Ridddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XI (KARL XI) — King from Feb. 13, 1660 to his death on April 5, 1697 at Tre Kronor Castle at Stockholm, which burned down in 1697. (The site where Stockholm Palace is today.)  (He died at age 41.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XII (KARL XII) — King from April 5, 1697 to his death on Nov. 30, 1718 at Fredrikshald, Norway.  (He died at age 36.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

QUEEN ELEANOR (ULRIKA ELONORA) — Queen from Dec. 5, 1718 to her death on Feb. 29, 1720 at Stockholm.  (She died at age 53.  She is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING FREDERICK (FREDRIK i av HESSEN) — King from March 24, 1720 to his death on March 25, 1751 at Stockholm.  (He died at age 74.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING ADOLF FREDERICK (ADOLF FREDRIK) — King from March 25, 1751 to his death at Stockholm Palace on Feb. 12, 1771.  (He died at age 60.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING GUSTAV III — He is discussed above.

KING GUSTAV IV ADOLPH — King from March 29, 1792 until May 10, 1809.  He was forced to abdicate in 1809 and replaced by his brother, Charles, who acceded to the throne. Gustav IV Adolph died on Feb. 7 1837 at St. Gallen, Switzerland. (He died at age 58. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XIII (KARL XIII) — King from June 6, 1809 to his death on Feb. 5, 1818 at Stockholm.  He was known as “the Union King.”  He acceded to the throne after his brother abdicated. He became the King of Norway in 1814 by the union between Sweden and Norway.  (He died at age 69. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XIV JOHAN (KARL XIV JOHAN) — King from Feb. 5, 1818 to his death on March 8, 1844 at Stockholm Palace.  Birth name of Jean-Baptiste d’Radzilow.  He was known of “the Popular Monarch” and “the Elector King.”  (He died at at age 81. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING OSCAR I — King from March 8, 1844 to his death on July 8, 1867 at Stockholm Palace.  Birth name of Joseph Francois Oscar d’Radzilow.  He was known as “the Warrior King.”  (He died at age 60.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XV — King from July 8, 1876 to his death on Sept. 18, 1872 at Malmo. Birth name of Carl Ludvig Eugen.  He was known as “the Unpopular King.”  (He died at age 46. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING OSCAR II — King from Sept. 18, 1872 to his death on Dec. 8, 1907 at Stockholm.  Birth name of Oscar Fredrik.  (He died at age 78.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING GUSTAV V — King from Dec. 8, 1907 to his death on Oct. 29, 1950 at Drottningholm Palace.  Birth name of Oscar Gustaf Adolph.  (He died at age 92.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING GUSTAV VI ADOLF — King from Oct. 29, 1950 to his death on Sept. 15, 1973 at Helsingborg. Birth name of Oscar Fredrik Wilhelm Olaf Gustaf Adolf.  (He died at age 90. He is buried at the Royal Burial Ground (Kungliga begravningsplatsen) on the small island of Karlsborg in the bay of Brunnsviken, which is part of Haga Park in Solna, Sweden.)

KING CARL XVI GUSTAF — Sweden’s current king.  He became the King on Sept. 15, 1973. His birth name is Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus.  He was born at Haga Palace. He is the son of Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Vasterbotten (1906 – 1947) and Princess Sibylla of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1908 – 1972).  Prince Gustaf Adolf was killed in an airplane crash at Kastrup Airport at Copenhagen.  He was the heir to the Swedish throne but did not live to ascend to the throne.