Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden

Overview
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

ized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great, ' onMouseout='HidePop("34191")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Sweden">Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe.
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Encyclopedia
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

ized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great, ' onMouseout='HidePop("34191")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Sweden">Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 Parliament in 1634). He was King of Sweden (1611–1632) and founder of the Swedish Empire
Swedish Empire
The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Sweden between 1561 and 1721 . During this time, Sweden was one of the great European powers. In Swedish, the period is called Stormaktstiden, literally meaning "the Great Power Era"...

 (or Stormaktstiden "the era of great power") at the beginning of the Golden Age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

 of Sweden. He led his nation to military supremacy during the Thirty Years War, helping to determine the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe. He is thereby regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time. His most notable military victory was the battle of Breitenfeld
Battle of Breitenfeld (1631)
The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld , was fought at the crossroads villages of Breitenfeld , Podelwitz , and Seehausen , approximately five miles northwest of the walled city of Leipzig on September 17 , or September 7 The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld...

. With a superb military machine with good weapons, excellent training, and effective field artillery, all backed by a highly efficient government back home that paid the bills on time, Gustavus Adolphus was poised to make himself a major European leader, but he was killed in battle of Lützen
Battle of Lützen (1632)
The Battle of Lützen was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.- Prelude to the...

 in 1632. He was assisted by Axel Oxenstierna
Axel Oxenstierna
Axel Gustafsson Oxenstierna af Södermöre , Count of Södermöre, was a Swedish statesman. He became a member of the Swedish Privy Council in 1609 and served as Lord High Chancellor of Sweden from 1612 until his death. He was a confidant of first Gustavus Adolphus and then Queen Christina.Oxenstierna...

 (1583–1654), leader of the nobles who also acted as regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 after his death.

In an era characterized by almost endless warfare, he led his armies as king from 1611 (at age 17) until his death in battle in 1632 while leading a charge — as Sweden rose from the status of a mere regional power
Regional power
In international relations, a regional power is a state that has power within a geographic region. States which wield unrivaled power and influence within a region of the world possess regional hegemony.-Characteristics:...

 and run-of-the-mill kingdom to one of the great power
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

s of Europe and a model of early modern era government. Within only a few years of his accession Sweden had become the largest nation in Europe after Russia and Spain. Some have called him the "father of modern warfare", or the first great modern general. Under his tutelage, Sweden and the Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 cause developed a number of excellent commanders, such as Lennart Torstensson, who would go on to defeat Sweden's enemies and expand the boundaries and the power of the empire long after Gustav Adolph's death in battle.

He was known by the epithets "The Golden King" and "The Lion of the North" by neighboring sovereigns. Gustavus Adolphus is today commemorated by city squares in Stockholm, Gothenburg
Gustaf Adolfs torg, Göteborg
Gustaf Adolf's square is a located in central Gothenburg, Sweden. It was named Stortorget until 1854 when a statue was raised over the founding father of Gothenburg, king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Surrounding the square you can find Gothenburg City Hall , the law court , and the main canal of...

 and Helsingborg
Helsingborg
Helsingborg is a city and the seat of Helsingborg Municipality, Skåne County, Sweden with 97,122 inhabitants in 2010. Helsingborg is the centre of an area in the Øresund region of about 320,000 inhabitants in north-west Scania, and is Sweden's closest point to Denmark, with the Danish city...

. Gustavus Adolphus College
Gustavus Adolphus College
Gustavus Adolphus College is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in St. Peter, Minnesota, United States. A coeducational, four-year, residential institution, it was founded in 1862 by Swedish Americans. To this day the school is firmly...

, a Lutheran college in St. Peter, Minnesota
St. Peter, Minnesota
St. Peter is a city in Nicollet County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 11,196 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Nicollet County.St...

, is also named for the Swedish king.

Life



Gustavus Adolphus was born in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 as the oldest son of Duke Charles
Charles IX of Sweden
Charles IX of Sweden also Carl, was King of Sweden from 1604 until his death. He was the youngest son of King Gustav I of Sweden and his second wife, Margaret Leijonhufvud, brother of Eric XIV and John III of Sweden, and uncle of Sigismund III Vasa king of both Sweden and Poland...

 of the Vasa dynasty
House of Vasa
The House of Vasa was the Royal House of Sweden 1523-1654 and of Poland 1587-1668. It originated from a noble family in Uppland of which several members had high offices during the 15th century....

 and his second wife, Christina of Holstein-Gottorp
Christina of Holstein-Gottorp
Christina of Holstein-Gottorp was a Queen Consort of Sweden as consort of king Charles IX of Sweden, mother of king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and a Regent of Sweden.-Biography:...

. At the time, the King of Sweden was Gustavus Adolphus' cousin Sigismund
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a monarch of the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1587 to 1632, and King of Sweden from 1592 until he was deposed in 1599...

. The staunch Protestant Duke Charles forced the Catholic King
War against Sigismund
The war against Sigismund was a war between Duke Charles, later King Charles IX and Sigismund, King of Sweden and Poland. Lasting from 1598 to 1599, it is also called War of Deposition against Sigismund, since the focus of the conflicts was the attempt to depose the latter from the throne of Sweden...

 to let go of the throne of Sweden in 1599, a part of the preliminary religious strife before the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

, and reigned as regent before taking the throne as Charles IX of Sweden
Charles IX of Sweden
Charles IX of Sweden also Carl, was King of Sweden from 1604 until his death. He was the youngest son of King Gustav I of Sweden and his second wife, Margaret Leijonhufvud, brother of Eric XIV and John III of Sweden, and uncle of Sigismund III Vasa king of both Sweden and Poland...

 in 1604. Upon his father's death in October 1611, a sixteen-year-old Gustavus inherited the throne (declared of age and able to reign himself at seventeen as of December 16), as well as an ongoing succession of occasionally belligerent dynastic disputes with his Polish cousin. Sigismund III wanted to regain the throne of Sweden and tried to force Gustavus Adolphus to renounce the title.

In a round of this dynastic dispute, Gustavus invaded Livonia when he was , beginning the Polish-Swedish War (1625–1629). He intervened on behalf of the Lutherans in Germany, who opened the gates to their cities to him. His reign became famous from his actions a few years later when on June 1630 he landed in Germany, continuing Sweden's involvement in the ongoing Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

. Gustavus intervened on the anti-Imperial side, which at the time was losing to the Holy Roman Empire and its Catholic allies; the Swedish forces would quickly reverse that situation.

Gustavus was married to Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg was a German princess and queen consort of Sweden.She was the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and Anna, Duchess of Prussia, daughter of Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia....

, the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg
John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg
John Sigismund was a Prince-elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg from the House of Hohenzollern. He also served as a Duke of Prussia.-Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia:...

, and chose the Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n city of Elbing
Elblag
Elbląg is a city in northern Poland with 127,892 inhabitants . It is the capital of Elbląg County and has been assigned to the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship since 1999. Before then it was the capital of Elbląg Voivodeship and a county seat in Gdańsk Voivodeship...

 as the base for his operations in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. He died in the Battle of Lützen
Battle of Lützen (1632)
The Battle of Lützen was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.- Prelude to the...

 in 1632. His early death was a great loss to the Lutheran side. This resulted in large parts of Germany and other countries, which had been conquered for Lutheranism, to be reconquered for Catholicism (via Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

). His involvement in the Thirty Years' War gave rise to the saying that he was the incarnation of "the Lion of the North", or as it is called in German "Der Löwe von Mitternacht" (Literally: "The Lion of Midnight").

Legacy as a general


Gustavus Adolphus was an extremely able military commander. His innovative tactical integration of infantry, cavalry, logistics and particularly his use of artillery, earned him the title of the "Father of Modern Warfare". Future commanders who studied and admired Gustav II Adolf include Napoleon I of France
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 and Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

. His advancements in military science made Sweden the dominant Baltic
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

 power for the next one hundred years (see Swedish Empire
Swedish Empire
The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Sweden between 1561 and 1721 . During this time, Sweden was one of the great European powers. In Swedish, the period is called Stormaktstiden, literally meaning "the Great Power Era"...

). He is also the only Swedish monarch to be styled "the Great". This decision was made by the Swedish Estates of the Realm, when they convened in 1633. Thus, by their decision he is officially, to this day, to be called Gustaf Adolf the Great (Gustavus Adolphus Magnus).

Gustavus Adolphus was the main figure responsible for the success of Swedish arms during the Thirty Years' War and led his nation to great prestige. As a general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

, Gustavus Adolphus is famous for employing mobile artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 on the battlefield, as well as very aggressive tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, where attack was stressed over defense, and mobility and cavalry initiative were emphasized.

Among other innovations, he installed an early form of combined arms
Combined arms
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects...

 in his formations, where the cavalry could attack from the safety of an infantry line reinforced by cannon, and retire again within to regroup after their foray. He adopted much shallower infantry formations than were common in the pike and shot
Pike and shot
Pike and shot is a historical method of infantry combat, and also refers to an era of European warfare generally considered to cover the period from the Italian Wars to the evolution of the bayonet in the late seventeenth century...

 armies of the era, with formations typically fighting in 5 or 6 ranks, occasionally supported at some distance by another such formation—the gaps being the provinces of the artillery and cavalry as noted above. His artillery were themselves different—he would not let himself be hindered by cumbersome heavy cannon, but instead over a course of experimentation settled on smaller, more maneuverable weapons, in effect fielding the first light field artillery in history in significant numbers.

These were grouped in batteries supporting his more linearly deployed formations, replacing the cumbersome and unmaneuverable traditional deep squares (such as the Spanish Tercio
Tercio
The tercio was a Renaissance era military formation made up of a mixed infantry formation of about 3,000 pikemen, swordsmen and arquebusiers or musketeers in a mutually supportive formation. It was also sometimes referred to as the Spanish Square...

s that were up to 50 ranks deep) used in other pike and shot armies of the day. In consequence, his forces could redeploy and reconfigure very rapidly, confounding his enemies.

His armies were very well trained for the day, so that his musketeer
Musketeer
A musketeer was an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe. They sometimes could fight on horseback, like a dragoon or a cavalryman...

s were widely known for their firing accuracy and reload speed: three times faster than any contemporary rivals. Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

 and Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 considered him one of the greatest generals of all time; a sentiment agreed with by George S. Patton
George S. Patton
George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...

 and others. He was also renowned for the consistency of purpose and the amity of his troops—no one part of his armies was considered better or received preferred treatment, as was common in other armies where the cavalry were the elite, followed by the artillery, and both disdained the lowly infantry. In Gustavus' army the units were extensively cross trained. Both cavalry and infantry could service the artillery, as his heavy cavalry did when turning captured artillery on the opposing Catholic Tercios at First Breitenfeld
Battle of Breitenfeld (1631)
The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld , was fought at the crossroads villages of Breitenfeld , Podelwitz , and Seehausen , approximately five miles northwest of the walled city of Leipzig on September 17 , or September 7 The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld...

. Pikemen could shoot—if not as accurately as those designated musketeers—so a valuable firearm could be kept in the firing line. His infantrymen and gunners were taught to ride, if needed. Napoleon thought highly of the achievement, and copied the tactics.

Reengineering


Gustavus Adolphus was a very forward thinking military engineer. He reengineered the way in which his army worked, with simple innovations that proved devastating to his adversaries.

One example of this was the Swedish cavalry system. Cavalry had been pushed to the fringes of military worth and had been largely neutralized by the Spanish tercios. They were being ineffectively used to charge the enemy front or flank, fire broadsides with pistols and muskets and then retreat to reload and reform. However, Gustavus Adolphus used light cannons (reengineered to have 3 standard calibers, one of which was eventually called "The Regimental Cannon,") along with muskets to eliminate enemy pikemen, then the cavalry would swoop in and cut through enemy lines with sabers.

Military commander



Gustavus Adolphus inherited three wars from his father when he ascended the throne: Against Denmark, which had attacked Sweden earlier in 1611, against Russia, due to Sweden having tried to take advantage of the Russian Time of Troubles
Time of Troubles
The Time of Troubles was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601-1603, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third...

, and against Poland, due to King Charles' having deposed King Sigismund III, his nephew, as King of Sweden.

The war against Denmark (Kalmar War
Kalmar War
The Kalmar War was a war between Denmark–Norway and Sweden. Though Denmark soon gained the upper hand, she was unable to defeat Sweden entirely...

) was concluded in 1613 with a peace that did not cost Sweden any territory, but it was forced to pay a heavy indemnity to Denmark (Treaty of Knäred
Treaty of Knäred
The Treaty of Knäred was signed on 21 January 1613 and ended the Kalmar War between Denmark and Sweden. It is named after the village of Knäred in Halland, where it was signed. As a result, Sweden had to pay a ransom for the return of the fortress of Älvsborg...

). During this war, Gustavus Adolphus let his soldiers plunder towns and villages and as he met little resistance from Danish forces in Scania
Scania
Scania is the southernmost of the 25 traditional non-administrative provinces of Sweden, constituting a peninsula on the southern tip of the Scandinavian peninsula, and some adjacent islands. The modern administrative subdivision Skåne County is almost, but not totally, congruent with the...

, they pillage and devastate 24 Scanian parishes. His memory in Scania
Scania
Scania is the southernmost of the 25 traditional non-administrative provinces of Sweden, constituting a peninsula on the southern tip of the Scandinavian peninsula, and some adjacent islands. The modern administrative subdivision Skåne County is almost, but not totally, congruent with the...

 has been negative because of that.

The war against Russia (Ingrian War
Ingrian War
The Ingrian War between Sweden and Russia, which lasted between 1610 and 1617 and can be seen as part of Russia's Time of Troubles, is mainly remembered for the attempt to put a Swedish duke on the Russian throne...

) ended in 1617 with the Treaty of Stolbovo
Treaty of Stolbovo
The Treaty of Stolbovo is a peace treaty of 1617 that ended the Ingrian War, fought between Sweden and Russia.After nearly two months of negotiations, representatives from Sweden and Russia met at the village of Stolbova, south of Lake Ladoga, on 27 February 1617.From the outset, Sweden had gone...

, which excluded Russia from the Baltic Sea. The final inherited war, the war against Poland
Polish–Swedish War (1600–1629)
The Polish–Swedish War was twice interrupted by periods of truce and thus can be divided into:* Polish–Swedish War * Polish–Swedish War...

, ended in 1629 with the Truce of Altmark
Truce of Altmark
The six-year Truce of Altmark was signed on 25 September 1629 at the Altmark , near Danzig by Sweden and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during Thirty Years' War, ending the Polish–Swedish War ....

 which transferred the large province Livonia
Swedish Livonia
- Swedish infantry and cavalry regiments:Infantry regiments:* Garnisonsregementet i Riga * Guvenörsregementet i Riga * Livländsk infanteribataljon I...

 to Sweden and freed the Swedish forces for the subsequent intervention in the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 in Germany, where Swedish forces had already established a bridgehead n 1628.

When Gustavus Adolphus began his push
Treaty of Stettin (1630)
The Treaty of Stettin or Alliance of Stettin was the legal framework for the occupation of the Duchy of Pomerania by the Swedish Empire during the Thirty Years' War...

 into northern Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in June–July 1630, he had just 4,000 troops. But he was soon able to consolidate the Protestant position in the north, using reinforcements from Sweden and money supplied by France (Treaty of Bärwalde
Treaty of Bärwalde
The Treaty of Bärwalde of 23 January 1631 was a treaty concluding an alliance between Sweden and France during the Thirty Years' War, shortly after Sweden had invaded Northern Germany then occupied by Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor's forces...

). After Swedish plundering in Brandenburg
Margraviate of Brandenburg
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

 (1631) endangered the system of retrieving war contributions from occupied territories
Bellum se ipsum alet
Latin phrase bellum se ipsum alet or bellum se ipsum alit , and its German rendering Der Krieg ernährt den Krieg describe the military strategy of feeding and funding armies primarily with the potentials of occupied territories...

, "marauding and plundering" by Swedish soldiers was prohibited. Meanwhile, a Catholic army
Catholic League (German)
The German Catholic League was initially a loose confederation of Roman Catholic German states formed on July 10, 1609 to counteract the Protestant Union , whereby the participating states concluded an alliance "for the defence of the Catholic religion and peace within the Empire." Modeled...

 under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly was laying waste to Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

. Gustavus Adolphus met Tilly's army and crushed it at the First Battle of Breitenfeld
Battle of Breitenfeld (1631)
The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld , was fought at the crossroads villages of Breitenfeld , Podelwitz , and Seehausen , approximately five miles northwest of the walled city of Leipzig on September 17 , or September 7 The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld...

 in September 1631. He then marched clear across Germany, establishing his winter quarters near the Rhine, making plans for the invasion of the rest of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.

In March 1632, Gustavus Adolphus invaded Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, a staunch ally of the Emperor. He forced the withdrawal of his Catholic opponents at the Battle of Rain
Battle of Rain
The Battle of Rain was fought on April 15, 1632, as part of the Thirty Years' War. The forces involved in this conflict were 40,000 Swedish troops under Gustavus Adolphus and 25,000 Catholic League troops under Count Johan Tzerclaes of Tilly...

. This would mark the high point of the campaign. In the summer of that year, he sought a political solution that would preserve the existing structure of states in Germany, while guaranteeing the security of its Protestants. But achieving these objectives depended on his continued success on the battlefield.

Gustavus is reported to have entered battle without wearing any armor, proclaiming, "The Lord God, is my armor!" It is more likely that he simply wore a leather cuirass
Cuirass
A cuirass is a piece of armour, formed of a single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material, which covers the front of the torso...

 rather than going into battle wearing no battle protection whatsoever. In 1627, near Dirschau in Prussia, a Polish soldier shot him in the muscles above his shoulders. He survived, but the doctors could not remove the bullet, so from that point on, he could not wear iron armor. Also, two fingers of his right hand were paralyzed.

Gustavus Adolphus was killed at the Battle of Lützen
Battle of Lützen (1632)
The Battle of Lützen was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.- Prelude to the...

, when, at a crucial point in the battle, he became separated from his troops while leading a cavalry charge into a dense smog
Smog
Smog is a type of air pollution; the word "smog" is a portmanteau of smoke and fog. Modern smog is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes that react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine...

 of mist and gunpowder smoke. After his death, his wife initially kept his body, and later his heart, in the castle of Nyköping
Nyköping
Nyköping is a locality and the seat of Nyköping Municipality, Södermanland County, Sweden with 32,427 inhabitants in 2005. The city is also the capital of Södermanland County.- History :...

 for over a year. His remains (including his heart) now rest in Riddarholmskyrkan
Riddarholmskyrkan
The Riddarholmen Church is the burial church of the Swedish monarchs. It is located on the island of Riddarholmen, close to the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden. The congregation was dissolved in 1807 and today the church is used only for burial and commemorative purposes. Swedish monarchs from...

 in Stockholm.

In February 1633, following the death of the king, the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates
Riksdag of the Estates
The Riksdag of the Estates , was the name used for the Estates of the Swedish realm when they were assembled. Until its dissolution in 1866, the institution was the highest authority in Sweden next to the King...

 decided that his name would be styled Gustav Adolf the Great (or Gustaf Adolf den Store in Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

). No such honor has been bestowed on any other Swedish monarch before or since.

The crown of Sweden was inherited in the Vasa family, and from Charles IX's time excluded those Vasa princes who had been traitors or descended from deposed monarchs. Gustavus Adolphus' younger brother had died ten years before, and therefore there were only the King's daughter left as a female heir. Maria Eleonora and the king's ministers took over the government on behalf of Gustavus Adolphus' underage daughter Christina upon her father's death. He left one other known child, his illegitimate son Gustav, Count of Vasaborg.

Alternative views


The German Socialist Franz Mehring
Franz Mehring
Franz Erdmann Mehring , was a German publicist, politician and historian.-Early years:Franz Mehring was born 27 February 1846 in Schlawe, Pomerania, the son of a bourgeois family.-Political career:...

 (1846–1919) wrote a biography of Gustavus Adolphus with a Marxist perspective on the actions of the Swedish king during the Thirty Years' War. In it, he makes a case that the war was fought over economics and trade rather than religion.

In his book "Ofredsår" ("Years of Warfare"), the Swedish historian and author Peter Englund
Peter Englund
Peter Englund is a Swedish author and historian, and the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy since 1 June 2009.-Biography:...

 argues that there was probably no single all-important reason for the king's decision to go to war. Instead, it was likely a combination of religious, security, as well as economic considerations.

This view is supported by German historian Johannes Burkhardt who writes that Gustavus entered the 30 Years War exactly 100 years after the publication of the Confessio Augustana, the core confession of faith of the Lutheran Church, and let himself be praised as its saviour. Yet Gustavus' own "manifesto of war" does not mention any religious motivations at all but speaks of political and economical reasons. Sweden would have to maintain its integrity in the face of several provocations and aggressions by the Habsburgian Empire. The manifesto was written by scholar Johann Adler Salvius in a style common of the time that promotes a "just war". Burkhardt argues that traditional Swedish historiography constructed a defensive interest in security out of that by taking the manifesto's text for granted. But to defend Stockholm, the occupation of the German Baltic territories would have been an extreme advance and the imperial Baltic Sea fleet mentioned as a threat in the manifesto had never reached more than a quarter of the size of the Swedish fleet. Moreover it was never maintained to challenge Sweden but to face the separatist Netherlands. So if ruling the Baltic Sea was a goal of Swedish strategy, the conquests in Germany were not a defensive war but an act of expansion. From Swedish Finland, Gustavus advanced along the Baltic Sea coast and eventually to Augsburg and Munich and he even urged the Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland....

 to join him. This was no longer about Baltic interests but the imperial capital of Vienna and the alpine passes were now in close reach of the Swedish army. Another point mentioned by Burkhardt is the Gothic
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 legacy of the Swedes, which had become a political program. The Swedish king was also "Rex Gotorum", and the list of kings was traced back to the Gothic rulers to construct continuity. Prior to his embarkment to northern Germany, Gustavus urged the Swedish nobility to follow the example of conquests set by their Gothic ancestors. Had he lived longer, it would have been likely that Gustavus had reached out for the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire.

Politics


Gustav II Adolf's success in making Sweden one of the great powers of Europe, and perhaps the most important power in the Thirty Years' War after France and Spain, was due not only to his military brilliance, but also to important institutional reforms in Sweden's government. The chief among these reforms was the institution of the first Parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 registrations, so that the central government could more efficiently tax and conscript its populace.

Gustav II Adolf's politics in the conquered territory of Estonia also show progressive tendencies. In 1631 he forced the nobility to grant the peasants greater autonomy. He also encouraged education, opening a school in Tallinn in 1631, today known as Gustav Adolf High School (in Estonian: Gustav Adolfi Gümnaasium) On 30 June 1632, Gustav II Adolf signed the Foundation Decree of Academia Dorpatensis in Estonia, today known as the University of Tartu. With policies that supported the common people, the period of Swedish rule over Estonia initiated by Gustav II Adolf and continued by his successors, is popularly known by Estonians as the "good old Swedish times" (Estonian: vana hea Rootsi aeg).

On August 27, 1617, he spoke before his coronation
Coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...

, and his words included these:

I had carefully learned to understand, about that experience which I could have upon things of rule, how fortune is failing or great, subject to such rule in common, so that otherwise I would have had scant reason to desire such a rule, had I not found myself obliged to it through God’s bidding and nature. – Now it was of my acquaintance, that inasmuch as God had let me be born a prince, such as I then am born, then my good and my destruction were knotted into one with the common good; for every reason then, it was now my promise that I should take great pains about their well-being and good governance and management, and thereabout bear close concern.

Timeline



  • July 1626. Gustavus Adolphus and his army disembark at Pillau, Prussia
    Prussia
    Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

    , during the Polish–Swedish War (1625–1629).
  • 18 August 1627. The King is seriously wounded in the battle of Dirschau (Tczew
    Tczew
    Tczew is a town on the Vistula River in Eastern Pomerania, Kociewie, northern Poland with 60,279 inhabitants . It is an important railway junction with a classification yard dating to the Prussian Eastern Railway...

    ).
  • June 1629 his troops meet up with imperial troops under Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg
    Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg
    Johann or Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg was a Field Marshal of Holy Roman Empire and the Electorate of Saxony, diplomat, and politician.Arnim was born in Boitzenburger Land, Brandenburg...

    , who used to serve under Gustav Adolph, and is ordered by emperor Ferdinand
    Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor
    Ferdinand II , a member of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor , King of Bohemia , and King of Hungary . His rule coincided with the Thirty Years' War.- Life :...

     to aid Sigismund III.
  • May 1630 and 6 July Gustav Adolph lands in Germany
    Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

    .
  • September 1631. At the Battle of Breitenfeld
    Battle of Breitenfeld (1631)
    The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld , was fought at the crossroads villages of Breitenfeld , Podelwitz , and Seehausen , approximately five miles northwest of the walled city of Leipzig on September 17 , or September 7 The Battle of Breitenfeld or First Battle of Breitenfeld...

    , Gustavus Adolphus decisively defeats the Catholic forces led by Tilly, even after the allied Protestant Saxon army had been routed and fled with the baggage train.
  • April 1632. At the Battle of Lech, Gustavus Adolphus defeats Tilly once more, and in the battle Tilly sustains a fatal wound.
  • May 1632. Munich yields to the Swedish army.
  • September 1632. Gustavus Adolphus attacks the stronghold of Alte Veste
    Battle of the Alte Veste
    The Battle of the Alte Veste was a significant battle of the Thirty Years' War. In the late summer of 1632 the army of Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus had been besieged by Albrecht von Wallenstein at Nürnberg. The successes of Gustavus Adolphus over General Tilly forced Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand...

    , which is under the command of Wallenstein
    Albrecht von Wallenstein
    Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein , actually von Waldstein, was a Bohemian soldier and politician, who offered his services, and an army of 30,000 to 100,000 men during the Danish period of the Thirty Years' War , to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II...

    , but is repulsed, marking the first defeat in the Thirty Years' War of the previously invincible Swedes. This leads to defection of some mercenary elements in the Protestant army.
  • November 1632. At the Battle of Lützen
    Battle of Lützen (1632)
    The Battle of Lützen was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.- Prelude to the...

    , Gustavus Adolphus is killed in battle, but the Swedes win the fight thanks to Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar
    Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar
    Bernard of Saxe-Weimar was a German prince and general in the Thirty Years' War.-Biography:Born in Weimar within the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, Bernard was the eleventh son of Johann, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and Dorothea Maria of Anhalt.Bernard received an unusually good education and studied at the...

    , who assumes command and defeats Wallenstein. The Swedish war effort was kept up by generals Gustav Horn, Johan Banér
    Johan Banér
    Johan Banér was a Swedish Field Marshal in the Thirty Years' War.-Biography:Johan Banér was born at Djursholm Castle in Uppland. As a four year old he was forced to witness how his father, the Privy Councillour Gustaf Banér, and uncle, Sten Axelsson Banér , were executed at the Linköping Bloodbath...

    , Lennart Torstenson
    Lennart Torstenson
    Lennart Torstenson, Count of Ortala, Baron of Virestad , was a Swedish Field Marshal and military engineer.-Early career:He was born at Forstena in Västergötland - he always wrote his name Linnardt Torstenson...

     and chancellor Axel Oxenstierna
    Axel Oxenstierna
    Axel Gustafsson Oxenstierna af Södermöre , Count of Södermöre, was a Swedish statesman. He became a member of the Swedish Privy Council in 1609 and served as Lord High Chancellor of Sweden from 1612 until his death. He was a confidant of first Gustavus Adolphus and then Queen Christina.Oxenstierna...

     until the Peace of Westphalia
    Peace of Westphalia
    The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October of 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the...

    .


A history of Gustavus Adolphus' wars was written by Johann Philipp Abelin
Johann Philipp Abelin
Johann Philipp Abelin was a German chronicler whose career straddled the 16th and 17th centuries. He was born, probably, at Strasbourg, and died there between 1634 and 1637...

.

Gustavus Adolphus Day


Gustavus Adolphus Day is celebrated in Sweden, Estonia and Finland each year on 6 November. On this day only, a special pastry with a chocolate or marzipan
Marzipan
Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar and almond meal. Persipan is a similar, yet less expensive product, in which the almonds are replaced by apricot or peach kernels...

 medallion of the king, is sold. The day is also an official flag day
Flag days in Sweden
By Swedish law a number of days of the calendar year are designated as official flag days. This means that the Flag of Sweden is flown on all public flag poles and buildings. Hoisting of the Swedish flag on private flag poles on these days is also strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.Flying of...

 in the Swedish calendar. In Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, the day is celebrated as svenska dagen or ruotsalaisuuden päivä, "Swedishness Day
Finnish Swedish Heritage Day
Finnish Swedish Heritage Day is a general flag day, which is celebrated in Finland on November 6. The day celebrates the Finland-Swedish culture, and the bilinguality of Finland. The main celebrations are aired in the radio, and many smaller celebrations are held around Finland in schools...

", and is a customary flag day
Flag days in Finland
By law, the Finnish flag must be flown from public buildings on the following days:*February 28, day of Kalevala; the occasion is also celebrated as the Day of Finnish culture*May 1, Vappu, the Day of Finnish Labour*Second Sunday in May, Mother's Day...

. In Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, the day is known as Gustav Adolfi päev. In all three countries, 6 November is the name day
Name day
A name day is a tradition in many countries in Europe and Latin America that consists of celebrating the day of the year associated with one's given name....

 for Gustav Adolf, one of the few exceptional name days in the year.

Ancestors


Gustavus Adolphus's ancestors in three generations

In popular culture

  • Bertolt Brecht
    Bertolt Brecht
    Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

    's play Mother Courage and Her Children
    Mother Courage and Her Children
    Mother Courage and Her Children is a play written in 1939 by the German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht with significant contributions from Margarete Steffin...

    mentions Gustavus Adolphus several times in the earlier scenes during which the characters are traveling with the Protestant Army. The Cook lampoons the "Hero King" by pointing out that first he sought to liberate Poland from the Germans, then sought to liberate Germany from the Germans, and made a profit on the deal. His irreverence for the king also includes the fact that, unlike Mother Courage and the Chaplain, the Cook is a Dutchman not a Swede.
  • In the Ring of Fire
    1632 series
    The 1632 series, also known as the 1632-verse or Ring of Fire series, is an alternate history book series and sub-series created, primarily co-written, and coordinated by Eric Flint and published by Baen Books...

    series of novels by Eric Flint
    Eric Flint
    Eric Flint is an American author, editor, and e-publisher. The majority of his main works are alternate history science fiction, but he also writes humorous fantasy adventures.- Career :...

     and others, Gustavus Adolphus is a major character, having not died in the Battle of Lützen
    Battle of Lützen (1632)
    The Battle of Lützen was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.- Prelude to the...

    . He helps a community of West Virginians, cosmically transported back into time, bring about a revolution of democracy throughout the Germanies
    Germanies
    Germanies may refer to:* Germany while it was divided into multiple states; notable possibilities include:** West Germany and East Germany , the division of Germany from 1949–1990....

    . They in turn help to grow the Swedish empire
    Swedish Empire
    The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Sweden between 1561 and 1721 . During this time, Sweden was one of the great European powers. In Swedish, the period is called Stormaktstiden, literally meaning "the Great Power Era"...

     through their technological knowledge of modern day warfare and the capabilities of mankind. They introduce many ideas to 17th century Europe such as radio
    Radio
    Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

    , submarines, and airplanes. Gustavus Adolphus is portrayed as a tough, yet compassionate king with tolerant tendencies toward religion and the rights of the people to establish their own civil liberties.

See also

  • History of Sweden
    History of Sweden
    Modern Sweden started out of the Kalmar Union formed in 1397 and by the unification of the country by King Gustav Vasa in the 16th century. In the 17th century Sweden expanded its territories to form the Swedish empire. Most of these conquered territories had to be given up during the 18th century...

    Rise of Sweden as a Great Power
    Rise of Sweden as a Great Power
    During the 17th century, despite having scarcely more than 1 million inhabitants, Sweden emerged to have greater foreign influence, after winning wars against Denmark–Norway, The Holy Roman Empire, Russia, and The Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania...

  • Axel Oxenstierna
    Axel Oxenstierna
    Axel Gustafsson Oxenstierna af Södermöre , Count of Södermöre, was a Swedish statesman. He became a member of the Swedish Privy Council in 1609 and served as Lord High Chancellor of Sweden from 1612 until his death. He was a confidant of first Gustavus Adolphus and then Queen Christina.Oxenstierna...

  • Gustav Gustavsson af Vasaborg
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
    Gustavus Adolphus College
    Gustavus Adolphus College is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in St. Peter, Minnesota, United States. A coeducational, four-year, residential institution, it was founded in 1862 by Swedish Americans. To this day the school is firmly...

  • Gustav Adolf Grammar School
    Gustav Adolf Grammar School
    The Gustav Adolf Lyceum or Gustav Adolf Gymnasium , in Tallinn, Estonia, was established in 1631 by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf and is one of the oldest extant secondary schools in Europe. Throughout centuries the school has survived as an educational institution regardless of the upheavals in...


External links