The New International Encyclopædia/Gustavus II. Adolphus

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The New International Encyclopædia
Gustavus II. Adolphus
Edition of 1905. See also Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

GUSTAVUS II. ADOLPHUS (1594-1632). King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632, and one of the greatest generals of modern times. He was born December 9, 1594, and was the grandson of Gustavus Vasa, by his youngest son, Charles IX., at whose death in 1611 he succeeded to the throne. Gustavus was brought up in the Lutheran faith, carefully trained in habits of business, and was one of the most accomplished princes of his age. He was educated under the care of John Skytte, a traveled and accomplished Swede, Von Morner, a German, and James de la Gardie, a Swedish noble of French origin. On his accession to power he found the country involved in wars with Denmark, Russia, and Poland. Two months after his accession Gustavus was declared of age by the Estates and the regency was dissolved. The tasks which confronted him were pressing. It was necessary to wrest a large part of Southern Sweden from the Danes, and to crush the designs of Sigismund of Poland upon the Swedish Crown. To strengthen Sweden for the struggles which this involved, the young King, with the approval of the great Chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna (q.v.), believing that the time had come for a halt in the policy of repression of the nobility, which his father and grandfather bad found necessary for the authority of the Crown, sought to secure the hearty coöperation of the nobles, whose privileges he confirmed, holding them in return strictly accountable for loyal service. He sought to unite the classes — nobles, clergy, burghers, and peasants — in a common purpose, the upbuilding of Swedish power. While reorganizing the internal government the King entered upon a war with Denmark, which ended in January, 1613, with the relinquishment of some Swedish districts of Denmark. Gustavus had a clear appreciation of the importance of Russia and of the possible menace to Sweden in Russian aggrandizement, and therefore, after disposing of Denmark, he opened a victorious campaign against Russia. By the peace of Stolbova, February 27, 1617, Russia ceded to Sweden Ingria and Carelia. The boundary of the Swedish territory then included the site of the future Saint Petersburg. The Russian war was but a prelude to that against Poland in which, during eight years of active campaigning (1621-29), Gustavus developed his innovations in the art of war, trained the Swedish armies, which became noted as the best troops of Europe, and brought out that brilliant body of commanders who followed him in his later campaigns and carried out his policy after his death. Gustavus conquered all of Livonia and Courland, and occupied the Duchy of East Prussia, held by Brandenburg as a fief of the Polish Crown. The war against Poland was to prevent the aggrandizement of Sigismund and to compel his recognition of Gustavus as King of Sweden. In a larger sense it was a defensive war, since the ultra-Catholic powers — Spain and the Empire — had schemed to use Sigismund as an instrument against the Protestant ‘Lion of the North.’ Largely through the efforts of Richelieu (q.v.), an armistice for six years was arranged September 16, 1629, on the basis of a full recognition of Gustavus as King of Sweden, and Gustavus was thus left free to take an active part in Germany, where the course of the Thirty Years' War had been steadily against the Protestant princes, and the advance of the Imperialists under Wallenstein (q.v.) was already threatening to establish a new power on the Baltic.

In June, 1630, Gustavus, with an army of about 13,000 men, landed in Germany to aid the Protestants in their struggle against the Catholic League, backed by the power of the Empire. The Swedes soon drove the Imperialists from Pomerania. France, through hatred of the Empire, agreed to furnish Gustavus with a subsidy of 400,000 rix-dollars as long as he maintained an army of 36,000 men. The Protestant Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, jealous of this new power in Germany, were little inclined to coöperate with Gustavus, but were forced to join the Swedes. On September 17, 1631, Gustavus completely defeated the Imperialists under Tilly at Breitenfeld, near Leipzig, saving the cause of Protestantism just when it seemed threatened with utter destruction. The King now advanced into Franconia, and after allowing his armies to recruit their strength in the rich bishoprics of Würzburg and Bamberg, overran the Palatinate and held a splendid court at Mainz, surrounded by princes and ambassadors. Thence he advanced into Swabia. On April 15, 1632, in the face of Tilly's army, he forced the passage of the Lech, where Tilly was mortally wounded. The road to Vienna was now open to Gustavus, and the Emperor Ferdinand II. in terror recalled his general, Wallenstein (q.v.), who gathered a large army and advanced to meet Gustavus. The two great commanders confronted each other for a time at Nuremberg, before which town Wallenstein occupied an intrenched position, from which Gustavus, who held Nuremberg, attempted in vain to dislodge him. Then the armies moved northward and met at Lützen, southwest of Leipzig. Here, on November 16, 1632, Gustavus fought his last battle. The Swedes won the day. but in the course of the fighting Gustavus fell, mortally wounded. Bernhard of Weimar (q.v.) succeeded to the command of the Swedish army.

Although Gustavus was eminently a warlike king, he made many salutary changes in the internal administration of his country, and devoted his short intervals of peace to the promotion of commerce and manufactures. He was preëminently religious, and his success in battle is perhaps to be ascribed not only to a better mode of warfare and the stricter discipline which he enforced, but also still more to the moral influence which his deep-seated piety and his personal character inspired among his soldiers. The spot where he fell on the field of Lützen was long marked by the Shwedenstein, or Swede's Stone, erected by his servant, Jacob Ericsson, on the night after the battle. Its place has now been taken by a noble monument erected to his memory by the German people on the celebration of the second centenary of the battle, held in 1832. He raised Sweden to a commanding position as the great power of the North, which she retained for a century, and his brief and brilliant campaign saved the cause of Protestantism in Germany. He was succeeded by his daughter Christina.

Bibliography. Of especial value for the history of Gustavus Adolphus is the third volume of Geijer's standard Sveriges Historia, in the German translation, Geschichte Schwedens (Hamburg, 1836). Geijer makes much use of contemporary documents, including the correspondence of the King. Consult also: Droysen, Gustav Adolf (Leipzig, 1879), a valuable study by one of the foremost German scholars; Gefrörer, Geschichte Gustav Adolfs, Königs von Schweden, und seiner Zeit (Leipzig, 1869), a Catholic presentation; in English, Stevens, History of Gustavus Adolphus (New York, 1885), the work of a former United States Minister to Sweden and an interesting product of studies pursued under most favorable conditions: Fletcher, Gustavus Adolphus (New York, 1890), in the “Heroes of the Nations” Series; Dodge, Gustavus Adolphus (Boston, 1895), a study especially on the military side. See Thirty Years' War.