The New International Encyclopædia/Gustavus III.

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GUSTAVUS III. (1746-92). King of Sweden from 1771 to 1792. He was born January 24, 1746, and succeeded his father, Adolphus Frederick (q.v.), in 1771, at a period when the royal power had almost disappeared before the encroachments of the nobility, and the country was distracted by the strife of the rival political parties known as the “Hats” and “Caps.” (See Caps and Hats.) Finding that the people, weary of the misrule of the nobles, were ready for any change, Gustavus covertly fomented the general discontent, and having raised a fictitious rebellion, through the agency of his friends and adherents, he collected a large body of troops, on pretense of restoring order, and arrested the council in a body, August 19, 1772. He convoked the Diet, and laid before it a new constitution to which the assembly was compelled to subscribe. A revolution was thus effected without the shedding of blood, and by a stroke of the pen Gustavus recovered all the regal powers that had been gradually lost by his immediate predecessors. He acted with great moderation after this successful coup d'état, and might have long retained the advantages he had gained if his love of display and his wish to emulate the King of France in extravagance and magnificence had not led him into profuse expenditure, which embarrassed the finances; at the same time, the introduction of the manners and usages of Versailles in his Court irritated the national party, while it undoubtedly tended to demoralize the upper classes. In 1788 he entered upon a war with Russia, when that empire was engaged in active hostilities against the Turks, but derived no advantage from the contest. In February, 1789, a Diet at Stockholm conferred extensive powers upon the King in the matters of war and of the civil administration. This incensed still further the turbulent nobility, who saw the royal authority thrive at the expense of the privileges of their class. A conspiracy against the King's life was formed, the leaders being Counts Ribbing and Horn and General Pechlin. On the night of March 16, 1792, Gustavus was mortally wounded by their agent, Anckarström (q.v.). at a masked ball in the opera house which he had himself built. The pistol had been loaded with broken shot, which rendered the wound especially painful, and the King suffered the most dreadful agony for thirteen days before his death. Gustavus was a man of varied learning, and the author of several dramatic works and poems of considerable merit. His writings have been published in a collective form both in Swedish and French. In 1788 Gustavus deposited certain papers in the library of Upsala, which excited much interest from the fact that they were not to be opened for fifty years after his death. Their publication, which was confided to Geijer (q.v.), disappointed the general expectation, as they were found to consist of historical notes and letters of little value. Consult Bain, Gustavus III. and His Contemporaries, 1746-92 (London, 1894). See Sweden.