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Encyclopedia > Gustavus Adolphus
Gustav II Adolph
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Gustav II Adolph

Gustav II Adolph (December 9, 1594 - November 6, 1632) (also known as Gustav Adolph the Great, under the Latin name Gustavus Adolphus or the Swedish form Gustav II Adolf) was a King of Sweden. He was born in Stockholm, the son of Charles IX of the Vasa dynasty and Kristina of Holstein-Gottorp.

Reign October 30, 1611-November 6, 1632


(Government from December, 1611)

Coronation October 12, 1617
Royal motto "Cum Deo et victribus armis"
("With God and victorious arms")
Queen Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
Royal House Vasa
Predecessor Charles IX of Sweden
Successor Christina of Sweden
Date of Birth December 9, 1594
Place of Birth Stockholm
Date of Death November 6, 1632 (Julian calendar)
or November 16 (Gregorian calendar)
Place of Death At the battle of Lützen, Germany
Date of Burial June 22, 1634
Place of Burial Riddarholmskyrkan, Stockholm

He was the king of Sweden from 1611, and as such one of the major players in the Thirty Years' War where he was styled as "The Lion of the North - Savior of Protestants". Gustav Adolf was married to the daughter of the elector of Brandenburg-Prussia, Maria Eleonora and chose Prussia's city of Elbing as base for his operations in Germany. He died in battle on November 6, 1632 at Lützen in Germany.


During his reign, Gustav founded the city of Gothenburg as well as a number of smaller cities. He is also the founder of the University of Tartu in Tartu, Estonia, which then belonged to the kingdom of Sweden. In this time, the three largest cities in the kingdom were Riga (currently the capital of Latvia), Stockholm and Tallinn (capital of Estonia).

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Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Breitenfield

As a general, Gustav is famous for employing mobile artillery on the battlefield, as well as a very active tactic where attack was stressed over defense and mobility more important than in the usual linear tactic.


This was only part of the reason why Carl von Clausewitz and Napoleon Bonaparte idolized him as the general above all others. His character both of purpose and of amity with all his troops from commanding officers right down to the rank and file, earned him unassailably documented fame which most commanders in chief would gladly accept as mere joking anecdotes.


The king was an active participant in the battles, and was wounded several times, amongst them gunshot wounds to the throat and the abdomen. The war wounds led the king to adopt a flexible armour of hide instead of the customary metal cuirass, and this is what he wore in the Battle of Lützen. Gustav's armour is currently on display in the Royal Swedish Armoury at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

Gustavus Adolphus
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Gustavus Adolphus

Gustav was killed in the renowned Battle of Lützen where he was misled by dense fog and poor eyesight to charge into an enemy formation. After his death, his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg initially kept his body, and later his heart, in her castle for over one year. He now rests (including heart) in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm.


In February 1633, following the death of the great king, the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates decided that his name would be accompanied by an accolade and that his name was to be styled Gustav Adolph the Great (or Gustav Adolf den Store in Swedish). Such an honor has not been bestowed on anyone else since.


Maria Eleonora and Gustav Adolph's daughter Christina of Sweden took over the government upon her father's death.


Timeline

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Autograph
  • May 1630. Gustav lands with his army in Pomerania. On July 6 he lands in Germany.
  • September 1631. At the Battle of Breitenfeld, Gustav decisively defeats the catholic forces led by Tilly, even after the allied protestant Saxon army was routed and fled with the baggage train.
  • March 1632. At the Battle of Lech, Gustav defeats Tilly once more, and in the battle Tilly sustains a fatal wound.
  • April 1632. Battle of Rain.
  • May 1632. Munich yields to the Swedish army.
  • September 1632. Gustav attacks the stronghold of Alte Feste, which is under the command of Wallenstein, but is repulsed. This leads to defection of some mercenary elements in the protestant army.
  • November 1632. The Battle of Lützen, Gustav is killed but the Swedes win the day and defeat Wallenstein. The Swedish war effort was kept up by generals Horn, Banér, Torstensson and chancellor Oxenstierna until the Peace of Westphalia.

A history of Adolphus' wars was written by Johann Philipp Abelin.


The Day of Gustav Adolph is observed each year on November 6 in Sweden. On this day a special pastry, with a chocolate medallion of the king, is sold. The day is also an official flag day in the Swedish calendar.


See also

Preceded by:
Charles IX
King of Sweden
1611-1632
Succeeded by:
Christina

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