Gustavus II

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Gustavus II

(Gustavus Adolphus), 1594–1632, king of Sweden (1611–32), son and successor of Charles IX.

Military Achievements

Gustavus's excellent education, personal endowments, and early experience in affairs of state prepared him for his crucial role in Sweden and Europe. With the help of his great chancellor, Axel OxenstiernaOxenstierna, Count Axel Gustafsson
, 1583–1654, Swedish statesman. Named chancellor in 1612, he was the actual administrator of Sweden because Gustavus II was continually occupied with foreign campaigns.
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, he insured internal stability by granting concessions to the turbulent nobility, and he terminated (1613) the Kalmar War with Denmark by buying off the Danes. This enabled him to undertake a successful campaign against Russia, which was forced to cede (1617) Ingermanland.

Gustavus at first stayed out of the Thirty Years WarThirty Years War,
1618–48, general European war fought mainly in Germany. General Character of the War

There were many territorial, dynastic, and religious issues that figured in the outbreak and conduct of the war.
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, which had begun in 1618. However, his resumption (1621) of the intermittent warfare between the Swedish and Polish branches of the house of VasaVasa
, Pol. Waza, royal dynasty of Sweden (1523–1654) and Poland (1587–1668). Gustavus I, founder of the dynasty in Sweden, was succeeded by his sons Eric XIV (reigned 1560–68) and John III (reigned 1568–92).
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 led to his entry into that vast conflict. His primary objects in invading Poland were to consolidate Swedish hegemony over the Baltic by acquiring Polish LivoniaLivonia
, region and former Russian province, comprising present Estonia and parts of Latvia (Vidzeme and Latgale). It borders on the Baltic Sea and its arms, the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Finland, in the west and the north and extends E to Lake Peipus (Chudskoye) and the
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 and to reduce the threat posed by the Catholic Sigismund IIISigismund III,
1566–1632, king of Poland (1587–1632) and Sweden (1592–99). The son of John III of Sweden and Catherine, sister of Sigismund II of Poland, he united the Vasa and Jagiello dynasties.
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 of Poland to Swedish Protestantism.

The victories of the armies of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in the Thirty Years War soon caused the king to draw closer to the German Protestant princes. In 1628 he promised his aid to Christian IVChristian IV,
1577–1648, king of Denmark and Norway (1588–1648), son and successor of Frederick II. After assuming (1596) personal rule from a regency, he concentrated on building the navy, industry, and commerce. He rebuilt Oslo and renamed it Christiania.
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 of Denmark in the defense of Stralsund. In 1629, through the mediation of Cardinal RichelieuRichelieu, Armand Jean du Plessis, duc de
(Cardinal Richelieu) , 1585–1642, French prelate and statesman, chief minister of King Louis XIII, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
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 of France, he obtained the truce of Altmark with Poland, gaining a large part of Livonia and several good Baltic ports; a secret treaty with France promised a French subsidy if Gustavus entered Germany.

For the Protestant cause and also to gain control of the S Baltic coast, the king landed in Pomerania with 13,000 troops in 1630; these were soon augmented until 40,000 were at his disposal. Gustavus's invasion of Mecklenburg failed when the Mecklenburgers refused to heed his appeal to rise against the chief imperial general, WallensteinWallenstein or Waldstein, Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von
, 1583–1634, imperial general in the Thirty Years War, b. Bohemia.
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, who was their new ruler. Early in 1631 the Franco-Swedish treaty was openly ratified at Bärwalde, and after the fall of MagdeburgMagdeburg
, city (1994 pop. 270,546), capital of Saxony-Anhalt, central Germany, on the Elbe River. It is a large inland port, an industrial center, and a rail and road junction. Manufactures include metal products, textiles, and chemicals.
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, Saxony and Brandenburg accepted the king's conditions for an alliance with Sweden.

The spectacular sweep of the Swedish army through Germany then began. In Sept., 1631, Gustavus defeated the new imperial commander, TillyTilly, Johannes Tserklaes, count of
, 1559–1632, general in Bavarian and later imperial service during the Thirty Years War. A younger son of a noble family of Brabant, he served under Duke Alessandro Farnese and against the Turks before entering the service of Duke
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, at Breitenfeld near Leipzig in the first Protestant victory of the war. He then marched west, reaching Mainz by Christmas, while the Saxon army moved into Bohemia. Resuming his campaign early in 1632, Gustavus returned east, defeated (April) the imperial troops at the crossing of the Lech (where Tilly was mortally wounded), and entered Bavaria. Wallenstein, reinstated as commander by the emperor, speedily put a large army into the field and forced the king to fall back to Nuremberg.

Wallenstein set up his camp at nearby, and the two armies remained facing each other for more than two months (July–Sept.) without doing battle. Finally Gustavus attacked Wallenstein's camp, but he failed and retired toward Würzburg, leaving a strong garrison at Nuremberg. Wallenstein then invaded unprotected Saxony, causing Gustavus to hasten north. At Lützen the two armies met on Nov. 16. The Swedes won the battle, but Gustavus was killed. Oxenstierna continued to direct Swedish policy under Gustavus's daughter, Queen Christina, while eventually Baner, and later Torstensson, took the king's place in the field.

Character and Influence

In military organization and strategy, Gustavus was ahead of his time. While most powers relied on mercenary troops, he organized a national standing army that distinguished itself by its discipline and relatively high moral standards. Deeply religious, the king desired his soldiers to behave like a truly Christian army; his stern measures against the common practices of looting, raping, and torture were effective until his death. His successes were due to this discipline, his use of small, mobile units, the superiority of his firearms, and his personal charisma. Although he was deeply interested in the internal progress of his kingdom, much of the credit for the development of Swedish industry and the fiscal and administrative reforms of his reign belongs to Oxenstierna.


See biographies by G. F. MacMunn (1931) and N. G. Ahnlund (tr. 1940); M. Roberts, Gustavus Adolphus: A History of Sweden, 1611–1632 (2 vol., 1953, 1958), and Gustavus Adolphus and the Rise of Sweden (1973).

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Gustavus Adolphus

, Gustavus II
1594--1632, king of Sweden (1611--32). A brilliant general, he waged successful wars with Denmark, Russia, and Poland and in the Thirty Years' War led a Protestant army against the Catholic League and the Holy Roman Empire (1630--32). He defeated Tilly at Leipzig (1631) and Lech (1632) but was killed at the battle of L?tzen
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005