Gustavus IV - Encyclopedia

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GUSTAVUS IV. (1778-1837), king of Sweden, the son of Gustavus III. and Queen Sophia Magdalena, was born at Stockholm on the 1st of November 1778. Carefully educated under the direction of Nils von Rosenstein, he grew up serious and conscientious. In August 1796 his uncle the regent Charles, duke of Sudermania, visited St Petersburg for the purpose of arranging a marriage between the young king and Catherine II.'s grand- daughter, the grand-duchess Alexandra. The betrothal was actually fixed for the 22nd of September, when the whole arrangement foundered on the obstinate refusal of Gustavus to allow his destined bride liberty of worship according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church - a rebuff which undoubtedly accelerated the death of the Russian empress. Nobody seems to have even suspected at the time that serious mental derangement lay at the root of Gustavus's abnormal piety. On the contrary, there were many who prematurely congratulated themselves on the fact that Sweden had now no disturbing genius, but an economical, God-fearing, commonplace monarch to deal with. Gustavus's prompt dismissal of the generally detested Gustaf Reuterholm added still further to his popularity. On the 31st of October 1797 Gustavus married Frederica Dorothea, daughter of Charles Frederick, grand-duke of Baden, a marriage which might have led to a war with Russia but for the fanatical hatred of the French republic shared by the emperor Paul and Gustavus IV., which served as a bond of union between them. Indeed the king's horror of Jacobinism was morbid in its intensity, and drove him to adopt all sorts of reactionary measures and to postpone his coronation for some years, so as to avoid calling together a diet; but the disorder of the finances, caused partly by the continental war and partly by the almost total failure of the crops in 1798 and 1799, compelled him to summon the estates to Norrkoping in March 1800, and on the 3rd of April Gustavus was crowned. The notable change which now took place in Sweden's foreign policy and its fatal consequences to the country are elsewhere set forth (see Sweden, History). By the end of 1808 it was obvious to every thinking Swede that the king was insane. His violence had alienated his most faithful supporters, while his obstinate incompetence paralysed the national efforts. To remove a madman by force was the one remaining expedient; and this was successfully accomplished by a conspiracy of officers of the western army, headed by Adlersparre, the Anckarsvards, and Adlercreutz, who marched rapidly from Skane to Stockholm. On the 13th of March 1809 seven of the conspirators broke into the royal apartments in the palace unannounced, seized the king, and conducted him to the chateau of Gripsholm; Duke Charles was easily persuaded to accept the leadership of a provisional government, which was proclaimed the same day; and a diet, hastily summoned, solemnly approved of the revolution. On the 29th of March Gustavus, in order to save the crown for his son, voluntarily abdicated; but on the 10th of May the estates, dominated by the army, declared that not merely Gustavus but his whole family had forfeited the throne. On the 5th of June the duke regent was proclaimed king under the title of Charles XIII., after accepting the new liberal constitution, which was ratified by the diet the same day. In December Gustavus and his family were transported to Germany. Gustavus now assumed the title of count of Gottorp, but subsequently called himself Colonel Gustafsson, under which pseudonym he wrote most of his works. He led, separated from his family, an erratic life for some years; was divorced from his consort in 1812; and finally settled at St Gall in Switzerland in great loneliness and indigence. He died on the 7th of February 1837, and, at the suggestion of King Oscar II. his body was brought to Sweden and interred in the Riddarholmskyrka. From him descend both the Baden and the Oldenburg princely houses on the female side.

See H. G. Trolle-Wachtmeister, Anteckningar och minnen (Stockholm, 1889); B. von Beskow, Lefnadsminnen (Stockholm, 1870); K. V. Key-Aberg, De diplomatiska fOrbindelserna mellan Sverige och Storbrittannien under Gustaf I V.'s Krig emot Napoleon (Upsala, 1890); Colonel Gustafsson, La Journee du treize mars, &c. (St Gall, 1835); Memorial des Obersten Gustafsson (Leipzig, 1829). (R. N. B.)

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