Carl Gustaf, Count Tessin - Encyclopedia

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CARL GUSTAF TESSIN, Count (1695-1770), Swedish statesman, son of a great architect, Nicodemus Tessin, began his public career in 1723, at which time he was a member of the Holstein faction. In 1725 he was appointed ambassador at Vienna, and in that capacity counteracted the plans of the Swedish chancellor, Count Arvid Horn, who was for acceding to the Hanoverian Alliance. During the riksdags 1726-27 and 1731 he fiercely opposed the government, and his wit, eloquence and imposing presence made him one of the foremost protagonists of the party subsequently known as "The Hats" (see Sweden: History). From 1 735 to 1736 he was again Swedish ambassador at Vienna. During the riksdag of 1738 he was elected marshal of the diet and contributed more than anyone else to overthrow the Horn administration the same year. On the division of the spoil of patronage he chose for himself the post of ambassador extraordinary at Paris, and from 1739 to 1742 delighted Versailles with his brilliant qualities of grand seigneur, at the same time renewing the traditional alliance between France and Sweden which had been interrupted for more than sixty years. His political ability, however, was by no means commensurate with his splendid social qualities. It was his sanguine credulity which committed the "Hats" to their rash and unconsidered war with Russia in 1741-42, though in fairness it must be added that Tessin helped them out of their difficulties again by his adroitness as a party leader and his stirring eloquence. He gained his arm-chair in the senate as a reward for his services on this occasion. In 1743 Tessin composed the long outstanding differences between Sweden and Denmark in a special mission to Copenhagen. In 1744 he was sent at the head of an extraordinary embassade to Berlin to escort to Stockholm Frederick the Great's sister, Louisa Ulrica, the chosen bride of the Swedish crown-prince, Adolphus Frederick. As overhofmarskalk of the young court, Tessin speedily captivated the royal pair. He also succeeded in withdrawing the crown-prince from beneath the influence of the Russian empress Elizabeth, to whom Adolphus Frederick owed his throne when he became king of Sweden in 1751, thereby essentially contributing to the maintenance of the independence of Sweden. From 1746 to 1752 Tessin was president of the chancellery, as the Swedish prime minister was called in those days. His "system" aimed at a rapprochement with Denmark with the view of counterbalancing the influence of Russia in the north. It was a dignified and prudent policy, but his endeavour to consolidate it by promoting a matrimonial alliance between the two courts alienated the Swedish crown-prince, who, as a Holsteiner, nourished an ineradicable hatred of everything Danish. As, moreover, on the accession of Adolphus Frederick in 1751, Tessin refused to countenance any extension of the royal prerogative, the rupture between him and the court became final. On the occasion of the coronation (1752) he resigned the premiership, and in 1754 the governorship of the young crown-prince Gustavus also, spending the rest of his days at his estate at Akerd. Tessin was one of the most brilliant personages of his day, and the most prominent representative of French culture in Sweden. He was also a fine orator, and his literary style is excellent.

His principal works are his autobiographical fragments (1st ed. Stockholm, 1819), Tessin och Tessiniana; K. G. Tessin's Dagbok (Stockholm, 1824), both of them extracts from his voluminous MS. memoirs in 29 volumes; and his famous En gammal mans bref til en ung Prins (Stockholm, 1753; English editions, 1755 and 1756), addressed to his pupil, afterwards Gustavus III., one of the most delightful books for the young that ever saw the light.

See R. Nisbet Bain, Gustavus III. and his Contemporaries (London, 1895), vol. i; Bernhard von Beskow, Minne of Grefve K. G. Tessin (Stockholm, 1864); Bernhard Elis Malmstrom, Sveriges politiska historia fran Konung Karl XII.'s dod till statshveilfningen, 1772 (Stockholm, 1893-1901). (R. N. B.)

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