Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Theater King Of Sweden - Part 2

Gustav III

There were wars, famines, corruption, and politics as usual back in 18th century Sweden. It's comforting to be reminded that  humanity somehow survives and moves on.  

I was always fond of King Gustav up to this point. In Part 1 of the king's story I listed his impact on Swedish culture, criminal justice, civil and religious rights.

However, after 1786, Gustav III became more and more determined to rule without a parliament, changing from semi-constitutionalism to semi-absolutism. 

He declared war on Russia in 1788, thus violating his own constitution. The conflict between Sweden and Russia had been going on since the 1600s and was about control of the territories around the Baltic sea, including Finland, which at this time was under Swedish rule. 

The ensign of the Swedish Archipelago Fleet 1761-1813

During this war, the Swedish Archipelago Fleet, officially a branch of the army, scored the greatest victory ever for a Swedish Fleet as it beat a far superior Russian Navy at Svensksund. This gave cause for concern for the Russian Empress and she wanted peace.

Thus the war ended by a treaty between the Theater King of Sweden and Catherine the Great of Russia. The war didn't change much for either side and Finland remained a Swedish territory for the time being. 

The Royal Opera House where Gustav III was assassinated.

At this time, the king also abolished most of the old privileges of the nobility. Needless to say, this did not sit well with members of the aristocracy. Conspiracies were common and there were frequent threats against the king's life.

On March 16, 1792, a masked ball was held for the public at the Royal Opera House. While he attended a dinner before the ball, King Gustav received a letter threatening his life. Since this was not uncommon, the king ignored the warning. 

Soon after he entered the ball, he was surrounded by three men, all part of the nobility, wearing black masks. One of them, a Captain Anckarstrom, shot the king in the back. The king was taken to his rooms, the doors of the opera house were sealed, and the conspirators arrested. King Gustav didn't die immediately, but his wound became infected and he died on March 29, 1792.

Captain Anckarstrom was later executed, but his co-conspirators received lesser punishments.

Part 3 ~ The Opera will post on Friday

Some of you may remember that I spent most of my summers in Sweden on the waters and islands of the Stockholm archipelago. It was special for me to learn about the Archipelago Fleet, which was not large, but tactical, being victorious in battle over the Russian navy. 


  1. What drama. I knew very little about Sweden before and now I'm eager to learn more. More, please.
    Imagine going up against Russia.
    What do you think caused his changed approach from a more socially open one to an authoritarian one? Did he have health issues?

  2. I must have listened to at least a few words in a world history class because I do know who Catherine the Great Is Our was. He sounds like a certain person I know that lives in a White House in DC

  3. Fascinating history. He appeared to have had a good start and I wonder what made him change course. The time it took for him to die seems awful considering the medical treatments at that time. I'm sure he suffered a lot.

  4. Thanks for the interesting history lesson. I'm actually looking forward for the next installment.
    Hugs, Julia

  5. Again, I did not know any of this. It is sure dangerous to be a king! The assasins apparently did not have their plan perfected, since they were all captured! Thanks so much for your comment on the colors of my blog, only one other person has ever mentioned it! I change all the letter colors to match my most recent posts!

  6. I'm enjoying this very much!
    this line made me smile... "the king also abolished most of the old privileges of the nobility"... perhaps he had a more democratic plan for his countrymen? but one thing's for sure in ANY century... you don't want to tic off the rich and powerful and privileged. even if you are one of them! :) too bad he couldn't have reigned long enough to see what he had in mind. looking forward to part three! xo

  7. Hej Inger ! Intressant att läsa om Sverige och teaterkungen från andra sidan jorden :) Du har fångat det bra. All the best to you from Sweden !

  8. Hi Inger - how interesting ... shot at the opera. I'll look into him a bit more and pay attention if I'm reading a book about that place of the world and find out a bit more on the Fleet ... amazing how they controlled the waves in those days. Fun to read - thanks ... and I'm on to the third part - take care ... looks to be very hot in your part of the world - Hilary


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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