In giving this sketch of the life of Gustavus Adolphus, no attempt has been made to present a complete life of the great king. It is a history difficult for young people to understand, and for that reason only the leading events of a most eventful life have been presented. It was first written for a lecture and entertainment, after the manner of my other entertainments on Church epochs, to be illustrated by stereopticon views, with three dramatic interludes—the first representing the joy of the Swedish people on Gustavus coming to the throne; the second showing Gustavus taking leave of his Parliament and friends as he is about to embark on the Thirty Years' War; the third, an act called "The Women who Loved Him." The evening was to open and close with church processionals in the native peasant costumes of Sweden and other Protestant countries of Europe. It has been deemed best to present the story in book form, which will differ somewhat from the original lecture and dramatic representations, for the reason that pictures do away with the necessity for many words.
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HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF
by Harriet Monroe
Published 2018 by Blackmore Dennett
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I. FAMILY.
CHAPTER II. CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH OF GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS.
CHAPTER III. GUSTAVUS AS A MAN.
CHAPTER IV. GUSTAVUS AND HIS KINGDOM.
CHAPTER V. THE CHARACTER OF THE KING AND OF HIS TIMES.
CHAPTER VI. THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR.
CHAPTER VII. THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR.—CONTINUED.
CHAPTER VIII. CONDITIONS IN SWEDEN.
CHAPTER IX. GUSTAVUS IN GERMANY.
CHAPTER X. GUSTAVUS IN GERMANY.—CONTINUED.
CHAPTER XI. GUSTAVUS IN GERMANY.—CONCLUDED.
CHAPTER XII. END OF A VALUABLE LIFE.
CHAPTER XIII. LATER HISTORY OF THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR.
Gustavus Adolphus, the hero general of the Reformation, was born at the royal palace at Stockholm, Sweden, December 9th, 1594, a little more than one hundred years after the birth of Luther, nearly fifty years after his death, and five years before the birth of Cromwell.
Washington and Lincoln, as to date of birth, were only seventy-seven years apart; had Washington lived but nine years more, they would have been contemporary.
Washington may, in a sense, be said to have made this country, and Lincoln to have preserved it a united people. Just so Luther brought about the movement known as Protestantism, but it was given to this great king of Sweden, known as the Lion of the North, to preserve Protestantism from extinction on the continent of Europe, even as a little later it was given Cromwell to stop that curious movement toward Romanism which is even yet the puzzle of the historian.
Gustavus II. was the son of Charles, Duke of Sudermania, youngest son of Gustavus Vasa, who may be considered the founder of the Vasa family.
During the entire sixteenth century Sweden was torn by external wars and internal dissensions. Sweden, by the contract of Calmar, in 1397, had become a dependency of Denmark. A trade among rulers had made a brave people the reluctant subjects of an alien power. Gustavus Vasa conceived the project of freeing his country from Denmark. He made one ineffectual attempt, and after severe defeat, pursued by the oppressors, he fled to Delecarlia, whose citizens rallied about him, and, with the help of these sturdy and valiant mountaineers, the Danes were expelled from Sweden and his country was restored to liberty.
His grateful countrymen elected him king. Gustavus Vasa saw the moral degradation of his land, and brought disciples of Luther to the country to instruct in both religious and secular learning. Among the most distinguished of these was Olaüs Petri. Of course, the hierarchy of Rome and priests of Sweden made great opposition to any change.
Gustavus Vasa reduced the gospel to this simple message, which a child could understand, viz.: "To serve God according to His law; to love God above all; to believe in Jesus Christ as our only Saviour; to study and to teach earnestly the word of God; to love our neighbor as ourselves; to observe the ten commandments." He distinctly said that the Scriptures speak neither of tapers, nor palms, nor of masses for the dead, nor of the worship of saints, but that the Word of God, in many places, prohibited these things. He added, "The sacrament of the Lord's Supper has been given to us as a token of the forgiveness of sin, and not to be carried around in a gold or silver frame to cemeteries and other places."
Now, was not that a clear statement for a youth brought up a Catholic, whose thought heretofore had seemed only of war?
As in England, politics had a hand in expelling the old form of religion and bringing in the new, so it had an influence in Sweden.
Geijer, the great church historian of Sweden, says that the Roman Church at that time possessed two-thirds of the soil, and that the wickedness of the church was as great as its possessions. Like Henry VIII. of England, Gustavus Vasa needed the lands to enrich the crown and to secure the friendship of the nobles. He deeply hated priests because they were unionists, that is, they desired to keep the three Scandinavian countries under one crown, which would have left Gustavus crownless.
When dying, this great king wrote as his last message: "Rather die a hundred times than abandon the gospel." He pointed the way to glory for Sweden for generations yet unborn.
Eric, the son and successor of Gustavus I., seems to have inherited the barbarous nature of some far-back ancestor. He indulged in dangerous and murderous folly. He proposed at the same time for the hand of Elizabeth, Queen of England, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, Princess Renee, of Loraine, and Christina, of Hessen, and after all that, married a peasant woman.
At last he was declared incapable and was imprisoned. This shortened his life. His children were excluded by law from the succession, and his brother John ascended the throne.
John had married Catherine Jagellon, daughter of Sigismund, king of Poland. She influenced her husband to admit the Jesuits to Sweden, and he made an effort to restore the Romish Church.
When the Swedes were converted to the Protestant faith it seems to have been a deep work of grace. They did not fluctuate in their faith. So now they withdrew their love and friendship from their king, whom they considered false to the faith he had promised to sustain.
At the death of John the states determined that their rights should not be invaded, so they forced from his son, Sigismund, a decree prohibiting any religion in Sweden except the Lutheran. Sigismund (who had become a Catholic to secure the throne of Poland) signed this decree with great bitterness of heart.
In spite of this decree, which he had evidently signed with mental reservations, he ordered a Catholic church to be built in each town in his kingdom. He further enraged his subjects by refusing to be crowned by a Protestant prelate, and accepted coronation at the hands of the Pope's nuncio. He surrounded himself by the nobles of Poland and the priests of Rome. These foreigners could scarcely appear on the streets without causing quarrels and bloody encounters.
In the midst of these disturbances he was recalled to Poland, of which he was also king, his father having secured his election by bribery, and he left Sweden never to return as a welcome king.
Duke Charles, youngest son of Gustavus Vasa, and uncle to Sigismund, was the only son of Gustavus Vasa who showed himself worthy of the noble inheritance to which he had been born. The troubles of the time, the dangers to Protestantism, caused him to listen to the loud call of the Estates to act as regent, or ruling king to this much distressed land.
The Augsburg Confession was again proclaimed, and all the Swedes present cried: "Our persons and our property, and all that we have in this world will be sacrificed, if it is necessary, rather than abandon the gospel." Diet after Diet approved of the administration of Duke Charles.
Four years after the departure of Sigismund he returned with five thousand troops of Poland to reclaim his crown. He was defeated, but the Swedes agreed to take him (because by heredity he had a just claim to the crown) as king if he would send away his foreign troops and properly administer the Lutheran form of religion.
But in a year he proved so unfaithful that he was deposed and sent back to Poland. His claim to the throne led to long-continued hostility between Poland and Sweden. On account of the claim of the Swedish Vasas and the Polish Vasas, brave men were to die, homes were to be desolated, and both lands were to have weeping widows and fatherless children for half a century.
In 1604 Charles was crowned king, the crown entailed to the eldest son, being Protestant, under a law that declared that any ruler who deviated from the Augsburg Confession should by that act lose his crown.
The heirs of Sigismund were by law forever excluded from the throne, and it was decreed that the king should forever make his home in Sweden.
During the stormy scenes described in the preceding chapter, Gustavus Adolphus was born. He was baptized on the 1st of January, 1595.
The child was brought up in an atmosphere of war. His father told him the story of Sweden's wars and of his own campaigns, to which the boy listened with enrapt attention.
In 1595 the Diet had closed the throne to every Catholic candidate. Charles IX., as the king was now called, was generous enough to assure the Estates that if any son of Sigismund should become a Protestant he should inherit the throne. He also made this reservation in his will, showing that he had the conscience of a Christian who desires to do justice, while Sigismund, as king of Poland, never failed to act on the principle that the end justifies the means.
The Finns, urged to rebellion by the king of Poland, proved to be troublesome subjects to King Charles. They submitted to his rule only after a bloody contest. The king took Gustavus, who was barely seven years old, with him on an expedition against the Finns. The ship became icebound and had to be abandoned. The child and his father continued their way on foot in the midst of the severities of a Russian winter. The exposure seems to have done them no harm.
On one occasion his father took him to visit the fleet at Calmar, and on being asked by an officer which vessel he preferred, he answered, "The 'Black Knight,' because it has the most guns."
The generosity for which he was so noted in later years began to show itself in his childhood. A peasant had brought him a handsome little pony from the island of Oeland. The good man said, "I want you to accept the pony as a gift; as a sign of my love and devotion to you." The young prince replied, "I am glad to have the horse, but I will pay you for it, as the gift would exceed your resources." The child gave the man all the money in his purse. The peasant was amazed at the amount of the money and at the child's great liberality.
His father, foreseeing that Gustavus would need to command people of different nationalities, saw that he had instruction in many languages, so that at the age of seventeen he spoke fluently the Swedish, Latin, German, Dutch, French and Italian languages, and could make himself understood in Russian and Polish. He afterward became proficient in Greek.
Special attention was given to the development of a symmetrical character, and everything possible was done to make him love the Lutheran faith.
The tendencies of both father and son are well illustrated by a letter, still extant, from King Charles to his son, as his farewell advice: "Above all fear God, honor thy father and mother, show for thy brothers and sisters a deep attachment; love the faithful servants of thy father and reward each one according to his merits. Be humane towards thy subjects, punish the wicked, love the good; trust everybody, though not unreservedly; observe the law without respect to person; injure no one's well-acquired privileges, if they are consistent with the law."
Character molded on such principles as these would certainly touch the sublimities.
The mother of Gustavus Adolphus was a German princess of superior education for the times. A haughty queen, a strict disciplinarian, thereby developing in her son a quick and ready obedience to the laws of the family. Who would command must first learn to obey.
She much preferred her second son, Charles Philip, and, had Gustavus been less generous, or less noble, an unnatural jealousy might have divided the brothers, but the young Duke of Finland, as Gustavus was called, acted as though he thought his mother could do no wrong.
Gustavus had three teachers, each of whom left a strong impression upon his character—John Skytte, a man who had spent ten years in travel, Von Mörner, an accomplished, traveled man, and Count de la Gardie, a Swedish noble of a French family, who instructed Gustavus in fencing and in military tactics.
Gustavus had an attractive personality and won the abiding affection of his cousin, Duke John, the only one of Sigismund's sons who took the Swedish side of the religious and family quarrel. Duke John married the only sister of Gustavus, Mary Elizabeth, and proved a brother, indeed, after the death of King Charles. For the choice was left to the people and to the Estates as to whether they preferred John or Gustavus. At the sincere urgency of Duke John the young Duke of Finland, Gustavus, was chosen.
King Charles IX. began early to train his son in public affairs. When Gustavus was only ten years old his father kept him at his side at all cabinet meetings and in great public assemblies. He encouraged him to talk to officers from foreign countries in their own language. The king permitted him to ask questions on war, special battles and methods of governing, and the father was proud of the eager, precocious child, in whom he recognized a mental and spiritual power far beyond his own.
At the age of fourteen he was sent, with his mother, through northern Sweden, in order that he might become acquainted with the people of his own country. The king said, "You are only a boy, but listen to everyone who solicits your protection, help everyone according to your means, and dismiss no one without a word of comfort."
The gracious boy made many friends in this early journey, men who afterwards gladly gave life itself to forward his interests.
At the age of fifteen he was greatly disappointed because he was not permitted to lead an army against the Russians, but for once his father required him to remain at home to learn affairs concerning the internal and external policy of the Swedish government. But in 1611, at the age of seventeen, when Denmark had declared war against Sweden, he was permitted to command a body of troops. He was sent to deliver the town of Calmar which was besieged by the Danes. He was afterward joined by troops under Duke John and the king himself. On August 16th, 1611, the town and castle were surrendered by a commander who proved to be a renegade Swede whom King Charles had offended.
The king left the war in order to return to Stockholm to preside at the Diet. On his journey he was taken violently ill. When it was plain he could not recover Gustavus was sent for. The king gave the sorrowing boy his parting blessing, then laying his hand on the bowed young head, he said, in a voice full of conviction, "Ille faciet"—"This one will do it."
Gustavus, the Grand Duke of Finland and Duke of Estland, as he was now called, did not at once assume the throne. The kingdom was for two months without a ruler.
The Diet was convened at Nyköping by the queen and by Duke John, who, with six lords of the Council, had administered the affairs of the government. On December 17th, 1611, the queen and Duke John, who was five years the elder, renounced before each of the assembled Estates all right and title to the throne of Sweden, and, although the age of twenty-four was considered the legal majority, Gustavus, though only eighteen, was declared of legal age, and the reigns of government were placed in his young hands.
He took the title of his father: "Elected king and hereditary Prince of the Swedes, Goths and Vandals." He chose for his chancellor, or Secretary of State, the wisest man of his realm, Axel Oxenstiern, only ten years older than himself.
Sweden had seen little of peace for fifty years. From the days of Gustavus I. endless war had prevailed. In the civil strife between rival branches of the same house, two kings had been overthrown. Gustavus inherited a blood-sprinkled throne, and, could he have foreseen it, was to be in almost perpetual warfare during his entire life.
To him came early the great passion which has made bad people good, and quite as often made good people bad. From early boyhood he had loved a girl, who became a handsome court lady, called Ebba Brahe. Her family were of the nobility, though not royal. It was from early youth his purpose to share his throne with the woman of his choice.
At Skokloster, Sweden, is preserved a fragment of their correspondence, including some most ardent letters from the young king. When he could not write to her, he sent the "forget-me-not" flower, which the girlish heart interpreted aright. He exhibited the symptoms of other lovers in writing sonnets to her, and at all times in seeking her society.
But his mother, Queen Christina, was a politician, and steadily set before him that it was his duty to strengthen his kingdom by marrying into a royal family which would become his friend in peace and his ally in war. On one occasion, when he was about leaving on a military campaign, the queen mother forced from him the promise that he would not write to Lady Ebba for two years. To this he agreed on the condition that, at the end of two years, all objection to their marriage would be withdrawn.
He had scarcely reached the seat of war until the old queen forced Ebba Brahe into a marriage with James de la Gardia, a polished noble gentleman, but not the choice of her young heart.
All through his life the heart of Gustavus turned with unutterable longing to the love of his youth. This is shown in several letters to his friend, Chancellor Oxenstiern.
We would like to believe that, at least up to his marriage, he remained the ideal lover, but truth compels us to say that he had a natural son, Gustav Gustavson, born in 1616, to a Dutch lady.
That was an age in which morality along sexual lines was unusual among royal men, but this one instance of immorality is the single instance that even the worst enemy of Gustavus can bring against his good name.
On November 28th, 1620, in the great palace of Stockholm, Gustavus was married to Eleanor Marie of Brandenburg. The marriage was one of great pomp, and Gustavus recognized his duty to the state by marrying into a strong Protestant royal family, and he also recognized his duty as a Christian to be a true husband and a good man.
The young queen brought a large dower which greatly assisted the war fund, but the marriage precipitated another war with Poland.
The marriage was a fairly happy one, as royal marriages go, but the happiness of the family was clouded by a dead child being the first born of the union. This great affliction Gustavus seems to have borne with a truly Christian spirit. The following year a similar event occurred, so that the royal family feared for the succession. At last, in 1632, after being married twelve years, he was permitted to hold a living child in his arms.
As he lavished upon her his paternal caresses, he said, "God be praised! I hope this daughter may be as good to me as a son. May God who has given her preserve her to me."
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