Gustav II Adolf

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Gustav II Adolf 1630
Signature of Gustav II Adolf

. Gustav II Adolf (born December 9, jul. / 19th December  1594 greg. In Stockholm , † November 6 jul. / 16th November  1632 greg. At Lutzen , Electorate of Saxony ) from the House Wasa was 1611-1632 King of Sweden and one of the most important figures in Swedish history and the Thirty Years War . Through reforms and his military-political action, he made a significant contribution to giving Sweden a hegemonic position in northern Europe, which existed until the beginning of the 18th century. His intervention in the Thirty Years' War in Germany prevented a victory for the imperial - Catholic camp of the Habsburgs and thus indirectly secured the existence of German Protestantism .

Origin and initial situation

Gustav II. Adolf was the sixth king of the Wasa family , who only managed to rise from middle nobility to kingship under Gustav Wasa . From an uprising against the Danish -influenced Kalmar Union , he emerged victorious as a resistance leader and became king ( Swedish War of Liberation ). At that time, the Lutheran Reformation took hold in Sweden and was made mandatory at the Diet of Västerås in 1527 . This gave the king the opportunity to access the church property and make his family Sweden's largest landowner - the basis for the Wasa's position of power. Although the country is still strongly constitutionalized in terms of estates, Gustav Wasa managed to make Sweden a hereditary monarchy in favor of his family through a treaty with the Reichstag.

Gustav Adolf's father Karl IX. was first imperial administrator next to and under the Catholic double king of Sweden and Poland, Sigismund III , who came from his own family . Wasa before reaching for the crown in a brief civil war against Sigismund himself. His right to rule was not undisputed and was not accepted by the displaced Polish Wasa, but was largely recognized by the estates, the Lutheran Church, the people and the nobility, as Protestant Sweden was no longer willing to tolerate a Catholic king. Nevertheless, the reign of King Charles IX. not unchallenged. His conflicts with the nobility were serious, as he tried to confrontationally expand his royal power base at their expense. The rule of the Wasa was therefore precarious and also due to the poorly successful wars of Charles IX. against Poland-Lithuania for the possession of Livonia and against Denmark ( Kalmar War ), which ruined the country economically.

Gustav II Adolf's initial situation was from a rule over Sweden that was not fully consolidated for the Swedish Wasa , a tense relationship with the Swedish aristocracy, the rivalry with Denmark, the conflict with the Polish Wasa in the Baltic States, a strongly class-based society and political order in Sweden and determined by the Lutheran attitude of his country. From this initial situation he managed to make Sweden the dominant power in the north and one of the most modern countries in Europe.


The first years

The eldest son of the then imperial administrator and later King Karl IX. von Sweden and his second wife Christine von Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf was born on December 9, 1594 in Tre Kronor Castle . After his father became king of impoverished Sweden, he entered public life at an early age. At the age of eight he attended meetings of the Senate at the request of his father, and at the age of twelve he made public appearances, such as receiving foreign envoys. When Gustav was fifteen years old, he gave his first speech from the throne .

He received a thorough humanistic and political upbringing, among others by Johannes Bureus and Johan Skytte . He received military training from the experienced professional soldier Jakob De la Gardie , who made him familiar with the army reforms of Moritz von Orange . He only spoke German with his mother, so Gustav was fluent in two languages. He was taught in all subjects in Latin, and he also learned French and Dutch as well as ancient Greek. Later he learned some Russian and Polish through conversations during his campaigns.

Reign in Sweden

Monument to Gustav II Adolf in Gothenburg

Gustav was declared of age prematurely during the ongoing Kalmark War with Denmark, in which he had already fought as heir to the throne, and in 1611 only ascended the throne of Sweden at the age of 17. He did not take over a stable empire, but an impoverished country that was involved in a deep conflict with its neighbor Denmark, which he had to end in the Treaty of Knäred in 1613 under conditions that were very harsh for Sweden . Its position of power was by no means absolute, but in many ways dependent on the cooperation of the Swedish parliament, which was not willing to give its support free of charge. While his father had ruled confrontationally towards the nobility, Gustav Adolf could no longer afford to do so in terms of power politics. It was not until six years after taking office that he became jul. / 22nd October 1617 greg. in Uppsala Cathedral crowned king of Sweden.

Balance of power with the estates

When the young king took office, a royal declaration granted the Reichsrat and the Reichstag a political say - an expression of a precarious balance of power between the crown, the nobility and the other estates of the country. The Reichsrat was given a clear role in the government, and resolutions of the Reichstag had to be obtained on questions of war and peace, taxes and levies. From this a legal practice developed that became constitutive for the country. The four estates represented in the Reichstag reflected the social structure of that time: the nobility, to whom Gustav Adolf had to grant extensive privileges in 1612, had a monopoly on all higher offices. At the same time, this class boundary - in this respect very different from the rest of Europe - proved to be permeable and open to advancement through performance. The spiritual status of the Lutheran Church played an important role in the administration of the country, such as in the formation of an evangelical state and national consciousness. In the context of a mercantilist economic policy, the bourgeoisie gained increasing importance, especially in the cities. The fact that the farmers were also represented as the fourth estate in the Reichstag was unique in Europe and can be historically explained by the fact that more than a third of the property was in the hands of free farmers. They played an important role, above all through their local institutions, in tax matters and in questions of the recruitment of soldiers (co-coordinated by the parish councils).

Cooperation with Axel Oxenstierna

Axel Oxenstierna played a special role as the chancellor of the empire in balancing out a very productive equilibrium, in which the king and the estates could agree on a common state policy . Alongside his King Gustav Adolf, he was the dominant political figure in his country, and both managed to maintain a close working relationship, in which internal reforms with an ambitious foreign policy laid the foundation for the Swedish great power.

Modernizing Sweden through internal reforms

Gustav Adolf used his reign to extensively modernize Sweden together with Axel Oxenstierna.


With the Svea hovrätt , the two of them created a Swedish supreme court, which for the first time in Swedish history was able to pronounce conclusive law in the name of the king without the king's personal involvement, according to a verifiable procedural code drawn up by Axel Oxenstierna. The royal laws were thus, at least in theory, given priority over the royal person, although the king reserved a right of cassation .


The tasks of the Imperial Council and the individual offices in it were regulated more clearly and under the Chancellor Oxenstierna the council increasingly became a kind of government alongside and under the king.

Reichstag and nobility order

The Reichstag was made more constitutional and subject to fixed regulations. The dominant stratum of the nobility was divided into classes and, on the one hand, demarcated from rich climbers who could afford a noble lifestyle and who used to be part of the nobility under customary law. On the other hand, however, newcomers were now more often ennobled on the basis of merits by the king: In addition to the native Swedish-Finnish hereditary nobility, there was also a letter nobility promoted by the king, which was increasingly international and also a number of bourgeois ones due to the immigration of specialists and Sweden's role as a Baltic superpower Comprised experts who served the Swedish state. Gustav Adolf ennobled his old teacher Johan Skytte , who as Chancellor of Uppsala University had a decisive influence on it.

Education System

The king paid particular attention to the Swedish education system, which was developed under him and understood as a state task. The Uppsala University has been heavily promoted. The support of the king enabled an increase in the number of chairs, better pay for professors and the inclusion of new subjects and methods. Financially, Uppsala University became economically independent through a substantial donation of country estates.

In addition to the humanistic schools - the first was founded in 1623 - he tried practically oriented further Trivial school to establish, but failed in the implementation of which is dominated by the Lutheran Church, and with it partially identical teachers. The founding of numerous elementary schools in which the basics of reading and writing were taught was more successful. The literacy rate in Sweden gradually increased noticeably.


Gustav Adolf and Oxenstierna reformed the administration taking into account old Swedish forms of self-administration. Subdivided into already existing, but now precisely defined and standardized offices, provinces ( län ) and districts, their administration was based on the one hand on the responsibility towards one's own country and home district, which was controlled in assemblies, but on the other hand also related to the state as a whole. A middle course was chosen between centralization and local roots, one that increased the effectiveness of the Swedish state without letting particular participation disappear. This enabled a very precise collection of taxes and levying of soldiers who were drafted and had to serve as soldiers or seamen in the fleet for many years, but were also rewarded by allocating percentage income from the farms of their district. The selection of soldiers was the responsibility of the local administrations, which signed the most suitable candidates and deferred others for social reasons (see also classification system ).

Business promotion

Without pursuing a uniform economic policy, Gustav Adolf promoted various trading companies that were involved in copper mining and early industrialization in Sweden. To this end, he relied on the immigration of foreign experts and merchants, such as Louis de Geer , who played an important role in the development of Sweden. Gustaf Adolf founded the city of Gothenburg as a model city with special rights, shaped by German, Scottish and Dutch immigrants.

He also endeavored to fight poverty in the country through initial social legislation. With the establishment of poor houses, he ensured that the poor were obliged to work on the one hand, and on the other hand provided for them.

Private life

In private he wasn't very happy. A love affair with the Swedish noblewoman Ebba Brahe failed due to the bitter resistance of the king's mother, who flatly refused to marry. In 1618 the king married his childhood sweetheart to his friend and military tutor Jakob De la Gardie , but he could not bear to attend the wedding.

In an illegitimate relationship with the wife of a Dutch engineer and officer in the Swedish service, he became the father of a son whom he recognized ( Gustav Gustavson ) , which was unusual for this epoch . The affair made him the subject of public condemnation by the Lutheran Church, represented by his own court preacher Johannes Rudbeckius , a process unique in Europe at the time, which made it clear that in Sweden, where adultery could be punished with the death penalty, even the king would not be released could be about evangelical morality.

He used a trip to Germany with his brother-in-law Johann Kasimir under a false name as "Captain Gars" (= Gustavus Adolphus Rex Sueciae) in 1618 to get an idea of ​​the political conditions there and to independently look for a bride. He decided on the daughter of the Brandenburg Elector, Maria Eleonora von Brandenburg , whom he married in 1620 and with whom he had two daughters in a difficult marriage, one of whom, Christina of Sweden , was to survive him.

Hegemonic politics in the Baltic Sea region

Wars for the Baltic States

After the peace with Denmark, Gustav Adolf waged wars against Russia and Poland with an army and navy gradually modernized according to his ideas. In the Ingermanland War he suffered a great defeat in the siege of Pskov, which he personally led . In the Peace of Stolbowo in 1617, however, he was able to record the earlier conquests of Sweden, so that Russia remained separated from the Baltic Sea and in future was forced to let its trade flows partly through Swedish-controlled territory. He also renewed the Polish-Swedish war directed against the Polish-Swedish war ruled by the Catholic branch of the Wasa and in fact ended it in 1629 with the Altmark armistice , which considerably expanded the Swedish territory in the Baltic States and laid the foundation for Swedish dominance in the north. In addition, the conquest of Prussian ports and rivers, with the associated possibility of collecting taxes and customs duties, had considerable financial significance for the Swedish national budget.

Battle for Stralsund

He reacted with concern to the attack by the Imperial Catholic camp in northern Germany. He was not interested in the Habsburgs moving closer to Scandinavia, nor in the fact that Protestantism, which was constitutive for Sweden, was permanently subject to Catholicism in Sweden's home country, Germany. Christian IV of Denmark, who became the Duke of Holstein in the conflict later known as the Thirty Years' War, was defeated in 1626 in several battles with his German allies of the league and imperial generals Tilly and Wallenstein . It was foreseeable that the war would end with the emperor's success. As much as Gustav Adolf had to welcome the weakening of the Danish rival for supremacy in Scandinavia, he did not like the prospect of an imperial final victory. Likewise, the military support of the emperor provided him for his enemy cousin Sigismund III. Wasa von Poland, who endangered Swedish interests in Prussia. The transfer of Mecklenburg to Wallenstein and his appointment as General of the Oceanic and Baltic Sea as a declaration of intent to build an imperial fleet opened up bad prospects for the sea power Sweden.

In 1628 he intervened on the side of the Danish king when Wallenstein began to besiege the strategically important and independent town of Stralsund . Together with Christian IV, he sent soldiers into the city who, under the command of Heinrich Holk , were able to successfully defend Stralsund. Swedish support deliveries enabled the townspeople to hold out. Wallenstein broke off the loss-making siege without result. Unlike Christian IV, Gustav Adolf was smart enough to have his aid paid for through an alliance agreement with Stralsund. The city did not lose its independence to the distant emperor, but it did lose to nearby Sweden. For the next two hundred years Stralsund remained under Swedish rule.

Thirty Years' War

Warship Vasa

From 1625 Gustav Adolf had the Swedish galleon Vasa built as a prestige project, which sank at the beginning of the maiden voyage on August 10, 1628 due to serious structural instability . The imposing warship was intended to promote the interests of Lutheran Swedes against Catholic Poland during the Thirty Years' War . As a rising sea power, Sweden wanted above all to ensure the import of hemp from the Baltic States for the manufacture of cordage for new ships.

Landing in Pomerania

"Schwedenstein" at Serno

The now official intervention of Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years War came at a moment when the situation of the German Protestants seemed hopeless due to the defeats against the imperial troops led by Wallenstein . The Swedish Diet gave him a mandate for this on January 18, 1629. Thereupon Gustav Adolf landed on July 6, 1630 with an army of 13,000 men in Peenemünde on Usedom in Pomerania , which soon increased to 40,000 fighters through influx, and forced Duke Bogislaw XIV into an alliance. Through the Treaty of Bärwalde , he was able to pass part of his war costs on to the Kingdom of France, which had an interest in a Swedish presence in the empire and wanted to secure it through payments. He assured Cardinal Richelieu that he would exercise tolerance towards the Catholics of Germany in the practice of religion, which he did.

In April 1631 Gustav Adolf took the city of Frankfurt an der Oder, held by imperial troops, by storm in order to lure the army of the Catholic League under Tilly , which had besieged the city of Magdeburg, allied with the Swedes, since the end of 1630. However, Tilly left most of the troops in front of Magdeburg and Gustav Adolf could not prevent the catastrophic conquest of Magdeburg at the end of May 1631. The city had long relied on the support of the king, who at the end of 1630 had sent Colonel Dietrich von Falkenberg as the city's commander. Gustav Adolf's army, however, remained bound by alliance negotiations with the reluctant Brandenburg and Saxon electors. But the disaster in Magdeburg used ultimately the Swedish king, by the shock of the brutal conquest of Magdeburg initially hesitant German Protestant princes to his side drove and he was in an alliance with the electorate of Brandenburg , the Electorate of Saxony and Hesse-Kassel ally could.

Battle of Breitenfeld as the turning point of the war

Gustav Adolf united his army with the Saxons and defeated the imperial-catholic army, whose leader Wallenstein had been deposed, on September 7th July. / September 17,  1631 greg. destructive under their general Johann T'Serclaes von Tilly in the first battle near Breitenfeld . The victory was a confirmation of the Swedish modernization of the military under Gustav Adolf, because the Swedish army was able to combine greater firepower with greater mobility and better coordination of cavalry, infantry and artillery and thus an initially unfavorable course of the battle - the wing held by the Saxons dissolved and the Saxon army fled the battlefield - turn it into an advantage by a quick turn.

The intervention of the Swedish king in the war destroyed the imperial position in northern Germany and reversed the successes of the Catholic Habsburgs that had been achieved up to then.

From October 15 to 17, 1631 Gustav Adolf conquered the city of Würzburg . In the same month he occupied the region of Franconia up to the Franconian height (after the Swedes were defeated on June 5, 1634, their rule in Franconia collapsed).

In the course of their further advance, the Swedes crossed the Rhine near Erfelden on December 21, 1631 and conquered Oppenheim , which was occupied by the Spaniards . A Swedish column still reminds of this action today . The Catholic residence city of Mainz was then occupied without a fight on December 23, 1631, and Gustav Adolf spent the winter there. During this time he recognized the strategic importance of the Mainspitze opposite Mainz and gave the order to build a fortress and a town, which was named after the Swedish king " Gustavsburg ". However, he himself did not see the completion at the end of 1632.

Train to Bavaria, camp near Nuremberg

After the winter break, Gustav Adolf turned south again to conquer the Electorate of Bavaria, which was allied with the Habsburgs . In the battle of Rain am Lech he won on 14./15. April 1632 again about Tilly, who was fatally wounded. Ingolstadt and Regensburg , which was occupied by the fleeing League troops, were too heavily fortified and provided with strong garrisons. Munich and Landshut as Bavarian royal cities surrendered without a fight in June 1632 and were spared contributions, but the surrounding country was plundered and devastated with the approval of the Swedish king.

In this emergency, with the consent of the Bavarian Elector Maximilian and with new powers, Wallenstein was able to secure the Swedes through extensive troop levies in Bohemia and through strategic, massive relocations of troops to Franconia in a strongly fortified and well-supplied camp near Nuremberg To force withdrawal from Bavaria. Gustav Adolf saw his routes of retreat to the north endangered, doubted the reliability of his inactive Saxon ally Johann Georg and also withdrew to Nuremberg . There the imperial army under Wallenstein succeeded in blocking and weakening the Swedish army of the previously undefeated Swedish king from mid-July to early September 1632. Illness and hunger soon ruled the Swedish army camp , and many soldiers and thousands of horses died. The attempt by Gustav Adolf to break out of the blockade and with the battle of the Alte Veste on August 24th July / September 3, 1632 greg. to get back into a more advantageous position failed. The Swedes had to abandon the battle, in which they were unable to overcome the Wallenstein entrenchments due to the wet weather due to the rainy weather, without any result.

Death at Lützen

The death of Gustav Adolf in the Battle of Lützen. Painting by Pieter Meulener , HGM .
Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Lützen by Jan Asselijn
Gustav Adolf Memorial Church in Meuchen

After the unsuccessful attempts to defeat Wallenstein near Nuremberg, the Swedish army withdrew to the west because of the poor supply situation. Wallenstein's army evaded to the north with the intention of looking for winter quarters near Leipzig in Saxony and thereby threatened Swedish bases and the Electorate of Saxony, which is allied with the Swedes . Gustav Adolf led his army in a forced march north and moved into a fortified camp near Naumburg on November 10th. The camp was discovered by a troop of imperial soldiers and this delayed the Swedes' attack, which began on November 15th. The advance of the Swedes had been reported to the surprised Wallenstein, who had already ordered some of his troops to move to winter quarters. Wallenstein ordered the withdrawn troops back and ordered the troops remaining on the spot to line up and entrench themselves in battle order when it was dark. Not until November 6th July / November 16, 1632 greg. the battle of Lützen took place in what is now Saxony-Anhalt . In this battle, which took place not far from the old battlefield of Breitenfeld, the Swedish troops initially managed to slowly gain ground against the stubborn resistance of the Imperialists.

However, Gustav II Adolf, who as a military leader often accepted personal dangers, was killed in a cavalry attack when he lost contact with his Småland riders in fog and gunpowder smoke and was confronted with a troop of imperial soldiers. Gustav Adolf was hit in the arm by a musket ball above the left elbow. The resulting injury is believed to have been severe as the splintered arm bone could be seen through clothing and blood streamed down. His companions tried to get him out of the battle area, but lost contact with their own troops in the fog and smoke and came under attack by an enemy squad of cuirassiers. Gustav Adolf was personally known to one of these cuirassiers, Moritz von Falkenberg, because he had been released from captivity by the king shortly before. He shot Gustav Adolf from close range with a pistol in the back under the right shoulder blade. The bullet penetrated the lungs, the king fell from the saddle and was then dragged along by his horse with one foot hanging in the stirrup. Gustav Adolf, who was ultimately left lying on the ground, had been inflicted many other stab wounds by the imperial cuirassiers - including those with armored stabs. Most recently, he was shot in the head, his tunic was removed and his signet ring, gold chain and watch were stolen. Grotesquely, the imperial soldiers involved did not know that they had left the body of a king behind.

The (first) shooter, Falkenberg, was then also shot in combat by Wolf Sigmund von Lüchau, stable master of Franz Albrecht von Sachsen-Lauenburg , a member of Gustav Adolf's bodyguard. Franz Albrecht himself, who had accompanied the king, was able to flee.

Under the leadership of Bernhard von Weimar it was possible to first unsettled the slowly spreading news of the king's death, then to lead embittered Swedish soldiers to attack again and to just win the battle. The war, like the general politics of Sweden, was politically continued by the Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna , since Gustav Adolf's daughter and heir to the throne Christina was still a child.

Transfer of the body to Sweden

The royal corpse was only recovered late in the evening by Swedish soldiers on the battlefield, brought to the church in Meuchen and then to Weißenfels to today's escort house . There the body was laid out on November 17, 1632 and dissected and embalmed by the pharmacist Casparus König .

Embarkation of the body of Gustav II Adolf at Wolgast in 1633
The sarcophagus of Gustav II Adolf in the Riddarholmskyrkan

Gustav Adolf's corpse was taken from Weißenfels in a large train. a. the post office "Zum Roten Hirsch" in Eilenburg , the St. Catherine 's Church in Brandenburg , the St. Joseph Church in Werneuchen , the St. Mary's Church in Bernau and the Church of St. Mary in Prenzlau - transferred to Wolgast in the castle there and on July 16, 1633 embarked on Dreilindengrund , near the later named Gustav-Adolf-Schlucht in Wolgast and brought to Sweden.

More detailed investigations into the cause of death

Investigations into the war clothing of the fallen king in the armory of the Royal Palace in Stockholm revealed that the targeted shot of the imperial rider in the back of the king had been carried out at close range (no more than 6 m). The gunshots in the back, in the left arm and the stab with the armored stabber could be proven by means of the marks in the roller .

Grave in Sweden

Gustav Adolf was buried in Stockholm's Riddarholmskyrkan . His wife Maria Eleonora von Brandenburg is said to have mourned the deceased so excessively that it was difficult to get his body free for burial, which had been laid out in the Wolgast church for six months.

Contemporary effect and motifs of the king

Gustav II Adolf was idealized by the German Protestants as the pioneer, hero and savior of German Protestantism and “Leu aus Mitternacht” (lion from the north) or ex septentrione lux . His intervention in the war prevented a Catholic victory, his battle death made him a martyr of the faith in the public eye. This image persisted until mounting atrocities by Swedish soldiers clouded it. Although the king was undoubtedly religious and of personal courage, at the same time he was also a power-oriented realpolitician whose main goal was the Dominium Maris Baltici (the rule of Sweden over the Baltic Sea area) and the safeguarding of Sweden as a great power in northern Europe. Evangelical convictions and national ambition were inextricably linked. He had no hesitation in accepting the support of Catholic France in the Treaty of Bärwalde , concluded in 1631 , which oppressed its Protestant citizens itself, but was enemies with the opposing Habsburgs.

His political ideas for Germany have remained unclear. When he died in Lützen, he wasn't finished with his plans. It is possible that he was striving for an alliance of Protestants opposed to the emperor under a militarized confederation dominated by Sweden. It is also possible that he could imagine an alliance of Protestant states and imperial cities under his leadership as imperial prince (e.g. of the Duchy of Pomerania) within the Holy Roman Empire under the official suzerainty of the emperor. He mentioned corresponding ideas to the council of the befriended imperial city of Nuremberg . In contrast, the ideas of his Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna were more related to the apron security of Sweden.

Gustav II Adolf as a military reformer

Gustav II Adolf during the Battle of Breitenfeld

From a military point of view, Gustav II Adolf was of outstanding importance as a reformer in European military history. Based on the Orange Army Reform - whose representative Johann VII. Von Nassau-Siegen temporarily for his father Karl IX. had worked - Gustav Adolf modernized the Swedish military system.

By dovetailing domestic political reforms (recruiting soldiers, regulated tax collection, resource mobilization, see classification work ) with military reforms, he succeeded in setting up a state-of-the-art army and a strong navy that established Sweden's status as a great power.

He introduced a form of conscription that came close to conscription (but had very long periods of service) and created the first state-established, paid, fed and equipped national army of modern times. He recruited more than 40,000 Swedes who were “strong-limbed and, as far as can be determined, brave, aged 15 to 30”. At times, more than 3% of the Swedish population were under arms. Members of special professions, such as those working in ammunition manufacture and transport, were released. The army was more economical and for a long time had a better morale than the opposing armies, which were mostly made up of mercenaries , with whom he later supplemented his troops in Germany until they formed the bulk of his army.

The tactical composition and equipment of the Swedish army differed significantly from those of other European armies of the time, because they corresponded to the tactical innovations of the king, who placed great emphasis on firepower and mobility. The most important weapon became the musket and like his role model Moritz von Orange he divided his units into smaller units and sub-units. A company consisted of 72 musketeers and 54 spade bearers. Four companies formed one battalion , two battalions one regiment and two regiments one brigade , which now became the most important tactical unit on the battlefield. The loading of the muskets was simplified and standardized through Drill, the wheel lock and the paper cartridge were standard equipment. The pike was no longer only used to repel the riders, but also as an infantry attack weapon and the armor had become lighter ( see also: History of Military Tactics ). In his army, which consisted of numerous smaller units, there were more officers than before, and a military hierarchy arose , which assigned each one a fixed area of ​​responsibility. He recruited his officers from the Swedish-Finnish (and German) nobility, but they were promoted on the basis of merit and performance. The area of ​​responsibility of NCOs has been expanded. The introduction of (coarse) uniforms through the allocation of cloth and badges of rank contributed to standardization and promoted morale and corps spirit. The use of field preachers and a rigid disciplinary system often ensured discipline in battle and also towards the civilian population in the early days of the war, but in the course of the war the Swedish troops increasingly did not excel in protecting civilians. Even non-Swedish soldiers (who made up the bulk of the troops during the German war) were trained by Swedish instructors and shaped according to Swedish ideas.

In contrast to the Caracolla customary at the time, he trained his cavalry (such as his Finnish Hakkapeliitta ) in direct attack on enemy horsemen and infantry, which gave them a decisive role in the battle.

Fundamental were his innovations in the field of artillery, which he founded as a separate branch of arms: he modernized them by introducing new and light types of guns, such as the leather cannon, which was soon replaced by the regimental piece as a successor model , which is flexible due to the number, mobility and use of the cartridge used in battle and then summarized them by company. Under Lennart Torstensson he founded the first artillery regiment in history.

Both infantry, artillery and cavalry fought in close coordination, which enabled his army to deal with precarious situations such as in the battle of Breitenfeld , when the Saxon army fled the battlefield and the Swedes fled the wing previously held by the Saxons through a fast and had to secure unexpected pivoting for themselves to cope with.


Gustav II Adolf married Maria Eleonora von Brandenburg on November 25, 1620 , with whom he had two daughters:

  • Christina Augusta (October 16, 1623 - September 21, 1624), Princess of Sweden
  • Christina (December 17, 1626 - April 19, 1689), Queen of Sweden

He was also the father of his illegitimate son Gustav Gustavson (* May 24, 1616, † October 25, 1653 in the old Wildeshauser Rathaussaal), Count of Wasaborg, with the Dutch Margarethe Cabeliau, who was born before his first marriage .

Popular reception


Memorial stone for Gustav Adolf in Peenemünde (inaugurated in 1930)
Statue at the town hall of Lützen
Gustav Adolf Memorial near Lützen
Bust of Gustav Adolf in Stralsund
  • Gustav II Adolf was seen as a bulwark of Protestantism due to his intervention in the Thirty Years' War , and he is commemorated accordingly in the church - for example, stained glass with Gustav Adolf can be found in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Stralsund and the Speyer Memorial Church of the Protestation . There is also a badge on Greifswald Cathedral . In addition, several Protestant church buildings are referred to as the Gustav Adolf Church .
  • The Evangelical Gustav-Adolf-Werk bears his name since 1832 .
  • Painting “Finding the body of Gustav Adolf after the Battle of Lützen in 1632” (1838) by Alfred Rethel
  • Since 2008 an underground station in Nuremberg has been named "Gustav-Adolf-Straße". The station is adorned with a metal replica of the signature of Gustav II Adolf and with prints of contemporary representations of the Swedish army exhibited in light boxes near Nuremberg and is located in a part of the city that is said to have been a field camp of the Swedes during the Thirty Years War .
  • The anniversary of his death in Sweden is celebrated on November 6th, as Sweden used the Julian calendar during his lifetime . Especially in Gothenburg, the city he founded, the day is still important when he is remembered with a special pastry, the Gustav Adolfs pastry .
  • Since 1832, a commemoration ceremony has been held in the city of Lützen every year on November 6th, which is now called the “Day of Encounter”. There has been a Gustav Adolf memorial there since 1873, which was supplemented by a chapel and two Swedish wooden houses in the course of the 20th century .
  • The November 6 is also Gustav II. Adolf Memorial in Protestant name calendar of the Evangelical Church in Germany .
  • A memorial stone over two meters high at the entrance of the cemetery in Peenemünde reminds of the landing of the Swedes under Gustav II Adolf in Pomerania (island of Usedom), which contains the following in German and Swedish: “Don't despair, you little bunch!” Gustaf Adolf Landed here in midsummer 1630. German admirers of the hero and friends of his people erected this stone in 1930 (front) - “Förfäras ej, du lilla hop!” 1630 Gustaf Adolf 1930. Tyska beundrare av hjälten och vänner till hans Folk reste stenen (back).


The koller made of elk leather, which Gustav Adolf had worn in the battle of Lützen, had already been brought to Vienna as booty from the imperial family in 1632 and was handed over to Emperor Ferdinand II "very bloody" . In 1677 the item of clothing appears in the inventory of the imperial treasury , and it subsequently found its way into the inventory of the imperial armory . From 1888 the Koller was located in the Imperial and Royal Heeresmuseum (today the Army History Museum Vienna). After the First World War , Austria was in dire straits due to a lack of food and malnutrition, but it was above all the Swedish Red Cross which helped to satisfy the most urgent needs of the post-war population with child war aid and food deliveries. Since the young Republic of German Austria did not have the financial means to adequately compensate Sweden for this aid, the government decided on April 23, 1920 to donate the Koller Gustav Adolfs to Sweden. On June 4, 1920 the Koller was handed over to the Leibrüstkammer in Stockholm, where it can still be seen in the exhibition on Gustav Adolf's stuffed horse Streiff .

Life scaffolding Stockholm

In general, the Leibrüstkammer (“Livrustkammaren”) was founded on the orders of Gustav Adolf, who after his return from the campaign against Poland in 1628 ordered that his clothes should be kept in the armaments chamber as an eternal memory (till en evig åminelse). There are also weapons, other armor and mementos of Gustav Adolf to be seen there.

Reception at the place of death

At the place of death of the Swedish king near Lützen was built during the 19th and 20th centuries. Century the Gustav Adolf Memorial . The place of death is still marked by a large stone over which there is a cast-iron canopy, designed by Karl Friedrich von Schinkel (1837). In 1906/07 a chapel was built, donated by Oskar Ekman from Gothenburg / Sweden. The architect as well as the interior decoration artists came from Sweden. In 1932 and 1982 two Swedish wooden houses from Dalarna (red and white color) were placed next to the chapel. During the GDR era, the museum was one of the most popular private museums, supported by the Swedish Lützen Foundation in Gothenburg. Today the memorial and the museum in the castle are administered by the city of Lützen. A large diorama of the battle with around 3,600 pewter figures has been in the museum in the castle since 1932.


In the Thuringian city of Gotha , memories of Gustav Adolf in the legend of the King's Hall are still alive today . Accordingly, the king stopped in the city occupied by his troops on August 23, 1632, where he was lodged in the hall of an inn in Brühl for lack of better accommodation. When his mercenaries, who were boisterous, accidentally started a fire that cremated over half of the city in the course of the night of August 24th (chronicles report that 1,200 houses were destroyed), Gustav Adolf had to flee the inn and Gotha. From a hill to the east of the city he looked at the conflagration and interpreted it as a bad omen for his future that he had to leave a place for the first time without a fight. Only a quarter of a year later he fell on the battlefield near Lützen . The Gotha inn “Zum Königsaal”, named after Gustav Adolf's stay, still exists today.

Gustav II Adolf monuments


The Swedish composer Franz Berwald composed the choral work Gustaf Adolph den stores seger och död vid Lützen (German: Gustav Adolf the Great Victory and Death at Lützen ) in 1845 .


Web links

Commons : Gustav II Adolf (Sweden)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Gustav II. Adolf  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 91.
  2. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 137.
  3. Günter Barudio: Gustav Adolf the Great. A political biography. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 145.
  4. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 237.
  5. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 238.
  6. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 227.
  7. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 232.
  8. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 151.
  9. Swedish Germany: 1630 - 1903. on: (map)
  10. ^ Max Döllner : History of the development of the city of Neustadt an der Aisch until 1933. 1950; 2nd edition, Ph. CW Schmidt, Neustadt an der Aisch 1978, ISBN 3-87707-013-2 , p. 234 f. and 245 f.
  11. CV Wedgwood: The 30 Years War . Paul List Verlag Munich 1967. pp. 278–282. ISBN 3-517-09017-4
  12. Anders Fryxell: Berättelser utur Svenska Historien , Part 6, Stockholm 1834, p. 8, quoted. at: Jenny Öhman, Richard Hufschmied: "Dedicated to the Swedish nation in 1920". On the history of the king of Sweden Gustav II Adolf , in: Viribus Unitis. Annual report 2007 of the Army History Museum , Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902551-06-1 , p. 37
  13. Christian Pantle: The Thirty Years War , Propylänen 2017, p. 146, ISBN 978-3-549-07443-5
  14. Peter Engerisser: From Kronach to Nördlingen. The Thirty Years War in Franconia Swabia and the Upper Palatinate 1631-1635 . Verlag Späthling Weißenstadt 2007, p. 229, footnote 133. ISBN 978-3-926621-56-6
  15. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 476.
  16. Barbara Stadler: Pappenheim and the time of the Thirty Years War . Gemsberg-Verlag, Winterthur 1991, ISBN 3-85701-091-6 (also: Zürich, Univ., Diss., 1990), p. 731
  17. Martin Kuban: 1618, From the Thirty Years War ,
  18. Jenny Öhman, Richard Hufschmied: "Dedicated to the Swedish nation in 1920". On the history of the king of Sweden Gustav II Adolf , in: Viribus Unitis. Annual report 2007 of the Army History Museum , Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902551-06-1 , p. 38
  19. ^ Wilhelm John , Wilhelm Erben : Catalog of the kuk Heeresmuseum , Vienna 1903, pp. 104-106
  20. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 477 f.
  21. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 234.
  22. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 223.
  23. ^ Felix Berner: Gustav Adolf. The lion from midnight. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1982, p. 222.
  24. ^ Gustav II. Adolf in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  25. ^ Franz Christoph von Khevenhüller : Annales Ferdinandei. Part 12, column 196, cit. at: Jenny Öhmann, Richard Hufschmied: Dedicated to the Swedish nation in 1920. On the history of the king of Sweden Gustav II Adolf, In: Viribus Unitis. Annual report 2007 of the Army History Museum, Vienna 2008, 40.
  26. Jenny Öhmann, Richard Hufschmied: 1920 dedicated to the Swedish nation. On the history of the king of Sweden Gustav II Adolf, In: Viribus Unitis. Annual report 2007 of the Army History Museum, Vienna 2008, 40.
  27. ^ Andreas M. Cramer: The Gotha legends. Gotha 2005, p. 43.
  28. The Königssaal on
  29. a b Beate Mielsch: Monuments, free sculptures, fountains in Bremen 1800–1945. Bremen 1980.
  30. a b Juckoff-Skopau, Paul . In: Hans Vollmer (Hrsg.): General lexicon of fine artists from antiquity to the present . Founded by Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker . tape 19 : Ingouville – Kauffungen . EA Seemann, Leipzig 1926, p. 289 .
  31. ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  32. Memorial for Gustav II Adolf ( Memento of the original from January 30, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
predecessor Office Successor
Charles IX King of Sweden
Christina I.