1902 Encyclopedia > King Gustavus III

Gustavus III
(also known as: Gustaf III)
King of Sweden
(1746-92)




GUSTAVUS III (1746-1792), king of Sweden, succeeded his father Adolphus Frederick at the age of twenty-five. He was in Paris when his father died, and was an enthusiastic admirer of everything French. His manners were popular; he was brave, resolute, and eloquent. At the beginning of his reign he found the royal power completely overshadowed by the nobles, who in the council virtually dictated the government of the country, and had involved it in frequent disturbance and disgrace. A revolt, contrived for the purpose by one of his adherents, gave Gustavus it pretext for marshalling his guards, whom he won over and employed to make a complete change in the constitution. As the nobles were disliked by the people, they were obliged to submit. Surrounded by soldiers, the diet accepted the new form of government, by which the entire administrative power including taxation was entrusted to the king. In many respects Gustavus made an excellent use of his great power ; he improved the army and navy, reformed the administration of justice, abolished torture, and built hospitals. But his foolish aping of French fashions, and his dream of reviving the knightly exercises and accomplishments, led him into great extravagance. His arbitrary attempt to introduce a national dress, as well as the conversion of brandy, the national drink of Sweden, into a royal monopoly, lost him his popularity. In 1788 in his campaign against Russia, several nobles, officers of his army in Finland, refused to carry on the war because it had not been sanctioned by the estates. Angry at this Gustavus summoned the hardy Dalecarlians to his aid, deprived the nobles of their exclusive privileges, and made his power absolute. He continued the Russian war with great bravery and even success till the peace of 1790, which made no change on the Finnish frontier. Gustavus's next project, which he prosecuted with his usual energy and disregard of consequences, was a war to save King Louis XVI. from the Revolution. This war the estates, already weary of his expensive undertakings, refused to support. To avert a new coup d'etat some nobles formed a conspiracy against him ; and Ankarstrom, formerly an officer in the guard, shot him at a masked ball at Stockholm (1792).






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