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GUSTAVUS III

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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 737 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GUSTAVUS III. (1746-1792), king of Sweden, was the eldest son of Adolphus Frederick, king of Sweden, and Louisa Ulrica of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great, and was born on the 24th of January 1746. Gustavus was educated under the care of two governors who were amongst the most eminent Swedish states-men of the day, Carl Gustaf Tessin and Carl Schafer; but he owed most perhaps to the poet and historian Olof von Dalin. The interference of the state with his education, when he was quite a child, was, however, doubly harmful, as his parents taught him to despise the preceptors imposed upon him by the diet, and the atmosphere of intrigue and duplicity in which he grew up made him precociously experienced in the art of dissimutlon. But even his most hostile teachers were amazed by the lliance e of his natural gifts, and, while still a boy, he possessed that charm of manner which was to make him so fascinating and so dangerous in later life, coupled with the strong dramatic instinct which won for him his honourable place in Swedish literature. On the whole, Gustavus cannot be said to have been well educated, but he read very widely; there was scarce a French author of his day with whose works he was not intimately acquainted; while his enthusiasm for the new French ideas of enlightenment was as sincere as, if more critical than, his mother's. On the 4th of November 1766, Gustavus married Sophia Magdalena, daughter of Frederick V. of Denmark. The match was an unhappy one, owing partly to incompatibility of temper, but still more to the mischievous interference of the jealous queen-mother. Gustavus first intervened actively in politics in 1768, at the time of his father's interregnum, when he compelled the dominant Cap faction to summon an extraordinary diet from which he hoped for the reform of the constitution in a monarchical direction. But the victorious Hats refused to redeem the pledges which they had given before the elections. " That we should have lost the constitutional battle does not distress us so much," wrote Gustavus, in the bitterness of his heart; "but what does dismay me is to see my poor nation so sunk in corruption as to place its own felicity in absolute anarchy." From the 4th of February to the 25th of March 1771, Gustavus was at Paris, where he carried both the court and the city by storm. The poets and the philosophers paid him enthusiastic homage, and all the distinguished women of the day testified to his superlative merits. With many of them he maintained a lifelong correspondence. But his visit to the French capital was no mere pleasure trip; it was also a political mission. Confidential agents from the Swedish court had already prepared the way for him, and the duc de Choiseul, weary of Swedish anarchy, had resolved to discuss with him the best method of bringing about a revolution in Sweden. Before he departed, the French government undertook to pay the out-standing subsidies to Sweden unconditionally, at the rate of one and a half million livres annually; and the comte de Vergennes, one of the great names of French diplomacy, was transferred from Constantinople to Stockholm. On his way home Gustavus paid a short visit to his uncle, Frederick the Great, at Potsdam. Frederick bluntly informed his nephew that, in concert with Russia and Denmark, he had guaranteed the integrity of the existing Swedish constitution, and significantly advised the young monarch to play the part of mediator and abstain from violence. On his return to Sweden Gustavus made a sincere and earnest attempt to mediate between the Hats and Caps who were ruining the country between them (see SWEDEN: History). On the 21st of June 1771 he opened his first parliament in a speech which awakened strange and deep emotions in all who heard it. It was the first time for more than a century that a Swedish king had addressed a Swedish diet from the throne in its native tongue. The orator laid especial stress on the necessity of the sacrifice of all party animosities to the common weal, and volunteered, as " the first citizen of a free people," to be the mediator between the contending factions. A composition committee was actually formed, but it proved illusory from the first, the patriotism of neither of the factions being equal to the puniest act of self-denial. The subsequent attempts of the dominant Caps still further to limit the prerogative, and reduce Gustavus to the condition of a roi faineant, induced him at last to consider the possibility of a revolution. Of its necessity there could be no doubt. Under the sway of the Cap faction, Sweden, already the vassal, could not fail to become the prey of Russia. She was on the point of being absorbed in that northern system, the invention of the Russian vice-chancellor, Count Nikita Panin, which that patient statesman had made it the ambition of his e to realize. Only a swift and sudden coup d'etat could save the independence of a country isolated from the rest of Europe by a hostile league. At this juncture Gustavus was approached by Jakob Magnus Sprengtporten, a Finnish nobleman of determined character, who had incurred the enmity of the Caps, with the project of a revolution. He undertook to seize the fortress of Sveaborg by a coup de main, and, Finland once secured, Sprengtporten proposed to embark for Sweden, meet the king and his friends near Stockholm, and surprise the capital by a night attack, when the estates were to be forced, at the point of the bayonet, to accept a new constitution from the untrammelled king. The plotters were at this juncture reinforced by an ex-ranger from Scania (Slane), Johan Kristoffer Toll, also a victim of Cap oppression. Toll proposed that a second revolt should break out in the province of Scania, to confuse the government still more, and undertook personally to secure the southern fortress of Kristianstad. After some debate, it was finally arranged that, a few days after the Finnish revolt had begun, Kristianstad should opexly declare against the government. Prince Charles, the eldest of the king's brothers, was thereupon hastily to mobilize the garrisons of all the southern fortresses, for the ostensible purpose of crushing the revolt at Kristianstad; but on arriving before the fortress he was to make common cause with the rebels, and march upon the capital from the south, while Sprengtporten attacked it simultaneously from the east. On the 6th of August
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