Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden

Gustavus Adolphus (9/19 December 1594 – 6/16 November 1632, O.S./N.S.), also known in English as Gustav II Adolf or Gustav II Adolph,[1] was the King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632 who is credited for the founding of Sweden as a great power (Swedish: Stormaktstiden). He led Sweden to military supremacy during the Thirty Years' War, helping to determine the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe. He was formally and posthumously given the name Gustavus Adolphus the Great (Swedish: Gustav Adolf den store, Latin: Gustavus Adolphus Magnus) by the Riksdag of the Estates in 1634.[2][3][4]

He is often regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, with innovative use of combined arms.[5] His most notable military victory was the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631). With a superb military machine, good weapons, excellent training, and effective field artillery, backed by an efficient government that could provide necessary funds, Gustavus Adolphus was poised to make himself a major European leader.[6] He was killed a year later, however, at the Battle of Lützen (1632). He was assisted in his efforts by Count Axel Oxenstierna, the Lord High Chancellor of Sweden, who also acted as regent after his death.

In an era characterized by almost endless warfare, Gustavus Adolphus inherited three simultaneous and ongoing wars of his father at the age of sixteen. Two of these were border wars with Russia and Denmark, and a more personal war (at least for his father) with Gustavus' first cousin, King Sigismund III Vasa of Poland.[7] Of these three wars that were passed onto his rule, the Danish war was the most acute one.[8]

During his reign, Sweden rose from the status of a Baltic Sea basin regional power to one of the great powers of Europe and a model of early modern era government. Gustavus Adolphus is famously known as the "father of modern warfare",[9] or the first great modern general. Under his tutelage, Sweden and the Protestant cause developed a number of excellent commanders, such as Lennart Torstensson, who would go on to defeat Sweden's enemies and expand the boundaries and the power of the empire long after Gustavus Adolphus's death in battle. Spoils meant he became a successful bookraider in Europe, targeting Jesuit collections.[10]

Called "The Golden King" and "The Lion of the North", he made Sweden one of the great powers of Europe, in part by reforming the administrative structure. For example, he began parish registration of the population, so that the central government could more efficiently tax and conscript the people.[11] Historian Christer Jorgensen argues that his achievement in the field of economic reform, trade, modernization, and the creation of the modern bureaucratic autocracy was as great as his exploits on the battlefields. His domestic reforms, which transformed a backward, almost medieval economy and society, were in fact not only the foundations for his victories in Germany, but also absolutely crucial for the creation and survival of the Swedish Empire.[12]

He is widely commemorated by Protestants in Europe as the main defender of their cause during the Thirty Years' War, with multiple churches, foundations and other undertakings named after him, including the Gustav-Adolf-Werk. He became a symbol of Swedish pride and even had a song composed for him, "Lion From The North."

Gustavus Adolphus
Attributed to Jacob Hoefnagel - Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden 1611-1632 - Google Art Project
Portrait attributed to Jacob Hoefnagel
King of Sweden
Reign30 October 1611 – 6 November 1632
Coronation12 October 1617
PredecessorCharles IX
Born9 December 1594
Castle Tre Kronor, Sweden
Died6 November 1632 (aged 37)
Lützen, Electorate of Saxony in the Holy Roman Empire
Burial22 June 1634
SpouseMaria Eleonora of Brandenburg
IssueGustav of Vasaborg
Christina, Queen of Sweden
FatherCharles IX, King of Sweden
MotherChristina of Holstein-Gottorp


Gustavus Adolphus was born in Stockholm as the oldest son of Duke Charles of the Vasa dynasty and his second wife, Christina of Holstein-Gottorp. At the time, the King of Sweden was Gustavus Adolphus' cousin Sigismund. The staunch Protestant Duke Charles forced the Catholic Sigismund to let go of the throne of Sweden in 1599, a part of the preliminary religious strife before the Thirty Years' War, and reigned as regent before taking the throne as Charles IX of Sweden in 1604. Crown Prince Gustav Adolph had Gagnef-Floda in Dalecarlia as a duchy from 1610. Upon his father's death in October 1611, a sixteen-year-old Gustavus inherited the throne, being declared of age and able to reign himself at seventeen as of 16 December[13]. He also inherited an ongoing succession of occasionally belligerent dynastic disputes with his Polish cousin. Sigismund III wanted to regain the throne of Sweden and tried to force Gustavus Adolphus to renounce the title.

In a round of this dynastic dispute, Gustavus invaded Livonia when he was 31, beginning the Polish–Swedish War (1626–29). He intervened on behalf of the Lutherans in Germany, who opened the gates to their cities to him. His reign became famous from his actions a few years later when in June 1630 he landed in Germany, marking the Swedish Intervention in the Thirty Years' War. Gustavus intervened on the anti-Imperial side, which at the time was losing to the Holy Roman Empire and its Catholic allies; the Swedish forces would quickly reverse that situation.

Gustavus was married to Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg,[a] the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and chose the Prussian city of Elbing as the base for his operations in Germany. He died in the Battle of Lützen in 1632. His early death was a great loss to the Lutheran side. This resulted in large parts of Germany and other countries, which had been conquered for Lutheranism, to be reconquered for Catholicism (via the Counter-Reformation). His involvement in the Thirty Years' War gave rise to the saying that he was the incarnation of "the Lion of the North", or as he is called in German "Der Löwe aus Mitternacht" (Literally: "The Lion of Midnight").

Military innovator

Historian Ronald S. Love finds that in 1560–1660 there were "a few innovators, notably Maurice of Nassau and Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, whom many scholars credit with revolutionary developments in warfare and with having laid the foundations of military practice for the next two centuries."[14] Scholars all agree that Gustavus Adolphus was an extremely able military commander.[15] His innovative tactical integration of infantry, cavalry, logistics and particularly his use of artillery, earned him the title of the "Father of Modern Warfare". Future commanders who studied and admired Gustavus Adolphus include Napoleon I of France and Carl von Clausewitz. His advancements in military science made Sweden the dominant Baltic power for the next one hundred years (see Swedish Empire). He is also the only Swedish monarch to be styled "the Great". This decision was made by the Swedish Estates of the Realm, when they convened in 1633. Thus, by their decision he is officially called Gustavus Adolphus the Great (Gustavus Adolphus Magnus).

Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle at Breitenfeld
The Lion of the North: Gustavus Adolphus depicted at the turning point of the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631) against the forces of Count Tilly.

Gustavus Adolphus was the main figure responsible for the success of Swedish arms during the Thirty Years' War and led his nation to great prestige. As a general, Gustavus Adolphus is famous for employing mobile artillery on the battlefield, as well as very aggressive tactics, where attack was stressed over defense, and mobility and cavalry initiative were emphasized.

Among other innovations, he installed an early form of combined arms in his formations, where the cavalry could attack from the safety of an infantry line reinforced by cannon, and retire again within to regroup after their foray. Inspired by the reform of Maurice of Nassau he adopted much shallower infantry formations than were common in the pike and shot armies of the era, with formations typically fighting in 5 or 6 ranks, occasionally supported at some distance by another such formation—the gaps being the provinces of the artillery and cavalry as noted above. His artillery were themselves different—in addition to the usual complements of heavy cannon he introduced light mobile guns for the first time into the Renaissance battlefield. These were grouped in batteries supporting his more linearly deployed formations, replacing the cumbersome and unmaneuverable traditional deep squares (such as the Spanish Tercios that were up to 50 ranks deep) used in other pike and shot armies of the day. In consequence, his forces could redeploy and reconfigure very rapidly, confounding his enemies.[16][17] He created the modern Swedish navy, which successfully transported troops and supplies to the Continental battlefront.[18]

von Clausewitz and Napoleon Bonaparte considered him one of the greatest generals of all time, an evaluation agreed with by George S. Patton and others. He was also renowned for his constancy of purpose and the equality of his troops—no one part of his armies was considered better or received preferred treatment, as was common in other armies where the cavalry were the elite, followed by the artillery, and both disdained the lowly infantry. In Gustavus' army the units were extensively cross trained. Both cavalry and infantry could service the artillery, as his heavy cavalry did when turning captured artillery on the opposing Catholic Tercios at First Breitenfeld. Pikemen could shoot—if not as accurately as those designated musketeers—so a valuable firearm could be kept in the firing line. His infantrymen and gunners were taught to ride, if needed. Napoleon thought highly of the achievement, and copied the tactics. However, recent historians have challenged his reputation. B. H. Liddell Hart says it is an exaggeration to credit him with a uniquely disciplined conscript army, or call his the first military state to fight a protracted war on the continent. He argues that he improved existing techniques and used them brilliantly. Richard Brzezinski says his legendary status was based on inaccurate myths created by later historians. Many of his innovations were developed by his senior staff.[19]

Engraving of Gustavus Adolphus

While Gustavus has been widely credited for re-emphasizing the shock role of European cavalry, his innovations were hardly new, Huguenot cavalry under Henry IV and Gaspard II de Coligny having fought in exactly the same fashion during the French Wars of Religion. As a matter of fact his opponent Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly also favored the same ferocious charges the Swedish cavalry would become famous for. Neither was the Swedish practice of integrating shot and horse, the so-called "commanded shot", a new one, with the Huguenot horsemen at the battle of Coutras having the same supporting shooters. What made the Swedish army unique in this regard was the fact that the use of "commanded shot" became the standard tactical doctrine of its horse, and this in turn was adopted by other armies of the period, including its Imperial opponents and that of the English Civil War.[20]

Adolphus better deserved the credit of introducing a standard caliber light muskets to his infantry forces, replacing the previous mix of arquebus and heavy musket common in Imperial tercios. The shallower infantry formation of the Swedish brigade, much more conducive to massed firepower, was inspired by the work of Maurice. However Adolphus perfected the system and introduced the use of salvo fire, where two or three ranks of musketeers fired simultaneously, usually at point blank range, rather than one rank at a time counter marching as was common in that era. Delivered at point-blank range, and immediately followed up by a charge with swords, and pikes, a salvo became the infantry's most feared tactic because it was much more effective at breaking the enemy's morale and repulsing cavalry charges than the earlier method.[21]

Perhaps Adolphus’ greatest contribution, however, was his work in field artillery. Equipping each of his brigades with up to 12 light regimental guns, he greatly increased the organic firepower of his infantry and for the first time allowed the artillery arm to play a role in the offensive instead of being a static spectator in a battle of maneuvers.[22]

Political reforms

Gustavus Adolphus's politics in the conquered territory of Estonia also show progressive tendencies. In 1631 he forced the nobility to grant the peasants greater autonomy. He also encouraged education, opening a school in Tallinn in 1631, today known as Gustav Adolf Grammar School (Estonian: Gustav Adolfi Gümnaasium).[23] On 30 June 1632, Gustavus Adolphus signed the Foundation Decree of Academia Dorpatensis in Estonia, today known as the University of Tartu.[24] With policies that supported the common people, the period of Swedish rule over Estonia initiated by Gustavus Adolphus and continued by his successors is popularly known by Estonians as the "good old Swedish times" (Estonian: vana hea Rootsi aeg).[25]

On 27 August 1617, he spoke before his coronation, and his words included these:

I had carefully learned to understand, about that experience which I could have upon things of rule, how fortune is failing or great, subject to such rule in common, so that otherwise I would have had scant reason to desire such a rule, had I not found myself obliged to it through God’s bidding and nature. Now it was of my acquaintance, that inasmuch as God had let me be born a prince, such as I then am born, then my good and my destruction were knotted into one with the common good; for every reason then, it was now my promise that I should take great pains about their well-being and good governance and management, and thereabout bear close concern.[26]

Military commander

Asselijn - Gustavus Adolphus in der Schlacht von Lützen
Gustavus Adolphus in the Battle of Lützen by Jan Asselijn
Carl Wahlbom Lützen
The king's death in his final battle as depicted by Carl Wahlbom in 1855

Gustavus Adolphus inherited three wars from his father when he ascended the throne: against Denmark, which had attacked Sweden earlier in 1611; against Russia, due to Sweden having tried to take advantage of the Russian Time of Troubles; and against Poland, due to King Charles's having deposed King Sigismund III, his nephew, as King of Sweden.

The war against Denmark (Kalmar War) was concluded in 1613 with a peace that did not cost Sweden any territory, but it was forced to pay a heavy indemnity to Denmark (Treaty of Knäred). During this war, Gustavus Adolphus let his soldiers plunder towns and villages, and as he met little resistance from Danish forces in Scania, they pillaged and devastated twenty-four Scanian parishes. His memory in Scania has been negative because of that fear.[27] In the winter of 1612, during a period of two weeks, did he burn down, or otherwise destroyed 24 Scanian parishes and most of their population without meeting any enemy troops. The largest destroyed settlement was the Town , which two years later was replaced by Danish King Christian IV as the nearby Christiansted (after the Swedification process, spelled Kristianstad), the last Scanian town to be founded by a Danish king.[28][29]

The war against Russia (Ingrian War) ended in 1617 with the Treaty of Stolbovo, which excluded Russia from the Baltic Sea. The final inherited war, the war against Poland, ended in 1629 with the Truce of Altmark, which transferred the large province Livonia to Sweden and freed the Swedish forces for the subsequent intervention in the Thirty Years' War in Germany, where Swedish forces had already established a bridgehead in 1628.

The weak electorate of Brandenburg was especially torn apart by a quarrel between the Protestant and Catholic parties. The Brandenburg minister and diplomat baron Samuel von Winterfeld influenced Gustavus Adolphus to support and protect the Protestant side in Germany. When Gustavus Adolphus began his push into northern Germany in June–July 1630, he had just 4,000 troops. He was soon able to consolidate the Protestant position in the north, however, using reinforcements from Sweden and money supplied by France at the Treaty of Bärwalde. After Swedish plundering in Brandenburg (1631) endangered the system of retrieving war contributions from occupied territories, "marauding and plundering" by Swedish soldiers was prohibited.[30] Meanwhile, a Catholic army under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly was laying waste to Saxony. Gustavus Adolphus met Tilly's army and crushed it at the First Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631. He then marched clear across Germany, establishing his winter quarters near the Rhine, making plans for the invasion of the rest of the Holy Roman Empire.

In March 1632, Gustavus Adolphus invaded Bavaria, a staunch ally of the Emperor. He forced the withdrawal of his Catholic opponents at the Battle of Rain, marking the high point of the campaign. In the summer of that year, he sought a political solution that would preserve the existing structure of states in Germany, while guaranteeing the security of its Protestants. But achieving these objectives depended on his continued success on the battlefield.

Gustavus is reported to have entered battle without wearing any armor, proclaiming, "The Lord God is my armor!" It is more likely that he simply wore a leather cuirass rather than going into battle wearing no battle protection whatsoever. In 1627, near Dirschau in Prussia, a Polish soldier shot him in the muscles above his shoulders. He survived, but the doctors could not remove the bullet, so from that point on, he could not wear iron armor; two fingers of his right hand were paralyzed.[31]


Hellqvist - Gustaf II
Gustavus Adolphus's body departing Germany for Sweden as imagined by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist in 1885
Målning av Gustav II Adolf på lit de parade - Livrustkammaren - 91527
Gustavus Adolphus's lit de parade, by F. and J. Strachen, Wolgast 1633.
Riddarholmskyrkan Gustav II Adolfs sarkofag 2
Gustavus Adolphus's sarcophagus at Riddarholm Church

The Battle of Lützen (6 November 1632) was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but the Protestant alliance lost one of its most important leaders, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction. Gustavus Adolphus was killed when, at a crucial point in the battle, he became separated from his troops while leading a cavalry charge on his wing.[32]

Towards 1:00 pm, in the thick mix of gun smoke and fog covering the field, the king was separated from his fellow riders and suffered multiple shots. A bullet crushed his left arm below the elbow. Almost simultaneously his horse suffered a shot to the neck that made it hard to control. In the mix of fog and smoke from the burning town of Lützen the king rode astray behind enemy lines. There he sustained yet another shot in the back, was stabbed and fell from his horse. Lying on the ground, he received a final, fatal shot to the temple. His fate remained unknown for some time. However, when the gunnery paused and the smoke cleared, his horse was spotted between the two lines, Gustavus himself not on it and nowhere to be seen. His disappearance stopped the initiative of the hitherto successful Swedish right wing, while a search was conducted. His partly stripped body was found an hour or two later, and was secretly evacuated from the field in a Swedish artillery wagon.

After his death, Gustavus's wife initially kept his body, and later his heart, in the castle of Nyköping for over a year. His remains (including his heart) now rest in Riddarholm Church in Stockholm.


In February 1633, following the death of the king, the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates decided that his name would be styled Gustavus Adolphus the Great (or Gustaf Adolf den Store in Swedish, Latinized as Gustavus Adolphus Magnus). No such honor has been bestowed on any other Swedish monarch before or since.

The crown of Sweden was inherited in the Vasa family, and from Charles IX’s time excluded those Vasa princes who had been traitors or descended from deposed monarchs. Gustavus Adolphus’ younger brother had died ten years before, and therefore there was only the King’s daughter left as a female heir. Maria Eleonora and the king’s ministers took over the government on behalf of Gustavus Adolphus’ underage daughter Christina upon her father’s death. He left one other known child, his illegitimate son Gustav, Count of Vasaborg.


Gustavus Adolphus is commemorated today with city squares in major Swedish cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Helsingborg. The Gustav-Adolf-Werk (GAW) of the Evangelical Church in Germany, founded on the bicentennial celebration of the Battle of Lützen, has as its object the aid of feeble sister churches and commemorates the king's legacy. Swedish royalty visited the GAW headquarters in Leipzig on the festivities of Gustavus Adolphus' 400th birthday, in 1994.[33] Gustavus Adolphus College, a Lutheran college in St. Peter, Minnesota, is also named for the Swedish King.


Gustav II Adolph of Sweden outdoor relief 2013 Stockholm Palace
Image of King Gustav Adolph on a wall of Stockholm Palace

The Columbia Encyclopedia sums up his record:

In military organization and strategy, Gustavus was ahead of his time. While most powers relied on mercenary troops, he organized a national standing army that distinguished itself by its discipline and relatively high moral standards. Deeply religious, the king desired his soldiers to behave like a truly Christian army; his stern measures against the common practices of looting, raping, and torture were effective until his death. His successes were due to this discipline, his use of small, mobile units, the superiority of his firearms, and his personal charisma. Although he was deeply interested in the internal progress of his kingdom, much of the credit for the development of Swedish industry and the fiscal and administrative reforms of his reign belongs to Oxenstierna.[34]

The German Socialist Franz Mehring wrote a biography of Gustavus Adolphus with a Marxist perspective on the actions of the Swedish king during the Thirty Years' War. In it, he makes a case that the war was fought over economics and trade rather than religion. The Swedes discovered huge deposits of copper, which were used to build brass cannon. The cottage-industrial growth stimulated an armaments industry.

Gustav II Adolph of Sweden bust 2007 St. Peter MN crop
Bust of King Gustav Adolph on campus at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota

In his book "Ofredsår" ("Years of Warfare"), the Swedish historian and author Peter Englund argues that there was probably no single all-important reason for the king's decision to go to war. Instead, it was likely a combination of religious, security, as well as economic considerations. This view is supported by German historian Johannes Burkhardt, who writes that Gustavus entered the 30 Years War exactly 100 years after the publication of the Confessio Augustana, the core confession of faith of the Lutheran Church, and let himself be praised as its saviour. Yet Gustavus' own "manifesto of war" does not mention any religious motivations at all but speaks of political and economical reasons. Sweden would have to maintain its integrity in the face of several provocations and aggressions by the Habsburg Empire. The manifesto was written by scholar Johann Adler Salvius in a style common of the time that promotes a "just war". Burkhardt argues that traditional Swedish historiography constructed a defensive interest in security out of that by taking the manifesto's text for granted. But to defend Stockholm, the occupation of the German Baltic territories would have been an extreme advance and the imperial Baltic Sea fleet mentioned as a threat in the manifesto had never reached more than a quarter of the size of the Swedish fleet. Moreover, it was never maintained to challenge Sweden but to face the separatist Netherlands. So if ruling the Baltic Sea was a goal of Swedish strategy, the conquests in Germany were not a defensive war but an act of expansion. From Swedish Finland, Gustavus advanced along the Baltic Sea coast and eventually to Augsburg and Munich and he even urged the Swiss Confederacy to join him. This was no longer about Baltic interests but the imperial capital of Vienna and the alpine passes that were now in close reach of the Swedish army. Burkhardt points out that the Gothic legacy of the Swedes, coalesced as a political program. The Swedish king was also "Rex Gotorum" (Latin: King of the Goths), and the list of kings was traced back to the Gothic rulers to construct continuity. Prior to his embarkment to northern Germany, Gustavus urged the Swedish nobility to follow the example of conquests set by their Gothic ancestors. Had he lived longer, it would have been likely that Gustavus had reached out for the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire.[35]


Gustav II Adolph of Sweden & Mary Eleanor of Sweden c 1632
King Gustav Adolph and Queen Mary Eleanor
Porträtt. Gustav II Adolf. Merian - Skoklosters slott - 56372
Gustavus Adolphus in Polish 'delia' coat, painting by Matthäus Merian, 1632

A history of Gustavus Adolphus' wars was written by Johann Philipp Abelin.


Fahne Gustav-Adolf-Verein
GAW Flag in the Protestant church of Sopron, Hungary

Gustavus Adolphus Day is celebrated in Sweden, Estonia and Finland each year on 6 November, the day the king died at Lützen. One of the traditions on this day is the Gustavus Adolphus pastry. In Finland, the day is also called "the Swedish day".

The Gustav-Adolf-Werk (GAW), a society under the roof of the Evangelical Church in Germany, has the objective of aiding feeble sister churches. It's responsible for taking care of the Diasporawork of the EKD and has separate branches internationally. The organization in Austria is still called the Gustav-Adolf-Verein. The project of forming such a society was first broached in connection with the bicentennial celebration of the battle of Lützen on 6 November, 1832; a proposal to collect funds for a monument to Gustavus Adolphus was agreed to, and it was suggested by Superintendent Grossmann that the best memorial to the great champion of Protestantism would be the formation of a union for propagating his ideas. It quickly gained popularity in Germany. The lack of political correctness received some criticism; however, the organization used GAW as it's brand in the meanwhile. The Swedish royalties visited the GAW headquarters in Leipzig on the 400th birthday of Gustavus Adolphus, in 1994.[36]

Swedish Power Metal group Sabaton (band) created the song 'The Lion from The North' for their album Carolus Rex in 2012. The song celebrates Gustavus Adolphus's military triumphs.[37][38]


Name Born Died Notes
(Illegitimate) By Margareta Slots
24 May 1616
25 October 1653
Married Countess Anna Sofia Wied-Runkel and had issue.
By Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg (11 November 1599 – 28 March 1655)
A daughter
24 July 1621
Stillborn, buried in Riddarholmskyrkan.
16 October 1623
21 September 1624
Heiress presumptive to the thrones of Sweden and Denmark; buried in Riddarholmskyrkan.
A son
May 1625
Gripsholm Castle
Stillborn, buried in Riddarholmskyrkan.
8 December 1626
19 April 1689
Queen of Sweden (1632 – 1654), never married; buried in Basilica of Saint Peter.

In popular culture

  • August Strindberg's play Gustavus Adolphus from 1900
  • Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children mentions Gustavus Adolphus several times in the earlier scenes during which the characters are traveling with the Protestant Army. The Cook lampoons the "Hero King" by pointing out that first he sought to liberate Poland from the Germans, then sought to liberate Germany from the Germans, and made a profit on the deal. His irreverence for the king also includes the fact that, unlike Mother Courage and the Chaplain, the Cook is a Dutchman not a Swede.
  • In the Ring of Fire hypernovel by Eric Flint and others, Gustavus Adolphus is a major character, having chosen not to attend the Battle of Lützen in which, historically, he was killed. He helps a community of West Virginians, cosmically transported back in time to 1631, bring about a revolution of democracy throughout the Germanies. They, in turn, help to grow the Swedish empire through their technological knowledge of modern-day warfare and the capabilities of mankind. They introduce many ideas to 17th century Europe such as radio, submarines, and airplanes. Gustavus Adolphus is portrayed as a tough, yet compassionate, king with tolerant tendencies toward religion and the rights of the people to establish their own civil liberties.
  • Swedish power metal band Sabaton made a song about Gustavus Adolphus, entitled, "Lion from the North." Its parent album, Carolus Rex, is a concept album based on the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire.
  • Gustavus Adolphus is the leader of Sweden in the turn-based strategy game, Civilization V, introduced in the Gods and Kings expansion.

See also


  1. ^ See Wedding of Gustav II Adolf and Maria Eleonora.


  1. ^ Williamson, David. Debrett's Kings and Queens of Europe. pp. 124, 128, 194, 207. ISBN 0-86350-194-X.
  2. ^ Nils Ahnlund/Michael Roberts Gustav Adolf the Great American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1940
  3. ^ Anders Fryxell Gustaf II Adolf Norstedts, Stockholm, 1894 p. 435
  4. ^ Lis Granlund Riddarholmskyrkan, de svenska konungarnas gravkyrka Riksmarskalksämbetet, 1980 ill. p. 14 (GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS MAGNUS)
  5. ^ In Chapter V of Clausewitz' On War, he lists Gustavus Adolphus as an example of an outstanding military leader, along with: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Alexander Farnese, Charles XII, Frederick the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte.
  6. ^ Stephen J. Lee, Aspects of European History 1494-1789 (2nd ed. 1984) pp 109-14.
  7. ^ Svensk Uppslagsbok, 1950,vol 5,column 353, article "Gustav; 2. Gustav II Adolf" Quote: (Swedish) "Av de tre krig, det danska, det ryska och det polska, G. ärvde..." In English "Of the three wars, the Danish, the Russian and the Polish, Gustav II Adolphus inherited...
  8. ^ Same source, and the Quote continues "...hotade det första rikets existens." English "..did the first one endanger the existence of the realm."
  9. ^ Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1890). Gustavus Adolphus: A History of the Art of War from Its Revival After the Middle Ages to the End of the Spanish Succession War, with a Detailed Account ... of Turenne, Conde, Eugene and Marlborough. Boston and New York: Da Capo Press Inc. ISBN 978-0-306-80863-0.
  10. ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. War and a Golden Age: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 118.
  11. ^ T. K. Derry, History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland (1979) pp 110-24.
  12. ^ Jorgensen (2001) p 228
  13. ^ Ålund, Otto Wilhelm (1894). Gustaf II Adolf: Ett 300-årsminne berättadt för ung och gammal : Med öfver 100 illustr. och flera kartor (in Swedish). Stockholm: Alb. Bonnier. p. 12. LIBRIS 1627779.
  14. ^ Ronald S. Love, "'All the King's Horsemen': The Equestrian Army of Henri IV, 1585–1598." The sixteenth century journal (1991): 511
  15. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. 1979. p. 502. ISBN 0852293399.
  16. ^ Boyd L. Dastrup, The Field Artillery: History and Sourcebook (1994) p 11.
  17. ^ Michael Roberts, "The Military Revolution, 1560–1660" in Clifford J. Rogers, ed., The Military Revolution Debate (1995) pp 13-24,
  18. ^ Jorgensen (2001) p. 228
  19. ^ Jorgensen (2001) p 229
  20. ^ Davis, Paul K. (2013). Masters of the Battlefield: Great Commanders From the Classical Age to the Napoleonic Era. Oxford UP. p. 283.
  21. ^ Showalter, Dennis E.; Astore, William J. (2007). The Early Modern World. Greenwood. p. 38.
  22. ^ Kinard, Jeff (2007). Artillery: An Illustrated History of Its Impact. ABC-CLIO. pp. 97–98.
  23. ^ "Gustav Adolfi Gümnaasium – Ajalugu". (in Estonian). Gustav Adolf Grammar School. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  24. ^ "Facts about the History of the University of Tartu". University of Tartu. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  25. ^ "Kas vana hea rootsi aeg oli ikka nii hea, kui rahvasuu räägib?". Eesti Ekspress (in Estonian). Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  26. ^ Tal och skrifter av konung Gustav II Adolf, Norstedts, Stockholm, 1915, pp. 58–59,
  27. ^ Roberts 1992, p. 33.
  28. ^ Wilhelm Moberg, "Hur historien förfalskas" or "How history is falsified" - short story written by famous Swedish author Wilhelm Moberg who asked to see the King's letter written to his cousin Johan at Swedish National Archive, and then wrote about it. Moberg's text is available in Swedish at
  29. ^ Swedish National Archive (the original document can be seen there in Stockholm, and a copy at the same institution at Lund), Kungsbrev 1600-tal, Kings' Letters, 17th Century
  30. ^ Prinz, Oliver C. (2005). Der Einfluss von Heeresverfassung und Soldatenbild auf die Entwicklung des Militärstrafrechts. Osnabrücker Schriften zur Rechtsgeschichte (in German). 7. Osnabrück: V&R unipress. pp. 40–41. ISBN 3-89971-129-7. Referring to Kroener, Bernhard R. (1993). "Militärgeschichte des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit bis 1648. Vom Lehnskrieger zum Söldner". In Neugebauer, Karl-Volker. Grundzüge der deutschen Militärgeschichte (in German). 1. Freiburg: Rombach. p. 32.
  31. ^ Kuosa, Tauno (1963). Jokamiehen Suomen historia II. Sata sotaista vuotta [Everyman's Finnish History II: Hundred Warlike Years] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Werner Söderström Publishing Ltd.
  32. ^ Brzezinski, Richard (2001). Lützen 1632. Osprey Publishing.
  33. ^ "Die chronik" [The chronicles]. (in German). Gustav-Adolf-Werk.
  34. ^ "Gustavus II" The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
  35. ^ Burkhardt, Johann. "Ein Gotenkönig als Friedenskaiser? (lit.: A King of Goths as Emperor of Peace?)". Damals (in German). Vol. 42 no. 8/2010. Abstract in German.
  36. ^ "Die Chronik" [The chronicle]. (in German). Gustav-Adolf-Werk.
  37. ^ Carolus Rex (album)
  38. ^ Piscator (10 June 2012). "Sabaton - The Lion From The North (Lyrics English & Deutsch)". Retrieved 21 September 2018 – via YouTube.


  • Ahnlund, Nils, Gustav Adolf the Great, trans. Michael Roberts., Princeton, 1940.
  • Brzezinski, Richard, The Army of Gustavus Adolphus. (Osprey, 1993). ISBN 1-85532-350-8. excerpt
  • Brzezinski, Richard. Lützen 1632: Climax of the Thirty Years’ War (Praeger, 2005).
  • Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt. The Military Life of Gustavus Adolphus: Father of Modern War (Franklin Watts, 1969).
  • Earle, E.M. ed. Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler, 1948.
  • Nordstrom, Byron J. "Gustavus II Adolphus (Sweden) (1594–1632; Ruled 1611–1632)" Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World: Europe, 1450 to 1789, 2004.
  • Ringmar, Erik. Identity, Interest and Action: A Cultural Explanation of Sweden's Intervention in the Thirty Years' War. (Cambridge, 1996).
  • Roberts, Michael. Gustavus Adolphus, A History of Sweden 1611–1632 (two volumes) (London: Longmans, Green, 1953–1958).
  • Roberts, Michael (1992). Gustavus Adolphus. Profiles in Power (2nd ed.). London: Longman. ISBN 0582090008.
  • Roberts, Michael. Gustavus Adolphus and the Rise of Sweden (London: English Universities Press, 1973).
  • Roberts, Michael. The Military Revolution 1560–1660, (Belfast: M. Boyd, 1956).
  • Roberts, Michael. Sweden as a great power 1611–1697 (London: St. Martin's Press, 1968)
  • Schürger, André. The Battle of Lützen: an examination of 17th century military material culture (University of Glasgow 2015) [1].


  • Jorgensen, Christer. "Gustavus Adolphus II" in Charles Messenger, ed. (2013). Reader's Guide to Military History. Routledge. pp. 218–19.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link).
  • Murray, Jeremy. "The English-Language Military Historiography of Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years’ War, 1900–Present," Western Illinois Historical Review (Spring 2013) vol 5. online

External links

Gustav II Adolf
Born: 9 December 1594 Died: 6 November 1632
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles IX
King of Sweden
Succeeded by
Battle of Frankfurt an der Oder

The Battle of Frankfurt an der Oder on 13/15 April 1631 was a battle of the Thirty Years' War.

It was fought between the Swedish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire for the strategically important, fortified Oder crossing Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg, Germany.The town was the first major Imperial stronghold attacked by Sweden outside the Duchy of Pomerania, where Sweden had established a bridgehead in 1630. After a two-day siege, Swedish forces, supported by Scottish auxiliaries, stormed the town. The result was a Swedish victory. With the subsequent clearance of nearby Landsberg (Warthe) (now Gorzow), Frankfurt served to protect the Swedish army's rear when Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden proceeded further into Central Germany.

Battle of Fürth

The Battle of Fürth was fought on September 3, 1632 between the Catholic forces of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II and the Protestant forces of King Gustavus II (Gustav Adolph) of Sweden during the period of Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years War.

The tactical victory by the Catholic forces allowed the Imperial army to quickly advance into Saxony, while the Swedish forces were forced into retreat.

Battle of Rain

The Battle of Rain (also called the Battle of the River Lech or Battle of Lech) was fought on 15 April 1632 as part of the Thirty Years' War.

The forces involved in this conflict were 40,000 Swedish troops under Gustavus Adolphus and 25,000 Catholic League troops under Johan Tserclaes, Count of Tilly. It was the second meeting between the two legendary generals (see First Breitenfeld when Tilly received the first setback of his long and storied career) and like at Breitenfeld, Tilly lost when Gustavus forced the river Lech under the cover of his superb artillery.

Battle of Werben

The Battle of Werben was a battle of the Thirty Years' War, fought on July 22 (O.S.) or August 1, 1631 (N.S.), between the Swedish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. The Swedes had 16,000 soldiers and were led by Gustavus Adolphus, while the Imperialists had 23,000 soldiers and were led by Field-Marshal Count Tilly. Tilly's troops attacked Gustavus' entrenchments in front of Werben (Elbe), but Swedish batteries and the cavalry under Wolf Heinrich von Baudissin forced them to retreat. The attack was renewed a few days later with a similar result, and Tilly then drew off his forces, having suffered a loss of 6,000 men.

Battle of the Alte Veste

The Battle of the Alte Veste was a significant battle of the Thirty Years' War.

Cardinal Richelieu (film)

Cardinal Richelieu is a 1935 American historical film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring George Arliss, Maureen O'Sullivan, Edward Arnold and Cesar Romero. It was based on the 1839 play Richelieu by Edward Bulwer-Lytton depicting the life of the great seventeenth century French statesman Cardinal Richelieu and his dealings with Louis XIII.

Felicitas Grolandin

Felicitas Grolandin' is a 1923 German silent film directed by Rudolf Biebrach and starring Hella Moja, Hans Marr and Theodor Becker.The film's sets were designed by the art director Gustav A. Knauer. Location shooting took place in Bamberg in Bavaria.

Finnish Swedish Heritage Day

Finnish Swedish Heritage Day (Swedish: Svenska dagen, Finnish: Ruotsalaisuuden päivä) is a general flag day, which is celebrated in Finland on November 6. The day celebrates the Swedish-speaking population of Finland, their culture, and the bilinguality of Finland. The main celebrations are aired on the radio, and many smaller celebrations are held around Finland in schools. Usually, the song Modersmålets sång is sung, celebrating the mother tongue. The Finnish Swedish Heritage Day is celebrated on the same day as Gustavus Adolphus Day in Sweden, the day that king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was killed at the Battle of Lützen in 1632.

The Finland Swedish Heritage Day was created in 1908, when the newly founded Swedish People's Party of Finland decided to celebrate a day for the Swedes. The intention was to strengthen the Swedish-speaking Finnish community. The reason why the day of the death of king Gustavus Adolphus was chosen was because this also was the time when the empire of Sweden was founded. In the beginning, the celebrations largely circled around the king's persona. During the language strife of the 1930s the celebrations were overshadowed by street fights between Finnish and Swedish groups. Finnish-speaking students saw this day as a day for celebrating "aggressive imperialism". During the Second World War, both sides stopped fighting each other and emphasized that both language groups were part of Finland, thus the celebration of the day spread outside the political spectrum. Today, the day is led by Swedish Assembly of Finland.

Gustaf Adolfs torg, Gothenburg

Gustaf Adolfs torg ("Gustaf Adolf's square") is a town square located in central Gothenburg, Sweden. It was named Stortorget (the Big Square) until 1854 when a statue of the founding father of Gothenburg, king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was raised. Surrounding the square are the city hall, including the law court extension (by Gunnar Asplund), the bourse, and the main harbour canal of Gothenburg.

Gustav Adolfs torg, Stockholm

Gustav Adolfs torg (Swedish for "Gustav Adolf's Square") is a public square in central Stockholm, Sweden named after King Gustav II Adolf.The square is home to the Royal Opera, Arvfurstens palats (housing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs) and the Ministry of Defence. South of the square are the Riksdag Building on Helgeandsholmen and the Royal Palace in Gamla stan.

In the middle of the square there is a statue of Gustav II Adolf, which was erected in 1796 by the French sculptor Pierre l'Archevêque.


Gustavianum is the oldest standing building of Uppsala University. It was built between 1622 and 1625, and used as the main building of the university between 1778 and 1887. Since 1997 it is used as the university museum of Uppsala University.

Gustavus Adolphus Day

Gustavus Adolphus Day (Swedish: Gustav Adolfsdagen) is celebrated in Sweden and some other countries on 6 November in memory of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, who was killed on that date (old style) in 1632 at the Battle of Lützen in the Thirty Years' War. The day is named for the king and is a general flag day in Sweden and in Finland. The day was formerly celebrated with torchlight processions and patriotic speeches. Today what remains is mainly the consumption of the Gustavus Adolphus pastry (Gustav Adolfs-bakelse in Swedish) on this day, with a chocolate or marzipan relief of that king on top.According to the Gregorian calendar, the king died on 16 November, but the Julian calendar ("old style") was still used in Protestant Sweden at the time and that date – 6 November – is still used now.

Gustavus Adolphus Day has been celebrated since the early 19th century and became especially popular after the 200th anniversary celebration of the king's death in 1832. In Sweden, the day is especially observed in Gothenburg, which was founded by the king, but also in cities with old educational traditions, such as Uppsala, where he donated considerable funding to the university, and in cities where the military traditionally has been based. It is not generally celebrated in Scania, the southernmost part of Sweden, since Scania was part of Denmark at the time and Gustavus Adolphus waged war on Denmark.

Sjättenovembervägen ("Sixth November Road"), a part of the old Göta highway in the Stockholm borough of Älvsjö, is named for this day.

The day is celebrated in Finland since 1908 by the Swedish speakers as Svenska dagen, Finnish Swedish Heritage Day. In Estonia, which like Finland was a part of Sweden during the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, the day is known as Gustav Adolfi päev. In all three countries, 6 November is the name day for Gustav Adolf, Gustavus Adolphus' name in Swedish, or Kustaa Aadolf, the name in Finnish.

Gustavus Adolphus pastry

Gustavus Adolphus pastry (Swedish: Gustaf Adolfsbakelse) is a pastry traditionally eaten every 6 November in Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus Day, the death day of King Gustavus Adolphus the Great. It is especially popular in Gothenburg, a city founded by the king.The pastry was created around 1900. Candy with the image of the king was sold by a konditorei in Gothenburg since the 1850s. The earliest mention of a pastry is from the Western parts of Sweden during the 1890s, where the pastry probably was created around the festivities when a statue of the king was erected in Gothenburg on a square, that since then is known as Gustaf Adolfs torg ("Gustavus Adolphus Square"). One Gothenburg bakery, Brautigams, claims to have created it in the early 20th century, with the years 1905 or 1909 mentioned.Recipes for the pastry vary locally but most versions have a portrait of the king on the top, usually made of chocolate or marzipan. In 2003, a competition arranged by Livrustkammaren and Gastronomiska akademien ("Gastronomic Academy of Sweden") elected a winner without the king's portrait.The Swedish bakeries and konditoreis however preferred their old versions, so the attempt to establish a standard Gustavus Adolphus pastry failed. Exactly how many Gustav Adolphus pastries are sold in November each year is not known. The newspaper Göteborgs-Tidningen in 2009 approximated the total Swedish sales and consumption to more than 10 000.

Johannes Bureus

Johannes Thomae Bureus Agrivillensis (Johan Bure) (1568–1652) was a Swedish antiquarian, polymath and mystic. He was royal librarian, tutor, and adviser of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.

Paul Stockmann

Paul or Paulus Stockmann (3 January 1603, Lützen – 6 September 1636, Mutschau, near Hohenmölsen) was a German academic, preacher and hymn-writer. He fought at the Battle of Lützen in 1632 and later served as court preacher to Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, before dying of the plague in 1636.

Some of his hymns are included in the Danish hymnbook Psalmebog for Kirke og Hjem. Single stanzas of his hymn 1633 hymn "Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod", a narration of the Passion in 33 stanzas, were set for four parts by Johann Sebastian Bach, as the closing chorale of cantata Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV 159, a chorale of cantata Himmelskönig, sei willkommen, BWV 182, and three stanzas reflecting dramatic situations in the St John Passion structure.

Queen Christina (film)

Queen Christina is a pre-Code Hollywood biographical film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1933 by Walter Wanger and directed by Rouben Mamoulian. It stars Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in their fourth and last film together.

The film portrays the life of Queen Christina of Sweden who became monarch at the age of six in 1632 and grew to be a powerful and influential leader. As well as the demands of being a war-leader during the Thirty Year's War Queen Christina is expected to marry a suitable royal figure and produce an heir. However, she falls in love with a visiting Spanish envoy whom she is forbidden to marry as he is a Roman Catholic and must choose between love and her royal duty.

The film was a major commercial and critical success in the United States and worldwide.

Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy

The Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy (Swedish Kungliga Gustav Adolfs Akademien) in Uppsala is one of 18 Swedish royal academies and dedicated to the study of Swedish folklore. The name is often expanded to Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur ("...for Swedish folklore studies").

The Academy was founded on 6 November 1932, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the death of King Gustavus Adolphus in the Battle of Lützen. It was initiated by the Professor of Nordic Languages, Jöran Sahlgren, and the first president was the historian and politician Karl Gustaf Westman. The academy has 40 full members, excepting those who have reached the age of 70, and 30 foreign members.

The Gustavus Adolphus Academy publishes the periodicals Saga och sed: Kungl. Gustav Adolfs akademiens årsbok, founded in 1934 and Arv: Nordic yearbook of folklore, founded in 1946, and Svenska landsmål och svenskt folkliv (English title: Swedish dialects and folk traditions), published since 1904 by the Archives for Dialect and Folklore studies in Uppsala and taken over by the Academy in 1996.

Storming of Kristianopel

The Storming of Kristianopel occurred on June 26, 1611, during the Kalmar War. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden led an assault from the camp in Högsby in Småland on Kristianopel in Blekinge. The Swedes managed to siege the fortified city and went in by bombing the fortress port, which was badly defended. Right after the assault, there was a massacre on the city's population, with rape and pillaging.

Wallenstein (film)

Wallenstein is a 1925 German silent historical film directed by Rolf Randolf and starring Fritz Greiner, Eduard von Winterstein, Ernst Rückert. The film's sets were designed by the art director Robert A. Dietrich.

It depicts the life of the Imperial General Albrecht von Wallenstein during the Thirty Years War. It was released in two separate parts, as was common for epics during the era.

Ancestors of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
16. Johan Kristiernsson (Vasa)
8. Erik Johansson (Vasa)
17. Birgitta Gustafsdotter (Sture)
4. Gustav I of Sweden (Vasa)
18. Måns Karlsson (Eka)
9. Cecilia Månsdotter (Eka)
19. Sigrid Eskilsdotter (Banér)
2. Charles IX of Sweden (Vasa)
20. Abraham Kristiernsson (Leijonhuvud)
10. Erik Abrahamsson (Leijonhufvud)
21. Birgitta Månsdotter (Natt och Dag)
5. Margaret Leijonhufvud
22. Erik Karlsson (Vasa)
11. Ebba Eriksdotter (Vasa)
23. Anna Karlsdotter (Vinstorpa)
1. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
24. Christian I of Denmark
12. Frederick I of Denmark
25. Dorothea of Brandenburg
6. Adolf, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
26. Bogislaw X, Duke of Pomerania
13. Sophie of Pomerania
27. Anna Jagiellon
3. Christina of Holstein-Gottorp
28. William II, Landgrave of Hesse
14. Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse
29. Anna of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
7. Christine of Hesse
30. George, Duke of Saxony
15. Christine of Saxony
31. Barbara Jagiellon
Sverker · Eric
Kalmar Union
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1st generation
2nd generation
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16th generation

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