The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Gustavus IV., Adolphus

The American Cyclopædia
Gustavus IV., Adolphus

Edition of 1879. See also Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

GUSTAVUS IV., Adolphus, king of Sweden, only son of the preceding, born Nov. 1, 1778, proclaimed king March 29, 1792, died Feb. 7, 1837. He was declared of age on completing his 18th year, Nov. 1, 1796. He had been betrothed at an early age to a princess of Mecklenburg, but Catharine II. of Russia planned a marriage for him with her granddaughter Alexandra. Gustavus accepted an invitation to visit the imperial court, and was received with splendid hospitality. The princess possessed great beauty and wit, and he fell in love with her. The marriage was about to be solemnized, and the empress upon her throne, the court collected in state, and the young bride all awaited the appearance of the groom. At the latest hour he had been permitted to examine the marriage contract, and found that it pledged him to declare war against France, and to permit his queen to remain in the Greek church. He forthwith rejected the alliance, returned immediately to Stockholm, and became next year the husband of the princess Friederike of Baden, from whom he was divorced in 1812. With the czar Paul, who succeeded Catharine, he negotiated the renewal of the armed neutrality. After the murder of Paul, his successor Alexander lost no time in making peace with England. Gustavus and Alexander alone among the sovereigns of Europe protested against the execution of the duke d'Enghien; and in the Germanic diet, in which Gustavus as duke of Pomerania had a voice, he inveighed boldly against the French emperor. Napoleon replied in the Moniteur, reproaching Gustavus with having deserted the Danes, and satirizing the young king as the heir of Charles XII. only in “jack boots and audacity of tongue.” Gustavus had early assumed the dress and professed to imitate the spirit of Charles. The French minister was peremptorily dismissed from Stockholm, and French newspapers were forbidden the kingdom. The king soon after took the field in person against Bernadotte, who occupied Hanover with 30,000 troops. Austerlitz and the peace of Presburg obliged him to retreat, and the campaign was confined to unimportant skirmishes in Prussia. The peace of Tilsit was forced upon Russia and Prussia; and Gustavus alone upon the continent of Europe held out against the French empire. Napoleon attempted to dazzle the young king with visions of Norway; but his overtures were rejected, and Gustavus was driven across the Baltic. Robbed of Pomerania, he was now to be despoiled of Finland. Napoleon and Alexander having come to an understanding at Erfurt for the partition of Sweden, Caulaincourt announced to his diplomatic colleagues at St. Petersburg that “Gustavus IV. had ceased to reign.” Supported by England with a subsidy for one year of £1,200,000, and the assurance of auxiliary troops, Sweden presented a bold front. A Russian army overran Finland; but Gustavus quarrelled with Sir John Moore, who had come to his assistance with 10,000 English troops; he forbade their landing, and the English general returned home in disgust. With more than 100,000 Swedes under arms, Gustavus managed never to have 10,000 together; and these he exhausted in continued forced marches, now threatening a descent upon Denmark, now upon Norway, and again hurrying across the whole breadth of Sweden to renew the war in Finland. The English minister was instructed to release Sweden from her English obligations, if she should find her necessities such as to render concessions inevitable. In return, Gustavus, without consulting his cabinet, sent a despatch to Gothenburg subjecting the British shipping in that harbor to an embargo. Next morning he recalled the order, and offered a renewal of alliance with England on the same subsidiary basis. His mismanagement was long attributed by the people to the incapacity of his council; but the truth could not be always concealed; his insanity was apparent, and his deposition was evidently necessary. A plot soon took form and order, and it was resolved by a band of resolute nobles to offer the crown to the English duke of Gloucester. The offer was made, but not accepted. A body of troops marched upon Stockholm, and Baron Adlercreutz accepted the charge of arresting the king, who was imprisoned in the castle of Gripsholm, while his uncle, the former regent, was placed at the head of affairs, with the title of protector, but was soon after elected king as Charles XIII. Gustavus in the mean while resolved to anticipate the decree of dethronement by abdication, which he did in a document dated March 29, 1809. The diet assembled, solemnly renounced allegiance, and declared the heirs of his body for ever excluded from the throne. The exiled family proceeded, about eight months after the king's arrest, in a Swedish frigate to Germany, Gustavus having assumed the title of count of Gottorp. The Swedish government settled upon him a pension equivalent to $26,000. Charles XIV. (Bernadotte) subsequently obtained from the diet authority to adjust equitably all money affairs between Sweden and the exiled Vasa family, and paid over to the Russian emperor, the brother-in-law of Gustavus and the guardian of his children (the father having separated himself from his wife and family), the value of his private estates, about $600,000, which was transmitted as a private fortune. In 1810 Gustavus visited England, where he lived at Hampton Court, and found companionship among the royal exiles of France. In 1812 he went to Denmark, where he assumed a time the title of duke of Holstein. He subsequently wandered about Europe, often in great need, for he proudly refused the Swedish pension. His wife and children often devised means of secretly placing in his way what appeared to be necessary for his support. During the later years of his life he appeared in threadbare garments, seeming to glory in privations and poverty. He became a resident of the canton of Basel, and died at length in a humble abode at St. Gall. In 1828 his son Gustavus (born Nov. 9, 1799) ineffectually memorialized the courts of Europe in support of his claim to the title of prince of Sweden, and, upon the death of his father, to the style and dignity of king. The claim was again publicly renewed in 1859, on the death of King Oscar.