Swedish Monarch War

Best and Worst Swedish Monarch and Why

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Sweden has been a land that has long had a king and queen. Even today, there is a King of Sweden.

King Gustavus Adolphus is thought by many to be the best Swedish King who ever lived; he is the only Swedish King with the title of “The Great.” Time and again, two Kings that come up as the worse Kings are King Erik XIV and King Charles; both made the “worse monarch” list because of some of their attributes or things they did while serving as Sweden’s King.

Table of Contents

King Gustavus Adolphus (1594 to 1632) – The Great Swedish Monarch

Many Swedes consider Gustavus Adolphus, also known as Gustav II Adolf or Gustav Adolph, as one of the best Swedish Kings to have ever ruled. He ruled Sweden from 1611 to 1632.

Under his rule, Sweden became one of the primary military powers during the thirty-year war in Europe; this war helped balance the political and religious balance of power in Europe. 

He is also credited as being one of the greatest military commanders in modern history, as he used a technique known as combined arms. Combined arms are when different combat arms are used for the desired military outcome.

Gustavus Adolphus Leading A Cavalry Charge

Reasons King Gustavus Adolphus (1594 to 1632) Is A Great Swedish King

Here are some reasons why we consider him to be the Best or Greatest Swedish Monarch to have ever lived:

  • The Great – King Gustavus Adolphus is the only Swedish Monarch called and given the title “The Great.”
  • Swedish Empire – He started the era of the Swedish Empire when Sweden controlled most of the Baltic region during the 17th and 18th Centuries.
  • Progressive Monarch – Many of his political views were considered progressive. In the conquered territory of Estonia, he forced the nobility to grant the peasants greater autonomy.
  • Administrative Reforms – In Sweden, one of his most notable administrative reforms was the parish registration system, which allowed the Swedish government to know about each person’s population and tax liabilities.
  • Commemorated by Protestants – In Europe, King Gustav Adolf is seen as a leading defender of the Protestant faith during the European Thirty-Year War. There are even chapels and other structures named after him in Europe.
  • National Military – At the time, most powers relied on mercenary troops. King Gustav Adolf changed that when he organized a Swedish national military; this national military became known throughout Europe for its discipline and high moral standards. A profoundly religious King, this Swedish King wanted his soldiers to behave like Christians.

King Gustavus Adolphus (1594 to 1632) Was King of Modern Warfare

King Gustav came to the throne at sixteen; he inherited major military conflicts from his father, Charles IX of Sweden. Sweden was at war with Russia, Denmark, and Norway. There was also a power struggle with his first cousin, King Sigismund III Vasa of Poland.

None of this stopped King Gustav II Adolf. Instead, Sweden rose to be a significant power in Europe; Sweden also became an important model for what was then a modern era of government.

King Gustav Adolf was considered one of the few innovators of his time; he is credited with changing modern warfare forever. He integrated the infantry and cavalry; the way he used artillery was considered very modern. Because of how he used these military elements, many credit him with being the Father of Modern Warfare.

Napoleon of France and Carl von Clausewitz of Prussia studied King Gustav Adolf and his warfare techniques.

Worst Monarchs in Swedish History

Regarding the worst Swedish Monarch, several names continue to come up; the two names that came up repeatedly were King Charles XII (1682 – 1718) and King Erik XIV (1533 to 1577).

Here is why each of these is considered terrible Monarchs of Sweden:

King Charles XII (1682 – 1718) – The King Who Could Not Stop Fighting

Many considered King Charles XII to be one of the worst Kings because even though he inherited a country at war, he chose to continue the fight.  Many historians consider him bloodthirsty and hungry for war, which caused many to die.

He also depleted the Swedish treasury with his many wars. King Charles had many chances to make peace but refused to and instead continued with the wars and conflicts.

War consumed his life and nearly all of his reign. Because of this, he never married or fathered any children.

There is controversy surrounding how he died. He died on the battlefield, but some have said he was assassinated by a Swedish soldier who had had enough of all the wars.

King Charles continues to be a controversial Swedish King. The Neo-Nazis in Sweden consider him one of Sweden’s most fabulous kings, but I will put him in the worst category due to his brutal wars.

King Erik XIV (1533 to 1577) – The Insane Murdering King

King Erik of Sweden was regarded to be intelligent, artistically skilled, and politically ambitious, but at the same time, mentally unstable; eventually, he became insane.

King Erik is credited as the King who wanted to expand the Swedish influence in the Baltic region. His campaign began the process for Sweden to become a great power in Europe in the 17th Century.

Like many other Swedish Kings, his rule was marked by wars with Sweden’s neighbors.

Things were pretty stable at the start of his rule, but from 1564 onward, his insanity became more pronounced. He was involved with his guards in the famous Sture murders in Uppsala on May 24, 1567.

The murders showed his complete mental breakdown and sense of decency; he was found days after the murders wandering in the woods, dressed as a peasant. He eventually confessed to the murders of the Sture family. The King himself had stabbed Nils Svantesson Sture; many felt the King saw it as execution and not a murder.

After the murders, he continued to rule Sweden but was mentally unstable.

Many of Sweden’s other nobles were unsettled by his erratic behavior, so the noble family, including his brothers, called to depose him in January 1569. King Erik was sent to prison.

Even in prison, he was a problem for the government. In 1575, the Privy counsel called for him to be murdered if he could not be safely kept in prison.

He was moved from prison to prison. Sometimes, he was sane, and other times with complete insanity. In 1577, he died from arsenic poisoning in his pea soup. His brother, King John IIi of Sweden, and a nobleman, Bengt Bengtsson Gylta, permitted King Eric’s prison guards to poison him.

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