Gustav IV Adolf, King of Sweden (1778-1837)
"Colonel Gustavsson" holds a special place in history. His contemporaries hated him, but todays historians find the story of his life very thrilling indeed. His life is full of anecdotes. He was the sad product of the unhappy marriage between king Gustav III and Sofia Magdalena of Denmark. Already early in his life he showed the world exactly how thick and disillusioned he was. Influenced by his religious teacher, young Gustav Adolf became a believer in the thesis, "the throne is of God and the king is a god on Earth".
His father, Gustav III was murdered in 1792 and a regency of his uncles followed until Gustav Adolf was mature enough to rule himself. Gustav Adolf travelled Europe to learn more about the customs of different lands and was fascinated by the total power of mad Czar Paul in Russia, which the young Swedish king considered an excellent example for his own country as well. Gustav IV Adolf took the throne in 1800, and immediately a rigorous corporalism in all matters military was introduced. The attention to military uniforms became most amusing. Once a general was arrested on the charge that he had walked the streets in a simple round hat and a civilian coat. Uniforms were constantly changed and improved, ending in the confusing situation historians nowadays face when trying to research uniformology of the war of 1808-09.
In 1797, the young king married a princess from the German state Baden, Fredrika. The marriage became very unhappy and it took a long time for the king to dare come near her. When he finally did, she was frightened by his enormous sexual appetite! She gave birth to five children.
Gustav IV Adolf saw himself as the saviour of Europe and set it as his goal to defeat the French revolution and - what he called - the Biblical beast, Napoleon. This led to Sweden being dragged into the Napoleonic wars, fighting a unsuccesful campaign against Franco-Dutch invaders in Swedish Pomerania.
The war against Russia in 1808-09 became a massive Swedish defeat, and would lead to his fall. Nonetheless, he saw himself as a great general and even appeared in the uniform of Charles XII to prove that. As Russian troops were pushing over the borders to mainland Sweden, the generals of the Swedish High Command had had enough. The Coup d'Etat happened on March 13, 1809. The thick and slow bureaucrat Gustav IV Adolf suddenly proved himself to be a man of action as it came to save his own skin. He eascaped through secret passageways in the castle, running out in the yard, where he was finally arrested by the conspirators. The king was imprisoned in Gripsholm castle and a new government was formed in Stockholm. By December 1809 he was exiled from Sweden.
Gustav Adolf lived the rest of his life on the European continent, travelling from place to place and often seeking comfort in the bottle. By 1810 he separated from his wife. He died in Switzerland, under the name of Colonel Gustafsson, in 1837.
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