Some men you judge by their deeds, and some men you judge by their historical importance. No matter what standard you use to judge Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden from 1611 - 1632, the conclusion is always the same. He was not just a great man, but an historical figure who literally helped change the course of history itself. His allies, and enemies alike, admired and feared him, and we can see this in the names that they gave him. He was called such things as : The Golden King, The Lion of the North, and The Lion of Midnight. I think, however, as a historian, the most important title he earned was, " The Father Of Modern Warfare. "
Gustav II Adolph was born on December 9, 1594, in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the oldest son of Duke Charles and Princess Christina. As a child of royalty Gustav was pampered in childhood, and of course received the best education of his day. Unlike regular school children, however, Gustav was also trained in military matters as well as a standard education. Gustav's father, Duke Charles, who was a Protestant, was not afraid to voice his opposition to the Catholic King Sigismund, who was also Gustav' s cousin.
Duke Charles was able to force King Sigismund to abdicate the throne in 1599, and Charles ruled as a regent for several years before becoming King of Sweden in 1604. As King Charles oldest son, the now Prince Gustav Adolph, became next in line of sucession for the throne of Sweden. At the age of just 16 Gustav inherited the throne of Sweden, but was not officially allowed to reign until a year later when he became of age. Early in his reign he heard the cries for help from his German Lutheran brothers and decided to act. In 1625 Gustav, ( Now known by the latinized version of his name Gustavus Adolphus ), invaded Livonia, which marked the beginning of the 5 year Polish - Swedish War. The German Lutherans welcomed King Gustavus as a liberator and their protector. At the end of the 5 year war with Poland a truce was signed which transferred the province of Livonia into the Swedish Kingdom.
In 1630, when he saw that the Holy Roman Empire and its allies had defeated the Protestant anti - imperialists, he invaded Germany itself, and quickly helped them to restore their Protestant status quo. The amazing aspect of this invasion was that King Gustavus only had about 4, 000 troops when he started the invasion, and yet still one a clear cut victory against the Roman Catholic forces.
In 1631, a Catholic Army led by Johann Tserclaes, was tearing up the province of Saxony. Gustavus Adolphus rushed his army to Saxony and met the Catholic army at the First Battle of Breitenfeld, in September. Not only did he destroy the Catholic army, but he marched his men halfway across Germany, and had the audacity to make his winter quarters on the Rhine itself. In these days of warfare battles always ceased in the winter, but in March of 1632 Gustavus invaded Bavaria, which was an ally of the Catholic Emperor, and defeated the Catholics at the Battle of Rain.
Gustavus Adolphus was not one of those generals who lead from the rear, and was often in the thick of the fighting. In 1627, in Prussia, a Polish soldier shot him in the shoulder. The bullet was lodged too deeply to be removed, and this left King Gustavus unable to use two of his fingers on his right hand. Leading from the front would also lead to his death at the Battle of Lutzen. While leading a cavalry charge he was struck down, and died from his wounds.
Gustavus Adolphus married Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, who was the daughter of John Sigismund. They had four children together, a boy and a girl who were stillborn, and a girl, Christina, who died at just one year old. The fourth child, and the only one who lived to adulthood, was also named Christina. She would later become Queen of Sweden. ( She is a very interesting figure in our Scandinavian / Germanic history and one that I will write about in the future ) Gustavus also had an illegitmate child named Gustav who was born in 1616. He lived until 1653, but was never considered for the throne because of his illegitamcy.
His wife, Queen Maria Eleonora, obviously loved him because she kept his body in their castle in Nykoping at first. Later she allowed the body to be entombed, but kept the heart with her. His remains today lie at peace in Riddarholm Church. His heart has been re - united with his body in his sarcophagus.
King Gustavus Adolphus re - invented warfare by his innovative use of cavalry as a lightning strike force, supported by what they would later call in the American Civil War, light cavalry artillery. His tactics were brilliant and modern for his time, and he found new ways to integrate all branches of his army into one cohesive fighting force. With cavalry, infantry, and artillery working as one mighty force, instead of independent of one another, Gustavus was unstoppable. He also made very sure that his men were very well trained, and drilled to perfection. It is said that his men could fire three times as fast as his enemies, and were much more accurate with their shots.
I can sit here for another page or two and tell you of how great King Adolphus of Sweden was, but sometimes imitation is the highest form of flattery. Napoleon Bonaparte considered him to be one of the greatest generals of all time, as did Carl Von Clausewitz. Napoleon respected his tactics so much that he copied them, and used them in his battles to great effect. Nothing I can say can top that !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !