Gustav II Adolf at the head of the Smallland cavalry at the Battle of Lützen
In this article we will continue the story about the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf. Let's talk about his participation in the Thirty Years War, triumph and glory, and his tragic death at the Battle of Lützen.
Thirty Years War
Drawing from Wapenhandelinghe van Roers Musquetten ende Spiessen (Military Exercise for Musket and Lance), 1607 edition.
Since 1618, a bloody pan-European war, called the Thirty Years, was going on in Europe.
It began with the second Prague defenestration and its first major battle was the Battle of White Mountain (1620). The Protestant army was led by Christian of Anhalt, who was elected king of Bohemia. From the other side came two armies: the imperial one, under the leadership of the Walloon Charles de Bucouis, and the army of the Catholic League, the formal commander of which was the Bavarian Duke Maximilian, and the actual commander of Johann Cerklas von Tilly.
These events were described in the article The end of the Hussite wars.
The Catholics won then, but the war continued for many more years, culminating in the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (two peace treaties signed in the cities of Osnabrück and Münster).
On the one hand, this war was fought by the Czechs and the Protestant princes of Germany, on whose side in different years Denmark, Sweden, Transylvania, Holland, England and even Catholic France acted. Their opponents were Spain and Austria, which were ruled by the Habsburgs, Bavaria, Rzeczpospolita, the Catholic principalities of Germany and the papal region. It is curious that the so-called "Smolensk War" of 1632-1634 between Poland and Russia, not being part of the Thirty Years, still had some influence on the course of this conflict, as it diverted part of the forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
By 1629, in the course of the Thirty Years War, there was a clear turning point. The troops of the Catholic bloc, led by Wallenstein and Tili, inflicted heavy defeats on the Protestants and occupied almost all German lands. The Danes, who entered the war in 1626, after a battle with Tilly's troops at Lutter, requested an armistice.
Under these conditions, serious fears arose in Sweden associated with the movement of Catholic troops to the coast of the Baltic Sea. Yes, and Sigismund III now could well remember the claims to the Swedish throne.
In the spring of 1629, the Riksdag gave Gustav II permission to conduct military operations in Germany. Of course, the reason for the war was the most plausible. Gustav Adolf said then:
“God knows that I am not starting a war for the sake of vanity. The Emperor ... tramples on our faith. The oppressed peoples of Germany are calling for our help. "
Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War
In September 1629, the Swedes concluded another truce with the Commonwealth (for six years). Now Gustav II could focus on the war in Germany.
Running a little ahead, let's say that in January 1631 Gustav Adolphus also entered into an alliance with France, which promised financial assistance in the amount of one million francs a year for 5 years. The Dutch government also promised subsidies.
On July 16, 1630, the Swedish army landed on the Pomeranian island of Used, at the mouth of the Oder River. Coming off the ship, the king fell to his knees, slipping on the board, but pretended to pray for the blessing of the noble cause of protecting fellow believers.
"Prayer" by Gustav II on the island of Used
This army was quite small: it consisted of 12 and a half thousand infantrymen, 2 thousand cavalrymen, engineering and artillery units - only about 16 and a half thousand people. But its appearance radically changed the situation in Germany.
Very soon the troops of the Catholics were defeated in Pomerania and Mecklenburg. The doubts of the Protestants were finally dispelled by the pogrom of Magdeburg, organized by the Catholic army of Tilly (May 20, 1631). Up to 30 thousand people died in the city, these events were included in history called "Magdeburg Wedding".
But the Swedes by their behavior then very surprised Germany. Contemporaries of those events unanimously assert; the soldiers of the army of Gustav II did not rob the civilian population, did not kill the elderly and children, did not rape women. F. Schiller wrote about this in the "History of the Thirty Years War":
"The whole of Germany was amazed at the discipline for which the Swedish troops were so valiantly allocated ... Any debauchery was persecuted in the strictest manner, and most severely - blasphemy, robbery, play and duels."
It is curious that it was in the army of Gustav Adolf that punishment with gauntlets first appeared, which was then called "qualified execution."
The number of allies of the Swedes grew every day. The number of troops available to Gustav II also increased. True, they were scattered throughout Germany and it was the Swedish units that were the most efficient and reliable. And, in fairness, it should be said that during the campaign, with a decrease in the number of Swedes and an increase in the number of mercenaries, discipline in the army of Gustav Adolf significantly weakened.
In September 1631, at the Battle of Breitenfeld, the Swedes and their allies defeated Tilly's army. At the same time, at some point, the Saxons allied to the Swedes could not stand it and fled. Even messengers were sent to Vienna with the news of the victory. However, the Swedes resisted, and soon they themselves put the enemy to flight.
G. Delbrück, highly appreciating the martial art of the Swedish king, wrote later:
"What Cannes was for Hannibal, so was the Battle of Breitenfeld for Gustav-Adolphus."
Freeing the Protestant principalities, Gustav II struck a blow at Catholic Bavaria. Until the end of 1631 Halle, Erfurt, Frankfurt an der Oder and Mainz were captured. On April 15, 1632, during a minor battle near the Lech River, one of the best generals of the Catholic bloc, Johann Tilly (died April 30), was mortally wounded. And on May 17, 1632, Munich opened the gates in front of the Swedish troops. Elector Maximilian took refuge in the Ingoldstadt fortress, which the Swedes failed to take.
Meanwhile, the Saxons entered Prague on November 11, 1631.
At this time, Gustav II Adolf received his famous nickname "Midnight (that is, northern) lion".
But this king did not have long to live. On November 16, 1632, he died in the battle of Lützen, victorious for the Swedes.
In April 1632, the Catholic troops were again led by Wallenstein (this commander was described in the article Albrecht von Wallenstein. A good general with a bad reputation).
He managed to capture Prague, after which he sent his troops to Saxony. A few small battles did not change the situation, but Wallenstein's troops found themselves between the lands, which were then controlled by the Swedes. Naturally, Gustav Adolf did not like this situation, and he moved his army to Lützen, where on November 6, 1632, a battle began, which became fatal for him.
The last battle of the "Lion of the North"
It is said that on the eve of this battle, the Swedish king saw in a dream a huge tree. Before his eyes, it grew out of the ground, covered with leaves and flowers, and then dried up and fell at his feet. He considered this dream auspicious and foreshadowing victory. Who knows, maybe this circumstance played a role in the death of Gustav Adolf, who, having received such a clear prediction of a successful outcome of the battle, lost his caution.
The German historian Friedrich Kohlrausch, in his History of Germany from Ancient Times to 1851, describes the beginning of this battle:
“The troops stood ready in anxious anticipation. The Swedes, with the sound of trumpets and timpani, sang Luther's hymn "My Lord is my fortress", and another, the works of Gustav himself: "Fear not, little flock!" At 11 o'clock the sun peeped through, and the king, after a short prayer, got on his horse, galloped to the right wing, over which he took personal leadership, and exclaimed: “Let's start in the name of God! Jesus! Jesus, help me now to fight for the glory of Your name ”! When the armor was handed to him, he did not want to put it on, saying: "God is my armor!"
In this picture, we see the prayer of Gustav II Adolf and the Swedish army before the battle with Wallenstein's Catholic army at Lützen
At first, the Swedes outnumbered the Imperials, but by lunchtime the Catholics received reinforcements, which were brought in by Gottfried-Heinrich Pappenheim (he was mortally wounded in this battle).
At some point, the Imperials were able to push the Swedish infantry back somewhat. And then Gustav Adolf went to help his people at the head of the Smallland Cavalry Regiment. Kohlrausch, already quoted by us, reports:
“He (Gustav Adolf) wanted to spot the enemy's weak spot, and he was far ahead of his horsemen. He had a very small retinue with him. "
There was fog on the Lutzen field, and the king had poor eyesight. And therefore, ahead of his people, he did not immediately notice the Croatian imperial cavalry.
According to another version, the king and his people lagged behind the regiment and got lost in the fog - just like the Croats who met with them got lost. Since then, by the way, the expression "Lutzen's fog" has entered the Swedish language. According to some reports, the king was already wounded by a stray bullet, and therefore lagged behind the regiment. One way or another, the enemy's new shots turned out to be well-aimed: the king received a bullet in the hand, and when he turned his horse - in the back. Falling from his horse, he could not free himself from the stirrup.
Fragment of the same picture
After that, the king's retinue was killed, and he himself was pierced several times with a sword. Tradition claims that to the question of an imperial officer ("Who are you"), the dying Gustav II replied:
"I was the Swedish king."
Jacket, pistols and sword of Gustav II Adolf, which were with him during the battle of Lützen
The cuirassiers took away all the valuables that were under Gustav, and his famous red leather tunic, pierced by bullets and blades, was sent to Vienna - as proof of the death of the king. Wallenstein, having learned about the death of the Swedish king, hinting at himself, modestly said:
"The German Empire could not wear two such heads!"
Stone at the site of the death of King Gustav II Adolf
Modern view of the place of death of this king
Curiously, part of the battlefield at Lützen, where Gustav II Adolf died, is now considered Swedish territory.
The Swedish troops, which are now led by Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, did not know about the death of their leader and won another victory.
Queen Maria Eleanor, who at that time was in Germany, ordered to send the body of her husband to Stockholm, where he was buried.
Riddarholmskyrkan Church, Stockholm. Here is the tomb of Gustav II Adolf
The road along which the embalmed body of the king was transported was named "Gustav Street". The Swedish Riksdag in 1633 officially proclaimed this king "Great".
At first, they told about Maria Eleanor, unloved in Sweden, that when she went to bed, she put a box with Gustav's embalmed heart into bed. Moreover, the daughter Christina allegedly forces her to lie down next to her - so that the whole family is assembled. And then there were wild rumors among the people that the dowager queen allegedly did not allow the dead spouse to be buried and everywhere carried a coffin with his body.
I can't say anything about the box with the heart, but there was definitely no gothic horror with a coffin in the bedroom.
"The era of great power"
So the life of the king was cut short, who, perhaps, could go down in history as a great commander, standing on a par with Napoleon Bonaparte or Julius Caesar. But the foundations for the coming greatness of Sweden (ruined by Charles XII) had already been laid. Chancellor Axel Oxenstern maintained and developed these tendencies. And the portrait of his ward - Christina, daughter of Gustav Adolf, we can see not only on Swedish coins.
Erfurt 10 Ducat coin depicting Queen Christina of Sweden
In the next article we will talk about the unusual fate of this woman.
According to the Peace of Westphalia, Sweden received the Germanic duchies of Bremen and Verdun, eastern and part of western Pomerania and Wismar. The Baltic Sea turned into a "Swedish lake" for many years. He left the state entrusted to Gustav at the peak of his power.
In Sweden, the period from 1611 to 1721 is officially called Stormaktstiden - “The era of great power”.