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Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden

Gustaf IV Adolf
ReignMarch 29, 1792 - March 29, 1809
(Until 1808 in Finland1)
GovernmentNovember 1, 1796 (Age of Maturity)
CoronationApril 3, 1800
Royal motto "Gud och folket"
("God and the people")
QueenFrederica of Baden
Royal HouseHolstein-Gottorp
PredecessorGustav III
SuccessorsCharles XIII in Sweden
Alexander I in Finland
Date of BirthNovember 1, 1778
Place of BirthStockholm
Date of DeathFebruary 7, 1837
Place of DeathSt. Gallen, Switzerland
Place of BurialRiddarholmskyrkan, Stockholm
(1) Formally Treaty of Fredrikshamn (September 17, 1809)

Gustav IV Adolf (1778-1837), king of Sweden, of the house Holstein-Gottorp, was the son of Gustav III of Sweden and Sophia Magdalena of Denmark, and born at Stockholm on November 1, 1778.

Allegedly, Gustav Adolf was the biological son of Count Adolph Fredric Munck of Fulkila, though this has never been established. The Count is implied to have been given the task to father a son to the king, who supposedly had different leanings. These rumors however did not prevent Gustav III to take an active role in the education of his heir, which took place under the direction of Nils von Rosenstein. In August 1796 his uncle the regent Charles, duke of Sudermannia, visited St. Petersburg for the purpose of arranging a marriage between the young king and Catherine II's granddaughter, the grand-duchess Alexandra. The betrothal was actually fixed for September 22, when the whole arrangement foundered on the obstinate refusal of Gustav to allow his destined bride liberty of worship according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church - a rebuff which undoubtedly accelerated the death of the Russian empress. Nobody seems to have even suspected at the time that serious mental derangement lay at the root of Gustav's abnormal piety. On the contrary, there were many who prematurely congratulated themselves on the fact that Sweden had now no disturbing genius, but an economical, God-fearing, commonplace monarch to deal with.


Gustav’s prompt dismissal of the generally detested Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm added still further to his popularity. On October 31, 1797 Gustav married Frederica Dorothea, daughter of Charles Frederick, grand-duke of Baden, a marriage which might have led to a war with Russia but for the fanatical hatred of the French republic shared by the emperor Paul of Russia and Gustav IV Adolf, which served as a bond of union between them. Indeed the king’s horror of Jacobinism was morbid in its intensity, and drove him to adopt all sorts of reactionary measures and to postpone his coronation for some years, so as to avoid calling together a diet; but the disorder of the finances, caused partly by the continental war and partly by the almost total failure of the crops in 1798 and 1799, compelled him to summon the estates to Norrköping in March 1800 and on April 3 Gustav was crowned.

Coup d'Etat

His reign was ill fated and was to end abruptly. His policies had put Sweden at war, first with France and then in with Russia which led to the loss of Finland. The loss represented a third of the Swedish realm and precipitated his arrest on March 13, 1809 which was successfully accomplished by a conspiracy of officers of the western army, headed by Adlersparre, the Anckarsvärds, and Adlercreutz, who had marched rapidly from Scania to Stockholm. On March 13, 1809 seven of the conspirators broke into the royal apartments in the palace unannounced, seized the king, and conducted him to the château of Gripsholm; Duke Charles was easily persuaded to accept the leadership of a provisional government, which was proclaimed the same day; and a diet, hastily summoned, solemnly approved of the revolution.


On March 29 Gustav, in order to save the crown for his son, voluntarily abdicated; but on May 19 the Riksdag of the Estates, dominated by the army, declared that not merely Gustav but his whole family had forfeited the throne. On June 5 the duke regent was proclaimed king under the title of Charles XIII, after accepting the new liberal constitution, which was ratified by the diet the same day. In December Gustav and his family were transported to Germany. In exile Gustav used several titles, Count Gottorp, Duke of Holstein-Eutin, and finally settled at St. Gallen in Switzerland where he in great loneliness and indigence, on February 7, 1837, under the name of Colonel Gustafsson suffered a stroke and died. At the suggestion of King Oscar II of Sweden his body was brought to Sweden and interred in the Riddarholmskyrkan.


In 1797 he had married Frederica Dorothea Wilhelmina of Baden (1781-1826), with whom he had five children.

  1. Gustav Gustafson of Vasa (1799-1877)
  2. Sofia Wilhelmina of Vasa (1801-1865)
  3. Carl Gustav (1802-1805)
  4. Amalia Maria Charlotta (1805-)
  5. Cecilia (1807-)

His son Gustav would serve as an officer to the Habsburgs of Austria, but would never father a son of his own. Sofia Wilhelmina would marry Leopold of Baden, whos ancestor Victoria of Baden would marry into the House of Bernadotte, by way of Gustav V of Sweden. By 1812, Gustav Adolf divorced his consort and following this the he had several mistresses, among them Maria Schlegel who gave him the son Adolf Gustafsson.

Preceded by:
Gustav III
List of Swedish monarchs Succeeded by:
Charles XIII of Sweden
List of Finnish rulers Succeeded by:
Alexander I of Russia