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Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie

Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie (1622-1686), Swedish statesman, the best-known member of an ancient family of French origin, the D'Escouperies of Languedoc, which had been settled in Sweden since the 14th century, and the son of Jacob De la Gardie.

After a careful education, completed by the usual grand tour, Magnus learned the art of war under Gustav Horn, and during the reign of Christina of Sweden (1644-1654), whose prime favourite he became, though the liaison was innocent enough, he was raised to the highest offices in the state and loaded with distinctions. In 1646 he was sent at the head of an extraordinary mission to France, and on his return married the queen's cousin Marie Euphrosyne of Zweibrücken, who, being but a poor princess, benefited greatly by her wedding with the richest of the Swedish magnates. Immediately afterwards, De la Gardie was made a Privy Councillor, Governor General of Saxony during the last stages of the Thirty Years' War, and in 1652, Lord High Treasurer, or Riksskattmästare. In 1653 he fell into disgrace and had to withdraw from court. During the reign of Charles X of Sweden (1654-1660) he was employed in the Baltic provinces both as a civilian and a soldier, although in the latter capacity he gave the martial king but little satisfaction. Charles X nevertheless, in his last will, appointed De la Gardie, Riksdrots or Lord Chief Justice and a member of the council of regency which ruled Sweden during the minority of Charles XI of Sweden (1660-1672). During this period De la Gardie was the ruling spirit of the government and represented the party of warlike adventure as opposed to the party of peace and economy led by Counts Gustav Bonde and Per Brahe. After a severe struggle De la Gardie's party finally prevailed, and its triumph was marked by that general decline of personal and political morality which has given to this regency its unenviable reputation.

It was De la Gardie who first made Sweden the obsequious hireling of the foreign power which had the longest purse. The beginning of this shameful "subsidy policy" was the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1661) of the Northern War, by a secret paragraph of which Sweden, in exchange for a considerable sum of money, undertook to support the French candidate on the first vacancy of the Polish throne. It was not, however, till April 14, 1672 that Sweden, by the Treaty of Stockholm, became a regular "mercenanus Galliae" pledging herself, in return for 400,000 écus per annum in peace and 600,000 in war time, to attack with 16,000 men those German princes who might be disposed to assist the Netherlands. The early disasters of the unlucky war of 1675-1679 were rightly attributed to the carelessness, extravagance, procrastination and general incompetence of De la Gardie and his high aristocratic colleagues. In 1675 a special commission was appointed to inquire into their conduct, and on May 27, 1682 it decided that the regents and the senate were solely responsible for dilapidations of the realm, the compensation due by them to the crown being assessed at 4,000,000 Riksdaler. De la Gardie was treated with relative leniency, but he "received permission to retire to his estates for the rest of his life" and died there in comparative poverty, a mere shadow of his former magnificent self. The best sides of his character were his brilliant social gifts and his intense devotion to literature and art.

See also: List of Swedish politicians