On This Day

Gustav III

King of Sweden Gustav III

Profession: King of Sweden

Nationality:
Sweden
Swedish

Why Famous: Gustav III reigned as the King of Sweden from 1771 until his assassination in 1792. During this time he became one of the key proponents of a policy known as "enlightened absolutism", where he espoused the ideals of the Enlightenment while increasing his own power and autocracy. To this end he became a patron of the Swedish arts, curtailed the power and corruption of the nobility and introduced reforms to liberalize the economy. At the same time, he amassed enormous personal power and cracked down on press freedoms.

Sweden had lost its Baltic dominions during the Great Northern War with Russia in the early 18th century, and though he had some military success, Gustav failed to recapture the territories in a war with Russia in 1788-90. In other areas of foreign policy, Gustav was the first neutral head of state in the world to recognize the independence of the United States in 1782, and militarily assisted the rebels. He also attempted to form alliances aimed at restoring Louis XVI to the French throne after the French Revolution took hold in 1789.

As he curtailed the power of the nobles and enforced his absolute monarchy, many nobles in Sweden began to despise the king and actively plotted a conspiracy against him. On 16 March 1792, as the King was attending a masquerade ball at the Royal Swedish Opera, assassin Jacob Johan Anckarström shot the king in the back from behind. Gustav died thirteen days later from septicemia.

Born: January 24, 1746
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Star Sign: Aquarius

Died: March 29, 1792 (aged 46)
Cause of Death: Assassination

Events in the Life of Gustav III

  • 1771-02-12 Gustav III becomes the King of Sweden after the death of predecessor Adolf Frederick
  • 1772-08-19 King Gustav III seizes effective control of Swedish government and restores full power of monarchy, which had been subordinate to parliament since 1720
  • 1772-08-21 King Gustav III of Sweden completes a coup d'etat by adopting a new Constitution and installing himself as an enlightened despot, ending 50 years of parliamentary rule
  • 1792-03-16 King Gustav III of Sweden is shot by Count Jacob Johan Anckarström at a masked ball at the Opera; he dies on March 29
  • 1792-03-29 King Gustav III of Sweden dies after being shot in the back at a midnight masquerade ball at Stockholm's Royal Opera just 13 days earlier. He is succeeded by Gustav IV Adolf.

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