The Age of Enlightenment

History of Sweden between 1772 - 1809

In the late 1700s Sweden joined in the Enlightenment culture of the day in the arts, architecture, science and learning. A new law in 1766 established for the first time the principle of freedom of the press—a notable step towards liberty of political opinion. The Academy of Science was founded in 1739 and the Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities in 1753. The outstanding cultural leader was Carl Linnaeus (1707–78), whose work in biology and ethnography had a major impact on European science.

Following half a century of parliamentary domination came the reaction. King Gustav III (1746–1792) came to the throne in 1771, and in 1772 led a coup d'état, with French support, that established him as an "enlightened despot," who ruled at will. The Age of Freedom and bitter party politics was over. Precocious and well educated, he became a patron of the arts and music. His edicts reformed the bureaucracy, repaired the currency, expanded trade, and improved defense. The population had reached 2.0 million and the country was prosperous, although rampant alcoholism was a growing social problem.

Trofeer från slaget vid Svensksund bäres in i Storkyrkan, målning av Pehr Hilleström
Swedish trophies after the battle of Svensksund
were brought to Storkyrkan

Despite of the resistance of parliament Gustav III declared war to Russia in 1788. He initiated the conflict for domestic political reasons, as he believed that a short war would leave the opposition with no recourse but to support him. The war was first a disaster, but in 1790 Swedish fleet successfully destroyed the Russian fleet in the Battle of Svensksund, regarded as the greatest naval victory ever gained by the Swedish Navy. The Russians lost one-third of their fleet and 7,000 men. A month later, on 14 August 1790, peace was signed between Russia and Sweden at Värälä. Neither side gained any territory.

Due the war and general indignation against Gustav III was assassinated on 29 March 1792 by a conspiracy of nobles angry that he tried to restrict their privileges for the benefit of the peasant farmers.

The ensuing period was a melancholy one. The aristocratic classes loudly complained that the new young king, Gustav IV of Sweden, still a minor, was being brought up among French Jacobins; while the middle classes, deprived of the stimulating leadership of the anti-aristocratic and becoming more and more inoculated with French political ideas, drifted into an antagonism not merely to hereditary nobility, but to hereditary monarchy likewise. Everything was vacillating and uncertain; and the general instability was reflected even in foreign affairs, now that the master-hand of Gustav III was withdrawn. The government of Gustav IV of Sweden was almost a pure autocracy.

After the Russian Emperor Alexander I concluded the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit with Napoleon, he suggested in his letter that the Swedish King Gustav IV Adolf should join the Continental System. The king, who viewed Napoleon as the Antichrist and Britain as his ally against Napoleon's France was apprehensive of the system's ruinous consequences for Sweden's maritime commerce. He instead entered into negotiations with Britain in order to prepare a joint attack against Denmark, whose Norwegian possessions he coveted. In the meantime, the Royal Navy attacked Copenhagen and the Anglo-Russian War was declared. Referring to the treaties of 1780 and 1800, the emperor demanded that Gustav Adolf close the Baltic Sea to all foreign warships. Although he reiterated his demand on November 16, 1807, it took two months before the king responded that it was impossible to honor the previous arrangements as long as the French were in control of the major Baltic ports. King Gustav Adolf did this after securing alliance with England on 8 February 1808. Meanwhile on 30 December 1807 Russia announced that should Sweden not give a clear reply Russia would be forced to act.

Although most Swedish officers were skeptical about their chances in fighting the larger and more experienced Russian army, Gustav Adolf had an unrealistic view of Sweden's ability to defend itself against Russia. In Saint Petersburg, his stubbornness was viewed as a convenient pretext to occupy Finland, thus pushing the Russo-Swedish frontier considerably to the west of the Russian capital and safeguarding it in case of any future hostilities between the two powers. As a result of the Finnish war, the eastern third of Sweden was established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1772 and 1809 in Sweden

Arvfursten Palace

Arvfursten Palace (Arvfurstens palats) is located at Gustav Adolfs Torg in central Stockholm. Designed by Erik Palmstedt, the palace was originally the private residence of Princess Sophia Albertina. It was built 1783-1794 and declared a historical monument in 1935 and subsequently restored by Ivar Tengbom in 1948-52. Since 1906 the palace has served as the seat of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The palace is facing t ...
Founded: 1783-1794 | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Lund Historical Museum

The Historical museum in Lund, founded in 1805, is the second largest archaeological museum in Sweden. Its collections contain among other things Kilian Stobaeus' Cabinet of Curiosities from the 18th century, thousands of finds from the excavations of the Iron Age city of Uppåkra and numerous artefacts from the Scanian Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. The museum also has the second largest coin collection in the country ...
Founded: 1805 | Location: Lund, Sweden

Medical History Museum

History of health and medical care is exhibited in a 200-year-old former hospital. The museum is located in the Oterdahl building, donated by wholesaler Aron Oterdahl in 1808 to Sahlgren hospital as a gift “for time eternal”. The exhibition is set up based on various, still current, themes and presents a history of the development of western medicine from antiquity to our times.
Founded: 1808 | Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Långe Jan Lighthouse

Långe Jan ("Tall John") is a Swedish lighthouse located at the south cape of Öland. It is one of Sweden's most famous lighthouses and also the tallest lighthouse in Sweden. The lighthouse was built in 1785, probably by Russian prisoner of wars. The tower was built by stone from an old chapel. Originally the light was an open fire, and the tower was unpainted. It was painted white in 1845, and the same year the ...
Founded: 1785 | Location: Mörbylånga, Öland, Sweden

Gustav III's Pavilion

Gustav III's Pavilion is a royal pavilion at the Haga Park. As a highlight in Swedish art history, the Pavilion is a fine example of the European neoclassicism of the late 18th century in Northern Europe. The pavilion was built in 1787 by the architect Olof Tempelman with detailed instructions from King Gustav III who was highly personally involved in the project, producing some basic designs himself and suggesting change ...
Founded: 1787 | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Gunnebo House

The Gunnebo estate consists of a main building from the end of the 18th century, built by John Hall, and drawn by city architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg in a Neoclassical architecture. Gunnebo has one of Sweden's finest and best preserved baroque gardens. The 18th century interior was recreated in the 1950s, when Mölndal Municipality bought the estate. The last private owner, Mrs. Hilda Sparre, died in 1948. Several origin ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Mölndal, Sweden

Varberg Church

Varberg Church was completed in 1772, as a replacement of an elder church from 1687 that was destroyed in a fire on 18 May 1767. The interior of the church is neoclassical. Mostly of it is from the 19th century. The retable is from 1816. The pulpit was set in during a restoration of the church in 1890–1891. The wooden baptismal font has seven edges. It was made from oak in the 17th century. It comes from an elder ch ...
Founded: 1772 | Location: Varberg, Sweden

Råda Manor

Råda Manor was built in 1772 according the design of William Chambers. It consists of main building and two annexes. Two red-painted warehouses date probably from the 17th century. Today Råda has a restaurant, wine cellar and it offers conference and wedding services.
Founded: 1772 | Location: Mölnlycke, Sweden

Dalarö Museum

Dalarö Museum is situated to the old Custom’s House built in 1788. The museum exhibits the Age of Greatness and the seafaring history of Dalarö. The museum is open in summer season.
Founded: 1788 | Location: Dalarö, Sweden

Falsterbo Lighthouse

Falsterbo Lighthouse lies on the place of the oldest known beacon in Scandinavia. The sea route past the Falsterbo Headland has always been dangerous, because of the moving sand banks hidden in the sea. The first beacon was lit by German monks already in the 13th century. By that time Falsterbo was an important trading centre in Denmark. The beacon was placed at the then outermost point. When the trading became less imp ...
Founded: 1793 | Location: Skanör-Falsterbo, Sweden

Fållnäs Manor

The written history of Fållnäs estate begins in 1291, when it was donated to Skokloster abbey by Magnus Johansson (Ängel). The current manor complex was built between 1780 and 1807 according the design of Erik Palmstedt. It consists of several annexes, but the planned main building was never completed. Today Fållnäs hosts an art gallery with a cafe.
Founded: 1780 | Location: Nynäshamn, Sweden

Ängelholm Old Town Hall

The lovely old town hall from 1775 in the main square today houses the tourist information. It became too small for the town in 1896.
Founded: 1775 | Location: Ängelholm, Sweden

Grisslehamn

The small Grisslehamn village is today a well-preserved sample of 19th century architecture and popular attraction for daily trips. The name Grisslehamn was first mentioned in a document from 1376 about the mail route between Sweden and Finland. This Grisslehamn was located some 20 km south of today's location. In the mid-18th century, most of the old village was destroyed in a fire, and it was decided to move Grisslehamn ...
Founded: 19th century | Location: Grisslehamn, Sweden

Fiskebäckskil Church

Fiskebäckskil Church replaced in 1772 the earlier wooden church from 1500s. The beautiful paintings in ceilings were made in 1783 by Joachim Gotthard Reimers. The altar dates from 1665.
Founded: 1772 | Location: Fiskebäckskil, Sweden

Alster Manor

The history of Alster Manor begins from 1397, but the current main building was built in 1772 and reconstructed in 1832. The poet Gustaf Fröding born in Alster in 1860. Today it is a museum.
Founded: 1772 | Location: Karlstad, Sweden

Hjo Church

The first church in Hjo was built sometimes in the late 1200s or early 1300s. It was destroyed by fire in 1794 and the current church replaced it in 1799. The current tower was erected during the restoration in the early 1900s.
Founded: 1799 | Location: Hjo, Sweden

Sturehof Castle

The history of Sturehof manor date from the Middle Ages. The small village was owned by count and stateman Svante Sture, who was murdered by King Erik XIV. His son Mauritz Sture named the manor as Sturehof. In the next to centuries Sturehov was owned by several powerful noble families like Oxenstiernas and Wrangels. Johan Liljencrantz , Gustav III's "Finance minister", acquired the property in 1778 as a summer lodge. The ...
Founded: 1770s | Location: Salem, Sweden

Filipstad Church

Filipstad church was completed in 1785 according the design of Jean Erik Rehn and it represents Gustavian style. The pulpit and altar were made in 1789. The altarpiece was painted by Lars Bolander.
Founded: 1785 | Location: Filipstad, Sweden

Säter Church

Säter Church was originally built in 1637, but it was reconstructed to Neo-classical style between 1778-1779. The tower was replaced in 1806-1807 due the unstable soil.
Founded: 1779 | Location: Säter, Sweden

Karlslund Manor

Originally, in the 16th century, the site of the Manor House and gardens was used for royal farm buildings and Karlslund was mainly concerned with agriculture. The present Karlslund Manor House was built between 1804 and 1809 by Christian Günther. In 1819 a later owner, Carl Anckarsvärd, had the manor house rebuilt and altered to the appearance we know today. The architect behind this work was the famous Carl Ch ...
Founded: 1804-1809 | Location: Örebro, Sweden

Nässjö Old Church

This church was built in 1791 in the neo-classical style typical of church architecture of the period. It replaced a medieval church that had long stood on the site, and contains some interesting inventory from the Middle Ages, inherited from the old building. The font is damaged, but is Romanesque and still worth seeing. There is a triptych from the13th century that was altered a couple of centuries later.
Founded: 1791 | Location: Nässjö, Sweden

Bjärka-Säby Castle

Bjärka-Säby Castle is a baroque style château built for Swedish diplomat and nobleman, Germund Louis Cederhielm. The building was based upon plans from a prominent Swedish landscape architect, Fredrik Magnus Piper. Construction started in 1791 and was completed just before 1800. The surrounding landscape was design in the manner of a traditional English park. The palace was subject to renovation in 1894-18 ...
Founded: 1791-1800 | Location: Bjärka-Säby, Sweden

Värmskog Church

The church was built in 1782 to drawings by Christian Haller. Remains of two earlier churches, one from the 13th century and the other from the 17th century, are still visible. The organs were made in 1857.
Founded: 1782 | Location: Grums, Sweden

Löberöd Castle

The early history of Löberöd estate is unknown, but the oldest parts were built in the 1620s. Then the owner was Anna Brahe. Her nephew, a member of the Ramel family, inherited Löberöd when Anne, a childless widow, passed away in 1635. The manor was in the possession of the Ramel family until 1799. The northern wing and the eight-sided turret were built in 1798-1799. About twenty years later an oranger ...
Founded: 1798-1799 | Location: Löberöd, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.