The Age of Liberty

History of Sweden between 1722 - 1771

The Age of Liberty (Frihetstiden) is the half century long period of parliamentarianism and increasing civil rights in Sweden, beginning in 1721 after Great Northern War and ending with Gustav III's self-coup in 1772. The shift of power from the Monarch to the Parliament was a direct effect of the disastrous Great Northern War.

The Great Northern War (1700–21) was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire. The war started when an alliance of Denmark–Norway, Saxony and Russia declared war on the Swedish Empire, launching a threefold attack at Swedish Holstein-Gottorp, Swedish Livonia, and Swedish Ingria. Sweden was ruled by the young Charles XII, who was eighteen years old and inexperienced at the time. Sweden was first victorius against Danish and Russian and Poland. Charles XII moved from Saxony into Russia to confront Peter I, but the campaign ended with the destruction of the main Swedish army in Poltava (now Ukraine), and Charles's exile in Ottoman Bender. After Poltava, the initial anti-Swedish coalition was re-established and subsequently joined by Hanover and Prussia. The remaining Swedish forces in the plague stricken areas south and east of the Baltic Sea were evicted, with the last city, Riga, falling in 1710. Sweden proper was invaded by Denmark–Norway from the west and by Russia from the east, occupying all of Finland by 1714. Though the Danish attacks were repulsed, Russia managed to occupy Finland. Charles XII opened up a Norwegian front, but was killed in Fredriksten in 1718. The war ended with a defeat for Sweden, leaving Russia as the new major power in the Baltic Sea and an important new player in European politics. In Sweden, the absolute monarchy had come to an end with Charles XII's death, and the Age of Liberty began.

Early in 1720 Charles XII's sister, Ulrika Eleonora, who had been elected queen of Sweden immediately after his death, was permitted to abdicate in favour of her husband Frederick the prince of Hesse, who was elected king 1720 under the title of Frederick I of Sweden; and Sweden was, at the same time, converted into the most limited of monarchies. All power was vested in the people as represented by the Riksdag, consisting, as before, of four distinct estates, nobles, priests, burgesses and peasants, sitting and deliberating apart. The conflicting interests and mutual jealousies of these four independent assemblies made the work of legislation exceptionally difficult.

Trofeer från slaget vid Svensksund bäres in i Storkyrkan, målning av Pehr Hilleström
Trophies from the Battle of Svensksund
brought into the Storkyrkan in Stockholm.
The policy of the Hats party was a return to the traditional alliance between France and Sweden. The first blunder of the Hats was the hasty and ill-advised war with Russia. The European complications consequent upon the almost simultaneous deaths of Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor and Empress Anne of Russia seemed to favour the Hats' adventurous schemes. The Hat's Russian war was not succesful. After some defeats Swedish forces were so demoralized that the mere rumour of a hostile attack made them retire panic-stricken to Helsinki; and before the end of the year all Finland was in the hands of the Russians. By the Treaty of Åbo 7 May 1743 the terms of the empress were accepted and only that small part of Finland which lay beyond the Kymi River was retained by Russia. In March 1751 the old King Frederick died. His slender prerogatives had gradually dwindled down to vanishing point.

The Pomeranian War 1757-1762 was a theatre of the Seven Years' War. The term is used to describe the fighting between Sweden and Prussia between 1757 and 1762 in Swedish Pomerania. The war was characterized by a back-and-forth movement of the Swedish and Prussian armies, neither of whom would score a decisive victory. Neither this war was succesful to Sweden. The death of Elizabeth of Russia in January 1762 changed the whole political situation in Europe. A Russo-Prussian alliance threatened to make Russia an enemy not an ally of Sweden. The secret committee thus decided on March 13 that year that Sweden would seek a separate peace. Via the queen's mediation, the Swedes signed the peace of Hamburg with Prussia and Mecklenburg on 22 May, accepting their defeat - Prussia and Sweden were restored to the status quo ante bellum.

In Sweden, the unpopularity of this costly and futile war meant that the Hats' control on government began to falter and the confusion the war caused led to a deficit which resulted in their fall in 1765.

References: Wikipedia

Previous historical period: Swedish Empire (1611-1721) | Next historical period: The Age of Enlightenment (1772-1809)

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Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle stands high above the Austrian town of Werfen in the Salzach valley. The castle is surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. The fortification is a 'sister' of Hohensalzburg Castle both dated from the 11th century.

The former fortification was built between 1075 and 1078 during the Imperial Investiture Controversy by the order of Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg as a strategic bulwark. Gebhard, an ally of Pope Gregory VII and the anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden, had three major castles extended to secure the Salzburg archbishopric against the forces of King Henry IV: Hohenwerfen, Hohensalzburg and Petersberg Castle at Friesach in Carinthia.