History of Sweden between 1611 - 1721
The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Sweden's territorial control of much of the Baltic region during the 17th and early 18th centuries, a time when Sweden was one of the great European powers. The beginning of the Empire is usually taken as the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, who ascended the throne in 1611, and the end as the loss of territories in 1721 following the Great Northern War. In Swedish, the period is called Stormaktstiden, literally meaning "the Great Power Era".
After the death of Gustavus Adolphus in 1632, the empire was, over lengthy periods, controlled by part of the high nobility, most prominently the Oxenstierna family, acting as tutors for minor regents. The interests of the high nobility contrasted with the uniformity policy, i.e., the upholding of the traditional equality in status of the Swedish estates favoured by the kings and peasantry. In territories acquired during the periods of de facto noble rule, serfdom was not abolished, and there was also a trend to set up respective estates in Sweden proper. The Great Reduction of 1680 put an end to these efforts of the nobility and required them to return estates once gained from the crown to the king. Serfdom, however, remained in force in the dominions acquired in the Holy Roman Empire and in Swedish Estonia, where a consequent application of the uniformity policy was hindered by the treaties by which they were gained.
After the victories in the Thirty Years' War, the climax of stormaktstiden was reached in the Second Northern War, when the primary adversary Denmark was neutralized by the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658. However, in the further course of this war as well as in the subsequent Scanian War, Sweden was able to maintain her empire only by support of her closest ally, France. Charles XI of Sweden consolidated the empire and ensured a period of peace, before Russia, Saxony and Denmark started a concerted attack on his successor, Charles XII. After initial Swedish victories, Charles secured the empire for a last time in the Peace of Travendal (1700) and the Treaty of Altranstädt (1706), before the Battle of Poltava (1709) brought the stormaktstiden of Sweden to a sudden end.
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.