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.
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.