(The lion of the midnight sun)


European visitors to Sweden in the early 1600s always wrote of the peasantlike style of all towns and cities. Even Stockholm looked more like a large farm with grass roofs than a european capital. There were no gardens, parks or straight roads. The nobilitys halls were only decorated with the wooden chairs. Stockolm had about 10 000 inhabitants while other large towns had about 2000. Thirty years later the future brilliant all-round talent Erik Dahlberg wrote that Stockholm (40 000 inhabitants) was filled with exquisite buildings in stone and with copper roofs, straight, broad roads. Stockholm started to be comparable to the european cities. The thirty years in between were filled with wars and hardships for the population of Sweden but also meant a transformation of enourmous proportions.


The changes had not been possible without the wars. The needs of the wars dictated a more efficient state of affairs since Sweden was among the smallest and poorest of Europes nations. It was a time of change on a grand scale. The baroque style is well suited with its boastful and lavish, guilded forms that bursts all the old classical strict lines. There was no distinct order in the world of thought. Death and everlasting life embraced, triumph and disaster walked hand in hand. Descartes, Galilei, Francis Bacon and others sought and found. The spaniards and portugese went on combined exploration/campaign tours on a geographical scale beyond the grasp of many. The world was so much larger, richer and complicated than had been thought. It was in this noicy era that the swedish great power came marsching with fluttering banners and blowing trumpets. A perfect fit in the spirit of the baroque.


The growing army, the new provinces on the other side of the baltic, the new political and trade interests demanded a new style of governement. Since the dark ages the king had ruled using a few hand-picked emissarys whom he knew personally. He had literally taken all decisions himself. This was no longer possible. Axel Oxenstierna, the chansellor, sat as the spider in the web controlling all activity via his subordinates. A beaurocracy of civil servants emerged that got a fixed pay for their work. This revolutionized the states affairs and was a huge gain in efficiency since taxraising was simplified and more easily controlled. Stockholm became a true capital. Sweden was formally divided into a number of   län. These were governed by a civil servant whose precense in Stockholm often was required. They thus built lavish houses in Stockhom. These remain even today. A postal service emerged that made this beaurocracy possible and made it work well. The ranks of beaurocrats and lower officers in the ever growing army could not be filled by nobles only. Ability rather than name became the key to success. These factors made Sweden develop immensly and was the ultimate cause of Denmarks eventual downfall as the leading power in northern Europe. Denmark still stood with one feet in the dark ages and one in the renaiccanse. An encouraged immigration of architects and dutch craftsmen to Sweden led to a huge increase in competence. The dutch names have been with us since and are considered swedish by many today. Toll, Allard and Pripp are examples.


Times of war and pesterlance have always been ripe with predicions and prophecy. The changes in this era were so great that many thought that armageddon was close. Biblestudy was frequent and astrology popular. The thirty year war was the largest war ever fought until the Napoleonic wars 150 years later. But it was actually more of a string of smaller wars fought at the same time and by the same opponents in different alliances over time. The term "the thirty year war" wasnt used until fifty years after the Westphalian peace in 1648.


The war started as a religious conflict in the german empire. Many countries had reverted to protestantism during the reformation in the 1500:s. The vatican struck back with the counterreformation and in countries were the protestants were well organized and wealthy, as in England and Holland, civil war broke out. In 1555 it was decided that all subjects in the holy roman empire of german nation was to have the same religion as the emperor. The emperor of the family Habsburg was the leader of the counterreformation. He ruled over a vast empire that in theory stretched from the baltic to the adriatic, from the netherlands to the carpathians. It was made up from the remnants of the empire of Charlemange plus the areas the Habsburgs had married to. He ruled over Austria, Tyrol, Kärnten, Krain, Bohemia, Hungary, Schlesia, Märhen, Burgundy, Alcace and the Netherlands. In Italy he had Milan and Naples as well as Sicily and Sardinia. The spanish branch of the Habsburgs ruled over Spain and Portugal as well as Chile, Peru, Brazil and Mexico.


The holy roman empire of german nation wasnt very holy, very roman or even very german. It was a union of 1800 members of which 296 were countries, counties, princedoms, bishophoods or free cities. The rest were small knighthoods and sometimes even a single mansion. A vast number of languages were spoken within. It was a chaos of small monarchies and republics that all had their own coins, weight measures and wanted to govern themselves without outer influence. The only thing they had in common was the emperor in Vienna.


In 1608 the tension incresed between the catholic parts and the protestant parts of the empire. The protestants entered a union under the prince Fredrik of Pfalz that was supported by Brandenburg and Hessen-Kassel. The catholics answered by forming a union of their own, the catholic leauge. It was led by Maximilian of Bavaria. In 1618 the protestants of Bohemia rebelled by throwing catholic emisarries from the windows of their mansion (they suvived, one of them will repat the journey in 1648 when the swedes sack Prague). They continued to choose a protestant king of Bohemia, prince Fredrik of Pfalz. The emperor couldnt accept this as he also was king of Bohemia. He sent his experienced commander Jean Tcerclaes Tilly with his troops to bohemia and chased the "winterking" Fredrik away. Tillys troops crushed all protestant recistance in Austria and southern Germany and the protestant union was destroyed in 1621. The bohemians were forced to become catholics again and the jesuits quickly removed all protestant infuence. The emperor who only a few years ago had seen his empire fall apart was filled with new confidence. Maybe he could resurrect the grand empire of Karl V? Ferdinand II was a devout catholic and hoped to unite the empire through his person and his faith. The free part of the netherlands and the nordic countries felt threatened. The german religious war became an international concern. France also reacted. Being surrounded by the empire through the spanish Hapsburgs, Italy, Germany and the spanish Netherlands (todays Belgium). The sttruggle between France and the empire had begun in 1490 when France invaded parts of northern Italy. When imperial forces marsched along the Rhine to open the lines of communications to the spanish Netherlands the catholic France entered the war as a protestant ally. To the man in power in France, cardinal de Richelieu, it wasnt a war of belief. It was a war of the future of France. Now England and the free Netherlands had to intervene as their trade routes were threatened. Seroius economical and social tension within and between the countries of Europe exploded politically and militarily.

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In 1624 France, England and the Netherlands appealed to the nordic countries to help their protestant german brothers. Denmark-Norways king Kristian IV was the closest. Being duke of Holstein, a german dukedom, as well as king he was personally involved in the conflict. Gustaf II Adolf was asked to help as well. That must have been a moment of truimph for the thirty year old king. He had ascended the thone as the son of an usurper, an upstart not recognized by any of the fine gentlemen on the thrones of Europe. Now they came to him for help. He asked a high price for his help, especially since he wanted to finish the polish war. He was to be given an army of 50 000 men and as a guarantee from Denmark he wanted two harbor cities. One by the baltic and one by the north sea. Preferably Wismar and Bremen. An allied fleet was to be put uner swedish command as well. But the danish king certainly didnt want these advantages to go to Sweden so his demands were much lower and he got the task. Sweden declined to help. The swedish king is said to have shrugged his shoulders and said: "- The dane deserves this dance" when he heard of that the danish king was to lead the new protestant uinon. He hadnt forgotten the Kalmar war and didnt think much of the danish chanses against the opposition. He went back to Kurland and the battle of Wallhof earning fame, prestige and gold.


Kristian IV was thus to fight the imperial army under Tilly and the new commander, the frightening and mysterious Wallenstein, duke of Friedland, who had mustered an army of 50 000 to aid the emperor on the terms that he got the quonqered territories. In august 1626 the danish backed by their allies met the veteran  imperials under Tilly at Lutter am Barenberge. The danish defeat is total and humiliating. In 1627 Tilly and Wallenstein enter Denmark and occupy Jylland. Kristian escapes to the danish islands. Wallenstein subdues the prince of Mecklenburg (a county from which a swedish medivial king was brought 200 years before) and takes the princes title according to his terms. The imperials and leaugers now possess all of Germany up to the baltic coast. The protestants are beaten everywhere.

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The emperor now sends troops to help the polish catholic Sigismund against the swedes in Prussia and Wallenstein puts Stralsund under siege. Both Denmark and Sweden sends help to Stralsund and the siege fails. Sweden signs a teaty with Stralsund. Swedish troops stand on German soil and have stood eye to eye with the imperials. Gustaf writes to Oxenstierna: "Things are thus that all the wars fought in Europe have become mixed and turned into one."


Sweden had actually prepared for war for several years. Diplomats negotiated in London, the Hague, Switzerland and in many german countys. It was important to have a favourable political position. The dimplomats visited all that opposed the Hapsburgs. It was a complicated game. The king was even in contacted with those who led the imperial armies. Wallenstein promised Gustaf the danish crown if the allied with the emperor. That offer was coldly rejected. In 1629 a french diplomat offered Sweden 40 000 riksdaler (currency previuos to kronor) if Sweden attacked the emperor. That sounded well, but Gustaf also wanted an army of 55 000 men and a swedish-french naval cooperation in the north sea and the baltic. Otherwise there would be no Swedish-French alliance. The diplomat went home. The swedish diplomats travelled to Moscow, Venice, the Zaporigian cosacks in the Ukraine, even to the sultan and to Romania. Little was gained except approving statements and warm handshakes. A meeting in 1629 between Gustaf and Kristian IV failed in convincing the danish king to continue the war against the emperor together with Gustaf. Gustafs comments on the danish way of fightingThe danish probably didnt help. The danish signed the peace but were treated mildly.


The counsil in Stockholm wanted peace after the long war against Poland that ended with the succesful peace at Altmark that made the baltic a swedish mare nostrum, but clever propaganda made it approve of war with the emperor if it was unavoidable and in such case it was better to have the swedish men tie their horses to the enemies barns than the otherway round. The siege at Stralsund was used as an argument that the war was fait dáccomplit. For threehundred years the historians agreed that the kings motives to enter another were the most noble, to defend the evangelic christianity. Later historians have called it a pure war of conquest under a noble guise. It is easy to speculate with all the historic documents at hand and with the results known. But Gustaf made his decision then and there without the benefit of hindsight. He lived in his time that was dominated by growing confidence in his and the armys ability. A king that enlarged the country at the expense of his opponents was hailed as succesful and was repected by both friend and foe. The neighbouring Denmark that was larger and richer (and much closer than today, Skåne being danish) had been occupied by the catholics. The kings dynasty was young and in the catholic Poland sat the old swedish king Sigismund supported by ex-swedish nobles that were loyal to him. If he came with an army supported by Wallenstein and Tilly Gustafs dynasty would end violently. Wallenstein stood with his army at the baltic. Add to this that the religion was much more important than today. The goal in the war was to defend what had been gained in all the peaces since Stolbova. Perhaps to gain a little more, a german county would be nice. Perhaps Pommerania och Mecklenburg? He already stood in Stralsund. It was not far to Stettin. The counsil agreed on new taxes to finance the war. It was a historical decision. Sweden-Finland with maybe 1,5 million inhabitants was to attack the largest state in Europe with 20 million inhabitants and armies of 100 000 men led by the best commanders in the world.

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        A common soldier leaves his fanily and farm to

enter the war. To be selected as soldier was a

certain death sentance

As a part of the propaganda war the swedish people was bombarded by priests with warnings of the evil catholics. To pave the way in Germany the prophecy of the lion of the mdnight sun was put to good use. It had been written a hundred years before by Paracelsus. It told of three fabolous treaures that where to be found when the empire collapsed. At that time a golden lion from the north would defeat the eagle. Fittingly the emperors symbol was an eagle while the Swedish coat of arms has a lion. At that time Europe would be torn by war, starvation and disease. The lion would stand for what was right and the found treasures would be used for all peoples benefit. Under the realm of the lion etenal happiness would reign. Paracelsus prediction was copied by the tenths of thousands and spread in Germany. Even the bible prophecys supported the idea of a struggle between the south and the north which would be won by the north. The victorious lion is mentioned in the bible as well. Many in Germany started to have visions in the sky. Seing lions and eagles among the clouds locked in battle. The lion always won. Even Wallenstein said that the population awaited the swedish king as the jews awaits their Messiah.


8000 muskets were produced that winter along with 14 000 swords, 10 000 helmets, 5000 pikes, thousands of harnesses and hundreds of guns. tens of thousands of horses were aquired as well as large supplies of food. 105000 palisade poles were produced. 6000 new soldiers were mustered in Sweden and 2400 in Finland. Of a total of 35 796 in the army 4443 escaped however. Mercenaries were drafted in the Netherlands, Denmark, England, Scotland, Ireland and the baltic provinces. A total of 5639 men were aquired this way. In the spring the total armed forces included almost 76 000 men.  Of these 30 272 were to be used in the campaign. The rest were needed for the defense of Sweden and Finland as well as the new baltic territories. The sofar largest ever navy of 172 of which 31 were warships was organized. When the army had ben loaded on the ships and departed the country was desperatly depleted

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Gustaf II Adolf

The king was 35 years old and had 19 years of war behind him. The fleet was commanded by his halfbrother Kark Karlsson Gyllenhielm and on it was the major part of his army. Ahead was the possibilty of success and glory for him and Sweden, or disaster for them all. As he sailed into the most violent and horrible part of european history ever at that time he got the message that the swedes at Stralsund already had taken Ruegen. The war was reality.