Gustav III’s attitude towards French Revolution

Przegląd Nauk Historycznych. 2017;16(1) DOI 10.18778/1644-857X.16.01.02


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Journal Title: Przegląd Nauk Historycznych

ISSN: 1644-857X (Print); 2450-7660 (Online)

Publisher: Lodz University Press

Society/Institution:  Instytut Historii Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego

LCC Subject Category: History (General) and history of Europe: History of Poland | History (General) and history of Europe: History (General)

Country of publisher: Poland

Language of fulltext: English, Polish

Full-text formats available: PDF



Zbigniew Anusik (Uniwersytet Łódzki, Wydział Filozoficzno-Historyczny, Instytut Historii, Katedra Historii Nowożytnej)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

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Time From Submission to Publication: 19 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Gustav III was a King of Sweden from 1771 till 1792. From the very beginning of his reign he was firmly associated with France. Thanks to its support, he made a monarchist coup d’état in August 1772. For the next fifteen years he was the closest ally of the court of Versailles. The internal crisis, which started in 1787, meant that France was no longer able to play the current role in the international arena. One of the first European politicians who became aware of that fact was Gustav III. In the years 1788–1790, against the position of France, he led war with Russia, which he ended in August 1790. There is no doubt that he did it because of the developments in France. The king had long been terribly afraid of any revolutions. And it was not about social or economic changes caused by revolution. It was so as the King of Sweden considered a revolution a destructive force threatening all the thrones. He was afraid that the example of France, where the position of the king weakened with each passing month, could lead to a collapse of the monarchy in all other European countries. For this reason, Gustav III came up with the idea of making the armed intervention in France. In 1791 the most important thing for him was rescuing the threatened French monarchy. Not finding understanding with the representatives of the Triple Alliance (England, Prussia, Holland), he increasingly began to lean towards the concept of an alliance with Russia. A decision to sign the treaty of alliance with Catherine II finally sealed failure of Louis XVI’s escape from Paris in June 1791. Almost immediately after stopping the King of France at Varennes, Gustav III started to put together a broad coalition of powers whose primary aim was to rescue the institutions of the French monarchy. His initiatives in this regard, however, were not understood at European courts. Swedish diplomats met almost everywhere with cool and sometimes even hostile reception. The only result of a large-scale diplomatic action was the signing of the Drottningholm treaty with Russia in October 1791. It is also worth noting that Gustav III remained in constant contact with Louis XVI and his trusted representative in exile, Louis Auguste, Baron of Breteuil. Gustav III was murdered at a time when his proposals were accepted by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The Tuileries court, initially quite sceptical towards the idea of an armed intervention in France. In March 1792 however the Baron of Breteuil, acting on behalf of the French royal couple, agreed on both, landing of the Swedish corps in Normandy and the organisation of a new escape of the royal family from Paris. The death of Gustav III shattered, however, all those intentions. The dying king also never learnt that in late March 1792 a chance for fulfilling all his desires and dreams appeared.