Gustav III of Sweden - Absolute Monarchy

Absolute Monarchy

The Riksdag of 1786 marks a turning-point in Gustav's history. Henceforth he showed a growing determination to rule without a parliament; a passage, cautious and gradual, yet unflinching, from semi-constitutionalism to semi-absolutism.

At the same time his foreign policy became more adventurous. At first he sought to gain Russian support to acquire Norway from Denmark. When Catherine II refused to abandon her ally Denmark, Gustav declared war on Russia in June 1788, while it was deeply engaged in a war with the Ottoman Empire to the south. In embarking on a war of aggression without the consent of the estates, Gustav violated his own constitution of 1772 – which led to a serious mutiny, the Anjala Conspiracy, among his aristocratic officers in Finland. Denmark declared war in support of its Russian ally, but was soon neutralized through British and Prussian diplomacy.

Returning to Sweden, Gustav aroused popular indignation against the mutinous, aristocratic officers, ultimately quelled their rebellion, and arrested its leaders. Capitalizing on the powerful anti-aristocratic passions thus aroused, Gustav summoned a Riksdag early in 1789, at which he put through an Act of Union and Security on 17 February 1789 with the backing of the three lower estates. This powerfully reinforced monarchical authority, although the estates retained the power of the purse. In return, Gustav abolished most of the old privileges of the nobility.

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