King Gustav of Sweden Shot At The Royal Opera House

Alexander Roslin: Gustav III i rustning, 1771. Uppsala universitet

Today on March 16, 1792, King Gustav III of Sweden was mortally wounded at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm.

After reigning for over twenty years, King Gustav III became one of Sweden's most authoritative monarchs. His royal blood traced back to many other European rulers, including Frederick the Great of Prussia and Russian Empress, Catherine the Great. In 1772, Gustav seized power from the Swedish Parliament in a coup d'etat that formally ended fifty years of democratic governance. Much of his reign focused on reasserting royal authority over the nobility. Gustav was a keen patron of the arts and literature, spending considerable public funds on cultural ventures and building projects. He passed noteworthy social reforms by legalizing Catholicism and Judaism, reducing torture and capital punishment, and introducing early forms of economic liberalism.

Sweden's nobles became increasingly enraged with Gustav for his aggression and warmongering with Russia. In 1789, he introduced The Union and Security Act, which ultimately tightened his grip on power while significantly reducing the role of the aristocracy. As a result, a plot to murder the king was planned during the winter of 1792. The conspirators, led by Jacob Anckarstrom, arrived at a masked ball at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm. While enjoying dinner with his friends, Gustav received an urgent note from his imperial guard, suggesting he was under an immediate threat. The king had received many death threats in the past and completely disregarded the warning.

After dinner, Gustav proceeded to the main ballroom to join his guests at the masquerade. Everyone was masked, but the king was easily recognizable with a silver star embroidered on his cape. Shortly after entering the room, he was surrounded by the conspirators who were all wearing black masks. Anckarstrom suddenly moved the king and fired a pistol shot into the left side of his back. Gustav was rushed back to his quarters, and the opera's exits were sealed. All of the conspirators were arrested and confessed to their treasonous act. While surviving the initial shot, Gustav's wound became severely infected, causing his death two weeks later.

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