THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ARMFELT, GUSTAF MAURITZ, Count (1757-1814), son of Charles II.’s general, Carl Gustaf Armfelt, was born in Finland on the 31st of March 1757. In 1774 he became an ensign in the guards, but his frivolity provoked the displeasure of Gustavus III. and he thought it prudent to go abroad. Subsequently, however, (1780) he met the king again at Spa and completely won the monarch’s favour by his natural amiability, intelligence and brilliant social gifts. Henceforth his fortune was made. At first he was the maître des plaisirs of the Swedish court, but it was not long before more serious affairs were entrusted to him. He took part in the negotiations with Catherine II. (1783) and with the Danish government (1787), and during the Russian war of 1788-90 he was one of the king’s most trusted and active counsellors. He also displayed great valour in the field. In 1788 when the Danes unexpectedly invaded Sweden and threatened Gothenburg, it was Armfelt who under the king’s directions organized the Dalecarlian levies and led them to victory. He remained absolutely faithful to Gustavus when nearly the whole of the nobility fell away from him; brilliantly distinguished himself in the later phases of the Russian war; and was the Swedish plenipotentiary at the conclusion of the peace of Verelä. During the last years of Gustavus III. his influence was paramount, though he protested against his master’s headstrong championship of the Bourbons. On his deathbed Gustavus III. (1792) committed the care of his infant son to Armfelt and appointed him a member of the council of regency; but the anti-Gustavian duke-regent Charles sent Armfelt as Swedish ambassador to Naples to get rid of him. From Naples Armfelt communicated with Catherine II., urging her to bring about by means of a military demonstration a change in the Swedish government in favour of the Gustavians. The plot was discovered by the regent’s spies, and Armfelt only escaped from the man-of-war sent to Naples to seize him, with the assistance of Queen Caroline. He now fled to Russia, where he was interned at Kaluga, while at home he was condemned to confiscation and death as a traitor, and his unjustly accused mistress Magdalena Rudenschöld was publicly whipped to gratify an old grudge of the regent’s. When Gustavus IV. attained his majority, Armfelt was completely rehabilitated and sent as Swedish ambassador to Vienna (1802), but was obliged to quit that post two years later for sharply attacking the Austrian government’s attitude towards Bonaparte. From 1805 to 1807 he was commander-in-chief of the Swedish forces in Pomerania, where he displayed great ability and retarded the conquest of the duchy as long as it was humanly possible. On his return home, he was appointed commander-in-chief on the Norwegian frontier, but could do nothing owing to the ordres, contre-ordres et désordres of his lunatic master. He would have nothing to say to the revolutionaries who in 1809 deposed Gustavus IV. and his whole family. Armfelt was the most courageous of the supporters of the crown prince Gustavus, and when Bernadotte was elected resolved to retire to Finland. His departure was accelerated by a decree of expulsion as a conspirator (1811). Over the impressionable Alexander I. of Russia, Armfelt exercised almost as great an influence as Czartoryski, especially as regards Finnish affairs. He contributed more than any one else to the erection of the grand-duchy into an autonomous state, and was its first and best governor-general. The plan of the Russian defensive campaigns is, with great probability, also attributed to him, and he gained Alexander over to the plan of uniting Norway with Sweden. He died at Tsarskoe Selo on the 19th of August 1814.

See Robert Nisbet Bain, Gustavus III. vol. ii. (London, 1895); Elof Tegner, Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (Stockholm, 1883-1887).

(R. N. B.)
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