Wojciech Olszewski or “Harry” is the writer of a very interesting blog in Polish language named “Pro Gloria et Patria…” I quote: “that is, Harry's lectures about ancient warfare, according to the best sources and collections the author’s efforts developed and gathered.”
I loved his post “Gustaw Errikson Sparre (1582-1629)” so I decided translating it from Polish to English (including a couple of notes made by another blogger – a remarkable blogger I should say – Michał Paradowski or “Kadrinazi”).
What a task I choose to do! My English is “middle-level”… and my Polish is “almost zero”! Anyway, full of enthusiasm I did it.
This translation would be easy to somebody knowing English and Polish well. All the opposite, it was a hard task to me. So, please, if somebody detects any mistranslation I’ll appreciate whatever correction to my work people want to do. I added some things taken from English, Polish and Swedish Wikipedia (yes …I managed to translate Swedish too …As you can see I’m bold). I integrated Harry’s original notes to the text only to do it simple. Anyway, I hope Wojciech “Harry” Olszewski might be glad with my humble and poor translation of his work.
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The times when in Poland the Swedish emigration was protected under the patronage of King Sigismund III Vasa are usually little-known. Civil war and religious persecution caused that multitudes of Swedes, fearing for his life or liberty sought for a safety haven on the south side of the Baltic. Gustav (or Gustaf) Eriksson Sparre (1582-1629) was one of such Swedish loyalist refugees for supporting Sigismund’s claim to the throne of Sweden.
His father, Erik Larsson Sparre (later, beheaded in the Linköping Bloodbath, 1600) was one of the most prominent men in Sweden at that time. He was High-Chancellor and member of the Royal Council or Senate (in Swedish, Riksråd – in Latin, “Senatus Regni Sueciae”). In 1582 he became Governor of the province of Västmanland.
His mother Ebba Pedersdotter Brahe (1555-1634), was also from an aristocratic family - her father, Per Brahe the Elder was King Gustav Vasa’s nephew and he was among the first members of the Swedish nobility to be created Count when titles of nobility were introduced by King Eric XIV in 1561 - (Erik Sparre and Ebba Brahe’s marriage got a total of 12 children, in order: Brita, Gustaf, Pavel, Beata, Magdalena, Johan, Catharina, Lars, Sigismund, Peder, Thure, Karl).
Their eldest son, Gustav, was born in June 19, 1582, in Strömsholm (Västmanland), a gloomy fortress, built on an island in Lake Mälaren (in 1550) by King Gustav Vasa. In 1587, Gustav’s father and his maternal uncle Erik Brahe (later, dead as loyalist refugee in Gdańsk, 1614) were sent to Poland to negotiate the election of (the Swedish-Finnish Crown Prince) Sigismund, as Monarch of Poland-Lithuania. After the coronation both became the King’s closest advisers and supporters until the unsuccessful Sigismund’s intervention in Sweden ended in the Battle of Linköping also known as Battle of Stångebro (1598).
The date of the arrival of Gustav Eriksson Sparre to Poland is unknown. It was probably in the years 1597-1598, before his father must return to Sweden (in order to fight for his Rightful-King), or in the entourage of Princess Anne Vasa, Sigismund’s sister. (Gustav’s uncle, Johan Larsson Sparre was Princess Anne’s Court Marshal, he was also a loyalist and for this reason beheaded at the Kalmar Bloodbath, 1599).
Around 1600 his name appears on a list of Protestant students of the Academic Gymnasium in Toruń. This school was a poly-academic and thriving center of cultural and scientific life of entire Royal Prussia, after the reforms carried out by the mayor of Toruń, Henryk Stroband. The choice of this university, not as popular among the Swedish Diasporas as the Jesuit College in Braniewo, testifies the young Gustav Sparre was raised in the Lutheran faith. However, it is possible that his life was associated with Toruń even earlier. In November 1587 the entourage of the newly elected Polish-Lithuanian Monarch Sigismund III was in Toruń, en route from Gdańsk to Cracow, in this entourage, in addition to the king’s mother (Queen Catherine Jagiellon-Vasa), the king’s sister (Princess Anne) and his aunt Dowager-Queen Anna Jagiellon, was also the Swedish High-Chancellor Erik Larsson Sparre. The procession was greeted by representatives of the Toruń City Council, with the Mayor Henryk Stroband leading it. Toruń burghers spare no money to celebrate the distinguished guests.
We do not know if Gustav (only 5 years old) accompanied his father, but certainly Henryk Stroband, the Gymnasium mentor and chancellor had to tell Erik Larsson Sparre about the high level of teaching of this university. Toruń, at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had its peak power always arranging its relations with the Monarchs, as opposed to the proud and independent Gdańsk. Bound Toruń to the firstborn son of the closest adviser of the new King and Swedish High-Chancellor, could be in these uncertain times (there was another pretender to the throne, Austrian Archduke Maximilian) a great preventive burghers’ move, which knew perfectly well that the King's grace was exchangeable for wealth.
The year in which Gustav Sparre comes in Toruń, is also the year in which his father, a follower of Sigmund, is beheaded (1600) by Duke Charles accused of high treason. We can only imagine the impact on the young adolescent's state of mind may have these events, but they certainly have determined his future life.
If people compare the biography of Gustav and his brothers it can be seeing a substantial difference in their lives. All the other children after the death of Erik Larsson Sparre tied up with the courts of Duke Charles and Gustav Adolph and rose to considerable wealth and dignity in Sweden (Johan, Lars, Peder, Thure and Carl were created Barons in 1647), but only his firstborn will be on the other side of this conflict, bound to King Sigismund and Poland-Lithuania to the end of his life. Are life choices a reflection of the conditions prevailing in the family? Are the other chancellor’ sons favored at the expense of their brother, had they no reluctance to serve the man who had their father’s blood on their hands?
We do not know what has happened to our hero in the early years of the seventeenth century. There is nothing about him in the annals of recorded history until 1608, when he married - Sidsel (Cecilia) Brahe - the daughter of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe - the Brahes are a noble family with branches in Sweden and Denmark -. (The Swedish biographical dictionary tells Gustav marries the daughter of an Austrian Baron; however, most of the biographies of Tycho Brahe indicate that his daughter marries Gustav Eriksson Sparre. The misunderstanding is probably due to the fact that after Gustav’s death Cecilia married again with Austrian-Bohemian Baron von Prössing).
It is hard to find the conditions where and when Gustav meets Sidsel (Cecilia) Brahe (1580-1640). Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman and scholar that after a conflict with King Christian IV left Denmark and settled in Prague in1599, where he became Court-Astrologer of the eccentric Emperor Rudolf II. He died in 1601 in unclear circumstances, probably as a result of mercury poisoning. His widow Kirsten (Christine) Jørgensdatter bought an estate near the border with Saxony before his death in 1605. (In 1697 Tycho Brahe asks Erik Sparre through the support of Sigmund and is willing to rebuild his observatory in the areas of the Commonwealth: on an island near Riga or on the Vistula delta, at Żuławy). Perhaps Cecilia stayed at the court of Archduchess Constance of Austria, the second wife of Sigismund III (after 1605).
Tycho made a morganatic marriage (some sources claim that he never did a formal marriage), so the children do not inherit the title but inherited the fortune. Association of rich and poor families could be beneficial for both parties. However, as is clear from surviving correspondence, the astronomer’s family had financial problems after his death.
There is another clue binding Gustav with the famous astronomer’s family, the already mentioned Gustav’s maternal uncle, Erik Brahe. After the defeat at Linköping, Erik Brahe abandons Sigismund’s camp and takes the side of Charles trying to regain the Duke’s confidence without significant results. Already in 1600 he left Sweden. The next year appears in the vicinity of his distant-cousin in Prague, and strangely, Johannes Kepler (also a famous astronomer and Tycho Brahe’s assistant) dies in his arms! As if this were not enough, in recent years, the Danish historian Peter Andersen, based on Erik's journal, accused him of murder Tycho Brahe. The story itself seems rather far-fetched. Tycho Brahe, as Rudolf’s Court-Astrologer also dabbled in Alchemy and probably poisoned himself with mercury trying to get transmutation into gold. Erik was known for his bender life and numerous love affairs, with no regular source of income. He probably looked for his distant-cousin’s financial aid, so his potential benefactor's death was not in his interest. Before his death in 1614 Erik Brahe spent two years in Gdańsk and was buried nearby in the Bridgettine Monastery in Kartuzy.
Returning to Gustav Sparre, in 1614 we have information about him, he is a Royal Courtier. Probably at that time, under the King’s influence, and maybe for his career, moves to Catholicism. (It should be noted that this step, shut his way back to Sweden, where the 1595 edict forced the expulsion of Catholics. Maybe, was it an act of loyalty to the king?). In 1616 he is mentioned among the loyalists that were preparing the proposed expedition to Sweden. During these preparations he had to be closer friend with another famous Swedes in the service of the Polish-Swedish Monarch like Gabriel Jöransson Posse (1590-1632), who was to lead the expedition. Gabriel’s father, Jöran (Göran) Knutsson Posse (1556- died refugee loyalist in Gdańsk, 1616), was like Gustav‘s father sentenced to death for treason (at Linköping), but humbling before Charles received grace and escaped with life. Gabriel’s brother Knut Jöransson Posse Baron of Hedensund was appointed in 1623 commander of the Polish and Swedish-loyalist fleet. Gabriel Posse himself was commissioned at the head of a ship by King Sigismund III. Before1626 Gabriel Posse fell in love with Beata Sparre (1597-1627), daughter of Anna Vasa’s Court Marshal Johan Larsson Sparre, and Gustav Sparre’s first-cousin. She was student in the Benedictine Convent nuns at Chelmno.
At the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, this monastery under the leadership of abbess Madeleine Mortęski, mystic and reformer of the Order, was a major center for teaching the girls of the nobility, which were known to had not usual access to schools. They hadn’t full monastic vows, and so they were educated and brought up a good material for becoming wives. Girls of the nobility were sent to the monastery with suitable equipment, so the material condition of release such ladies may be bought by a future spouse. As a result of pressure from Gustav and perhaps considerable sums earmarked for purchase his cousin, Gabriel Posse and Beata Sparre married on May 9, 1622 in Elblag. (She died Nov. 14, 1627 in Gdansk, was buried at St. Bridget, where is kept her epitaph).
Meanwhile, in August 1621, the Swedish Army landed in Livonia under the command of Usurper-King Gustav Adolph. At the beginning of 1622 Gustav Sparre’s infantry regiment was formed by mercenaries recruited in Saxony, Prussia and other German-speaking countries. Since May 11, the regiment camped at the suburbs and villages near Toruń. Excesses of undisciplined soldiers gave to the residents such a misery that, for direction of Gustav, special gallows were built at suburbs of Chelmno, where, for example, one of the soldiers was hanged. At the end of the month the soldiers leaved Toruń (after spending much of the town patrimony). Making their way to Livonia, where the war was, they appear in Tolkmicko, where, according to the annals, stayed 20 days and forced tribute of 1000 guilders. In July, Hetman (High-Commander/Seneschal) Krzysztof Radziwiłł wrote to Colonel Gustav Sparre, pushing him to be rushed and join the Royal army at Mitawą. However, despite the reminder letters, Sparre never reached Livonia; he didn’t even start travelling to that place!
By the end of August his troops stuck in Prussia. Gustav was a trusted royal courtier, so this amazing delay could not have taken place without the consent of King Sigismund. Why, then, gathered the troops instead of putting them on the battlefield?
Long time stationing on the coast of the Vistula Lagoon and the presence of Gabriel Posse, a specialist on the sea neighboring Elblag, suggests they contemplated embarking the troops and do an abruptly landing in Sweden. But, before that happened, Hetman Radziwiłł could not wait to sign a truce because of his little strength and provisions, and the whole expedition became obsolete.
In the last years of his life Gustav entirely devoted to his military career. In 1626 he got a patent for a regiment of 600 soldiers, but he didn't obtain funds to raise it. At the turn of 1626-1627 got a patent for 3,000 soldiers, about 10 companies - his regiment was probably made in part of the already struggling mercenary company in Prussia, but this regiment was never created because he didn’t agree with some Polish officers – one of them, Judycki (Mikołaj Judycki herbu Radwan odm.) wrote in a letter that he will not serve under a Swede. Nevertheless, somewhere in late 1627 or early 1628 years Sparre took command of the regiment of Ernest Magnus Denhoff (also Magnus Ernst Denhoff/ Dönhoff/ Doenhoff/ Denhof).
At the beginning of 1629 appears in the companionship of Gerhard Denhoff (Ernest’s brother), trying to seize Toruń (16 February) from Swedish Field-Marshal Herman von Wrangel troops. Both colonels come to the town few hours before the appearance of the Swedish troops. It seems that this presence was completely coincidental; the both arrived without its troops, although they probably already knew about the defeat of Górzno.
In the summer of 1629, Gustav Sparre, along with his unit, took part in the offensive of the royal army in Prussia… but he died July 18, 1629 in Gniew. We do not have any information about being wounded so he probably fall victim to the plague (probably, Smallpox/Variola). The plague spread rapidly in 1629 in Toruń and took more than 2.000 souls. He was buried in the parish church of the Old Town of Toruń, which is today's St John’s Cathedral, in the mid-nineteenth century his tombstone was a still legible.
Gustav was born into a family of Swedish aristocrats and died as a (Polish) colonel in the service of the Polish King. We do not know what material bases he got for a living in his new homeland. Perhaps, like to other immigrants loyal to the House of Vasa, the King gave him some lands of the Crown. His numerous associations with Toruń, from the school after the burial, and the proximity to Anna Vasa’s Court, (she was District-Governors - starosta - of Golub and Brodnica and patroness of the loyalist refugees) gave rise to the conclusion that his estate was somewhere in the area of Chełmno Land (Województwo chełmińskie).
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As for his military achievements during the 1626-1629 war, there aren’t known examples (unfortunately). Generally, the bulk of his regiment served as garrison, especially on the coast (in Puck, for instance) so it seems that Sparre wasn’t much on fighting in the field. (Kadrinazi’s note).
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Gustav Sparre’s regiment (former Ernest Magnus Denhoff’s regiment; after Sparre’s death, Friedrich Denhoff took it) had 12 companies, of which I know the size of 9 (the remaining 3 are described only by the commander's name (I suspect they were used as garrison units in Puck). Again, each company has a different size - from 350 to 134 servings. (Kadrinazi’s blog). Regiment na sześć rot podzielony
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*** My Footnotes
- Probably inspired by the Polish-Lithuanian constitutions, Erik Larsson Sparre drafted in 1585 the booklet "Pro lege, rege et grege" (For the law, the king and the people) in which he argued the King must rule the country in collaboration with the Royal Council (Senate). The booklet was the basis of the Swedish Parliamentary Monarchy and Sparre appeared thus as one of her time leading state theorists.
- Although, Duke Charles (Usurper-King Charles IX) was a bloody tyrant (the list of “bloodbaths” illustrates that very well) he was also a cunning politician that combined executions with magnanimous acts of forgiveness and even with generosity towards his repentant opponents or theirs enemies’ closest relatives. This same cunning policy was largely continued by his son, Usurper-King Gustav II Adolf.
For a matter of room those issues will be written in my next post.
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