|King Gustav III by Alexander Roslin, 1777|
I had not intended to revisit the ailing King Gustav III of Sweden but the tale of the attempt on his life on 16th March 1792 seemed to strike a chord with salon visitors. For that reason I thought we would pay one final visit to the court of Gustav and discover how his sorry story ends.
As we have already learned, Gustav's fate was sealed when he chose to ignore an anonymous death threat received during dinner in Stockholm. Rather than flee, he instead strode into a glittering masked ball and found himself surrounded by assassins. When Jacob Johan Anckarström pulled the trigger on a gun loaded with balls, nails and scraps of iron, the weapon discharged into the king's back, wounding him seriously. Despite his injury, Gustav remained on his feet and as he staggered to remain upright, his aides rushed to his side with the intention of getting their monarch to safety.
As the assassins were apprehended, Gustav was returned to his quarters and the royal physicians flocked to the king's aid. At first it appeared that the assassination attempt had failed as Gustav lived and, with medical care, continued to serve as head of state. In fact, he was never to regain his health and within days the wound had become infected and the king's condition began to deteriorate rapidly.
As the days drew on the wound grew ever more septic and Gustav's weakened condition left him easy prey to pneumonia. On 29th March Gustav's life finally reached its final hours and with his dying breath he murmured, "A few moments rest would do me good." Those were the final words King Gustav III would ever speak and he died soon after, less than a fortnight from the night of the fateful, fatal ball.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.