Friday 21 February 2014

Gustavus Adolphus – The Lion of the North

 Gustavus charging forward on the battlefield of Lützen

I’ve had the Pike & Shotte rule book on my shelf for quite a while, and since it’ll be the rules of preference for the coming Scanian War gaming, I decided it was time for a test run.

Before gaming though, I had to complete my TYW collection with some proper C-in-C figures. And when talking TYW, who better to model than Gustavus Adolphus, the The Lion of the North, or ”Das Löwe aus dem Mitternacht” as they probably would have said on the German countryside at the time.

The king's portrait

Fascinating people, and later great commanders like Napoleon, Gustavus innovated and revolutionized the military field tactics of his time. Using cavalry as chock troops, and adding flexible firepower in the ranks, using small detachments of musketeers along with his innovative use of field artillery, laid the foundation for victories like Breitenfeld and Lützen.

Gustavus’ success as a military innovator also saw him plough his way into the 30 Years War, laying the foundation for a Swedish Empire that would stand almost 100 years. But he would do it at a very high price.

"God with Us" - Gustavus preparing for the charge 

Always leading from the front, a bullet wound from the previous Polish campaign, prevented Gustavus from wearing a breastplate.  This would prove to have fatal consequences at Lüzten, were he rode to his death in a mad cavalry charge leading the Swedish Smålands Cavalry into an isolated situation on the battlefield. Here he caught a bullet in the arm that severed the bone.

Streiff - now on display at the Royal Armory Museum in Stockholm

His horse, Streiff, also got hit, and became increasingly hard to control. In the confusion Gustavus got surrounded by enemy cavalry, received another gunshot to the lower body and fell to the ground.  A mad fight followed between the few men Gustavus had left and the Imperial cavalry unit. All the Swedes were slain, but one of the them survived his wounds to later tell the story of what now ensued.


The death of Gustavus at Lützen 1632

The King laying wounded on the ground, was encircled by the dismounted enemy cavalry. Upon asking him the question “Who are you sir?” he answered truthfully “I’m Gustavus, the King of Sweden”. Realizing the value of their prisoner, the enemy troopers tried to bring the wounded king with them. Unfortunately Gustavus had at this time in his life become pretty obese. The job proved too hard on the imperials, and before leaving him behind, they gave him a shoot to the head, ran their swords through the now dead king a few more time, robbed him of all clothes and jewelry and took off.

Streiff taking his master into the midst of battle

The wounded horse, Streiff, had meanwhile returned to the Swedish lines with an empty saddle. This had immediate demoralizing effect, as it became clear to all that something terrible had happened to the King. Frantic rallying and stern discipline saw the Swedes through the rest of the battle, and the Imperials left the field to them in the early evening. But it was a costly victory indeed.

The horse and all the kings’ clothes was later returned from Austria to Sweden, as a gift of friendship. They can now be seen at the Royal Swedish Armory Museum in Stockholm.

Thank you very much for reading!


  1. Great paintjob and nice with some short but informative text :) I painted the same miniture a few years back and I'm tempted to paint a new one :)

  2. Nice post and great looking vignette, beautiful paintjob!

  3. Beautiful painted little vignette, and a very enjoyable historical background. I am not to good on TYW so it was very informative.

    Thanks for posting

  4. Stunning paint work!

    Thans for the history to, a good read.

    best regards michael

  5. Great painting Sören! And a nice little history lesson too.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, and for stopping by for a read. Glad that you guys enjoyed the added background info. Gustavus was quite a character! He even experimented with canons made of leather(!), to reduce weight and add mobility to small field pieces. Napoleon, being artillery educated, is said to have been very inspired by Gustavus.

  7. Very dramatic and wonderfully executed!


  8. Lovely work! Could you contact me at We'd like to feature this on the Warlord Games website.