Rosen, Gustaf Fredrik von

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Count Gustaf Fredrik von Rosen

Swedish Major-General (1722-??), Commander-in-chief of the Swedish field army in Pomerania (December 1757 to July 1758)

born August 6, 1688, Reval (present-day Tallin), Estonia, Sweden

died June 17, 1769, Stockholm, Sweden


Gustaf Fredrik von Rosen was the son of John Didrikson von Rosen.

In 1705, von Rosen started his military career as dragoon in the Stenbock regiment, joining the Swedish army in Poland.

In 1706, after the battle of Grodno, von Rosen was appointed cornet and was later transferred as lieutenant in Norra Skånska Horse.

In 1709, von Rosen accompanied Charles XII, taking part on July 8 in the disastrous Battle of Poltava in Ukraine. He then followed the few surviving troops all the way down to Turkey. Von Rosen soon became one of the favourites of Charles XII.

In 1711, von Rosen was promoted ryttmästare (the equivalent of the German Rittmeister rank, a captain in the cavalry) in the Livregemente till häst. He soon became aide-de-camp to King Charles XII.

In 1714, von Rosen, together with Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Fredrik Düring, accompanied King Charles XII in what the Swedish historian Säve called his "steeple-chase", a journey who led him in just fifteen days from Pitesci in Valachia, just west of Bucharest, to Stralsund in Pomerania. The Swedish king remained in Stralsund for two years with his retinue, participating with his grenadiers in the fruitless defence of the city which was finally captured by the Prussians. Swedish officers had begged the king to leave the town before the arrival of the Prussians. Charles XII managed to leave the fortress in time and sailed away aboard a small ship, crossing the Baltic and reaching the town of Ystad on the southern coast of Skåne. This trip was not without danger, 12 Danish guns fired on his ship from the island of Rügen. Two men got killed next to the king and the main mast was crashed. The king and his remaining companions were rescued by two ships of the Swedish Navy who were patrolling far off the Swedish coast.

During this period, von Rosen proved to be an able soldier in combats in Pomerania and later in Norway, twice preventing the king to be taken prisoner.

In 1717, von Rosen married Sofia Lovisa Wachtmeister. The same year, he became colonel of the artillery volunteer regiment in Carlscrona (a strongly fortified harbour of the Swedish navy).

In 1718, bold King Charles XII was killed, on December 11, during the siege of the Norwegian fortress of Fredriksten, not far from the Norwegian town of Fredrikshald.

In 1719, von Rosen became colonel of the Dals Regiment.

In 1722, von Rosen became major-general in the infantry.

In 1724, von Rosen was ennobled.

In 1728, von Rosen became colonel of Södermanlands Infantry.

In 1730, von Rosen married his second wife Ebba Margareta Baner. She died a few years later after her son Ulrik Fredrik von Rosen was born.

In 1731, von Rosen received the title of baron.

In 1733, von Rosen married his third wife Teodora Beata Dücker.

In 1738, when the “Hats Party” seized power in Sweden, von Rosen joined them and, in 1739, became member of the King's Council (Riksråd).

Von Rosen was instrumental in launching the disastrous war with Russia in 1741. Such politic was typical of the “Hats Party” who sought revenge over Russia for the Swedish defeat in the Great Northern War (1700-1721), contrarily to the “Caps Party” who advocated a kind of friendship with the Russians, thus accepting that Sweden was not a leading power in Northern Europe any more.

In 1747, despite the disaster caused by his ill advices in the Russo-Swedish War (1741-1743), von Rosen managed to persuade his friends of the Rådet (council) to appoint him as general-governor of Finland. He retained this charge until 1751 when the parliament revoked his assignment.

In 1751, at the coronation of Adolf Fredrik of Holstein-Gottorp as king of Sweden, von Rosen was made a count. As a member of the cabinet, he had the responsibility to equip Swedish troops. As per the Swedish historian Säve, by then the brave and very gallant soldier had become a true bureaucrat. Both Fersen and Sprengtporten describes von Rosen as a man who treated the least bagatelles as of vital interest for Sweden. He had the reputation to be stiff and distant with the generals under his command, not trusting them the least. Cooperation with such a commander must have been rather difficult.

Shortly after the departure of Field-marshal Ungern-Sternberg on December 20 1757, General von Rosen took command of the Swedish field army operating in Pomerania. This new commander-in-chief was one year older than the previous one, being already 69 years old.

The operations in Pomerania in 1758 started as a nightmare. Winter was so rude that thick ice formed over the strait separating the island of Rügen from Western Pomerania, thus making the small Swedish force (2,000 men with 20 field guns) occupying the island very vulnerable. They continuously had to crush the ice between Rügen and the mainland to prevent the passage of the Prussians. By January 19, some 400 guns were mounted on the walls of Stralsund because von Rosen expected a Prussian attack. Indeed, by January 20 1758, the Prussians had completely surrounded Stralsund on the land-side. On January 26, von Rosen sent out a party to reconnoitre the Prussian positions. This was the only attempt he made during the Prussian blockade which lasted till June 18. During this period, von Rosen contented himself to supervise the reinforcements of the defence of Stralsund. On June 18, Prussian troops were recalled to deal with the Russian invasion of Brandenburg led by Fermor. On June 27, von Rosen, who considered that this war was not for him, sent a letter to ask to be relieved of his command. He explained that he was too sick and too tired to be able to lead the Swedish field army. On July 4, the Rådet (council) authorised him to quit his charge. On July 22, von Rosen left Stralsund. On July 27, Lieutenant-general Count Gustaf David Hamilton, the oldest Swedish general in Pomerania, assumed command of the field army, in accordance with the Swedish seniority system.

After leaving command, von Rosen went to a spa town to “take the waters”. This was then very fashionable among both higher and lower nobility in Sweden.

In 1765, when the “Hats Party” lost power, von Rosen left.

In 1769, von Rosen was recalled when the “Hats Party” once more came to power. However, he declined because of his advanced age. He died the same year in Stockholm.


Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, Anhang 30

Säve, Teofron; Sveriges deltagande i Sjuåriga Kriget Åren 1757-1762, Beijers Bokförlagsaktiebolag, Stockholm, 1915

Swedish Wikipedia - Gustaf Fredrik von Rosen (1688-1769)


Gunnar W. Bergman for the initial version of this article