The king also wore a mask, but he was easily spotted, mainly because he wore the Star of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (the foremost order of Sweden).
On this day a dramatic assassination of Swedish King Gustav III took place during a masked ball in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. King Gustav III was only 46 years old at the time, and the assassination was the result of a conspiracy against him.
Gustav III was one of the most respected rulers in the history of Sweden. It was a time of the so-called enlightened absolutism, when monarchs ruled as dictators, but were at the same time trying to take care of the welfare of their subjects. That way many reforms were introduced in the country, with the goal of improving education, the economy, and science. Similar examples of absolutist rulers with educational ambitions are the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, and the Austrian ruler Maria Theresa.
As an enlightened absolutist, Gustav III founded the Swedish Academy (today known for electing the Nobel Prize winners). He abolished the death penalty and torture for most crimes. Among other things, he gave freedoms to Roman Catholics, which they did not have earlier in Protestant Sweden.
Around midnight on this day, the king attended a masked ball in the building of the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Shortly after entering, the king was surrounded by conspirators who wore black masks. The king also wore a mask, but he was easily spotted, mainly because he wore the Star of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (the foremost order of Sweden). The main conspirator was nobleman Jacob Johan Anckarström, a former captain in king’s regiment. The king was also surrounded by counts Horn and Ribbing, who also wore black masks. Anckarström shot the king in the back. The wound was serious, but the king did not die immediately, but only after 13 days.
Anckarström was arrested, as were the other conspirators. It is not exactly known what the motive for the assassination was. Anckarström had a quarrel with the King from before, but the assassination may have something to do with the fact that it was the time of the French Revolution. Just the year before, the revolutionaries arrested the French King Louis XVI at Varennes, when he tried to flee from France. In Sweden, Anckarström was executed after the king’s death, but more lenient laws were applied during the interrogation, thanks to the king-reformer whom he killed (for example, confession was not obtained by torture).