Monday, 13 July 2009

People from the past: Curt von Stedingk, ambassador and Sweden’s last field marshal

Count Curt von Stedingk (1746-1837) was born to a noble family in Swedish Pomerania and joined the Swedish army at an early age. He received his baptism of fire in the battle of Stralsund when he was only 13 years old and later joined the Swedish regiment in France, Royal suédois. He took part in the America War of Independence and was awarded the Order of the Cincinnati by George Washington.
Back in France, he was celebrated as a hero and, with the more famous Axel von Fersen, he became a member of the circle around Queen Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI, which also brought him into contact with King Gustaf III of Sweden, with whom he was to develop a close relationship.
In 1787 he returned to Sweden and took part in the war against Russia in 1788-1789. When the war ended he was appointed ambassador to the court of St Petersburg, where he was on close terms with the monarchs Ekaterina II and Aleksandr I.
He was recalled from St Petersburg when war again broke out between Sweden and Russia in 1808. After the Swedish defeat it fell to him to lead the negotiations for peace with Russia in Fredrikshamn in 1809 and it was he who had to put his signature on the treaty which cost Sweden Finland. After the peace had been concluded, he was again appointed ambassador to Russia.
Already made a general in 1807 and a count in 1809, in 1812 he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal. He led the Swedish army in the campaign against France and in 1814 Stedingk signed the Peace of Paris on his country’s behalf.
He made his last visit to Russia at the age of 80 in 1826, when he represented Sweden and Norway at the coronation of Emperor Nikolaj I. When he died in 1837, he was the last surviving Swedish Field Marshal and the last of the so-called “Gustavians”, having seen six kings from Fredrik I to Carl XIV Johan.
The picture shows a detail of a portrait by G. J. J. H. Le Monnier. It was done in 1802 and hangs at Elghammar Manor, the beautiful country house in Russian Empire style, located in Sudermania, which Giacomo Quarenghi, one of Ekaterina II’s favourite court architects, designed for Stedingk in 1809-1810.

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