Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lion of the North

"It came slow, my lord, dooms slow," replied Dalgetty; "but as my Scottish countrymen, the fathers of the war, and the raisers of those valorous Scottish regiments that were the dread of Germany, began to fall pretty thick, what with pestilence and what with the sword, why we, their children, succeeded to their inheritance. Sir, I was six years first private gentleman of the company, and three years lance speisade; disdaining to receive a halberd, as unbecoming my birth. Wherefore I was ultimately promoted to be a fahndragger, as the High Dutch call it (which signifies an ancient), in the King's Leif Regiment of Black-Horse, and thereafter I arose to be lieutenant and ritt-master, under that invincible monarch, the bulwark of the Protestant faith, the Lion of the North, the terror of Austria, Gustavus the Victorious."

Gustavus Adolphus, or Gustavus II, of Sweden was considered by Napoleon to be one of the eight great captains the world has known.  The Lion of the North, as he was nicknamed, died on November 6, 1632, during the Battle of Lutzen.  The loss of Gustavus II’s life was detrimental to the Protestant cause during the Thirty Years’ War, though the Swedes won the day at Lutzen. 

Sir Walter Scott’s character Captain/Major Dalgetty invokes the name Gustavus throughout his speaking parts in “A Legend of the Wars of Montrose”.  Many Scots fought alongside Gustavus against German soldiers in the Thirty Years War, including David Leslie, who later fell to Cromwell's forces at Dunbar (1650).  It was another military man who influenced Scott’s novel.  According to the historical note in the Edinburgh Edition of this work, one of Scott's primary resources was a book about the military experiences of one Colonel Robert Monro, who fought for Gustavus.  Dalgetty’s words are taken after Monro’s.  Monro’s book has an enormously long title: “Monro his Expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment (called Mac-Keyes Regiment) levied in August 1626…”.  Scholars have even found Scott’s annotation on a volume that was in the Advocates Library during his lifetime. 

Scott’s Montrose is less than 200 pages long.  What better way to spend Gustavus Adolphus day?

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