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De la Gardie Jacob Pontusson
(1583—1652)

De la Gardie Jacob Pontusson (1583—1652)

Field Marshal and Count Jacob Pontusson De la Gardie was a statesman and a soldier of the Swedish Empire.

He was appointed Privy Councilor in 1613, Governor of the Swedish Estonia between 1619 and 1622, Governor General of Livonia in 1621, and Lord High Constable in 1628. He introduced reforms based on the then novel Dutch military doctrine into the Swedish army. He commanded the Swedish forces in Russia and against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He also served as one of the five regents jointly ruling Sweden during the minority of Queen Christina.

Jacob De la Gardie was born in Reval (today Tallinn), Estonia (then part of the Swedish Empire), as a son of Pontus De la Gardie and Sofia Johansdotter Gyllenhielm, the illegitimate daughter of king John III of Sweden. His mother died giving birth, and his father perished two years later in Narva. Jacob was raised in Finland (then part of Sweden proper) by his grandmother Karin Hansdotter, the mistress of king John III.

De la Gardie married Ebba Brahe in 1618. They had 14 children, the most famous among them being Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, born in 1622 and Gothenburg countess Christina Catharine De la Gardie (1632–1704), who married Gustaf Otto Stenbock and was mother of Magnus Stenbock.

Between 1606 and 1608, De la Gardie served under the Dutch general Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange. Impressed with the Dutch way of waging war, De la Gardie began introducing Dutch methods into the Swedish army upon his return to the service of Sweden.

During the Polish-Russian War (1605-1618), Sweden signed an alliance with tsar Vasili IV of Russia in 1609. King Charles IX of Sweden ordered De la Gardie to command the Finnish expeditionary forces of Sweden inside Russia starting in 1608, first against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (known as the De la Gardie Campaign), and later, breaking the alliance, the Ingrian War (1610-1617) against Russia.

De la Gardie's forces joined the Russian prince Mikhail Skopin-Shuisky and advanced from Novgorod towards Moscow early in 1610 in support of Vasili IV, whose rule was contested at the time. On their way, they relieved the Siege of the Trinity Monastery. In June of 1610, De la Gardie's forces marched with the Russian army under Prince Dmitry Shuisky (the tsar's brother) to relieve the besieged fortress of Smolensk but were defeated by the Poles at the Battle of Klushino.

All but a few hundred of De la Gardie's men were killed or fled to the Polish side. This marked the failure of Charles IX of Sweden to place his son, Philip, on the Novgorodian throne. In 1617, De la Gardie became the chief Swedish negotiator at the Treaty of Stolbovo whereby Sweden was able to secure important territorial concessions from Russia, effectively closing off Russia from access to the Baltic Sea.

Between July 1619 and 1622 was Governor of the Swedish Estonia and in 1626 De la Gardie purchased an estate with a medieval castle in Haapsalu, in modern-day Estonia.

After 1621, De la Gardie took part in the Polish-Swedish War against his mother's half-brother King Sigismund III of Poland (former king of Sweden) in Livonia, but he was recalled after serving as commander in chief between 1626 and 1628. De la Gardie was an advocate of peace with Poland and acted as one of the Swedish negotiators at the Truce of Stuhmsdorf in 1635.

De la Gardie became a member of the state council of Sweden in 1613. In 1620 he became marshal and one of the five regents ruling Sweden during Queen Christina's minority (1632-44). His pacifist and pro-French and pro-Polish attitudes often put him at odds with chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, who led Sweden's war effort in the Thirty Years' War after the death of Gustavus Adolphus in 1632.

As De la Gardie supported many of Oxenstierna's other policies, eventually the two leaders reconciled after Oxenstierna's return to Sweden in 1636. Although the marshal's office came under criticism that year, De la Gardie continued to operate effectively, making large profits from leasing royal revenues and from loans to the crown.

Count Jacob De la Gardie died in Stockholm in 1652 and is buried in Veckholm church in Uppsala County. The city of Jakobstad in Finland is named after him.


Finland, 1934, Jacob De la Gardie

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