Pontus De la Gardie

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Portrait of Pontus De la Gardie.jpg

Baron Pontus De la Gardie (ca. 1520 – 5 November 1585) was a French nobleman and general in the service of Denmark and Sweden.

He was born Ponce d'Escouperie in Caunes-Minervois (Aude), Languedoc, a son of Jacques Escoperier and X Armengaud.[citation needed] As a youngster, he wanted to become a priest and was educated in a monastery. He changed his mind however, and left Languedoc to become a mercenary in the service of Denmark. De la Gardie was promoted to officer and was in charge of a regiment of mercenaries. In 1565, during the Northern Seven Years' War, he was captured by Swedish troops at Varberg, and changed allegiance to Sweden. De la Gardie quickly became a favourite of John III of Sweden and in 1569, after only four years in the Swedish service, he received noble status. In 1571, he was created a baron and was given Ekholmen Castle.[1]

After Clas Åkesson Tott's resignation as the supreme commander of the Swedish forces in Finland and Estonia as a consequence of the Siege of Wesenberg (1574) during the Livonian War, de la Gardie took over Tott's office.[2] De la Gardie's skills combined with the fact that Sweden's enemy Russia had to transfer troops to defend against Polish attacks further south led to considerable military success for Sweden during the following years. In the fall of 1580, Karelia was conquered. De la Gardie led his troops over the frozen Gulf of Finland to capture the fortresses of Wesenberg (Rakvere) and Tolsburg (Toolse). In September 1581, Narva was taken after a storming that had been preceded by a massive bombardment. 4,000 soldiers and civilians were killed, pointing out the fact that De la Gardie was not only a skillful warrior, but a cruel and hard commander as well. De la Gardie and his Swedish troops went on to capture the fortress of Ivangorod and several other fortresses that autumn. In 1582, the war with Russia was ended and Sweden got to keep the conquests made in Karelia and Ingria, but had to withdraw from Livonia.[3]

De la Gardie was the most renowned military commander in Sweden during the 16th century and has been credited with much of the country's military success in the 1580s. An example of his ingenuity was the strategy of using zigzag shaped saps during the siege of Narva, a new technique at the time.[3]

De la Gardie drowned in the Narva River and is buried in St Mary's Cathedral of Tallinn. His tomb chest is made by well-known artist and architect Arent Passer.[4]


On 4 February 1580 De la Gardie married Sofia Johansdotter Gyllenhielm (ca.1556-1583), the illegitimate daughter of John III of Sweden and a Finnish lady, Karin Hansdotter.[citation needed] During the wedding, a gallery in the church collapsed and one person was killed. Some sceptics claimed it was a bad omen or a divine act with which God condemned the marriage.[3]

Pontus De la Gardie and Sofia Gyllenhielm had three children:

  1. Brita Pontusdotter De la Gardie (1581–1645)
  2. Baron Johan De la Gardie (1582–1642), statesman of the Swedish Empire
  3. Count and Field Marshal Jacob De la Gardie (1583–1652)

Further reading[edit]

  • Arrhenius-Örnhiälm, Claudius (1625-1695) (1690). Vita Illustrissimi Herois Ponti De La Gardie, Excercituum Sveciae Supremi Campi Ducis, Regnante Johanne III. Svecorum Rege Gloriosissimo : Cujus occasione totius fere Livoniae Historia exhibetur ; Ex incorruptae veritatis monumentis ... concinnata. Lipsiae, Leipzig: Apud. Jo. Frider. Gleditsch. 


  1. ^ Eriksson, Bo. "En katt bland hermelinerna" (in Swedish). Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  2. ^ Peterson, Gary Dean (2007). Warrior kings of Sweden. The rise of an empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. McFarland. p. 93. ISBN 0-7864-2873-2. 
  3. ^ a b c Eriksson, Bo (2007). Lützen 1632 (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedts Pocket. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-91-7263-790-0. 
  4. ^ The stonemasons