- Karlberg Palace was built in the 1630s
- Reconstructed for Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie in the 1670s by Jean de la Vallée
- Served as the royal residence during the reconstruction of Tre Kronor Palace
- Houses the world’s longest-at-the-same-place-residing academy of war sciences
At the edge of Stockholm’s Vasastaden district on the shore of the Karlberg Lake (Karlbergssjön), there stands an equally named palace originating in the 17th century. Today, the palace its characteristic thanks to its long wings on the lakefront side but it has not always looked the same, which is why I tell you the whole story of this exclusive property in this post.
Karlberg Palace (Karlbergs slott) is named after Admiral of the Realm (Riksamiral) Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm who had it built in the 1630s as the first palace in today’s Solna. Gyllenhielm was an illegitimate son of Karl IX and, therefore, an older half-brother of Gustav II Adolf. Despite his origin, he was a member of the Royal Family and served on several important positions, especially in the navy.
After the death of his brother, Carl Gyllenhielm was appointed the regent during the minority of Queen Christina. When the owner of Karlberg Palace passed away, the property became unoccupied for years. During this time, it was sporadically used by high nobility as a place for festivities and other social gatherings.
Circumstances surrounding the palace changed in the 1660s. First, it was thought that the Crown would purchase the property for Queen Hedwig Eleonora but later Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, one of the most influential men of the time, got involved. Eventually, he sold his Ulriksdal Palace to the queen and acquired Karlberg for himself in 1669.
De la Gardie appointed one of the most renowned architects in Stockholm Jean de la Vallée to turn the palace into the most prominent residence in the country. The architect, who is also known for designing parts of the House of Nobility or Bonde Palace to name only a few most notable examples of his work, created reconstruction plans promptly and the palace was about to change its face.
During the reconstruction led by de la Vallée, executed between 1670 and 1679, the palace received some of its most recognisable elements. Existing wings in the park behind the main building were extended and a pair of new ones was built on the lakefront. The high terrace in front of the main entrance was also added at this point. The main building also received a grandiose curved roof, which has, unfortunately, later been removed almost completely. Parts of it still remain visible from the park behind the palace, though, as you can see in the picture above.
However, as I mentioned in the earlier post on Swedish Nobility, Gabriel De la Gardie suffered huge losses in the Reduction. Although he was at the highest point in his career only a few years ago when he bought Karlberg, he lost most of his wealth and influence by the late 1670s. After King Karl XI declined to buy the property, it ended up in the hands of Marshal of the Realm, title previously held by De la Gardie himself, Johan Gabriel Stenbock.
This was a result of a judgment of Svea Court of Appeal (Svea hovrätt) and a consequence of De la Gardie’s unpaid debt to Stenbock. Despite the fact that Karl XI was allegedly not interested in buying the property a few years earlier, he proved his change of heart in 1688 when he acquired Karlberg from Stenbock.
Not so long later, the Tre Kronor Palace burned down, which meant that Karlberg became the permanent residence of the Royal Family for more than five decades. The information available today suggests that the members of the family were enjoying their time at the palace as, for example, young Crown Prince Karl, later King Karl XII, used to hunt wolves in the nearby forests in Solna. Queen consort Ulrika Eleonora (not to be confused with her daughter Queen regnant Ulrika Eleonora), the mother of Karl XII, was passionate about helping the poor and, therefore, founded a school for orphan girls at Karlberg. The king himself later supported the school in honour of his mother.
Karlberg Palace changed owner once again in 1766 when Crown Prince Gustav (later Gustav III) married Princess Sophia Magdalena and the young couple received the palace as their wedding gift. Gustav later intended to found an academy of war sciences at Ulriksdal but as the queen chose to live there after his assassination, the academy was eventually created at Karlberg.
The Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences (kungliga krigsvetenskapsakademien) was founded in 1796. It was then that the lakefront wings of the palace were extended into their current form which gives the property much of its character. Since the academy still operates in the premises of the palace today, it is the world’s longest operating academy of war in the same location.
In the present day, the park surrounding Karlberg Palace is significantly smaller than it used to be at the time when it served as a royal residence. Its area has been diminishing especially during the last century when several important traffic hubs were built in its neighbourhood. These also affect the atmosphere at the place but the palace nevertheless remains a very nice place to visit with many interesting stories to tell.
Karlberg Palace is moreover close to other beautiful places in the Vasastaden district and right on the opposite side of the lake, you will find one of my favourite waterfront promenades in Stockholm.
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Solna Byggnadsnämnd, 1994. Arkitektur i Solna.