Johan Skytte

Johan Skytte (1577, in Nyköping – 15 March 1645, in Söderåkra) was a Swedish statesman who founded the University of Tartu.

Baron Johan Skytte
Johan Skytte.jpg
Lithography by Johan Cardon
2nd Governor-General of Swedish Livonia
In office
Preceded byJacob De la Gardie
Succeeded byBengt Bengtsson Oxenstierna
Governor-General of Swedish Ingria
In office
Preceded byNils Assersson Mannersköld
Succeeded byBengt Bengtsson Oxenstierna
Governor-General of Swedish Karelia
In office
Personal details
Nyköping, Sweden
Died15 March 1645
Söderåkra, Sweden
ChildrenVendela Skytte, Bengt Skytte

He was the son of the Mayor of Nyköping, Bengt Nilsson Skräddare, and Anna Andersdotter.[1] While attending school in his hometown and for the nine years he was studying at foreign universities, he used the surname Schroderus, a Latinized derivation from his paternal German family-name Schröder ("tailor"), as did also his brother, Ericus Benedicti Schroderus (Erik Benedict Schroder) (c. 1575 – summer of 1647),[2] a publisher, translator and pioneer on the written standard Swedish language.[1]

In 1602, at his return from his foreign studies, Skytte was hired as tutor for the seven years old Prince Gustavus Adolphus, the future king who reigned in 1611–1632 and who is credited as the founder of Sweden as a Great Power (Swedish: Stormaktstiden), referred to as the Swedish Empire (1611–1721).

In 1603, Skytte was ennobled, and acquired the family-name Skytte, after an extinct noble family from which he claimed descent on his maternal side. His noble family members have used the family-names Skytte af Duderhof (also: Duderhoff), Skytte af Sätra, and Skytte, and some also Scott in Canada and the United States.[3][4] In 1607–1611, Skytte had the Grönsö Castle (old spelling: Grönsöö) built for his personal use. It is located on the island of Grönsö in Enköping, Sweden.

In 1610, Skytte was sent to London on a diplomatic mission, an attempt to seek the hand of Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James I, the King of Scots, England and Ireland, for the young prince Gustavus. In 1611, Skytte became the Governor of Vestmannia, and in 1612 the head of Sweden's tax authority.[5]

In 1617, he became a State Judge (kammarråd) and High Councillor (riksråd), and participated in the drafting of the 1617 Coronation Oath of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (a.k.a. Gustav II Adolf, Gustav II Adolph). As High Councillor, Skytte was a member of the Privy Council of Sweden. It was a cabinet of medieval origin, consisting of magnates (Swedish: stormän) who advised and – at times – co-ruled the realm with the King of Sweden.

In 1620, Skytte's long-time friend and most important ally, King Gustavus Adolphus, was married to Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg (11 November 1599 – 28 March 1655), a German princess and daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and Anna, Duchess of Prussia, who was a daughter of Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia. Maria Eleonora now became the queen consort of Sweden. She bore her husband a daughter, Christina, in 1626.

In 1622, Skytte was appointed Chancellor of Uppsala University – which he remained until his death –, and made plans for the launching of a new appellate court in Tartu, located in the part of northern Swedish Livonia which today is part of Estonia (Tartu was not part of the Duchy of Estonia (1561–1721), also known as Swedish Estonia until 1710 (1561–1710)).

Also in 1622, Skytte endowed the Skyttean Professorship of Eloquence and Government to the Uppsala University. He prescribed in detail how the chair-holder should carry out his teaching. The Skytte Chair is considered the oldest professorship in political science in the world. Skytte's own house in Uppsala, the originally medieval building known as Skytteanum, is still today used by Sweden's Department of Government; the Professor Skytteanus/Skytteana has his/her residence in an apartment in the building. Since 1995, the Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University has awarded an annual Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science).

Of the several schools in Sweden named after Skytte, one was actually founded on his initiative, the Skyttean school (Skytteanska skolan), established in 1631 in Lycksele, and moved to Tärnaby in 1867 – both places are in the Northern Swedish province of Lapland. Due to this Skytte's contribution to education in Northern Sweden, the Royal Skyttean Society was established and named after Skytte in 1956 in Umeå, Northern Sweden.

By 1624, Skytte's job-titles had come to include the Chief Justice of Finland when – that year – he was created baron (friherre) and was granted the Barony of Tuutari (Swedish: Duderhof, Dudern) in Ingria (Swedish: Svenska Ingermanland, "land of Ingrians"; Finnish: Inkeri), where in 1299 or 1300 the fortress of Landskrona (Finnish: Maankruunu) had been erected by Swedes and Finns under the leadership of Torkel Knutsson, but which had been destroyed by the forces of Novgorod already in 1301, before Knutsson's rescue forces made it to the scene,[6] and where the Russian city of Saint Petersburg stands today. Ingria was a dominion of the Swedish Empire in 1583–1595 and 1617–1721, before being ceded to the Russian Empire in the Treaty of Nystad in 1721.

In 1629, Skytte was appointed Governor-General of Swedish Livonia, Ingria and Karelia for the period of 1629–1634. In 1632, he was appointed chancellor of the Academia Gustaviana (today's University of Tartu), which he founded that year, with the required ratification provided by King Gustavus Adolphus, briefly before the king's death on 6 November in the Battle of Lützen (1632),[7][8] during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648).

The corpse of King Adolphus was brought to Nyköping, Skytte's birth-town, and was kept there until the funeral ceremony held in the summer of 1634 at the Nyköping Castle, where Skytte gave a speech, and Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius read a sermon dedicated to the king's daughter, Christina, Queen of Sweden. After this, the king's corpse was moved to Stockholm. Also in 1634, Skytte founded – and became the first president of – the Göta Court of Appeal (Göta hovrätt) in Jönköping.

Johan Skytte was parent to Vendela Skytte and Bengt Skytte, and brother to Lars Bengtsson Skytte, a stadtholder of the Swedish Empire, and a forefather of the Marshal of Finland and 6th President of Finland Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.


  • Ingemarsdotter, Jenny (2011). Ramism, Rhetoric and Reform: An Intellectual Biography of Johan Skytte (1577–1645). Uppsala Universitet. ISBN 978-91-554-8071-4.


  1. ^ a b Ericus Benedicti Schroderus, 1580–1647, by Rikard Wingård, Svenskt Översättarlexikon.
  2. ^ Ericus B Schroderus, Boktryckare, Översättare, by Anders Burius, Svenskt biografiskt lexicon, Riksarkivet, Sweden.
  3. ^ Johan Gabriel Anrep: Svenska adelns ättar-taflor ("Swedish nobility lineages"), band 4 ("volume 4"), Stockholm, 1864.
  4. ^ Sveriges Ridderskap och Adels kalender 2004 ("Sweden's Chivalry and Nobility calendar 2004"), Stockholm, 2003.
  5. ^ Otavan Iso tietosanakirja ("Otava's Great Dictionary", part 7, p. 1565. Otava, 1966.
  6. ^ Facta 2001, Volume 10, column 625. WSOY, 1981.
  7. ^ Johan Skytte biography by David Lindén: Johan Skytte – stormaktstidens läromästare, Atlantis, 2017.
  8. ^ Johan Skytte biography by Jenny Ingemarsdotter: Ramism, Rhetoric & Reform: An Intellectual Biography of Johan Skytte (1577–1645), Uppsala, 2011. ISBN 978-91-554-8071-4