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Sunday, 8 February 2015
The attack on Patkul
Topic: Source criticism

In 1953 the historian Alvin Isberg published a dissertation called Karl XI och den livländska adeln 1684-1695. In this work Isberg attempted to investigate the various elements in the struggle between the absolute monarch and the Livonian nobility and particularly the role played by Johann Reinhold Patkul. One of the episodes covered by Isberg is the attempt in late 1692 to send Patkul (by then a captain in the Swedish army) to garrison duty at Kokenhusen. According to Isberg this was an idea hatched by Governor General Hastfer, Lt. Colonel Magnus von Helmersen and Charles XI with the purpose of removing Patkul from Riga, thereby making it difficult for him to continue his political work. 

One weakness in Isberg's account is the fact that the archive of the Livonian Governor General was unaivable to him and because of this he had to rely heavily on older literature such as Beiträge zur Lebensgeschichte Johann Reinhold Patkuls (1893) by Anton Buchholtz. What Isberg didn't know was Buchholtz (who used this archive) was severely handicapped by the fact that Carl Schirren had removed many Patkul documents and added them to his own collection (today partly in Riga and partly in Stockholm). These items allows us to get a slightly more complete picture.

The idea to send Patkul to Kokenhusen seems to have been Hastfer's. On 1 January 1693 Governor Erik Soop wrote to Hastfer (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 211, p. 28 ff.), informing him that he upon receipt of Hastfer's order (no date for it is given) immediately had written to Lt. Col. Helmersen, telling him that the King had decided that the garrison at Kokenhusen should be changed every six months. Helmersen should consequently order Patkul to take charge of the detachment and leave for Kokenhusen. Soop's order to Helmersen was issued on 28 December 1692 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 46, p. 1181). It soon ran into problems. Two days later Patkul replied (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 211, p. 27) that he was severely ill and could not possibly travel. Soop told Hastfer that Patkul was indeed ill and had been for some weeks, but as soon as there was a change for the better the Governor General would be informed. 

According to Isberg the failure of the Kokenhusen plan resulted in a change, i.e. that Charles XI on 16 January 1693 ordered Patkul to switch to the Åbo infantry regiment and go to Finland. As it turns out this is entirely impossible. The order to Patkul was issued on 28 December 1692, his reply was sent two days later and Soop's report on the matter, dated 1 January 1693, did not reach Hastfer in Stockholm until the 26th. So it is clear that Patkul's illness and reluctance to go to Kokenhusen had nothing to do with the King's decision to send him to Finland. 

In the same context Isberg also discusses the complaints lodged by Patkul and four other captains against Helmersen on 19 December 1692 and how these were handled by the authorities. As this is another interesting issue I will deal with it in a separate post in the coming weeks.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:07 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 8 February 2015 9:08 PM CET
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