The Legend of Leo

Leo is unlike any other lion in the world. In its glass box in the Upper Armoury, Gripsholm’s very own lion is perhaps more comical than impressive, with its close-set eyes and human-like teeth.

The king of beasts has long played an important role as a symbol of power, strength and courage. The Gothic lion became part of the new mythology surrounding royal power during the time of the Vasa sons. During Sweden’s time as a great power, the lion had a prominent place in heraldry, and kings and queens were portrayed with lions by their side. At the Royal Palace of Stockholm, the approach to Lejonbacken is guarded by two muscular bronze lions.

An 18th century lion with an uncertain history

The real life lion was also amongst the exotic animals that were sought-after in the royal houses of Europe. To give a lion as a gift was a meaningful gesture between sovereigns. Leo the lion was almost certainly one such gift, but no-one knows when he came to Sweden. The tale that has long been told about him is the stuff of legend. According to the legend, Leo was a gift from the Bey of Algiers to King Fredrik I, a gift in return for the ‘tax’ that Sweden paid to avoid the Barbary States’ piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. This lion however, was quickly donated on to the Elector of Saxony.

Nevertheless, he is still a royal lion from the 18th century, even if we don’t know much more. He is the star of Gripsholm that elicits every emotion from wide-eyed wonder to amused laughter.

Leo is both comical and surprising. Photo: Kate Gabor

Nowadays, Fredrik I’s lion with its bizarre expression is something of an online celebrity. Photo: Kungl. Hovstaterna/The Royal Court

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Guided tours Open today 10.00-16.00

You can walk around Gripsholm Castle yourself, but taking a guided tour can make your visit extra special.

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Childrens Gripsholm Open today 10.00-16.00

Dungeons, armouries, canons, a stuffed lion. Hundreds of portraits, following you with their eyes down the winding corridors... bring you...

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Events

Bellman Day in Hjorthagen Nature Reserve is a regular feature of the Gripsholm series of concerts. Bring a picnic and enjoy Bellman's mus...

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Jazz musician Anna Gréta Sigurdardóttir – ‘Ung Svensk Solist’ (Young Swedish Soloist) and recipient of the Monica Zetterlund scholarship ...

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Internationally renowned jazz bassist Palle Danielsson is joined by musical friends for a concert at Gripsholm Castle.

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The Castle Open today 10.00-16.00

Gripsholm Castle boasts a unique collection of furniture and artwork spanning four centuries. Built in the 1500s it was part of a new sys...

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Gripsholm Castle is home to the world's oldest national portrait gallery. This is also one of the world's largest portrait galleries, and...

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The Royal Gift Shop Open today 10.30-16.00

Welcome to a boutique that is something out of the ordinary. The Royal Gift Shop is a unique present and souvenir shop offering products ...

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A wander through the leafy castle park is like taking a walk through history. There have been many gardens over the ages here, and apples...

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Since the 1600s the deer field has been a pasture land belonging to the Gripsholm Royal Farm. Today it is a nature reservation with hundr...

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History Open today 10.00-16.00

The palace gets its name from one of the personalities of medieval Sweden, Bo Jonsson Grip, by whom the first Castle was built in the sec...

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Articles and movies

Come on a fashion safari with Leo the Lion at Gripsholm Castle. See famous historical Swedes in their most stylish outfits.

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Four of the royal palaces will reopen on 1 July – Gripsholm Castle, Drottningholm Palace, the Chinese Pavilion and the Royal Palace, incl...

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Visit Gripsholm Castle from home. Explore Duke Karl's Chamber, the Council Chamber and King Gustav III's theatre in 360°. Don't forget to...

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