Diplomatic contacts between Sweden and the Ottoman empire started at an early date; already in 1587 the Swedish king Johan III approached the Turkish sultan Murat III. They further developed during the 17th century through the power politics of Gustaf II Adolf and Carl X Gustaf. However, it is reasonable to see Charles XII – known by Turkish schoolchildren as Demirbas, Sarl, ”The Iron Head Charles” or ”The fixture Charles” – as the catalyst of the network of relations which would eventually develop between the two countries. Although the primary reason for his seeking refuge in Ottoman territory was of a political nature – common opposition against Russia –, his military intelligence went hand in hand with scholarly and cultural exploration. Thus Charles XII´s stay in Bender and Timurtash between 1709 and 1714 became determinant also for Swedish academic interest in Turkey.
Sweden´s permanent diplomatic representation in Istanbul started in 1734. The incentive was to settle the debts Charles XII had accumulated in Turkey and to negotiate a commercial and military agreement between Sweden and Turkey. The legation was set up by C.F. von Höpken and Edvard Carlsson – later on raised to the nobility by the name of Carleson. Intrestingly enough they took up their headquarters in a house just opposite the gate of the present Swedish Consulate General. Incidentally, the same site would afterwards be purchased by the Russians. C.G. Löwenhielm, Swedish diplomat and artist in Istanbul 1824-1827, from the Swedish kiosk depicted then burnt down Russian compound. The Russian had two consecutive embassies here, until they moved further northeast to the present location.
Von Höpken and Varleson were successful. The Swedish debts were paid. A trade agreement between Sweden and Turkey was concluded in 1737, followed by a defensive alliance in 1739. This was the first alliance Turkey signed with any Christian state.
It is noteworthy that von Höpken and Carleson, from the very first beginning, paid an interest in a Protestant mission in Istanbul under Swedish guidance – here comes the third of the three determinants mentioned above. Already on the 8th of July 1735 they demanded that a Swedish clergyman be sent to Istanbul. In April 1737 Magnus Troilius from Uppsala university was appointed as preacher of the legation. Only a couple of days after Troilius´arrival in Istanbul, he and the two ministers started to work for a Swedish church in Istanbul. They described (1738) their wish as a “Church of stone vaults enough large to take 200 persons”.
For that purpose and the purchase of a lot with a beautiful and decent house for the minister they needed 40 000 rix-dollar silver coins. The question of the church was soon linked with the proposal of a fund for the liberation of evangelical slaves.
Through a royal decree in 1741 the governor-general in Stockholm and the county governors were instructed to make a collection for “building an evangelical church in Constantinople and the liberation of slaves.” The demanded sum of money, about 40 000 rix-dollar silver coins, was collected, mainly from Sweden but also from Finland and those parts of Germany which at that time were under Swedish rule. In 1753 the money was sent to Istanbul. In May 1757, from the English merchant Jean Lisle and for the sum of 22 000 piasters, Gustaf Celsing, the successor of von Höpken and Carlesson, bought an estate that was “large and well situated…so that it can ve considered one of the best houses here in Pera..”
The present Swedish Palace, designed by the Austrian architect D.Pulgher and inaugurated by the minister Selim Ehrenhoff in November 1870, was finished in only one year. It replaced the original house from 1757, which was destroyed in a fire in 1818. Between that year and the completion of the new house in 1870, the Swedish legation was confined to the Swedish kiosk next to the street. Today the Swedish Palace serves as chancellery for the Swedish Consulate General and as residence for the Consul General.