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Charles XII
Road To Glory
Winter Of Discontent
Grasping At Straws
The Battlefield
The Battle




Charles XII

King Charles XII of Sweden

Born on the 17th June 1682, Charles was a skinny and rather frail child, however when he was only four years old he was riding out with his father and taking part in tough masculine pursuits. [i] When he was eleven years of age his mother, Queen Ulrika Eleonora died. The young Prince came down with smallpox soon after, which left his face pock-marked, but his mothers death caused a closer relationship to develop between Charles and his father who, after his wife’s demise spent much more time with his children; this, in turn affecting the boy’s mannerisms, “… his speech became brief, dry and understated, saved from being hopelessly cryptic by occasional glimmers of sympathy and wit. Honour and sanctity of one’s word became his two cardinal principles: A king must put justice and honour ahead of everything; once given, his word must be kept.”[ii]

Sketch of Charles on campaign

With the death of his father in 1697 Charles, being only fourteen years of age, came under a council of Regents who took control of running Swedish affairs. This proved impractical as the members of the Regency Council seldom agreed on policy, and realising that Charles was not the kind of prince to be pushed into the background, he was declared king in November, then aged only fifteen. His coronation was something of a fiasco, with the entire entourage being ordered to wear black in memory of the old king; the crown fell off Charles’s head while he was mounting his horse, the archbishop dropped the anointing oil, Charles refused to give the traditional royal oath. Finally, taking the crown, he placed it upon his own head.[iii]

A very colourful view of Charles’s character and make up is given by General Fuller:

‘…Charles was knight errant and berserker in one. He lived for war, loved its hardships and adventures even more than victory itself, and the more impossible the odds against him, the more eagerly he accepted them. Wrapped in an impenetrable reserve, his faith in himself was boundless, and his power of self-deception unlimited- nothing seemed to him to be beyond his reach. The numerical superiority of his enemy; the strength of his position; the weariness of his troops; their lack of armament or supplies; foundering roads, mud, rain, frost and scorching sun appeared to him but obstacles set in his path by Providence to test his genius. Nothing perturbed him, every danger and hazard beckoned him on. High-spirited, but always under self-control, faithful to his word and a considerate disciplinarian, from the moment he took the field he became a legend to his men, un étandard vivant which endowed them with a faith in his leadership that has never been surpassed. His fearlessness was phenomenal, his energy prodigious, and added to these qualities he possessed so quick a tactical eye that one glance was sufficient to reveal to him the weakest point in his enemy’s line or position, which at once he attacked like a thunderbolt. Such was the boy king whose Baltic provinces the self-indulgent Augustus and the boorish Peter over their wine-cups had decided to filch and divide between themselves.’[iv]


[i] Robert K.Massie, Peter the Great, page 312

[ii] Ibid, page 312-313

[iii] Ibid, page 314

[iv] General J.F.C.Fuller, The Decisive Battles of the Western World, Vol II, page 164-165

* The treaty had been drawn up in 1697. By its terms Sweden promised to back the Maritime Powers against Louis XIV. The Altona agreement of 1689 pledged help for Sweden by the Dutch and English.


Copyright © 2004  Graham Morris. 
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