CHARLES X. was one of the most ambitious men ever placed upon a throne, and Europe was soon to realize that a new war-lord was come. His ambition, so long unsatisfied and secreted, burst forth with uncontrollable strength, in compass only to be equalled by his rare gifts of mind and heart. Charles Gustavus had suffered a good deal of neglect, coldness and hatred, but when ascending the throne he seemed to have forgotten all this. Oxenstierna died a few months after the abdication of Queen Christine, deeply impressed by the magnanimity and genius of the new sovereign. Charles Gustavus was one of the most highly gifted of Swedish monarchs. He had a great deal of interest in and rare discernment for the requirements of a peaceful development. But reared in the most warlike of times, when a reputation could be made only by winning so and so many “victorias” for the firm establishment of a hero’s “gloire,” Charles Gustavus thought that only the monarch favored by “Fama” would have the prestige to lead firmly the fate of his people. He often expressed the wish to rest from his campaigns in order to contemplate his work and make it beneficial to his people, but such a rest he never gave himself time to enjoy during his short and remarkable reign.
Charles burned with desire to gain fame in war, taking for pretext that the king of Poland, by his repeated claims to the Swedish throne, made peace treacherous and impossible. But such was the condition of affairs that some-thing must be done to quiet the malcontent people, restore peace between the quarrelling classes, and reimburse the empty state treasury. At a Riksdag in Stockholm, in 1655, a restitution was proposed by the king and agreed to, according to which all estates which in earlier times had been rendering dues to the direct support of the court, army, fleet, or administration, should be confiscated to the crown; also one-fourth of the estates given away since the death of Gustavus Adolphus, and all estates fraudulently obtained. A committee to enforce the restitution was appointed, to be presided over by the able Herman Fleming. The restitution, far from radical in itself, was not completely carried through, thanks to the opposing nobles. But it proved effective for the moment, the king securing the goodwill of the people, temporary quiet and means to carry on the proposed war, to commence which Charles Gustavus received the somewhat reluctant consent of the faithful people whose financial state was a most despairing one. Charles X. thought in new conquests to find means to better their condition. Shortly after his coronation he married Hedvig Eleonore of Holstein-Gottorp.
John II. Casimir of Poland, the younger son of Sigismund, like Vladislav, styled himself king of Sweden and had claims to Livonia. For this he should be punished. It was not the original intention of Charles X. to make himself king of Poland, but he was probably the first who ever devised a division of that unhappy country. The success of Charles X. was without a parallel. The strong fortresses were captured, the armies surrendered and registered in Swedish service. After two months Charles X. entered the old capital of Cracow, John Casimir fled from his country, and, carried away by the frenzy of success, Charles Gustavus had himself crowned king of Poland. West Prussia was captured, and the elector of Brandenburg, who held East Prussia in fief, and the duke of Courland were forced to become the vassals of Sweden, in 1656.
But Charles X. had roused an enemy that few invaders, however great, have been able to successfully encounter, the spirit of patriotism. The Poles, enticed to revolt by the Catholic clergy, found a leader in the noble Czarniecki, who commenced a war of liberation on the Swedish usurper. King John Casimir returned, and armies were gathered. Charles Gustavus was yet to do wonders of strategy, which aroused the amazement and fear of all Europe, but he was glad, when finding a good excuse, to extract himself from the affairs of Poland. In 1656 he defeated Czarniecki at Golumbo, undertook the adventurous crossing of the river of San, and captured, and recaptured, the capital of Warsaw. The “three days’ battle of Warsaw” (18th-20th of July, 1656) is one of the most famous in modern warfare, by which the reputation of Charles X., as one of the greatest warriors of his time, was firmly established. Charles X. had joined forces with the “great elector” of Brandenburg, who up to the last moment was unwilling to risk a battle of 22,000 men against an enemy twice as strong. Charles Gustavus was unyielding and turned it into a great victory. But his position became precarious, Russia, Germany, Holland and Denmark being hostile, joined by Brandenburg, the ambitious “great elector” not being satisfied with the Swedish supremacy in East Prussia. To save himself from the dilemma with untarnished glory, Charles X. decided to fight Denmark, which country had declared war without suspecting the possibility of an attack.
Lennart Torstensson, his master of strategy, had shown Charles X. how Denmark was to be attacked. With an army of only 8,000, but consisting of the choicest and most victorious troops in all Europe, Charles X. hastened in rapid marches through Pomerania and Mecklenburg, recaptured Bremen, and invaded through friendly Holstein all of Schleswig and Jutland, defeating the larger but inexperienced Danish army and capturing the strong fortress of Fredericia.
Yet the new position was as precarious as the one in Poland, and Charles had to use all the skill of his diplomacy to save his little army from an assault by inimical Europe. France and England seemed unwilling to render him effective help. But when the elector of Brandenburg, who had taken upon himself the leadership of Sweden’s enemies, turned to the emperor, emphasizing the necessity of crushing the Swedish power in one blow, he received the following surprising answer: “The king of Hungary has no reason to be the enemy of the king of Sweden.” Charles had reached a secret understanding with Austria. By this move he gained time. Through what seemed almost a miracle, he was not only to save his army but lead it on to victory after a strategic deed, in originality and daring unique in the history of the world.
The year of 1658 commenced with severe frosts. Charles X. conceived the daring plan of attacking the Danish isles by leading his army over the frozen sounds. He concluded to cross the sound of Lille Belt, opposite the islet of Brandscee. His quartermaster-general, Eric Dahlberg, an engineer of great genius, ascertained that the ice was safe. One frosty winter morning, the 30th of January, the Swedish army, reinforced to 9,000 men, marched down on the ice, safely reaching Brands at sunrise. A Danish army, arranged in order of battle in the island of Funen, was defeated. While crossing over to Funen, the ice cracked under two squadrons of cavalry, those who followed not daring to proceed. The king himself hurried past the dangerous place, pointing out a safe course, and the troops followed him.
The most dangerous part remained to cross, the much wider sound of Store Belt, in order to reach Seeland. Charles first thought of taking the direct route of two miles, but commissioned Dahlberg to explore the condition of the ice across to the smaller islands to the south. Dahl-berg did so, and said he would wager his head for its perfectly safe condition. In enthusiasm, Charles clapped his hands exclaiming: “Now, brother Frederic, we will converse in good Swedish!” In the night between the 5th and 6th of February, the Swedish army marched from Svendborg in Funen over the ice to Langeland. “It was terrible,” wrote an eye-witness, “to march through the night over this frozen sea, where the horses’ hoofs had thawed down the snow on the ice, which was below two feet of water, and where we, in every moment, were in fear of striking the open sea.” At dawn the army landed in Langeland. During the rest for breakfast, frozen beer was chopped and distributed in pieces to the soldiers. The march continued over the still wider sound to Laaland, Eric Dahlberg in front, directing the march. Reaching Grimsted in Laaland at three o’clock in the afternoon, and proceeding to Nakskov, Charles Gustavus was met, at mid>night, by the burgomaster and council of said town, who surrendered its keys. The 9th of February, the army stood in Falster, and a few days later was collected at the captured castle of Vordingborg in Seeland. Peace was hastily offered and agreed to on the 17th, and the treaty of peace signed the 28th of February, 1658, at Rskilde. The conditions were severe, Denmark ceding the provinces of Scania, Halland, Bleking and Bohuslæn, the whole district or diocese of Drontheim in Norway, and the island of Bornholm, and agreeing to hold the Baltic closed to hostile fleets with the help of Sweden. The last clause was a piece of a Scandinavian policy devised by the Swedish king.
Charles X. now prepared to meet Brandenburg and Austria, once more siding against Sweden. It was necessary to keep Holland out from the Baltic, and when Charles X. found Denmark unwilling to keep the conditions of the recent treaty on that point, the war-lord became wrathful, dooming obnoxious Denmark to lose her very existence. But the spirit of patriotism, which so often had saved Sweden in instances of extreme danger, now sided with Den-mark, as it had already sided with Poland. King Frederic declared he would die like a bird in its own nest, and roused the patriotism of the population of Copenhagen, which, badly defended, was hurriedly fortified at the news of an intended attack. Contrary to the advice of Eric Dahlberg, Charles X. made no instantaneous attack, but commenced a siege, although he did not bring with him the necessary means. The castle of Kronborg by Elsinore was captured and its cannon used against Copenhagen. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed in the Danish capital; the king slept in a tent by the fortifications, and especially the students and Norwegian sailors distinguished themselves by their valor and patriotism. Charles X. found it impossible to take Copenhagen and retired to some distance from the capital. What caused Charles to retire was the arrival of a Dutch fleet. It had been met by the Swedish fleet, under command of Charles Gustavus Wrangel, the hero of Fredericia and Kronborg. After six hours of hard fighting the Dutch forced the entrance to the Sound. Before leaving, the Swedish king resolved to make a desperate effort to capture Copenhagen, defended by 13,000 troops and by a patriotic population, with his 8,000 Swedes. The attack was made in the night of February 11, 1659, but the city, forewarned by traitors, tendered the Swedes a warm reception, consisting of artillery fire, stones, and scalding hot water. The Swedes lost 600 men and suffered their first and only defeat under the command of Charles X.
The situation was grave. The Swedish army in Jut-land was forced to retire; the troops of 5,000 men in Funen were defeated and made prisoners; a revolt took place in Bornholm, and the Danes recaptured the district of Drontheim. The powers united in their efforts to force Sweden and Denmark to a treaty of peace on the basis of the Rskilde stipulations. Charles still held his head high, declaring that he would crush the fleets of the allies if they tried to interfere in the affairs of the North, striking a sharply discordant note in the concert of the powers. To Denmark he was willing to cede the district of Drontheiin, but pre-pared to occupy that of Akkershus instead, when he was taken ill at the convening Riksdag at Gothenburg, dying February 11, 1660, in the palace erected by his friend Lennart Torstensson.
Charles X. Gustavus was one of the most remarkable men of his day, whose wonderful deeds of bravery and genius caused amazement through their brilliancy, and anxiety through their recklessness. At the first glance his appearance gave no idea of the real man. He was short, and of an unusually square and clumsy build, with a head of coarse proportions. But there was the fire of genius in his sharp blue eyes; under the black hair, and below the thin black mustache, there was a mouth of firm and resolute lines. In the versatility of his endowment, he stands as one of the first among Swedish kings, the rich gifts of the Vasas and the Wittelsbachs being united in him. As a warrior he was great, yet more of a tactician than a strategist. As a statesman his views were almost as clair-voyant as those of his grandfather, Charles IX., but he gave way to the impressions and impulses of the moment. He failed to make the Baltic a Swedish inland lake, but gained for his country the inestimable gift of a natural frontier to the east and south, by the acquisition of Bohuslæn, Halland, Scania and Bleking, provinces more valuable to Sweden than a whole empire south of the Baltic.
Charles XI. was a child of four years at the death of his father; his country at war with a world, and in a sorely afflicted condition. In the will of Charles X., the queen-dowager, Hedvig Eleonore, was named to preside over the government, with two votes, and the brother of Charles X., the duke Adolphus John, was to take a seat with her as Riksmarsk. This arrangement displeased the nobility, understanding that it was directed against their influence, and they had the duke excluded from the government. The lower Estates of the Riksdag sided with the duke, but soon gave up his cause as they found that he was utterly vain, quick-tempered, and without stability or genius. Lars Kagg, a good warrior, was appointed .Riksmarsk in his place. Herman Fleming, the able state treasurer, was removed as disagreeable to the nobility, his ill-health being taken as an excuse, and was succeeded by Gustavus Bonde. Peter Brahe remained Riksdrotset, Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie state chancellor, and Charles Gustavus Wrangel state admiral. Kagg died in 1661 and was succeeded by Wrangel, Gustavus Otto Stenbock becoming state admiral.
The first duty of the new government was to make peace for the bleeding country. This was effected in 1660 through the treaties of Oliva and Copenhagen, and in a most satisfactory manner, speaking high for the diplomatic ability of the governing ones, but also of the ignorance of the powers of the utter helplessness of Sweden, in great contrast to her outward political grandeur. Poland ceded Livonia to Sweden, and Denmark all the territory gained by Charles X., except the district of Drontheim and the island of Bornholm, while Russia was satisfied with the boundaries set by Gustavus Adolphus.
The government, with care and consideration, made the necessary arrangements to have the new provinces intimately connected with the country. Representatives were sent to the Riksdag of 1664, and the University of Lund, in Scania, was founded in 1668. If to this is added that a good deal was done to encourage art and science, principally through Count Magnus de la Gardie, who was the Maecenas of Sweden, the meritorious deeds of the government during Charles XI.’s minority are enumerated. The less that is said of it in addition, and of its leading men, the better for these. They were men of some patriot-ism, but, through their exceedingly aristocratic views and lack of stability, unable to further the interests of their country, so badly in need of reform. There was not one of them who possessed the abilities of a statesman. They lived like princes in their counties, each holding court and possessing various considerable. castles, all the members of the higher aristocracy upholding the same standard of luxury and power, appointing clergymen and judges, founding towns, and discussing the necessity of having mints and coins of their own. Magnus de la Gardie, count of Leck, and married to a sister of Charles X., was the greatest of these lords. Close to him came Peter Brahe, count of Visingsborg, and Charles Gustavus Wrangel, count of Skokloster. The barons approached the counts in their display of wealth. The lower nobility, whose members often served at the courts of the great lords, were not satisfied with this state of affairs. But in the contempt and oppression in which they held the lower classes, they agreed with the higher nobility, who made no secret of their intention to reduce the peasants to slaves. The peasantry, suffering and neglected, became the prey of a superstition which was shared by the more educated members of society, accusations and legal executions of witches be-coming numerous.
The government was not agreed between themselves upon many questions and turned to the state council for support. The old privileged class of councillors forced their influence upon the government, and the position between the two became quite intimate, at the same time difficult to define. The state council was as divided in its opinions as the government, which fact had a disastrous influence upon state politics and administration. Great negligence was shown in the various departments, the records of receipts and expenditures being imperfect, and a constant lack of funds existing. Forgery and thefts were committed by high and low officials. Administrative orders were not obeyed. The army and the navy suffered utter neglect.
During such a state of. affairs the abominable practice of receiving “subsidies” came into use. The government received, now from one foreign power, now from another, a large sum of money to back its respective interests with the military forces or the diplomatic influence of Sweden. This practice, ignoble in itself, injured the dignity of the state and had a demoralizing influence. Thanks to it, Sweden sided sometimes against, but mostly with, France, her old ally, who, in Count de la Gardie, had an enthusiastic friend. In 1662, Sweden schemed with France for the election of a French prince as king of Poland; in 1667, she formed, with England and Holland, a triple alliance against France. Louis XIV. soon won back the friendship of the government of Sweden, thus having this country as his only ally when reaching the climax of his success. At last the Swedish promises to send an army against the elector of Brandenburg were fulfilled. It was under the command of the old and invalid Count Wrangel, and suffered defeats at Ratenau and Fehrbellin, in 1675. These were of little importance, or extension, in themselves, but they injured the prestige of Sweden, so long supremely victorious on German soil, and caused her enemies to combine their efforts in order to regain their lost possessions.
Charles XI. was declared of age at seventeen, in 1672, when he himself took charge of the government, yet for a few years standing under the influence of Count de la Gardie. King Charles was, as a child, physically weak, and the astrologers had prophesied that he would die an infant. For this reason the queen-dowager, a very ordinary woman, gave all her attention to have her son develop a strong and sound constitution. The child was given its own way in everything, casting aside books and rules for his individual pleasures. King Charles grew up an ignorant self-willed and headstrong youth, who delighted in hunting and reckless riding on horseback. His companions, manners and language were not of the choicest order, and he remained all his life shy and awkward in demeanor. From his thirteenth year he was made acquainted with the routine of state affairs, but he lacked the qualifications to grasp them in detail. He surrounded himself with members of the lower nobility, but was well at ease only among ministers, burghers and peasants. Charles XI. was all his life of an unrestrained temper and an indomitable will, coming to the throne the most ignorant king Sweden had had for centuries. But he was pious, sincere and just, and his morals pure and severe. Through the hardest of lessons, Charles XI. was to develop his great uncultivated gifts, to become the liberator of his people and one of its most remarkable rulers.
Sweden had to encounter many enemies after the battle of Fehrbellin, and a chain of disasters followed, nearly crushing the young king under their weight. Holland, Austria, Brandenburg and Denmark attacked the Swedish possessions, which were all captured, one after the other. Charles was not able to send reinforcements, the navy being in a miserable condition, and when rejuvenated, through strenuous effort, defeated by the excellent admirals Juel, of the Danish, and Tromp, of the Dutch, navy. The treasury was empty, the administration in disorder, and mistrust and strife reigned supreme. But the young king showed that he wanted to be obeyed, and managed, by hard work, to establish order, the Riksdag sacrificing means to organize the defence.
The Danes were successful in their first expeditions on land also, their army having undergone a reorganization. King Christian V. marched into Scania, while his general, Gyldenlve, invaded Bohusln and West Gothland. The hostile fleets captured the islands of bland and Gothland. Charles XL, in a sinister state of mind verging on despair, at last had his army collected, and entered Halland, where Danish troops were encountered and defeated at Halmstad. This gave courage to the Swedes, who soon thought them-selves invincible, when commanded by the young king himself. Charles received reinforcements through peasant troops, and was desirous to meet Christian in open battle. But the Danish army in Scania retreated until forced to meet the enemy near Lund. Here a bloody and decisive battle was fought, more than 8,000 men being killed, and resulting in a victory for the Swedes, who took 2,000 prisoners, fifty-one cannon, and the whole hostile camp, December 3, 1676.
In the following year Sweden suffered two defeats at sea, through the hands of Juel, but won another victory on land, at Landskrona, when the Danes 1st 3,000 men.
While Charles XI. fought with the courage of despair, Louis XIV. was supremely victorious over his enemies, soon appearing as the dictator of Europe, when peace was made at Nimwegen, in 1679. Finding Charles XI. resolved not to cede any of his territory, King Louis took a similar standpoint in his behalf, but contemptuously neglected to let the Swedish ambassadors take any active part in the deliberations. Louis XIV. made peace with the emperor, Brandenburg and Denmark on behalf of Sweden, which country only ceded a small part of East Pomerania to Brandenburg. Charles XI. deeply felt the insolence of the benevolent dictator, and forced Christian V. to sign a treaty of peace at Lund, in 1680, as if Louis XIV. had no part in it. An agreement was made that Charles XI. should marry the sister of Christian V., the beautiful Ulrica Eleonore. Through her gentleness, piety and great benevolence, she soon acquired fame as one of the noblest queens of Sweden. Ulrica Eleonore led a quiet life, seldom being seen at court, where the vain and despotic queen-dowager held the first place. She was never able to win the affection of her consort until during her last illness. King Charles then, for the first time, understood what a treasure he had held unappreciated at his side, and watched over her with infinite care, bringing peace and sunshine into her last days. After her death, in 1693, the king became a prey to deep sorrow and remorse, which threw added gloom over his dark countenance. The queen had been active in upholding a good relation between the Scandinavian countries, often bitterly opposed by the queen-dowager, in the interests of Holstein.
When peace was made, Charles XI. immediately took action in the matter of reform. He saw his country at the verge of utter ruin and the crown unable to help it. The peasants were losing their rights, one by one, and five-sixths of the crown lands were in the possession of the nobles. Brought up in ignorance and isolation, finding rottenness and in-capability everywhere, it was no wonder that the king became strongly imbued by the spirit of absolutism, which pervaded all Europe. He followed the example of the monarchs of France and Denmark, learning from them how, by secret agitation and pressure, to make the lower classes fervently appeal to him to take the absolute power in his hand. His principal adviser was John Gyllenstierna, a man of old, celebrated stock, but belonging to the lower nobility. Gyllenstierna was one of the greatest and most patriotic statesmen of his day. He first attracted attention as a champion of the lower nobility against the great lords for the restitution of crown lands. Raised to dignities and a high station, he never changed his position to the aristocrats in power, who thought they could win him over by favors. Seeing the absolute impossibility of reform, with the help of the nobles, Gyllenstierna turned to the king, whose whole confidence he won, inspiring him with plans of a Scandinavian peace policy, and a reform through the destruction of the aristocracy. Gyllenstierna died after having brought to the king his bride, a union which was the work of this able statesman.
The Riksdag was convoked to meet October 5, 1680. Everything commenced quietly. No royal proposition was made; but a strong agitation had been set in motion among the four Estates, the three lower ones sending in a petition to make the royal power absolute, to have a restitution of crown lands made, and the government, during the king’s minority, brought to answer for their acts. Similar requests were sent up from the nobility, after many stormy scenes at the Riddarhus. Thus, toward the end of the Riksdag, with the petitions in, came the royal propositions which, when accepted, in one blow crushed the aristocracy, as a ruling class, and the antiquated state council, as an institution, and established the absolute power of the king.
According to the resolutions of this memorable Riksdag, which marks a new era in Swedish history, a “grand commission” was selected which fulfilled its duties with the greatest severity. The members of the former government and state council were made responsible for their administration, and themselves, or their heirs, sentenced to pay smaller or larger sums. Two-thirds of the whole amount was afterward given up, but the fines were nevertheless great. Count Nils Brahe, the heir of both Peter Brahe and Charles Gustavus Wrangel, and the wealthiest man in Sweden, had to pay something like $600,000 in fines, an immense sum in those days, and was reduced almost to poverty. The restitution department, assisted by two commissions, did equally thorough work under the pressure of the king. Ten counties and seventy baronies, with a great number of other crown lands of various classes, were confiscated. It cost the higher nobility dearly; Count Magnus de la Gardie, the all-powerful favorite of three monarchs, lost his immense wealth and died on a little estate left him, with one single servant out of his former princely retinue. The work of restitution was carried on without cruelty or injustice.
A second restitution was to follow. The propositions were arranged at the Riksdag of 1682, in the same way as in 1680. This time the lower nobility was to suffer. All crown lands rendering less than $600 a year of income had been spared; now these were confiscated, without exception. In 1686 followed another blow. The dividends on the state loans were reduced, and a stipulation made that holders of bonds must refund what they, up to that date, had received above the new schedule. The same principle was applied in the redemption of mortgaged state lands. These new harsh measures were enforced with a great deal of se-verity, with incidental cases of injustice. The king showed clemency only to certain parties in stringent need. The discontent of the nobles caused many of them to leave the country, as, for instance, Count Otto William von Knigsmarck, son of the conqueror of Prague, and himself the valiant defender of Pomerania against the hostile allies. Their example was followed by many nobles of Livonia; the measures of the restitution entirely crushing the nobility of that province, while its peasants, who were slaves, gained their liberty, and had every reason to bless the Swedish government.
The power of absolutism grew steadily stronger. The king decided all matters alone, and prepared in advance the measures he proposed to the Riksdag, of whose sanction he was as independent as of that of the old state council. All officers and institutions were also changed in name from “state” to “royal” servants and instruments. The university professors were instructed to impress the students with the necessity and divine rights of an absolute ruler. The nobles were alone in their discontent. The other classes, especially the peasants, looked with satisfaction and approval on the work which crushed the enemies of their liberty and prosperity, and submitted willingly to the absolute power because it was in the hands of a patriotic king.
Charles XI. used the revenues of the restitutions principally for the reorganization of army and navy. For the former he reintroduced a system which Gustavus Adolphus had applied, the so-called Indelningsverk (work of division), which, elaborated upon and firmly established by Charles XI., became the foundation of the, Swedish army system. The whole country was divided into small sections, which were each to support an infantry soldier, or a seaman, and larger ones to support a cavalry soldier. This soldier received a hamlet with earth to till within his section, paying for it by work to the farmers or squires, while these paid for his equipment. In times of war the state paid his expenses. This changed the troublesome army element into useful members of state in times of peace. The officers were given small estates by the crown for their support. The army consisted, at the death of Charles XI., of 65,000 men, well equipped. On the coast of Bleking extensive navy yards were built by Count Hans Wachtmeister and Eric Dahlberg, in a new town called Carlscrona. At great expense, the best fleet ever under Swedish command was constructed by Wachtmeister, who enjoyed the full confidence of the king. His excellent means wherewith to conduct a successful war, Charles XI. used to maintain a dignified peace, of which his country was badly in need. Bengt Oxenstierna held the reins of diplomacy, which had no attraction for Charles XI. The old alliance with France was broken off and close connections with William of Orange established for the maintenance of peace. Sweden regained its prestige, rising to a power whose support was sought by all. When William became king of England, Sweden was a member of the alliance against Louis XIV., but contributed to the great European war only a few thou-sand soldiers, according to agreement, preserving, together with Denmark, an armed neutrality. Charles XI. lived to the proud moment when the powers selected Sweden as an arbiter in the deliberations for peace in Riswick, a worthy satisfaction gained over the earlier insolence of Louis XIV.
Charles XI. improved the administration by filling the offices of the excellent institutions with excellent men. This he obtained by enforcing the necessity of obeying orders, supplying officials of all ranks, from the lowest upward, with new regulations which must be obeyed, also regulating their salaries. Sweden never had a greater lover of law and order than Charles XI., and he used his absolute power in their interests, trying to remold the old laws to suit mod-ern requirements, and having a new church law, a master-piece in its line, introduced. The church itself and its men had in Charles XI. an interested friend. New catechism, hymn book and ritual were prepared, and a new translation of the Bible completed, being published after his death. Commerce and mining industries were encouraged, while agriculture improved with the improvement of the financial conditions of the peasants. Charles XI. was not only a “peace king,” but a “peasant king,” who was ardently devoted to the improvement of the education and financial circumstances of the country population. He was of broadly democratic inclinations, finding his delight in moving among the humble and lowly as one of them. The peasants, who had been brushed aside by the great and powerful, were now brought to the front and took an active and important part in the affairs of state. Charles ruled over them with a stern husbandry, and asked great sacrifices of them for the maintenance of an armed defence; but no king has accomplished more in their true interest than he, or remains more clearly in their memory and traditions. He travelled continually through the country, avoiding the places where he would be received with ceremony, stopping in the houses of the farmers, and enjoying heartily what comfort these offered. In his appearance he was far from prepossessing. His features were not devoid of beauty, but gloomy; his figure strong and vigorous, but not impressive. Through an accident while hunting he became slightly lame. Although dearth and hard times set in during the last years of his reign, causing terrible losses of life through hunger and prostration, he could plainly tell the beneficent results of his administration. Charles XI. took the reins of state when disastrous war ravished a country which seemed doomed to destruction. He left it reformed, reorganized, rejuvenated and prosperous at his death, in 1697.
The Period of Political Grandeur in Swedish history falls within the epoch of the history of art which has been called Barocco, an unbalanced offspring of the Renaissance, and a style characterized by great complicity, pretensions and ambitions, a renaissance in wigs of formidable proportions. After the great victories of the Thirty Years’ War, it seems as if the interchange of influences between art, literature, science, politics and religion was increased. The whole era becomes a Barocco period of bombast and chauvinism, the climax being reached in the form of the absolute monarchy of the age.
In Sweden, as elsewhere, there was no lack of men of ability and brilliant genius; but, influenced by the spirit of their time, the works of most of them were bombastic and chauvinistic, like the artistic and political aspirations of the era. The artists were, as were at first the scholars, mostly foreigners. The native and imported scholars were characterized by great learning and versatility, but abused their genius by Utopian theories and vainglorious dreams, and violated the laws of history and sound research.
Olof Rudbeck was not only the most learned and brilliantly gifted scholar of his day, but his genius also embodies the eccentricities of the period in gigantic outlines. He was born at Westeros, in 1630, his father being the learned bishop, Johannes Rudbeckius. As a boy, he gave evidence of rare artistic and mechanic talents. He made drawings of exquisite designs, constructed clock mechanisms of wood, and was a skilled musician. His character was proud and violent. At sixteen he was through with his college course and ready to enter the. university. The youth could not stand the change from his coarse jacket and fur coat into a coat of broadcloth with buttons such as the students wore, and was for his overbearing manner punished by his severe father with an additional year of college work. At the University of Upsala he caused from the start great surprise by his knowledge in all subjects. He devoted his attention chiefly to natural science, which, in that day, was a neglected study, and soon excelled his professors.
At twenty, Rudbeck made a scientific discovery of great importance, which caused a stir in the whole learned world. By his discovery and theory of the lymphatic ducts, the blood circulation of the human body received a satisfactory explanation. Before the circle of scholars which surrounded Queen Christine, Rudbeck was allowed to demonstrate his anatomical discoveries, in 1652. Queen Christine, who earlier had been an admirer of his beautiful voice and musical abilities, loaded him with praise and gave him the means for a journey abroad. Rudbeck returned, in 1660, to Sweden, and was appointed professor of medicine at the University of Upsala. He planned the first botanic garden in the country, donating it to the university. He had illustrations made of the native plants and commenced a learned work on botany. The first hall of anatomy was erected according to his proposition. As rector of the university, he established several important reforms, in spite of opposition, but supported by the chancellor, Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie, who was his friend and protector. To the stupendous mastery of all sciences, Rudbeck added a skill and cleverness in various branches of practical activity which made him carry, with honor, the nickname of “master at all trades.” He was an excellent financier, who succeeded in restoring the sound economy of the university. He built a fish pond, from which the tables of the learned professors were regularly supplied with fish. A book store and a book-printing establishment were erected by him, and for a time run at his expense. He repaired windmills, built houses, provided the university town with water works and street pavement, also arranging its postal service. Rudbeck was one of the finest composers and singers of his day, conducting the musical exercises at the university. He made fire-works and compasses for the Swedish navy, built fountains and organs, was a good poet and painter and an excellent etcher and drawer.
Rudbeck does not owe his great renown to his mastery of any of these trades, arts or sciences, nor to any discovery, reform or invention by his versatile genius. It was his monumental work, “Atland or Manheim,” generally called “The Atlantica,” which made him world-famous. For centuries one had believed in the statement made by Jordanes, and based upon traditions current among his people, that the Goths who conquered Rome had migrated from the North, and that their ancestors, from the remotest period, were inhabitants of Sweden. Johannes Magnus constructed a line of Swedish kings, beginning with Magog, the son of Japhet, on the basis of which the sons of Gustavus Vasa, Eric XIV., and Charles IX., had accepted their high ordinals. In the time of Rudbeck it was considered a supremely praiseworthy effort to glorify the father-land by strengthening its claims to a high antiquity. Rudbeck, the remarkable savant and able poet, got his head turned by the political grandeur of his country. He had in his youth read the story of Atlantis, found in Plato. Rudbeck undertook to prove, in “The Atlantica,” that the lost island, with its ancient ideal state from which the gods of antiquity were supposed to hail, was identical with Sweden. The work, in four large volumes, was written in Swedish and Latin of parallel columns. The first volume was printed in 1675, Rudbeck having made the types himself. In Sweden the work was greeted with an enthusiasm which had no bounds. The second volume was published by funds which Charles XI. with great generosity placed at the author’s disposal. The third volume was dedicated to the youthful Charles XII., a true child of the chauvinistic epoch, who hailed the book with delight. The fourth volume was in press when Upsala was destroyed by fire, in 1702. The aged Rudbeck led the battle against the ravaging element, by supreme exertions saving the university halls, at the expense of his home, his press and manuscripts, and the rest of the town. Rudbeck died in the autumn of the same year.
The elaborate construction which Rudbeck had completed by means of ingenious deductions and learned guess-work succumbed with the political grandeur of Sweden. “The Atlantica,” which once had its place beside the Bible on the tables of the mighty ones, was ridiculed and for-gotten. On the continent of Europe, where similar books had been written in Germany and Holland, making for these respective countries similar claims, “The Atlantica” was at first received with surprise and admiration, later with doubt and criticism. The work, in spite of its mistakes, proved a foundation for archeological research, which gradually was developed into a science. In order to sup-port the boldest and most impossible theories, the almost unparalleled power of combination of an eminent genius has brought together material which for the first time gave the suggestion of relationship between the Teutonic and the classical languages of Greece and Rome. Rudbeck was also the first to point out the unmistakable resemblance of the Old Norse and classical mythologies, as to the origin of which modern scholars have reached no absolute certainty, but radically different conclusions. The importance which Rudbeck placed upon popular customs and traditions was too great, but it has favorably influenced later students of ethnography and folk lore.
If Rudbeck had limited himself to the demonstration that Sweden has been not the cradle of all races, but the original home of the Teutonic branch of the Aryan race, he might have been able to offer a theory, the truth of which mod-ern science lacks, and forever may lack, the resources to disprove.
Rudbeck had not been entirely without opponents in Sweden. The most noted among them was John Peringskiold, who criticised the opinion expressed by Rudbeck that the Runes were the oldest alphabet of the world. Peringskiold was a fine Icelandic scholar, and the first editor of Snorre Sturleson’s “Heimskringla.”
A typical and highly valuable illustrated work from this period is the “Svecia Antiqua et Hodierna,” by Eric Dahlberg, the renowned quartermaster of Charles X. The text, written by Dahlberg and translated into Latin by several scholars, was never published, the magnificent engravings not before 1716. The latter give an impressive portrayal of architectural Sweden during the reigns of the three Charleses, but are not quite reliable, as some of the castles and palaces in this work are provided with additions and embellishments which were never more than projected.
There is no family who has wielded a greater influence over the Swedish church than that of Benzelius. The founder of the house, Eric Benzelius the Elder, and three of his sons were archbishops of Sweden, and two of his grandsons bishops of the state church. The first Arch-bishop Benzelius, born in 1632, was the son of a peasant, and took his name from the farm of Bentseby, of Lulea parish, in Norrland, where he was born; he and the three of his seven sons who were archbishops refused to be ennobled, the other members of the family adopting the name of Benzelstierna. The earlier generations of the family produced men of great talent and power, to whom the third one, although consisting of able men, could not be compared. The influence of this family in matters of religion, science and culture was strongly felt during the period of more than one century. The most remarkable member was Eric Benzelius the Younger, one of the most learned, active and patriotic men ever born in Sweden. Like the other members of the family, he perfected his education at foreign universities and made the personal acquaintance of Leibnitz, Thomasius, Malebranche, and other celebrated scholars. He was a historian, literary critic and philologist of merit, writing a history of Sweden and preparing an edition of Codex Argenteus, published in London after his death. He was highly appreciated by Charles XII., and was a friend of Polhem and Swedenborg, being married to a sister of the latter. Eric Benzelius was appointed archbishop, but died, in 1742, before he had entered office.