CHARLES XII., the most famous of Swedish kings, was a boy of fifteen at the death of his father. He was born June 17, 1682, at the castle of Stockholm. The astrologers declared that Sweden was to receive a new war-lord, and that time they were not mistaken. Charles XII. was born in the same year as the absolute monarchy of Sweden, which power he was to abuse in such a great measure. Shortly after his birth, one of the speakers of the knightly chapter house, Justice Gyllencreutz, said while warning against the consequences of an absolute power: “A king may come who follows his own will, being more fond of war than peace, or utterly extravagant. History proves that changes of the constitution generally are beset by dangerous consequences; yea, that they often have brought destruction to the country and its people.” These words were prophetic.
The early education of Charles was supervised by his mother, sweet Ulrica Eleonore, who taught him piety, modesty, gentleness and justice by her own example. He participated with earnestness in the morning and evening prayers, kneeling before the only Lord he ever acknowledged as his superior. His mother died when Charles was seven years of age, but the devotion in which he held her he fixed upon his sisters, Hedvig Sophie and Ulrica Eleanore, but especially upon the former. His religious feeling was deep and sincere, and he evinced early a love of truth, justice and pure morals which, like his brotherly devotion, followed him through life. The most remarkable trait in a son of Charles XI. was his power of self-control; but he was his father’s superior also in intellectual gifts, such as a ready memory, a good apprehension and a sharp discernment. His faults were early developed, and met, after the death of his parents, no restraint. He was taciturn, unapproachable, proud, self-willed and headstrong. He had from his grandfather inherited an ambition for the vain glory of war, which was led astray by his unrestrained power of imagination. From the age of five he was taught by the learned professor, Andreas Norcopensis, ennobled under the name of Nordenhielm, to whom he was very devoted and under whose guidance he received a good general education. The plain, able scholar influenced the young prince in a wholesome manner. When his teacher asked him how an honest man ought to be, the pupil, then seven years of age, answered : “He should be gentle but of great courage; fierce like a lion to his enemies, gentle like a lamb to those at home.” To the question if it were not better to avoid dangers in order to save one’s life, the little Charles answered : “No, it would be a shame to live in such a manner.”
Charles XI. had drawn an outline of the course which the education of his son was to follow. The first place was given to study of the Bible and the Christian doctrines and the severe practice of religion. The prince was to learn Swedish and German early, to receive instruction in the laws and constitution of his country, and in the science of war, and to be trained in the arts of military drill, fencing and riding on horseback. He soon acquired the faculty of speaking Latin fluently, in the ordinary mechanical way, and learned some French. When his first governor, Eric Lindskiold, tried to interest him in the latter language by pointing out its usefulness in diplomatic intercourse with the French ambassador, the prince answered : “If I meet the king of France I will converse with him in his own language. When a French ambassador comes here, it is more appropriate that he learns Swedish on my account than I French on his.” His favorite studies were strategy and mathematics, which he made under the Swedish general, Charles Magnus Stuart. He often said that the one who was ignorant of mathematics was only a half human being. Charles was fond of riding the horses of his father, and followed the latter on his adventurous journeys and hunts. When only twelve years of age he killed his first bear. He early developed the reckless courage which made him so famous. Charles was exceedingly fond of reading the Eddie poems and. the old hero Sagas of the North. He said he wanted to resemble the ancient hero kings, and wished he had, like many of them, a brother who would remain at home to rule the country in peace, while he, with his warriors, made a tour of the world. The prescription, made by his father, that the prince should be taught to make a moderate use of his absolute power, was, if carried out, of little consequence. Charles mourned deeply the losses of his mother and of his first teacher, Nordenhielm, which followed close upon each other, seeking, after that, more the company of his father. Charles XI. had a long private conversation with his sou shortly before his death, pointing out the men in whom he could confide. Among these Charles Piper occupied a conspicuous place. He remained ever the adviser of Charles XII., but never had his full confidence. The enigmatic king confided in nobody, and passed through life without opening his heart to any one.
Charles XI. had appointed a government to reign during the minority of his son, to be presided over by Queen-dowager Hedvig Eleonore. But the Estates of the Riksdag, at the request of the nobility, declared Charles XII. of age when only fifteen. The young king placed the crown upon his head with his own hands at the coronation, and took charge of the government in November, 1697. Bengt Oxenstierna remained at the head of foreign affairs as the president of the chancery, while Charles took personal interest in continuing the life work of his father, the restitution of crown lands, which still went on. Charles Piper, who had been quite active in obtaining an early majority for the king, was raised to the dignity of a count, and became one of the most influential members of the state council. Charles was not influenced by anybody in spite of his youth. He listened to what the councillors had to say, then announced his resolutions with terse independence. He refused firmly the appeals of the nobility to reduce the demands of the work of restitution. He abolished the practice of torture, in spite of the unanimous vote of the state council to the contrary. When the aged Bengt Oxenstierna was anxious to have annulled a treaty with France, al-ready signed, the young king answered tersely: “You have heard my opinion; I am the one who signed the treaty.” Charles took, in general, little interest in foreign affairs, except those concerning Holstein, to the duke of which country his elder sister was married.
The exuberant spirits of the youthful Charles found an outlet in daring exploits and plays of war. The somewhat older man, Count Arvid Bernhard Horn, the commander of the royal body-guard, took an active part in these as the most intimate comrade of the king. They went bear-hunting together, with wooden forks as their only weapon, fought naval battles with hand-spurts, made breakneck rides on horseback, etc. When the king was near being drowned in one of these “naval battles,” the only ones that Charles XII. ever fought, he was saved by Arvid Horn, who pulled him up by the hair. When Horn in some other game was badly hurt and taken ill, the king kept the night watch at his bedside. Upon the visits of Duke Frederic of Holstein, the two young princes indulged in escapades of the wildest kind, if one were to believe the reports made by the foreign ambassadors at Stockholm to their respective governments, and chiefly founded upon hearsay. His application to state affairs was almost constant and very arduous, for which reason these reports of the escapades and adventures of the youthful king are probably wild exaggerations, or mere fables.
The reports of a young inexperienced king who gave up his time to sport and pastimes spread abroad, and the enemies of Sweden were led to believe that an opportune moment was come for an attack on the empire which held the balance of power in Northern Europe. Peter the Great, one of the most remarkable men of modern history, was czar of Russia. Engaged in his heroic task of reorganizing his barbarous empire to a modern European state, he was desirous of obtaining harbors on the coast of the Baltic, from which sea he was cut off by the Swedish possessions. August, a cousin of Charles XII., who was elector of Saxony and king of Poland, was anxious to take possession of Livonia. King Frederic IV. of Denmark, also a cousin of Charles, wished to suppress the duke of Holstein, who had gained independence, thanks to the assistance of Sweden. Czar Peter and King August entered into a secret alliance with each other. While negotiations for continued peace with Sweden were still pending, the Russians secretly crossed the boundary in Ingermanlaud, Saxon troops entered Livonia, and the king of Denmark took possession of Holstein. The Swedish council of state was amazed at this triple danger. Charles simply remarked that it was strange that both of his cousins wanted war, and expressed the hope that God would support him in his righteous cause.
Charles XII. was eighteen years of age when he entered this stupendous conflict. He was tall and slender, but broad-shouldered; he had a sympathetic face, dark-blue eyes, thin brown hair, and a carriage expressing courage and an indomitable spirit. Upon entering actual warfare, Charles renounced all pleasures and comforts. Sharing the severe discipline of his soldiers, he slept in a tent, ate of their rude food, and drank nothing but water. The wig, considered so indispensable in those days, was laid aside, and he dressed, like the men of his body-guard, in a coat of coarse blue cloth with large brass buttons and yellow lining. His long sword was hung at a yellow leather girdle. He wore high boots and yellow trousers made of skin. In battle he was always found where the danger was most imminent.
Charles turned first against Denmark. A Swedish fleet of forty-eight ships joined the naval forces of equal strength which the Swedish allies, England and Holland, had sent to meet it in the Sound. A more powerful combination has never been seen before or after in Scandinavian waters. Charles embarked with his troops on one hundred Scanian ships and landed at Elsinore, August 4, 1699. He was impatient to reach shore, jumped into the water, which reached to his arms, and was followed by his troops, who carried their weapons high above the water. A sudden attack was made on the Danish troops on shore, who turned and fled. The Swedes made a temporary camp and prepared themselves for a march on Copenhagen. King Frederic was struck with terror and hastened to make peace with the duke of Holstein, who was left in undisturbed possession of his country through the treaty of peace at Traventhal. Charles withdrew his troops at once, although reluctantly, having Wished to crush the power of Denmark. He had maintained the strictest discipline in his camp, and treated the inhabitants of the country with gentleness. The Danish peasants, who abundantly brought necessary provisions, said to the king : “You do us no harm because you are the son of our pious Ulrica Eleonore.” The king answered: “What I have done I have been forced to do. But rest assured that I shall from this day be the upright friend of your king.”
Charles now turned against Russia. With an army of somewhat more than 8,000 men he sailed for Ingermanland to attack the invaders, at least five times as many in numbers, who were laying siege to the town of Narva. The majority of the Russian troops consisted of serfs who were taken directly from their work and were without any military training. This army of undisciplined serfs was to a great extent commanded by foreign adventurers. The news of the approach of the Swedish troops brought consternation. Several of the Russian officers shed tears, while the czar quickly left his army to gather more troops. The remarkable battle of Narva was fought November 20, 170(L King Charles offered the enemies a battle in the open field but when they refused to accept or to come out, he attacked them in their trenches, which formed a semi-circle around the town of Narva, with the wings touching the river of the same name. The war-cry of the Swedes was: “With the help of God!” Their attack was favored by a snowstorm’s, which blew in the faces of the Russians, blinding them. The enemies could tell that the Swedes were few in numbers, but thought that reinforcements must be on the way. The trenches were filled with bundles of fagots, the ramparts were mounted, and the Russians thrown into confusion. The Russian cavalry fled at the opening of the artillery fire’. The rest, crushed in between the walls of the town and their aggressors, tried to escape on every side. The Swedes soon had cut the immense Russian line of troops in twain at the centre. The half which consisted of the right wing move down to the bridge over the Narva River. But the bridge gave way under the weight of the first 3,000 men, who found their graves in the river below. The rest of the right wing was hedged in between the Swedes and the river. The regiments of the Russian guards, who were the most experienced of the troops, fought bravely for some time, but great confusion ensued among the others, the soldier wanting to kill their foreign officers, whom they blamed foi the catastrophe. The chief commander, Duke de Croi, with several other foreigners, for this reason surrendered to the king.
The Russian soldiers of the right wing, abandoned by their superior officers, made heroic efforts to defend themselves behind barricades which they erected for the moment. King Charles hastened to the spot, but was very near losing his life in passing through a swamp. He sank so deep that the water rose to his neck, and he could save himself only by leaving his horse, his sword, and one of his heavy boots behind in the mud. Without in the least improving his condition, the king took another horse and sought his way to the heart of the battle. The Russians were killed in masses, but did not surrender before King Charles had taken a Russian battery, thus depriving them of the last hope of being reunited with the left wing. The latter, who kept in the vicinity of their trenches, had fought with a good deal of courage. At nightfall two officers were sent from the right wing to ask the king for an armistice, which was granted. King Charles spent the night in his wet clothes, by the bivouac fire, on the ground, his head resting in the lap of one of his soldiers. In the morning, before dawn, two Russian generals arrived, demanding free leave for the remainder of the right wing. This was granted, but the superior officers had to remain as prisoners of war. The commander of the left wing also opened negotiations. Free leave was granted them upon the surrender of their arms. It must have been an impressive sight to see the body of 12,000 Russians, with heads uncovered, who passed in line by only half as many S Swedes, depositing their banners and arms at the feet of Charles XII. It was a wise plan to keep as prisoners only the superior officers, for the Swedes had not the means at hand to watch and feed so many prisoners as those who were allowed a free leave. In the battle of Narva 18,000 Russians were killed or captured ; the hostile camp, bag-gage and artillery fell into the hands of the victors. Charles XII. made his solemn entry into Narva, where Te Deum was sung in the cathedral. Charles with his own, hand crossed out all expressions of vainglory over the success or disdain of the vanquished which occurred in the, official account of the victory to be sent to Stockholm.
In the following year Charles XII. turned against his third enemy, King August. Saxon troops, 10,000 strong, were joined by 19,000 Russians, and had taken a strongly fortified position on the southern shore of the river Dvina., Charles decided to cross the river from Livonia and attack the enemy. The famous crossing of the Dvina was planned in all details by Eric Dahlberg, the venerable hero and engineer from the wars of Charles X. and Charles XI. Baron Dahlberg died not long after this memorable event. It was June 27, 1701. The Swedish infantry was carried, across in prams, the cavalry on fleet-bridges provided with wooden walls on hinges, which, when erect, were a protection against the fire of the enemy, and, when let down, formed gangways for the landing. In front of all boats , loaded with hay and straw were sent out, which were’ ignited, sending a thick, disagreeable smoke in the face of the enemy. The artillery in the prams kept up a disastrous fire. Charles XII. was one of the first to land, and opened the attack when only half of his infantry had reached the shore. The Russians soon scattered in wild flight. The Saxons withstood three powerful attacks, but at last followed the bad example set by their allies. The battle was fought and won before the Swedish cavalry had reached the shore. The bountiful provisions of the scattered army , were captured. The crossing of the D vina was executed under the direction of Charles Magnus Stuart and Count Magnus Stenbock.
The victories of the young hero king and his valiant soldiers aroused the admiration of all Europe, and much sympathy was expressed for Sweden, who had so successfully warded off a deceitful and unjust attack. Charles XII. received offers of peace from his enemies, but he did not accept them. He did not believe that his treacherous neighbors would keep their promises, and he was no doubt right. He ought to have crushed Russia first, but his victory over Czar Peter had been too easily acquired to make him realize the genius, power and resources of this semi-barbarous enemy. Charles considered King August a more formidable opponent, which was a mistake; but his suspicion that the latter would attack him from behind if he entered Russia would probably have proved to be well founded had circumstances permitted. So Charles invaded Poland, resolved to gain by the interior conflict which was disturbing the peace of that country. He wanted, to dethrone August and select a prince who would keep faith with Sweden.
The Polish empire had not taken any active part in the war against Sweden, but Charles XII. demanded that the Poles should prove their good faith by dethroning August and by choosing a native king. When they refused, he let his army enter Poland. For four years King Charles remained there, marching from one part of the country to the other. He conquered the Polish capitals of Warsaw and Cracow, and several other fortified places, winning over a considerable group within the nobility. [n 1704 the Diet of Warsaw was called, .at which the Polish nobles, in the presence of Swedish troops under the command of Count Arvid Horn, were compelled to deprive August of his crown and elect a new king according to the instructions of King Charles. The new king chosen was the noble, but incapable Stanislav Leczinski, who belonged to an aristocratic family of little influence and few connections. He was an upright and highly educated man, but lacked energy. King August was not willing to abdicate, for which reason King Charles pursued him into his hereditary land; The line of march to Saxony went through Silesia, a neuf tral country belonging to the empire of Austria. As the army of August had been allowed to pass this country; Charles argued that the same right must be granted him and his troops. At the river Oder, Charles was met by a number of persecuted Protestants, who, kneeling and weeping, prayed for his assistance in pleading their cause before the emperor. Charles promised them to do so, and kept his word.
The Swedish army entered Saxony in the year 1706. The inhabitants, who had in a clear memory the acts of recklessness and cruelty committed by the troops of John Banér, fled for their lives, taking along all the property that could be moved. To their great surprise, they saw the Swedes encamp themselves as quietly as in time of serenest peace., No violence was committed. Nothing was taken, except in exchange for money. But a heavy war tax was imposed, which made both August and his people inclined to seek an early end of the war.
Thanks to the means raised. in this manner, the Swedish army was provided with an entirely new outfit of clothed and furnished with necessary provisions. Every regiment established a savings bank of its own, in which the soldiers deposited their earnings. The castle of Alt-Ranstmdt was the headquarters of Charles XII., situated close by the memorable battlefield of Lutzen. The sojourn of Charles XII. in Saxony was an incident of universal importance to the history of Europe. He had with his soldiers approached the scene of a conflict which was shaking the whole of Western and Southern Europe. The situation was such that it for the moment hung at the point of the victorious sword of Charles XII. The great question was whether he was resolved to take an active part in the universal conflict. Charles was besieged at his headquarters by princes, warriors and statesmen, who came to pay their respects, desirous of winning his favor and of getting an idea of his plans. The Swedish invasion of Saxony was highly beneficial to the interests of France, and Louis XIV. was the first to admit it, anxious to make the stay of Charles as long as possible, because it had caused a stand-still in the hostilities against France. The Duke of Marl-borough was among the visitors of Charles XII. He brought a letter of courtesy from Queen Anne, who wrote that the letter “came not from her chancery but from her heart, and was written by her own hand.” She longed to meet the famous king personally. The duke’s errand was to find out whether Charles was to join the fighting forces of Western Europe or to attack Russia. He was glad to learn that the latter move was the one which the king had in mind. Although the two great warriors expressed mutual admiration, neither was sympathetically impressed by the other. Charles XII. thought Marlborough looked “too fine” for a soldier, while the latter thought the rude simplicity of the king an affectation by which to obtain notoriety. On account of the great influx of distinguished visitors, the style of living was quite different at the royal headquarters of Alt-Ranst udt to what it was during the Polish and Russian wars. But the king kept up the heavy military drills and long individual expeditions on horseback, which he thought indispensable. One of the first ones of the latter which he undertook was to visit the battlefield of Lutzen. The king remembered distinctly all that he had read about the famous battle, and made clear to his generals the various positions of the two armies. At Schwedenstein, the place where Gustavus Adolphus fell, he he lingered for a long while in silence. At last he said :
“I always have tried to live as he did. May God grant me the grace of dying in like manner.”
King August was satisfied to conclude a treaty of peace, which was signed at Alt-Ranstædt. He renounced the crown of Poland and recognized Stanislav Leczinski as the legitimate king. August turned over John Reinhold Patkul, a Livonian traitor, who during the reign of Charles XI. had made himself disagreeably conspicuous, and who had been intriguing against Sweden ever since. Charles XII. was, in gentleness and justice, far in advance of his contemporaries, but he made an exception to his ordinary course of clemency in the case of Patkul, who was executed according to the cruel practice of the time. When the Swedish army left their camp, after peace was made, the regiments were for many miles followed by the grateful inhabitants, who, with tears in their eyes, gave evidence of their friendship. The reason was that the good-natured soldiers of the regular army had followed the habits’ of their country in assisting their temporary hosts in their various rural pursuits. The Swedes were greeted by the people of Silesia with great enthusiasm, out of gratitude for the improved conditions which the emperor had granted them, at the request of the king. Charles XII. thus made good, in a measure, the acts of violence committed by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years’ War, and proved that he had at heart the cause of religious liberty.
Czar Peter was now to be punished, when it was too late. The Russians had invaded the Baltic provinces and captured the fortress of Nteborg, which Czar Peter gave the new and significant name of Schluesselburg. The new Russian capital of St. Petersburg, with formidable for-tresses, was founded in 1703. The laborers were carried away by force from the various parts of the immense empire. They died in great numbers of prostration and of fevers, the Swedes also doing their best to impede the progress of the work. The vacancies were rapidly filled by new multitudes. While the Swedish king was fighting in Poland, the provinces of Ingermanland, Esthonia and Livonia were overrun by the Russians, who devastated the country with acts of cruelty. Dorpat was captured and Narva fell after a bloody conflict, being bravely defended by Rudolph Horn. The Russians destroyed the Swedish navy of the Lake Peipus and penetrated to the province of Courland where Charles XII. had left a considerable detachment of troops. The plan of Czar Peter to conquer Courland and cut off Charles from the connections with his empire was frustrated by General Adam Louis Lewenhaupt.’ He met a formidable Russian force, several times as numerous as his own, at Gemauerthof, near Mitau, which he routed, in 1705.
Lewenhaupt is a German translation of the old Swedish family name of Leijonhufvud, and carried by a branch whose members held the dignity of counts. Almost similar is the derivation of Von Rosen from Tre Rosor, etc. During the Period of Political Grandeur, and later, it was a habit of certain branches of the old Swedish nobility to trans-late or Germanize their names in this way. The burghers and clergy-men followed the custom when being ennobled, Archaic spelling was preserved, or adopted, in most cases.
Sweden stood alone in her struggle with Russia. The old alliance with England and Holland was no longer in existence. The continental powers were too busily engaged in the West to assist in checking the rising power of the Eastern giant. For the limited resources of Sweden he was too big already. Charles XII. had with him a stately and well-equipped army of 44,000, which, by contemporary authors, was pronounced to have consisted of the finest soldiers of the world. Charles was to attack Russia from Poland, for the devastated Baltic provinces could no longer support an army with the necessary provisions. General Lewenhaupt was to join him from Livonia with an army of 12,000 men and ample provisions. Another Swedish commander, General Lybecker, was to attack and destroy St. Petersburg, with an army of the same size, from his headquarters in Finland. The total of Swedish troops distributed in various directions amounted to 100,000, the largest regular army Sweden ever had put up. Charles had concluded to engage semi-barbarous allies in a battle against a semi-barbarous enemy. In 1707 he entered into an alliance with Turkey, and, about the same time, another with Mazeppa, an old ambitious Cossack leader who wanted to establish his supremacy over the steppes of Russia. The plans of Charles XII. for the invasion of Russia have often been severely criticised, but competent judges of our day have declared that they were not only elaborate but highly ingenious. They miscarried on account of arrangements which could not be made ac-cording to expectations, and on account of Czar Peter’s practice of laying bare and waste the parts of his own country through which the invaders were to pass. Furthermore, Charles had sent home to Sweden several of his best generals, such as Arvid Horn and Magnus Stenbock. This was done after the successes in Poland, and was a good thing in itself, for the men mentioned were exactly those who were destined to save the very existence and honor of a country which was deprived of its political grandeur through the heedlessness of King Charles. But without them he was surrounded by inexperienced men only. Charles Gustavus Rehnskiold was the most conspicuous of these, a valiant but reckless man, who only understood certain details of the elaborate expedition.
When the Swedes were approaching Russian territory, Czar Peter made offers of peace which the French ambassador urged Charles to accept. Charles answered: “He does not mean it. He wishes the world to believe that he wants peace and I war.” Czar Peter had organized his army through a wonderful exertion of energy, built new fortresses and strengthened the old ones, enforced discipline and gathered ammunition. Able officers had been trained in the repeated conflicts with the Swedes. These took the lead of the army movements.
Charles left Poland with somewhat more than 30,000 men, entering Lithuania and chasing the Russians before him. A last great victory was won by Charles XII. at Holovzin in Lithuania, in 1708. The Swedish army crossed the Dniepr and marched to Mohilev. Charles lingered in this place for a month, anxiously awaiting the arrival of General Lewenhaupt. The latter remained in Livonia during all this time, the letter ordering him to join the central army not reaching him in due time. The march was continued toward Smolensk, but King Charles thought that he could only reach Moscow over that route with the greatest difficulty, and changed his course, marching toward the Ukraine to join Mazeppa and the Tartars. Mazeppa had been vexed by the long delay, and was, besides, not able to gather the forces which he had promised. Czar Peter captured his stronghold, and Mazeppa reached the Swedish army more like a fugitive than an ally. The expedition of General Lybecker against St. Petersburg proved a failure. Lewenhaupt, who had at last received his order, moved into Russia. At Liesna he met a hostile army considerably larger than his own. After a fierce battle, which involved a great loss of life, Lewenhaupt broke through the Russian lines. He had been forced to destroy the great amount of provisions which he had gathered, and reached the army of King Charles in a very different state than was anticipated. The king found himself in a difficult position, being cut off from all connections with his country and in want of provisions.
The battle of Pultowa, which was fought June 28, 1709, decided for centuries the contest over the political supremacy of Northern Europe. Charles XII., with his army, which had been reduced to 18,000 men, laid siege to the important town of Pultowa, by the river Vorskla. The Russian army, 50,000 strong, under the command of Czar Peter, hastened toward the enemy. The fear of the terrible Swedes was as yet so strong in them that they did not risk an attack, but built a strongly fortified camp. King Charles, with his army in distress, further reduced to only 12,000. men, and in want even of ammunition, saw no other way than to fight. He was himself wounded in the foot !, and unable to take command in person. General Rehnskiold, who led the cavalry, acted as general commander during the battle, which position he was not able to fill; Lewenhaupt commanded the right wing with decided success. He forced the enemy to abandon three of its seven forts, and saw it once inclined to leave in flight. The left wing of the Swedish army was brought into disorder and receded. King Charles, who suffered greatly from his wounded foot, was carried on a litter between the lines, encouraging his soldiers and dealing out new orders. The litter was soon shattered, and the horse which the king mounted was shot under him. He saved himself by accepting the horse of one of his officers. Rehnskiold, who appeared nervous and confused, offered only a lame assistance with the cavalry. While riding back and forth in his heed-less anxiety to be useful, without obtaining his object, he rode into the Russian lines and was made a prisoner. The same fate befell Count Piper, the aged adviser of King Charles. Lewenhaupt kept up his heroic struggle on the right wing, but his forces were greatly reduced by the fire of the Russian artillery. The Swedes had lost the battle. Their infantry had especially suffered great losses. A great number of the ablest officers were killed or made prisoners. A s an illustration may be quoted the fact that among the killed were twenty-two officers of the Wrangel family. The Russians made no fierce pursuit, and. the remnants of the Swedish army were given time to recede to the shore of the Dniepr where this river is joined by the Vorskla. The change of route toward the Ukraine had been made contrary to the advice of Count Piper; the march to the Dniepr was made contrary to that of Count Lewenhaupt. The Swedish troops were in fact shut in between the mighty rivers, which they lacked the means to cross, and the surrounding mountains, lined with Russian artillery. Charles was unwilling to leave his army but Lewenhaupt persuaded him to save his life. Mazeppa had` crossed the Dniepr with his troops. Charles followed in the night of July 1st with 1,000 of his men. With 500 Swedes Charles reached the Turkish town of Bender, where he was at first resolved to remain only until his wound was healed. Lewenhaupt, who now was in command, surrendered to the Russians the following morning, with all the rest of the army. This course was inevitable; another battle would only have caused new and useless sacrifices of human lives.
A sad fate awaited the Swedes in Russian captivity. Only a few saw their homes again, after years of suffering., Rehnskiold was among these. The majority, like Lewenhaupt and Piper, died in captivity. Considerable informa tion about the experiences of the Swedish prisoners in Russia is found in their memoirs and note-books, preserved to this day. It appears that the treatment which they received varied greatly, according to circumstances. Czar Peter wished to keep the Swedish captives in the country, as long as possible, with the object of favorably influencing, his barbarous subjects by their superior abilities and culture. He had commanded clemency in their treatment; but his’ orders must have been disobeyed, for many Swedish soldiers are known to have perished in the sulphur mines. In Tobolsk and other towns of Siberia, Swedish majors and captains were in great numbers occupied in the humbled pursuits of teachers, barbers, tailors, painters and black smiths. Some kept shops and others made articles of the Swedish sloyd, in which there was no competition in the’, market. The pastimes were music and theatricals. There’ were, among these thousands of prisoners, 9 generals, 17 colonels, 27 lieutenant-colonels, 38 majors, 494 captains, 975 lieutenants, 67 ministers of the Gospel, etc. A good many of these were Swedish subjects of German descent, or foreigners in Swedish service. The prisoners tried their best to make it as pleasant for themselves as possible. They formed a little community of their own in Moscow, with Piper and Rehnskiold as their highest officials. Georg Nordberg, pastor of the body-guards, was made the president of a chapter-house, which held church conferences, issued texts for special services, examined and consecrated ministers. Czar Peter tried to attract some of the ablest officers to him by promises of liberty and remunerative positions. Many of the captives, seeing no prospect of freedom, decided to remain in the country, entered the Greek church and married Russian women. Some who could not endure captivity made a revolt at Kasan, killing the armed troops, and making an attempt to reach their own beloved country. The plot was frustrated and was of sinister consequences, for the Swedish captives commenced from that time, 1711, to be transported to Siberia in great numbers. This was only to move the important work of civilization eastward. The captives, instead of succumbing to the severe climate, unfolded the great energy of their race, cheerfully accommodating their lives to the new requirements and devoting their time to travels for scientific research, or mercantile purposes, in Russian service, or on their own responsibility. They made accounts and maps of undiscovered and unexplored parts of Siberia, gathering results which have been of great importance to later explorers, geologists and ethnographers. Principal among these scientists are Philip John von Strahlenberg, whose great book on Siberia was published in Leipsic in 1730, and John Anton Matérn and Peter Schnstrm, collaboratorz ; John Gustavus Renat, made a prisoner by the Kalmucks, whom he taught the secrets of manufacturing cannon and bombs, and of printing books with movable types; Lorenz Lange, who was secretary of several Russian embassies to the imperial court of China, about which country he has given valuable information; John B. Muller, John Schnitscher and Ambjrn Molin. Tobolsk was the centre of the Swedish colonies in Siberia, where a peculiar sect grew up among those of deep religious sentiment. A sectarian school, with more than 100 pupils, was established, and the German pietist, Aug. Herrman Francke, for some time supported the movement. Governor Gagarin, who wanted to make himself ruling sovereign of Siberia, arranged a formidable conspiracy. It was discovered, the governor was hanged, and the Swedish captives who were involved in it were sent still further away to Nerschinsk.
If Charles XII., up to the date of the terrible battle of Paltowa, has deserved our sympathy, in spite of his faults and mistakes, it is impossible to look upon him in the same charitable light for the rest of his career. The great defeat and the loss of his army he described in letters to his sister, Ulrica Eleonore, and the state council, as small misfortunes, without consequence, which he was soon to repair. Instead of trying his utmost to obtain peace on the best possible conditions for his poor country, and instead of saving his unhappy army from the miseries of captivity, he made plans for new campaigns and demands for a new army. Czar Peter expressed more correct views of the situation. A few hours after the battle of Pultowa he wrote to Admiral Apraxin : “Now rests at last secure our city on the Neva.” And he was right. The period of the political grandeur of Sweden was at an end.
Great was the renowned heroism of Charles XII. and his warriors. Still greater, although less renowned, the heroism with which his poor and neglected country suffered the disasters which these glorious deeds brought upon The regular troops of the army created by Charles XI. had not been sufficient. New regiments were, one after the other, created by means of increased taxes and repeated enlistments, until it appeared as if the whole male population was to be sent out in the endless wars, to be killed or imprisoned, and the distressed country doomed to inevitable destruction. Plague, hunger and emigration threatened to make away with those spared from military service. Swedes of the nineteenth century have difficulty in apprehending how the country was able to endure such terrible hardships.
The consequences of the defeat at Pultowa soon became manifest. The enemies of Sweden had formed a better idea of the resources of the country than had its own ruler, and were resolved to profit by it. King August at once declared the treaty of Alt-Ranstædt to be null and void, and entered Poland, where he in a short time recovered his lost authority. Stanislav fled and sought a refuge on Swedish territory. King Charles later gave him his little hereditary land of Palatinate-Zweibrucken. King Frederic of Denmark declared war upon untenable grounds and had an army of 16,000 men invade Scania. Helsingborg was captured without difficulty. Great consternation was caused by this assault upon the unhappy and apparently defenceless country. The state council was brought to despair. The situation was saved by Count Magnus Stenbock, the able general. After having served as quartermaster-general of the Swedish army in Poland, he was sent back to Sweden, being governor-general of Scania at the time when this province was invaded. He had not with him the necessary troops to meet the enemy, but left for Smaland, where he gathered an army of peasants, chiefly consisting of inexperienced but sturdy youths in wooden shoes and coats of goatskins. From Vexio, where he had met his new mustered troops, Stenbock returned to Scania, in February, 1710, obtaining the reinforcements of a few additional regiments, which swelled his army to the number of 14,000 men. The well-equipped Danish force, which, after an expedition into Bleking, returned to Scania, made a good deal of fun of the “Stenbuk og hands Gededrenge” (the mountain buck and his goatherds). Governor Stenbock understood how to gain the confidence and rouse the patriotism of his “goatherds.” He was soon sufficiently sure of their ability to risk a battle, which was fought at Helsingborg, February 28, 1710. The Danes, commanded by George Rantzau, were routed, and sought a refuge behind the walls of the town. The Danish losses were 4,000 killed and wounded and 3,000 prisoners, with their camp, artillery and baggage. A few days later the Danes evacuated Scania, returning to Seeland. The victory of Helsingborg was the most glorious of the battles fought by Magnus Stenbock. It saved Sweden in the hour of direst distress, rekindling the hope which the battle of Pultowa had extinguished. It was the last time in Swedish history that the Danes entered Scania as enemies.
The victory at Helsingborg was only one bright star in a night of darkness. In the Baltic provinces the disasters followed close upon each other. Count Nils Strom-berg, the governor-general of Livonia, was forced to surrender the town of Riga, July 1, 1710, after having fought the Russians for months with great bravery. The enemies which forced the able Stromberg to give up his cause were hunger and plagues. Not less than 40,000 Russians had lost their lives outside the walls of Riga. Within a few months Duenamuende, Pernau and Reval also surrendered. This made complete the Russian conquest of the Swedish empire in the Baltic provinces. The operations against Finland, begun earlier, were continued with success. The town and fortress of Viborg, which never had been occupied by foreign troops, were captured in June, and Kexholm in September. The country was unmercifully devastated, in spite of solemn promises to the contrary.
That under such circumstances discontent against the absolute ruler was fostered seems only natural. During the first few years of the Carolinian campaign the noise of the great victories was stronger than the voices of discontent and complaint. When the glorious battles were not followed by treaties of peace, the grumbling voices grew louder. The king was at first not the object of the growing discontent, but the state council, which was considered to make greater demands than were necessary. The king was supposed to fight for a righteous cause against treacherous enemies, but the truth dawned on a good many that a government invested with absolute power was the cause of the misery. The battle of Pultowa brought to a mature state the thoughts of a change in the constitution, thoughts which for years had occupied the ablest men of the country. The double government was to a great extent responsible for the bad state of affairs. The king tried to rule with absolute power from his head-quarters in Saxony, Poland and the Ukraine, with Piper as his adviser. At home the state council held the reins of government and sometimes acted in direct opposition to the instructions or intentions of the king. Charles XII. was very jealous of his power, and the state council, foremost in. which were a few men of the very highest ability, like Count Arvid Horn, was on this account sometimes unable to carry out its best endeavors. Charles by his methods brought confusion and uncertainty into the deliberations and acts of the government, injuring the commonwealth and the principles of an absolute monarchy as well. The king was not able to supervise the details of his administration, and unrighteous officers profited thereby, by their unlawful collections of taxes, causing open revolts of the suffering population in various parts of the country.
The state council took no pains to hide the truth from the king, rather using strong colors in their descriptions of the critical condition in order to obtain the much-sought-for and needed peace, or at least the gratification of seeing the armies of the country used exclusively for the defence of its own possessions. King Charles considered the members of the state council as a body of weaklings, cowards ° and fools, who painted the devil on the wall because they lacked the courage and endurance to await the final and in-fallible triumph of his royal arms in a righteous cause. The climax was reached after the arrival of Charles at Bender. The state council commenced to negotiate for peace on its own responsibility. It also convoked a committee of the Estates of the Riksdag to a meeting for deliberations on measures which would better the hopeless conditions of the state and people. King Charles learned of it and sent from Bender a remarkable order, in which he absolutely forbade such meetings, “especially because the last convention of the Estates,” he wrote, “had no other con-sequence than to let them still plainer discover their impoverished condition.”
King Charles lingered in Bender, fascinated by the plans made by several Turkish princes of an armed support against his enemies, or at least an escort of troops for his return through Poland. The king succeeded in his efforts to force the sultan of Turkey to an attack on Russia. The Turks, 200,000 strong, made an invasion, according to plans drawn up by Charles, and were successful in completely surrounding a Russian army, commanded by Czar Peter in person, at the shores of the river Pruth. The czar saved himself by a supreme effort, sacrificing all his gold and the jewels of the czarina as bribes to the grand vizier, who commanded the Turkish army. This dignitary let the Russians escape, thus spoiling the plans of the whole campaign. To Charles it was a great disappointment. His hope to see the Russian giant crushed, and the defeat at Pultowa avenged, was gone forever. His plan of reaching Poland with Turkish troops to join Stenbock and a Swedish army was shaken with the loss of confidence in his barbarous allies. The perfidious grand vizier was punished, but the agreement of peace which he had made with the czar was sanctioned by the sultan, in 1711.
The Swedish state council was quite reluctant to obey the repeated orders of the king for a new army, hesitating to impose new burdens upon the suffering people. The king grew impatient and there was no escape possible. Magnus Stenbock, the most popular man in all Sweden, set an example of personal sacrifices which was followed by many others, and a new army of 9,000 men was ai; last equipped with a navy to carry it across the Baltic to Pomerania. Stenbock landed in the island of Rugen, in September, 1712, and increased his army to 14,000. He abandoned the idea to march toward Poland because the king remained at Bender, and entered Mecklenburg after having skilfully avoided meeting a superior force of Russian and Saxon troops, which followed him at a distance. Negotiations of peace had been commenced before the arrival of Stenbock, between the dethroned Stanislav of Poland, who was then in Pomerania, and King August. This caused a standstill in the operations, an armistice of a fortnight having been agreed to, with a prospect of renewal. The Danes made an end to it, entering Mecklenburg in December. When the armistice was at an end, Stenbock hastened with his troops to Gadebusch, where the Danish army was encamped, by this rapid move preventing the latter from joining the Russian and Saxon forces. Only a detachment of Saxon cavalry had succeeded in reaching the Danish camp. The battle of Gadebusch was fought December 9, 1712, and was the last of the great victories on land that a Swedish army ever won on the Continent. The Danes were crushingly defeated, and their allies found it safest to return to their former fortified positions. The Swedish artillery, commanded by Charles Cronstedt, distinguished itself in this battle against an enemy of superior strength. But Stenbock could not for any length of time keep up the struggle against the armies of three countries, not receiving any support from Sweden, nor sufficient provisions in Mecklenburg. When the Danes burned the town of Stade, Stenbock in revenge burned Altona, toward the end of the year. His army was reduced for lack of provisions, and Stenbock saw no other course to take than to shut himself up with his troops in the fortress of Tnning, in the possession of the young duke of Holstein-Gottorp. Stenbock persevered in his hopes for support from Sweden, or friendly powers, in vain. Efforts were made in Sweden to send him troops and provisions, but did not prove successful. When death from starvation was impending, the valiant general concluded to surrender. May 6, 1713, it was agreed that Stenbock and his army of 11,000 men should become Danish prisoners, but that they should be exchanged at the earliest opportunity. King Frederic IV. of Denmark dishonestly neglected to fulfil this agreement, repeatedly and flatly refusing to exchange any of the prisoners. The hero of the victories at Helsingborg and Gadebusch at first received a tolerably good treatment in Danish captivity, which later was changed in a horrible manner. After years of cruel suffering, he died in a miserable dungeon, in 1717, one year prior to the death of Charles XII. This great descendant of Eric Stenbock and Magdalen Stare tried to kill the time of his captivity by carving in ivory, some articles of exquisite design by his hand still being preserved.
At the surrender of Tnning, Sweden lost her last army and her ablest general. Her king dwelt among the Turks in circumstances fraught with increasing dangers, and her enemies on every side stood ready for attack, the country being a prey to discontent and despair. Still her measure of misery and contumely was not filled.
Charles XII. persevered in his strange sojourn at Bender, being a guest who caused the sultan continual worry through his great political influence. The king was re-solved to leave Turkey only in one manner, and that was escorted by a Turkish force. He was successful in persuading the sultan to declare war on Russia once more, but Czar Peter hastened to make so many concessions that peace was made before any campaign was begun. King Frederic of Prussia offered Charles an alliance on the condition that he should at once return to Sweden. Charles seemed at last inclined to do so, but then a conspiracy was brought to his notice, disclosing a plan by which the perfidious Turkish princes of his intended escort were to deliver him into the hands of King August of Poland. King Charles refused to leave Poland, and the conspirators effected an order from the sultan to attack Charles with an army of 10,000 men, and bring him, dead or alive, to Adrianople. The order was executed February 11, 1713, Charles de-fending himself with his few hundred Swedes and some Poles of his escort against the overwhelming force of Turks and Tartars. The house of the king, near Bender, had been strongly fortified for the occasion. When the trenches were taken most of his men surrendered, but Charles remained with fifty Swedes in the house, which was built of wood, warding off the attack and putting the enemy to flight with a heroism vividly recalling the tales of the ancient Sagas. The Turks returned toward evening and ignited the building. The Swedes valiantly continued their struggle, fighting with their swords against the Turks, sur-rounded by heavy fire and by the smoke of the burning building. The king at last was forced to leave the house and tried to make his way to the neighboring chancery building, which was of stone and better fit to withstand an attack. Charles stumbled and fell, and was at once made prisoner, together with his followers. This peculiar incident, which has been called the Kalabalik, or Popular Tumult, of Bender, aroused universal surprise and dislike. Charles was conducted to a Turkish pasha, who treated him with respect. He was under supervision first at the town of Demotika, later at the palace of Timurtasz, both in the vicinity of Adrianople. Charles considered it incompatible with his royal dignity to call on the grand vizier. For this reason it was given out that he was ill, and in his miraculous stubbornness he persevered in keeping his bed for a whole year! During all this time, Charles followed up his policy of governing Sweden from afar with absolute despot-ism. He prepared new rules for the chancery, attempting to change the form of administration from one of faculties, or colleges, to one of departments, or bureaus. He made negotiations of peace in the same spirit as of yore, viz., without being willing to make any concessions, and planned new campaigns. For recreation he played chess and listened to music.
In Sweden the peculiar Turkish adventures of Charles XII. were not understood or appreciated, and the country seemed forsaken by all, even by the king, who by many was thought to be insane. The state council saw no possibility of maintaining a government without the consent and goodwill of the people. Plans for a new constitution, a reduction of the royal power and a peace at any cost were in the air. Princess Ulrica Eleonore was called as a member of the state council and a Riksdag was convoked, to meet toward the end of 1713. The Estates declared that they were, in case of necessity, ready to seek peace under the auspices of the princess and the state council, and were in favor of appointing the princess to the regency. Arvid Horn, the leading spirit of the state council, used the utmost of his influence in keeping the Riksdag from the revolutionary acts which would be involved in making Ulrica Eleonore regent, but he saw to it that the declaration of the Riksdag, of intended peace-making through the princess and state council, was communicated to the king. Hans Henric von Liewen, one of the state councillors, was selected to carry this communication to the king, together with letters from the queen-dowager and the state council. Count Liewen gave a full and true account to the king, telling him in plain words that if he did not return home without delay his kingdom would be lost to him.
King Charles at last decided to return to his country. He sent an embassy of seventy-two people to officially announce his departure to the sultan at Constantinople, made a loan of a considerable sum of money, and left Demotika with a large escort. In Wallachia he left the Turks behind, and continued on his way through Hungary and Germany, followed by two Swedish officers. The emperor of Germany, who was desirous of winning over the Swedish king for his plans, prepared a hospitable reception, but Charles passed Vienna incognito as Captain Peter Frisk. He rode on, through night and day, taking care of his own horse and never changing his clothes. Charles arrived at the gate of Stralsund, in Swedish Pomerania, in the night of November 11, 1714, accompanied by one officer. In a fortnight he had, on horseback, traversed a stretch of 1,300 miles.
The situation at the arrival of Charles XII. in Stralsund was beset with new dangers and complications. Prussia had ceased to be friendly and was planning to seize the Swedish possessions in Germany. Hanover, united with England under the same ruler, had the same ambition. The dilapidated fortifications of Stralsund were attacked by Saxons and Danes, commanded by their respective kings, August and Frederic. For more than a year, Charles, with admirable heroism, withstood the siege. Once, while the king was dictating a letter to a secretary, the latter sprang to his feet in consternation, a bomb having shattered the roof of the building. “The bomb, your majesty, the bomb!” exclaimed the scribe. Charles answered : “What connection is there between the bomb and my letter?” quietly continuing his dictation. The king found it at last impossible to keep up the defence of Stralsund, leaving it a stormy December night, and arriving safely in the town of Trelleborg, on the southernmost point of Sweden, December 15, 1715.
What a different country that Sweden was which Charles XII. left in August, 1699, at the very summit of her political grandeur, to the impoverished and suffering Sweden in which he had now landed ! And what a different man he had himself become during these sixteen years of absence! Sweden had won a new hero king, of greater fame than any of his predecessors or successors, but lost her prosperity for the time being and her political grandeur forever. The people received the king with demonstrations of joy and with reviving hope for an honorable peace. The state council and the intelligent few received him with badly concealed hopelessness and indifference. They knew that although the young ambitious king had changed to a world-famous hero, prematurely aged in victory and defeat, the unyielding stubbornness and the never satiated desire for glory had remained unchanged in Charles XII. Charles was met by a message from the dying queen-dowager, his grandmother, with an ardent prayer for peace. Charles answered to hopes and prayers, to silent indifference and despair, with a command of more money and more troops ! He wanted peace, but as he spoke in the same terms as when he was the victorious commander of an apparently invincible army, nobody cared to consider his demands in earnest. The absolute power reached its last stage of development, a military despotism which had no other policy than war, no other administration than the one requisite to maintain and provide the requirements of war. The state council fell in deepest disgrace, and its functions ceased, in 1715.
During the last years of his reign, Charles XII. took no advice of Swedish men. Foreign adventurers and schemers were in charge of the affairs of state, principal among whom was Baron George Henric Grtz. This man was a minister of state of the young duke of Holstein-Gottorp, in whose service he remained, and in whose interests, as a successor to Charles XII. on the throne of Sweden, he zealously worked, while developing into the all-powerful minister of the Swedish king. Charles granted him authority to act in his name in almost every branch of the government, interior as well as foreign. Grtz was a genius, but utterly reckless. For his acts the king was responsible, no(. he. Grtz was a foreigner and working for the cause of a foreign master. He tried to obtain loans abroad, made compulsory loans within the country, placed a tax on articles of luxury, and put in circulation coins of copper which were a kind of “promissory notes,” worthless in them-selves, but each representing a Swedish dollar. At first these “coins of need” were issued to the amount of a sensible sum, but were soon increased in number at the command of Charles XII. himself, so that they represented higher sums than the crown could redeem, and thus lost their value. The people refused to take them, while the prices of everything in the market rose to an astounding height. The government, in order to save itself from this difficulty, took possession of all coined money and uncoined silver, and gave the “coins of need” in exchange, perpetrating several other scandalous acts of violence against the rights of private property.
The situation grew almost insupportable. Commerce and industry, injured by the war, ceased entirely because nobody was inclined to sell, only to receive in exchange worthless coins. Wars and hard years combined in creating misery and distress everywhere. The peasants were recklessly treated, and a disregard for moral obligations grew out of the bad examples set by the government. The students and scientists had in great numbers been carried away by the bloody wars, and the interest in the fields of culture was slackened by the power of financial depression. The wealthy and well-to-do saw their means daily diminish, and, losing their interest in public welfare, they tried to save the remnants of their own property. The members of the state council were threatened by investigations which Grtz and his friends were scheming to institute against them. In the nobility, the plans for a change of the constitution matured, the leaders in this movement being Count Per Ribbing and the old Gyllencreutz, who had prophesied the outcome of an absolute monarchial government.
Charles XII., in spite of his all-absorbing passion for war, did not lack interest for the pursuits of peace. He encouraged several men of genius, of whom two were eminently worthy of distinction; viz., Nicodemus Tessin, Junior, the architect, and Christopher Polhem, the engineer.
Nicodemus Tessin was born in Nykping in 1654. His father and namesake belonged to an old Pomeranian family, and had come to Sweden during the reign of Queen Chris-tine. Nicodemus Tessin, Senior, was an able architect, who built the castle of Drottningholm for Queen-dowager Hedvig Eleonore, a moderately gifted but art-loving woman. The latter gathered around herself artists and architects at her castle of Drottningholm, in Lake Maelar, among whom were Ehrenstrahl, a famous artist of German birth, who founded the first school .of Swedish painters. The younger Tessin belonged to this circle and was, in their respective times, in the favor of Charles XI. and Charles XII., acting as court architect to both. The work which won for him an immortal fame is the royal palace of Stock-holm, an architectural creation worthy of the admiration of all Europe, and, in Sweden, standing unsurpassed to this day. It was planned and commenced by Tessin, but completed according to his plans a hundred years after his death. Charles XI. ordered a reconstruction of the old castle, which enterprise Tessin undertook. Shortly after the death of Charles XI., both the old and the reconstructed parts of the palace were burned, and the body of the king with difficulty saved from the conflagration. Charles XII. ordered Tessin to build an entirely new palace. The work was commenced in 1698, but was gradually abandoned during the war times, to cease shortly before the battle of Pultowa. Charles was highly interested in it and wrote from Turkey to Tessin about his views. Tessin intended to decorate the exterior according to the taste of his day, but Charles raised opposition, finding the severe beauty of the stern yet graceful outlines perfect in themselves. The work on the new palace was recommenced after the death of Charles XII. King Adolphus Frederic was the first who took up his residence within its walls. Tessin rose high on the social ladder. From Turkey, the king made him a count and chancellor of the University of Lund; after his return to Sweden he appointed him marshal – colonel. Tessin stood in strong opposition to Baron Grtz, and after the death of King Charles joined the loaders of the revolutionary nobles. He was of universal fame.
Christopher Polhem was the first of great Swedish engineers and inventors. He was born at the ancient town of Visby, in the island of Gothland, in 1661, and was the son of a merchant, who died when Christopher was a child. When only twelve years of ago he had to make his own living. As secretary to a widow of wealth, he early developed his genius as a mechanician, building his own shop of carpentry, sloyd, etc., making watches and devising smaller inventions. His want of a classical education was detrimental to him, and he commenced, when twenty-four years of age, to study Latin with various ministers in the country, in exchange for works of his genius and handicraft. At last he was able to enter the University of Upsala by means of recommendations from his last teacher. Soon after his arrival he created considerable attention and admiration by a proof of his ingenuity. Behind the high altar in the Upsala Cathedral there was a clock of the finest workmanship, devised in media val times by a monk of the monastery of Vadstena. It was out of order, and not for a hundred years had anybody attempted to set it right. Polhem undertook to reconstruct the whole work, connecting with the main mechanism all the hands which pointed out the hours of the day, the eclipses of the moon and the motions of the “ruling” planets, according to the system of the astrologers. Polhem succeeded in his task, and was allowed to test his invention of automatic haulers of ore in the mines. The college of mining, before which the invention was successfully demonstrated, accepted it, and Charles XI. appointed Polhem a mining engineer. In 1694, Polhem made an extensive journey through England and the Continent. In Paris he learned that several mathematicians were in vain endeavoring to construct a clock which would simultaneously show the time of the day in various countries and strike the hours at the same time. Polhem announced through the Swedish ambassador in Paris that he was willing to solve the problem. He constructed a model which gave universal satisfaction. Louis XIV. had a clock made after this model and gave it as a gift of honor to the Turkish sultan. Upon his return he proposed the founding of a laboratorium mechanicum, which in several respects served as a pattern for the later technological institutes of Stockholm and Gothenburg. The youthful Charles XII. embraced the idea with interest, but the promising institution came to a standstill during the wars. Among Polhem’s more remarkable inventions was one for the leading of water-power, to be used at considerable distances. Charles XII. said that a man like Polhem was not to be had for several centuries, and that for this reason he ought to be made useful as long as he lived. A task of gigantic pro-portions was intrusted to himthe construction of a dock for the navy yards at Carlskrona. The great engineer filled it in an admirable way, and was appointed councillor of commerce and ennobled under the name of Polhem, his original name having been Polhammar, which to modern ears sounds just as fine and a good deal more suggestive.
Another gigantic task worthy of the genius of Polhem was the construction of a navigable route from the North Sea across the great inland seas of Sweden to the Baltic, but he was not allowed to finish it. Charles XII. intrusted the work to Polhem, who was to have it ready in five yearn In 1718, Polhem commenced by forming an immense sluice, by means of explosions in the rock at Trollhetta. The great waterfalls of said place were to be avoided and the work of completing the sluice was begun, when it was all destroyed by unknown enemies, who dropped beams and planks in the river above, which carried away the dam. The death of King Charles and the impoverished condition of the country made it impossible to continue the work on the great canal system, which had to wait for more than a century for its ultimate completion. With the death of Charles XII, the era of ambitious enterprises came to an end; but Polhem was employed in various works of mechanic improvements in the interest of agriculture, industry and manufactures. Czar Peter of Russia, King George I. of England, and several other monarchs made brilliant offers in order to win Polhem for their countries. He executed several works and inventions abroad, but loved his own country too much to leave it. Polhem exerted a great influence in the interest of his science, both by instruction and by the publication of technical works. Active to the last, he died in 1751. Polhem was a man of a harmonius endowment, amiable and dignified, and preserved his plain mode of living throughout his brilliant career.
Grtz led with superior skill the negotiations for peace, while the impoverished country suffered untold miseries as a consequence of his unscrupulous financial schemes. He tried to benefit by the sudden but lasting enmity between Czar Peter and George I., desiring to gain the support of either against the other. The deliberations were held in the archipelago of Aland, with Grtz as the representative of the Swedish government. Czar Peter wanted to keep Ingermanland, Esthonia and Livonia, but was ready to cede Finland, which country he occupied, and to assist King Charles with troops in an attack on Denmark. Nor-way was to be the compensation for the lost Baltic provinces, and the attack on Denmark was to be made from Germany. Charles XII. had no confidence in the czar as an ally and had commenced the conquest of Norway directly and with-out his aid. No decision was reached in the negotiations with England.
In February, 1716, Charles XII., from Bohuslæn and Vermland, made an invasion into Norway, penetrating over the Glom River to Christiania. He captured the capital, where he held his headquarters for several weeks, but was not able to take the fortress of Akershus, which, with its artillery, commanded the city. The Swedish army, 10,000 strong, suffered a great deal from want of provisions and through a guerilla war, skilfully conducted by the Norwegians. Charles was in danger of being surrounded by the enemy, and with difficulty retreated to Sweden, over the Strait of Svinesund. The dangers were increased by the Norwegian naval hero, Peter Tordenskiold, who, with some Danish ships under his command, had destroyed a flotilla of Swedish transport vessels. An invasion into Scania by Denmark and her allies was planned for the summer, but did not materialize. King Charles took up his headquarters at Lund.
The war offered no aspect of interest during the year 1717, except some unsuccessful attempts made by Tordenskiold to capture the towns of Strmstad and Gothenburg. Charles prepared another attack on Norway, and, by draining the last resources of his country, managed to equip an army of 60,000 men. In August, 1718, a smaller army, under the command of Charles Gustavus Armfelt, was sent through Jemtland over the mountains into the diocese of Drontheime King Charles, with an army of 30,000 men, invaded Norway from Bohuslæn, Dal and Vermland, and took in possession the country east of the Glom River. Within a few days the king laid siege to the fortress of Frederiesten, close by the town of Fredricshall. November 27th the fort of Gyldenlve was captured, and the Swedes moved their trenches ever closer to the fortress, which seemed doomed to surrender. In the evening of November 30th the king was seen in one of the trenches watching the work of his soldiers, and leaning against the rampart. He remained there a long time, not heeding the appeals of his officers, who grew uneasy on account of the apparent danger to his person. Suddenly his head sank down on his breast. A bullet from the for-tress had reached him, penetrating his temples and causing instant death. He met death in the manner he most de-sired it, although not while engaged in battle.
Charles XII. was of an enigmatic character, which at-tracts, through its strength and superiority over his con-temporaries, but which is repulsive through its tenacity, unyielding sternness and inaccessibility to reason or per-suasion. His moral greatness has won admiration. It had its limitations, but was superior to the standards of his time. His ideals were pure and lofty, but, through lack of contact with the realities and facts of life, only assumed a tragic grandeur, without proving beneficent to mankind. His faults were such that his education and experience as an absolute monarch aggravated them. Charles XII. was the most remarkable man of his age and one of the greatest soldiers that ever lived. He was also a great general, although the proper balance between the soldier and the field marshal, perhaps, was to some extent lacking. The influence of his personality and example had a miraculous effect upon his soldiers. He suffered his one great defeat in open battle when wounded, suffering, and not able to exert his usual influence to its full extent.
Charles XII. has been idolized by his countrymen of all ages, who in him have recognized an impersonation of all their chief national virtues, with a few of their national faults, enlarged into the image of a patriotic hero of almost supernatural grandeur. The Swedish people were forced to accept absolute power as a salvation from the impending thraldom of oligarchy. In Charles XII. it saw to what a climax of abuse this power could attain, even in hands which were deemed righteous and free from stains. With Charles XII. the political grandeur and the absolute monarchy of Sweden came to an end, although attempts to restore both were to be made. A new phase of her development, with new improvements and new evils, commenced with the reign of Ulrica Eleonore.