Karl XII (1682-1718) of House Pfalz, King of Sweden, Grand Duke of Finland, Duke of Bremen-Verden, Duke of Pfalz-Zweibrücken and Protector of the Realm, is a character of major importance in Swedish history and considered to be the greatest warlord king after Gustav II Adolf. A remarkable tactician, Karl XII commanded some of Sweden's greatest victories and commenced an initially successful invasion of Russia. He is considered to be the last king of the Swedish Empire, and his death caused great turmoil throughout the country that eventually lead to military defeat. Today, there are theories that he was in fact assassinated by his own men, and many individuals have been suspected for this crime.
Wars and battlesEdit
Karl XII is one of the most famous Swedish warrior kings, belonging to the Carolean Era and being a direct descendant of Karl XI and Karl X Gustav. He commanded many successful battles throughout the Great Northern War and often overcame far more numerous enemy armies. Although being present during the Battle of Poltava, Karl XII did not command the Swedish army because of a wound that disabled his ability to ride (he strictly believed that any general must fight alongside the soldiers in the frontline). The following is a list of the battles he held command in:
- Great Northern War (1700-1718) - Defeat
- Landing on Humlebæk (1700) - Victory
- Battle of Narva (1700) - Victory
- Crossing of the Düna (1701) - Victory
- Battle of Kliszów (1702) - Victory
- Battle of Pułtusk (1703) - Victory
- Siege of Toruń (1704) - Victory
- Battle of Punitz (1704) - Victory
- Battle of Grodno (1706) - Victory
- Battle of Holowczyn (1708) - Victory
- Pursuit of Krasnokutsk (1709) - Victory (personally wounded)
- Pruth Campaign (1710-1711) - Victory
- Skirmish at Bender (1713) - Defeat
- Siege of Stralsund (1714-1715) - Indecisive (left during the battle, garrison defeated shortly after)
- Battle of Stresow (1715) - Defeat
- Siege of Fredriksten (1718) - Defeat (killed in action)
Personality and traitsEdit
There are many different and few reliable sources describing Karl XII's private behavior, although his personality was often described as very strict and militaristic. He was often willing to listen to his advisors, but once he had decided a course of action there was no way to persuade him otherwise - he has commonly been seen as the average absolute monarch, demanding complete obedience and loyalty from everyone around him. This was proved after the failure in his invasion of Russia, during which two of his most important generals were captured. Field Marshal Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld had valiantly fought against incredible odds and personally defended himself until disarmed, while general Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt had surrendered himself along with a majority of the Swedish army that could have been capable of defeating the forces of tsar Peter I. The king immediately negotiated for Rehnskiöld's release, while refusing to put any effort into making Lewenhaupt return safely (the dishonored general later died in Russian captivity). Karl XII was extremely disobedient as a child, enjoying practical jokes aimed at servants, nobles and commoners alike. However, during his later years he became a strict man who seemed to only care for warfare. He was never married and had no mistress, thus never producing a heir, and once called the Carolean army his children. It has been speculated that Karl XII was born with Asperger syndrome, causing him to lack empathy and making social interactions difficult.
Other noteworthy ideals of the king was that he lived the same way as his common soldiers, sharing food with officers and infantrymen alike and never wearing anything else than a cavalry officer's uniform. Though despite having a unique unity with his men, he did not hesitate to execute those who plundered civilian settlements or sexually abused the women that were left behind by the Russian army.
Karl XII was fluent in French, but he refused to speak it in his own country, saying that "a Frenchman who come to Sweden has no right to demand of me that I speak his language; nor have I a right to demand him to speak Swedish in France". This was a unique trait as French was considered a global language at the time and was commonly spoken by all diplomats in Europe, causing relations with France to be stained.