Charles XIII of Sweden

Charles XIII & II
Charles XIII of Sweden wearing the Order of Charles XIII in red
King of Sweden
Reign 6 June 1809 – 5 February 1818 (&00000000000000080000008 years, &0000000000000245000000245 days)
Predecessor Gustav IV Adolf
Successor Charles XIV John
King of Norway
Reign 4 November 1814 – 5 February 1818 (&00000000000000030000003 years, &000000000000009300000093 days)
Predecessor Christian Frederick
Successor Charles III
Spouse Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp
House House of Holstein-Gottorp
Father Adolf Frederick
Mother Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
Born 7 October 1748(1748-10-07)
Died 5 February 1818(1818-02-05) (aged 69)
Religion Lutheran

Charles XIII & II also Carl, Swedish: Karl XIII (Stockholm, 7 October 1748 – Stockholm, 5 February 1818), was King of Sweden (as Charles XIII) from 1809 and King of Norway (as Charles II) from 1814 until his death. He was the second son of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great.

Though known as King Charles XIII in Sweden, he was actually the seventh Swedish king by that name, as his predecessor Charles IX (reigned 1604–1611) had adopted his numeral after studying a fictitious history of Sweden.

Life and politics

Statue of King Charles XIII at Kungsträdgården.

Prince Charles was appointed grand admiral when he was but few days old. He was described as a good dancer at the amateur theatre of the royal court. Reportedly he was not very close to his mother; the Queen preferred her younger children, Sophie Albertine and Frederick Adolf, but he and his elder brother Gustav were described as close. In 1772 he cooperated in the revolutionary plans of his elder brother, King Gustav III of Sweden and as a sign of recognition, was appointed Duke of Södermanland.

He was described as dependent on others, easily influenced, weak and pleasure loving. He was very interested in the supernatural, secret societies and mysticism. It is said that he was one of the best clients of the celebrated fortune teller Ulrica Arfvidsson and even asked her for political advice, and he also favored the medium Henrik Gustaf Ulfvenklou, who made a great success as a medium in the city's aristocracy during the season 1783–84 and had great influence over the duke. He was also a member of the Freemasons and in 1811 founded the Order of Charles XIII, a Swedish order of chivalry awarded only to Protestant Freemasons.

Charles was given several official tasks during his period as duke. In 1777, he served as regent during Gustav III's stay in Russia, in 1780 he served as formal chief commander during the King's stay in Spa. On the outbreak of the Russo-Swedish War of 1788 he served with distinction as admiral of the fleet, especially at the battles of Hogland (7 June 1788) and Öland ( 26 July 1789). On the latter occasion he would have won a signal victory but for the unaccountable remissness of his second-in-command, Admiral Liljehorn.

In 1785, he was given the proposition to become Duke of Courland by the nobility of the Duchy of Courland and given the support of Gustav III , but the plans never materialized.

Charles was in close connection to the opposition against Gustav III, and it is debated whether he knew and supported the plans to assassinate the King.

On the assassination of Gustav III in 1792, Charles acted as regent of Sweden till 1796 on behalf of his nephew, King Gustav IV, who was a minor when his father was shot in the Stockholm opera. The de facto regent, however, was in fact Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm, whose influence over him was supreme. These four years have been considered perhaps the most miserable and degrading period in Swedish history (an Age of Lead succeeding an Age of Gold, as it has well been called) and may be briefly described as alternations of the fantastic jacobinism and the ruthless despotism.

On the coming of age of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden in November 1796, the duke's regency ended. In 1803, the Boheman affair caused a severe conflict between Gustav IV Adolf and the ducal couple. The mystic Karl Adolf Boheman (1764–1831) had been introduced to the couple by Count Magnus Stenbock in 1793 and gained great influence by promising to reveal scientific secrets about the occult. Boheman inducted them to a secret society and founded what he described as a branch of the Freemasons in 1801, where both sexes where accepted as members, and to which the Counts and Countesses Ruuth and Brahe as well as the mother of the queen were introduced. Boheman was arrested upon an attempt to recruit the monarch, who accused him of revolutionary agendas and expelled him. The ducal couple were exposed in an informal investigation by the monarch, and the duchess was questioned in the presence of the royal council. In 1808, he was again chief commander during Gustav IV Adolf's stay in Finland.

On 13 March 1809, those who had dethroned Gustav IV Adolf appointed him regent, and he was finally elected king by the Riksdag of the Estates. But by this time he was prematurely decrepit, and Crown Prince Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte took over the government as soon as he landed in Sweden in 1810. By the Union of Sweden and Norway on 4 November 1814 Charles became king of Norway under the name Carl II of Norway. After eight years as king only by title, Charles died without a natural heir on 5 February 1818, and Bernadotte succeeded him as King Charles XIV John.

In 1774, his brother arranged a marriage with his cousin, Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp. His marital relationship was very distant; although initially fond of his beautiful and lively bride, they lived most of their lives separated and both had extramarital affairs. During his old age, when he became king, he began to follow her around, irritating her by repeatedly asking the same questions. Charles was said to have had a whole harem of mistresses, including noblewomen such as Augusta von Fersen and singers and actresses such as Charlotte Eckerman. One of his best known mistresses was Charlotte Slottsberg, who also had influence over him. As king, his mistress was the noblewoman Mariana Koskull.

He was the 872nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain.

Children and family

He married his cousin Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759–1818), on 7 July 1774 in Stockholm. Both of their children died in infancy.

  1. Lovisa Hedvig (– 2 July 1797)
  2. Carl Adolf, Duke of Värmland (Stockholm, 4 July 1798 – Stockholm, 10 July 1798)

With his mistress, Augusta von Fersen, he had a son:

  1. Carl Löwenhielm 1772–1861


16. Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
8. Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
17. Marie Elisabeth of Saxony
4. Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin
18. Frederick III of Denmark
9. Frederikke Amalie of Denmark
19. Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg
2. Adolf Frederick of Sweden
20. Friedrich VI, Margrave of Baden-Durlach
10. Frederick VII, Margrave of Baden-Durlach
21. Christine Magdalen of Zweibrücken
5. Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach
22. Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (= 16)
11. Auguste Marie of Holstein-Gottorp
23. Marie Elisabeth of Saxony (= 17)
1. Charles XIII of Sweden
24. Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg
12. Frederick I of Prussia
25. Luise Henriette of Nassau
6. Frederick William I of Prussia
26. Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover
13. Sophia Charlotte of Hanover
27. Sophia, Countess Palatine of Simmern
3. Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
28. Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover (= 26)
14. George I of Great Britain
29. Sophia, Countess Palatine of Simmern (= 27)
7. Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
30. George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
15. Sophia Dorothea of Celle
31. Eleonore d'Esmier d'Olbreuse
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 7 October 1748 Died: 5 February 1818
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gustav IV Adolf
King of Sweden
Succeeded by
Charles XIV/III John
Preceded by
Christian Frederick
King of Norway

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