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Charles XIII & II ( ) (Stockholmmarker, 7 October 1748 – Stockholmmarker, 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 Charles XIII, he was actually the seventh Swedish king of that name, as Erik XIV (reigned 1560–1568) and Charles IX (reigned 1604–1611) took their numbers after studying a highly fictitious History of Sweden.

Life and politics

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

He was described as dependent of others, easily influenced, weak and pleasure loving, created scandals with his love affairs and was an easy prey to opposition and mysticism. He was interested in politics, or rather, he was interested in power; when he finally became regent, he did not use his power, but left it in the hands of others. He was suspected of a lot of intrigues against his brother King Gustav, but never openly accused of anything.

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 occultist Ulrica Arfvidsson and even asked her for political advice during the 1780s, and he was also very interested in the activities of the male medium Henrik Gustaf Ulfvenklou, who made a great success as a medium in the city's aristocracy during the season 1783–1784 and had great influence over the duke. He was also a member of the Freemasons.

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.

On the death of Gustav III in 1792, Charles acted as regent of Sweden till 1796; but the real ruler of the country was the narrow-minded and vindictive Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm, whose mischievous influence over him was supreme. These four years were perhaps the most miserable and degrading 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 fantastic jacobinism and ruthless despotism.

On the coming of age of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden (November 1796), the duke became a mere cipher in politics until 13 March 1809, when 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 asking the same questions repeatedly. Charles was talked about as having a whole harem of mistresses, including noblewoman 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 a king, his mistress was the noblewoman Mariana Koskull.

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

Children and family

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

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

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

  1. Carl Löwenhielm 1772–1861


See also


  • Signum svenska kulturhistoria, "Gustavianska tiden".
  • Ingvar Andersson, "Gustavianskt".
  • Signum Förlag, "Frihetstiden".
  • Lars Elgklou, "Familjen Bernadotte. En kunglig släktkrönika"
  • Herman Lindqvist, "Historien om Sverige. Gustavs dagar".

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