Charles XIII of Sweden

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Charles XIII & II
Charles XIII of Sweden.jpg
Charles XIII of Sweden wearing the Order of Charles XIII in red
King of Sweden
Reign 6 June 1809 – 5 February 1818
Predecessor Gustav IV Adolf
Successor Charles XIV John
King of Norway
Reign 4 November 1814 – 5 February 1818
Predecessor Christian Frederick
Successor Charles III John
Spouse Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp
Issue Princess Louise Hedvig
Prince Carl Adolf, Duke of Värmland
Carl Löwenhielm (extramarital)
House House of Holstein-Gottorp i.e. House of Oldenburg
Father Adolf Frederick
Mother Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
Born (1748-10-07)7 October 1748
Died 5 February 1818(1818-02-05) (aged 69)
Religion Lutheran

Charles XIII & II also Carl, Swedish: Karl XIII (7 October 1748 in Stockholm – 5 February 1818 in Stockholm), 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 II of Prussia.[1]

Though known as King Charles XIII in Sweden, he was actually the seventh Swedish king by that name, as Charles IX (reigned 1604–1611) had adopted his numeral after studying a fictitious history of Sweden.[2]

Early life[edit]

Prince Charles, in 1758 by Ulrica Pasch.

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 youngest children, Sophie Albertine and Frederick Adolf.[3]

Charles was, however, his father's favorite, and similar to him in personality.[4] He was also described as close to his brother Gustav during their childhood.[3]

Because of his position as the heir to the throne after his elder brother Gustav, he was early targeted as a useful tool for the opposition to his brother: already in the 1760s, the Caps (party) tried to use him against his brother the crown prince through his then love interest countess Brita Horn, daughter of the Cap's politician Adam Horn.[4] Gustav, however, was always careful to prevent Charles from being used by the opposition, which came to its first test during the 1768 crisis, when Charles, ultimately, did not let himself be used by the Caps party.[4] In 1770, he made a journey through Germany and France alone.

Reign of Gustav III[edit]

Gustav III, King of Sweden, and his brothers

After the death of his father in 1771, when his brother the Crown prince was abroad, the Caps (party) once again attempted to use him against his brother, now King Gustav III of Sweden, and his mother Louisa Ulrika used this in order to have her own rights as a dowager queen respected by the Caps.[4] Upon the departure of his mother to Prussia, and the return of his brother, however, Gustav III managed to win him to his side.

In 1772 he cooperated in the Revolution of 1772 of his elder brother, King Gustav III of Sweden. He was given the task to use his connections in the Caps party to neutralize it and secure the southern provinces by use of the military, tasks he performed successfully.[4] As a sign of recognition, he was given the title Duke of Södermanland by him.

Duke Charles was early on the object of his mother's plans to arrange political marriages for her children. On the wish of his mother, he was to be married to her niece, his cousin Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt, a plan to which he had agreed in 1770. The government, however, refused to issue negotiations because of the costs.[3] After the accession of Gustav III, and the coup d'état which introduced absolute monarchy, his brother terminated these plans against their mothers' will in October 1772 and issued negotiations for a marriage between Charles and his cousin Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp. As the King had not consummated his own marriage, he wished to place the task of providing an heir to the throne to his brother. Charles agreed to the marriage in August 1773, and the marriage took place the following year. After a false alarm of a pregnancy of Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte in 1775, the King consummated his own marriage. The royal couple lived de facto separate private lives and both had extramarital affairs.[3] During the great succession scandal of 1778, when queen dowager Louisa Ulrika questioned the legitimacy of the issue of Gustav III, he sided with his brother the king against their mother, this despite the fact that it was in fact he who had informed her of the rumors regarding the legitimacy, something he however withheld from the king.[4]

Coronet created for Prince Charles and worn at his brother Gustav's coronation in 1772.

Charles was described as dependent and easily influenced.[5] His numerous affairs gave him the reputation of being a libertine.[3] He was reputed for his "harem" of lovers,[3] of which the more well known were Augusta von Fersen, Charlotte Eckerman, Mariana Koskull and Charlotte Slottsberg, the last one reputed to have had political influence over him. He unsuccessfully courted Magdalena Rudenschöld, and her refusal of his advances has been pointed out as the cause of the harsh treatment he exposed her to as regent during the Armfelt conspiracy. After the late 1790s, when his health deteriorated by a series of rheumatic attacks, his relationship to his consort improved and she gained more influence over him.[6]

The Duke was also known for his interest in the supernatural and mysticism, and he was engaged in several secret societies. He was also of the Freemasons. He was reportedly a client of the fortune teller Ulrica Arfvidsson, and he also favored the medium Henrik Gustaf Ulfvenklou. In 1811, he founded the Order of Charles XIII, a Swedish order of chivalry awarded only to Protestant Freemasons.[7]

Duke Charles was given several political tasks during his tenure as a 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. The same year, Gustav III named him regent should his son succeed him being still minor.[4] However, he was not appointed regent during the journey of the king to Italy and France in 1783-84, and the following years, his cam under the influence of Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm, who was in opposition to the monarch, and came to be less trusted by Gustav III.[4]

In 1785, he was offered the Dukedom of Courland by the nobility of the Duchy and given the support of Gustav III.[8] This was however never materialized.

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.

The autumn of 1789, Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte wished to depose Gustav III and place her husband Duke Charles upon the throne.[9] Her ideal was the Swedish Constitution of 1772, which she saw as a good tool for an enlightened aristocracy, and the war and the Union and Security Act had made her a leading part of the opposition. She cooperated with Prince Frederick Adolf of Sweden and Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm.[9] The plan was to force Charles to act as a symbol of the opposition to the Union and Security Act when the time was right.[9] When the time arrived to make Charles act, however, he refused, which effectively discontinued the coup.[9]

Charles was in close connection to the opposition against Gustav III, and it is debated whether he knew of and supported the plans to assassinate the King.[10]

Reign of Gustav IV Adolf[edit]

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. Gustav III had designated him regent in his earlier will. When he was dying, he altered the will, and while still appointing Charles regent of his minor son, he was no longer to rule absolute, but restricted by a government consisted of the supporters of Gustav III.[4] After the death of the monarch, however, Charles successfully contested the will and was given unlimited power as sole regent.[4]

The Duke-regent was in practice not willing or capable to manage the state affairs, reportedly because of his lack of energy and staying power.[4] Instead, he entrusted the power of government to his favorite and adviser 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. Reuterholm ruled as the uncontested regent de facto the entire tenure of the regency, "only seldom disturbed by other influences or any personal will of charles".[4] The unexpectedly mild sentences of the involved in the regicide of Gustav III attracted attention.[4] The marriage negotiations of the young king disturbed the relationship to Russia, and the alliance with revolutionary France was greatly disliked by other powers.[4]

On the coming of age of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden in November 1796, the duke's regency ended. His relationship to Gustav IV Adolf was cordial though never close, and he was not entrusted with much during the regency of his nephew.[4] In 1797 and 1798, he and his consort had their first children, though in neither case the child lived. After this, the Duke and Duchess made a journey through Germany and Austria in 1798-99.[4]

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 into a secret society Yellow Rose (society) 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.[11] In 1808, he was again chief commander during Gustav IV Adolf's stay in Finland. He is presumed to have been, if not involved, so aware of the plans to depose Gustav IV Adolf in 1809.[4] He kept passive during the Coup of 1809, and accepted the post of regent by the victorious party after having assured himself of the deposed monarch was not in mortal danger.[4] He was initially not willing to accept the crown, however, out of consideration of the former king's son.[4]


The elderly King Carl XIII

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. In November 1809, he was affected by a heart attack, and was not able to participate in government. The new constitution which was introduced also made his involvement in politics difficult. A planned attempt to enlarge the royal power in 1809–10 was not put into effect because of his indecisiveness and health condition.[4]

By the time he became king, he was 60 years old and prematurely decrepit. This triggered a search for a suitable heir. The initial choice was a Danish prince, Christian August, who took the name Charles August upon being adopted by Charles. However, Charles August died only a few months after his arrival in Sweden. One of Napoleon's generals, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, was then chosen as his successor. The new crown prince took over the government as soon as he landed in Sweden in 1810. Charles' condition deteriorated every year, especially after 1812, and he eventually became but a mute witness during the government councils chaired by the crown prince, having lost his memory and no longer being able to communicate.[4]

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.[12]

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


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 (Stockholm, 2 July 1797). Stillborn; buried at Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church).[13]
  2. Carl Adolf, Duke of Värmland (Stockholm, 4 July 1798 – Stockholm, 10 July 1798). Lived six days; buried at Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church).[14]

With Augusta von Fersen, he had an extramarital son:

  1. Carl Löwenhielm 1772–1861

Adopted sons:

  1. Charles August, Crown Prince of Sweden
  2. Charles XIV John of Sweden


Armoiries du Prince Charles de Suède duc de Södermanland.svg
Coat of Arms as Prince of Sweden, Duke of Södermanland
Armoiries des rois Adolphe Frédéric, Gustave III et Charles XIII de Suède.svg
Coat of Arms as King Charles XIII of Sweden, 1809-1814
Armoiries du Roi Charles XIII de Suède et de Norvège 1814 1818.svg
Coat of Arms as King Charles XIII of Sweden and Norway, 1814-1818
Royal Monogram of King Charles XIII of Sweden.svg
Royal Monogram of King Charles XIII of Sweden


Swedish Royalty
House of Holstein-Gottorp
COA country se house of Holstein-Gottorp.svg
Adolf Frederick
Gustav III
Charles XIII
Frederick Adolf, Duke of Östergötland
Sophia Albertina, Abbess of Quedlinburg
Gustav III
Gustav IV Adolf
Carl Gustav, Duke of Småland
Gustav IV Adolf
Gustav, Prince of Vasa
Carl Gustav, Grand Duke of Finland
Sophie, Grand Duchess of Baden
Princess Amalia Maria Charlotta
Cecilia, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg
Grandchildren include:
Carola, Queen of Saxony
Charles XIII
16. Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (=22)
8. Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
17. Marie Elisabeth of Saxony (=23)
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. Christina Magdalena of the Palatinate-Zweibrücken
5. Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach
22. Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (=16)
11. Augusta 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 (=28)
13. Sophia Charlotte of Hanover
27. Sophia of Hanover (=29)
3. Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
28. Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover (=26)
14. George I of Great Britain
29. Sophia of Hanover (=27)
7. Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
30. George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
15. Sophia Dorothea of Celle
31. Eleonore d'Esmier d'Olbreuse

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Karl 2 – utdypning (Store norske leksikon)
  2. ^ Article Karl in Nordisk familjebok
  3. ^ a b c d e f Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. pp. 28–29. 23033 (Swedish)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Karl XIII, urn:sbl:12358, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av Olof Jägerskiöld), hämtad 2015-02-09.
  5. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. p. 28-29. 23033 (Swedish)
  6. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)
  7. ^ Lobkowicz, František (1995). Encyklopedie řádů a vyznamenání (in Czech). Prague: Libri. p. 171. ISBN 80-901579-9-8. 
  8. ^ Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte, Queen Consort of Charles XIII of Sweden (1903). C. C. Bonde, ed. Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok II 1783–1788 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte II) (in Swedish). P. A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. p. 96. 412070. 
  9. ^ a b c d My Hellsing (2013). Hovpolitik. Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte som politisk aktör vid det gustavianska hovet (Court Politics. Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte as a political actor at the Gustavian court) Örebro: Örebro universitet. ISBN 978-91-7668-964-6 (in Swedish)
  10. ^ Nationalencyklopedin accessed online 2 January 2007, article Karl XIII
  11. ^ Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte, Queen Consort of Charles XIII of Sweden (1936). Cecilia af Klercker, ed. Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok VII 1800–1806 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte VIII 1800–1806) (in Swedish). P. A. Norstedt & Söners förlag Stockholm. pp. 497–527. 362103. 
  12. ^ Halvdan Koht: biografi (Karl XIII), i NBL1[clarification needed], bd. 7, 1936
  13. ^ Find A (retrieved 15 March 2012).
  14. ^ Find A (retrieved 15 March 2012).

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRobert Nisbet Bain (1911). "Charles XIII.". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading[edit]

Written sources[edit]

  • Signum svenska kulturhistoria: Gustavianska tiden
  • Ingvar Andersson: Gustavianskt (1979)
  • Signum Förlag: Frihetstiden
  • Lars Elgklou: Familjen Bernadotte. En kunglig släktkrönika
  • Herman Lindqvist: Historien om Sverige. Gustavs dagar
  • Cecilia af Klercker (1908). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok I 1775–1782 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte II) (in Swedish). P.A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. 412070. 
  • Cecilia af Klercker (1939). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok IX 1807–1811 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte IX 1807–1811) (in Swedish). P.A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. 412070. 

External links[edit]

Charles XIII/II
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