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Charles XIV John of Sweden

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Charles XIV John of Sweden

Charles XIV John
as King of Sweden
Charles III John
as King of Norway
Charles XIV John (king of Sweden and Norway.) Painting by François Gérard
King of Sweden and Norway
Reign 5 February 1818 – 8 March 1844
Coronation 11 May 1818 (Sweden)
7 September 1818 (Norway)
Predecessor Charles XIII/II
Successor Oscar I
Spouse Désirée Clary (1798-1844, his death)
Issue Oscar I
House House of Bernadotte
Father Henri Bernadotte
Mother Jeanne de St. Vincent
Born (1763-01-26)26 January 1763
Pau, France
Died 8 March 1844(1844-03-08) (aged 81)
Stockholm, Sweden
Burial Riddarholmskyrkan, Stockholm
Religion Lutheran
prev Roman Catholic

Charles XIV & III John, also Carl John, Swedish and Norwegian: Carl Johan (26 January 1763 – 8 March 1844) was King of Sweden (as Charles XIV John) and King of Norway (as Charles III John) from 1818 until his death and served as de facto regent and head of state from 1810 to 1818. When he became Swedish royalty, he had also been the Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo in Southern Italy from 1806 until 1810Napoleon), but then stopped using that title.

He was born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and subsequently had acquired the full name of Jean Baptiste Jules BernadotteBernadotte in Sweden but founded the royal dynasty there by that name.

French by birth, Bernadotte served a long career in the French Army. He was appointed as a Marshal of France by Napoleon I, though the two had a turbulent relationship. His service to France ended in 1810, when he was elected the heir-presumptive to the Swedish throne because the Swedish royal family was dying out with King Charles XIII. Baron Carl Otto Mörner (22 May 1781 – 17 August 1868), a Swedish courtier and obscure member of the Riksdag of the Estates, advocated for the succession.[1]


  • Early life and family 1
  • Military career 2
  • Offer of the Swedish throne 3
  • Crown Prince and Regent 4
  • King of Sweden and Norway 5
  • Death 6
  • Family 7
  • Honours 8
  • Titles and styles 9
  • Arms 10
  • Ancestry 11
  • See also 12
  • Notes 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
    • Historiography 15.1
  • External links 16

Early life and family

Bernadotte's birth house in Pau, France

Bernadotte was born in Pau, France, as the son of Jean Henri Bernadotte (Pau, Béarn, 14 October 1711 – Pau, 31 March 1780), prosecutor at Pau, and wife (married at Boeil, 20 February 1754) Jeanne de Saint-Vincent (Pau, 1 April 1728 – Pau, 8 January 1809), niece of the Lay Abbot of Sireix. The family name was originally du Poey (or de Pouey), but was changed to Bernadotte – a surname of an ancestress – at the beginning of the 17th century.[2] His brother Jean Bernadotte (Pau, 1754 – Pau, 8 August 1813) was eventually made 1st Baron Bernadotte (in 1810) and married Marie Anne Charlotte Saint-Pau. Bernadotte himself added Jules to his first names later,[2] from Julius Caesar, in the classicizing spirit of the French Revolution.

Military career

Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte
Marshal Bernadotte, Prince de Ponte-Corvo. Painted by Joseph Nicolas Jouy, after François-Joseph Kinson
Allegiance  Kingdom of France
Kingdom of France
French Republic
French Empire
Years of service 1780 - 1810
Rank Marshal of the Empire
Commands held Governor of Hanover
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
Awards Legion of Honour
Names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe
Titled Prince of Ponte-Corvo
Other work Minister of War
Councillor of State

Bernadotte joined the army as a private in the Régiment de Royal-Marine on 3 September 1780, and first served in the newly conquered territory of Corsica.[2] He was for a long time stationed in Collioure in the South of France and was after eight years promoted to sergeant. Following the outbreak of the French Revolution, his eminent military qualities brought him speedy promotion.[2] He was promoted to colonel in 1792, and by 1794 was a brigadier attached to the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse.[2] After Jourdan's victory at Fleurus (26 June 1794) he became a general of division. At the Battle of Theiningen (1796), Bernadotte contributed, more than anyone else, to the successful retreat of the French army over the Rhine after its defeat by the Archduke Charles of Austria. In 1797 he brought reinforcements from the Rhine to Bonaparte's army in Italy, distinguishing himself greatly at the passage of the Tagliamento, and in 1798 served as ambassador to Vienna, but had to quit his post owing to the disturbances caused by his hoisting the tricolour over the embassy.[2]

From 2 July to 14 September he was Minister of War, in which capacity he displayed great ability. He declined to help Napoleon Bonaparte stage his coup d'état of November 1799, but nevertheless accepted employment from the Consulate, and from April 1800 to 18 August 1801 commanded the army in the Vendée.[2]

Bernadotte as Crown Prince

On the introduction of the French Empire, Bernadotte became one of the eighteen Marshals of the Empire and, from June 1804 to September 1805, served as governor of the recently occupied Hanover. During the campaign of 1805, Bernadotte with an army corps from Hanover, co-operated in the great movement which resulted in the shutting off of Mack in Ulm. As a reward for his services at Austerlitz (2 December 1805) he became the 1st Sovereign Prince of Ponte Corvo (5 June 1806), but during the campaign against Prussia, in the same year, was severely reproached by Napoleon for not participating with his army corps in the battles of Jena and Auerstädt, though close at hand.[3]

In 1808, as governor of the Hanseatic towns, he was to have directed the expedition against Sweden, via the Danish islands, but the plan came to naught because of the want of transports and the defection of the Spanish contingent. In the war against Austria, Bernadotte led the Saxon contingent at the Battle of Wagram (6 July 1809), on which occasion, on his own initiative, he issued an Order of the Day attributing the victory principally to the valour of his Saxons, which order Napoleon at once disavowed.[3] It was during the middle of that battle that Marshal Bernadotte was stripped of his command after retreating contrary to Napoleon's orders. Napoleon once commented after a battle that "Bernadotte hesitates at nothing." On St. Helena he also said that, "I can accuse him of ingratitude but not treachery".

Statue in Norrköping erected in 1846.

Bernadotte, considerably piqued, returned to Paris where the council of ministers entrusted him with the defence of the Netherlands against the British expedition in Walcheren. In 1810, he was about to enter upon his new post as governor of Rome when he was unexpectedly elected the heir-presumptive to King Charles XIII of Sweden.[3] The problem of Charles' successor had been acute almost from the time he had ascended the throne a year earlier, as it was apparent that the Swedish branch of the House of Holstein-Gottorp would die with him. He was 61 years old and in failing health. He was also childless; Queen Charlotte had given birth to two children who had died in infancy, and there was no prospect of her bearing another child. The king had adopted a Danish prince, Charles August, as his son soon after his coronation, but he had died just a few months after his arrival.[4]

Bernadotte was elected partly because a large part of the Swedish Army, in view of future complications with Russia, were in favour of electing a soldier, and partly because he was also personally popular, owing to the kindness he had shown to the Swedish prisoners during the recent war with Denmark.[3] The matter was decided by one of the Swedish courtiers, Baron Karl Otto Mörner, who, entirely on his own initiative, offered the succession to the Swedish crown to Bernadotte. Bernadotte communicated Mörner's offer to Napoleon, who treated the whole affair as an absurdity. The Emperor did not support Bernadotte but did not oppose him either and so Bernadotte informed Mörner that he would not refuse the honour if he were elected. Although the Swedish government, amazed at Mörner's effrontery, at once placed him under arrest on his return to Sweden, the candidature of Bernadotte gradually gained favour and on 21 August 1810[3] in Örebro, he was elected by the Riksdag of the Estates to be the new Crown Prince,[3] and was subsequently made Generalissimus of the Swedish Armed Forces by the King.[5] One month later, on 26 September 1810, he renounced the title of Prince of Ponte Corvo.

Crown Prince and Regent

Coronation of Karl III Johan as King of Norway

On 2 November Bernadotte made his solemn entry into Stockholm, and on 5 November he received the homage of the Riksdag of the Estates, and he was adopted by King Charles XIII under the name of "Charles John" (Karl Johan).[3] At the same time, he converted from Roman Catholicism to the Lutheranism of the Swedish court.[6] Many honours were bestowed upon him, such as an honorary membership of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 21 November 1810.

The new Crown Prince was very soon the most popular and most powerful man in Sweden. The infirmity of the old King and the dissensions in the Privy Council of Sweden placed the government, and especially the control of foreign affairs, entirely in his hands. The keynote of his whole policy was the acquisition of Norway and Bernadotte proved anything but a puppet of France.[3]

In 1813 he allied Sweden with Napoleon's enemies, including Great Britain and Prussia, in the Sixth Coalition, hoping to secure Norway. After the defeats at Lützen (2 May 1813) and Bautzen (21 May 1813), it was the Swedish Crown Prince who put fresh fighting spirit into the Allies; and at the conference of Trachenberg he drew up the general plan for the campaign which began after the expiration of the Truce of Pläswitz.[3]

Charles John, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Army, successfully defended the approaches to Berlin and was victorious in battle against Oudinot in August and against Ney in September at the Battles of Großbeeren and Dennewitz; but after the Battle of Leipzig he went his own way, determined at all hazards to cripple Denmark and to secure Norway,[3] defeating the Danes in a relatively quick campaign. His efforts culminated in the favourable Treaty of Kiel, which transferred Norway to Swedish control.[6]

However, the Norwegians were unwilling to accept Swedish overlordship. They declared independence, adopted a liberal constitution and elected Danish crown prince Christian Frederick to the throne. The ensuing war was swiftly won by Sweden under Charles John's generalship. Charles John could have named his terms to Norway, but in a key concession accepted the Norwegian constitution.[7][6] This paved the way for Norway to enter a personal union with Sweden later that year.[3]

King of Sweden and Norway

Equestrian in Stockholm depicting Charles XIV John.
Swedish Royalty
House of Bernadotte
Charles XIV John
   Oscar I
Oscar I
   Charles XV
   Prince Gustaf, Duke of Uppland
   Oscar II
   Princess Eugenie
   Prince August, Duke of Dalarna
Charles XV
   Lovisa, Queen of Denmark
   Prince Carl Oscar, Duke of Södermanland
Oscar II
   Gustaf V
   Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotland
   Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland
   Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke
   Margaretha, Princess Axel of Denmark
   Märtha, Crown Princess of Norway
   Astrid, Queen of Belgium
   Prince Carl, Duke of Östergötland
Gustaf V
   Gustaf VI Adolf
   Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
   Prince Erik, Duke of Västmanland
   Prince Lennart, Duke of Småland
Gustaf VI Adolf
   Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten
   Prince Sigvard, Duke of Uppland
   Ingrid, Queen of Denmark
   Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland
   Prince Carl Johan, Duke of Dalarna
   Princess Margaretha, Mrs. Ambler
   Birgitta, Princess Johann Georg of Hohenzollern
   Princess Désirée, Baroness Silfverschiöld
   Princess Christina, Mrs. Magnuson
   Carl XVI Gustaf
Carl XVI Gustaf
   Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland
   Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland
   Princess Madeleine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland
   Princess Estelle, Duchess of Östergötland
   Princess Leonore, Duchess of Gotland

As the union King, Charles XIV John in Sweden and Charles III John in Norway, who succeeded to that title on 5 February 1818 following the death of Charles XIII & II, he was initially popular in both countries.[3] He never learned to speak Swedish or Norwegian; however, this was a minor obstacle as French was the international language, as the traditional language of diplomacy, and was widely spoken by the Swedish aristocracy.

Charles John's reign witnessed the completion of the southern Göta Canal, begun 22 years earlier, to link Lake Vänern to the sea at Söderköping 180 miles to the east. A radical in his youth, his views had veered steadily rightward over the years, and by the time he ascended the throne he was an ultra-conservative. His autocratic methods, particularly his censorship of the press, were very unpopular, especially after 1823. However, his dynasty never faced serious danger, as the Swedes and the Norwegians alike were proud of a monarch with a good European reputation.[6] [3]

He also faced challenges in Norway as well. The Norwegian constitution gave the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, more power than any legislature in Europe. While Charles John had the power of absolute veto in Sweden, he only had a suspensive veto in Norway. He demanded that the Storting give him the power of absolute veto, but was forced to back down.[7]

Opposition to his rule reached a fever pitch in the 1830s, culminating in demands for his abdication.[6] Charles John survived the abdication controversy and he went on to have his silver jubilee, which was celebrated with great enthusiasm on 18 February 1843. He reigned as King of Sweden and Norway from 5 February 1818 until his death in 1844.[3]


Charles John's huge granite sarcophagus.

On 26 January 1844,[3] his 81st birthday, Charles John was found unconscious in his chambers having suffered a stroke. While he regained consciousness, he never fully recovered and died on the afternoon of 8 March. His remains were interred after a state funeral in Stockholm's Riddarholm Church.Sceaux on 17 August 1798 he married Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, the daughter of a Marseille silk merchant, and sister of Joseph Bonaparte's wife Julie Clary – Désirée had previously been engaged to Napoleon. Bernadotte and Désirée had only one son, Oscar I of Sweden.


King Charles John was the 909th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain and the 28th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword in Portugal.

Titles and styles

18 May 1804 - 26 September 1810: Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, Marshal of France
5 June 1806 - 26 September 1810: Jean Baptiste Jules, Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo
26 September 1810 - 5 November 1810: His Royal Highness Prince Johan Baptist Julius de Pontecorvo, Prince of Sweden[8]
5 November 1810[3] - 4 November 1814: His Royal Highness Charles John, Crown Prince of Sweden
4 November 1814[3] - 5 February 1818: His Royal Highness Charles John, Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway
5 February 1818 - 8 March 1844: His Majesty the King of Sweden and Norway.


Prince of Pontecorvo
Coat of arms of Crown Prince Charles John according the armorial of Knights of the order of the Seraphim.
Coat of arms of King Charles XIV John of Sweden and Norway
A Monogram for King Charles XIV John of Sweden and Norway used on a coin


His paternal grandparents were Jean Bernadotte (Pau, 29 September 1683 – Pau, 3 October 1760), a master tailor and owner of an estate in Pau, and wife (m. Pau, 1 May 1707) Marie du Pucheu dite de La Place (Pau, 6 February 1686 – Pau, 5 October 1773), daughter of Jacques du Pucheu dit de La Place and wife Françoise de Labasseur. His maternal grandparents were Jean de Saint-Vincent (Boëil, c. 1690 – Boëil, 21 May 1762), a medical practitioner and landowner in Boëil, and wife (m. Assat, 30 May 1719) Marie d'Abbadie de Sireix (Sireix, 25 March 1694 – Boëil, 16 October 1752), daughter of Doumengé Habas d'Arrens and wife Marie d'Abbadie, Lay Abbess of Sireix. Finally, he was the great-grandson of Jean Bernadotte (Pau, 7 November 1649 – Pau, 14 July 1689) and wife (m. Pau, 18 June 1674) Marie de la Barrère dite Bertrandot ; who was in turn the son of Pierre de Pouey dit Bernadotte and wife Margalide Barraquer, and the paternal grandson of Joandou de Pouey (born in 1590), a shepherd, and wife (m. Pau, 1615) Germaine de Bernadotte.

See also


  1. ^ Cronholm 1902, pp. 249-71.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bain 1911, p. 931.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Bain 1911, p. 932.
  4. ^ Charles XIII at Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ Ancienneté och Rang-Rulla öfver Krigsmagten år 1813 (in Svenska). 1813. p. . 
  6. ^ a b c d e Charles XIV John at Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. ^ a b Norway at Encyclopædia Britannica
  8. ^ (in French)Succession au trône de Suède: Acte d'élection du 21 août 1810, Loi de succession au trône du 26 septembre 1810


  • Barton, Sir Dunbar Plunkett (1921). Bernadotte and Napoleon: 1763–1810. London: John Murray. 
  • Cronholm, Neander N. (1902). "39". A History of Sweden from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. pp. 249–71. 
  • Palmer, Alan (1990). Bernadotte: Napoleon's marshal, Sweden's king.  standard scholarly biography
  • Six, Georges (2003). Dictionnaire Biographique des Generaux & Amiraux Francais de la Revolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). Paris: Gaston Saffroy. 



Further reading

  • Alm, Mikael and Britt-Inger Johansson, eds. Scripts of Kingship: Essays on Bernadotte and Dynastic Formation in an Age of Revolution (Uppsala: Swedish Science Press, 2008)
    • Review by Rasmus Glenthøj, English Historical Review (2010) 125#512 pp 205–208.
  • Barton, Dunbar B.: The amazing career of Bernadotte, 1930; condensed one volume biography based on Barton's detailed 3 vol biography 1914-1925, which contained many documents
  • Koht, Halvdan. "Bernadotte and Swedish-American Relations, 1810-1814," Journal of Modern History (1944) 16#4 pp. 265–285 in JSTOR
  • Lord Russell of Liverpool: Bernadotte: Marshal of France & King of Sweden, 1981
  • Jean-Marc Olivier. "Bernadotte Revisited, or the Complexity of a Long Reign (1810–1844)", in Nordic Historical Review, n°2, 2006.
  • Scott, Franklin D. Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon (1935); scholarly analysis


  • Moncure, James A. ed. Research Guide to European Historical Biography: 1450-Present (4 vol 1992); vol 1 pp 126–34

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • "Marshal Bernadotte". The Napoleon Series. 
Charles XIV/III John
Born: 26 January 1763 Died: 8 March 1844
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles XIII/II
King of Sweden and Norway
5 February 1818 – 8 March 1844
Succeeded by
Oscar I
New title Prince of Pontecorvo
5 June 1806 – 21 August 1810
Title next held by
Lucien Murat
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis de Mureau
Minister of War of France
2 July 1799 – 14 September 1799
Succeeded by
Edmond Dubois-Crancé
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