Two Swedish heroes

July 9 2012

Charles XII […] defiantly courted death in the trenches before Frederiksten in A.D. 1719 […].

He was invading Norway – and died in 1718, not ’19. Denmark-Norway was one of Russia’s allies in the Great Northern War of 1700-21 (Sweden and others vs Russia and others).

Charles had already led Sweden to its major defeat by Russia in the Battle of Poltava (Russian Empire territory in the Ukraine) in 1709. This was the occasion on which the Dniepr Cossack Mazeppa, who been helping the Russians to suppress a rebellion of the Don Cossacks, unwisely switched sides and supported Sweden.

Peter the Great’s callow peasant army had won its spurs in A.D. 1709 at Poltava, in the Ukraine, against Charles XII’s far-ranging Swedes […].

The Battle of Poltava, orchestral passage in Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa; the opera is after Pushkin’s narrative poem Poltava, which was an answer to Byron’s Mazeppa; performers not stated

With peace in 1721, Protestant Sweden and Catholic Poland-Lithuania (1385-1795) ceased to be major powers. Russia gained its Baltic territories and became the greatest power in Eastern Europe.

Voltaire published his Histoire de Charles XII in 1731. Charles ought to have been a hero in Cold-War America.

Between A.D. 1494 and A.D. 1952 the only other actor of a leading part in the Western power game who had lost his life in battle had been one of Charles XII’s predecessors on the throne of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus. Napoleon, like Francis I, had died in his bed; Hitler had died in his bunker.

The great-power century for Sweden had begun with Gustavus Adolphus. He died in 1632 at the Battle of Lützen in Saxony, near Leipzig, during the Thirty Years’ War (Sweden and others vs Holy Roman Empire and Spain).

For Toynbee, 1494, the date of Francis I’s invasion of Italy, was the beginning of modern international power relations in Europe: the age which ended in 1945.

A Swedish militarism that had been rampant since Gustavus Adolphus (regnabat A.D. 1611-32) had disembarked his expeditionary force on German soil on the 27-28th June, 1630, had been extinguished by a subsequent and consequent Swedish experience of being bled white by Charles XII (regnabat A.D. 1697-1718).

Gustavus Adolphus was a hero in Protestant Germany. My grandfather had an engraving of him hanging in the hall of his house in Baden-Württemberg.

Gustavus Adolphus in a Polish coat, Matthäus Merian the Elder, 1632, Skokloster Castle, Stockholm

Charles XII, David von Krafft workshop or circle, 1724 (posthumous), location?

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (passages not contiguous)

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote) (third extract)

4 Responses to “Two Swedish heroes”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    There is also a Cossack Dance in Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa.

    And in another of his operas: Vakula the Smith, revised as Cherevichki, after Gogol’s Christmas Eve. Also known in English, in the second version, as The Little Shoes, The Slippers, The Fancy Slippers, The Golden Slippers, The Tsarina’s Slippers and Oxana’s Caprices; but The Little Boots would better convey the spirit of Gogol.

  2. davidderrick Says: (corrected as to name spelling; rest entirely unchecked; links added):

    “While his admirers explained away his lack of interest in women by saying he was ‘married to the military,’ Charles had a robust sexual taste for military men. Two of his lovers were military leaders from his army – General Rehnskiöld and General Stenbock (Count Magnus Gustafsson Stenbock). He also had a serious affair with Prince Maximilian of Württemberg, a younger admirer who had volunteered to serve in his army at the age of 14. Charles called him his ‘Little Prince’ after Maximilian was wounded at age 19 trying to protect Charles from bullets. As well, Charles was involved in a relationship with the much older Swedish field marshal Count Axel Wachtmeister, who had been a close friend of his father.”

  3. davidderrick Says:

    The last English king to die in battle was the Yorkist Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485.

    The last British king to die in battle was James IV at Flodden Field in 1513.

    The last British king to lead his army in battle was George II at Dettingen in 1743.

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