Birthday: November 24, 1655
Died At Age: 41
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Carl or Karl XI
Born Country: Sweden
Born in: Tre Kronor
Famous as: King of Sweden
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark (m. 1680)
father: Charles X Gustav of Sweden
mother: Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp
children: Charles XII of Sweden, Hedvig Sophia of Sweden, Prince Ulrik, prins Fredrik, Prins Gustaf 1683-1685, prins Karl Gustav, Ulrika Eleonora; Queen of Sweden
Died on: April 5, 1697
Who was Charles XI of Sweden?
Charles XI, also known as Carl or Karl XI, was the King of Sweden from 13 February 1660 to 5 April 1697. He succeeded Charles X Gustav of Sweden and was the only heir to the throne. He ascended to the throne when he was just four but didn't rule until he was twenty. His father had appointed his mother as the regent who would govern on behalf of him till he reached maturity. Sweden saw the most extended period of peace under his monarchy. He strived to maintain peace in the nation after the brutal Scanian War by forming allies with nearby countries. He brought about important changes in the Swedish economy that helped the nation achieve financial independence. He was known to be a modest king, and sometimes the high-ranking officials lived a lifestyle more ostentatious than his. He was a king of the masses and had widespread support. He often walked the streets disguised as a commoner to understand the actual situation of his citizens, which he couldn't, perched on his throne. He also wanted to check if his citizens were being unfairly or poorly treated by the officials. He made reforms in the government structure and the military that brought equality among the people.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on 24 November 1655, in the Stockholm Palace Tre Kronor, Charles XI was the only son of Charles X Gustav of Sweden and Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp.
His father passed away when he was just four years old. He had named the boy as his successor and his wife Hedwig Eleonora as the queen regent who would rule on behalf of his son until he came of age.
He also left his wife a seat in the Regency Council with two votes and final word over the Council. However, the Council immediately challenged the former king's will.
The queen regent remained aloof and didn't participate in political affairs of the administration, which pleased the members of the Council.
As a teenager, he was more inclined towards recreational activities like exercise, sports, and bear-hunting.
According to modern scholars, he was not well-educated and was inefficient in conducting foreign affairs. It appears that he had dyslexia, a condition that wasn't understood at that time.
He largely depended on his mother to communicate in court as he could only speak German and couldn't interact with foreign emissaries.
Charles XI was crowned on 28 September 1675, when he was 20 years old.
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In 1671, the Swedish regency decided to enter into an agreement with France. The deal stated that in the event of a war, France would back Sweden and provide subsidies that would improve Sweden's dwindling economy.
The political tensions in Sweden increased as they were on the brink of war with Denmark. To avoid the probable conflict, chancellor Nils Brahe proposed a marriage alliance where Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark was engaged to Charles XI of Sweden; nevertheless, the Danish king still marched on Sweden after their defeat at the Battle of Fehrbellin.
The council was plagued with internal differences, and Charles was left without support. He then spent most of his time strengthening the Swedish army for the upcoming Scanian War.
The Danish troops were more in number than the Swedes, and by May 1676, they captured Landskrona and Helsingborg.
On 17 August 1676, they defeated a Danish division at the Battle of Halmstad, and he marched towards Lund.
The Battle of Lund came to be a gory affair where 8,000 soldiers died. The Swedish army fought bravely, and Charles proved his mettle as a warrior. It was a remarkable victory, and he celebrated this day for the remainder of his years.
He also emerged victorious at the Battle of Landskrona, and in 1679, Louis XIV of France initiated a peace treaty that Charles begrudgingly agreed to.
His kingdom remained whole and peace treaties were also signed with Denmark and Brandenburg in the treaties of Fontainebleau (1679) and Lund, and the 'Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye'(1679).
During Charles' reign, he concentrated his efforts on maintaining peace and strengthening the economy. The economy had suffered a huge blow after the wars and was in a financial crisis. In 1680, he called upon 'Riksdag of the Estates' to discuss the terms of "reduktion."
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He decided that it was time to implement "reduktion," where he stated that any land or titles that were initially the crown's property could be taken back.
A unit was set up to oversee the execution of this policy. The crown had taken over almost 30% of the land by the time of his death. The nobles had to give up their lavish lifestyles, which they weren't pleased about.
He brought about radical reforms in the economy as Charles didn't want to depend on foreign donations that would endanger the autonomy, and it restored the financial stability of Sweden.
The council had lost most of its power, and Charles held the nobility accountable for their shortcomings, which had led to the Danes attacking Sweden.
In 1680, the 'Riksdag,' which comprised of lower-level officials of the Swedish hierarchy, announced that Charles would be the supreme leader of the kingdom, and the council would only take on an advisory role.
In 1680, he also introduced the 'Table of Ranks, ' which supported meritocracy over nepotism. Civil service became more accessible to commoners, and Charles kept a close eye on the functioning of this organization.
By 1682, the Riksdag had renamed the 'Council of State' to 'King's Council' by design to ascertain his sovereignty.
In 1682, Charles decided to reform his army into an allotment system. He suggested that the landowners were to have a standing army at any time known as Caroleans.
The regiment was known for its swiftness and agility, and the soldiers were trained to strike. He also invested in modern warfare techniques and often sent his officers to foreign countries to get trained in contemporary warfare methods.
Family & Personal Life
Charles XI was initially betrothed to his cousin Juliana of Hesse-Eschwege. However, their engagement was broken, and on 6 May 1680, he married Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark, which was mainly a political alliance between Denmark and Sweden.
The ceremony was small and swift, and was held at Skottorp. They had seven children out of which only three survived. His son Charles XII ascended to the throne after his death.
His wife Ulrika was a charitable woman and helped many in her lifetime. Charles and Ulrika had varied interests and shared a cordial relationship.
Her health was declining owing to several childbirths, and by 1693, she was bedridden. Charles took care of her until her death on 26 July 1693, when she was 36 years old.
In 1694, Charles began suffering from severe stomach aches, and only after he returned to Stockholm in 1697, it was known that he had a big lump in his stomach. He passed away on 5 April 1697, when he was forty-one. Later inspections proved that he had abdominal cancer.