Charles XII

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Charles XII,

1682–1718, king of Sweden (1697–1718), son and successor of Charles XI. The regency under which he succeeded was abolished in 1697 at the request of the Riksdag. At the coronation he omitted the usual oath and crowned himself. Charles's youth and inexperience invited the coalition (1699) of Peter IPeter I
or Peter the Great,
1672–1725, czar of Russia (1682–1725), major figure in the development of imperial Russia. Early Life

Peter was the youngest child of Czar Alexis, by Alexis's second wife, Natalya Naryshkin.
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 of Russia, Augustus IIAugustus II,
1670–1733, king of Poland (1697–1733) and, as Frederick Augustus I, elector of Saxony (1694–1733). He commanded the imperial army against the Turks (1695–96), but had no success and was replaced by Prince Eugene of Savoy as soon as he
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 of Poland and Saxony, and Frederick IVFrederick IV,
1671–1730, king of Denmark and Norway (1699–1730), son and successor of Christian V. He allied himself (1699) with Augustus II of Poland and Saxony and with Peter I of Russia against Charles XII of Sweden in the Northern War, but was forced to sign the
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 of Denmark that challenged Swedish supremacy in the Baltics. The resulting Northern WarNorthern War,
1700–1721, general European conflict, fought in N and E Europe at the same time that the War of the Spanish Succession was fought in the west and the south.
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 quickly revealed Charles's abilities. In one of the most brilliant campaigns in history, Charles forced Denmark to make peace (Aug., 1700), defeated Peter I at Narva (Nov., 1700), subjugated Courland (1701), invaded Poland and, declaring Augustus II dethroned, secured the election (1704) of Stanislaus IStanislaus I,
1677–1766, king of Poland (1704–1709, 1733–35) and duke of Lorraine (1735–66). He was born Stanislaus Leszczynski. Early in the Northern War (1700–1721), Charles XII of Sweden overran Poland and expelled King Augustus II.
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 as king of Poland. In 1706 he invaded Saxony and forced Augustus to recognize Stanislaus as king, end his alliance with Russia, and surrender his adviser, Johann Reinhold von PatkulPatkul, Johann Reinhold von
, 1660–1707, Livonian nobleman. He incurred the wrath of Charles XI of Sweden by championing the rights of the Livonian gentry and fled abroad to escape punishment. In 1698, Patkul entered the service of Augustus II of Poland and Saxony.
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, whom Charles then had broken on the wheel. Charles then concentrated on his chief enemy, Peter I. He secured the alliance of the Cossack leader MazepaMazepa, Ivan
, c.1640–1709, Cossack hetman [leader] in the Russian Ukraine. He was made hetman (1687) on the insistence of Prince Gallitzin, adviser to the Russian regent, Sophia Alekseyevna, and he aided Gallitzin in his campaign against the Tatars (1689).
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 and invaded Russia in 1708. The Swedish army was outnumbered, weakened by long marches and a cold winter, and without the active leadership of Charles, who was wounded; it suffered a disastrous defeat by the Russians at Poltava. Much of the army was captured, and Charles fled to Turkey, where he persuaded Sultan Ahmed IIIAhmed III,
1673–1736, Ottoman sultan (1703–30), brother and successor of Mustafa II to the throne of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). He gave asylum to Charles XII of Sweden and to Mazepa after Peter the Great of Russia had defeated (1709) them at Poltava.
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 to declare war (1710) on Russia. After the Peace of the Pruth (1711) between Russia and Turkey, Charles, who had taken residence near Bender in Bessarabia, became an increasingly unwelcome guest. He was requested to leave Turkey but obstinately refused. A whole Turkish army was sent (1713) to dislodge him from his house; Charles defended it with a handful of men for several hours until he was forced by fire to make a sortie. Taken prisoner and detained near Adrianople, he feigned sickness for over a year. Late in 1714 he unexpectedly arrived at Swedish-occupied Stralsund and defended it against the Prussians and the Danes until Dec., 1715. When it fell he escaped to Sweden and proceeded to invade (1716) Norway. He was killed in the Swedish trenches while besieging the fortress of Fredrikssten. He was succeeded by his sister, Ulrica Leonora, who was forced to recognize a new constitution that gave most of the power to the nobles and clergy. During her reign the Northern War ended (1721) with substantial Swedish losses. His final failure cost Sweden its rank as a great power. The classic biography is Voltaire's History of Charles XII.


See also biographies by R. N. Bain (1895, repr. 1969), J. A. Gade (1916), F. G. Bengtsson (tr. 1960), and R. M. Hatton (1968).

References in periodicals archive ?
While the earlier work concentrated upon the magnetic personality of Charles XII and described in detail his personal bravery, his wars, and his spectacular march across central and eastern Europe, and thus, despite a somewhat innovative "novelistic" style, more or less fell into the traditional category of "drum and trumpet" history, the latter work treated military history less enthusiastically and concentrated upon how Peter transformed the old Tsardom of Muscovy into the new "Russian Empire" through economic, social, and legal reforms.
In his history of Charles XII, Voltaire describes how several European powers, namely, Denmark, Saxony, Poland, and Russia ganged up on the young Charles, who had just come to the Swedish throne, but through a series of amazing military victories knocked all of them but Russia out of this Great Northern War, as it came to be called.
Brumfitt, was not acknowledged; this was to Henri-Philippe Limiers' Histoire de Suede sous le regne de Charles XII published in 1720.
Some Ukrainian historians, greatly impressed by Voltaire's generally sympathetic treatment of Mazepa and Ukraine in his Histoire de Charles XII, believe that Voltaire might have got accurate information about the country from two Poles who lived in France after the defeat of Charles at Poltava: firstly, there was the Count Poniatowski already mentioned, who was the father of Stanislaw August Poniatowski (1732-1798), the last king of Poland, and who corresponded with Voltaire and commented on his history, and secondly, King Stanistaw Leszczyfiski, who lived in exile in France and Lorraine after losing the Polish throne and whom Voltaire personally knew and acknowledged in later editions of his book.
In this letter, Hryhor informed his father that the prospective biography of Charles XII contained much information that would be irritating to their enemy, Augustus the Strong, and that everyone would soon find out about, as he put it, "the true project ofHetman Mazepa of blessed memory, and the gentry [or officer class] of the Cossack nation which has suffered so terribly to the present time.
A generation or two after Voltaire's death, Lord Byron picked it up while reading the Histoire de Charles XII and made it the focal point of his influential Mazeppa: A Poem (1819), where the relevant passages from Voltaire were quoted in extenso.
I had an ancestor who went with King Charles XII of Sweden to fight Peter the Great (of Russia).
Neither Napoleon nor Hitler was to learn the bitter lesson of Charles XII of Sweden.
HE'S camp, sings songs about Charles XII of Sweden, and looks like he shops at Lidl for clothes.
Yet by the end of his reign in 1725, British views of Peter and Russia had begun to shift, thanks mainly to the Peter's stunning military victory over Charles XII of Sweden in 1709.
The posthumous myth of Peter found its most prestigious support from Voltaire, whose Histoire de Charles XII forcefully expressed the opinion that Peter was the greater of the two northern monarchs.
The stamps show an antique gold watch made by J Bellete in London for King Charles XII of Sweden in 1701.