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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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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
..... Click the link for more information. 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
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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).
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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).