Charles XIV

Charles XIV (Charles John; Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte)zhäN bäptēstˈ zhül bĕrnädôtˈ, 1763–1844, king of Sweden and Norway (1818–44), French Revolutionary general. Bernadotte rose from the ranks, served brilliantly under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Italian campaign (1796–97), was French ambassador at Vienna (1798), and was minister of war (1799). He had a prominent part in the victory of Austerlitz in 1805. Napoleon made him marshal of the empire (1804) and prince of Ponte Corvo (1806). However, his relations with the emperor were cool. While commanding in N Germany he negotiated with the Swedes, who were impressed by his generous conduct. In 1809, Gustavus IV of Sweden abdicated and was succeeded by his aged and childless uncle, Charles XIII. In need of both a suitable successor to Charles and an alliance with Napoleon, Sweden turned to Bernadotte. After receiving the support of Napoleon and joining the Lutheran Church the marshal accepted. He was elected crown prince by the Riksdag and adopted (1810) by Charles XIII as Charles John. The infirmity of the old king and the dissensions in the council of state put the reins of government in the hands of the crown prince. He favored the acquisition of Norway from Denmark rather than the reconquest of Finland from Russia, and thus he threw in his lot with Russia and England against Napoleon and Denmark. His Swedish contingent played an important part in the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Leipzig (1813), and in 1814, having marched his army into Denmark, he forced the Danes to cede Norway in the Treaty of Kiel. Norway, which had declared its independence, was subdued, and by a majority vote of the Norwegian Storting (1814) the country was united with Sweden under a single king. The Congress of Vienna confirmed the union but restored the town of Ponte Corvo to the pope. He succeeded to the throne in 1818 as Charles XIV. He maintained peace throughout his reign, which was marked by internal improvements, notably the completion of the Göta Canal and a reform of the school system. However, his increasing opposition to the liberals made him unpopular by the end of his reign. The founder of the present Swedish dynasty, he was succeeded by his son, Oscar I.

See D. P. Barton, Bernadotte: The First Phase (1914), Bernadotte and Napoleon (1920), and Bernadotte, Prince and King (1925); F. D. Scott, Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon (1935).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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