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In the beginning: The Bernadotte dynasty

In this edition of “In the beginning”, we focus on the Bernadotte dynasty which currently rules over Sweden.

The Bernadotte’s first began ruling over the Kingdom of Sweden in 1818 with King Karl XIV Johan (also called King Charles XIV John), who was also the King of Norway during this time. He was born on 26 January 1763 in France as Jean Bernadotte. It was in 1810 that he was unexpectedly elected as the heir to King Charles XIII of Sweden just as he was preparing for his new role as the governor of Rome.

Charles John as Crown Prince of Sweden. Portrait: François Gérard. Photo by Alexis Daflos – The Swedish Royal Collection Department (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

King Charles XIII was aware that the Swedish branch of the House of Holstein-Gottorp would die with him since he had no living heirs. He and his wife, Queen Charlotte had two children who died in their infancy. Charles had also adopted a Danish prince, Charles August to serve as his heir. However, Charles August died suddenly from a stroke in 1818 at the age of 41.

Jean Bernadotte was chosen as the heir for a number of reasons. One such reason was that the Swedish Army wanted a soldier in the position in case of future problems with Russia. A Swedish courtier by the name of Baron Karl Otto Mörner took it upon himself to offer Jean the opportunity to be the heir. Jean then informed Napoleon of the offer, which the French emperor found ridiculous. Napoleon was not opposed to Jean accepting the offer, but he did not support it either. As a result, Jean told Mörner that he would accept the position if elected. The Riksdag of the Estates elected

As a result, Jean told Mörner that he would accept the position if elected. The Riksdag of the Estates elected him as the Crown Prince on 21 August 1810. At this time, the Riksdag was a diet made up of four estates: nobility, clergy, burghers, and peasants. Napoleon demanded that Jean Bernadotte vow to never fight against France, but Bernadotte refused to make such a promise. Napoleon then signed the act of emancipation from France for Jean.

He arrived in Stockholm on 2 November where he was formally adopted by Charles and took the name Karl Johan (Charles John). In accordance with Swedish laws for the monarch’s religion, he converted from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism. Eight years later in 1818, he would ascend to the throne as King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden and Norway. The other European monarchs were not immediately accepting of the new king due to his lack of being royal by birth and close association with Napoleon.

It was not until the marriage of King Karl Johan and Queen Désirée’s son, Crown Prince Oscar and Joséphine of Leuchtenberg in 1823 that the other European monarchs began to see the new House of Bernadotte as legitimate. Now, the House of Bernadotte is closely associated with other European royal houses. The family is closely related to the Royal Danish House and is one of the many descendants of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

The House of Bernadotte remained as the monarch of Norway until the two countries ended their union in 1905. King Oscar II was the last Bernadotte to reign over Norway. The current monarch in Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf is the great-great-great-grandson of King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden and Norway. His daughter, Crown Princess Victoria will be the first queen regnant of the Bernadotte Dynasty.

December 2015. Kungafamiljen.The Swedish Royal Family.
H.R.H Princess Madeleine; Mr. Christopher O’Neill; H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria; H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf; H.M. Queen Silvia; H.R.H. Prince Daniel; H.R.H. Princess Sofia; H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip. Photo Jonas Ekströmer, The Royal Court, Sweden
About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.