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King Karl Johan’s secret escape plan

This year marks 200 years since Karl XIV Johan became king of both Norway and Sweden. The French General, who became Swedish and Norwegian King, was used to troubled times. After he became a monarch, this did not change. The Swedish representatives created problems for the King. There were also more threats from Norway about political issues and a threat of war throughout the period when Norway and Sweden were in a union.

Not only this, but the monarch also had to look out to Europe. War threatened several times, and the established royal dynasties could at any time find out the new monarch and his family did not fit into Sweden and replace them with the old royal dynasty.

All of this created considerable uncertainty for Karl Johan. A little-known story is, therefore, that the monarch had his secret plan if things would go seriously wrong. Karl Johan, who himself was French, hated the cold Nordic weather. Therefore, he accomplished many tasks from his bedroom. This meant that he could lay in his warm bed until the temperatures were comfortable to cope with which usually was around lunchtime.

Behind the bed at the right is the safe. Photo: Carl Stefan Bennet via Wikimedia Commons.

A beautiful painting of Karl Johan was painted as he steered his two kingdoms from the bed. In this painting, we can see the secret plan. In the back of the room is a safe. This safe deposit box contained a large bag with a considerable sum of money, some precious jewels and clothes. If things were to happen and the King had to flee, most of what he needed was in this bag.

Karl Johan’s plan was, therefore, to bring only the bag to save time and get out of Sweden as quickly as possible. One proposal was to go to Norway where he had more support from the people who did not like their elected representatives. Another plan was to return to France, to his family and friends there.

Even though many scary things happened during his reign, it was never so bad that Karl Johan had to flee. Nevertheless, the safe was in his bedroom until the King died.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.