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Sweden

Killed in battle: King Karl XII of Sweden


By David von Krafft - Unknown source, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

King Karl XII of Sweden was born 17 June 1682 as the son of King Karl XI and the Danish-born Ulrika Eleonora. Karl continued his father’s war politics against other Nordic nations, which led to Denmark joining forces with Poland and Russia. They then went to war with Sweden in 1700, in what has been called the Great Nordic War. Karl personally took charge of the Swedish military operations.

Karl was a successful monarch and won several significant battles in the war that would last for 21 years. He then attacked Poland, where King August was forced to abdicate in 1706, and in practice, Poland became a Swedish vassal state. However, the King’s campaign ended with defeat at the Battle of Poltava on 28 June 1709. Karl then fled to Turkey, where he tried to establish a Swedish-Turkish alliance against the Russian Tsar. In 1715, he returned to Sweden.

His Majesty King Karl XII of Sweden. Photo: By David von Krafft – Unknown source, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1718, he attacked Norway. In the beginning, things went well for the Swedes, and the Norwegians showed little resistance before heading to Fredriksten fortress in Halden. The Swedes laid siege to the fort and slowly had their trenches go towards the walls. During the day, they fought openly, while at night they dug new trenches to get even closer to one another. The Norwegian soldiers continued to shoot at the enemy even when night had fallen, and it is estimated that between 10 and 20 Swedish soldiers died each night.

On the evening of 30 November 1718, the King was out inspecting the trenches. Between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., while he was in one of his channels, he was fatally struck by a bullet in the head. He died instantly.

The body of King Karl XII carried over the mountains and home to Sweden. Photo: By Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

King Karl XII’s body was taken home to Sweden by the Swedish troops. On 13 December, his body arrived in Uddevalla, and on Christmas Day, the body was embalmed. On that same day, the monarch’s sister, Ulrika Eleonora, was crowned Queen of Sweden. Karl was unmarried and childless.

There are a number of theories about who killed the King. Many believe that he was accidentally killed by friendly fire, while others believe that the killer was the French-born officer André Sicre who is thought to have acted on behalf of Fredrik of Hessen – King Karl XII’s brother-in-law. However, the most likely theory is that the King was killed by an unknown Norwegian soldier from the fortress.

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.