Denmark’s Estates elected 37-year-old Frederik III after he signed the Haandfæstning Charter. He succeeded his father Kristian IV, and subjects did homage to him as King of Denmark on July 6, 1648. Kristian Rantzau pleased the new king when he introduced in the Duchies a statute to establish primogeniture. The Council maintained the burden of taxation, but now the Municipality of Copenhagen entered that fray. Count Corfitz Ulfeldt (1606-64), who had married Kristian IV’s daughter Leonora Kristina in 1637, negotiated an alliance with Holland in which an attacked party would be granted a force of 4,000 men, and Holland agreed to pay 140,000 riksdalers annually instead of Sound dues. Hannibal Sehested was caught embezzling taxes in Norway and was replaced. War hero Colonel Walter and his friend Dina Vinhofer spread the rumor that Ulfeldt and his wife Leonora Kristine were conspiring to kill her father, the King. Dina’s story was so contradictory that she was convicted, and at her sentencing she confessed that Walter fathered her child. Dina was sentenced to death, and Walter was banished. Ulfeldt escaped investigation by fleeing with his family and ended up fighting for Sweden. King Frederik III moved his court to Flensborg for one year to avoid the Council. In 1652 war broke out between England and Holland, and Denmark closed the Sound to English ships in 1653. That year Thomas Bartholin published his explanation of the lymphatic system. In October 1654 Denmark began diplomatic relations with England, and embassies opened in Copenhagen and London.
On February 23, 1657 a large majority of the National Assembly at Odense voted for war against Sweden. Anders Bille was put in command at Holstein by the end of June, and a few weeks later his force crossed the Elbe to attack Bremen; but they only captured Bremervörde. Sweden’s King Karl X led the invasion of Holstein at the end of July. Bille left a small force in Bremervörde and retreated to Holstein. Sweden’s army led by General Wrangel occupied all of Bremen except Bremervörde. East of the Sound the Danes led by Aksel Urup defeated the Swedish army at Genevads Bro. Frederik’s army defeated Swedes led by Gustav Stenbock near Laholm in August, but the Norwegian forces under Iver Krabbe were forced out of North Halland. After fighting for three days the Swedish fleet withdrew to Wismar.
Denmark made an alliance with Poland which invaded Pomerania. Danes rejected proposals made by Ulfeldt for Sweden, and then defecting Ulfeldt urged Jutlanders to fight against Frederik III. Wrangel led the Swedes against Frederiksodde on October 24, and the garrison of 6,000 capitulated after more than a thousand Danes were killed in an hour and a half. Foreign mercenaries brought the plague, and many died of it in southern Jutland.
The winter of 1657-58 was very cold, and 10,000 Swedish troops crossed the ice of Little Belt to attack Fünen on January 30, and in February they marched twenty miles over the icy Danish Sound from Jutland to Copenhagen. The Danish army was surrounded and surrendered. Ulfeldt was blamed for the humiliating treaty of Tantrum signed on February 11; but Frederik began negotiating peace, and in the revised treaty at Roskilde signed on February 26 (OS) Denmark ceded the provinces of Halland, Bleking, and Scania to Sweden as well as Bornholm in the eastern Baltic. Norway lost the counties of Bahus and Trøndelag. Frederik also gave the Swedes 2,000 cavalry and promised to prevent warships from passing through the Sound or the Belt. All Swedish and foreign goods were to be free of Sound dues.
Sweden wanted Denmark to limit the number of warships used to protect the Baltic entrance, and King Karl X attacked Copenhagen. A Dutch fleet of 35 ships dispersed a Swedish fleet of 45 vessels and brought provisions and reinforcements to Copenhagen. Swedes looted books and the palaces of Frederiksborg and Kronborg. A rebellion began in Malmö but was suppressed, and the Swedes executed many. On January 21, 1659 Denmark made a treaty with Brandenburg. On February 11 Swedes failed to take Copenhagen by storm and suffered about 1,700 casualties while the Danes lost only 14 men. The Swedes conquered small islands in the south. A coalition of many nations attacked the Swedes at Funen, and on November 14 Swedish forces surrendered at Nyborg. The Norwegians led by Jögen Bjelke defeated the Swedes in Norway at Hundebunden in February 1660.
After the death of Sweden’s Karl X on February 13, 1660, Frederik III renounced the Roskilde treaty. In late March negotiations began in Copenhagen to consider revisions, and on May 27 they signed the treaty of Copenhagen. Trøndelag was returned to Norway and Bornholm to Denmark, and Sweden was to receive several estates of nobles in Scania. All prisoners were to be released. The Danish army had been devastated; its fleet was nearly destroyed; and commerce had been ruined. The national debt had risen to three million riksdalers, and government salaries could not be paid. About half the land in Denmark was owned by 150 noble families.
Count Ulfeldt had been ennobled by Karl X of Sweden but intrigued against him and was sentenced to death in May 1659. On July 7 Swedish regents gave him amnesty, and he returned to Copenhagen; but the following summer he and his wife were imprisoned in harsh conditions until September 1661. Seeking revenge, Ulfeldt urged Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg to take the Danish throne, offering to lead a Danish rebellion; but the Elector informed Frederick III who degraded Ulfeldt and his children, confiscated his property, and sentenced him to death. Ulfeldt managed to escape and died in exile on February 20, 1664, the most famous traitor in Denmark’s history. His wife Leonora Kristina described her 22 years in prison in her Memories of Woe (Jammers Mined), which made her famous after it was published in 1869. She was released in 1685 and spent her last years in the Maribor cloister.
In September 1660 King Frederik III asked the Assembly of the three Estates (nobles, clergy, and burghers but not peasants) to increase his power to impose new taxes to pay off the Danish debt of 5 million riksdaler. Their leader Christopher Gabel consulted with Bishop Hans Svante and Copenhagen’s Burgomaster Hans Nansen and persuaded the clergy and burghers to accept a hereditary monarchy. When the Council and the nobles refused to discuss it, Frederik had it proclaimed anyway, ordered the city gates closed, and summoned the militia. On October 6 the clergy and burghers demanded equal privileges, and a week later the nobles agreed to hereditary rule. The Council’s archives were moved to the castle. The Estates would not meet again for nearly two centuries. On November 4 the King created the law for the colleges of the five administrative departments (admiralty, war, treasury, commerce, and foreign affairs) which functioned directly under him as bureaucrats. On January 10, 1661 they signed the Act of Autocratic Hereditary Government for the Kingdoms of Norway and Denmark. In February a supreme court was created over Denmark, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, but the King could also overrule that court. The nobles retained their rights of seigneurial justice and freedom from arrest, and the clergy kept their tithes and the authority of bishops. Officials were given fixed salaries, and nobles were taxed. Gabel became President of Copenhagen. In 1661 a poor harvest brought peasants near starvation.
In 1662 local administration was organized into civil districts (amts) administered by amtmen, and taxes were collected by amt-secretaries. Local communities had little autonomy. Parishes could not select their own ministers, and the University of Copenhagen could not appoint its professors. Treasurer Hannibal Sehested reformed finances to reduce the debt while maintaining defense. In 1661 he had arranged a defensive alliance and commercial treaty with England. He mortgaged crown lands, but King Frederik had promised the nobles they would continue to be exempt from taxes. Nonetheless the nobility declined in wealth and influence as German immigrants expanded the new nobility. In 1663 Denmark joined the Rhenish alliance with France, Sweden, and some German states to defend the peace of Westphalia. On April 20 Danes took over Fort Christiansborg and Carlsborg from the Swedes on the Gold Coast of Africa.
Peder Schumacher revised the laws of Kristian IV, and on November 14, 1665 the new King’s Law based on the principles of natural law went into effect, though the new Danish legal code was not completed and published until 1683. The King was given unlimited power above all human laws and was to be the supreme judge (under God) in all matters except in proprietary land rights and religion. Frederik III implemented harsh methods to collect taxes from the poor which forced peasants to sell their furniture and other household items. Yet his queen Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg enjoyed luxurious carnivals, and much was spent on royal entertainment. Anders Bording (1619-77) wrote baroque poetry, and in August 1666 he started the first Danish newspaper, Den Danske Mercurius which he wrote himself in verse.
During the Anglo-Dutch War in 1665 Denmark made a secret treaty with England that allowed them to capture a Dutch East India fleet in the neutral port of Bergen, and they split the booty; but Bergen’s commander, not knowing of the pact, aided the fight against the English, and the Danes became allies of the Dutch in February 1666. This confusion discredited Sehested who had promoted a Scandinavian union but died in September. The Dutch alliance ended with the treaty of Breda in 1667, and Denmark was reconciled with England in 1669. That year Niels Steensen, who studied anatomy and geology, was the first to explain animal fossils by founding the science of stratigraphy. Called Nicolas Steno, he became a Catholic and a bishop in 1680 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Frederik III in his last years was preoccupied with alchemy under the influence of the Italian alchemist Francesco Borri. Frederik died on February 9, 1670 and was succeeded by his son Kristian V.
On June 25, 1667 Prince Kristian had married Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel, but he made sure she was not as influential as his mother. He soon made the daughter of a former teacher, Sophia Amalie Moth, his mistress and promoted many of her relatives. Kristian visited France, England, Holland, and Germany and sought to emulate Louis XIV.
Kristian V (r. 1670-99) was nearly 24 when he inherited the absolute monarchy over Denmark and Norway. He removed Gabel from the government and relied on Peder Schumacher who became Count Griffenfeldt in July 1670 and formed the Privy Council which transferred foreign affairs from the German Chancery to the Danish Chancery. Counts and barons were created based on the size of their lands, and primogeniture was introduced. They did not have to pay taxes but were responsible for the taxes of their farmers. The new nobles were ranked higher than the old. Griffenfeldt was the son of a wine merchant, but in 1671 he formed the Danebrog order with twenty members. He saved money by reducing the infantry while creating a national cavalry of 4,000 men. The East India Company based on Tranquebar was reorganized, and a West India Company was founded to take possession of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands which had been colonized in 1666, the year Schumacher had organized the College of Commerce. Denmark also had the Guinea Company, and three admirals were given a monopoly on Greenland’s trade and fisheries. Copenhagen hoped to dominate the Baltic trade, and the number of their merchant ships doubled from 1670 to 1674. New industries spun tobacco, made Dutch tiles, crafted metal-work, and manufactured clothing.
French silk weavers were invited by banning the importation of manufactured silk; but the clergy opposed the religious toleration granted to the Catholics, and shopkeepers were upset by higher prices. In 1672 Sweden allied with France and England, and Denmark formed a defensive alliance with the Habsburg Empire and Brandenburg in September; but they soon made peace with France, and then Denmark signed a treaty with the Dutch. In 1673 Kristian V appointed Griffenfeldt chancellor, and he implemented the King’s absolutist policies. The Board of Trade persuaded ministers to end the exclusion of Jewish immigration to promote commerce. That year Emperor Leopold organized a coalition against France, and on June 30, 1674 Denmark allied with Holland and promised to mobilize an army of 16,000 men if France was aided by another nation. That year Denmark began diplomatic relations with China.
Kristian Albrecht had become Duke of Holstein-Gottorp in 1659, formed a defensive alliance with Sweden in 1661, and had married Denmark’s Princess Frederica Amalia on October 24, 1667. After Brandenburg defeated the Swedes in June 1675, Kristian Albrecht went into exile in Hamburg until he was restored in 1689, surrendering much of his duchies and his portion of Schleswig to Denmark. Since 1663 Admiral Kort Sivertson Adelaer had commanded the Danish-Norwegian navy which controlled the Baltic Sea, but he died in November 1675 and was replaced by Admiral Nils Juel, who had led Danes to naval victory over Sweden at Køge Bay on July 2.
The Scanian War began in August 1675 when the Danish army of 16,000 men invaded Mecklenburg. During the winter of 1675-76 the Danes helped Brandenburg’s army take over Swedish Pomerania and capture Wismar. Griffenfeldt opposed the war and after his attempt to form an alliance with France was discovered, his enemies persuaded the King to arrest him for treason on March 11, 1676. A commission tried him for extortion, taking bribes, simony, and perjury. He was about to be beheaded when Kristian V commuted his sentence to life in prison. After 22 years Griffenfeldt was released because of failing health a few months before his death on March 12, 1699. Kristian V appointed Frederik Ahlefeld as chancellor, but the King took more control over communication with foreign courts.
In April 1676 the Danish navy led by Nils Juel captured Gotland, and on June 1 the smaller Danish and Dutch fleet defeated the Swedes off Öland while losing only one ship, giving them command of the sea. King Kristian V led an army of 15,000 men to recapture Scania, and they seized Helsingborg on June 29; the Swedes retreated from Scania to Sweden. However, a Swedish army led by Karl XI defeated Denmark-Norway’s smaller army in the battle of Halmstad at Fyllebro on August 17, and at Lund on December 4 they crushed a larger Danish army, killing more than twice as many Danes and taking 2,000 prisoners. Surviving Danes retreated to the Landskrona fortress. Kristian’s army attacked Malmö on June 26, 1677 and lost about 3,500 men, and the Swedes beat them again at Landskrona on July 14. Nils Juel’s greatest victory was when the Danes destroyed twenty Swedish ships in Køge Bay on the first two days of July. The Danes retreated from Scania, and the Swedes’ besieged the Danes at Kristianstad. Reviving his army with German mercenaries, Kristian led them to relieve the Swedish siege of Kristianstad in July 1678, but seeing a large Swedish army approaching, the Danish king chose to evacuate all his forces from Scania, leaving the garrison to surrender on August 5.
During this war the Danes won most of the sea battles suffering only 375 casualties while the Swedes lost more than 3,000 men. Louis XIV imposed the treaty of Fontainebleau on Denmark and Sweden on August 23, 1679. Then on September 16 they agreed to a peace treaty at Lund which restored Danish conquests in the war to Sweden for a small indemnity, and Kristian Albrecht was restored in Holstein-Gottorp. Denmark and Sweden also made commercial arrangements including a common coinage. Much wheat in fields and barns had been burned in Scania, and thousands of Scanians fought as guerillas against the Swedes. Sweden and Denmark were reconciled as Frederick III’s daughter Ulrika Eleonora married Sweden’s Karl XI on May 6, 1680.
In 1682 a new land survey revised taxes, and of 58,000 farms only 1,700 had peasant proprietors. Nobles owned about half the land, the King a quarter, and proprietors about 15% with the rest for the Church and schools. Large estates were equivalent to forty average farms. Peasants became worse off, and very few owned land; but they were still burdened by heavy taxes. Estate farms needed more labor, and tenants suffered. Immigrant Germans treated peasants more harshly as in northern Germany. Mercantile policies also hurt the peasants. Owners of large estates were exempt from taxes and hired overseers while they lived in Copenhagen. Agriculture suffered, and new instruments of torture were invented. The King implemented a campaign to restrict various luxuries according to social classes. While the common people were very restricted, the nobles were allowed to be extravagant. Poachers were punished with flogging, branding, or life in prison, and servants who killed an animal could be executed. Kristian V increased the police and appointed a chief for Copenhagen in 1682. He controlled what was printed and banned lampoons. After twenty years of committee work led by Peder Lassen the Danish law code was completed in 1683.
Denmark changed their army from relying on militia to hiring mercenaries, and the Danish fleet was improved to supply the merchant navy. Chancellor Frederik Ahlefeldt conducted foreign policy, but some thought he was too cautious. More aggressive advisors persuaded Kristian V to invade Holstein-Gottorp in the fall of 1682. In 1683 Denmark formed an offensive alliance with France and Brandenburg, and in 1684 the Danes took part of Schleswig from the duke. After Chancellor Frederik Ahlefeldt died on July 7, 1686, Kristian V declined to replace him so that he could govern himself. Denmark’s army attacked Hamburg for refusing to do homage.
The Admiral’s brother Jens Juel became the leading administrator during a peaceful era for Denmark. A German coalition with Lüneburg formed a defensive alliance with Sweden’s Karl XI in the spring of 1687. In 1689 Sweden and Lüneburg threatened to attack Denmark unless they restored Duke Kristian Albrecht of Holstein-Gottorp, and the Danes, lacking allies, conceded this. Denmark hired out 20,000 mercenaries to fight for Protestants. In 1691 Denmark and Sweden agreed to a treaty of armed neutrality, and both demanded compensation from merchant ships seized; the treaty was renewed in 1693. Christian Siegfried von Plessen joined the government in January 1692 and reformed taxes to help the towns, and a tax on interest was first imposed in 1694. Farmers were aided by lower taxes and increasing prices for wheat.
After Kristian Albrecht died in 1695, his son Frederik IV became Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and he married the Swedish Princess Hedvig Sophia Augusta on May 12, 1698; but he had mistresses, and his wife returned to Sweden in 1699. Danish troops invaded Gottorp to destroy new fortifications.
After visiting the country Robert Molesworth wrote An Account of Denmark as it was in the year 1692 that was published in 1694. He described the people as apathetic, but he admired the administration of justice and security. Kristian V died on August 25, 1699, and his will still claimed Schleswig for Denmark.
His son Frederik IV became King of Denmark and Norway at the age of 27, and they adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700 by cancelling February 19-29. Frederik was not interested in education. He had married Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow on December 5, 1695. He had many mistresses, and he secretly married Elisabeth Helene von Vieregg, Countess of Antvorskov, though she died after giving birth to a son in June 1704. Then he was enamored of the Chancellor’s daughter Anna Sophia Reventlow. By 1700 the population of Copenhagen would reach 70,000, but small towns remained in poverty. In 1702 Frederik abolished the vornedskab serfdom for peasants in Zealand and other islands who were born since he became King, and others could buy their freedom for a small fee.
When the Great Northern War began in 1700, Denmark had an army of 18,000 men mostly at Rendsburg in Holstein. Frederik IV allied with Russia’s Petr and August II of Saxony-Poland against Sweden. He ordered an invasion of Holstein-Gottorp, and the Danish army besieged Tönning from March to August; but a Swedish attack with 10,000 men led by Karl XII on Copenhagen forced Denmark to accept a treaty at Travendal in Schleswig on August 18. In 1701 Denmark hired out 20,000 mercenaries (including 6,000 Norwegians) to England in exchange for an alliance. On July 19, 1702 Holstein-Gottorp’s Duke Frederik IV was shot dead in battle, and his brother Kristian August and his widow Hedvig Sophie, sister of Karl XII, governed while the Gottorpian Council quarreled.
Denmark’s King Frederik IV visited Italy during the winter of 1708-09 with his entourage. After the Swedes’ defeat at Poltava on July 8, 1709 Denmark declared war against Sweden on October 28, and the Danish army of 15,000 men led by Count Kristian Reventlow invaded Scania in November but could not take Malmö or the Karlskrona navy base. On February 28, 1710 at Helsingborg a Swedish army defeated the Danes who lost more than 7,500 men. The Danes left Scania and went back to Zealand, but in October the Danish navy led by Ivar Huitfeldt prevented the Swedes from taking control of the Sound. In 1711 a plague spread through Scandinavia, and Copenhagen lost one-third of its people. On June 26, 1712 Frederik committed bigamy again by marrying Anna Sophia Reventlow. The three allies attacked Swedish possessions in northern Germany, but on December 20, 1712 a Swedish army of 12,000 men trapped and crushed the Danish army of 17,000 at Gadebusch in Mecklenburg; 2,500 Danes were killed, and 4,000 were captured. Yet Danes with allies managed to surround the Swedish army of 17,000 men led by Magnus Stenbock in Holstein, and they surrendered on May 16, 1713. Stenbock had made a secret agreement but was imprisoned in Copenhagen as the Danes occupied the Gottorp lands in Holstein and Schleswig. During the long siege of Stralsund (1711-15) Frederik IV made an alliance with Hanover’s George I of England, Prussia, Saxony, and Poland on April 15, 1715, and Denmark ceded Bremen and Verden to Hanover.
When Denmark’s King Kristian IV died in February 1648, his son Frederik III became King and also ruled Norway. The four Norwegian estates met at Kristiana in August and pledged their loyalty to him, though the nobles did not consider him the rightful king. Frederik recognized the rights of the cities and increased the nobles’ privileges. He heard complaints about Sehested and ordered an investigation. Korfitz Ulfeldt and Denmark’s Council were afraid of Sehested’s reforms and of Norway becoming independent. Ulfeldt led the prosecution, and Sehested could not answer all the charges. In May 1651 he resigned as governor and senator and surrendered all his private property in Norway to the King, giving back three times what he had taken. Spending on Norway’s militia was reduced, and Denmark’s chancellor was given control over Norway’s finances. Norway’s Council no longer existed; but the estates could represent Norwegian interests, though they included many Danish nobles and officials.
When Denmark declared war against Sweden in 1657, Chancellor Jens Bjelke’s son Jørgen Bjelke commanded the Norwegian army and navy. A small Norwegian force led by Preben von Ahnen destroyed Sweden’s silver mines at Nasafjall and Silbojocki. In September 1658 Bohuslän’s Swedish governor invaded Norway with 1,500 men; but the siege of Halden failed, and the Swedes retreated. Jørgen Bjelke led the army of 2,000 men from Trøndelag that invaded the provinces of Jaemtland and Herjedalen which were put under Norwegian administration. Bjelke’s forces also reconquered most of the former Norwegian province of Bohuslän. The treaty of Roskilde gave Jaemtland and Herjedalen back to Sweden, but Norway was given Trøndelag and Bohuslän which included the Bohus fortress. An army of 4,000 Norwegians besieged Trondheim for ten weeks until their capitulation on December 11, 1658. Bjelke’s army invaded Bohuslän in the fall of 1659 but had to retreat. His Norwegian army of 3,800 defeated the Swedes at Hundebunden in February 1660. In May the peace of Copenhagen returned Trøndelag to Norway, but Sweden kept Bohuslän.
After 1660 much land in Denmark and in Norway was sold to pay for the war. On May 17, 1661 the Norwegian Estates accepted King Frederik III as their hereditary king as crown prince Kristian, Hannibal Sehested, and five commissioners represented the monarch in Norway. The new laws giving the king absolute power were signed by the estates on August 7, giving Norway the same constitution as Denmark and would no longer be under the Danish Council. In 1662 Norwegian cities were given privileges that helped the burgher class; but those paying rent often suffered from debt as did those who brought fish from Nordland to Bergen. In the 1660s crown lands in Norway were sold for 1,300,000 riksdaler to rich burghers, officials, and nobles who treated tenants worse than the King had.
Norway was governed by the Statholder, and from 1664 to 1669 that was Ulrik Frederik Gyldenlöve, a natural son of Frederik III. He improved defense, reduced government, and simplified taxes even though he spent most of his time in Copenhagen. A royal edict provided Norway with its own superior court which was still under the supreme court in Copenhagen. The Faroe Islands retained their six courts with a superior court, and Frederik III granted these islands as a fief to his favorite, Gabel, and then to his son Frederik. Iceland also kept its courts, but the government was under the administrative colleges. Norway had few aristocratic families with little power. Germans and merchants from Schleswig-Holstein moved to Norwegian cities. Commerce was controlled by Bergen, Trondheim, and Christiania.
In 1668 Gyldenlöve protected peasants from excessive claims for payments and services, and this would be incorporated into the new Norwegian Code of Kristian V. The King appointed a commission of fifty people who took a census to revise the tax tables that was completed in 1669. The kingdom of Norway’s total revenues were estimated at 650,000 riksdaler with 200,000 for the army and officials with the rest going to Copenhagen for the court and the navy. In 1670 Gyldenlöve went back to Denmark, but that year he and Jorgen Bjelke were commissioned to recommend reforms for Norway’s administration, defense, taxes, and commerce. They organized Norway into four stiftsamter (Akershus, Christiansand, Bergenhus, and Trondheim) under four amts with nine subordinates. They were royal officials, and they and their subordinates were appointed by and were responsible to the King. They abolished unnecessary offices and reduced salaries and taxes. They emphasized commerce and defense and built more ships. Gyldenlöve returned to Norway as Statholder in 1673 to prepare for war, and he put 1,800 men to work on fortresses. The King authorized a war fund of 100,000 riksdaler. Norway soon had 12,000 soldiers and 76 cannons.
Norwegians provided the best seamen for Denmark, but many served the Dutch and lived in Holland. Norwegians also emigrated to England, and a Norwegian-Danish congregation built a Lutheran church in London 1694-96. Many Danes held offices in Norway. Because Norway had no university, Norwegians attended the University of Copenhagen and often served in Denmark’s administration. Norway had Latin schools for secondary education, and on March 17, 1675 a royal decree required rectors and instructors to have a bachelor of arts degree.
In 1676 Gyldenlöve led the Norwegian army south toward Gothenburg during the Scanian War. They gained control of Bohuslen except for the Bohus castle. On August 28, 1677 his Norwegian army defeated the Swedes led by Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie at Uddevalla.
After 1680 improved industry including the mining of iron, copper, and silver as well as money for the middle-class increased the peasant population. The export of Norwegian timber increased and helped rebuild London after the great fire of 1666, and pine lumber built Dutch ships. Ironworks spread on the coast of southern Norway. Fisherman sold more dried cod and salted herring. New regulations in 1684-85 set the rent that could be charged and limited the service peasants were required to donate. When the King sold more land, the renters could purchase a larger share. Kristian V visited Norway in 1685. The Norwegian code of laws was completed in 1687 and was more liberal in regard to hunting than Denmark’s, and it was based on the principle of equality. From 1680 to 1690 Bergen’s merchant fleet increased from 46 ships to 146, and other towns made similar gains. In 1691 the northern kingdoms formed an alliance to defend neutral trade so that the English and Dutch would no longer interfere.
While the English and Dutch were fighting against the French from 1689-1697 shipping from Bergen doubled, and ships from Oslo increased even faster up to half of Bergen’s. During the 1690s Norway built many ships for Denmark. By 1700 Norway’s army had increased to 21,000 men, and their navy had 33 ships with 2,778 guns. Denmark-Norway had become a naval power. In 1648 the Norwegian merchant marine had 50 vessels, but by 1707 they had 568 ships. In 1709 Norway’s army of 7,000 was concentrated at Fredrikstad. In 1711 a Norwegian force invaded Bohuslen
In Iceland on July 28, 1662 the royal governor Henrik Bjelke from Denmark persuaded an Althing assembly at Kopvog convened by the law officer Arni Oddsson to take the oath of allegiance to King Frederik III. The representatives insisted that their laws be continued, and Bjelke apparently agreed. A week earlier a new commercial company had been formed and was given a monopoly for twenty years. Bjelke left Iceland in 1662 but remained governor until his death in 1683. That year Iceland became an administrative district (amt) in the kingdom of Denmark. In 1684 Icelanders created a new office for a general administrator with judicial authority in church cases, and that year price schedules were revised upward on imported goods and downward on Icelandic exports. Punishment was increased for violating trade rules with foreigners and outside one’s district to include flogging, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. In 1689 an ordinance creating more districts meant they were smaller. Thorkell Bjarnason reported that between 1630 and 1690 in Iceland twenty people were burned at the stake for witchcraft, but only one was a woman. By the end of the century the death penalty and harsh punishments were greatly reduced as criminal laws were reformed. Cold winters in 1695 and 1696 froze the rivers and the sea around Iceland.
Iceland was more isolated but accepted the changes in Danish laws, and merchant fees in its harbors went from 16 dollars a year per harbor in the first half of the 17th century to 20 dollars per ship, but by 1706 the annual fee had surpassed 20,000 dollars. Iceland sent a memorial with the Danish lawman Lauritz to King Frederik IV in Denmark requesting redress of grievances, and in 1702 the price schedule was revised. Punishment for trafficking with foreign traders was reduced to a fine. Yet trade did not get better because merchants with trading privileges with Iceland became more indebted to the government and thus supplied fewer articles. Some conditions were improving in the new century, but a smallpox epidemic from 1707 to 1709 killed 18,000 people, leaving only 35,000. Iceland had a trade monopoly with the Faeroe Islands, and the state took it over from Christopher Gabel in 1709.
After Sweden’s active participation in the 30-Year War the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 assigned them the German provinces Pomerania, Bremen, Verden, and Wismar, and Sweden was represented in the Imperial Diet. In January 1648 Queen Kristina appointed her cousin Karl Gustav commander-in-chief of the Swedish army. On February 26, 1649 she announced that she would not marry, and she proclaimed her cousin Karl Gustav heir apparent. Brilliant men she invited to her court included Isaac Vossius, Hugo Grotius, Nicolaas Heinsius, and George Stiernhielm, and she received books from Paul Scarron, Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac, Madeleine de Scudéry, John Milton, and a calculating machine from Blaise Pascal. She hired Comenius to reform Sweden’s school system, and she started a publishing company in Stockholm. The famous philosopher René Descartes came to tutor her in the winter of 1649-50 and to found a scientific academy. Her lessons began at five in the morning. On February 1 he caught a cold, and he died of pneumonia ten days later. Kristina wrote an autobiography and a book of Maxims that includes the following sayings:
One loves those for whom he has done good,
Hates those whom he has treated ill.
Those who do not please us seldom deceive us.
Love beautifies the object loved, and
Makes it all the more worthy of love.1
After the 30-Year War several bad harvests spread hardship and unrest. The priests met without the bishops and discussed sharing the fruits of peace with more people. At the Riksdag in 1650 the three lower estates criticized the nobility for their fiefs from the crown and insisted they be reduced. Queen Kristina supported their concern but then bargained it away in exchange for the nobility’s recognition of Karl Gustav as hereditary prince. She was finally crowned queen on October 20. She longed to become a Catholic and began asking for permission to abdicate in 1651. She secretly sent a message to the Jesuit General in Rome in August, and two disguised Jesuits arrived in the spring of 1652 to tutor her. She decided to become a Roman Catholic and sent word to Spain’s Felipe IV. Yet she devoted herself to governing Sweden and suffered from the stress of working ten hours a day. In February 1654 she informed the Council that she was going to abdicate, and in a ceremony on June 5 at Uppsala she gave up her crown to her cousin Karl Gustav. In ten years she had added 17 counts, 46 barons, and 428 lesser nobles, doubling the number of noble families to about 600. She went to Antwerp and Brussels on her way toward Rome. At Innsbruck she renounced her father’s religion and accepted the Catholic faith. She reached Rome on December 23 and was welcomed by Pope Innocent X.
Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna wrote the royal assurance that Karl Gustav signed before being crowned King Karl X on the same day Kristina abdicated. At the Riksdag the new king secured the reduction of the nobles’ estates by restoring them to the crown, and allodial donation that protected absolute ownership was abolished. On October 24, 1654 Karl gained an ally in Holstein-Gottorp by marrying Hedvig Eleonora. He was worried about Poland, and in March 1655 the Riksdag gave him the authority to go to war on his own decision. However, Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie and Gustav Bonde warned Karl to watch out for Russia. In July two Swedish armies invaded Poland-Lithuania from the west and the north followed in August by the navy commanded by Karl. Brandenburg initially offered support but then opposed Sweden along with the Habsburg Empire. Holland was also antagonistic, and the Russians advanced to Riga. Greater Poland surrendered to Swedish Count Wittenberg after losing 14,400 men in a battle against veteran Swedes at Ujście on July 25. On August 17 Lithuanian Hetman Janusz Radziwiłł signed a treaty at Kėdainiai. King Karl joined Wittenberg’s army a week later, and on September 8 they occupied Warsaw. The Swedish army defeated the Poles at Wojnicz on October 3. As Poland’s King Jan Kazimierz fled to Silesia, Krakow capitulated on October 19.
The next day a treaty unified Lithuania with Sweden as Radziwiłł recognized Karl as Grand Duke. Polish general Koniecpolski surrendered 5,385 soldiers near Krakow on October 26, and two days later 10,000 more Poles gave up. Kazimierz commanded 8,000 men at Nowy Dwór, but an equal number of Swedes had more cannons and won, losing only four men. In 1638 Swedish colonists had built Fort Kristina on the Delaware River, but they lost this American colony to the Dutch in September 1655. In the north royal Prussians allied with Brandenburg in November at Rinsk, and in a treaty at Königsberg on January 7, 1656 Brandenburg Elector Friedrich Wilhelm accepted that the Duchy of Prussia was a fiefdom under Karl X, and he was given Ermland in northern Poland.
The Pauline monastery Jasna Góra in Częstochowa had survived a 40-day Swedish siege that ended on December 27, 1655. King Karl led the cavalry against Poles led by Stefan Czarniecki and defeated them in the battle of Gołąb on February 18, 1656. However, Karl could not take Lwow and barely escaped the battle of Sandomierz in early April by leaving behind the artillery and baggage while Czarniecki’s army defeated Swedes led by Prince Friedrich VI of Baden at Warka. On June 25 King Karl X allied with Brandenburg by giving Greater Poland to Friedrich Wilhelm in exchange for military aid.
In May 1656 Tsar Aleksei declared war on Sweden, and in July he invaded Livonia with 35,000 men and captured Dünaburg. The Russians took Kokenhausen, besieged Riga and Tartu, and ravaged Estonia, Ingria, and Kexholm. In late July in three days of fighting the Swedish and Prussian army of 18,000 men managed to defeat the Polish-Lithuanian army of about 40,000 men at Warsaw as King Jan Kazimierz retreated to Lublin. On October 8 a Lithuanian army of 8,000 men with Tatar horsemen defeated 4,000 Swedish allies at Prostki in Ducal Prussia, and then they burned 13 towns and 250 villages. However, the Swedes defeated them at Philipowo on October 22, the day Dorpat capitulated to Aleksei’s Russian army.
In the treaty of Labiau on November 20 Karl X recognized Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg in the Duchy of Prussia, and on December 6 at Radnot he offered György Rákóczi II the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania for a military alliance. In January 1657 Rákóczi with an army of 45,000 men ended the Polish siege of Krakow. In February the Danes and Dutch forced the Swedes to give up their long siege of Danzig (Gdansk). During the summer Denmark declared war on Sweden, and the Danes took Bremen; but a Swedish army led by Karl Wrangel recaptured it and helped King Karl regain Jutland. In early February 1658 King Karl led 3,500 infantry and 1,500 cavalry across the ice of the Little Belt as two squadrons of cavalry fell through breaking ice and died; but they surprised the Danes and took over the island of Fünen. Then King Karl led his men across the Great Belt ice to Zealand. From there the Swedes marched toward Copenhagen and on February 26 at Roskilde forced the Danes to sign a treaty that ceded the provinces of Scania, Blekinge, Halland, and Bornholm to Sweden along with the Norwegian provinces of Bohuslan and Trøndelag. Denmark also promised the Swedes free access to western trade, no hostile warships passing through the straits, and payment for Sweden’s occupation expenses.
In early 1658 Sweden and Russia agreed to a truce. When the Danes refused to support Sweden’s attack on Brandenburg, the Swedish army and navy besieged Copenhagen in August. That month Swedes led by Wrangel captured Kronborg Castle. Then his Swedish fleet lost five ships when defeated by the Dutch in the Sound on November 8, though the Dutch had more men killed. Russia and Sweden agreed to a treaty at Valiesar in December. The Swedes attacked Copenhagen on February 11, 1659, but they could not get over the walls and lost about 1,700 men before retreating. In the spring Danes and the Dutch ended the siege by breaking through to bring supplies and reinforcements. On May 31 and June 26 about 9,000 Swedish soldiers attacked Fünen but failed to take it. On July 23 a Swedish fleet led by Owen Cox captured a thousand Danish and Dutch prisoners during a battle in Ebeltoft Bay. King Karl X became ill and died of pneumonia on February 13, 1660.
In 1657 the Stockholm Bank was founded with Johan Palmstruch as general manager, and in 1661 they began issuing credit paper, the first bank notes in Europe. Too much paper issued without collateral caused this bank to fail in 1668, and on September 17 it was replaced by Sweden’s Riksbank managed by the Diet (Riksdag) of the Estates of Sweden.
When Karl XI became King of Sweden in 1660, he was only four years old. Before his death Karl X Gustav had appointed a regency led by Queen Mother Hedvig Eleonora and five top officials. Karl X’s brother Duke Adolf Johan, Count of Palatine of Kleeburg, became a prince and was given command of the army. Herman Fleming had promoted the reduction of crown lands that began in 1655. The nobles persuaded the Diet of Estates to invalidate the will of Karl X, and the five officials were to be advised by the Council of the Realm. The nobles on the Council exerted their influence, and the Diet approved appointments to the regency. The wealthy Chancellor Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie was from a French family and was in charge of foreign policy, and Treasurer Gustav Bonde favored a disciplined economy. The nobles wanted to preserve their land.
They began by ending the war. On May 3, 1660 Sweden made peace with Poland-Lithuania, the Habsburg Empire, and Brandenburg-Prussia in a treaty signed at Oliwa in which Poland ceded Livonia to Sweden. On the 27th the treaty of Copenhagen modified the Roskilde treaty. Sweden kept Scania, Halland, Blekinge, and Bohuslän and was exempt from Sound dues, and Denmark had to pay Sweden for the return of Bornholm. This treaty established the modern boundaries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. On June 21, 1661 Sweden made peace with Russia at Kardis in Estonia as the Russians relinquished their claim to Livonia. Troops had to be paid and officers rewarded, and the Council of nobles dominated Sweden’s government which had a substantial debt from the war. Also in June the Treasurer Gustav Bonde proposed a balanced national budget by avoiding war and reducing expenditures.
In 1664 the lesser nobles in the Diet continued to complain about salaries not being paid, and they ordered a report. In 1665 Swedish diplomats persuaded the English to guarantee the independence of Duke Kristian Albrecht of Holstein-Gottorp. Sweden remained neutral during the Anglo-Dutch War and helped mediate the peace treaty at Breda in 1667. That year Sten Bielke advised Sweden to join an anti-French coalition, and Spain provided them with a subsidy of 480,000 rixdaler. Lund University (Academia Carolina Conciliatrix) was founded in 1668 to lure Scanian students away from Copenhagen, and they promoted Swedish culture. The Council’s commission reported that the budget was not followed, causing a deficit in public revenues. The Blue Book report in 1668 blamed de la Gardie’s administration for not adhering to the budget of 1662, but the report was suppressed and not implemented.
Swedish shipping expanded in the 1660s and 1670s. In 1672 Sweden’s de la Gardie arranged a treaty with France which promised a subsidy of 400,000 rixdaler per year and protection for the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp while the Swedes were to put an army in Pomerania. The Diet in December 1672 proclaimed 17-year-old Karl XI old enough to govern, and he confirmed Chancellor de la Gardie. In 1674 Louis XIV withheld the subsidies until the Swedish army attacked Brandenburg, an ally of the Dutch.
Scanians disliked Swedish occupation as customs duties altered their economy, and the billeting of soldiers was resented. A commission established in 1669 did little to redress these problems. Rebels calling themselves free-shooters (friskyttar) were considered marauders (snapphanar) by the Swedes for plundering households. The men of Göinge in northern Scania were known for being gunsmiths and marksmen, and they aided Danish troops. On June 18, 1675 a Swedish force of 7,000 men led by Waldemar Wrangel was defeated by Friedrich Wilhelm’s Brandenburgers near Fehrbellin, enabling the Danes to take over Holstein-Gottorp. Brandenburgers and the Danes occupied Swedish Pomerania, and they helped the dukes of Lüneburg to conquer Bremen and Verden. Wismar capitulated to the Danish armed forces. In 1676 Danes invaded Sweden to regain provinces they had lost in 1658 where many Scanians were still loyal to Denmark. Norwegian forces took over Uddevalla. On June 1 a Danish-Dutch fleet defeated Sweden’s larger fleet in the battle of Öland; at least 1,400 Swedes were killed as they lost eleven ships. The Danes led by Niels Juel defeated the Swedes again off the German coast on May 31, 1677 as Sweden lost more than 1,500 men and eight ships.
Karl XI replaced Chancellor de la Gardie with Johan Gyllenstierna on July 6, 1676, and at the age of 20 the King took command of the Swedish army led by Field Marshal Simon Grundel-Helmfelt which defeated the Danes at Halmstad on August 17. On December 4 at Lund the young Karl led a successful surprise attack that contributed to a decisive Swedish victory as 8,000 soldiers were killed in the battle. Karl and Grundel-Helmfelt led another Swedish victory over the Danes at Landskrona in Scania on July 14, 1677 when the intrepid Karl was nearly captured. He approved the Diet’s setting up a commission to investigate the regency in 1678. That summer Admiral Juel’s Danish ships tried to cut off West Blekinge from Swedish supplies.
After the war many Scanians fled to Denmark. On June 19, 1679 in the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye the French and Brandenburg gave Swedish Pomerania, Bremen, and Verden back to Sweden. In the peace imposed by Louis XIV at Fontainebleau on August 23 Karl XI objected to the trade agreement with the Dutch and refused to ratify the treaty in which Louis had taken Palatinate-Zweibrücken from him. Sweden and Denmark found themselves against the French and the Dutch, and in the treaty at Lund on September 16 they ratified the Fontainebleau treaty but included a secret alliance with each other. Gyllenstierna went to Copenhagen and arranged for the marriage of Kristian V’s sister Ulrika Eleonora to Karl XI which took place on May 6, 1680. After the death of Gyllenstierna in June the skillful Bengt Oxenstierna was made Chancery President and began advising on foreign policy. Karl began ruling himself as the Council lost power.
A naval station begun in the former Danish province Blekinge was named Karlskrona after the King, and a powerful fleet was built up there. Karl began reorganizing the military to create a standing force, and the army was increased to 63,000 men with 25,000 in garrisons in the Swedish empire outside of Sweden and Finland. The Church promoted Swedish propaganda and was led by Knut Hahn, Bishop of Lund. Governor-general Rutger von Ascheberg won over the people in the southern provinces as Scanians became more Swedish. This culture also spread to Livonia and Estonia which supplied wheat and timber and about one-third of Sweden’s revenues.
The war had increased Sweden’s debt. In 1680 the commission on the regency set up a tribunal to judge the regents’ corrupt behavior and assess what they should pay. At the Diet (Riksdag) in December the nobles gave in to the other estates and accepted the reduction of the largest ducal and baronial fiefs. The King could now govern “according to his pleasure” as nobles were replaced by his officials. On December 11 Karl XI ordered Treasurer Sten Bielke to establish a budget office with a commissioner. The great families on the Council had much of their property confiscated as eight of the fifteen members of the Council were convicted of corruption and assessed heavy fines by 1682. De la Gardie lost all his estates except one. Karl gave peerages to commoners who had risen to become officials. The Council of the Realm was transformed into the Royal Council. The Riksdag of 1682-83 gave Karl XI unlimited authority to legislate and administer the reduction of land by the crown.
In October 1681 Sweden had agreed to a treaty with the Dutch at The Hague to keep the peace that included an alliance in case of war. The Diet of 1682 approved replacing conscription with contracts between the King and the peasants for military service. In the third reduction the King was allowed to donate and recall land. In 1683 a Dutch fleet supported the Swedes while the French navy helped the Danes in the struggle in Schleswig. Sweden exported iron and steel, and manufacturing expanded with their mercantile policy. Since 1640 iron production had doubled. The population of Stockholm surpassed 50,000. Peasants served in the infantry and were paid for military training. The cavalry of 11,000 relied on large farms and owners of property who were then exempted from tax.
In 1686 the Riksdag introduced protective tariffs, a 10% tax on salaries, 25% tax on receipts from interest, and a tax on more than one home. Sweden formed an alliance with Brandenburg in March and in July joined the League of Augsburg, promising 3,000 soldiers to the imperial army. In the spring of 1687 Karl made a defensive alliance with the dukes Georg Wilhelm and Ernst August of Lüneburg. Sweden’s church law of 1686 established Lutheran uniformity and was published in February 1687, making it the only religion in Sweden with the King authorized to appoint bishops and supervise the Church. Archbishop Olav Svebelius, who had tutored Karl in Lutheran piety, formulated the catechism, and they produced a new prayer-book and hymn-book. Imposing the Swedish language in Livonia upset some German nobles, and the Livonian noble Johann Reinhold Patkul led a protest to Stockholm in 1689. He complained again three years later and fled from prosecution to Switzerland. In 1690 the Academy of Dorpat was founded with Swedish professors teaching in Swedish, and the church reforms were extended to Livonia and Estonia.
The Estates still had some control over foreign policy and taxes, but the need for money persuaded them to extend the King’s power again in 1686 and 1689. Louis XIV offered Swedish ministers annuities in 1689, and Bielke accepted. In 1692 a general order prohibited officers from interfering with soldiers’ pay or exploiting their labor. The royal finances improved greatly, and Karl told the Riksdag of 1693 he needed no more supply; but he was given permission to levy contributions and get loans guaranteed by the Estates when necessary. During peace he was independent of the Estates. That year the Declaration of Sovereignty made Karl XI a king with absolute power.
A bad harvest in 1695 caused famine in northern Sweden and Finland, and the King sent 10,000 tons of grain to Österbotten and Västerbotten. Crops failed again in 1696, and mortality and migration increased. In Finland about one-third of the people died of malnutrition and disease. By the end of his reign in 1697 the land reductions had increased the royal revenue by two million Swedish daler annually. Sweden’s public debt decreased from 44 million daler in 1681 to 11.5 million in 1697. Four-fifths of the farms taken from the nobles went to the king or to peasants who paid taxes to the king. In 1655 the nobles had owned two-thirds of the farms, but by the end of the century the King held 36%, the nobles 33%, and peasant proprietors 31%. As a result of diminishing the wealth of the nobles the royal finances had been stabilized, and farmers were made more independent. Yet new men acquired estates, and the landless poor were required to work for the landowners. Karl also assigned crown revenues and land to sustain troops. Peasants were relieved of conscription if they paid the wages of a soldier. By 1697 Sweden’s navy had 52 large ships. Karl XI died of stomach cancer on April 5, 1697, and the poet Gunno Dahlstierna composed the allegorical elegy Kungaskald to commemorate his death.
Karl XII was born on June 17, 1682 (OS) and learned Latin and German as well as Swedish. Samuel Pufendorf came to Stockholm in 1677 to be Historiographer Royal, and he was secretary to Queen Ulrika Eleonora 1682-86. Prince Karl learned history from Pufendorf and books, and his favorite book was the biography of Alexander the Great by Quintus Curtius. Karl had his own staff in 1689, and Karl Magnus Stuart, who had studied fortifications with Erik Dahlberg, tutored him in mathematics and the history and art of war. The prince loved dogs and horses and shot his first bear in February 1694. In 1695 he was given Cronhielm’s translation of The Education of the Christian Prince (Institutio Principis Christiani) by Erasmus.
In his will Karl XI appointed to the regency the Queen-Grandmother with two votes and the following five counts: High Court President Lars Wallenstedt, Chancery President Bengt Oxenstierna, Exchequer Fabian Wrede, Nils Gyldenstolpe, and Nils Gyllenstierna. On May 7 the Royal Castle burned, and rebuilding began in June and would take six years. Karl XII was nearly 15 when he succeeded his father in April 1697, and on November 25 the Riksdag declared him of age to rule Sweden and its empire which claimed the Goths, Vends, Finland, Scania, Estonia, Livonia, Karelia, Ingria, Bremen, Verden, Pomerania, Rügen, Wismar, Zweibrücken-Kleeburg, Jülich, Cleve, Berg, Veldenz, Spanheim, and Ravenstein. On December 13 he was crowned without taking an oath, inheriting the absolute power of his father. Karl XI had secretly advised his son to avoid war. He retained the advisors Count Lars Wallenstedt and Count Karl Piper. During the first few years of the Northern War which began in 1700 while Karl XII was away fighting, Piper acted as prime minister even after he became chancellor of Uppsala University in 1702. He opposed the military adventures but could not persuade the King to make peace with Russia’s Tsar Petr or with Saxony Elector August II, who became King of Poland-Lithuania in September 1697, though Prince Jakub Sobieski had appealed to Karl XII.
Karl XII’s older sister Hedvig Sophia married her cousin Frederik IV, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, on May 12, 1698 but only stayed there about a year because of her husband’s mistresses before returning to Karlberg. Sweden had treaties with the Dutch, Hanover, and Brandenburg, and Karl XII insisted on signing one with Louis XIV in June. Denmark’s King Frederik IV formed an alliance with Saxony Elector August II, who had become King of Poland-Lithuania, and with Tsar Peter, who invaded Sweden’s Baltic provinces. Swedish diplomats had discovered the fugitive Patkul at the court of Moscow.
In 1699 engineer Christopher Polhem (1661-1751) founded a metal-working factory in Dalecarlia, and he excelled at using water power and creating canals. By 1700 Sweden received 21% of its revenue from Baltic provinces and 15% from those in northern Germany. In the late summer of 1699 Karl XII entered Stockholm with the Duke and Duchess of Holstein-Gottorp, announcing that Swedish troops would help them rebuild their fortresses, and two regiments with 2,400 soldiers were sent. The Swedish embassy left Moscow in November, and three days later Tsar Peter made a treaty with King-Elector August II promising to invade Ingria in 1700. Karl wanted to retain good relations with the Dutch and English and in January 1700 agreed to aid them if the French invaded the Spanish Netherlands.
Sweden had a standing army of 77,000 men in 1700. On February 11 August II, acting as Elector of Saxony, invaded Livonia and besieged Riga with his army of 14,000 Saxons from Polish territory while the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth remained neutral. News of this reached Stockholm in early March, followed a few days later by a report that 36,000 Danes were besieging 9,000 Swedes and 1,600 Holsteiners at Tönning. The Dutch and English maritime powers aided the Swedish navy at Zealand against the Danes who retreated to Copenhagen harbor. Denmark’s Frederik IV made concessions to English, Dutch, and German diplomats who were hoping Sweden would join them against France. On August 8 they agreed on the peace of Travendal which restored the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and ended Denmark’s enmity against Sweden. Denmark agreed to pay the Duke 260,000 riksdaler in compensation for the damage of the occupation. In October the Swedish forces were transported from Zealand to Livonia where Saxony’s army of 18,000 men retreated across the Dvina. Meanwhile Russia had declared war against Sweden, and their army invaded Ingria to besiege Narva. A Swedish force of 10,500 men marched through territory devastated by Cossacks to relieve 1,800 soldiers in the garrison of Narva, and on November 20 they defeated the Russian army of about 37,000 men, killing more than 9,000 and capturing 20,000 Russians and their military supplies. The Swedes could not maintain the prisoners and released all but the officers.
Many Swedish soldiers died of diseases in the winter of 1700-01, and Karl XII decided he would avoid enclosed camps. He led Sweden’s army south toward Poland and Saxony, crossed the Dvina on July 19, 1701, and defeated a Saxon army that was twice as large. They occupied Courland while the Saxon army retreated to Poland and the Empire. Karl urged Polish Jakub Sobieski to take the throne and also negotiated with the Polish army’s commander Jablonowski, his son-in-law Rafael Leszczynski who was influential with the Turks, and Cardinal Radziejowski. Olof Hermelin wrote manifestoes and pamphlets in support of Sweden. On July 30 Karl wrote to Radziejowski demanding that the Poles depose King August II, but the Cardinal made it public before the Diet in December. In January 1702 Karl left the winter camp to lead his army into Poland against the Saxons, and on March 21 he met with the Sapieha brothers. On July 19 at Kliszów Sweden’s army again defeated a Saxon-Polish army that outnumbered them two to one, but Duke Frederik of Holstein-Gottorp was killed by artillery.
By January 1703 Jablonowski and Leszczynski had died. The Swedes besieged Thorn in Poland in May, began bombardment on September 24, and it capitulated on October 14; 4,860 prisoners were sent to Sweden, and the town paid 100,000 thaler. On February 16, 1704 August II was deposed; but two days later he captured Jakub Sobieski and his brother Constantine, and Karl could not convince their other brother Alexander to stand for election as regent. However, on July 2 Karl managed to get Rafael’s son Stanislaw Leszczynski elected King of Poland without the cardinal’s blessing. Stanislaw promised he would abdicate to Jakub Sobieski when he was freed. On July 15, 1705 Swedes led by Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt defeated more than twice as many Russians at Gemauerthof. Stanislaw was crowned on September 24, and Sweden and Poland signed a treaty at Warsaw that included trade agreements which recognized Riga’s monopoly of Russian exports to the west. On February 13, 1706 at Fraustadt (Wschowa) the Swedes once again defeated a larger force, killing 7,377 and capturing even more including 500 Russians who were put to death.
Karl XII believed he was married to the army and during the war was self-disciplined and celibate. By the summer of 1706 he no longer worried about the Dutch and the English. On October 29 at Kalisz an allied army of 35,000 men containing Poles, Russians, Saxons, Kalmyks, and Cossacks defeated 4,358 Swedes and their 10,000 Polish and Lithuanian allies. That summer Karl marched his army across Silesia and into Saxony. By 1707 Sweden had an army of 120,000, and the cavalry had flint-lock pistols. The Saxons persuaded August II to renounce the crown of Poland, and on August 31 the treaty of Altranstädt recognized Stanislaw, required that Patkul be turned over to Karl, allowed the Swedish army to remain in Saxony during the coming winter, and ended the civil war in Poland. Patkul was executed on October 10. When the allies learned that August II had agreed to the terms of the Altranstädt treaty, 1,800 Swedish prisoners were released.
More recruits arrived from Sweden, and they were joined by German volunteers. Their army of about 40,000 men crossed the frozen Vistula on January 1, 1708 and marched toward Russia. When they reached Saxony, a Russian army moved into Poland. Karl XII left 5,000 Swedish troops in Poland to support Stanislaw who went with Karl as far as Radoszkowice. The Russians devastated land in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia itself to make it difficult for Sweden’s army. About 28,000 Russian soldiers confronted the Swedish army of 12,500 men at Holowczyn on July 14 and were defeated. Karl moved his army south to try to join with Lewenhaupt’s forces, and on September 25 they were on opposite sides of the Dnieper. On October 9 they fought the Russians to a draw at Lesnaya, and Sweden lost their wagons.
Ivan Mazepa was a Hetman who wanted to liberate the Ukraine from Russia, and he allied with the Swedes on October 28. In early January 1709 in the Ukraine hundreds of Swedes froze to death, and thousands suffered frostbite, reducing their army to 24,000 men. On January 17 they failed to storm the icy walls of Veprik. Karl appealed to the Cossacks rebelling against the Russians, and in April the Zaporozhjian Cossacks agreed to cooperate. On May 2 the dwindling Swedish army besieged fortified Poltava. During a skirmish by the Vorskla River on June 20 Karl XII was shot in the foot. The Russian army of 80,000 men arrived, crossed the river, and put up some defenses prior to a surprise attack on July 8 (NS). The Swedish army of 16,500 had about 8,000 men killed and nearly 3,000 captured while the Russians suffered about 5,000 casualties. Karl and 1,500 men retreated into the woods. Lewenhaupt led the Swedes who had been besieging Poltava; but they were trapped before they could cross the Dnieper and surrendered on July 11; about 12,000 soldiers and 8,000 others became prisoners.
Karl II and about 4,000 Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks went to Turkey and camped at Bender in Bessarabia for four years. Russian troops occupied Poland and Baltic provinces of Sweden. August II returned to Poland as Stanislaw retreated to Swedish Pomerania. After the Swedish disaster at Poltava the Danes went to war against Sweden. The English and Dutch in conventions at The Hague in March and December 1710 guaranteed the neutrality of Swedish territories in the Empire. Karl objected to this because he wanted to use Pomerania as a base to bring reinforcements from Sweden which he governed by letters. Swedish soldiers in Poland retreated to Pomerania in 1710. Magnus Stenbock in March led a Swedish army that defeated the Danes at Helsingborg and drove them out of Scania. In 1710 the Russians besieged and captured the eastern stronghold at Viipuri (Vyborg) in Finland on June 12, the Livonian capital Riga on July 4, and the Estonian capital Tallinn (Reval) on July 15. On November 21 the Turks declared war on Tsar Peter, and in March 1711 they marched toward the Danube. That year Poland’s King August II claimed Pomerania.
In 1700 Sweden had skipped the leap-year day to avoid falling another day behind the Gregorian calendar (NS), but in 1712 Sweden went back to the Julian calendar (OS) eleven days behind the New Style by having 30 days in February that year.
On September 25, 1711 Stenbock’s army relieved Stralsund which was besieged by Danes, Saxons, and Russians. More Swedish forces and supplies arrived there in May 1712. In the fall Stenbock led an army of 16,000 men into Swedish Pomerania, and they defeated Danes and Saxons at Gadebusch in December. However, after they invaded Jutland, they were surrounded at Tönning in January 1713 by Saxons, Danes, and Russians. The Swedes surrendered in May. That February the Turks and Tatars burned the camp, captured Karl, and took him to Didymoteicho near Adrianople. Russians invaded and ravaged Finland. On June 5 Sultan Ahmed III and Tsar Petr made a peace treaty at Adrianople. That month Karl XII ordered Sweden’s district governors to collect information so that they could implement a single land-tax. The Turks urged him to leave, and the Austrian Emperor Charles VI agreed to let the Swedes pass through imperial territory. On September 20, 1714 Karl with a beard left Didymoteicho with a military escort, and he reached besieged Stralsund with only one officer on November 11 (OS).
Baron G. H. von Görtz served as a diplomat and helped Karl XII raise money, and in March 1715 Louis XIV promised to pay Karl an annual subsidy of 600,000 riksdaler. Brandenburg-Prussia declared war on Sweden in April and joined their allies besieging Stralsund in the summer. After more Saxon, Dane, and Russian allies arrived in November, Karl escaped and finally returned with four men to Trelleborg on the southern tip of Sweden on December 13.
1. Quoted in Sweden: The Nation’s History by Franklin D. Scott, p. 203-204.