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Charles XIII & II
Charles XIII of Sweden wearing the Order of Charles XIII in red
Preceded by Gustav IV Adolf
Succeeded by Charles XIV John
Preceded by Christian Frederick
Succeeded by Charles III
Personal details
Born (1748-10-07)7 October 1748
Died 5 February 1818(1818-02-05) (aged 69)
Spouse(s) Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp
Religion Lutheran

Charles XIII & II also Carl, Swedish language: Karl XIII

(Stockholm, 7 October 1748 – Stockholm, 5 February 1818), was King of Sweden (as Charles XIII) from 1809 and King of Norway (as Charles II) from 1814 until his death. He was the second son of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, sister of Frederick II of Prussia.[1]

Though known as King Charles XIII in Sweden, he was actually the seventh Swedish king by that name, as Charles IX (reigned 1604–1611) had adopted his numeral after studying a fictitious history of Sweden.[2]

Life and politics

Statue of King Charles XIII at Kungsträdgården.

Prince Charles was appointed grand admiral when he was but few days old. He was described as a good dancer at the amateur theatre of the royal court. Reportedly he was not very close to his mother; the Queen preferred her youngest children, Sophie Albertine and Frederick Adolf.[3] Charles was, however, described as close to his brother Gustav during their childhood.[3] In 1772 he cooperated in the revolutionary plans of his elder brother, King Gustav III of Sweden and as a sign of recognition, was appointed Duke of Södermanland.

Charles was early the object of his mother's plans to arrange political marriages for her children. Initially, he was to be married to Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt according to his mother's wishes, but the government refused to issue negotiations because of the costs.[3] After the coup d'état which introduced absolute monarchy in 1772, his brother Gustav III arranged a marriage between Charles and his cousin Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp. They lived de facto separate private lives and both had extramarital affairs.[3] Charles was known for his "harem"[3] of mistresses, of which the most notable were Augusta von Fersen, Charlotte Eckerman, Charlotte Slottsberg, who also had influence over him, and Mariana Koskull. He unsuccessfully courted Magdalena Rudenschöld, who refused him, after which she was treated with what has been regarded as vindictiveness during the Armfelt conspiracy. After the late 1790s, his health deteriorated by a series of rheumatic attacks, his relationship to his consort improved and she gained more influence over him.[4]

Charles was described as dependent and easily influenced by others, and his many affairs gave him the reputation of being a libertine.[5] He was very interested in the supernatural, secret societies and mysticism. It is said that he was one of the best clients of the celebrated fortune teller Ulrica Arfvidsson and even asked her for political advice, and he also favoured the medium Henrik Gustaf Ulfvenklou, who also exercised great influence over the duke. He was also a member of the Freemasons and in 1811 founded the Order of Charles XIII, a Swedish order of chivalry awarded only to Protestant Freemasons.[6]

Charles was given several official tasks during his period as duke. In 1777, he served as regent during Gustav III's stay in Russia, in 1780 he served as formal chief commander during the King's stay in Spa. On the outbreak of the Russo-Swedish War of 1788 he served with distinction as admiral of the fleet, especially at the battles of Hogland (7 June 1788) and Öland (26 July 1789). On the latter occasion he would have won a signal victory but for the unaccountable remissness of his second-in-command, Admiral Liljehorn.

In 1785, he was offered the Dukedom of Courland by the nobility of the Duchy and given the support of Gustav III.[7] but the plans never materialized.

Charles was in close connection to the opposition against Gustav III, and it is debated whether he knew of and supported the plans to assassinate the King.[8]

On the assassination of Gustav III in 1792, Charles acted as regent of Sweden till 1796 on behalf of his nephew, King Gustav IV, who was a minor when his father was shot in the Stockholm opera. The de facto regent, however, was in fact Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm, whose influence over him was supreme. These four years have been considered perhaps the most miserable and degrading period in Swedish history; an Age of Lead succeeding an Age of Gold, as it has well been called, and may be briefly described as alternations of the fantastic jacobinism and the ruthless despotism.

On the coming of age of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden in November 1796, the duke's regency ended. In 1803, the Boheman affair caused a severe conflict between Gustav IV Adolf and the ducal couple. The mystic Karl Adolf Boheman (1764–1831) had been introduced to the couple by Count Magnus Stenbock in 1793 and gained great influence by promising to reveal scientific secrets about the occult. Boheman inducted them into a secret society and founded what he described as a branch of the Freemasons in 1801, where both sexes where accepted as members, and to which the Counts and Countesses Ruuth and Brahe as well as the mother of the queen were introduced. Boheman was arrested upon an attempt to recruit the monarch, who accused him of revolutionary agendas and expelled him. The ducal couple were exposed in an informal investigation by the monarch, and the duchess was questioned in the presence of the royal council.[9] In 1808, he was again chief commander during Gustav IV Adolf's stay in Finland.

On 13 March 1809, those who had dethroned Gustav IV Adolf appointed him regent, and he was finally elected king by the Riksdag of the Estates. But by this time he was prematurely decrepit, and Crown Prince Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte took over the government as soon as he landed in Sweden in 1810. By the Union of Sweden and Norway on 4 November 1814 Charles became king of Norway under the name Carl II of Norway. After eight years as king only by title, Charles died without a natural heir on 5 February 1818, and Bernadotte succeeded him as King Charles XIV John.[10]

He was the 872nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain.


He married his cousin Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759–1818), on 7 July 1774 in Stockholm. Both of their children died in infancy:

  1. Lovisa Hedvig (Stockholm, 2 July 1797). Died at birth; buried at Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church).[11]
  2. Carl Adolf, Duke of Värmland (Stockholm, 4 July 1798 – Stockholm, 10 July 1798). Lived six days; buried at Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church).[12]

With Augusta von Fersen, he had an extramarital son:

  1. Carl Löwenhielm 1772–1861

Adopted sons:

  1. Charles August, Crown Prince of Sweden
  2. Charles XIV John of Sweden


16. Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
8. Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
17. Marie Elisabeth of Saxony
4. Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin
18. Frederick III of Denmark
9. Frederikke Amalie of Denmark
19. Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg
2. Adolf Frederick of Sweden
20. Friedrich VI, Margrave of Baden-Durlach
10. Frederick VII, Margrave of Baden-Durlach
21. Christine Magdalen of Zweibrücken
5. Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach
22. Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (= 16)
11. Auguste Marie of Holstein-Gottorp
23. Marie Elisabeth of Saxony (= 17)
1. Charles XIII of Sweden
24. Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg
12. Frederick I of Prussia
25. Luise Henriette of Nassau
6. Frederick William I of Prussia
26. Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover
13. Sophia Charlotte of Hanover
27. Sophia, Countess Palatine of Simmern
3. Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
28. Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover (= 26)
14. George I of Great Britain
29. Sophia, Countess Palatine of Simmern (= 27)
7. Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
30. George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
15. Sophia Dorothea of Celle
31. Eleonore d'Esmier d'Olbreuse

See also

  • Order of Charles XIII (Swedish Rite)
  • Notable Freemasons


  1. Karl 2 – utdypning (Store norske leksikon)
  2. Article Karl in Nordisk familjebok
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. pp. 28–29. 23033 (Swedish)
  4. Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)
  5. Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. p. 28-29. 23033 (Swedish)
  6. Lobkowicz, František (1995) (in Czech). Encyklopedie řádů a vyznamenání. Prague: Libri. p. 171. ISBN 80-901579-9-8. 
  7. Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte, Queen Consort of Charles XIII of Sweden (1903). C. C. Bonde. ed (in Swedish). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok II 1783–1788 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte II). P. A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. p. 96. 412070. 
  8. Nationalencyklopedin accessed online 2 January 2007, article Karl XIII
  9. Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte, Queen Consort of Charles XIII of Sweden (1936). Cecilia af Klercker. ed (in Swedish). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok VII 1800–1806 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte VIII 1800–1806). P. A. Norstedt & Söners förlag Stockholm. pp. 497–527. 362103. 
  10. Halvdan Koht: biografi (Karl XIII), i NBL1[Clarification needed], bd. 7, 1936
  11. Find A (retrieved 15 March 2012).
  12. Find A (retrieved 15 March 2012).

Written sources

  • Signum svenska kulturhistoria: Gustavianska tiden
  • Ingvar Andersson: Gustavianskt (1979)
  • Signum Förlag: Frihetstiden
  • Lars Elgklou: Familjen Bernadotte. En kunglig släktkrönika
  • Herman Lindqvist: Historien om Sverige. Gustavs dagar
  • Cecilia af Klercker (1908) (in Swedish). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok I 1775–1782 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte II). P.A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. 412070. 
  • Cecilia af Klercker (1939) (in Swedish). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok IX 1807–1811 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte IX 1807–1811). P.A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. 412070. 

External links

Works related to at Wikisource

Charles XIII/II
House of Holstein-Gottorp
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 7 October 1748 Died: 5 February 1818
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gustav IV Adolf
King of Sweden
Succeeded by
Charles XIV/III John
Preceded by
Christian Frederick
King of Norway

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. Encyclopædia Britannica Cambridge University Press 

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