Saturday, 6 June 2009

On this date: Carl XIII elected King of Sweden

Today is Sweden’s National Day and 200 years ago today, on 6 June 1809, Prince Carl, Duke of Sudermania was elected King of Sweden by the four estates, assuming the name Carl XIII. The Swedish Constitution which remained in force until 1 January 1975 was dated 6 June 1809 and this, and the fact that Gustaf I was proclaimed King of Sweden on 6 June 1523, was the reason why one in 1916 started to celebrate 6 June as the Day of the Swedish Flag. It became the National Day of Sweden in 1983 and since 2005 it is also a public holiday.
Carl XIII came to the throne after the coup which toppled his nephew Gustaf IV Adolf in March 1809. The deposed King’s feeble-minded uncle was asked to be Protector of the Realm while a new constitution was being prepared by the four estates. The estates’ Constitutional Committee held its first meeting on 14 May and a week later the final editing began. Getting the estates to accept it was however more difficult. The peasants were understandably not happy about some of the privileges the new Constitution granted to the nobility, which meant that further burdens were shifted to the peasants.
It had been hoped that the Constitution could be passed on 5 June, so that Duke Carl could be proclaimed King on 6 June, the same date as Gustaf I. As 5 June dawned the peasants still refused to agree to the Constitution. The result was that the three other estates one by one went to the Royal Palace and asked the Duke to accept the Crown of Sweden.
Meanwhile the peasants were put under heavy pressure and at 5 p.m. too came to the Palace and offered the Crown to Duke Carl. But the issue of the controversial § 114 was still unresolved and the peasants had therefore not accepted the Constitution.
At a ceremony in the Hall of State at the Royal Palace on Tuesday 6 June 1809 Duke Carl accepted the four estates’ offer of the Crown of Sweden. He also recognised the new Constitution, but unlike the speakers of the other three estates the Speaker of the peasants’ estate had still not signed it. This they would not do until the second estate had agreed to remove § 114 about the noble privileges.
Their refusal meant that peace negotiations with Russia could not yet start, as Russia had demanded a lawful king and a lawful constitution before they would enter into negotiations with Sweden. It also meant that the new King’s coronation had to be postponed from 15 to 29 June.
In the end Georg Adlersparre, one of the leading men of the March revolution, put heavy pressure on the fourth estate and on 27 June they were commanded to come to the King at the Palace. There King Carl made a speech where he personally promised to negotiate in the issue of the noble privileges and guaranteed that those aspects of the question which were not dealt with during the ongoing assembly would be dealt with next time the four estates met. This finally cracked the peasants’ resistance and there and then the Speaker, Lars Olsson, added his signature to the Constitution, three weeks after the speakers of the other estates.
On 4 November 1814 Carl XIII was also elected King of newly independent Norway, but real power lay in the hands of his adopted son and heir, who succeeded him as King Carl XIV Johan when Carl XIII died in February 1818.
The bust by Johan Tobias Sergel shows a younger Carl XIII.

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