Saturday, 23 February 2013

My latest article: Carl XIII and the conquest of Fredrikstad

The approaching bicentenary of Norway’s independence is naturally inspiring interest in the events of 1814, and in today’s edition of Fredriksstad Blad I tell the story of one of the lesser-known episodes of that annus mirabilis, namely the only visit the first King of the Swedish-Norwegian union, Carl XIII, ever made to Norway. This happened during the short war in August 1814, when King Carl was present at the conquest of Fredrikstad.
Carl XIII had been appointed Lord High Admiral before he could even walk and was thus in nominal command of the Swedish fleet during the war with Russia in 1788-1790. The battle of Hogland, which ended in a stalemate, was spun as a major victory and the then Duke of Sudermannia hailed as a naval victor. This reputation and his pursuit of further military glory meant that he insisted on taking part in the campaign of 1814, although he was weak and aged beyond his 66 years and could barely walk.
Nevertheless, Carl XIII had the pleasure of watching the conquest of Fredrikstad and spending a night in the town, from where he proudly wrote Queen Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta a letter “with a Norwegian pen and Norwegian ink”.
Following an armistice and negotiations the Norwegian Parliament voted in favour of union with Sweden three months later. However, King Carl’s weakening health meant that he was never able to carry out his intention of being crowned in Nidaros Cathedral, and indeed Fredrikstad was the only part of his new kingdom he would ever see.

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