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Charles XI of Sweden

Charles XI, or Karl XI, (November 24, 1655 - April 5, 1697) was a King of Sweden (1660 - 1697). He was the only son of Charles X of Sweden and Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp.

Karl XI
Image:Charles XI of Sweden.jpg
Charles XI at the Battle of Lund .
Painting by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl (1682).
Reign February 13, 1660-April 5, 1697

(Government from December 18, 1672)

Coronation 1675
Royal motto "Factus est Dominus protector meus"
("The Lord is become my protector")
Queen Ulrike Eleonora of Denmark
Royal House Pfalz
Predecessor Charles X of Sweden
Successor Charles XII of Sweden
Date of Birth November 24, 1655
Place of Birth Royal Castle in Stockholm
Date of Death April 5, 1697
Place of Death Royal Castle in Stockholm
Place of Burial Riddarholmskyrkan, Stockholm

Under guardian rule

Charles was born in the palace at Stockholm. His father, who died when the child was in his fourth year, left the care of his education to the regents whom he had appointed. So shamefully did they neglect their duty that when, at the age of seventeen, Charles XI attained his majority, he was ignorant of the very rudiments of state-craft and almost illiterate. Yet those nearest to him had great hopes of him. He was known to be truthful, upright and God-fearing; if he had neglected his studies it was to devote himself to manly sports and exercises; and in the pursuit of his favourite pastime, bear-hunting, he had already given proofs of the most splendid courage.

Foreign affairs

It was the general disaster produced by the speculative policy of his former guardians which first called forth his sterling qualities and hardened him into a premature manhood. With indefatigable energy he at once attempted to grapple with the difficulties of the situation, waging an almost desperate struggle with sloth, corruption and incompetence. Amidst universal anarchy, the young king, barely twenty years of age, inexperienced, ill-served, snatching at every expedient, worked day and night in his newly-formed camp in Scania to arm the nation for its mortal struggle, in the Scanian War .

The victory of Halmstad (August 17, 1676), when Charles and his commander-in-chief Simon Grundel-Helmfelt routed a Danish division, was the first gleam of good luck, and on December 4, on the tableland of Helgonabäck, near Lund, the young Swedish monarch defeated Christian V of Denmark, who also commanded his army in person. After a ferocious contest, the Danes were practically annihilated. The Battle of Lund was, relatively to the number engaged, one of the bloodiest engagements of modern times. More than half the combatants (8,357, of whom 3,000 were Swedes) actually perished on the battle-field. All the Swedish commanders showed remarkable ability, but the chief glory of the day indisputably belongs to Charles XI. This great victory restored to the Swedes their self-confidence and prestige.

In the following year, Charles with 9,000 men routed 12,000 Danes near Malmö (July 15, 1678). This proved to be the last pitched battle of the war, the Danes never again venturing to attack their once more invincible enemy in the open field. In 1679 Louis XIV of France dictated the terms of a general pacification, and Charles XI, who bitterly resented "the insufferable tutelage" of the French king, was forced at last to acquiesce in a peace which at least left his empire practically intact.

Domestic affairs

Charles devoted the rest of his life to the gigantic task of rehabilitating Sweden by means of a reduction, or recovery of alienated crown lands, a process which involved the examination of every title deed in the kingdom, and resulted in the complete readjustment of the finances. But vast as it was, the reduction represents only a tithe of Charles XI's immense activity. The constructive part of his administration was equally thorough-going, and entirely beneficial. Here, too, everything was due to his personal initiative. Finance, commerce, the national armaments by sea and land, judicial procedure, church government, education, even art and science? everything, in short?emerged recast from his shaping hand. Charles XI died on April 5, 1697, in his forty-first year. On May 6, 1680, he had married Ulrike Eleonora (1656 - 1693), daughter of King Frederick III of Denmark (1609-1670) and whose death in July 1693 produced a shock from which Charles would never recover.

After Gustav Vasa and Gustavus Adolphus Charles XI was perhaps, the greatest of all the kings of Sweden. His modest, homespun figure has indeed been unduly eclipsed by the brilliant and colossal shapes of his heroic father and his meteoric son; yet in reality Charles XI is far worthier of admiration than either Charles X or Charles XII. He was in an eminent degree a great master-builder. He found Sweden in ruins, and devoted his whole life to laying the solid foundations of a new order of things which, in its essential features, has endured to the present day.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.


He had seven children, of whom only three survived him, a son Charles, and two daughters, Hedwig Sophia, duchess of Holstein-Gottorp and grandmother of Tsar Peter III, and Ulrike Eleonora, who ultimately succeeded her brother on the Swedish throne.

  1. Hedwig Sophia (1681-1708)
  2. King Charles XII (1682-1718)
  3. Gustav (1683-1685)
  4. Ulrich (1684-1685)
  5. Friedrich (1685-1685)
  6. Carl Gustav (1686-1687)
  7. Queen Ulrike Eleonora (1688-1741)

See also

Preceded by:
Charles X
King of Sweden Succeeded by:
Charles XII

Last updated: 11-07-2004 01:15:07