great Nordic War.
12th of Sweden became king when
only 15 years old and was shortly after
declared of age. He was by nature willful
and stubborn in his decisions.
He liked very much what was dangerous,
bear hunting, wild riding and so on. His
friend was his brother-in-law Frederik
Karl’s youth and wilfulnes inspired his neighbors hope in winding
back, what Sweden earlier had taken from them. I all three neighboring
countries young princes ruled. In Denmark Frederik 4th, in
Poland August 2nd, who originally was only prince of Sachsen,
but by cunning had been elected king of Poland, and in Russia tzar Peter
the Great. The last mentioned was by Karl considered the least dangerous,
because Sweden always earlier easily had defeated Russia.
In deep secrecy the three princes made a treaty (1699).
In 1700 a Danish army attacked the Gottorp land areas. As soon as the 18
year old Karl got this message, he at once declined all hunting and
playing. In a hurry he departed to the south, invaded Zealand and
surrounded Copenhagen, while at the same time Vilhelm 3rd of
Oranien sent an English-Dutch fleet to The Sound in order to block
Copenhagen. Denmark was forced to make a quick peace agreement in
Travendal (1700) and give back to the duke of Gottorp his lands.
However, tzar Peter had invaded no-man’s-land and sieged Narva.
Karl sailed together with a small force over there. In the battle of
Nova he defeated with his 8.000 men completely the Russians, who counted
about 50.000 men (November 1700). This victory increased his disrespect
for the Russians, so that his attention was turned away from this
Sweden’s greatest amemy.
In 1701 he attacked August 2nd and defeated his Sachsen army.
The Swedes War in Poland and Sachsen 1702 - 1707.
In a short
time Karl conquered Poland by a series of victories, especially at
Klissov 1702, where duke Frederik died. Pressure from the Swedish army
made the Poles depose August and elect Stanislav Leszinski their new
It was Karl’s plan to make Poland a strong ally against til Russians.
Karl soon had to turn east to keep out the Russians , soon to the west
to defeat the Sachsens, and though he still won, Poland became broken up
by the long war and weakened, so it more became a burden than an
assistance. Karl stayed in Sachsen a whole year. He was at his peak of
power, and both England and France tryed to drag him into the Spanish
order of succession war.
In 1707 he returned to Poland to direct the death-blow toward tzar Peter
war against Russia, Poltava 1709.
years Karl spent in Poland and Sachsen, Peter used for training his army
and advance to The Baltic Sea. Already in 1703 he got hold of The
Finnish Bay and founded St. Petersborg. The Swedish force in The Baltic
Countries was too weak to stop him. Only in the region around Riga the
Swedes under Levenhaupt were victorious.
In 1708 Karl departed together with 40.000 men toward Peter, who offered
peace, but would not surrender St. Petersborg. From Riga Levenhaupt
should meet Karl, and then he in Ukraine intended to unite with the
kosak chief Maseppa and then attack Moscow.
But the plan of attack failed because of a number of accidents.
Levenhaupt fought his way through to Karl, but with enormous casualties,
and Maseppa’s rebellion attempt failed, so that he came to the Swedish
army as a refugee.
The stay in Ukraine in the severe winther 1708 - 09 taxed the army. In
the summer 1709 the decisive battle was fought by Opltava (18.000 Swedes
against 55.000 Russians), and Karl had to leave the leadership to his
generals, because he had been wounded.
For the Swedes it became a complete defeat, and the army came into
Russian captivity, he himself escaped with a small number of men to
Turkey. Here he stayed until he went home in 1714.
war against the Swedes 1709.
began to go bad for Karl 12th, Frederik 4th and
August 2nd renewed their treaty and declared war again.
August departed for Poland, where he was met with pleasure. The Danish
army went into Skåne and occupied the area.
But Skåne’s governor, the excellent field marshal Magnus Stenbock,
gathered an army, which was badly armed, but which to a certain degree
consisted of war accustomed men, and they defeated the Danes by
Helsingborg. In Køge Bay an unsettled naval battle was fought, which
has been famous by the Norwegian Ivar Hvitfeld’s heroic performance.
In 1711 the Danes were prevented from their doings by the plague, which
ripped away 1/3 of the population in Copenhagen, but in 1712 they
attacked the Swedish German possessions. Then Stenbock hurried over
there and won a new victory at Gadebush in Mecklenburg, after which he
went into Holsten. Then his position became dangerous, because the
Sachsian and Russian troops approached and blocked his return. He hided
inside the Gottorp fortress Tønning at the mouth of Ejderen and still
hoped, he should succeed in breaking through the Danish and Russian
But when the foodstoff ran out, he had to surrender together with his
army in 1713. Four years later he died in captivity in Copenhagen.
became fatal for the young Gottorp duke Karl Frederik to have opened
the fortress Tønningen for Magnus Stenbock. The duke’s leading
minister Görtz had assured king Frederik 4th of
unbreakable neutrality, and continued to claim that Stenbock had
entered the fortress against the will of the duke’s government. But
the king did not believe him, he occupied the Gottorp lands, and as Tønning
fall into his hands, he there found Görtz’s orders to take in the
Swedish army. Then the king would not surrender the Gottorp Slesvig
and kept it at the later peace treaty.
1714 - 15 the war was mostly about Swedens German lands. The Danish
fleet won three victories over the Swedish, especially under Sehested
at Rügen, and the Swedes were driven away from Germany.
Then tzar Peter came to Zealand with a large army to participate in a
new attack on Skåne, but it failed because of Frederik 4th’s
and Peter’s mutual mistrust and disagreements.
Soldiers and Sailors during the Great Nordic War.
fight about Norway.
taken Görtz as his advicing minister, and he understood by way of
loans and issuing monetary units in stead of money to raise funds to
arm an army again, with which Karl entered Norway to conquer this
country as payment for the losses at the other side of the Baltic Sea.
The war at the Norwegan border in 1716 and the following years is rich
of brave and sacrificing acts by the Norwegians. Peter and Hans Colbjørnsen
were leading the citizens of Frederikshald, who put their city on fire,
so that it should not yield the Swedes cover during their raids on
Their sister Anna Coldbjørnsen got by presense of mind and bravery a
Swedish platoon captured.
Those were also the years that Peder Tordenskjold (Peder Wessel, a son
of an alderman from Trondhjem, born 1691, killed in a duel 1720),
carried out his marvelous deeds, especially the attack on the Swedish
fleet at Dynekilen 1716, and after Karl’s death the capture of
Karlsten at Marstrand 1719. During these fightings Karl 12th
was killed in front of Frederikssten 1718.
of the War.
miserable war completely taxed Sweden’s strenght. The population
decreased, and the country became entirely indebted.
After Karl’s death nobody had the direct right to inherit the crown,
as both of his sisters had married without the agreement of the
advicing council. But as Ulrika Eleonora accepted to abstain from
absolute monarchy, she was acclaimed governing queen.
Al the indignation because of the countrys sufferings turned against Görtz,
who was condemned and executed. The was continued yet for some time,
untill they eventually made peace with all their amenies. Hannover got
Bremen and Verden, Preussen got the most southern of Pommern. With
Denmark the peace was made in Frederiksborg 1720, Sweden gave up the
Gottorp duke’s case and its duty-free access to the Sound. With
Russia the peace was signed in Nystad 1721, whereby Sweden lost
Livland, Estland, Ingermanland and Viborg county in Finland.
The proportions of power round the Baltic Sea had by this been totally
changed, Sweeden had lost its position as superpower. Between Denmark
and Sweden all the old conflicts were solved. The peace in
Frederiksborg founded the termination of the mutual wars between the
Nordic peoples. Poland had been further weekened. Two new superpowers
now asserted themselves. Russia, which 1721 fought its way to The
Baltic Sea, and Preussen.