Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Bernadottes

When King Gustaf IV Adolf was allocated through a bloodless coup in March 1809, his uncle, Carl XIII, was appointed as his successor. Since the new king didn't have any heirs, a prince from the Danish royal family, Carl Christian (named Carl August in Sweden), was called to Sweden to become the new Crown Prince. Unfortunately for Carl August he was a lousy horseman. Shortly after his arrival to Sweden, Carl August fell off his horse and died.

Sweden was again seeking for a crown prince and they began to look further south – to France. One of Napoleons most famous Marshals, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, was no longer the favorite of Napoleon, and Bernadotte therefore accepted the offer to become Swedens new crown prince. He was named Carl Johan – a more suitable royal name than Jean-Baptiste – and landed in Sweden October 29, 1810.

Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte came from Pau in the South of France. His father was a lawyer. Jean-Baptiste had created a career in Napoleons army, and was rewarded with the titles Marshal of France and Duke of Ponte Corvo. His wife, Désirée had been engaged to Napoleon, and her sister, Julie, was married to Napoleons older brother, Josef. The title 'Queen of Sweden' was not in any way tempting Désirée. However, her husband, the new Crown Prince of Sweden, finally managed to persuade her to come to Sweden together with their 10 year old son, Oscar.
Désirée too had to change her name. Into the more Scandinavian form Desideria.

Désirée didn't like Sweden. Only 5 months after her arrival, she went back to Paris. She returned to Sweden in 1823, 5 years after her husbands coronation as king. Bernadottes name as king was Carl XIV Johan. Since Norway at that time 'belonged' to Sweden, Carl Johan was also proclaimed King of Norway.

In order to establish his family as 'royal', Bernadotte planned a wedding between his son, Oscar, and Josephine of Leuchtenberg. Today 200 years after their arrival to Sweden, the Bernadotte family is an integrated part of the few royal families left in Europe. Through marriages, they have family bonds to the royal families of Denmark, Norway, England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

When Carl Johan died in 1844, Oscar succeeded him as Oscar I. We are now counting the 7th generation of Bernadottes at Swedens throne, and when the present king, Carl XVI Gustaf dies, his daughter Victoria will become the ruling Queen of Sweden.

In his book 'A Royal Saga', Lars Elgklou presents the story of the Bernadottes in a light and humorous tone. The book also contains a lot of photos and paintings of members of the Bernadotte family.

Cheers,
Asta

2 comments:

  1. What a fascinating historical commentary...years ago I was very ignorant and naive and thought that if someone was king or queen of a country they would have to be of the nationality of that country...then I found that things are "royally" mixed up!

    Thanks, Asta!

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