He was followed by his 15 year old son, Karl XII (Charles XII / Carolus XII), who reigned 1697-1718 AD. The young kid had received an extensive education by specially recruited teachers: engineers, academics and bishops. In particular he was interested in mathematics and military topics, but he was also fluent in Swedish, German, French and Latin, and later also learned Finnish.
The new king’s youth was probably seen as an opportunity by Russia, Poland and Denmark, who pooled their armed forces and declared war on Sweden in 1700 AD. But Karl XII proved to be a military genius and won spectacular victories during the first years of his reign. First of all he landed with his troops close to Copenhagen, threatening the Danish capitol, thereby forcing peace with the Danish king. After that, concentrating on Poland and Russia, he was constantly on march with his army across eastern Europe. An attempted campaign to conquer Moscow had to be aborted because of the harsh winter (hmm… like a few others, later). Having been thoroughly defeated at Poltava in 1709 AD, he retreated to recuperate into the small town of Bender in Turkey, where he stayed for six years, negotiating with the Sultan, trying to persuade him to attack Russia.
Not having been in Sweden for 14 years (reigning the country by mail!), he finally returned to Sweden in 1715 AD, after a two weeks’ ride through Europe with only 24 guarding soldiers, just to find that his “empire” was crumbling. He engaged in several defensive campaigns, but was finally killed in 1718 AD by a bullet from a Norwegian soldier. The bullet, which is assumed to have been a button from a uniform, left a 26 mm hole in both sides of the king’s head. In the following peace treaties, Sweden lost its overseas provinces and its position as a dominant power in Europe.
The history of Karl XII is controversial: he has been hailed for his fabulous military genius and achievements (and still is, by right-wing activists). But modern historians are more critical, noticing that his flair for adventures made him neglect internal problems and finally lose what his predecessors had won.
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