The New International Encyclopædia/Charles XI.

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHARLES XI. (1655-97). King of Sweden from 1660 to 1697. He was the son of Charles X. and Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein, and was born November 24, 1655. During his minority the government was intrusted to his mother, Hedwig, as regent. By the Peace of Oliva (May 3, 1660) with Poland, Sweden obtained Esthonia, part of Livonia, and Oesel, and the Polish monarch renounced all pretensions to the Swedish crown; that of Copenhagen (June 6, 1660) was generally confirmatory of the treaty of Roeskilde with Denmark in 1658. (See Charles X.) A treaty with Russia on the basis of the status quo followed iu 1661; and from this period till 1672 the kingdom was free from foreign wars, but it was misgoverned by the regeney and the education of the young King was neglected, willfully, it is charged, in order that he might longer be kept in leading-strings. Until he reached manhood he could neither read nor write. In December, 1672, Charles assumed the reins of government. In 1674 he was called upon by Louis XIV. under a treaty made by the regency, to engage in the war of France on the German princes and Holland. The Swedes invaded Brandenburg and met a severe defeat at Fehrbellin in 1675. Charles, however, overthrew the Danes, who were allies of Brandenburg, at Halmstadt, Lund, and Landskrona, but his fleet was defeated by the Dutch near Oeland, and again by the Danes at Blekinge and Kiöge; and many of Sweden's recent acquisitions were wrested from her. These, however, were restored by the peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (September 17, 1679). Charles now entered upon an active period of reform in the administration, aided by his most trusted counselor, John Gyllenstern. In 1680 a struggle commenced between the Crown, supported by the burghers and peasants, on the one hand, and the nobles on the other; and a considerable diminution of the power of the nobles was the consequence. The resumption of all the Crown lands which had been alienated since 1609 was a fatal blow to the power of the nobles, and by a voluntary declaration of the estates, December 9, 1682, the King was invested with absolute authority. By a judicious administration of the revenues, Charles was enabled to extinguish the public debt, reorganize the fleet and army, and by 1693 to dispense with extraordinary subsidies. Though absolute, he never imposed a tax but with the consent of the estates; and he published every year a detailed account of revenue and expenditure. He established the finances on a sound basis and brought the army and navy of the kingdom to a state of high efficiency. The codification of the laws was commenced, but was unfinished at his death, which took place in Stockholm, April 15, 1697. Consult Geijer and Carlson, Geschichte Schwedens, Vols. IV.-V. (Gotha, 1855-75).