Sweden’s Nineteenth Century Crisis
In 1810, Sweden had a serious problem: an old, sick, and heirless monarch, Charles XIII, expected to keel over at any moment. The king’s heirless demise could lead to a succession crisis that would plunge the country into civil war as contenders scrambled for power. It was a particularly vulnerable moment for Sweden. A once powerful kingdom, it had been reduced to a second rate power that needed to play off Europe’s major powers against each other in order to survive. In 1810, there were only three major powers in Europe far as Sweden was concerned: Russia, France, and Britain. Russia coveted Sweden. Napoleon’s France was allied with Russia. Britain was too committed to its war against France and Spain to help the Swedes with more than moral support.
It was feared that internal Swedish strife could give next door Russia a pretext to invade in order to “restore order”. Once in Sweden, the Russians would probably install a puppet monarch, and turn Sweden into a Russian vassal state. Enter Baron Carl Otto Morner (1781 – 1868), a Swedish courtier and member of the Riksdag – Sweden’s legislative body. On his own initiative, and without authorization from the Swedish government, he went ahead and offered the Swedish crown to one of Napoleon’s Marshalls, Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte (1763 – 1844).