Saturday, June 23, 2012


______Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte had an interesting life. He was born the son of a French tailor and ended up the King of Sweden.

______Bernadotte joined the French Army on the eve of the Revolution and distinguished himself during the fledgling Republic's struggle for survival. He rose in the ranks from a private to a divisional general, serving in the Army of the Rhine and later in General Napoleon's Army of Italy, where he met the future dictator for the first time.
______Bernadotte did not get along with Napoleon, despite his military ability, and left the French Army. He did not come to Napoleon's side during the coup that made Bonaparte the sole power in France and may have even participated in a conspiracy to rid the country of the Corsican. Interestingly, Bernadotte's marriage to Desiree Clary made him Napoleon's brother-in-law, which must have made for some interesting family feuds.

______Bernadotte returned to the French Army to serve as one of Napoleon's generals. He served well at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 and earned the rank of Marshal and the title of Prince of Pontecorvo. It's interesting that the former revolutionary Napoleon liked to hand out royal titles to his relatives and generals, making them kings, dukes and princes as he redrew the boundaries of Europe.
______After Austerlitz, however, Bernadotte's performance became lackluster during Napoleon's later campaigns. After failing his emperor at the 1809 Battle of Wagram Bernadotte was dismissed.

______But Bernadotte was not doomed to be an unemployed veteran. In fact, thanks to contacts with captured Swedes he made after the Battle of Lubeck, Bernadotte was elected to be Crown Prince of Sweden on August 21st, 1810. He was adopted by the childless King Charles XIII and devoted himself to becoming completely Swedish, learning the language, adopting protestantism and switching from frog legs to those really good meatballs they make up there.______Napoleon did not back Bernadotte's election but neither did he oppose it; Sweden was outside his sphere of interest. However, he must have regretted not keeping Bernadotte on the payroll when the former marshal reacted to Napoleon's occupation of Swedish Pomerania by joining the Sixth Coalition against the Emperor in 1813. He led Swedish troops to victory over his former comrades as Napoleon retreated from his disastrous Russian Campaign.
______In 1818 Bernadotte became King Charles XIV of Sweden and established a dynasty that continues in Sweden to this day.

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