Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Napoleon's marshal became king of Sweden and Norway

SAT JUN 19, 2010 AT 03:33 PM PDT

So Sweden´s crown princess got
married today. She descends from a lot of Europe´s most famous queens: Queen Victoria of Britain, Catherine the great of Russia, Isabella the catholic of Spain, Mary Stuart of the scots.
She also descends from both Napoleon´s first fiancee and his first wife. And from one of Napoleon´s most prominent marshals, Jean Bernadotte which has given name to the family: The Bernadottes. Son of a town lawyer he had a truly remarkable career for that time in Europe.
This year it is 200 years since he arrived in Sweden as new crown prince of Sweden. He would became king a few years later.
When the petty-noble Bonapartes arrived as refugees at mainland France they made contacts with the extremely rich merchant family, the Clarys, in Marseille. Marriages between the two families were considered appropriate. Napoleon´s brother settled for Julie Clary, while Napoleon becamed engaged with Desiree. But Napoleon kept being interested in other women and when he became seriously involved with Josephine de Beauharnais, 7 years his senior, ahe broke off the engagement. Not without bad conscience, because he had "stolen" Desiree´s virginity and the honor codex of the time to break off an engagement when that that happened. The Swedish royal archives contain a quite bitter letter from Desiree written to Napoleon when he broke up.
However the rich Desiree wouldn´t lack new opportunities. In 1798 a marriage was arranged with one of Napoleon´s general, Jean Bernadotte. He had a prosperous career, she had money.
Jean Bernadotte was born in Pau, capital of the region Bearn in Southern France in 1763. His great-grandfather had been a weaver, his grandfather a tailor and his father was a lawyer.
While his family wanted him to pursue the same career as his father, Jean Bernadotte preferred to enlist himself as a common soldier in the French Marine in 1780. After  8 years he was promoted to sergeant. The events following the French revolutions however, gave him speedy promotions, now even non-nobles could hold high positions. In 1794 he was appointed general.
On the introduction of Napoleon´s French Empire, Bernadotte became one of the Marshals of the Empire. As a reward for his services at Austerlitz (1805) he became the 1st Sovereign Prince of Ponte Corvo, a small town in Italy.
Then in 1810 he was asked to become Crown prince of Sweden and accepted. Why would the Swedes ask a French marshal, son of a lawyer,  to become their king ? Well, they were pretty desperate. In 1807 they had lost Finland, which had been a Swedish "colony" for 700 years, to Russia. As a result, they disposed their king, appointed his senile, childless uncle as king, and started looking for a new man to put on the throne. Their first choice belonged to the Danish royal house, however soon after he had been chosen, he fell of his horse and died. They then thought about the younger brother, but a new idea arose: The best idea to get Finland back might be choose a military leader from France.
So Jean Bernadotte was chosen as new Crown Prince under the name Carl Johan (Carl after the king currently on the throne, Johan as the Swedish version of Jean). Very soon though he would make clear he had no intention of trying to get Finland back as he saw this as military impossible. Instead he put his eyes on Norway.
Norway at that time was ruled by the Danish king, and had been under Danish rule for about 400 years. Denmark-Norway at that time was on Napoleon´s side in the wars. Now
Carl Johan made a deal with England and Russia: to fight with them against Napoleon and get Norway as a reward.
In 1814 his goal was accomplished. At the end of the Napoleon wars he invaded Denmark and secured Norway, the formality was put down in the Treaty of Kiel. While the Norwegians had never seriously revolted against Danish rule, the idea of being handed over to a new Swedish king - like cattle, it was said - was a bit too much. In a hurry an election was put up, and the elected joined to make up a new constitution, wherein they declared sovereignty for the Norwegian nation.
The later events that year, including a small war between Norway and Sweden, forced the Norwegians to give up the claim of sovereignty and accept a Swedish king. The new constitution was upheld with some changes however, which meant that Norway for the first time got a modern parliament. During the rest of the nineteenth century there would be a constant struggle between the Norwegian parliament and Swedish kings andabout how much power each side should have. Except for foreign affairs, the Norwegian parliament managed to get the last word in most affairs, and the Swedish influence would be gradually weakened until the union was abolished in 1905 and Norway for the first time in centuries became a totally independent nation. Christiania (Oslo) in 1814 was a town of about 14 000 with few of the buildings and institutions European cities and capitals normally had, but soon it was built: a royal castle (for the king when he was in Norway), a university, a parliament building, a theater, building for the supreme court etc.
The struggle with Carl Johan who ruled Sweden from 1814 to 1844 was especially intense, but he was personally well liked, and the semi-independence Norway got under him was after all an enourmous step forward compared to be totally dominated by Denmark. The main street in Norway´s capital Oslo is named after him: Karl Johans gate.
Finland who became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian empire experienced some of the same as Norway. They became independent in 1917 (resulting in a civil war in 1918), had to fight the russians again during WWII and as a former part of the Russian empire they were lucky not to be included in the Sovietunion (like the Baltic nations were). The had to be very careful during the cold war not to provoke the Soviets.
Back to the Bernadottes. While Josephine never managed to produce an heir to Napoleon, which would eventually lead to their divorce, she did have two children from a former marriage. Her son Eugene would marry a Bavarian princess and their daughter who was named Josephine after her grandmother would marry Carl Johan´s son Oscar 1 and thus become queen of Sweden and Norway.
From right to left:
King Carl Johan, aka Jean Baptiste Bernadotte
Crown prince Oscar, son of Carl Johan and Desiree
Crownprincess Josephine, married to Oscar, granddaughter of Empress Josephine
Desiree Clary, Queen Desideria
Crown princess Victoria wore a Camelia diadem today that Josephine, the bavarian princess, brought to Sweden and which she had inherited from her grandmother, empress Josephine. It´s made in Paris and was given as a gift from Napoleon to Empress Josephine in 1809. I think Crown princess Josephine is wearing it in the painting above. Victoria´s mother, Silvia Renate Sommerlath, wore the same diadem when she married King Carl Gustav at the exact same date 34 years ago. Oscar and Josephine also married on this date in 1834.
The new prince Daniel is of the "small people", Victoria met him when he worked as her personal trainer. Her father initially was sceptical to the idea of Daniel as prince, but these days even royal heirs insist on marrying the one they love, so Victoria got the prince of her heart. (Carl-Henric Svanberg btw. was invited to the wedding, but didn´t attend as he was occupied elsewhere..)



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