Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sgt. Pretty Legs

The curly haired fellow above is one Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte born this day 1763 in Pau, France. He is more commonly known by his other name that being Charles XIV John of Sweden. How he got from name A to name B is part of the reason his is today's hero. Part of his rise from private in the French army to the throne of Sweden can be attributed to his marrying well. He married an ex of his emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, who keep a sweet spot in his heart for Bernadotte's wife. I guess not all ex's are at daggers drawn after all. Another helping factor for his rise to fame was the coming of the French Revolution. That got him from private to (eventually) Marshal of France. He being one of the twenty-six men that Napoleon raised to that rank during his reign. Bernadotte had some fair amount of military talent, but he was also famous for being a fence sitter. Always weighing this options until the last minute until deciding o which side to come down in support of. Usually he was smart enough to pick the winning side. He served with some distinction in a couple of Napoleon's earlier campaigns, but also ran afoul of his emperor during the Battle of Wagram. This little setback could have been fatal to his career aspirations, but lucky for him the Swedes came calling. He was popular in Sweden because of his previous good treatment of Swedish prisoners of war, and Sweden, who's King Charles XIII was ill and heir less, needed a solider on the throne to protect themselves against Russian aggression. It seems he sort of "fell into" the job of Crown Prince. A Swedish dipolmat, Karl Otto Morner, offered the position to Bernadotte without any authority to do so. Bernadotte stated that he would not turn the job down if it was offered (I mean who would? Crown Prince is probably a pretty sweet gig). Napoleon, for his part thought the whole idea was absurd, and Morner was arrested for his whole "making job offers without an authority to do so." However, the idea began to gain popularity, and eventually on August 21st 1810, he was elected Crown Prince of Sweden. One installed in that job, he took to it like a duck to water. The King was ill and left a lot of the power in the newly minted Crown Prince's hands. He oversaw Sweden's annexation of Norway, to help compensate for losing Finland to Russia, and was not, as had been feared, a puppet of the French. He eventually came down from the fence, joined the Allies in helping to defeat Napoleon. He became King of Sweden and Norway, and while he never learned to speak either of those languages (French was still widely spoken as a diplomatic language so he had no issues), was a fairly popular king at least in the beginning. In 1840, in response to the unpopularity of his ultra-conservative views, the Riksdag did consider compelling him to abdicate, but he survived that little bump in the road, and remained king until his death in 1844. One of his more famous statements was made to alleviate fears of undue French influence upon him was his statement that "I, who was once a Marshal of France, am now merely King of Sweden." His heirs reign in Stockholm today, I have seen his statute, his tomb, and his palace. So for merely being King of Sweden, when they really needed one, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (January 26th, 1763- March 8th, 1844, at the age of 81), you are my (155th) hero of the day.

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