Thursday, June 17, 2010

The End

I find it rather ironic, that today is the fellow above birthday. He is Charles XII of Sweden, and he was born this day 1682 in Stockholm, Sweden. The irony of his date of birth is that it falls one day behind Axel Oxenstierna, the man who did so much to create the Swedish Empire. Because our boy above, without really meaning to, contributed a great deal to the destruction of the Swedish Empire. It was not his plan, after all he was born to be king, and he did become King of Sweden in 1697 at the tender age of 19. Within three years, he was to find himself attacked by Russia, Denmark, and Saxony, countries that wanted a slice of the Swedish pie, and figured that a good time to attack Sweden was when it was ruled by such a young, inexperienced King. They would, at first at least, learn the error of their respective ways. First, Denmark was handed its ass, and sued for peace in August of 1700, then Russia, and its Czar Peter the Great, were taught a sharp lesson at the battle of Narva in which around 17,000 Russian lives were lost at the cost of around 700 Swedes. Next it was Poland, and Saxony that learned the lesson that this Charles XII dude from Sweden was a fucking brilliant military mind, and fucking with him was probably not such a good idea. After kicking the crap out of Poland and its Saxon allies, Charles decided to install his very own King of Poland. However, Charles XII was a very driven man, and one who believed very strongly in his prinicples (regardless if they were right or not, and regardless if they were self-destructive or not), and those prinicples led him to invade Mother Russia in 1709. He was the first of the three great invaders, the others being Napoleon and Hitler, to learn that Russian winters are fucking cold. It all when pear shaped, and the Russians defeated, in a big way, Charles' army at the Battle of Poltava. The battle is considered to be the beginning of the end for the Swedish Empire, and Charles fled south to the Ottoman Empire with only about 1,000 men. After his intrigues in the Empire caused him to be placed under house arrest, he managed to escape, and covered the distance from Turkey to the Baltic in 15 days, quite a feat on horseback. Charles then attempted to regain in the west what he had lost in the east, and invaded Norway in 1718, it was to be his last campaign. While besieging the fortress of Fredriksten, he was killed by a shot to the head that destroyed most of his brain, and killed him instantly. The dream was dead, and the Swedish Empire had reached its end. He was famous for his wars, but he was also known to be a teetotaler, and probably died a virgin. He was reported to have an almost inhuman tolerance for pain, and was apparently devoid of emotion. He was probably not a fellow you want to invite to your friendly poker game, but he was one hell of a military genius. That genius was also his downfall, as it so often is for people. But, it is for that genius, and his unwavering devotion to his principles that Charles XII (June 17th, 1682-November 30th 1718, at the age of 36) you are my (296th) hero of the day.

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