The toings and froings of Scandinavian royalty can be befuddling, but few accessions were as unusual as that of Karl XIV Johan (1763–1844), king of Norway and Sweden. Previously, Karl Johan had been the Napoleonic Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a distinguished military commander who had endured a turbulent relationship with his boss, Napoleon, who sacked and reinstated him a couple of times before finally stripping him of his rank for alleged lack of military ardour at the battle of Wagram, outside Vienna, in 1809. In a huff, Bernadotte stomped off back to Paris, where – much to his surprise – he was informed that the Swedish court had elected him as the heir to their king, the childless Charles XIII. This was not, however, a quixotic gesture by the Swedes, but rather a desire to ensure that their next king was a good soldier able to protect them from their enemies, especially Russia. In the event, it worked out rather well: Bernadotte successfully steered the Swedes through the tail end of the Napoleonic Wars, firstly as Crown Prince to a decrepit King Charles XIII from 1810 and then, on Charles’s death, as the Swedish king, adding Norway to his future kingdom in 1818. Not content, seemingly, with the terms of his motto, “The people’s love is my reward”, Karl Johan had the whopping Kongelige Slott built for his further contentment, only to die before it was completed.

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