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Kulturportal Lund

Guide to historical Lund and its cultural heritage

Charles XII (sometimes Carl XII) (1682-1718) of Sweden


Karl XII

From September 1716, Sweden was ruled for almost two years from Lund. These were perhaps the most wretched years in the country’s history.
The Great Northern War had raged since 1700. In the beginning, the Swedes had won several victories but after the defeat at Poltava and the capitulation at Perevolotjna, the country encountered a series of misfortunes. Admittedly Magnus Stenbock had defeated the Danes at Helsingborg in 1710 but later the entire Swedish army had perished in northern Germany and Denmark. To a large extent, the battles were fought on foreign soil and a great strain was being placed on manpower. As a consequence, the gender equilibrium in Sweden had become very uneven and, in addition, an outbreak of plague was ravaging the land, not least in Skåne.

To Lund from Poltava
After the defeat at Poltava, Charles XII spent five years in the Ottoman Empire. Towards the end of 1714, he travelled on horseback through parts of Europe eventually arriving at Stralsund in Germany, which was still Swedish territory. The king remained in the city for a year but his enemies, Denmark, Saxony, Prussia and Hanover, were too many and too strong. In December 1715, Charles left Stralsund and sailed across the Baltic Sea and arrived on the Scanian coast and eventually Ystad. Following an unsuccessful campaign against Norway, he came to Lund on 6 September 1716.

A host of foreigners in the king’s footsteps
In Lund, the king resided at the house of theology professor, Martin Hegardt, located at the intersection of Stora Södergatan and Svanegatan. Today, the building is part of the Cathedral School. Naturally the king did not arrive alone. At most some 550 foreigners came to the city. Most important amongst them was the Holstein Georg Heinrich von Görtz, who gained great influence over the king in terms of both economic and foreign policy. Fredrik of Hesse, who was married to Charles XII’s sister, Ulrika Eleonora, vehemently disliked Görtz. He and Görtz had fought each other over the terms of succession to the throne after Charles.

An interesting group that accompanied Charles to Lund were people who had lent money to the Swedish king and had not been repaid. Included among this group were Turks, Arabs and Jews.

Attended lectures
Charles used the time in Lund attending lectures, including those by professor of medicine Johan Jacob Döbelius. Today, Döbelius is best known for his portrait on the bottle labels of Ramlösa mineral water. With the help of Emanuel Swedenborg, Döbelius also sought to develop a new mathematical system based on the numeral 8 instead of 10. A portrait painted by David Krafft recalls the time Charles spent in Lund. Lundska Lögerdagz Courant, the first newspaper in Lund and Skåne, was also published at this time although only temporarily.

Charles XII and Lund
On June 11, 1718, Charles XII rode out of Lund never to return. The journey took him to Norway and Fredrikshald. The memory of Charles however, left a very strong impression on the city. In 1818, Esaias Tegnér, a Greek professor and poet from Lund, wrote “King Charles the young hero”, a poem that helped shape the image of the king. From the end of the 19th century until 1993, tribute parades for Charles were made from the Tegnér statue to the Cathedral School. Gradually, however, they came to be associated with elements of xenophobia. November 30 is a holiday in the Lund student world and the Charles XII spex (a student farce), remains amongst the most popular with the students. The plot of August Strindberg’s historical drama Charles XII is set mainly in Lund.

 Text: Sverker Oredsson

  Senast uppdaterad 14 October, 2022 av Ingrid André
  Publicerad 1 December, 2021 av Ingrid André