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Translated 6y 


REPRINTED .... 1912 


" To Charles the Twelfth of Sweden I owe much 
of what has stood me in best stead all my life. It 
was nearly thirty years ago, when but a boy, that 
I bought his Life for a penny in the New Cut. I 
took it home and devoured it. It made a great 
impression on me. Not his wars, but the Spartan 
heroism of his character. He inspired me with the 
idea of triumphing over physical weakness, weari 
ness and pain. To inure his body to bear all manner 
of hardships indifferently, to bathe in ice, or face 
the torrid rays of the sun, to discipline his physical 
powers by gymnastics, to despise the niceties of 
food and drink, to make his body an instrument as 
of tempered steel, and at the same time to have that 
body absolutely at the disposition of the mind, that 
seemed to me conduct worthy of a hero. And so, 
boylike, I tried to imitate him, and succeeded at 
least so far as to be happily indifferent to the circum 
stances of my personal environment." 


" Och an ar det likt det slagte som boi 

Bland Nordiska fjellar och dalar, 
Och annu pa Gud och pi Stalet det tror, 
An fadernas karnsprik det talar." 

And still as of old are the folk that abide 
Mid northerly mountain and valley ; 

In God and their weapons they ever confide, 
To voice of their fathers they rally. 


THE " Life of Charles XII " that Mr. John Burns 
once bought for a penny in the New Cut an inci 
dent in itself historical if one looks at it in the right 
wa y W as, he writes to say, an English version of 
Voltaire s book. The " Histoire de Charles XII, 
Roi de Suede," was first published at Rouen in 
1731, first freely translated into English by Alex 
ander Henderson in 1734, and soon afterwards 
reduced into a chap-book, which made the King 
a proverbial hero in English fairs and market 
places. There have been other translations since 
Henderson s, and it is now retranslated by Miss 
Todhunter with a closer correspondence than his 
to Voltaire s original. 

The book may claim a particular right to an 
English hearing, apart from the main interest of 
its subject. It was in England that the life of 
Charles XII was written by Voltaire, when he 
was on a visit of exigency there after the Rohan 
escapade and his second Bastille imprisonment. 
The effect of this stay in England was that of a 
determining event in his career. " Voltairism," 
writes Mr. John Morley, " may be said to have 
begun from the flight of its founder from Paris to 
London. This, to borrow a name from the most 
memorable instance of outward change marking 
inward revolution, was the decisive hegira, from 
which the philosophy of destruction in a formal 
shape may be held seriously to date." We may 
supplement this passage from the criticism of a 
ix A 2 

x Introduction 

French critic of another school, who says, " Eng 
land at this time was worked by a spirit of dog 
matic irreligion which based itself on a false 
erudition, a bold criticism and an insidious meta- 
physic. It was the time of Woolston, of Toland, 
of Tindal, of Chubb, of Collins, of Bolingbroke. 
Until then, an insouciant disciple and imitator of 
the epicureans of the Temple and the rous of the 
Regency, Voltaire had only ventured on impiety by 
sallies; dogmas and mysteries had so far only 
Inspired him with bon mots. In the school of the 
English philosophers he learnt to reason out his 

Voltaire had had time by this to mend his youth 
and find his intellectual stature. Born in 1694, he 
was now a man approaching thirty-three. He had 
written plays, for his love for the theatre, as it 
lasted late in him, began early; he had completed 
his epic, " la Henriade "; he had used his wit irre 
sponsibly, and, thanks to it, had twice been in the 
Bastille. In England he learnt, if one may say so, 
to take his wit seriously, that is, to realize it as a 
decisive weapon in his inevitable revolt and warfare. 
Similarly he was to use some of his other faculties 
in their most adroit perfection. If in the " Henri 
ade " the epic method had failed him, considered 
by the side of other poems as ambitious and as 
long, he was able to sit down on his return from 
his English exile and complete this rapid piece of 
biography, in effect a short prose epic, which 
shows us the narrative art used by a consummate 
master in that art. 

More than this we need not claim for him. If we 
admit Carlyle s stigma of " persifleur " as apply 
ing to his first period, we need not go on to write 
him down now philosopher, by way of compensa 
tion, because he had studied for a brief period under 

Introduction xi 

certain notorious English philosophers. He was 
neither a persifleur nor a philosopher : he was a 
militant scribe and hyper-critic with a master bias, 
anti-religious or anti-Catholic, and an inimitable 
gift of expression. We see his gift in a very lumin 
ous special form in his " Charles XII," which 
luckily need offend no man s susceptibilities. 

We do not know whether that extraordinarily 
long indicative nose of his was at this time as 
telling a sign of his character, backed by his keen 
twinkling black eyes, as it became later? The two 
best pen-portraits of Voltaire we have belong to a 
later day than 1728, when " Charles XII " was 
written. The first takes us to the year when his 
" S^miramis " was produced, when he appears in 
a strange disguise among the casual nightly appari 
tions of the Cafe de Procope. 

" M. de Voltaire, who always loved to correct his 
works, and perfect them, became desirous to learn, 
more specially and at first hand, what good or ill 
the public were saying of his Tragedy; and it 
appeared to him that he could nowhere learn it 
better than in the Cafe de Procope, which was also 
called the Antre (Cavern) de Procope, because it 
was very dark even in full day, and ill-lighted in 
the evenings ; and because you often saw there a 
set of lank, sallow poets, who had somewhat the 
air of apparitions. In this cafe, which fronts the 
Com^die Franchise, had been held, for more than 
sixty years, the tribunal of those self-called 
Aristarchs, who fancied they could pass sentence 
without appeal, on plays, authors and actors. M. de 
Voltaire wished to compear there, but in disguise 
and altogether incognito. It was on coming out 
from the playhouse that the judges usually pro 
ceeded thither, to open what they called their great 
sessions. On the second night of * Se"miramis 


xii Introduction 

he borrowed a clergyman s clothes; dressed himself 
in cassock and long cloak ; black stockings, girdle, 
bands, breviary itself; nothing was forgotten. He 
clapt on a large peruke, unpowdered, very ill 
combed, which covered more than the half of his 
cheeks, and left nothing to be seen but the end of 
a long nose. The peruke was surmounted by a 
large three-cornered hat, corners half bruised-in. 
In this equipment, then, the author of * Se"mi- 
ramis proceeded on foot to the Cafe" de Procope, 
where he squatted himself in a corner; and waiting 
for the end of the play, called for a bavaroise, a 
small roll of bread, and the Gazette. It was not 
long till those familiars of the Parterre and tenants 
of the cafe" stept in. They instantly began discuss 
ing the new Tragedy. Its partisans and its adver 
saries pleaded their cause with warmth; each 
giving his reasons. Impartial persons also spoke 
their sentiment; and repeated some fine verses of 
the piece. During all this time, M. de Voltaire, 
with spectacles on nose, head stooping over the 
Gazette which he pretended to be reading, was 
listening to the debate; profiting by reasonable 
observations, suffering much to hear very absurd 
ones and not answer them, which irritated him. 
Thus, during an hour and a half, had he the courage 
and patience to hear * Se"miramis talked of and 
babbled of, without speaking a word. At last, all 
these pretended judges of the fame of authors 
having gone their ways, without converting one 
another, M. de Voltaire also went off; took a coach 
in the Rue Mazarine, and returned home about 
eleven o clock. Though I knew of his disguise, I 
confess I was struck and almost frightened to see 
him accoutred so. I took him for a spectre, or shade 
of Ninus, that was appearing to me; or, at least, 

Introduction xiii 

for one of those ancient Irish debaters, arrived at 
the end of their career, after wearing themselves 
out in school-syllogisms. I helped him to doff all 
that apparatus, which I carried next morning to its 
true owner a Doctor of the Sorbonne." 

Another cartoon, still better known, is that of the 
familiar scene of his apotheosis at the Com^die 
Franchise. A briefer sketch of that same year of 
his death, 1778, may be given, because it contrasts 
with his sharp sketch of Charles XII at Adria- 
nople, carried on a sofa from his carriage, when, 
to avoid been seen, the King covered his face with 
a cushion 

" M. de Voltaire appeared in full dress on Tues 
day, for the first time since his arrival in Paris. He 
had on a red coat lined with ermine ; a large peruke, 
in the fashion of Louis XIV, black, unpowdered ; 
and in which his withered visage was so buried 
that you saw only his two eyes shining like car 
buncles. His head was surmounted by a square 
red cap in the form of a crown, which seemed only 
laid on. He had in his hand a small nibbed cane ; 
and the public of Paris, not accustomed to see him 
in this accoutrement, laug hed a good deal." 

One interesting point about Voltaire s English 
associations, in so far as they prepare the way for 
the writing of his " Charles XII," has not hitherto 
been pointed out. It is this : that a history of the 
" Wars of Sweden," written by no less a hand than 
Defoe s, was in existence when Voltaire was study 
ing English literature in London. The work, or 
at any rate its first part, was anonymously pub 
lished, like Voltaire s, in 1715; a continuation was 
added, and the two parts were then issued together 
in 1720. Between these two dates, let us note, or 
in 1719, " Robinson Crusoe " had appeared. 

xiv Introduction 

Defoe s career has some incidents of prison and 
persecution that are like enough to Voltaire s to 
warrant a fanciful apposition of the two rebel 
authors. He was in severe straits when he wrote 
the first part of his Wars of Charles XII ; deeply 
involved in political intrigues. He had had, too, a 
severe illness a violent fit of apoplexy at the end 
of the previous year ; and his trial for libelling Lord 
Annesley in the whig " Flying Post " was impend 
ing. His sentence, and curious escape from being 
imprisoned, and his " Hymn to the Mob," have at 
best a remote bearing on the present book. But one 
notes these ironical lines to the Mob as having an 
added irony, when read in the light of his " Charles 
XII " and Voltaire s interest in his writings 

" Thou art the Essence of the War ; 

Without thee who wou d in the Field appear? 

Tis all thy own, whoever gets the Praise 

Thy Hands that fight, and tis thy purse that pays. 

How partial is the common state of things, 

And how unjust the Fame of Emperors and Kings ! " 

Defoe s " History of the Wars " is written as 
" by a Scots gentleman in the Swedish service." 
It is a more documentary book than Voltaire s, to 
all outward appearance ; and in it he has written 
with characteristic fidelity to the make-believe of his 
literary double the pseudo " Scots gentleman." It 
has much the air of the off-hand, matter-of-fact 
military narrator, who does not look for rhetorical 
openings, or greatly trouble himself to make the 
most of his subject. 

In his preface he says of Charles XII : " He has 
done Actions that Posterity will have room to Fable 
upon, till they make his History Incredible, and 
turn it into Romance." The romance is already 
in process in Defoe s pages. The following passage 

Introduction xv 

in the text may be quoted to give an idea of his 
Scots gentleman s estimate of the King 

" And such as these were his Discourses to us, 
who were his Servants, which so effectually con- 
vinc d us, that his Cause was just, and his Founda 
tions right, that however black the Prospect was, 
which we had before us; for we could see nothing 
attending us in the Process of the War, but Death, 
or being made Prisoners of War, which among 
Northern Princes especially, is but one Degree less 
in its Nature to a Soldier; and yet it must be said, 
in Honour of his Sivedish Majesty s Service, and of 
his Servants too; that not an Officer of Note 
deserted him to the Day of his Death, or quitted his 
Service, tho always unfortunate; nay, even the 
foreign Officers did not desert him ; for we all 
thought, so much Virtue, such personal Bravery, 
such gallant Principles, such immoveable Steadi 
ness, could not fail, but one Time or other must 
necessarily have a Turn of Fortune in the World, 
must some Time or other find Friends to support 
it : For who could . imagine, that so gallant a 
Prince should at once be abandon d of all the 
Princes of the Earth, from whom any Assistance 
could be expected; and that he, whose Ancestors 
had been the Refuge and Sanctuary of all the Pro 
testant Powers and Princes in Germany, in their 
Distress, should at last receive Help from none of 
the Successors of those very Princes, who were 
establish d by the Blood and Power of Sweden; nay, 
to apply it nearer, should at last be driven out of his 
Possessions by those very Powers, whose Ancestors 
ow d the Being of their Government, to the Gal 
lantry and Friendship of the King of Sweden s 

Other extracts might be made which would show 
that Defoe was writing at his utmost stretch of 

xvi Introduction 

speed when he wrote the " History." This, too, 
is proved by the occasional gaps, dates left blank, 
and uncorrected errors of fact, or of the press. 

Voltaire s book, on the other hand, though it 
repeats some of Defoe s errors, is an admirably 
adroit, and a well-poised and considered biography : 
one of the best biographies of great soldiers ever 
given to the world. We may conclude, if we will, 
that Voltaire s English experiences in the decisive 
years of the writing of the book, which un 
doubtedly gave a new force and impulse to his 
genius, helped him also to his particular mastery 
in this vein. His tribute to England in his " Lettres 
Philosophiques sur les Anglais " is an indirect 
testimony to his intellectual expatriation ; and with 
these two books and his tragedy, "Zaire," which 
followed in 1732, Voltaire may be said to have 
attained his brilliant majority. 

The students of history who wish to collate Vol 
taire s book with later authorities may be recom 
mended to turn to Mr. Nisbet Bain s volume on 
Charles XII, in the " Heroes of the Nations " 
series, Mr. Oscar Browning s monograph, and 
Schuyler s " History of Peter the Great." 

E. R. 

The following are the works of Voltaire 

Dramatic Works: (Edipe. 1718; Artemire, 1720: 
Mariamne, 1724; Zaire, 1732; Samson (opera), 1732; 
L Enfant Prodigue, 1736 ; Mahomet, ou le Fanatisme, 
1742; Merope, 1743 5 Semiramis, 1748; Nanine, 1749; 
Oreste, 1750; L Orpheline de la Chine, 1755; Tancrede, 
1760; L Ecossaise, 1760; Le Depositaire, 1772; Irene, 
1778; Agathocles, 1779 (performed on the anniversary ot 
the poet s death). Other dramas and operas. 

Poems: La Bastille, 1717; La Henriade (fraudulently 
published as La Ligue, 1723-4) 1728; Mort de Mile. 
Lecouvreur, 1730 ; Temple du Goto, 1733 (prose and verse) ; 

Bibliography xvii 

Le Mondain, 1736; Discours sur 1 homme (fipitres sur le 
Bonheur, 1738-9); Sur les Evenements de 1744; Fontenoi, 
1745 ; Temple de la Gloire, 1745 ; La Pucelle d Orle ans, 
1755 (some of the "Chants" had been in circulation since 
1735), in twenty Chants, 1762 ; a supplemental one, " La 
Capilotade," appeared separately in 1760 ; Sur le desastre de 
Lisbonne, 1756 ; Sur la Loi Naturelle, 1756; La Vanite, Le 
Pauvre Diable, Le Russe a Paris, 1760 ; Contes de Guillaume 
Vade (with prose, 1764) ; La Guerre Civile de Geneve 
(burlesque poem), 1768 ; Les Trois Empereurs en Sorbonne, 
1768; Epitre a Borleau, 1769; Les Systemes, Les Cabales, 
1772 ; La Tactique, 1773 ; and others. 

Prose Tales : Le Monde comme il va (or Babouc), 1746 ; 
Zadig, 1748 (published in 1747 as " Memnon, Histoire 
Orientelle") ; Memnon, ou la Sagesse Humaine, 1749; 
Micromegas, 1750; L Histoire d un Bon Bramin, 1759; 
Candide, 1759; Le Blanc et Le Nmr, 1764; Jeannot et 
Colin, 1764; L HommeauxQuaranteEcus, 1767 ; L Ingenu, 
1767 ; La Princesse de Babylone 1768 ; Histoire de Jenny, 
1769: Lettres d Amabed, 1769; Le Taureau Blanc, 1774; 
Les Oreilles du Comte de Chesterfield, 1774 ; and others. 

Historical Works : Histoire de Charles XII, 1731 ; Siecle 
de Louis XIV, 1751 ; enlarged edition 1753 (two chapters 
had been printed and suppressed in 1739) j Abrege de 
1 Histoire Universelle, vols. i and ii, 1753; vol. iii, 1754; 
complete edition, 1756 (fragments had appeared in 1745) ; 
Annales de 1 Empire, 1753 ; Precis du Siecle de Louis XV, 
published in part 1755 an ^ T 763> with additional chapters, 
1769; Essai sur 1 Histoire Generale et sur les Mceurs et 
1 Esprit des Nations depuis Charlemagne jusqu a nos jours, 
five vols, 1756, given in vol. vii of Siecle de Louis XIV 
(some chapters had appeared in the " Mercure " in 1745-6) ; 
Histoire de Russie sous Pierre le Grand : first part, 1759 ; 
second part, 1763 ; La Philosophic de 1 Histoire, 1765 (later 
the " Discours preliminaire " to "Essai sur les Mceurs"); 
La Defense de mon Oncle (in reply to an adverse criticism 
on the above work), 1767 ; Le Pyrrhonism de 1 Histoire, 
1768; Fragments sur 1 Histoire Generale (Pyrrhonism and 
Tolerance), 1773. 

Works on Philosophy and Religion : Epitre philosophique 
a Uranie, 1732 ; Lettres sur les Anglaises (twenty-four letters), 
I 733> / !734 (also published as ".Lettres Philosophiques") ; 
Traite de Metaphysique, 1734; Elements de la Philosophic 
de Newton, 1738; Metaphysique de Newton, 1740 ; Articles 
for the Encyclopedic, 1757 ; Dictionnaire Philosophique 
Portatif, 1764 ; Catechisme de 1 Honnete Homme, 1763 ; Le 

xviii Bibliography 

Philosophe Ignorant, 1766; La Raison par Alphabet (new 
edition of the Dictionnaire Philosophique), 1769 ; Lettres de 
Memmius, 1771 ; Questions sur 1 Encyclopedic par des 
Amateurs, 1770-2 ; Lettres Chinoises, Indiennes, et Tartares 
par un Benedictin, 1776 ; Memoires pour servir a la vie de 
M. Voltaire (printed 1784) ; and others. 

Critical Works : Essai sur la Poesie, 1726 ; Utile Examen 
des Epitresde J. J. Rousseau, 1736 ; Lettres sur la " Nouvelle 
Heloise," 1761 ; Appel a toutes les Nations de 1 Europe des 

"!..- :n*-tto jrl im A/-**-i troi-r\ Ar^rrloic- /1of*vr Irroii7 o c ** Pin r TVl^afr/ 

Republi . ... 

Corneille (with translation of Shakespeare s "Julius Caesar "), 
1764; Examen Important de Milord Bolingbroke, 1767; 
Commentaire Histprique sur les QEuvres de 1 auteur de la 
Henriade, 1776; Eloge et Pensees de Pascal (corrected and 
enlarged edition), 1776; Commentaire sur 1 Esprit des Lob 
de Montesquieu, 1777 ; and others. 

Miscellaneous Writings: Epitres aux Manes de Genon- 
ville, 1729; fipitre des Vous et des Tu, 1732; Sur la 
Calomnie, 1733; Anecdotes sur Pierre le Grand, 1748: 
Mensonges Imprimes (on Richelieu s Will)), 1749; Des 
Embellissements de Paris, 1750 ; Remerciement sincere a 
un Homme Charitable, 1750; Diatribe du Doctor Akakia, 
1752; Les Quand, 1760; Writings for the rehabilitation 
of Jean Galas, who had been unjustly executed, 1762 ; 
Traite sur la Tolerance a 1 occasion de la Mort de 
Jean Galas, 1763 ; Le Sentiment des Citoyens (attack on 
Rousseau), 1764; Discours aux Welches, 1764; Les Anciens 
et les Modernes, ou la Toilette de Mme. de Pompadour, 

1765 ; Commentaires sur le livre des delits et des peines. 

1766 ; Le Cri des Nations (against Papal domination), 1769 ; 
De la Paix Perpetuelle (on fanaticism and tolerance), 1769; 
La Meprise d Arras (on another judicial mistake), 1771 ; 
Eloge de Louis XV; de la Mort de Louis XV et de la 
Fatal ite, 1774 ; and other works. 

Editions of Voltaire s works include a few works on 
physics and an enormous correspondence. 

Chief General Editions of Works: Ed. Beaumarchais, 
etc., 70 vols. 8, 1784; 92 vols. 12, 1785-90; Beuchot, 70 
vols., 1828, etc. ; Ed. du Siecle, 8 vols., 1867-70; Molancl, 
50 vols., 1877-83; with "Table Generate et Analytique," 
by Charles Pierrot, 1885 ; Selections have been published, 
and separate volumes of letters. 

Bibliography : G. Bengesco, 1882-90. 

Life, etc. : Condorcet, 1787 ; G. Desnoireterres, "Voltaire 

Bibliography xix 

et la Societe Francaise au XVIII me Siecle," 1871-76 ; Long- 
champ et Wagniere, " Memoires sur Voltaire, et ses ouvrages," 
1825 ; Bersot, Etudes sur leXVIII me Siecle, 1855 ; A. Pier- 
ron, "Voltaire et ses Maitres," 1866; Maynard, "Voltaire; 
sa vie et ses oeuvres," 1867 ; D. F. Strauss, 1870 ; J. Morley. 
1872, 1886 ; James Fasten, 2vols., 1881 ; G. Maugras, " Vol- 
taire et Jean Jacques Rousseau," 1886 ; E. Faguet, 1895 5 
E. Champion, " Voltaire : Etudes Critiques," 1897 ; L. 
Cronsle, 1899 ; G. Lanson, 1907 ; and in Sainte-Beuve, 
"Causeries du Lundi," vol. ii; Brunetiere, "Etudes 
Critiques," vols. i, iii, iv. 


" CHARLES XII " was written during the years 
1727 and 1728. It is more than 170 years since it 
was first translated into English. Opinions of its 
merits differ widely. Macaulay, classing it with 
Boswell s " Johnson " and Marmontel s " Mm- 
oires," says that it " may be perused with delight 
by the most frivolous and the most indifferent." 
Carlyle goes even further: " Charles XII, " he 
writes, " may still pass for a model in that oft- 
attempted species of biography; the clearest details 
are given in the fewest words; we have sketches 
of strange men and strange countries, of wars, 
adventures, negotiations, in a style which for 
graphic brevity rivals Sallust. It is a line engrav 
ing on a reduced scale of that Swede and his mad 
life, without colours, yet not without the fore- 
shortenings and perspectives of a true picture. In 
respect of composition, whatever may be said of its 
accuracy and worth otherwise, we cannot but reckon 
it as greatly the best of Voltaire s histories." 

Adverse criticism, on the other hand, began as 
early as 1732, when La Mottraye, who had lived on 
terms of intimacy with the King, wrote a scathing 
criticism of Voltaire s work. Voltaire succeeded 
in making a laughing-stock of this gentleman, but 
the publication of the works of Nordberg, the 
King s chaplain, and of Adlerfelt, his chamberlain, 
shortly afterwards, did bring discredit on some of 
Voltaire s details. Of the modern school of critics, 

xxii Translator s Note 

Mr. Nisbet Bain, who has made a special study 
of original authorities, does not hesitate to call the 
book a " romance." 

Underlying this difference of opinion is the time- 
honoured question of the " scientific " as opposed 
to the " epical " treatment of the lives of the great. 
The history of any great man s career is a kind of 
epic poem, and, to borrow Mr. Bin-ell s words, " I 
do not see why we children of a larger growth 
may not be interested in the annals of mankind 
simply as a story." 

It must, indeed, be admitted that Voltaire is no 
precise or scientific historian ; but, in the portrayal 
of the life of a man of action, rapidity and charm 
of style is surely as important as the careful tracing 
of cause and effect. 

Voltaire s literary style is famous; but work of 
high literary merit always suffers in translation ; 
so that any roughness in the present rendering must 
be attributed to the translator and not to the author. 

" Ett vet jag som airing- dor 
Det ar dom ofver dod man." 

One thing- I know that never dies 
The verdict passed upon the dead. 

" The history of Sweden is the history of her 
kings," and of those kings the most striking is 
undoubtedly Charles XII, the Lion of the North. 
One of the few heroic figures in a prosaic age, he 
seems to belong rather to the times of Alfred the 
Great and Charlemagne than to those of Riche 
lieu and Louis XIII. He has well been called 
" the last of the Vikings," for the extraordinary 
nature of his adventures no less than his dauntless- 
ness and endurance make him a kind of Saga-hero. 

Translator s Note xxiii 

The stories told of his childhood show the begin 
nings of those Spartan powers of enduring hard 
ship which made him the idol of his " brave blue 
boys " in later life. 

It is said that at the age of six he almost killed 
himself by leaving his bed in a Swedish mid-winter 
to " harden himself " by sleeping on the bare 
boards. The obstinacy which was the most marked 
characteristic of his boyhood developed in after 
years into the resolution with which as a mere 
youth he faced the treachery of his neighbours. 
" I am resolved," he said in his first speech to his 
Parliament, " never to begin an unrighteous war, 
but I am also resolved never to finish a righteous 
war until I have completely humbled my enemies." 

In all matters of convention he was " in his 
simplicity sublime." He cared nothing for the pomp 
of sovereignty, and always wore a soldier s plain 
buff coat; he took his meals standing, spreading 
the bread and butter, which was his usual fare, 
with his thumbs. His letters to his sister (whom 
he addresses as " mon cceur ") are full of real 
affection, and a glance at them dispels the popular 
illusion that he was cold and heartless, just because 
he could resist the blandishments of Anna von 
Konigsm arck ! 

Apart from occasional lapses into the fatalism 
characteristic of his race, he seems to have been 
devout. Shortly after his accession he ordered the 
titles " Our Most Gracious Majesty " to be removed 
from the liturgy, on the ground that " Almighty 
God is not appeased by high-sounding titles but 
by the prayers of humble and faithful hearts." 

He was the last to lose heart in adversity; he 
lost his Empire with as good a grace as he won it. 
* It is only requisite," he wrote after Pultawa, 

xxiv Translator s Note 

where all was lost but honour, " not to lose courage, 
or let go the conduct of affairs." 

His early death was a disaster not only for 
Sweden but for the whole of Europe, for he was 
the first to realize and check the growing power 
of Russia. 




Outline of Swedish history up to the time of Charles XI 
Charles s education His enemies Character- 
sketch of the Czar, Peter Alexiowitz His peculiar 
ities Alliance of Russia, Poland, Denmark against 
Charles XII. 

THE kingdom which is made up of Sweden 
and Finland is, according to our measurement, 
about 200 leagues broad and 300 long, and 
stretches from south to north as far as the 
55th degree or thereabouts. The climate is 
severe; there is scarcely any spring or autumn, 
but there are nine months of winter in the year, 
and the heat of summer follows hard upon 
the excessive cold of winter. Frost from the 
month of October onwards is continuous, nor 
are there any of those imperceptible grada 
tions between the seasons which, in other 
countries, render changes less trying. In com 
pensation Nature has endowed the Swedes with 
clear sky and pure air. The summer sunshine, 
which is almost continuous, ripens fruit and 
flowers very rapidly. The long winter nights 
are shortened by the twilight evenings and 

4 History of Charles XII 

dawns, which last in proportion to the sun s 
distance from Sweden ; and the light of the 
moon, unveiled by any clouds, and intensified 
by reflection from the snow-clad ground, and 
often, too, by lights like the Aurora Borealis, 
makes travelling in Sweden as easy by night 
as by day. 

The fauna are smaller than in the more 
central parts of Europe, on account of the poor 
pastures. The people are well developed ; the 
purity of the air makes them healthy, and the 
severity of the climate hardens them. They ) 
live to a good old age when they do not under- I 
mine their constitutions by the abuse of strong 
drink, which Northern nations seem to crave 
the more because they have been denied them 
by Nature. 

The Swedes are well built, strong and active, 
and capable of undergoing the most arduous 
labours, hunger and want; they are born 
fighters, high spirited and daring rather than 
industrious. They have long neglected com 
merce and are still poor business men, though 
commerce alone can supply their country s 

Tradition says that it was chiefly from 
Sweden (a part of which is still called Goth 
land) that there poured those hordes of Goths 
who overran Europe and wrested it from the 
sway of Rome, who for the past 500 years 
had played the role of tyrant, usurper and law 
giver in that country. The Northern countries 

History of Charles XII 5 

were at that time far more populous than they 
are to-day ; there was no religious restraint 
preventing the citizens from polygamy; the 
only reproach known to the womenfolk was 
that of sterility or of idleness, and as they 
were both as industrious and as strong as the 
men, the period of maternity was of longer 

In spite of this, Sweden, together with what 
remains to it of Finland, has not above 4,000,000 
inhabitants. The soil is sterile and poor, and 
Scania is the only district which produces 
barley. There is not more than four millions 
current money in the whole land. The public 
bank, the oldest in Europe, was established to 
meet a want, because, as payments are made 
in brass and iron coin, difficulties of transport 

Sweden enjoyed freedom until the middle of 
the fourteenth century ; during this long period 
several revolutions occurred, but all innovations 
were in the direction of liberty. 

The chief magistrate had the title King, 
which in different countries involves very differ 
ent degrees of power. Thus in France and 
Spain it implies an absolute monarchy, while 
in Poland, Sweden and Finland it stands for a 
representative or limited monarchy. In Sweden 
the King was powerless without the Council, 
and the Council in turn derived its powers from 
the Parliament, which was frequently convened. 
In these great Assemblies the nation was repre- 

6 History of Charles XII 

sented by the nobility, the bishops, and deputies 
from the towns. In course of time even the 
peasantry, that section of the community which 
had been unjustly despised and enslaved 
throughout almost the whole of North Europe, 
was admitted to the Parliament. 

In about 1492 this nation, essentially liberty- 
loving, and never forgetful of the fact that she 
had conquered Rome thirteen centuries before, 
was brought into subjection by a woman and 
a nation weaker than the Swedes. Margaret 
of Valdemar, the Semiramis of the North, 
Queen of Denmark and Norway, conquered 
Sweden partly by force of arms and partly by 
means of diplomacy, and united her vast 
estates into one kingdom. 

After her death Sweden was rent by civil 
war; she alternately shook off and submitted 
to the Danish yoke, and was ruled by kings 
and ministers alternately. In about 1520 she 
passed through a period of cruel oppression 
at the hands of two tyrants : one was Christian 
II, King of Denmark, a monarch with all the 
vices, and no one redeeming feature ; the other, 
Archbishop of Upsala, and Primate of the king 
dom, was as cruel as the former. One day 
these two, acting in concert, had the consuls, 
the magistrates of Stockholm and ninety-four 
senators seized and massacred by the execu 
tioners, on the ground that they had been ex 
communicated by the Pope for having defended 
the State against the Archbishop. Whilst these 

History of Charles XII 7 

two men, united in oppression, but opposed 
when it was a question of dividing the spoil, 
were exercising the utmost tyranny and the 
cruelest vengeance, a new event changed the 
whole aspect of affairs in the North. 

Gustavus Vasa, a youth descended from the 
old line of kings, issued from the depths of 
the forest of Delecarlia, where he had been in 
hiding, and appeared as the deliverer of 
Sweden. He was one of those rare products 
of Nature, a great genius with all the qualities 
of a commander of men. His noble stature 
and an air of distinction brought him adherents 
the moment he appeared. His eloquence, re 
inforced by his good looks, was all the more 
persuasive because it was unassumed. His 
genius led to the conception of great under 
takings, which ordinary people deemed fool 
hardy, but which, in the eyes of the great, 
were simply brave. His never-failing courage 
carried him through all difficulties. He com 
bined valour with discretion, was essentially 
gentle in an age of savagery, and had a reputa 
tion for uprightness, as far as that is possible 
for a party leader. 

Gustavus Vasa had been a hostage of Chris 
tian, and kept prisoner contrary to the laws of 
nations. Having escaped from prison he had 
wandered, disguised as a peasant, in the moun 
tains and woods of Delecarlia; there, to pro 
vide himself both with a livelihood and with 
a hiding-place, he found himself forced to work 

8 History of Charles XII 

in the copper-mines. While buried in these 
vaults he dared to form the project of de 
throning the tyrant. He revealed himself to 
the peasants, and impressed them as a man of 
extraordinary gifts, whom ordinary men in 
stinctively obey. In a short time he turned 
these barbarians into veterans. He attacked 
Christian and the Archbishop, gained several 
victories over them, and drove them both from 
Sweden. Then the States duly elected him 
King of the country which he had liberated. 

Scarcely was he firmly seated on the throne 
before he embarked on an enterprise of greater 
difficulty than his conquests. The real tyrants 
of the State were the bishops, who, possessing 
nearly all the wealth of Sweden, employed it 
to oppress the people and to make war on the 
kings. This power was all the more terrible be 
cause, in their ignorance, the people regarded 
it as sacred. Gustavus punished the Catholic 
Church for the crimes of her priests. In less 
than two years he introduced Lutheranism into 
Sweden, using as a means diplomacy rather 
than force. Having thus, as he put it, wrested 
the kingdom from the Danes and the clergy, 
he reigned in prosperity and absolutism, and 
died at the age of seventy, leaving his dynasty 
securely seated on the throne, and his form of 
faith firmly established. 

One of his descendants was that Gustavus 
Adolphus who is called the Great. This king 
conquered Livonia, Ingria, Bremen, Verden, 

History of Charles XII 9 

Vismar, Pomerania, besides more than a hun 
dred towns in Germany, given up by Sweden 
after his death. He shook the throne of Fer 
dinand II, and protected the Lutherans in 
Germany, his efforts in that direction being 
furthered by the intrigues of Rome herself, 
who stood more in awe of the power of the 
Emperor than of heresy itself. He it was 
who, by his victories, contributed to the down 
fall of the House of Austria, an undertaking 
accredited to Cardinal Richelieu, who was past 
master in the art of gaining a reputation for 
himself, while Gustavus contented himself with 
great deeds. He was on the point of carrying 
war across the Danube, with the possibility of 
dethroning the Emperor, when, at the age of 
thirty-seven, he was killed in the battle of 
Liitzen, where he defeated Valstein. He carried 
with him to the grave the title of " Great," 
the regrets of the North, and the esteem of his 

His daughter Christine, an extremely gifted 
woman, preferred disputations with savants to 
the government of a people whose knowledge 
was confined to the art of war. 

She won as great a reputation for resigning 
the throne as her ancestors had gained in 
winning and securing it. The Protestants have 
defamed her, as if Lutherans have the mono 
poly of all the virtues ; and the Papists exulted 
too much in the conversion of a woman who 
was a mere philosopher. She retired to Rome, 

io History of Charles XII 

where she passed the rest of her life surrounded 
by the arts which she loved, and for the sake 
of which she had renounced an empire at the 
age of twenty-seven. After her abdication she 
induced the States of Sweden to elect as her 
successor her cousin Charles Gustavus, the 
tenth of that name, son of the Count Palatinate, 
Duke of Deux Fonts. This king added new 
conquests to those of Gustavus Adolphus. 
First he invaded Poland, where he gained the 
celebrated three days battle of Warsaw; for 
some time he waged war successfully against 
the Danes, besieged their capital, re-united 
Scania to Sweden, and secured the tenure of 
Sleswick to the Duke of Holstein. Then, hav 
ing met with reverses, and made peace with his 
enemies, his ambition turned against his own 

He conceived the idea of establishing absolut 
ism in Sweden, but, like Gustavus the Great, 
died at the age of thirty-seven, before having 
achieved the establishment of that despotism 
which his son, Charles XI, completed. The 
latter, a warrior, like all his ancestors, was 
more absolute than them all. He abolished 
the authority of the Senate, which was declared 
to be a royal and not a national assembly. He 
was economical, vigilant, and hard-working 
in fact, such a king as would have been popular 
had not fear dominated all other sentiments 
in the hearts of his subjects. He married, in 
1680, Ulrica Eleanora, daughter of Ferdinand, 

History of Charles XII n 

King of Denmark, a virtuous princess worthy 
of more confidence than her husband gave her ; 
the offspring of this marriage was Charles 
XII, perhaps the most extraordinary man ever 
born a hero who summed up in his person 
ality all the great qualities of his ancestors, 
and whose only fault and only misfortune was 
that he carried them all to excess. It is of 
him, and all that is related of his actions and 
person, that we now purpose writing. 

The first book they gave him to read was 
Samuel Puffendorf, in order that he might 
become early acquainted with his own and 
neighbouring States. He then learned German, 
which he henceforward spoke as fluently as his 
mother tongue. At seven years old he could 
manage a horse. Violent exercise, in which 
he delighted and which revealed his martial 
inclinations, early laid the foundation of a 
strong constitution equal to the privations to 
which his disposition prompted him. 

Though gentle enough in early childhood he 
was unconquerably obstinate ; the only way to 
manage him was to appeal to his honour he 
could be induced to do anything in the name 
of honour. He had an aversion to Latin, but 
when he was told that the Kings of Poland 
and Denmark understood it, he learned it 
quickly, and for the rest of his days remem 
bered enough to speak it. Recourse was had 
to the same means to induce him to learn 
French, but he was so obstinately determined 

12 History of Charles XII 

against it that he could not be prevailed upon 
to use it even with French ambassadors who 
knew no other language. As soon as he had 
some knowledge of Latin they made him trans 
late Quintus Curtius; he took a liking to the 
book rather for the subject than the style. The 
tutor who explained this author to him asked 
him what he thought of Alexander. " I think," 
said the Prince, " that I would like to be like 
him." "But," was the answer, "he only 
lived thirty-two years." "Ah!" replied the 
Prince, " and is not that long enough when 
one has subdued kingdoms?" These answers 
were reported to the King his father, who 
exclaimed, "That child will excel me and he 
will even excel Gustavus the Great." 

One day he was amusing himself in the 
King s room by looking over some geographical 
plans, one of a town in Hungary taken by the 
Turks from the Emperor, and the other of 
Riga, capital of Livonia, a province conquered 
by the Swedes a century earlier. At the foot 
of the map of the Hungarian town was this 
quotation from the Book of Job, "The Lord 
gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed 
be the name of the Lord." The young Prince 
read these words, then took a pencil and wrote 
beneath the map of Riga, " The Lord gave 
thee to me, and the devil shall not take thee 
from me." Thus, in the most insignificant 
acts of his childhood, his resolute disposition 
revealed traits characteristic of greatness, 
showing what he was one day to be. 

History of Charles XII 13 

He was eleven years old when he lost his 
mother; she died from an illness brought on 
by the anxiety caused her by her husband and 
by her own efforts to conceal it. By means 
of a kind of court called the Chamber of 
Liquidation, Charles XI had robbed many of 
his subjects of their property. A crowd of 
citizens ruined by this court merchants, 
farmers, widows and orphans filled the streets 
of Stockholm, and daily poured forth their 
useless lamentations at the gate of the Palace. 
The Queen gave all her substance to help these 
poor wretches : her money, jewels, furniture 
and even her clothes. When she had nothing 
left to give them she threw herself weeping at 
her husband s feet, praying him to have com 
passion on his subjects. The King answered 
sternly, " Madam, we have taken you that you 
may give us children, not advice." Hencefor 
ward he is reported to have treated her with 
such severity that he shortened her life. He 
died four years after her, in the fifty-second 
year of his age and the thirty-seventh of his 
reign, just as the Empire, Spain and Holland 
on the one hand, and France on the other, had 
referred the decision of their quarrels to his 
arbitration, and when he had already begun the 
work of peace-making between these powers. 

To his son of fifteen he left a kingdom 
secure at home and respected abroad. His 
subjects were poor, but brave and loyal ; the 
treasury in good order and managed by able 
ministers. Charles XII, on his accession, not 

14 History of Charles XII 

only found himself absolute and undisturbed 
master of Sweden and Finland, but also of 
Livonia, Carelia and Ingria; he possessed 
Wismar, Vibourg, the Isles of Riigen, Oesel, 
and the most beautiful part of Pomerania and 
the Duchy of Bremen and Verden, all con 
quests of his ancestors, assured to the crown 
by long tenure and by the solemn treaties of 
Munster and Oliva, strengthened by the 
prestige of Swedish arms. The peace of 
Ryswick, begun under the auspices of the 
father, was completed by the son; who was 
thus arbiter of Europe from the beginning of 
his reign. 

Swedish law fixes the age of the King s 
majority at fifteen years; but Charles XI, who 
exercised absolute power in all points, deferred 
that of his son, by will, to the age of eighteen. 
By this will he favoured the ambitious views 
of his mother, Edwiga Eleanora of Holstein, 
widow of Charles X. 

This Princess was nominated by Charles XI 
guardian of her grandson and, in conjunction 
with a Council of six persons, regent of the 
kingdom. The regent had taken part in 
politics during the reign of the King her son. 
She was old, but her ambition, greater than 
her strength and ability, made her hope to 
enjoy the sweets of authority long during the 
minority of the King, her grandson. She kept 
him away from public business as far as pos 
sible; the young Prince passed his time hunt- 

History of Charles XII 15 

ing, or busied himself with reviewing his 
troops. Sometimes he even went through their 
exercises with them. These pursuits seemed 
the natural outcome of the vivacity of youth, 
and there was nothing in his conduct to alarm 
the regent. Then, too, she flattered herself 
that the dissipation of these exercises made 
him unable to apply himself, and so gave her 
the opportunity of a longer regency. One 
November day, the very year of his father s 
death, after he had reviewed several regiments 
accompanied by the State-councillor Piper, he 
was standing plunged apparently in deep 
thought. " May I take the liberty," said the 
latter to him, " of asking your Majesty of what 
you are thinking so seriously?" " I am think 
ing," answered the Prince, " that I feel worthy 
of the command of those fine fellows, and that 
it is not my will that either they or I should 
receive our orders from a woman." Piper at 
once seized the chance of making his fortune, 
and realizing that his own influence was not 
strong enough for him to venture on so danger 
ous an enterprise as depriving the Queen of the 
regency, and declaring the King of age, he 
proposed the matter to the Count Axel Sparre, 
an ambitious and aspiring man, pointing to the 
King s confidence as a likely reward. Sparre 
was credulous, undertook the business, and 
worked hard in Piper s interests. The Coun 
cillors of the Regency were drawn into the 
scheme, and vied with one another in hastening 

1 6 History of Charles XII 

the execution of it in order to gain the King s 
favour. They went in a body to propose it to 
the Queen, who did not in the least expect such 
a declaration. 

The States-General were then assembled, 
the Councillors of the Regency laid the matter 
before them, and they voted unanimously for 
it. The affair was hastened on with a rapidity 
which nothing could check; so that Charles 
XII merely expressed a wish to rule, and within 
three days the States handed over the govern 
ment to him. The power and influence of the 
Queen melted away at once. Henceforth she 
lived in private, a life more suited to her age, 
but less to her taste. 

The King was crowned on the following 
24th of December. He made his entry into 
Stockholm on a sorrel horse, shod with silver, 
with a sceptre in his hand, and amid the ac 
clamations of a whole nation a nation always 
extravagantly fond of novelty and full of great 
expectations of a young Prince. 

The right of consecrating and crowning the 
King belongs to the Archbishop of Upsala, and 
is almost the only privilege remaining to him 
from among a number claimed by his predeces 
sors. After having anointed the Prince accord 
ing to custom, he was holding the crown ready 
to put on his head, when Charles seized it 
from his hands, and, with a proud glance at 
the Prelate, crowned himself. The mob, always 
impressed by a touch of majesty, applauded 

History of Charles XII 17 

the King s action ; even those who had suf 
fered most from the tyranny of the father 
could not refrain from praising the pride which 
was the inauguration of their servitude. 

As soon as Charles was master, he took 
Councillor Piper into his confidence, and 
handed over the direction of affairs to him, so 
that he was soon Premier in all but name. A 
few days later he made him Count, a title of 
distinction in Sweden, and not, as in France, 
an empty title to be assumed at will. The first 
period of the King s rule did not give people 
a good impression of him ; it looked as if he 
had been rather impatient of rule than deserv 
ing of it. As a matter of fact, he indulged no 
dangerous passions, and the only remarkable 
thing about him seemed to be youthful fits of 
rage and a settled obstinacy. He seemed proud 
and unable to apply himself. Even the ambas 
sadors to his court took him for a second-rate 
genius, and so described him to their masters. 
The Swedish people had the same opinion of 
him; no one understood his character; he him 
self had not realized it, when storms arising 
in the North suddenly gave his hidden talents 
an opportunity of displaying themselves. 

Three strong princes, taking advantage of 
his extreme youth, made simultaneous plans 
for his ruin. The first was Ferdinand IV, King 
of Denmark, his cousin; the second Augustus, 
Elector of Saxony and King of Poland ; the 
third, and most dangerous, was Peter the 


1 8 History of Charles XII 

Great, Czar of Russia. It is necessary to 
explain the beginning of these wars, which 
had such great results. We will begin with 

Of the two sisters of Charles XII, the elder 
had married the Duke of Holstein, a young 
prince of great courage and kindliness. The 
Duke, oppressed by the King of Denmark, 
came to Stockholm with his consort, in order 
to put himself under the King s protection, 
and ask his help, not only as a brother-in-law, 
but also as King of a people which nourishes 
an undying hatred for the Danes. 

The ancient house of Holstein, merged with 
that of Oldenburg, was elected to the throne 
of Denmark in 1449. All the Northern king 
doms were at that time elective, but that of 
Denmark shortly after became hereditary. One 
of its kings, Christian III, had an affection for 
his brother Adolphus for which there are few 
parallels in history. He neither wished to leave 
him powerless, nor could he dismember his 
own States. By an extraordinary arrangement 
he shared with him the duchies of Holstein- 
Gottorp and Sleswick. The descendants of 
Adolphus should, in future, rule Holstein in 
conjunction with the kings of Denmark, so that 
the two duchies should be common property, 
and the King could do nothing in Holstein 
without the sanction of the Duke, and vice 
versa. This extraordinary union, of which 
there had, however, been a parallel instance 

History of Charles XII 19 

a few years previously, was, for more than 
eighty years, a source of quarrels between the 
Denmark and Holstein branches of the dynasty, 
since the kings always made it their policy to 
oppress the dukes, and the dukes were equally 
determined on independence. The struggle 
had cost the last Duke his liberty and his 
supremacy. He had regained both at the 
Conference of Altena in 1689, through the 
mediation of Sweden, Holland and England, 
the guarantors of the treaty. 

But as a treaty between princes is often 
only a temporary makeshift, until the stronger 
is able to oppress the weaker, the quarrel be 
tween the new Danish King and the young 
Duke began again more violently than ever. 
While the Duke was at Stockholm, the Danes 
had already begun hostilities in the district of 
Holstein, and had made a secret alliance with 
the King of Sweden himself. 

Frederic Augustus, Elector of Saxony, whom 
neither the eloquence and schemes of the Abbe" 
de Polignac, nor the great qualifications of the 
Prince of Conti, his competitor for the throne, 
had been able to deprive of election as King 
of Poland, was a prince still more famed for 
his courage and chivalrous ideals, than for his 
incredible physical strength. His court, after 
that of Louis XII, was second to none in 
Europe in distinction. There was never a 
prince more generous or liberal, nor one who 
gave with so good a grace. 

20 History of Charles XII 

He had bought half the votes of the Polish 
nobility, and gained the other half by force on 
the approach of a Saxon army. He considered 
it better to keep a standing army to strengthen 
himself on the throne ; but he wanted a pretext 
for keeping it in Poland. He had, in fact, 
planned to send it against the King of Sweden, 
on the occasion we are now going to relate. 

Livonia, the most beautiful and fertile pro 
vince of the North, had once belonged to the 
Knights of the Teutonic order. The Russians, 
Poles, and Swedes had since severally disputed 
their claim to it. Sweden had enjoyed it for 
nearly one hundred years, and was solemnly 
confirmed in possession of it by the Peace of 

The late King Charles XI, in his severity to 
his subjects, had not spared the Livonians. 
He robbed them of their privileges and part of 
their estates. Patkul, who from his unhappy 
death has since gained the notoriety of misfor 
tune, was deputed by the nobility of Livonia 
to lay their grievances before the King. His 
speech to his master was respectful, but strong 
and full of the rugged eloquence begotten of 
calamity and courage. But kings too often 
regard public speeches as vain ceremonies, 
which they must endure without paying atten 
tion to. But Charles XI, who, when he did 
not give way to transports of rage, knew how 
to act a part, patted Patkul gently on the 
shoulder and said, " You have spoken for your 

History of Charles XII 21 

country like a brave man ; I honour you for it. 
Proceed." But a few days after he had Patkul 
declared guilty of high treason and condemned 
to death. 

Patkul, who had hidden, took to flight, and 
carried his resentment to Poland. Some time 
after he was admitted to the court of King 
Augustus. Charles XI was dead, but the 
sentence of Patkul was not annulled, and he 
was still most resentful. He pointed out to the 
King of Poland how easily Livonia could be 
conquered ; the people were in despair, and 
eager to shake off the Swedish yoke ; the King 
was only a child, and unable to defend himself. 
These proposals were well received by a prince 
who had long meditated this conquest. Pre 
parations were immediately made for a sudden 
invasion of Sweden, empty formalities of 
ultimata and manifestoes being dispensed with. 

At the same time the storm darkened on the 
Russian frontier. Peter Alexiowitz, Czar of 
Russia, had already made his name feared by 
the battle in which he defeated the Turks in 
1697, and by the conquest of Azov, which 
gave him the control of the Black Sea. But 
the actions which won him the title of The 
Great " were far more glorious than conquests. 

Russia occupies the whole of Northern Asia 
and Europe, and from the frontiers of China 
extends 1,500 leagues to the borders of Poland 
and Sweden. Yet the existence of this im 
mense country was not even realized by Europe 

22 History of Charles XII 

before the time of the Czar Peter. The Rus 
sians were less civilized than the Mexicans at 
the time of their discovery by Cortez ; born 
the slaves of masters as barbarous as them 
selves, they were sunk deep in ignorance, and 
unacquainted with the arts and sciences, and 
so insensible of their use that they had no 
industry. An old law, held sacred among- them, 
forbade them, on pain of death, to leave their 
own country without the permission of their 
Patriarch. Yet this law, avowedly enacted to 
prevent them from realizing their state of bond 
age, was agreeable to a people who, in the 
depths of their ignorance and misery, disdained 
all commerce with foreign nations. 

The era of the Russians began with the 
creation of the world; they reckoned up 7,207 
years at the beginning of the last century, 
without being able to give any reason why they 
did so. The first day of the year corresponded 
to our 1 3th of September. The reason they 
gave for this was that it was probable that 
God created the world in autumn, in a season 
when the fruits of the earth are in full 
maturity ! 

Thus the only traces of knowledge found 
among them were founded on gross mistakes; 
not one of them suspected that autumn in 
Russia might be spring in another country in 
the antipodes. Not long before, the people 
were for burning the secretary of the Persian 
ambassador, because he had foretold an eclipse 

History of Charles XII 23 

of the sun. They did not even know the use 
of figures, but in all their calculations made 
use of little beads strung on wire; and this 
was their method of reckoning in all their 
counting-houses, and even in the treasury of 
the Czar. 

Their religion was, and still is, that of the 
Greek Church, but intermingled with super 
stitions, to which they firmly adhered in pro 
portion to their absurdity and their exacting 
nature. Few Russians dare eat a pigeon, be 
cause the Holy Ghost is portrayed in form of a 
dove. They regularly kept four Lents a year, 
and during that time might eat neither eggs nor 
milk. God and St. Nicholas were the objects 
of their worship, and next to them the Czar 
and the Patriarch. The authority of the latter 
was as boundless as the people s ignorance. 
He had power of life and death, and inflicted 
the crudest punishments, from which there was 
no appeal. Twice a year he rode in solemn 
procession, ceremoniously attended by all the 
clergy; and the people prostrated themselves 
in the streets before him, like the Tartars 
before their Grand Lama. 

They practised confession, but only in the 
case of the greatest crimes; and then absolu 
tion was held necessary, but not repentance; 
they believed themselves purified in God s sight 
as soon as they received the priest s benedic 
tion. Thus they passed without remorse 
straight from confession to theft or murder; 

24 History of Charles XII 

so that a practice which, in the case of other 
Christians, acts as a deterrent, was, in their 
case, only an incentive to crime. They scrupled 
to drink milk on a fast-day, but on festivals 
fathers of families, priests, matrons and maids 
got inebriated with brandy. As in other coun 
tries they had religious differences among 
themselves, but the most important cause of 
dispute was whether laymen should make the 
sign of the cross with two fingers or with three, 
and a certain Jacob Nursoff had, during a pre 
vious reign, raised a rebellion on this question. 

The Czar, in his vast kingdom, had many 
subjects who were not Christians ; the Tartars, 
on the west coast of the Caspian, and the 
Palus Ma3Otis were Mahometans ; while the 
Siberians, Ostiacs and Samoides, who live near 
the Baltic, were pagans. Some of these were 
idolaters, and some were without God in the 
world ; still, in spite of that, the Swedes, who 
were sent as prisoners among them, report 
more favourably of their manners than those 
of the ancient Russians. 

Peter Alexiowitz had received an education 
which tended to increase the barbarity of his 
part of the world. His disposition led him to 
like strangers before he knew they could be use 
ful to him. Le Fort was the first instrument 
that he made use of to change the face of 
Russia. Peter s mighty genius, checked but not 
destroyed by a barbarous education, suddenly 
broke out; he resolved to act a man s part, to 

History of Charles XII 25 

hold command of men and to create a new 
nation. Several princes before him had re 
nounced their thrones, from distaste for public 
business, but there was no instance of a prince 
resigning that he might learn to rule better, 
as Peter the Great did. He left Russia in 
1698, before the completion of the second year 
of his reign, and took a journey into Holland, 
under an ordinary name, as if he were the 
domestic servant of M. le Fort, whom he 
appointed ambassador-extraordinary to the 
States-General. When he reached Amsterdam 
he entered his name on the list of ships -car 
penters to the Indian Admiralty, and worked 
in the dockyard like other carpenters. In his 
leisure time he learned those branches of 
mathematics which might prove useful to a 
prince, e. g. such as related to fortifications, 
navigation, and the making of plans. He 
went into the workmen s shops, examined all 
their manufactures, and let nothing escape his 
notice. Thence he passed to England, where 
he perfected himself in the science of ship 
building, and, returning to Holland, carefully 
investigated everything which might be of use 
in his own country. 

At last, after two years of travel and labour 
which nobody else would have willingly under 
gone, he reappeared in Russia, bringing thither 
with him the arts of Europe. A band of 
artists of all kinds followed him, and then for 
the first time great Russian vessels were to 

26 History of Charles XII 

be seen on the Black Sea, the Baltic, and 
even on the ocean. Imposing buildings of 
architectural merit were set up amidst the 
Russian huts. He founded colleges, acade- 
I mies, printing-houses and libraries. The great 
towns were civilized; and gradually, though 
not without difficulty, the dress and customs 
of the people were changed, so that the Rus 
sians learned by degrees what social life really 
is. Even their superstitions were abolished, 
the Czar declared head of the Church, and the 
influence of the Patriarch suppressed. This 
last undertaking would have cost a less abso 
lute Prince his throne and his life, but in the 
case of Peter not only succeeded, but assured 
his success in all his other innovations. 
I Peter, having subdued the ignorant and bar- 
! barous clerical orders, dared to venture to 
Ij educate them, and so ran the risk of making 
them a power in the State but he believed 
that he was strong enough to take this risk. 

In the few monasteries which remained he 
had philosophy and theology taught; though 
this theology was only a survival of the age 
of barbarity from which Peter had rescued his 
country. A credible witness assured the writer 
that he had been present at a public debate, 
where the question was whether the use of 
tobacco was a sin; the proposer argued that 
it was lawful to intoxicate oneself with brandy, 
but not to smoke, because the Holy Scriptures 
say that, " Not that which goeth into the 

History of Charles XII 27 

mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh 
out of the mouth, this defileth a man." 

The monks were not content with the reform. 
Scarcely had the Czar set up printing-presses 
than they made use of them to abuse him. 
They called him Antichrist, because he had 
the men s beards cut off, and because post 
mortem dissection was practised in his academy. 
But another monk, who wanted to make his 
fortune, wrote refuting this argument, and 
proving that Peter was not Antichrist because 
the number 666 was not included in his name ! 
The author of the libel was broken on the 
wheel, and his opponent made Bishop of 

The Reformer of Russia carried a law which 
puts to shame many a civilized state; by this 
law no member of the civil service, no " bour 
geois " with an established position, and no 
minor, might enter a monastery. Peter quite 
grasped the importance of not allowing useful 
subjects to take up idleness as a profession, nor 
those who had not yet command of the least 
part of their fortune to renounce liberty for 


The Czar not only, after the example of the 
Turkish Sultans, subjected the Church to the 
State, but, by a greater stroke of policy, he 
destroyed a band of troops like the Janissaries ; 
and that which the Ottoman Emperors failed 
to do, he succeeded in very rapidly ; he dis 
banded the Russian Janissaries, called Strelitz, 

28 History of Charles XII 

who had dominated the Czars. This band, 
feared rather by its masters than its neigh 
bours, consisted of about 30,000 infantry, half 
stationed at Moscow, and the other half at 
various points on the frontier; a member of 
the Strelitz only drew pay at the rate of four 
roubles a year, but privileges and abuses 
amply made up for this. 

Peter at first formed a band of mercenaries, 
in which he had himself enrolled, and was not 
too proud to begin as drummer-boy, so much 
were the people in need of good example. He 
became officer by degrees, made new regiments 
from time to time, and at last, finding himself 
at the head of disciplined troops, broke up the 
Strelitz, who were afraid to disobey him. 

The cavalry resembled that of Poland, and 
that of France in the days when France was 
only a collection of fiefs. Russian noblemen 
took the field at their own expense, and en 
gaged without discipline, and sometimes un 
armed but for a sabre and a quiver; they were 
quite unused to discipline, and so were always 

Peter the Great taught them to obey, both 
by example and by punishment. For he 
himself served as a soldier and subordinate 
officer, and as Czar severely punished the 
"boyards," as the noblemen were called, who 
argued that the privilege of the nobility was 
to serve the State in their own way. He insti 
tuted a regular corps of artillery, and seized 

History of Charles XII 29 

500 church bells to cast cannon. By the year 
1714 he had 13,000 brass cannon. He also 
formed a corps of dragoons, a form of arm 
both suited to Russian capacity and for which 
their horses, which are small, are particularly 

Russia has, at the present day (1738), thirty 
well-equipped regiments of dragoons of 1,000 
men each. 

He it was, too, who established the hussars 
in Russia; he even got a school of engineers 
in a country where he was the first to under 
stand the elements of geometry. 

He was a good engineer himself; but he 
excelled especially in seamanship. As he was 
born with an extreme fear of the sea, it is all 
the greater credit to him that he was a good 
captain, a skilful pilot, a good seaman, and a 
clever carpenter. Yet in his young days he 
could not cross a bridge without a shudder; 
and he had the wooden shutters of his carriage 
closed on these occasions. It was his courage 
and will which led him to overcome this consti 
tutional weakness. 

He had built on the Gulf of Tanais, near 
Azov, a fine port; his idea was to keep a fleet 
of galleys there, and as he considered that 
these long, flat, light craft would be successful 
in the Baltic, he had 300 of them built in his 
favourite town of Petersburg. He taught his 
subjects how to construct them from ordinary 
fir, and then how to manage them. 

30 . History of Charles XII 

The revenue of the Czar was inconsiderable, 
compared with the immense size of his em 
pire. It never exceeded twenty-four millions, 
reckoning the mark as 50, as we do at the 
present moment ; but, after all, only he is rich 
who can do great deeds. Russia is not densely 
populated, though the women are prolific and 
the men are strong. Peter himself, by the 
very civilization of his empire, contributed to 
its population. The causes of the fact that 
there are still vast deserts in this great stretch 
of the continent are to be sought in frequent 
recruiting for unsuccessful wars, the transport 
ing of nations from the Caspian to the Baltic, 
the destruction of life in the public works, the 
ravages wrought by disease (three-quarters of 
the children dying of small-pox), and the sad 
result of a means of government long savage, 
and barbarous even in its civilization. The 
present population of Russia consists of 500,000 
noble families, 200,000 lawyers, rather more 
than 5,000,000 "bourgeois" and peasants 
paying a kind of poll-tax, and 600,000 men in 
the provinces conquered from the Swedes ; so 
that this immense realm does not contain 
more than 14,000,000 men; that is to say, two- 
thirds of the population of France. 

The Czar Peter, having transformed the 
manners, laws, militia, and the very face of his 
country, wished also to take a prominent part 
in commerce, which brings both riches to a 
State and advantages to the whole world. He 

History of Charles XII 31 

intended to make Russia the centre of Asian 
and European trade. The Volga, Tanais, 
and Duna were to be united by canals, of which 
he drew the plans, and new ways were to be 
opened from the Baltic to the Euxine and the 
Caspian, and from these to the Northern 

In the year 1700 he decided to build on the 
Baltic a port which should be the mart of the 
North, and a town which should be the capital 
of his empire, because the port of Archangel, 
ice-bound for nine months in the year, and the 
access to which necessitated a long and dan 
gerous circuit, did not seem to him convenient. 
Already he was seeking a passage to China 
through the seas of the north-east, and the 
manufactures of Paris and of Pekin were to 
enrich his new town. 

A road of 754 versts, made across marshes 
which had to be first filled, led from Moscow 
to his new town. Most of his projects were 
carried out by his own hand, and two Em 
presses who succeeded him successively carried 
out his policy whenever practicable, and only 
abandoned the impossible. 

He made tours throughout his empire when 
ever he was not engaged in active warfare. 
But he travelled as lawgiver and natural philo 
sopher. He carefully investigated natural con 
ditions everywhere, and tried to correct and to 
perfect. He himself plumbed rivers and seas, 
had locks made, visited the timber-yards, ex- 

32 History of Charles XII 

amined mines, assayed metals, planned accu 
rate maps, and worked at them with his own 

He built, in a desolate district, the imperial 
town of Petersburg, which, at the present day, 
contains 60,000 houses, and where there has 
arisen in our day a brilliant Court, and where 
the greatest luxury is to be had. He built the 
port of Cronstadt on the Neva, Sainte-Croix 
on the frontiers of Persia, and forts in the 
Ukraine and in Siberia, docks at Archangel, 
Petersburg, Astrakan, and at Azov ; besides 
arsenals and hospitals. His own residences he 
built small and in bad style, but his public 
buildings were magnificent and imposing. The 
sciences, which in other parts have been the 
slow product of centuries, were, by his care, 
introduced into his empire in full perfection. 
He made an academy, modelled on the famous 
institutions of Paris and London ; at great ex 
pense men like Delisle, Bulfinger, Hermann, 
Bernouilli, were summoned to Petersburg. 
This academy is still in existence, and is now 
training Russian scholars. 

He compelled the younger members of the 
nobility to travel to gain culture, and to return 
to Russia polished by foreign good breeding. 
I have met young Russians who were quite 
men of the world, and well-informed to boot. 

It is shocking to realize that this reformer 
lacked the cardinal virtue of humanity. With 
so many virtues he was yet brutal in his plea- 

History of Charles XII 33 

sures, savage in his manner, and barbarous in 
seeking revenge. He civilized his people, but 
remained savage himself. He carried out his 
sentences with his own hands, and at a debauch 
at table he displayed his skill in cutting off 
heads. There are in Africa kings who shed 
the blood of their subjects with their own 
hands, but these monarchs pass for barbarians. 
The death of one of his sons, who ought to 
have been punished or disinherited, would make 
his memory odious, if the good he did his sub 
jects did not almost atone for his cruelty to his 
own family. 

Such a man was Peter the Czar, and his 
great plans were only sketched in outline when 
he united with the kings of Poland and Den 
mark against a child whom they all despised. 

The founder of Russia resolved to be a 
conqueror; he believed the task an easy one, 
and felt that a war so well launched would 
help him in all his projects. The art of war 
was a new art in which his people needed 

Besides, he wanted a port on the east side 
of the Baltic for the execution of his great 
plans. He needed Ingria, which lies to the 
north-east of Livonia. The Swedes possessed 
it, and it must be seized from them. His an 
cestors, again, had had rights over Ingria, 
Estonia, and Livonia ; it seemed the right time 
to revive these claims, which not only dated 
from a hundred years back, but had also been 


34 History of Charles XII 

annulled by treaties. He therefore concluded 
a treaty with the King of Poland to take 
from Sweden the districts which lie between 
the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic, Poland and 



Sudden and extraordinary transformation in the char 
acter of Charles XII At the age of eighteen he 
carries on war with Denmark, Poland and Russia 
He concludes the war with Denmark in six weeks 
Beats an army of 80,000 Russians with 8,000 Swedes, 
and proceeds to Poland Description of Poland and 
its Government Charles wins several victories, and 
conquers Poland, where he makes preparations to 
nominate a king. 

THUS three powerful kings were threatening 
the throne of the boy-king, Charles XII. 
Rumours of these preparations dismayed the 
people, and alarmed the King s Council. The 
great generals were dead ; everything was to 
be feared under a young king who had so far 
made a bad impression on people. He was 
hardly ever present at the Council without 
crossing his legs on the table ; he seemed too 
absent-minded and callous to take part in any 

The dangerous position of affairs was de 
liberated by the Council in his presence, and, 
as some Councillors were proposing to divert 
the storm by means of negotiation, Charles 
suddenly rose from his seat with the deter 
mined air of a man of resolution who has 
decided on a course of action. " Gentlemen," 
he said, " I have resolved never to engage in 
an unjust war, but, on the other hand, never 
to conclude a just war but by the ruin of my 

38 History of Charles XII 

foes. I have made up my mind. I intend to 
attack the first who declares war against me, 
and when I have conquered him I hope to strike 
terror into the rest." This speech amazed the 
old Councillors ; they exchanged glances with 
out venturing a reply, and finally, astonished 
at this revelation of their king s courage, and 
ashamed to show less courage than he, they 
received his orders for the war cordially. 

They were still more surprised when they 
observed that he suddenly renounced all the 
most innocent, youthful pleasures. From the 
moment that he began to prepare for war he 
entered on a new mode of life, from which he 
never afterwards departed in one particular. 
With Alexander and Caesar as his ideals, he set 
himself the task of imitating those conquerors 
in everything but their vices. 

He renounced all magnificence, pastimes and 
recreations, and reduced his menu to the utmost 
frugality. He had affected display in dress, 
but in future wore the uniform of a common 
soldier. There had been a rumour that he had 
entertained a passion for a lady of the Court. 
But whether this was true or not, it is certain 
that he abstained from the society of women 
for ever after, not only to avoid coming too 
much under their influence, but that he might 
prove to his soldiers his determination to live 
under the severest discipline ; possibly, too, he 
wished to pose as the only Prince who had 
conquered so difficult a temptation. He also 

History of Charles XII 39 

resolved to abstain from wine for the rest of 
his life. Some people say that he made this 
resolve in order to curb nature in every particu-, 
lar, and to add a new virtue to his heroism ; 
but the majority say that he took this means 
of punishing himself for an excess which he 
had once committed, leading to an insult offered 
to a lady at table in the presence of his mother. 
If that was so, his self-condemnation and the 
life-long deprivation which he imposed on him 
self are none the less to be admired. 

He began operations by a promise of relief 
to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Holstein. 
Eight thousand men were immediately sent to 
Pomerania, a province bordering on Holstein, 
to protect the Duke against the attacks of the 
Danes. The Duke certainly needed them ; his 
dominions were already ravaged, his castle at 
Gottorp taken and the town of Tonning closely 
besieged, the King of Denmark being there in 
person, to enjoy a conquest of which he felt 
certain. This spark enflamed the empire. 
On one side the Saxon troops of the King of 
Poland and those of Brandenburg, Volfenbuttel 
and Hesse-Cassel marched to join the Danes. 
On the other the King of Sweden s 8,000 men, 
the troops of Hanover and Zell, and three 
Dutch regiments came to the help of the Duke. 

While the little country of Holstein was thus 
made the theatre of war two squadrons, one 
from England and the other from Holland, 
appeared in the Baltic. 

40 History of Charles XII 

These two States were guarantors of the 
treaty of Altena, which the Danes had broken, 
and they were all the more eager to relieve the 
oppressed Duke, as it was to the interest of 
their trade to prevent the growth of the power 
of the King of Denmark. For they knew that 
the Danes, when they once had control of the 
Sound, would lay heavy dues on the trading 
nations, as soon as they were strong enough 
to do so. 

The English and the Dutch had, for this 
reason, kept, as far as possible, the balance of 
power equal between the princes of the North ; 
they joined the King of Sweden, who seemed 
on the point of being overwhelmed by many 
enemies acting in concert, and helped him for 
the same reason that the others attacked him, 
viz. because they thought him incapable of 

He was bear-hunting when he got news of 
the invasion of Livonia by the Saxons. He 
was conducting the hunt in a way as dangerous 
as novel; the only arms used were forked 
cudgels, behind a net stretched between trees ; 
a bear of enormous size rushed straight at the 
King, who, after a long struggle, brought it 
to the ground, with the help of his net and 

He started for his first campaign on the 8th 
of May, new style, in the year 1700. He left 
Stockholm never to return. 

An immense crowd of people went with him 

History of Charles XII 41 

as far as Carlscroon, praying- for him and 
weeping- and praising him. Before he left 
Stockholm he established a Council of Defence, 
composed of Senators. This commission was 
to have charge of all that concerned the fleet, 
the troops and fortifications. The Senate was 
to provisionally regulate all other internal 
affairs. Having thus arranged all securely 
within his dominions he concentrated entirely 
on the war. His fleet consisted of forty-three 
vessels, that in which he embarked, called the 
King Charles, was the largest they had ever 
seen, and carried 120 guns; Count Piper, his 
Prime Minister, and General Renschild em 
barked with him. He joined the squadron of 
the allies ; the Danish fleet refused an engage 
ment, and gave the united fleets the opportunity 
of coming so near Copenhagen that they could 
throw some bombs into the town. 

There is no doubt that it was the King him 
self who then proposed to General Renschild 
that they should disembark and besiege Copen 
hagen by land while it was invested by sea. 
Renschild was astonished at a proposal which 
displayed in a young and inexperienced Prince 
as much skill as courage. Soon all was ready 
for the disembarkment ; orders were given for 
the embarkation of 3,000 men who were 
stationed on the coast of Sweden, and who 
were added to the men they had on board. 
The King left his large ship and embarked on 
a lighter frigate ; then they sent 300 grenadiers 

42 History of Charles XII 

in small vessels along the coast. Among these 
vessels were small, flat-bottomed boats, which 
carried the fagots, chevaux de frise and the 
weapons of the pioneers. 

Five hundred picked men followed in other 
shallops. Then came the King s men-of-war 
with two English and two Dutch frigates, 
whose cannon were to cover the landing of the 
troops. Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, 
is situated in the island of Zeeland, in the 
midst of a beautiful plain, which has the Sound 
on the north-west and the Baltic on the east, 
where the King of Sweden then had his posi 
tion. At the unexpected movement of the 
vessels which threatened invasion, the inhabit 
ants, dismayed by the inactivity of their own 
fleet and by the motion of the Swedish ships, 
looked round in terror to see on what point 
the storm would burst. Charles s fleet stopped 
before Humblebek, seven miles from Copen 
hagen. The Danes immediately drew up their 
cavalry on this spot. The infantry were placed 
behind deep entrenchments, and all the artillery 
forthcoming was directed against the Swedes. 

The King then left his frigate to embark on 
the first boat at the head of his guards. The 
ambassador of France was constantly at his 
elbow. " Sir," said the King to him in Latin, 
for he never would speak French, "you have 
no quarrel with the Danes, and must now 
oblige me by retiring." <( Sir," answered the 
Count de Guiscard, in French, "the King my 

History of Charles XII 43 

master has commanded me to attend your 
Majesty; and I flatter myself that you will 
not banish me from your Court, which has never 
been so brilliant as to-day. " With these words 
he gave his hand to the King, who leapt into 
the boat, followed by Count Piper and the 

They advanced supported by the broadsides 
of the vessels which were covering the descent. 
The small boats were within a hundred yards 
of the shore when Charles, impatient of the 
delay in landing, threw himself from the boat 
into the sea, sword in hand, and with the 
water up to his waist, and in spite of a shower 
of musket-shot, discharged by the Danes, his 
ministers, the ambassador of France, and 
officers and soldiers followed his example. The 
King, who had never before heard a discharge 
of loaded muskets, asked Major Stuart, who 
stood next to him, what that whistling was in 
his ears. "It is the sound of the muskets 
they are firing at you," said the Major. 
" Ah !" remarked the King, " that shall hence 
forth be my band." At that very moment the 
Major, who had explained the noise to him, 
was shot in the shoulder, and a lieutenant fell 
dead at the other side of the King. 

Troops attacked in entrenchments are 
generally beaten, because the attacking party 
has an impetus which defenders cannot have ; 
besides, waiting for the enemy in one s lines is 
often a confession of inferiority. 

44 History of Charles XII 

After a faint resistance the Danish horse and 
foot fled. As soon as the King had seized their 
entrenchments he fell on his knees to thank 
God for the first success of his arms. He 
immediately had redoubts formed in the direc 
tion of the town, and himself marked out the 
line of the encampment. At the same time he 
sent his fleet back to Scania, a part of Sweden 
not far from Copenhagen, to get reinforce 
ments of 9,000 men. Everything conspired to 
second Charles s energetic efforts; the 9,000 
men were on the shore ready to embark, and 
the very next day a favourable wind brought 
them to him. 

All this happened within sight of the Danish 
fleet, which had not dared to advance. Copen 
hagen, in consternation, sent deputies to the 
King to ask him not to bombard the town. 
He received them on horseback at the head of 
his regiment of guards, and the deputies fell 
on their knees before him. He demanded of 
the town four hundred thousand dollars, with 
all sorts of provisions for the camp, for which 
he gave his word of honour to pay. They 
brought him the provisions, because they dare 
not refuse, but did not expect that the con 
querors would condescend to pay for them ; 
and those who brought them were astonished 
to find that they were paid generously by the 
humblest soldier in the army. The Swedish 
troops had long been accustomed to the strict 
discipline which contributed not a little to their 

History of Charles XII 45 

victories, but the young King increased its 
severity. A soldier would not have dared to 
refuse payment for what he bought, much less 
maraud, or even go out of the camp. He even 
easily brought his troops to keep his rule that 
the dead should not be stripped after a victory 
without his permission. Prayers were said in 
camp twice a day, at seven in the morning and 
five in the afternoon, and he never failed to 
be present at them himself and to give his 
soldiers an example of piety as well as of 

His camp, which was far better governed 
than Copenhagen, had everything in abund 
ance; and the country folk preferred to sell 
their goods to their enemies the Swedes than 
to their own countrymen, who did not pay so 
good a price for them. So it happened that the 
townsmen were often obliged to fetch goods, 
which were unobtainable in their own markets, 
from the King of Sweden s camp. 

The King of Denmark was then in Holstein, 
whither he seems to have marched only to raise 
the siege of Tonning. He saw the Baltic 
covered with his enemies ships, and a young 
conqueror already master of Zeeland and ready 
to take possession of the capital. He pub 
lished a declaration that whoever took up arms 
against the Swedes should gain their liberty. 
This declaration had great influence in a 
country which had once enjoyed freedom, but 
where all the peasants and many even of the 

46 History of Charles XII 

townsmen were then serfs. Charles sent word 
to the King of Denmark that he must make up 
his mind either to do justice to the Duke of 
Holstein, cr have his kingdom laid waste with 
fire and sword. 

The Danes were, indeed, fortunate in dealing 
with a conqueror who prided himself on his 
justice. A congress was summoned to meet in 
the town of Tevendal on the frontiers of Hol 
stein. The Swedish King would not allow 
diplomacy on the part of the ministers to 
lengthen the proceedings ; he wanted the treaty 
settled with the same rapidity with which he 
had invaded Zeeland. As a matter of fact it 
was concluded on the 5th of August to the 
advantage of the Duke of Holstein, who was 
indemnified for all the expenses of the war and 
freed from oppression. The King of Sweden 
would make no claims on his own behalf, being 
satisfied with having helped his ally and 
humbled his enemy. Thus Charles XII, at 
eighteen years old, began and ended this war 
in less than six weeks. 

Just at the same time the King of Poland 
laid siege in person to the town of Riga, the 
capital of Livonia, and the Czar was marching 
from the East at the head of 100,000 men. 
Riga was defended by the old Count D Alberg, 
a Swedish general who, at the age of eighty, 
combined the enthusiasm of youth with the 
experience of sixty campaigns. Count Flem 
ing, afterwards minister for Poland, a man 

History of Charles XII 47 

great both in the field and at the council board, 
together with M. Patkul, carried on the siege 
under the directions of the King ; in spite of 
several advantages gained by the besiegers the 
experience of the old Count D Alberg counter 
acted all their efforts, and the King of Poland 
despaired of gaining the town. At last he got 
an honourable pretext for raising the siege ; 
Riga was full of merchandise belonging to the 
Dutch; the States-General ordered their am 
bassador at the Court of Augustus to make 
representations to him on the subject. The 
King of Poland did not require much pressing, 
but consented to raise the siege rather than 
occasion the least inconvenience to his allies, 
who were not much surprised at his ready 
compliance, as they knew the cause of it. 

The only thing left to Charles to complete 
his first campaign was to march against his 
rival for glory, Peter Alexiowitz. He was the 
more angry with him because there were at 
Stockholm three ambassadors who had just 
sworn to an inviolable peace : he who prided 
himself on his probity could not understand 
how a legislator like the Czar could make light 
of what should be held sacred. The young and 
honourable Prince never dreamed that there 
might be one code of morality for princes and 
another for private individuals. The Russian 
Emperor published a manifesto which he had 
much better have suppressed : he gave as 
reason for war that he had not been sufficiently 

48 History of Charles XII 

honoured when he passed incognito to Riga, 
and also that provisions were sold too dear to 
his ambassadors. These were the grievances 
for which he ravaged Ingria with 80,000 men. 

It was on the ist of October, a month in 
which the weather is more severe in that 
climate than is January in Paris, that he ap 
peared before Narva. The Czar, who in such 
weather would often ride 400 leagues to see 
a mine or a canal, spared his men no more 
than himself. Besides, he knew that the 
Swedes, ever since the time of Gustavus Adol- 
phus, fought in the depth of winter as well as 
in summer, and he wanted to accustom his 
Russians not to care about the seasons, so that 
some day they might at least equal the Swedes. 
So at a time when frost and snow force nations 
in temperate climates to suspend hostilities 
Peter was besieging Narva, thirty degrees from 
the Pole, and Charles was advancing to its 
relief. The Czar had no sooner arrived before 
the place than he hastened to put into practice 
all that he had lately learned on his travels : 
he drew out his camp, fortified it on all sides, 
built walls at intervals, and opened the trench 
with his own hands. He had given the com 
mand of the army to the Duke of Croy, a 
German, and a clever general, who got little 
support from the Russian officers. 

The Czar himself had only the ordinary rank 
of lieutenant in his own army. He thought 
it necessary to give an example of military 

History of Charles XII 49 

obedience to his nobility, who up till then had 
been undisciplined and accustomed to lead 
bands of ill-armed slaves without experience or 
order. There is nothing- surprising- in the fact 
that he who at Amsterdam turned carpenter to 
procure fleets for himself should at Narva turn 
lieutenant in order to teach his people the art 
of war. 

The Russians are strong- and indefatigable, 
and perhaps as brave as the Swedes, but it 
requires time to make veterans, and discipline 
to make them invincible. The only fairly 
reliable regiments were commanded by German 
officers, but there were very few of them ; the 
rest were savages torn from their forests, 
clothed in the skins of wild beasts, some armed 
with arrows and others with clubs. Few had 
muskets, none had seen a regular siege, there 
was not one good gunner in the whole 

A hundred and fifty cannon, which ought to 
have reduced the little town of Narva to ashes, 
hardly made a breach, while every moment the 
artillery of the town were destroying whole 
lines at work in the trenches. Narva was 
practically unfortified, and Count Horn, who 
was in command, had not a thousand regular 
troops, and yet this immense army was not 
able to reduce it in ten weeks. 

On the 1 5th of November the Czar heard that 
the King of Sweden had crossed the sea with 
200 transports and was on his way to the relief 


50 History of Charles XII 

of Narva. There were not more than 20,000 
Swedes, but superiority of numbers was the 
Czar s only advantage. He was far, therefore, 
from despising his enemy, and used all his skill 
to crush him ; and not content with 100,000 
men he levied another army to oppose him and 
harass him in his advance. He had already 
sent for 30,000 men who were advancing from 
Plescow by forced marches. He then took a 
step which would render him contemptible if 
so great a legislator could be so. He left his 
camp, where his presence was necessary, to go 
to meet these reinforcements, which could quite 
well reach the camp without his aid ; this step 
made it appear that he was afraid of fighting, 
in an entrenched camp, a young and inex 
perienced prince, who might attack him. 

However that may be, his plan was to hem 
in the King between two armies. Nor was 
this all : a detachment of 30,000 men from the 
camp before Narva was posted at a league s 
distance from the town, on the King of 
Sweden s route, 20,000 Strelitz were further off 
on the same route, and 5,000 others formed an 
advanced guard. Charles would have to force 
his way through all these troops before he 
could reach the camp, which was fortified by 
a rampart and a double ditch. The King of 
Sweden had landed at Pernaw, on the Gulf of 
Riga, with about 15,000 foot and more than 
4,000 horse. From Pernaw he made a forced 
march to Revel, followed by all his horse and 

History of Charles XII 51 

only 4,000 of his foot. He continually advanced 
without waiting- for the rest of his troops. 

Soon he found himself, with only 8,000 men, 
in presence of the enemy s outposts. He did 
not hesitate to attack them one after the other, 
without giving- them time to find out with how 
small a number they had to contend. The 
Russians, when they saw the Swedes advanc 
ing against them, took it for granted that 
they had a whole army to encounter, and the 
advanced guard of 5,000 men, who were hold 
ing a pass between the hills where 100 men of 
courage might have barred the passage of a 
whole army, fled at the first approach of the 
Swedes. The 20,000 men behind them, terrified 
at the flight of their countrymen, were over 
come by fear and caused panic in the camp to 
which they fled. All the posts were carried in 
three days and a half, and what would have 
been on other occasions reckoned three distinct 
victories did not delay the King an hour. At 
last he appeared with his 8,000 men, weaned 
with the fatigues of so long a march, before a 
camp of 80,000 Russians, protected by 150 
cannon. He hardly allowed them time for rest 
before he gave orders for an instant attack. 

The signal was two musket-shots, and the 
word in German, "With God s help." A 
general officer pointed out to him the greatness 
of the danger. " Surely you have no doubt," 
he replied, " but that I with my 8,000 brave 
Swedes shall trample down 80,000 Russians!" 

52 History of Charles XII 

Then a moment after, fearing that his speech 
was boastful, he ran after the officer. " Do 
you not agree with me," he said, " that I have 
a double advantage over the enemy? First be 
cause their horse will be useless to them, and 
secondly because, as the position is cramped, 
their numbers will only incommode them, so 
that I shall really possess the advantage." 
The officer thought it best not to differ from 
him, and so they attacked the Russians about 
noon, on the 3Oth November. 

As soon as the cannon of the Swedes had 
made a breach in the entrenchments they ad 
vanced with fixed bayonets, having the snow, 
which drove full in the face of the enemy, 
behind them. The Russians stood the fire for 
half-an-hour without quitting their posts. The 
King attacked the Czar s quarters, on the other 
side of the camp, and hoped to meet him in 
person, for he was ignorant of the fact that 
he had gone to meet his 40,000 reinforcements 
who were expected shortly. At the first dis 
charge the King received a ball in the shoulder ; 
but it was a spent ball which rested in the folds 
of his black cravat and did him no harm. 

His horse was killed under him, and it is 
said that the King leapt nimbly on another, 
exclaiming, "These fellows make me take exer 
cise. " Then he continued to advance and give 
orders with the same presence of mind as 
before. Within three hours the entrenchments 
were carried on all sides : the King chased the 

History of Charles XII 53 

enemy s right as far as the river Narva with 
his left, if one may speak of " chasing " when 
4,000 men are in pursuit of nearly 50,000. The 
bridge broke under them as they fled; in a 
moment the river was full of dead bodies; the 
rest in despair returned to their camp without 
knowing the direction in which they were 
going. They found some huts behind which 
they stationed themselves ; there they defended 
themselves for a time because they had no 
mean of escape ; but finally their generals, 
Dolgorouky, Gollofkin and Federowitz sur 
rendered to the King and laid down their arms 
at his feet. Just then the Duke of Croy arrived 
to surrender with thirty officers. 

Charles received all these prisoners with as 
charming and engaging a manner as if he 
were fating them in his own Court. He only 
put the general officers under a guard ; all the 
under officers and soldiers were disarmed and 
taken to the river Narva, where they were 
provided with boats to convey them to their 
own country. In the meantime night came on, 
and the right wing of the Russian force was 
still fighting. The Swedes had not lost 1,500 
men; 18,000 Russians had been killed in their 
entrenchments, many had been drowned, many 
had crossed the river; but still there remained 
enough to entirely exterminate the Swedes. 
But it is not the number lost, but the panic of 
survivors which spells defeat in war. The 
King made haste to seize the enemy s artillery 

54 History of Charles XII 

before nightfall. He took up an advantageous 
position between their camp and the town, and 
there got some hours sleep on the ground, 
wrapped in his cloak, waiting till at daybreak 
he could fall on the enemy s left wing, which 
was not yet completely routed. 

At two o clock in the morning General Wade, 
who was in command of that wing, having 
heard of the King s gracious reception of the 
other generals and his sending home of the 
subalterns and soldiers, asked the same favour 
of him. The conqueror sent him word that he 
need only approach at the head of his troops 
and surrender his arms and standards. Soon 
the general appeared with his Russians, to the 
number of about 30,000. Soldiers and officers 
marched bare-headed in front of less than 
7,000 Swedes. As the soldiers passed before 
him they threw down their muskets and 
swords ; the officers surrendered their ensigns 
and colours. 

He let the whole band cross the river with 
out keeping one single prisoner. Had he put 
them under guard the number of prisoners 
would have been at least five times that of the 

He then victoriously entered Narva, attended 
by the Duke of Croy and the other Russian 
officers ; he ordered their swords to be restored 
to them, and when he heard that they wanted 
money, because the tradesmen of Narva re 
fused to trust them, he sent the Duke of Croy 

History of Charles XII 55 

1,000 ducats, and 500 to every Russian officer, 
who were full of admiration for this treatment, 
which they had never conceived possible. An 
account of the victory was at once drawn up to 
send to Stockholm, and to the allies, but the 
King erased with his own hands whatever re 
dounded too much to his own credit or to the 
discredit of the Czar. His modesty could not 
hinder them from striking several medals to 
commemorate the event at Stockholm. One of 
these represented him, on one face, standing 
on a pedestal, to which a Russian, Dane and 
Pole were chained; and on the reverse a Her 
cules, armed with a club, trampling a Cerberus, 
and the inscription, " Tres uno contudit ictu. " 
Among the prisoners made on the day of the 
battle of Narva was one who was typical of 
the revolutions of fortune. He was the eldest 
son and heir of the King of Georgia. He was 
called the " Czarafis," a name which means 
son of the Czar among all the Tartars as well 
as in Russia; for the word Czar meant King 
among the ancient Scythians, from whom all 
these peoples are descended, and is not derived 
from the name of the Caesars, so long unknown 
to these barbarians. His father, Mitelleski, 
who was master of the most beautiful part of 
the country between the mountains of Ararat 
and the eastern extremity of the Black Sea, 
had been driven from his kingdom by his own 
subjects in 1688, and preferred throwing him 
self on the mercy of the Emperor of Russia, to 

56 History of Charles XII 

applying to the Turks. This king s son, at the 
age of nineteen, helped Peter the Great in his 
expedition against the Swedes, and was taken 
in battle by some Finnish soldiers, who had 
already stripped him, and were on the point of 
killing him, when Count Renschild rescued him 
from their hands, supplied him with clothes, 
and presented him to his master. Charles sent 
him to Stockholm, where the wretched prince 
died shortly after. When he took leave, the 
King made aloud a natural reflection on the 
strangeness of the fate of an Asiatic prince, 
born at the foot of the Caucasus, and going to 
live a prisoner among the snows of Sweden : 

" It is just," he said, "as if I were to be 
one day prisoner among the Tartars of the 
Crimea." At that time these words made no 
impression, but afterwards, when the predic 
tion had been justified in the event, there was 
but too much reason to remember them. 

The Czar was advancing by long marches 
with a force of 40,000 Russians, expecting to 
surround his enemy on all sides. When he had 
got half-way he heard of the battle of Narva, 
and the dispersal of his whole camp. He 
thought it best not to attack a victor who had 
shortly before destroyed 100,000 entrenched 
troops, with a force of 40,000 raw and undis 
ciplined men. He retraced his steps, hoping 
to discipline his troops at the same time as 
civilize his subjects. " I know," he remarked, 
" that the Swedes will long beat us, but in time 

History of Charles XII 57 

they will teach us to beat them." Moscow, 
his capital, was terror-stricken to hear of this 
defeat. So great was the pride and ignorance 
of the people that they were convinced they 
had been conquered by superhuman agency, 
and that the Swedes had secured their victory 
by magic. This opinion was so widespread 
that a public prayer to Saint Nicholas, patron 
saint of Russia, was ordered. This prayer is 
too singular to be omitted. It runs thus 

" O thou, our perpetual consolation in all 
our adversities, great Saint Nicholas, of infinite 
power, how have we offended thee in our 
sacrifices, our genuflections, our bowings, our 
thanksgivings, that thou hast thus forsaken 
us ? We have implored thine assistance against 
these terrible, insolent, savage, dreadful, in 
vincible destroyers, when, like lions and bears 
who have lost their young, they have fallen 
upon us, terrified us, wounded us, slain us by 
thousands, who are thy people. As it is impos 
sible that this should have happened without 
sorcery and witchcraft, we beseech thee, O great 
Nicholas, to be our champion and standard- 
bearer, to deliver us from this band of sorcer 
ers, and to drive them from our coasts with the 
reward they deserve." 

While the Russians were thus complaining 
of their defeat to St. Nicholas, Charles XII re 
turned thanks to God, and prepared himself for 
fresh victories. 

The King of Poland fully expected that his 

58 History of Charles XII 

enemy, who had conquered the Danes and Rus 
sians, would next turn his arms against him. 
He made a firmer alliance with the Czar, and 
the two princes arranged an interview at 
which they could agree on some policy. They 
met at Brizen, a small town in Lithuania, with 
out any of the formalities which only delay 
business, and for which they were in no humour 
under the circumstances. The princes of the 
North met with a familiarity which is not yet 
the fashion in the south of Europe. Peter 
and Augustus passed fifteen days together in 
pleasures which passed all bounds; for the 
Czar, who had set himself to reform his king 
dom, could not restrain his own dangerous 
inclination to riotous living. 

The King of Poland promised to furnish the 
Czar with 50,000 German troops, which were 
to be hired from several princes, and which the 
Czar was to pay. He, on the other hand, was 
to send 50,000 Russians to Poland to be trained 
in the art of war, and was also to pay the King 
of Poland 3,000,000 rixdollars within two 
years. Had this treaty been carried out it 
might have been fatal to the King of Sweden. 
It was a ready and sure way of making good 
soldiers of the Russians, and might perhaps 
have forged irons for half Europe. 

Charles XII set himself to prevent the King 
of Poland from getting the benefit of this 
treaty. After passing the winter in Narva, he 
marched into Livonia, to the very town of 

History of Charles XII 59 

Riga which King Augustus had failed to take. 
The Saxon troops were pasted along the river 
Dwina, which is very broad at this spot, and 
their task was to dispute the passage with 
Charles, who lay on the other bank. The 
Saxons were not then commanded by their 
Prince, who was at that time ill ; but their 
leader was Marshal Stenau, who was general ; 
under him commanded Prince Ferdinand, Duke 
of Courland, and the same Patkul, who, after 
having maintained his rights on paper, defended 
his country against Charles sword in hand at 
the peril of his life. 

The King of Sweden had great boats made, 
after a new model, so that the sides were far 
higher than ordinary, and could be let down 
and drawn up like a drawbridge. When raised 
they protected the troops they carried, and 
when let down they formed a bridge to land by. 

He also employed another artifice. Having 
noticed that the wind blew straight from the 
north, where his troops lay, to the south, where 
his enemies were encamped, he fired a large 
heap of wet straw, which spread a thick smoke 
over the river and prevented the Saxons from 
seeing his troops, or guessing at his actions. 
Under cover of this cloud he sent out boats 
filled with smoking straw, so that the cloud 
increased, and being right in the enemy s face, 
prevented them from knowing whether the King 
had started on the passage or not. Meanwhile, 
he himself led the execution of his scheme; 

6o History of Charles XII 

and when he was in the middle of the river, 
" Well," he said, " the Dwina is going to be 
as kind to us as the sea of Copenhagen; take 
my word for it, General, we shall beat them." 
He got to the other side in a quarter of an 
hour, and was vexed to see three people leap 
to shore before him. He had his cannon landed 
at once, and drew up his line without any oppo 
sition from the enemy, who were blinded by the 
smoke. When the wind dispersed the smoke 
the Saxons saw the King of Sweden already 
on his march against them. Marshal Stenau 
lost not a moment, but at the first appearance 
of the Swedes fell furiously upon them with 
the best part of his horse. The violent shock 
coming upon the Swedes just as they were 
forming, threw them into disorder. They gave 
way, were broken, and pursued up to the river. 
The King of Sweden rallied them instantly in 
the midst of the stream, with as much ease as 
if he were holding a review. Then his troops, 
marching in closer formation than before, beat 
back Marshal Stenau, and advanced into the 
plain. Stenau felt that his men were begin 
ning to waver, and, like a skilful commander, 
drew them off into a dry place flanked by a 
marsh, and a wood where his artillery were 
posted. The advantage of their position, and 
the time they had to recover their spirits, re 
stored the Swedes courage. Charles attacked 
at once with 15,000 men, while the Duke had 
about 12,000. The battle was hard fought 

History of Charles XII 61 

and bloody; the Duke had two horses killed 
under him ; he three times penetrated into the 
centre of the King s guards, but at last, having 
been unhorsed by a musket blow, his army fell 
into confusion, and he disputed the field no 
longer. His cuirassiers carried him off from 
the thick of the battle with difficulty, all bruised, 
and half dead, from the horses feet, as they 
were trampling him. 

After the victory the King of Sweden 
hastened to Mittau, the capital of Courland, 
and took it. All the towns of the Duchy sur 
rendered at discretion ; it was rather a triumphal 
passage than a conquest. He passed rapidly 
on to Lithuania, and conquered wherever he 
passed. And he acknowledged that it was a 
great satisfaction to him to enter in triumph 
the town of Birzen, where the King of Poland 
and the Czar had plotted his ruin. It was here 
that he planned to dethrone the King of Poland 
by the agency of the Poles themselves. When 
one day he was at table, quite absorbed in the 
thought of his enterprise, and observing his 
usual rule of abstinence in the midst of a pro 
found silence, appearing engrossed in his great 
plans, a German colonel, who was present, 
said loud enough for the King to hear, that the 
meals which the Czar and the King of Poland 
had made in the same place were very different 
from these. 

" Yes," said the King, rising, " and I shall 
the more easily disturb their digestions." In 

62 History of Charles XII 

fact, using a little diplomacy to assist his arms, 
he did not delay to prepare for the event about 
which he had been busy thinking. 

The Government of Poland is an almost exact 
image of the old Celtic and Gothic Govern 
ment, which has been altered almost every 
where else. It is the only state which has 
retained the name " republic," with the royal 

Every nobleman has the right to vote at the 
election of the king, and to stand for election 
himself. These fine privileges have correspond 
ing abuses ; the throne is almost always put up 
for sale, and as a Pole is seldom rich enough 
to buy it, it is often sold to foreigners. The 
nobility defend their liberty against the king, 
and tyrannize over the rest of the nation. The 
body of the people are slaves ; such is the fate 
of mankind, that the great majority are, in 
some way or another, kept under by the 
minority. There the peasant does not sow his 
crops for himself but for his lord, to whom he 
and his land and his very work belong, and 
who can sell him, or cut his throat as if he 
were a beast of the field. A lord is answer 
able to none but himself. Judgment can only 
be given against him for a criminal action by 
an assembly of the whole nation. 

Nor can he be arrested until after his con 
demnation, so that he is hardly ever punished. 
Many among them are poor, in which case 
they let themselves out to the richer, and do 

History of Charles XII 63 

the basest duties for a salary. They would 
rather serve their equals than engage in trade, 
and while taking care of their masters horses 
they call themselves electors of kings and 
destroyers of tyrants. 

Whoever saw a King of Poland in the pomp 
of his majesty, would think him the most abso 
lute prince in Europe ; yet he is certainly the 
least so. The Poles really make with him the 
same contract which is supposed to exist be 
tween a sovereign and his subjects. The King 
of Poland at the moment of his consecration, 
and when he swears to keep the " pacta con- 
venta," releases his subjects from their oath of 
allegiance if he should break the laws of the 
republic. He nominates to all public offices, and 
confers all honours. Nothing is hereditary in 
Poland, except estates and noble rank. The 
sons of a count or of a king have no claim to 
the dignities of their father. But there is this 
great difference between the king and a re 
public, that he cannot deprive of any office 
after having conferred it, and that the republic 
may depose him if he breaks the constitution. 

The nobility, jealous of their liberty, often 
sell their votes and seldom their affections. 
They have scarcely elected a king before they 
fear his ambition and make plots against him. 
The great men whose fortunes he has made, 
and whom he cannot degrade, often become his 
enemies instead of remaining his favourites ; and 
those who are attached to the Court, become 

64 History of Charles XII 

objects of hatred to the rest of the nobility. 
This makes the existence of two parties the rule 
among them ; a condition which is inevitable, 
and even a necessity, in countries where they 
will have kings and at the same time preserve 
their liberty. What concerns the nation is 
regulated by the States-General, which they 
call Diets. These Diets are by the law of the 
kingdom to be held alternately in Poland and 
Lithuania. The deputies do business there 
with sword in hand, like the old Sarmatae, 
from whom they are descended ; and sometimes 
too in a state of intoxication, a vice to which 
the Sarmatae were strangers. Every noble 
man deputed to these States-General has the 
right the Roman tribunes had of vetoing the 
laws of the Senate. One nobleman, by saying 
" I protest," can put a stop to the unanimous 
resolutions of all the rest; and if he leaves the 
place where the Diet is held they are obliged 
to separate. 

To the disorders arising from this law they 
apply a remedy still more dangerous. There 
are almost always two factions in Poland; as 
unanimity in the Diet is almost impossible, 
each party forms confederacies, in which deci 
sions are made by the majority s votes, with 
out regard to the minority. 

These assemblies, which are unconstitutional 
but authorized by precedent, are held in the 
king s name, though often without his con 
sent and against his interests, much in the 

History of Charles XII 65 

same way as the League in France made use of 
Henry Ill s name to undermine his power, or 
as the Parliament in England, which executed 
Charles I, began by putting the King s name 
at the head of all the Acts they passed to 
destroy him. When the troubles are ended, 
then it is the function of the General Diets to 
annul the acts of these cabals ; any Diet can 
also repeal the acts of its predecessors, be 
cause one king can abolish the laws of his 
predecessors, or his own laws. 

The nobility which makes the laws for the 
State is also its defence. They muster on 
horseback on great occasions, and can make 
a corps of more than 100,000 men. This great 
body, called " Pospolite," moves with difficulty, 
and is ill-governed. Difficulties of provisions 
and forage make it impossible for them to 
keep together long; they lack discipline, 
experience and obedience, but their strong love 
of liberty makes them always formidable. 
They may be conquered, dispersed, or even 
kept for a time in bonds, but they soon shake 
off the yoke ; they compare themselves to 
reeds, which a storm will bend to the ground, 
and which will rise when the wind drops. It 
is for this reason that they have no fortified 
towns they themselves are to be the only bul 
warks of the State; they never let their king 
build fortresses, lest he should use them rather 
for their oppression than for their defence; 
their country is quite open, except for two or 


66 History of Charles XII 

three frontier towns, and if in any of their 
wars, civil or foreign, they resolve to sustain 
a siege, they are obliged to hastily raise earth 
fortifications, repair old half-ruined walls, and 
enlarge the half -choked ditches ; then the town 
is taken before the entrenchments are finished. 

The Pospolite is not always on horses to 
guard the country ; they only form by order 
of the Diet, or, in times of great danger, by 
that of the king. 

The ordinary protection of Poland is in the 
hands of a force which the State is obliged to 
support. It is composed of two bodies inde 
pendent of each other under two different 
generals. The two generals are independent of 
each other, and though they are nominated by 
the king, are responsible to the State alone and 
have supreme authority over their troops. The 
colonels are absolute masters of their regi 
ments, and it is their affair to get them what 
sustenance they can, and to pay them ; but as 
they are seldom paid themselves, they ravage 
the country, and ruin the farmers to satisfy 
their own rapacity, and that of their soldiers. 
The Polish lords appear in these armies with 
more magnificence than in civil life, and their 
tents are finer than their houses. The cavalry, 
which makes up two-thirds of the arrny, is 
almost entirely composed of noblemen, and is 
remarkable for the gracefulness of the horses 
and the richness of the accoutrements. 

Their men-at-arms especially, who are called 

History of Charles XII 67 

either hussars or pancernes, are always at 
tended by several valets, who lead their horses, 
which have ornamented bridles with plates of 
silver and silver nails, embroidered saddles, 
saddle-bows and gilt stirrups, sometimes made 
of massive silver, with saddle-cloth trailing in 
the fashion of the Turks, whose magnificence 
the Poles imitate as nearly as possible. 

But though the cavalry is so gorgeous the 
foot are wretched, ill-clad, ill-armed, without 
uniform clothes or anything regular; at least 
that is how they were up to 1710. These foot- 
soldiers, who are like wandering Tartars, bear 
hunger, cold, fatigue, and all the hardship of 
war with incredible endurance. The character 
istics of the ancient Sarmatae, their ancestors, 
can still be seen in the Poles ; the same lack 
of discipline, the same fury in assault, the 
same readiness to run away and to return to 
the field, the same mad fury of slaughter when 
they are victorious. 

The King of Poland at first consoled himself 
with the idea that these two armies would 
fight for him, that the Polish Pospolite would 
arm at his orders, and that all these forces, 
united with his Saxon subjects and his Russian 
allies, would make up a multitude before whom 
the small Swedish force would not dare to 
appear. But he saw himself suddenly deprived 
of this means of succour through the very 
pains which he had taken to have them all at 

68 History of Charles XII 

Accustomed in his hereditary dominions to 
absolute power, he was perhaps too confident 
that he could govern Poland like Saxony. 

The beginning of his reign raised malcon 
tents, his very first acts irritated the party 
which was opposed to his election, and alien 
ated almost all the rest. The Poles resented 
the fact that their towns were filled with Saxon 
garrisons and their frontiers with troops. The 
nation, far more anxious to maintain their own 
liberties than to attack their neighbours, did 
not consider the king s attack on Sweden and 
his invasion of Livonia as advantageous to the 
State. It is difficult to deceive a free nation 
concerning its interests. The Poles saw that 
if this war, undertaken against their wishes, 
was unsuccessful, their country, unprotected 
on every side, would fall a prey to the King of 
Sweden, and that if it succeeded they would 
be subdued by their own king, who as soon 
as he was master of Livonia as well as Saxony 
would be able to hem in Poland between these 
two countries. 

In the face of this alternative, of either being 
enslaved by the king whom they had elected, 
or of having their land ravaged by Charles 
who was justly enraged, they raised a great 
outcry against a war which they believed was 
rather declared against themselves than against 
Sweden. They regarded the Saxons and the 
Russians as the instruments of their bondage. 
And when the King of Sweden had overcome 

History of Charles XII 69 

all that opposed him, and was advancing with 
a victorious army into the heart of Lithuania, 
they opposed the King violently, and with the 
more freedom because they were in misery. 

Lithuania was then divided into two parties, 
that of the Princess Sapieha, and that of 
Oginski. These two factions had begun by 
private quarrels, and degenerated into civil 

The King of Sweden was on the side of the 
Princess Sapieha; and Oginski, ill supported 
by the Saxons, found his party almost de 
stroyed. The Lithuanian army, which these 
troubles and lack of money was reducing to a 
small number, was partly dispersed by the con 
queror. The few who sided with the King of 
Poland were small bodies of wandering troops, 
who lived by spoil. So that Augustus found 
nothing in Lithuania but the weakness of his 
own party, the hate of his subjects, and a 
foreign army led by an offended, victorious 
and implacable king. 

There was certainly an army in Poland, but 
instead of 38,000 men, the number prescribed 
by law, there were not 18,000. Then it was 
not only ill-armed and ill-paid, but the generals 
were undecided on any course of action. The 
King s best course was to command the nobility 
to follow him; but he dare not run the risk 
of a refusal, which would increase his weak 
ness by disclosing it. 

In this state of trouble and uncertainty, all 

yo History of Charles XII 

the counts and dukes demanded a Parliament 
of the King, just as- in England, in times of 
crisis, the different bodies of the State present 
addresses to the King beseeching him to call 
a Parliament. Augustus was more in need of 
an army than of a Parliament where the actions 
of kings are criticized. But he was forced to 
call one, that he might not provoke the nation 
irretrievably. A Diet was therefore summoned 
to meet at Warsaw, on the 2nd of December, 
1701. He soon saw that Charles XII had as 
much influence in the Assembly as he had him 
self. The part} of the Sapieha, the Lubomirski, 
and their friends, Count Leczinski, treasurer 
of the crown, who owed his fortune to King 
Augustus, and above all the partisans of the 
Sobieski, were all secretly for the King of 

The most influential of them, and the most 
dangerous enemy that the King of Poland 
had, was Cardinal Radjouski, archbishop of 
Gnesna, primate of the kingdom and president 
of the Diet ; his conduct was full of duplicity 
and artifice, and he was entirely dominated by 
an ambitious woman whom the Swedes called 
Madame la Cardinale, and who never ceased 
to urge him to intrigue and faction. King 
John Sobieski, Augustus s predecessor, had 
first made him archbishop of Varmia and 
vice-chancellor of the kingdom. By favour of 
the same Prince, the Bishop got a Cardinal s 
hat; this dignity soon opened his way to the 

History of Charles XII 71 

primacy, and thus uniting- in his person all 
that impresses people, he was able to undertake 
great enterprises with impunity. 

On the death of John he exerted his interest 
to place Jacques Sobieski on the throne ; but 
the great hate they bore the father, great as 
he was, led to the rejection of the son. Then 
the Cardinal-Primate united with the Abbe" 
Polignac, ambassador from France, to give the 
crown to the Prince of Conti, who actually 
was elected. 

But the money and the troops of the Saxons 
got the better of him. At last he allowed him 
self to be drawn into the party which crowned 
the Elector of Saxony, and waited impatiently 
for a chance of sowing dissension between the 
nation and the new king. 

The victories of Charles XII, protector of 
Prince James Sobiesky, the civil war in Lithu 
ania, the general dissatisfaction of all his 
people with King Augustus, made the Cardinal- 
Primate hope that the time had come when he 
might send Augustus back into Saxony, and 
open the way to the throne for Prince John. 
This Prince, who had formerly been the inno 
cent object of the Poles hatred, was beginning 
to be their idol, in proportion as King Augus 
tus lost their favour; but he dare not even 
conceive such a revolution, of which the 
Cardinal had insensibly laid the foundations. 

At first he seemed to wish to reconcile the 
King with the republic. He sent circular letters 

72 History of Charles XII 

apparently dictated by the spirit of concord 

and charity, a common and well-known snare, 

but one by which men are always caught; he 

wrote a touching letter to the King of Sweden, 

imploring him, in the name of Him whom all 

Christians adore, to give peace to Poland and 

her King. Charles XII answered the Cardinal s 

intentions rather than his words, for he 

remained with his victorious army in the Grand 

Duchy of Lithuania, declaring that he had no 

desire to disturb the Diet, that he was making 

war on Augustus and the Saxons, and not on 

Poland, and that far from attacking the State 

he had come to save it from oppression. 

These letters and answers were for public 

perusal. The springs which made the Diet 

act were the emissaries, who continually came 

and went between the Cardinal and Count 

Piper, and the private meetings held at this 

prelate s house. They proposed to send an 

embassy to Charles XII, and were unanimous 

in their demands that their King should not call 

in the aid of any more Russians, and that he 

should send his Saxon troops away. 

Augustus s bad luck had already brought 
about what the Diet asked him. The treaty 
made secretly with the Russians at Birzen had 
turned out to be as useless as it had seemed 
formidable. He was far from being able to 
send the Czar the 15,000 men he had promised 
to raise in the Empire. 

The Czar himself, a dangerous enemy of 

History of Charles XII 73 

Poland, was not at all anxious at that time 
to help a divided kingdom, hoping to have 
some share in the spoils. He contented him 
self with sending 20,000 Russians into Lithu 
ania, and they did more mischief than the 
Swedes, fleeing continually before the con 
queror, and ravaging Polish territory, till at 
last, being chased by the Swedish generals and 
finding nothing else to ravage, they returned 
in bands to their own country. As to the 
scattered remains of the Saxon army which 
had been beaten at Riga, King Augustus sent 
them to winter and recruit in Saxony, that 
this sacrifice might regain him the affections 
of the Polish nation in his present difficult 

Then the war was abandoned for a series of 
intrigues, and the Diet divided into almost 
as many factions as there were dukedoms. 
One day the interests of King Augustus were 
paramount, the next they were rejected. 
Everybody clamoured for liberty and justice, 
yet they had no conception of either; the time 
was spent in secret cabals and public debate. 
The Diet knew nothing about what they might 
or should do ; great assemblies seldom agree on 
good measures in time of civil uproar, because 
bold men in such assemblies are generally 
factious, while more reliable men are usually 

The Diet broke up in disorder on the i7th 
of February, 1702, after three months plot- 

74 History of Charles XII 

ting and irresolution. The senators, that is, 
the dukes and the bishops, remained at War 
saw. The Polish Senate has the right of 
making laws provisionally, which the Diets 
seldom disannul; this body, much less cum 
brous and more used to business, was far less 
disturbed, and quickly came to a resolution. 

They agreed to send the embassy proposed 
in the Diet to the King of Sweden, and also 
that the Pospolite should mount and hold them 
selves ready for any emergency. They also 
made several regulations to appease the 
troubles in Lithuania, and still more to 
diminish the King s authority, though it was 
less to be feared than Charles s. 

Augustus preferred to receive hard condi 
tions from his conqueror than from his sub 
jects ; he therefore determined to sue for 
peace with the King of Sweden, and was on 
the point of negotiating with him. He was 
obliged to keep this step secret from the 
Senate, whom he regarded as a still more 
implacable foe. As the affair was difficult he 
intrusted it to the Countess of Konigsmarck, 
a Swedish lady of high rank to whom he was 
then attached. This lady, who was celebrated 
throughout the world for her wit and beauty, 
was more capable than any minister of bring 
ing a negotiation to a successful issue. Be 
sides, as she had some property in Charles s 
dominions, and had been long a member of 
his Court, she had a plausible reason for wait- 

History of Charles XII 75 

ing on the Prince. She came then to the 
Swedish camp in Lithuania, and first applied 
to Count Piper, who too lightly promised her 
an audience of his master. 

The Countess, among the talents which made 
her one of the most delightful persons in 
Europe, had a gift for speaking several lan 
guages like a native, and would sometimes 
amuse herself by making French verses which 
might have been written at Versailles. She 
made some for Charles XII. She introduced 
the gods of antiquity, praising his different 
virtues, and ended as follows 

" Enfin chacun des Dieux discourant a sa g-loire, 
Le placait par avance au temple de memoire : 
Mais Venus ni Bacchus n en dirent pas un mot." 

All her wit and charm were lost on such a 
man as the King of Sweden ; he obstinately 
refused to see her. She planned to intercept 
him when he was taking his usual horse- 
exercise. Thus meeting him one day in a 
very narrow lane she alighted as soon as she 
saw him. The King bowed without a word, 
turned his horse and rode straight back. So 
that the only satisfaction the Countess got 
from her journey was the conviction that she 
was the only person of whom the King was 

The King of Poland was then obliged to 
throw himself into the arms of the Senate. 
He made them two proposals by means of the 
Count of Mariemburg; either that they should 

76 History of Charles XII 

leave him the control of the army, which he 
would pay two quarters in advance out of his 
own pocket, or else that they should allow 
him to bring 12,000 Saxons into Poland. The 
Cardinal replied as severely as the King of 
Sweden had done. He told the Count of 
Mariemburg, in the name of the Assembly, 
" That they had decided to send an embassy 
to Charles XII, and that it was not his affair 
to introduce Saxons." 

In this extremity the King was anxious to 
preserve at least a semblance of royal authority. 
He sent one of his chamberlains to Charles 
to inquire when and how his Swedish Majesty 
would receive the embassy of the King, his 
master, and of the State. Unfortunately they 
had neglected to provide this messenger with 
a passport; so Charles threw him into prison, 
with the remark that he was waiting for an 
embassy from the State, and none from King 

Then Charles, leaving garrisons behind him 
in some of the Lithuanian towns, advanced to 
Grodno, a town famous in Europe for the 
Diets held there, but ill-built and worse forti 
fied. Some miles away from Grodno he met 
the embassy sent by the Polish State. Charles 
XII received them in his tent with some dis 
play of military pomp ; their proposals were full 
of evasion and obscurity, they seemed afraid 
of Charles, and disliked Augustus, but they 
were ashamed of deposing a king whom they 

History of Charles XII 77 

had elected at the order of a foreigner. 
Nothing- was settled, and Charles gave them 
to understand that he would give them a 
decision at Warsaw. 

His march was preceded by a manifesto 
which the Cardinal and his party spread over 
Poland in eight days. By this document 
Charles invited all the Poles to join him in 
vengeance, pretending that their interests were 
the same. They were, as a matter of fact, very 
different, but the manifesto, seconded by a 
great party, by disorder in the Senate and by 
the approach of the conqueror, made a great 
impression. They were obliged to own Charles 
for a protector, since it was his will, and it 
was well for them that he was content with 
this title. The Senators who were opposed to 
Augustus advertised the manifesto in his very 
face, and those who were on his side kept 
silence. At last when they heard that Charles 
was advancing by forced marches, they all 
took panic, and prepared to flee. The Cardinal 
was one of the first to leave Warsaw, the 
majority hastened to flee, some to await the 
issue of affairs on their own estates, some to 
arm their adherents. With the King there 
remained only the Imperial and Russian am 
bassadors, the Pope s Legate, and some few 
bishops and counts, who were attached to him. 
He was forced to flee, and nothing had yet 
been decided in his favour. Before his de 
parture, he hastened to take counsel with the 

78 History of Charles XII 

small number of Senators who remained. 
But though they were anxious to serve him they 
were still Poles, and had all got so great an 
aversion for Saxon troops, that they dare not 
allow him to bring 6,000 men for his defence, 
and they further voted that these 6,000 men 
should be commanded by the Grand Duke 
of Poland, and immediately sent back after 
peace had been made. As to the armies of 
the republic, they put them at his disposal. 

After this settlement the King left Warsaw, 
being too weak to oppose the enemy, and little 
satisfied with his own party. He at once pub 
lished his orders for assembling the Pospolite 
and the armies, which were little more than a 

There was nothing to be hoped from Lithu 
ania, where the Swedes were posted ; while the 
Polish army, reduced in number, lacked arms, 
provisions and the will to fight. The majority 
of the nobles, intimidated, undecided, or dis 
affected, stayed on their own lands. It was in 
vain that the King, authorized by law, ordered 
every noble to appear on horseback under pain 
of death, and to follow him; they began to 
argue that they need not obey him. His chief 
trust was in the troops of the Electorate, 
where, as the form of government was abso 
lute, he did not fear disobedience. He had 
already given orders to 2,000 Saxons, who 
were marching rapidly. He also recalled 
8,000, which he had promised to the Emperor 

History of Charles XII 79 

for the French war, but which in his difficult 
position he was forced to withdraw. The in 
troduction of so many Saxons into Poland 
meant the provocation of general disaffection, 
and the violation of the law made by his own 
party, allowing him a force of only 6,000. But 
he realized that if he were victor they would 
not dare to complain, while if he were beaten 
they would never forgive the introduction of 
6,000 men. While his soldiers were arriving in 
groups, and he was passing from county to 
county collecting the nobles who adhered to 
him, the King of Sweden at last arrived before 
Warsaw on the 5th of May, 1702. The gates 
were opened to him at the first summons ; he 
sent away the Polish garrison, disbanded the 
militia, set up military posts of his own every 
where, and ordered the inhabitants to disarm ; 
then content with that, and not wishing to 
exasperate them, he only demanded a tribute of 
100,000 livres. King Augustus was at that 
time assembling his forces at Cracow, and was 
very surprised to see the Cardinal-Primate 
among them. This man wished, perhaps, to 
maintain an external reputation to the last, 
and to dethrone his King with every mark of 
outward respect. He gave him to understand 
that the King of Sweden would grant reason 
able terms, and humbly asked permission to 
go to see the King. King Augustus granted 
what he was powerless to refuse, and so left 
him free to do him an injury. The Cardinal 

So History of Charles XII 

hastened immediately to see the King of 
Sweden, to whom he had not yet ventured to 
present himself. He met the Prince at Praag, 
not far from Warsaw, but without the cere 
mony which had been shown towards the 
ambassadors of the State. 

He found the conqueror clad in a dress of 
coarse blue cloth with brass buttons, jack 
boots, and buffalo-skin gloves reaching to the 
elbow, in a room without hangings, together 
with the Duke of Holstein, his brother-in-law, 
Count Piper, his prime minister, and several 
officers. The King came forward to meet the 
Cardinal, and they stood talking for a quarter 
of an hour, when Charles concluded by saying 
aloud, " I will never grant the Poles peace 
till they have elected another king." The 
Cardinal, who had expected this, immediately 
reported it to all the counts, saying that he 
was most sorry about it, but pointing out the 
necessity for complying with the conqueror s 

At this news the King of Poland saw that 
he must either lose his crown or defend it in 
battle, and he put forth his best resources 
for this last contest. All his Saxon forces had 
arrived from the frontiers of Saxony. The 
nobility of the Palatinate of Cracow, where he 
still was, came in a body to offer him their 
services. He personally exhorted every one 
of these to remember the oaths they had taken, 
and they promised him that they would fight 

History of Charles XII 81 

to the last drop of their blood in his defence. 
Fortified by this help, and by the troops called 
the crown corps, he went for the first time to 
attack the King of Sweden, and soon found 
him advancing- towards Cracow. 

The two Kings met on the igth of July, 1702, 
in a large plain near Clissau, between Warsaw 
and Cracow. Augustus had nearly 20,000 
men, and Charles not more than 12,000; the 
battle began by a discharge of artillery. At 
the first volley, discharged by the Saxons, the 
Duke of Holstein, who commanded the 
Swedish cavalry, a young prince of great 
courage and valour, received a cannon-shot in 
his loins. The King asked if he were dead, 
and when they answered in the affirmative he 
said nothing, the tears fell from his eyes, and 
then covering his face with his hands for a 
moment, he spurred his horse furiously, and 
rushed into the thick of the fight at the head 
of his guards. 

The King of Poland did all that could be 
expected of a prince fighting for his crown ; 
he thrice personally led his men in a charge, 
but the good fortune of Charles carried the 
day, and he gained a complete victory. The 
enemy s camp, artillery and flags, and Augus 
tus s war-chest were left in his hands. 

He did not delay on the field of battle, but 
marched straight to Cracow, pursuing the 
King of Poland, who fled before him. The 
citizens of Cracow were brave enough to shut 


82 History of Charles XII 

the gates upon the conqueror. He had them 
broken open, the garrison did not dare to fire 
a single shot ; they were chased with whips and 
sticks to the castle, where the King entered 
with them. One gunner ventured to prepare to 
fire a cannon; Charles rushed up to him and 
snatched the match away; he then threw him 
self at the King s feet. Three Swedish regi 
ments were lodged at free quarters in the town, 
and the citizens were taxed by a tribute of 
100,000 rixdollars. Count Steinbock, having 
heard that some treasure had been hidden in 
the tomb of the Polish kings, in the Church of 
Saint Nicholas at Cracow, had them opened ; 
they only found gold and silver ornaments be 
longing to the church ; they took some of them 
and Charles sent a golden chalice to a Swedish 
church; this would have raised the Polish 
Catholics against him, if anything could have 
withstood the terror inspired by his arms. 
He left Cracow fully resolved to pursue 
Augustus without intermission, but within a 
few miles of the city his horse fell and broke 
his thigh-bone, so that he had to be carried 
back to Cracow, where he lay in bed in the 
hands of the surgeons six weeks. This acci 
dent gave Augustus breathing space. He had 
the report immediately spread throughout 
Poland and Germany that Charles had been 
killed by his fall. This false report, which was 
believed for some time, filled all men s minds 
with astonishment and uncertainty. 

History of Charles XII 83 

During- this slight interval he assembled all 
the orders of the kingdom to Mariemburg. 
The meeting was a large one, and few of the 
Counts refused to send their deputies. 

He regained popularity by presents, 
promises, and the affability which is so neces 
sary to absolute kings to make them popular, 
and to elective kings as an added support to 
their power. The Diet was soon undeceived 
concerning the false report, but the impulse 
had already been given to that great body, and 
they allowed themselves to be carried along by 
the impulse, and all the members swore fidelity 
to the King. 

The Cardinal himself, pretending to be still 
attached to King Augustus, came to the Diet. 
He kissed the King s hand, and did not scruple 
to take the oath with the rest. The oath 
implied that they had never attempted, and 
never would attempt anything against Augus 
tus. The King excused the Cardinal from the 
first part of the oath, and he blushed as he 
swore to the rest. 

This Diet resolved that the republic of 
Poland should maintain an army of 50,000 men 
at their own expense for the service of the 
State, that they should give the Swedes six 
weeks to declare for peace or war, and the 
same time to the Princess Sapieha, the authors 
of the troubles in Lithuania, to come and beg 
pardon of the King of Poland. 

In the meantime the King of Sweden was 

84 History of Charles XII 

cured of his wound, and carried everything be 
fore him. Still pursuing his plan of making 
the Poles dethrone their King themselves, he 
had, by means of the intrigues of the Cardinal, 
a new assembly called at Warsaw, to oppose 
that of Lubin. His generals pointed out to 
him that the affair might still be protracted and 
might at last prove abortive, that during this 
time the Russians were daily attacking the 
troops he had left behind in Livonia and 
Ingria, that the Swedes were not invariably 
successful, and that his presence there would 
in all probability shortly be necessary. Charles, 
who was as dogged in the carrying out of his 
plans as he was brisk in his action, answered, 
" Should I stay here fifty years, I would not 
leave the place till I have dethroned the King 
of Poland." 

He left the Assembly of Warsaw to dispute 
with that of Lubin in debates and writings, 
and to seek precedents to justify their proceed 
ings in the laws of kingdoms, laws which are 
always equivocable, and interpreted by each 
party at will. 

For himself, having increased his victorious 
troops by 6,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry, 
he marched against the rest of the Saxon 
army he had beaten at Clissau, and which had 
time to rally and recruit while he had been 
kept in bed by his fall. 

This army avoided him and withdrew to 
wards Brussels on the north-west of Warsaw. 

History of Charles XII 85 

The river Bug lay between him and the 
enemy. Charles swam across at the head of 
his horse, while the infantry sought a ford 
higher up. 

On May i, 1703, he came upon the Saxons 
at a place called Pultask. They were com 
manded by General Stenau and were about 
10,000 in number. The King of Sweden in 
his precipitate march had not brought more 
with him, being sure that fewer would have 
sufficed. The fear of his arms was so great 
that one half of the army ran away at his 

General Stenau held his ground for a few 
minutes with two regiments; but the moment 
after he was drawn into the general retreat of 
his army, which was dispersed before it was 
beaten. The Swedes did not make 1,000 
prisoners, nor were there 600 killed ; they had 
more difficulty in pursuing than in defeating 

Augustus, who had nothing left but the 
scattered remnants of the Saxons who had been 
beaten on all sides, hastily withdrew to Thorn, 
a town in the kingdom of Prussia, on the Vis 
tula, and under Polish protection. Charles at 
once prepared to besiege it. The King of 
Poland, realizing his danger, withdrew to 
Saxony, but Charles, in spite of brisk marches, 
swimming across rivers, hurrying along with 
his infantry, and riding behind his cavalry, 
was not able to bring his cannon up to Thorn ; 

86 History of Charles XII 

he was obliged to wait till it was sent him 
from Sweden by sea. 

In the meantime, he took up a position with 
in some miles of the town, and would often 
advance too near the ramparts to reconnoitre ; 
the plain coat that he always wore was of 
greater service to him than he had ever 
expected on these dangerous walks; it pro 
tected him from being marked out by the 
enemy for a shot. One day, when he had gone 
very near with one of his generals, called 
Lieven, who was dressed in blue trimmed with 
gold, he feared that he would be seen. With 
the magnanimity which was natural to him, 
which prevented him from remembering that 
he was exposing his own life for a subject, he 
told Lieven to walk behind him. Lieven, realiz 
ing too late the mistake he had made in putting 
on a noticeable uniform which brought those 
near him also into risk, and being equally afraid 
for the King s safety in whatever place he 
was, hesitated as to whether he ought to obey 
him. While he was debating with himself 
for a second, the King took him by the arm, 
and screened him : at that very instant a dis 
charge of cannon took them in the flank, and 
struck the general dead on the very spot which 
the King had just left. The death of this man, 
killed directly in his stead, and because he was 
trying to save him, confirmed him in the 
opinion he had always had about predestina 
tion, and made him believe that his fate which 

History of Charles XII 87 

had saved him under such extraordinary circum 
stances was reserving him for the execution 
of great designs. 

All his schemes succeeded, and he was 
equally fortunate in negotiations and in war; 
his influence was felt throughout the whole 
of Poland, for his Grand Marshal Renschild 
was in the heart of those dominions with a 
large section of the army. Nearly 30,000 
generals, scattered through the north and east 
on the Russian frontier, withstood the efforts 
of the whole Russian Empire; and Charles 
was in the west, at the other end of Poland, 
at the head of picked troops. 

The King of Denmark, tied down by the 
treaty of Travendal, which he was too weak 
to break, remained quiet. He was prudently 
afraid of showing his vexation at seeing the 
King of Sweden so near his estates. Further, 
towards the south-west, between the Elbe and 
Weser, lay the Duchy of Bremen, the last 
territory formerly acquired by the Swedes, 
filled with strong garrisons, and opening the 
way for the conqueror to Saxony and the 
Empire. Thus from the German Ocean 
almost to the Gulf of Borysthenes, that is, 
across the whole breadth of Europe, and up 
to the gates of Moscow, all was in consterna 
tion, and a general revolution was imminent. 
His vessels were masters of the Baltic, and 
employed in transporting prisoners from 
Poland into his own country. Sweden alone, 

88 History of Charles XII 

at peace during these great doings, was re 
joicing in deep peace, and in the glory of her 
King, for which she did not have to pay the 
price, for his victorious troops were maintained 
at the expense of the conquered. 

During this general peace of the North be 
fore the arms of Charles XII, the town of 
Dantzig ventured to offend him. Fourteen 
frigates and forty transports were bringing the 
King reinforcements of 6,000 men, with cannon 
and ammunition to finish the siege of Thorn. 
These had to pass up the Vistula ; at the mouth 
of that river lies the rich town of Dantzig, a 
free town, enjoying the same privileges in 
Poland as the Imperial towns have in Germany. 
Its liberty had been alternately attacked by the 
Danes, Swedes, and some German princes, 
and was only saved by the mutual jealousy 
of these Powers. Count Steinbock, one of the 
Swedish generals, assembled the magistrates in 
the name of the King, and demanded a passage 
and ammunition for his troops. The magis 
trates, showing an unusual rashness in those 
treating with their superior, dare neither abso 
lutely refuse nor yet exactly grant what he 
demanded. The general compelled them to 
give him more than he had asked; and even 
exacted from the town a contribution of 
100,000 crowns to make up for their rash 

At last the recruits, the cannon and the 
ammunition having arrived before Thorn, the 

History of Charles XII 89 

siege was begun on the 22nd of September. 
Robel, governor of the place, defended it for 
a month with a garrison of 5,000 men, and 
then it was forced to surrender at discretion. 
Robel was presented unarmed to the King. 
His Majesty never missed a chance of honour 
ing merit in a foe, and gave him a sword with 
his own hand, together with a considerable 
present of money, and sent him away on parole. 
But the town, which was small and poor, was 
condemned to pay 40,000 crowns, an excessive 
sum for it. 

Elbing, standing on an arm of the Vistula, 
was founded by the Teutonic Knights, and 
had been annexed to Poland. It did not take 
advantage of the mistake of the Dantzig 
townsfolk, hesitated too long about giving 
passage to the Swedes, and was more severely 
punished than Dantzig. 

Charles entered it in person on the i$th of 
December, at the head of 4,000 men armed 
with bayonets. The inhabitants, in terror, 
threw themselves upon their knees in the 
streets, and begged for mercy. He disarmed 
them, quartered his troops in their houses, and 
then summoning the chief magistrate he de 
manded a sum of 260,000 crowns, to be 
handed over that very day. He seized the 200 
pieces of cannon, and the 400,000 charges of 
powder, which were in the town; a victory 
gained would not have brought -him so 
many advantages. All these successes were 

90 History of Charles XII 

the precursors to the dethroning of King 

The Cardinal had scarcely taken the oath of 
fealty to his King when he repaired to the 
assembly at Warsaw, still under pretence of 
making peace. He talked of nothing but peace 
.and obedience, but was attended by 3,000 
soldiers raised on his own estate. At last he 
threw off the mask, and declared in the name 
of the Assembly that " Augustus, Elector of 
Saxony, was incapable of wearing the crown 
of Poland." They then unanimously pro 
nounced the throne vacant. 

The intention of the King of Sweden, and so 
necessarily of this Diet, was to give the throne 
to the Prince Jacques Sobieski, whose father 
Jean had possessed it. 

Jacques Sobieski was then at Breslau, in 
Silesia, impatiently waiting for the crown 
which his father had worn. 

One day he was hunting some miles from 
Breslau, with Prince Constantine, one of his 
brothers, when thirty Saxon cavaliers, sent 
secretly by King Augustus, suddenly rushed 
from a neighbouring wood, surrounded the two 
princes, and carried them off without resist 
ance. Relays of horses were ready a little 
distance off, on which they were at once taken 
to Leipsig, and closely guarded. 

This step upset the plans of Charles, the 
Cardinal and the Assembly of Warsaw. 

Fortune, which sports with crowned heads, 

History of Charles XII 91 

almost brought the King- of Poland to the 
point of being taken himself. He was at table, 
three miles from Cracow, relying on an 
advanced guard, posted at a distance, when 
General Renschild appeared suddenly, after 
having surprised this guard. The King of 
Poland had only time to mount with eleven 
others. The general pursued him for eight 
days, expecting to seize him at any moment. 
The King had almost reached Sendomir; the 
Swedish general was still in pursuit, and it 
was only through extraordinary good luck that 
the Prince escaped. 

In the meantime the King s party and that of 
the Cardinal were calling each other traitors 
to their country. 

The army of the Crown was divided into 
two factions. Augustus, forced at last to 
accept help from the Russians, regretted that 
he had not applied to them sooner; he hurried 
alternately into Saxony, where his resources 
were at an end, and into Poland where they 
dare not help him. On the other hand, the 
King of Sweden was ruling calmly and suc 
cessfully in Poland. Count Piper, who was as 
great a politician as his master was a hero, 
seized the opportunity to advise Charles to 
take the crown of Poland for himself; he 
pointed out to him how easily he could carry 
out the scheme with a victorious army and 
a powerful party in the heart of a kingdom 
which he had already subdued ; he tempted him 

92 History of Charles XII 

by the title of Defender of the Reformed Faith, 
a name which flattered Charles s ambition. 
He could, he said, easily play (in Poland) the 
part which Gustavus Vasa had played in 
Sweden, and introduce Lutheranism, and break 
the tyranny of the nobility and the clergy over 
the people. Charles was tempted for a 
moment; but glory was his idol; he sacrificed 
to it both his interests and the pleasure he 
would have had in taking Poland from the 
Pope. He told Count Piper that he would 
rather give away kingdoms than gain them, 
and added smiling, " You were born to be the 
minister of an Italian prince." 

Charles was still near Thorn, in that part 
of the kingdom of Prussia which belongs to 
Poland ; from there he had an eye on what 
was going on at Warsaw, and kept his power 
ful neighbours in awe. Prince Alexander, 
brother of the two Sobieskis, who had been 
carried off to Silesia, came to ask vengeance 
of him. The King was all the more ready 
to grant it, because he thought it easy, and 
that he would gain his own vengeance too. 
But as he was eager to give Poland a king, 
he proposed that Prince Alexander should take 
the crown, which fortune seemed bent on deny 
ing to his brother. He did not in the least 
expect a refusal, but Prince Alexander told 
him that nothing would ever persuade him to 
take advantage of his elder brother s misfor 
tune. The King of Sweden, Count Piper, all 

History of Charles XII 93 

his friends, and especially the young Palatine 
of Posnania, Stanislas Leczinski, pressed him 
to accept. But he was decided. The neigh 
bouring princes were astonished at the news, 
and did not know which to admire most a king 
who at the age of twenty-two gave away the 
crown of Poland, or Prince Alexander who 
refused it. 



Stanislas Leczinski chosen King- of PolandDeath of 
the Cardinal-Primate Great retreat of General 
Schullemburg Exploits of the Czar Foundation 
of Petersburg Charles s entry into Saxony The 
peace of Altranstadt Augustus abdicates in favour 
of Stanislas General Patkul, the Czar s pleni 
potentiary, is broken on the wheel, and quartered 
Charles receives the ambassadors of foreign princes 
in Saxony He also goes to Dresden to see 
Augustus before his departure. 

YOUNG Stanislas Leckinski was therefore de 
puted by the Assembly at Warsaw to give the 
King of Sweden an account of several differ 
ences that had arisen among them since Jacques 
had been carried off. Stanislas personal ap 
pearance was pleasing, full of courage and 
sweetness, with that frank open air which is 
the greatest of outward advantages, and a 
better seconder of a man s words than elo 
quence itself. Charles was impressed by his 
discreet allusions to King Augustus, the 
Assembly, the Cardinal and the different inter 
ests which rent Poland. King Stanislas did 
the writer the honour of relating his conversa 
tion with the King, which took place in 
Latin. " How can we hold an election if the 
two Princes and Constantine are absent?" he 
inquired. " How can you get the State out 
of the difficulty without an election?" answered 
the King. 

97 H 

98 History of Charles XII 

This conversation was the only intrigue 
which placed Stanislas on his throne. Charles 
prolonged the conversation purposely, that he 
might the better sound the young deputy s 
genius. After the conference he said aloud 
that he had never met a man so fit to reconcile 
all parties. He immediately made inquiries 
about the character of Leczinski, and found 
that he was brave and inured to fatigue, that 
he always slept on a kind of straw mattress, 
and that he required no personal service from 
his attendants; that he was more temperate 
than is usual in that climate, economical, adored 
by his servants, and perhaps the only popular 
prince in Poland, at a time when all ties were 
broken but those of interest and faction. This 
character, which corresponded in many respects 
with his own, made him make up his mind 
finally. He remarked aloud after the meeting, 
"There is a man who will always be my 
friend," and people knew that that meant, 
" There is a man who shall be king." 

When the Primate of Poland heard that the 
King had nominated the Palatine Leczinski, he 
hastened to Charles to try to make him change 
his mind, for he wished to put the crown on 
the head of a certain Lubomirski. " But what 
objection have you to Stanislas?" asked the 
conqueror. " Sire," said the Primate, "he is 
too young." "He is much about my own 
age," answered the King dryly, turning his 
back on the Prelate. Then he sent Count 

History of Charles XII 99 

Horn to Warsaw at once to notify the Assembly 
that they must elect a king in three days, and 
that they must choose Stanislas Leczinski. 
Count Horn arrived on the 7th July, and fixed 
the election for the i2th, just as if he were 
arranging the decampment of a battalion. The 
Cardinal-Primate, disappointed of the fruit of 
so many intrigues, returned to the Assembly, 
where he left no stone unturned to ruin the 
election in which he had had no share; but 
the King of Sweden arrived incognito at War 
saw, so that he had to be silent. All that the 
Primate could do was to absent himself from 
the election : he took up the position of a 
neutral, being unable to oppose the conqueror 
and unwilling to assist him. 

On Saturday, i2th July, the day appointed 
for the election, the Assembly met at Colo, at 
about three in the afternoon. They met there by 
arrangement, and the Bishop of Posnania pre 
sided instead of the Cardinal. Count Horn 
and two other officers were present at the cere 
mony, as ambassadors extraordinary from 
Charles to the Republic. The session lasted 
till nine in the evening, and the Bishop brought 
it to an end by declaring in the name of the 
Diet that Stanislas was elected King of Poland. 
They all threw their caps into the air, and 
the acclamations stifled the cries of the 

It was no use for the Cardinal and his party 
to stay away from the elections ; they were 

ioo History of Charles XII 

all obliged the next day to come and pay 
homage to the new King, who received them 
as if he were quite satisfied with their conduct ; 
their greatest mortification was that they had 
to attend him to the King of Sweden s quarters. 
His Majesty gave all honours to the King he 
had just made, and, to add weight to his 
new dignity, assigned money and troops for 
his use. 

Charles XII left Warsaw at once to proceed 
to the completion of the conquest of Poland. 
He had ordered his army to meet before 
Leopold, the capital of the great Palatinate of 
Russia, a place important in itself, but still 
more so for the riches it held. It was thought 
that by means of the fortifications, which King 
Augustus had made there, it would hold out 
fifteen days. The conqueror invested it on the 
5th, and took it the following day by assault. 
All who resisted were put to the sword. The 
victors, who were now masters of the town, 
did not disperse for pillage, in spite of the 
reports concerning treasure in Leopold : they 
ranged themselves in battle array in the great 
square. The King then proclaimed, by sound 
ing a trumpet, that all who had anything be 
longing to King Augustus or his adherents 
should bring them themselves before sunset on 
pain of death. The arrangements were so well 
made that few dare disobey him, and they 
brought him 400 chests, filled with gold and 
silver coin, plate and other things of value. 

History of Charles XII 101 

The beginning- of Stanislas* reign was con 
temporaneous with a very different event. 
Some business for which he must be present 
had forced him to remain in Warsaw : he had 
with him his mother, his wife and two 
daughters ; the Cardinal, the Bishop of Pos- 
nania and some prominent Poles made up his 
new court. His guards were 6,000 Poles of 
the royal army, who had lately entered his 
service, but whose fidelity had not yet been 
tried. General Horn, governor of the town, 
had only about 1,500 Swedes with him. They 
were at Warsaw in peace, and Stanislas was 
reckoning on starting in a few days for the 
conquest of Leopold, when suddenly they heard 
that an immense army was approaching the 
town. It was King Augustus, who was making 
a fresh effort; by one of the finest marches 
ever made he was coming up with 20,000 men 
to fall on Warsaw, after having eluded the 
King of Sweden; his purpose was to kidnap 
his rival. 

Warsaw was not fortified, and the Polish 
troops who were defending it were not reliable. 
There were those in the town from whom 
Augustus got information, and if Stanislas 
delayed he would be ruined. He sent his 
family to Posnania, under the guard of Polish 
troops upon which he could absolutely rely. It 
was in this disorder that he feared he had lost 
his second daughter, aged one ; she was lost by 
a nurse, and they discovered her in a manger, 

102 History of Charles XII 

in a neighbouring- village, where she had been 
left. That is the story that I have often 
heard him tell. It was this child who, after 
many vicissitudes, became Queen of France. 
Several gentlemen took different roads. The 
new King went to join Charles XII, learning 
early to suffer disgrace, and forced to leave his 
capital six weeks after he had been made King. 

Augustus entered the capital as a victorious 
and enraged sovereign. The inhabitants, 
already fleeced by the King of Sweden, were 
more heavily taxed still by Augustus. The 
Cardinal s palace and all the houses of the 
confederate lords were given over to plunder. 
The most extraordinary thing about this tran 
sient revolution was that the Papal Legate, 
who had come with King Augustus, demanded 
in the name of his master that the Bishop of 
Posnania should be handed over to him as 
responsible to the Court of Rome for having 
abetted a Prince who had been put on the 
throne by the arms of a Lutheran. 

The Court of Rome, which had always 
endeavoured to increase its temporal power by 
means of the spiritual, had long established a 
kind of jurisdiction in Poland, with the Papal 
Legate at the head of it. These ministers 
never missed a chance of extending their 
power, which was revered by the majority, but 
always resisted by those of greater discern 
ment. They had claimed the right of judging 
all ecclesiastical cases, and had, especially 

History of Charles XII 103 

during periods of disturbance, usurped many 
other privileges which they maintained until 
about 1728, when they were deprived of them : 
for such abuses are seldom reformed till they 
have become intolerable. 

King Augustus, very glad to be able to 
punish the Bishop with decency, and at the 
same time to do something acceptable to the 
Roman Court, though he would have opposed 
it on any other occasion, delivered up the 
Polish Prelate into the hands of the Legate. 
The Bishop, having seen his palace plundered, 
was taken by the soldiers into Saxony, where 
he died. 

Count Horn endured the continual fire of the 
enemy in the castle where he was enclosed for 
some time, but at last the place could hold out 
no longer, and he sounded a parley and gave 
himself up with his 15,000 Swedes. This was 
the first advantage which King Augustus 
gained in the torrent of his misfortune against 
the victorious Swedes. 

Charles, accompanied by King Stanislas, 
went to meet his enemy at the head of the 
best part of his troops. The Saxon army fled 
before him; the towns for thirty miles round 
sent him their keys, and every day brought 
word of some advantage gained. Success be 
came too familiar to Charles : he said it was 
hunting rather than fighting, and complained 
of never having to contest a victory. 

For some time Augustus entrusted the com- 

104 History of Charles XII 

mand of his army to Count Schullemburg, a 
very able general : he certainly needed all his 
experience at the head of a discouraged army. 
He seemed more anxious to safeguard his 
master s troops than to conquer : he made war 
by means of stratagem, while the two kings 
acted with vigour. He stole marches on them, 
seized advantageous posts, and sacrificed some 
of his cavalry to give time to his foot to with 
draw in safety. He saved his troops by 
splendid retreats before an enemy with whom 
one could only gain this sort of glory. 

Scarcely had he arrived in the Palatinate of 
Posnania than he heard that the two Kings, 
whom he had believed to be fifty leagues off, 
had covered the fifty leagues in nine days. He 
had not more than 8,000 foot and 1,000 horse; 
he had to hold his own against a superior force, 
the King of Sweden s reputation and the fear 
which so many defeats had naturally inspired 
in the Saxons. He was always of opinion, in 
spite of the German generals, that the foot 
might hold their own against the horse in an 
open field, even without the benefit of a 
chevaux de frise: and he ventured to try the 
experiment on that day against a victorious 
horse commanded by the two Kings and the 
most experienced of the Swedish generals. 
He took up such an advantageous position that 
he could not be surrounded ; his first line knelt 
on the ground, and were armed with pikes and 
muskets ; the soldiers were in close formation, 

History of Charles XII 105 

and presented to the enemy s horse a kind of 
rampart bristling with pikes and muskets ; the 
second line bending a little over the shoulders 
of the first, shot over their heads, and the 
third, standing upright, fired simultaneously 
from behind the other two. The Swedes fell 
upon the Saxons with their usual impetuosity, 
but they awaited them without flinching. By 
this means the Swedes advanced in disorder, 
and the Saxons warded off the attack by 
keeping their ranks. 

Schullemburg drew up his men in an oblong 
battalion, and, though wounded in five places, 
he retired in good order at midnight to the 
little town of Gurau, three leagues from the 
battle-field. He had scarcely time to breathe 
here before the two Kings appeared close 
behind him. 

Beyond Gurau, towards the river Oder, lay 
a thick wood through which the Saxon general 
led his exhausted troops; the Swedes, without 
being nonplussed, pursued him through the 
thickets of the woods, finding their way with 
out difficulty through places scarcely passable by 
foot-passengers. Yet the Saxons had not 
crossed the wood more than five hours before 
the Swedish cavalry appeared. 

On the other side of the wood runs the river 
Parts, at the foot of a village named Rutsen. 
Schullemburg had sent forward in haste to get 
the boats ready, and had got his troops across 
the river : they were already lessened by half. 

io6 History of Charles XII 

Charles arrived just as Schullemburg had 
reached the other side ; never had a conqueror 
pursued his enemy so rapidly. 

The reputation of Schullemburg depended on 
his escaping from the King of Sweden, while 
the King thought his glory concerned in taking 
him and the rest of his army. He lost no time 
in making his cavalry swim the river. Thus 
the Saxons found themselves enclosed between 
the river Parts and the great river Oder, which 
rises in Silesia, and is very deep and rapid at 
this spot. 

The ruin of Schullemburg seemed inevitable : 
but after having lost few soldiers he crossed 
the Oder during the night. Thus he saved 
his army, and Charles could not help saying, 
" To-day Schullemburg has conquered us." 

It was this same Schullemburg who was 
afterwards general of the Venetians, and he in 
whose honour the Republic erected a statue in 
Corfu, because he defended this rampart of 
Italy against the Turks. None but republics 
confer such honours ; kings do not give 

But what thus brought glory to Schullem 
burg was of little use to King Augustus. He 
once more abandoned Poland to his enemies, 
withdrew into Saxony and hastily prepared the 
fortifications of Dresden, for he already feared, 
not without reason, the loss of the capital of 
his hereditary dominions. 

Charles XII found Poland submissive; his 

History of Charles XII 107 

generals, following his example, had engaged 
in Courland with several small bodies of 
Russians, who, since the great battle of Narva, 
had only shown themselves in small companies, 
and who in this part only made war like the 
Tartar vagabonds, who plunder and flee and 
reappear only to flee again. Wherever the 
Swedes were they thought they were certain to 
win, though they numbered only twenty against 
a hundred. 

Under these fortunate circumstances Stanis 
las prepared for his coronation ; fortune, which 
had had him elected king at Warsaw and then 
had driven him thence, recalled him thither to 
the acclamation of a crowd of nobles which 
the fortune of war attached to him ; a Diet was 
convoked there ; all other obstacles were re 
moved, only the Court of Rome was disposed 
to thwart it. 

It was naturally expected that this Court 
would declare in favour of King Augustus, who 
from a Protestant had become a Catholic to 
gain the crown in opposition to Stanislas, who 
was placed upon the throne by the great enemy 
of the Catholic faith. The then Pope, Clement 
XI, sent dispatches to all the prelates of 
Poland, and especially to the Cardinal-Primate, 
threatening them with excommunication if they 
presumed to assist at the consecration of 
vStanislas or take part in any plot against King 

If these dispatches were delivered to the 

io8 History of Charles XII 

bishops who were at Warsaw, it was to be feared 
that, while some would obey them through 
weakness, the majority would seize the op 
portunity to become more exacting in propor 
tion as they were necessary. All possible pre 
cautions were therefore taken to prevent the 
letters of the Pope from being received at 
Warsaw. A Franciscan got possession of them 
secretly, undertaking to deliver them into the 
bishops own hands : he first gave one to the 
suffragan of Chelm. This prelate, who was a 
great partisan of King Stanislas, gave it to 
his Majesty unopened. The King sent for the 
monk, and asked how he dare take charge of 
such a document. The Franciscan answered 
that he did it by order of his general. Stanislas 
told him to in future take his orders from his 
King rather than from his Superior, and 
banished him immediately from the town. 

The same day a placard was published by 
the King of Sweden, by which all ecclesiastics, 
secular and regular, were forbidden to take 
part in politics under the severest penalties. 

For greater security he had guards posted 
at the doors of all the prelates houses, and for 
bad the entry of any stranger into the town. 
He exercised these small severities so that 
Stanislas should not fall out with the clergy 
on his accession; he said that he refreshed 
himself from the fatigue of campaigns by 
checking the intrigues of the Roman Curia, 
and that he must fight it on paper, just 

History of Charles XII 109 

as he attacked other sovereigns with actual 

The Cardinal was asked by Charles and 
Stanislas to perform the ceremony of corona 
tion. But it did not seem to him seemly that 
he should quit Dantzig to consecrate a king 
who had been elected against his wish ; but, 
as it was always his policy to act a part in all 
that he did, he wanted to get a legitimate 
excuse for his refusal : he therefore caused the 
Pope s dispatch to be fixed, in the night, tp 
the gate of his own house. The magistrate of 
Dantzig in great indignation had search made 
for the culprits, which were not found; the 
Primate feigned irritation and was really very 
pleased : he had an excuse for not consecrating 
the new King, and at the same time remained 
on good terms with Charles, Augustus, Stanis 
las and the Pope. 

He died a few days after, leaving his country 
in turmoil. The only result of all his intrigues 
was that he had offended simultaneously three 
Kings, Charles, Augustus, Stanislas, the Polish 
State and the Pope, who had commanded him 
to come to Rome to account for his conduct. 
But, as even politicians sometimes experience re 
morse in their last moments, he wrote to King 
Augustus on his death-bed asking his pardon. 

The coronation was solemnized quietly and 
magnificently in Warsaw in spite of the Polish 
custom of crowning kings in Cracow. Stanis 
las Leczinski and his wife Charlotte were con- 

i io History of Charles XII 

secrated King and Queen of Poland at the 
hands of the Archbishop of Leopold assisted 
by several other bishops. The only reward 
Charles reaped from his conquest was to be 
present at the ceremony incognito. 

While he was thus providing Poland with a 
king, and the King of Denmark dare not 
harrass him, while the King of Prussia was 
courting his friendship and Augustus was 
withdrawing to his hereditary dominions, the 
Czar became daily more formidable. His assist 
ance of Augustus in Poland had been feeble, 
but he had made powerful diversions in Ingria. 

As for him, he not only began to be a great 
soldier himself, but also to teach his soldiers 
the art of war : discipline was established 
among his forces ; he had good engineers, 
experienced artillery and many good officers ; 
he had also learned the great art of supporting 
his armies. Some of his generals had learned 
both to fight well and, if necessary, to abstain 
from fighting ; more than all, he had built up 
a fleet capable of making head against the 
Swedes in the Baltic. 

Confident in all these advantages, due both 
to his genius and to the absence of the King 
of Sweden, he took Narva by assault after a 
regular siege and a blockade by land and sea. 
When the soldiers had taken the town they 
plundered it, and gave themselves to horrible 
barbarities : the Czar hastened from one place 
to another to stop the disorder and massacre. 

History of Charles XII in 

He rescued by force from the hands of the 
soldiers women whose throats they were going 
to cut after having- outraged them ; he was 
obliged to kill with his own hands some 
Russians who would not listen to his com 
mands. In the town hall at Narva they still 
show the table where he laid his sword, as he 
said to the citizens who flocked after him, 
" This sword is not wet with the blood of the 
citizens I have slain, but with that of the Rus 
sians whom I have killed to save your lives." 
Had the Czar always shown such humanity 
he would have been the greatest of heroes. 
His ambition went beyond the destruction of 
tcwns. In the midst of his new conquests he 
was laying the foundations of a city not far 
from Narva. This was the city of Peters 
burg, which was henceforth his seat and the 
centre of his trade. It is between Finland and 
Ingria, in a marshy island, around which the 
Neva flows in several branches before it falls 
into the Gulf of Finland. He himself made the 
plan of the town, of the fortress, the port, the 
quays, which adorn it, and the fortifications 
defending its entry. This desert, uncultivated 
island, which is nothing but a mud heap 
during the short summer of that climate, and 
a pool of ice in winter, unapproachable by 
land except across wild forests and deep 
morasses, and till then the habitation 
of bears and wolves, was, in 1703, filled 
with more than 300,000 men whom the 

ii2 History of Charles XII 

Czar had called together from the farthest 
limits of his dominions. The peasants of the 
kingdom of Astrakan and those who live on 
the frontiers of China were transported to 
Petersburg. Before he could lay the founda 
tions of a town he was obliged to pierce 
forests, make roads, drain marshes and raise 
banks. Nature was subjugated in every direc 
tion. But the Czar was bent on peopling a 
country which did not seem meant for man s 
habitation ; he was not to be diverted from his 
resolve either by the floods, which ruined his 
works, or by the barrenness of the soil, or by 
the ignorance of the workmen, or by the 
mortality which swept away 200,000 men at 
the very beginning. The town was founded in 
spite of the obstacles which existed in nature 
herself, in the genius of the people, and an 
unfortunate war. Already in 1705 Petersburg 
was a considerable town, and its port was full 
of vessels. The Emperor attracted strangers 
in large numbers by the rewards which he gave 
them, giving some lands, others houses, and 
encouraging all the arts which might civilize 
life in that cruel climate. Above all, he made 
it inaccessible to the enemy. The Swedish 
generals, who frequently beat his troops in 
every other district, were not able to do the 
least harm to this increasing colony. It was 
at peace in the midst of the war which sur 
rounded it. 

The Czar, by thus creating new dominions 

History of Charles XII 113 

for himself, still held out a helping hand to 
King Augustus, who was losing his. He per 
suaded him by the instrumentality of General 
Patkul, who had lately joined the Russian side, 
and was then the Czar s ambassador in Saxony, 
to come to Grodno to confer with him once 
more on the unhappy state of affairs. 

King Augustus came thither with some 
troops, attended by General Schullemburg, 
whose passage across the Oder had got him a 
reputation in the north, and in whom he placed 
his great hope. The Czar arrived followed by 
100,000 men. The two monarchs formed new 
plans of war. As King Augustus was de 
throned he was no longer afraid of exasperat 
ing the Poles by delivering their country to 
the Russian troops. It was decided that the 
Czar s army should be divided into several 
bodies to oppose every action of the King of 
Sweden. During this interview King Augustus 
instituted the order of the White Eagle, a feeble 
resource to bring over to his side certain 
Polish lords who wanted real advantages rather 
than an empty honour, which becomes ridicul 
ous when derived from a prince who is king 
only in name. The conference of the two 
Kings ended in a strange manner. The Czar 
departed suddenly, leaving his troops to his 
ally, in order to extinguish a rebellion with 
which he was threatened in Astrakan. He had 
scarcely started when King Augustus ordered 
the arrest of Patkul at Dresden. 


114 History of Charles XII 

All Europe was amazed that, in opposition to 
the law of nations, and apparently to his own 
interest, he should venture to imprison the 
ambassador of the only prince who afforded 
him protection. The secret history of the 
affair was this : Patkul, proscribed in Sweden 
for having maintained the privileges of his 
country, Livonia, had become general to 
Augustus : but his high spirit not according 
with the proud disposition of General Fleming, 
the King s favourite, and more imperious than 
himself, he had passed into the Czar s service, 
and was then his general and ambassador to 
Augustus. He was a man of great discern 
ment, and had found out that the proposal of 
Fleming and the Chancellor of Saxony was to 
offer Charles peace on his own terms. He at 
once formed a plan to prevent this and to bring 
about some arrangement between the Czar 
and Sweden. The Chancellor got wind of his 
project, and obtained leave to seize him. King 
Augustus told the Czar that Patkul was a 
wretch and would betray them both. His only 
fault was that he served his master too well : 
but an ill-timed piece of service is often 
punished as a treason. 

In the meantime, the 100,000 Russians, on 
one side, divided into several small bodies, burnt 
and ravaged the estates of Stanislas adher 
ents : while Schullemburg, on the other, was 
advancing with fresh troops. But the fortune 
of the Swedes dispersed these two armies in 
less than two months. Charles XII and 

History of Charles XII 115 

Stanislas attacked the separate corps of the 
Russians one after another, but so swiftly that 
one Russian general was beaten before he had 
heard of the defeat of his colleague. No 
obstacle could check the conqueror s advance. 
If he found a river in the way he and his 
Swedes swam across it. 

One party of the Swedes took the baggage 
of Augustus in which were 400,000 crowns of 
silver coin; Stanislas seized 800,000 ducats 
belonging to Prince Menzikoff, the Russian 
general. Charles, leading his cavalry, would 
often march thirty leagues in twenty-four 
hours, every soldier leading another mount to 
use when his own should be spent. The 
Russians, panic-stricken and reduced to a 
small band, fled in confusion beyond the 

While Charles was thus driving the Russians 
into the heart of Lithuania, Schullemburg at 
last repassed the Oder and came at the head 
of 20,000 men to offer battle to the great 
Marshal Renschild, who was considered 
Charles s best general, and was called the 
Parmenio of the North. These two famous 
generals, who seemed to share the fate of their 
respective masters, met near Punits, at a place 
called Frauenstadt, a territory which had 
already proved fatal to the troops of Augustus. 
Renschild had only thirteen battalions and 
twenty-two squadrons, which made a total of 
about 10,000 men, and Schullemburg had twice 
that number. 

n6 History of Charles XII 

It must be remembered, too, that he had 
in his army between 6,000 and 7,000 Russians, 
who had been under discipline a long- time, and 
were as reliable as veterans. This battle of 
Frauenstadt was fought on i2th February, 
1706: but the same General Schullemburg, 
who with 4,000 men had to a certain extent 
harassed the King of Sweden, was completely 
defeated by General Renschild. The battle did 
not last a quarter of an hour, in a moment 
the Saxons wavered, and the Russians threw 
down their arms on the first appearance of the 
Swedes. The panic was so sudden and the 
confusion so great that the conquerors found 
on the field 7,000 muskets ready loaded, which 
they had thrown away without firing. There 
never was a rout more sudden, more complete 
or more disgraceful : and yet all the Saxon 
and Swedish officers acknowledged that no 
general had ever arranged his men better; it 
was that day that they realized how little 
human foresight can pre-arrange events. 

Among the prisoners there was a whole 
regiment of French. These poor wretches had 
been taken by the Saxon troops in 1704 at the 
famous battle of Hochstet, which was so fatal 
to the greatness of Louis XIV. They had since 
enlisted under King Augustus, who had formed 
them into a regiment of dragoons, and put 
them under the command of a Frenchman 
called Joyeuse. The colonel was killed at the 
first and only charge of the Swedes, and the 

History of Charles XII 117 

whole regiment became prisoners of war. From 
that day these Frenchmen petitioned to be 
taken into the service of the King of Sweden ; 
they were received into that service by a 
singular fate, which preserved them for a 
further change of their conqueror to their 

As to the Russians they begged for their life 
on their knees, but they were inhumanly mas 
sacred in cold blood, six hours after the battle, 
to punish them for the outrages of the com 
patriots, and to get rid of prisoners which the 
conquerors did not know what to do with. 

Augustus was now absolutely without re 
sources. He had nothing left but Cracow, 
where he was shut up with two regiments of 
Russians, two of Saxons and some troops of 
the regal army, by whom he was afraid of 
being handed over to the conqueror; but his 
misfortune was at its height when he heard 
that Charles had at last entered Saxony, on 
the ist September, 1706. 

He had crossed Silesia without deigning to 
even warn the Court of Vienna. Germany was 
in consternation : the Diet of Ratisbon, which 
represents the Empire, and the resolutions of 
which are often as ineffectual as they are 
solemn, declared the King of Sweden an enemy 
to the Empire if he crossed the Oder with his 
army ; this very resolution was a further in 
ducement to him to march into Germany. 

Upon his approach the villages were de- 

u8 History of Charles XII 

serted and the inhabitants fled in all directions. 
Charles acted as he had at Copenhagen : he 
had proclamations made everywhere that he 
only wanted to procure peace, and that all 
those who returned to their houses and paid the 
contributions that he would demand should be 
treated as his own subjects, while the rest 
should be pursued with no quarter. This de 
claration from a prince who had never been 
known to break his word brought back in 
large numbers all those of the inhabitants who 
had been dispersed by fear. He encamped at 
Altranstadt, near the plains of Lutzen, the 
field of battle famous for the victory and death 
of Gustavus Adolphus. He went to see the 
place where this great man fell, and when he 
reached the spot he said, " I have endeavoured 
to live like him ; perhaps God may one day 
grant me a death as glorious." 

From this camp he commanded the estates 
of Saxony to meet, and to send him without 
delay the register of Finance of the Electorate. 
As soon as he had them in his power, and had 
information of exactly what Saxony could 
supply, he levied a tax on it of 625,000 rix- 
dollars a month. 

Besides this contribution the Saxons were 
obliged to supply every Swedish soldier with 
two pounds of meat, two pounds of bread, 
two pots of beer and fourpence a day, together 
with forage for his horse. When the contri 
butions had been thus fixed the King arranged 

History of Charles XII 119 

a new method of protecting the Saxons from 
the insults of his soldiers. He ordered that in 
all the towns where his soldiers were quartered 
every housekeeper with whom the soldiers were 
lodged should give certificates of their be 
haviour each month, without which the soldier 
could not draw his pay; further, inspectors 
went round once a fortnight to inquire if the 
Swedes had done any damage, and house 
keepers were carefully indemnified and culprits 

The severe discipline under which Charles s 
troops lived is well known ; they did not pillage 
towns taken by assault without permission ; 
they pillaged in an orderly way, and desisted 
at the first signal. The Swedes boast to this 
day of the discipline they kept in Saxony : yet 
the Saxons complain that the most terrible 
outrages were committed among them. These 
contradictory statements would be irreconcil 
able if we did not remember that men look 
at the same thing from different points of 

It would have been very strange had not the 
conquerors sometimes abused their privileges, 
and had not the conquered regarded the small 
est damage as the most terrible injury. One 
day as the King was riding near Leipsig a 
Saxon peasant threw himself at his feet to 
ask justice against a grenadier, who had just 
gone off with what he had intended for his 
family dinner. The King had the soldier called. 

120 History of Charles XII 

" Is it true," he asked sternly, " that you have 
robbed this man?" "Sire," answered the 
soldier, " I have not done him so much harm 
as your Majesty has done his master, for you 
have stolen a kingdom from him, while I have 
only taken a turkey from this rustic." The 
King- gave the peasant ten ducats, and pardoned 
the soldier for the boldness of the repartee, but 
he added, " Remember, friend, that 1 have 
taken a kingdom from King Augustus, but I 
have taken nothing for myself." 

The great Leipsig fair was held as usual, 
tradesmen attended it in perfect security ; not 
one Swedish soldier was to be seen in the fair ; 
it might have been said that the only object of 
the Swedish army in Saxony was to keep the 
peace : the King ruled throughout the Elector 
ate with as absolute a power and as deep a 
tranquillity as in Stockholm. 

King Augustus, a wanderer in Poland, and 
deprived both of his kingdom and his elector 
ate, at last wrote a letter with his own hand 
to Charles XII to ask for a peace. 

He commissioned Baron Imhof, accompanied 
by M. Finsten of the Privy Council, secretly to 
deliver this letter; he gave them full powers 
and carte blanche, directing them to try to 
obtain for him reasonable and Christian con 
ditions. He was obliged to conceal his over 
tures for peace and to refrain from having 
recourse to the mediation of any prince, for 
being then in Poland, at the mercy of the 

History of Charles XII 121 

Russians, he had reason to fear that the 
dangerous ally whom he had abandoned would 
take vengeance on him for his submission to 
the conqueror. His two plenipotentiaries came 
by night to Charles s camp and had a private 
audience. The King read the letter, and said, 
" Gentlemen, you shall have your answer in a 
moment." Then he went into his office and 
wrote as follows 

" I consent to grant peace on the following 
conditions, in which it must not be expected 
that I will make the least alteration : 

" i. That King Augustus renounce for ever 
the crown of Poland, that he acknowledge 
Stanislas as lawful king; and that he promise 
never to recover the throne, even after the 
death of Stanislas. 

" 2. That he renounce all other treaties, and 
especially those he has made with Russia. 

" 3. That he send back with honour into my 
camp the Princess Sobieski, and any other 
prisoners he may have taken. 

" 4. That he deliver into my hands all the 
deserters who have taken service with him, 
particularly Jean Patkul; and that proceedings 
be stopped against all such as have passed 
from his service to mine." 

He gave this paper to Count Piper, bidding 
him negotiate the rest with King Augustus s 
plenipotentiaries. They were overwhelmed by 
the severity of the terms, and tried with the 
small skill which is possible to the powerless, 

122 History of Charles XII 

to lessen the rigour of the King of Sweden. 
They had several conferences with Count Piper, 
the only answer he would give to all their 
suggestions was, " Such is the will of the 
King my master, and he never changes his 

While this peace was being negotiated 
secretly in Saxony, chance seemed to give King 
Augustus the opportunity of gaining more 
honourable terms, and of treating with his 
conqueror on a more equal footing. 

Prince Menzikoff, commander-in-chief of the 
Russian army, went to join him in Poland with 
30,000 men, at a time when he not only did 
not expect their assistance but even feared it. 
He was accompanied by Polish and Saxon 
troops, 6,000 in all. Surrounded by Prince 
Menzikoff s army, and with only this small 
body-guard, he was in terror lest they should 
discover his negotiation ; he pictured himself 
simultaneously dethroned by his enemy, and 
in danger of being taken prisoner by his ally. 
In this critical state of affairs the army found 
itself in the near neighbourhood of one of the 
Swedish generals, called Meyerfield, who was 
at the head of 6,000 troops at Calish, near the 
Palatinate of Posnania. Prince Menzikoff 
pressed the King to give battle. The King, 
in this most difficult position, delayed under 
various pretexts, for though the enemy had 
only one third of his numbers, there were 
4,000 Swedes in the army of Meyerfield, and 
that was enough to make the result doubtful. 

History of Charles XII 123 

On the other hand, to fall upon the Swedes 
during the negotiations and to lose the day, 
would mean irretrievable ruin. He therefore 
resolved to send a reliable messenger to the 
enemy s general to let him know the secret 
of the peace and to warn him to retreat. But 
this advice had a very different effect from 
what had been expected. General Meyerfield 
believed that it was a snare to intimidate him, 
and on that supposition alone he dared to risk 
a battle. 

That day the Russians for the first time con 
quered the Swedes in a pitched battle. This 
victory, which King Augustus had gained in 
spite of himself, was complete ; in the midst 
of his ill-fortune he entered in triumph into 
Warsaw, formerly his capital, but now a dis 
mantled and ruined town, ready to receive any 
conqueror whatever, and to acknowledge the 
strongest as king. He was tempted to seize 
this moment of prosperity, and to attack the 
King of Sweden in Saxony with the Russian 
army. But when he remembered that Charles 
was at the head of a Swedish army, which 
had till then been invincible; that the Russians 
would forsake him directly they had informa 
tion that the treaty had been begun; that 
Saxony, his hereditary dominions, already 
drained of men and money, would be ravaged 
by the Russians as well as by the Swedes; 
that the Empire, occupied with the French 
war, could not help him; and that he would 
be left without dominions, friends, or money, 

124 History of Charles XII 

he considered it better to accept the King of 
Sweden s terms. 

These terms were made even more severe 
when Charles heard that King Augustus had 
attacked his troops during the negotiations. 
His rage and the pleasure of still further 
humbling an enemy who had just conquered his 
troops, made him more inflexible about all the 
articles of the treaty. Thus the victory of 
King Augustus was wholly to his own dis 
advantage, a circumstance in which his experi 
ence was unique. 

He had just had the Te Deum sung in 
Warsaw, when Fingsten, one of his pleni 
potentiaries, arrived from Saxony, with the 
treaty of peace which deprived him of his 
crown. Augustus signed it after some hesita 
tion, and then started for Saxony, in the vain 
hope that his presence might soften the King 
of Sweden, and that his enemy might recall the 
former bonds between their houses, and their 
common blood. 

The two Princes first met at Gutersdorf, in 
Count Piper s quarters. The meeting was 
unceremonious ; Charles was in jack-boots, with 
a piece of black taffeta tied carelessly round 
his neck instead of a cravat; his coat was as 
usual made of coarse blue cloth with brass 
buttons. He was wearing the long sword 
which he had used in the battle of Narva, and 
often leaned upon it. 

The conversation turned entirely upon those 

History of Charles XII 125 

great boots. Charles told Augustus that he 
had not had them off for six years, except at 
bed-time. These details were the only subject 
discussed by two kings, whereof one had taken 
the crown from the other. 

Augustus adopted during the whole inter 
view that air of delight and satisfaction which 
princes and great men accustomed to business 
know how to assume in the midst of the 
crudest mortifications. The two kings dined 
together several times afterwards. Charles 
always pretended to give the place of honour 
to Augustus, but far from relaxing his terms, 
he made them even more severe. It was bad 
enough for a sovereign to be forced to hand 
over a general and a public minister, it was a 
great humiliation to be forced to send to his 
successor, Stanislas, the crown jewels and 
archives, but it was the finishing touch to this 
humiliation to be forced to congratulate on 
his accession him who had taken his place on 
the throne. Charles insisted on a letter from 
Augustus to Stanislas : the King showed no 
haste to comply with this demand ; but Charles 
had made up his mind, and it had to be written. 

Here is a faithful copy of the original, which 
King Stanislas still keeps, and which I have 
lately seen. 


" We do not consider it was necessary 
to enter upon a detailed correspondence with 

126 History of Charles XII 

your Majesty; but to please the King of 
Sweden, and that it may not be said that we 
have been unwilling- to satisfy him, we hereby 
congratulate you on your accession, and hope 
that your subjects will prove more faithful to 
you than ours have been to us. Every one 
will do us the justice to believe that we have 
only been paid with ingratitude for all our 
benefits, and that the majority of our subjects 
have only aimed at our ruin. We hope that 
you will not be exposed to like misfortunes, 
and commit you to God s keeping. 

;< Your brother and neighbour, 

" AUGUSTUS, King. 
" Dresden: April 8, 1707." 

Augustus was further obliged to command 
all the magistrates to no longer style him King 
of Poland, and to efface the title he renounced 
from the liturgy. He was less concerned about 
liberating the Sobieskis ; on coming out of 
prison these princes refused to see him. But 
the sacrifice of Patkul was a great hardship 
to him ; on the one hand, the Czar was clamour 
ing for him to be sent back as his ambassador ; 
on the other, the King of Sweden threatened 
terrible penalties if he were not handed over. 
Patkul was then imprisoned in the castle of 
Konigstein in Saxony. Augustus thought he 
could satisfy Charles and his own honour at 
the same time. He sent his guards to deliver 
up the wretched prisoner to the Swedish 

History of Charles XII 127 

troops ; but sent, in advance, a secret message 
to the Governor of Konigstein to let him 
escape. Patkul s bad luck frustrated the care 
they took to save him. The governor, know 
ing him to be very rich, wished him to buy 
his liberty. The prisoner, still relying on the 
law of nations, and informed of the intentions 
of King Augustus, refused to pay for what he 
thought he could obtain for nothing. During 
the interval, the guards appointed to deliver 
him to the Swedes arrived, and handed him 
over at once to the four Swedish officers, who 
took him straight to head-quarters at Altran- 
stadt, where he stayed three months, tied to a 
stake by a heavy iron chain. Then he was 
taken to Casimir. 

Charles XII, forgetting that he was the 
Czar s ambassador, and only remembering that 
he had been his own subject, commanded the 
court-martial to pass sentence upon him with 
the greatest rigour. He was condemned to be 
broken on the wheel and quartered. A chap 
lain came to tell him he must die, without in 
forming him of the form of his execution. Then 
the man who had braved death in so many 
battles, finding himself alone with a priest, 
and his courage no longer supported by the 
incitements of glory or passion, wept bitterly. 

He was engaged to a Saxon lady, named 
Madame D Einstedel, who had birth, merit, 
and beauty, and whom he had hoped to marry 
at the time that he was given up to execution. 

128 History of Charles XII 

He asked the chaplain to visit her and comfort 
her, and assure her that he died full of the 
tenderest affection for her. When he was led 
to the place of execution, and saw the wheels 
and stakes in readiness for his death, he fell 
into convulsions of fear, and threw himself 
into the arms of the minister, who embraced 
him, and covering him with his cloak wept 
over him. A Swedish officer then read aloud 
a paper as follows 

* This is to declare that the express order 
of his Majesty, our merciful lord, is, that this 
man, who is a traitor to his country, be broken 
and quartered for the reparation of his crimes, 
and as an example to others. Let every man 
beware of treason, and faithfully serve his 

At the words "most merciful lord," Patkul 
cried out, "What mercy!" and at "traitor 
to his country," " Alas, I have served it 
too well." He received sixteen blows, and 
endured the longest and most dreadful tortures 
imaginable. So perished the unfortunate Jean 
Patkul, ambassador and general to the King 
of Russia. 

Those who regarded him only as a revolted 
subject who had rebelled against his King, 
thought that he deserved his death, but those 
who regarded him as a Livonian, born in a 
province with privileges to defend, and who 
remembered that he was driven from Livonia 
just for supporting these rights, called him the 

History of Charles XII 129 

martyr to the liberties of his country. All 
agreed that the title of ambassador to the 
Czar should have rendered his person sacred. 
The King of Sweden alone, trained in despotic 
principles, believed that he had only done an 
act of justice, while all Europe condemned his 

His quartered members were exposed on 
gibbets till 1713, when Augustus, having re 
gained his throne, ordered these testimonials 
of the straits he was reduced to at Altranstadt 
to be collected. They were brought to him in 
a box at Warsaw, in the presence of the French 
ambassador. The King of Poland showed the 
box to him, simply remarking, " These are 
the members of Patkul," without one word of 
blame or regret for his memory, so that none 
present dare refer to so sad and terrible a 

About this time Paikel, a Livonian officer 
of Saxon troops, taken prisoner in the field, 
was condemned at Stockholm by a decree of 
the Senate; but his sentence was only to lose 
his head. This difference of punishment in the 
same cases made it only too plain that Charles, 1 
in putting Patkul to so cruel a death, had 
thought rather of vengeance than of punish 

However that may be, Paikel, after his con 
demnation, proposed to the Senate to disclose 
to the King in exchange for a pardon the 
secret of the manufacture of gold ; he made the 


130 History of Charles XII 

experiment in prison, in the presence of 
Colonel Hamilton and the magistrates of the 
town; and whether he had really discovered 
some useful art, or whether he had learned 
the art of cunning deception, as seems most 
probable, certain it is that they carried the 
gold which was found at the bottom of the 
crucible to the mint at Stockholm, and made 
such a circumstantial report to the Senate that 
the Queen, Charles s grandmother, ordered that 
the execution should be suspended till the King 
had been informed of this curious fact, and 
should send his orders from Stockholm. The 
King answered that he had refused to pardon 
a criminal for the entreaties of his friends, and 
that he would never do for the sake of profit 
what he could not do for friendship. There 
was something heroic in this inflexibility on the 
part of a prince who, it must be remembered, 
thought the secret possible. When King 
Augustus heard of the incident he remarked 
that he was not surprised that the King of 
Sweden was so indifferent about the philo 
sopher s stone, as he had found it in Saxony. 

When the Czar heard of the strange peace 
that Augustus, in spite of their treaties, had 
concluded at Altranstadt, and that Patkul, his " 
ambassador and plenipotentiary, had been 
handed over to the King of Sweden, in defiance 
of international law, he advertised his com 
plaints in all the Courts of Europe. He wrote 
to the Emperor of Germany, to the Queen of 

History of Charles XII 131 

England, and to the States-General of the 
United Provinces. He said that the unfortu 
nate necessity to which Augustus had yielded 
were merely cowardice and treachery. He 
called upon all these Powers to mediate that 
his ambassador might be sent back, and to 
resist the affront which, through him, was 
offered to all crowned heads ; he appealed to 
their honour not to stoop so low as to 
guarantee the Peace of Altranstadt, which 
Charles was urging upon them by threats. 
The only effect of these letters was to make 
the power of the King of Sweden more obvious. 
The Emperor, England and Holland, were then 
carrying on a destructive war against France ; 
they thought it inexpedient to exasperate 
Charles by refusing him the vain form of 
guaranteeing a treaty. As for the wretched 
Patkul, not one Power mediated for him, 
which proves both the danger of a subject s 
reliance on a prince, and also the great prestige 
of Charles. 

A proposal was made in the Czar s Council 
to retaliate on the Swedish officers who were 
prisoners at Moscow. The Czar would not 
consent to a barbarity which would have had 
such fatal results ; there were more Russians 
prisoners in Sweden than Swedes in Russia. 

He sought for a more useful vengeance. 
The great army of his enemy lay idle in 
Saxony. Levenhaupt, general to the King of 
Sweden, who was left in Poland at the head 

132 History of Charles XII 

of about 20,000 men, could not guard the 
passes in a country which was both unfortified 
and full of factions. Stanislas was at the camp 
of Charles. The Russian Emperor seized the 
chance, and entered Poland with more than 
60,000 men; he split them into several corps, 
and marched with a flying camp as far as 
Leopold, which was not garrisoned by the 
Swedes. All Polish towns are at the mercy 
of whoever may present himself at their gates 
at the head of an army. He had an assembly 
called together at Leopold, like the one which 
had dethroned Augustus at Warsaw. 

Poland then had two primates, as well as 
two kings, the one nominated by Augustus, 
the other by Stanislas. The primate nominated 
by Augustus summoned the assembly at Leo 
pold, and got together there all those men 
whom the Prince had abandoned by the Peace 
of Altranstadt, and also those who had been 
bribed to the Czar s side. It was proposed to 
elect a new king. So that Poland was very 
near having three kings at one time, and no 
one could say which was the right one. 

During the conferences of Leopold, the Czar, 
whose interests were closely connected with 
those of the Emperor of Germany, through 
their mutual fear of the King of Sweden, 
secretly obtained from him a number of Ger 
man officers. These gradually considerably 
strengthened his force, by the discipline and 
experience they brought with them. 

History of Charles XII 133 

He attached them to his service by great 
rewards ; and for the greater encouragement 
of his own troops he gave his portrait set in 
diamonds to all the generals who had fought 
in the battle of Calish; the subaltern officers 
had gold medals, and every private soldier 
had a silver medal. 

These monuments of the victory at Calish 
were all struck in the new town of Petersburg, 
where arts and sciences flourished in propor 
tion as he taught his troops of emulation and 
glory. The confusion, multiplicity of factions, 
and frequent ravages in Poland hindered the 
Diet of Leopold from coming to any conclu 
sion. The Czar transferred it to Lubin. But 
the change of place made no alteration in the 
disorder and uncertainty which every one felt. 
The assembly contented themselves with own 
ing neither Augustus, who had abdicated, nor 
Stanislas, who had been elected contrary to 
their wishes. 

But they lacked both the unanimity and the 
resolution to name another king. During 
these futile deliberations the party of the 
Princess Sapieha, Oginski s party, those who 
secretly supported King Augustus, and the new 
subjects of Stanislas, were all at war with one 
another, ravaging each other s estates, and 
completing the ruin of their country. 

The Swedish troops, commanded by Leven- 
haupt, of which one part was in Livonia, 
another in Lithuania, and a third in Poland, 

134 History of Charles XII 

were seeking the Russian troops, and burn 
ing the property of Stanislas enemies. The 
Russians ruined friends as well as enemies, and 
nothing was to be seen but towns in ashes, 
and vagrant troops of Poles, deprived of all 
their possessions, who hated their two kings, 
Charles and the Czar, equally. 

King Stanislas set out from Altranstadt on 
the 1 5th of July, 1707, with General Renschild, 
sixteen Swedish regiments and much money. 
His object was to appease the troubles in 
Poland, and to make his authority owned by 
peaceable means. He was acknowledged 
wherever he went; the discipline of his troops, 
which threw into stronger contrast the cruelty 
of the Russians, gained all hearts ; his extreme 
affability brought round to him, in proportion 
as it was realized, almost all factions, and 
his money gained him the majority of the royal 
forces. The Czar, fearing that he would lack 
supplies in a country ravaged by his own 
troops, withdrew into Lithuania, where he had 
told the various parts of the army to meet, 
and established magazines. This retreat left 
King Stanislas in peaceable possession of 
all Poland. 

The only one who then troubled him in his 
dominions was Count Siniawski, Grand General 
by nomination of Augustus. He was extremely 
able and very ambitious, and, heading a third 
party, he recognized neither Augustus nor 
Stanislas. He had used all his influence to 

History of Charles XII 135 

get himself elected, but was now content to 
lead a party, as he could not be king. 

The crown troops, who continued under his 
command, had hardly any other pay but licence 
to ravage their own country with impunity. 
All who suffered from their ravages or were 
afraid of them, immediately submitted to 
Stanislas, whose power was daily increased. 

The King of Sweden was then receiving 
in his camp at Altranstadt ambassadors from 
almost all the princes of Christendom. Some 
begged him to retire from the Imperial do 
minions, others to turn his arms against the 
Emperor. It was reported on all sides that he 
meant to join France in crushing the House 
of Austria. 

Amongst these ambassadors was the famous 
John, Duke of Maryborough, who was sent by 
Anne, Queen of Great Britain. This man, who 
took every town that he besieged, and gained 
every battle that he fought, was a prominent 
courtier at St. James, the leader of a Parlia 
mentary party, and the most able foreign 
minister of his time. He did France as much 
damage by his diplomatic talent as by his 
arms; and M. Fagel, Secretary of the States- 
General, has been heard to say that, on more 
than one occasion, the States having resolved 
to oppose what the Duke intended to lay be 
fore them, the Duke, when he appeared, though 
he spoke very poor French, brought them all 
round to his way of thinking. 

136 History of Charles XII 

Together with Prince Eugene, his fellow- 
victor, and the Grand Pensioner of Holland, 
Heinsius, he bore the whole weight of the 
enterprises of the allies against France. He 
knew that Charles was angry with the Emperor 
and the Empire, that he was being secretly 
approached by the French, and that if the con 
queror joined Louis XIV the allies would be 

It is true that Charles had given his word 
to take no part whatever in the war between 
Louis XIV and the allies; but the Duke did 
not believe that any prince would be so great 
a slave to his word as not to sacrifice it to his 
greatness and interest. He therefore started 
for the Hague in order to sound the King of 

As soon as he arrived at Leipsig, he went 
secretly, not to Count Piper, first minister, but 
to Baron Gortz, who was beginning to share 
the King s confidence with Piper. When he 
was presented to the King with the English 
minister Robinson, he spoke French, saying 
that he would be happy to have the opportunity 
of acquiring under his direction what he had 
yet to learn of the art of war. The King made 
no polite remark in answer to this compli 
ment, and seemed to forget that he was being 
addressed by Marlborough. The conversation 
was tedious and trivial, Charles using Swedish, 
and Robinson acting as interpreter. Marl- 
borough, who was never in a hurry to propose 

History of Charles XII 137 

things, and who had learned by long- experi 
ence the art of reading men, and discovering 
the connection between their inmost thoughts 
and their actions, gestures and speech, studied 
the King carefully. When he spoke on war in 
general he thought he remarked in his Majesty 
a natural dislike of France, and he saw, too, 
that he was talking with pleasure of the con* 
quests of the allies. He noticed that his 
eyes kindled when he mentioned the Czar, in 
spite of the restraint shown in the conversa 
tion ; and he noticed a map of Russia before 
him on the table. This quite convinced 
him that the real intention of the King of 
Sweden, and his only ambition, was to de 
throne the Czar, just as he had dethroned 
the King of Poland. He understood that his 
object in remaining in Saxony was to impose 
on the Emperor of Germany certain severe con 
ditions. But he knew that the Emperor would 
accept them, and that thus matters would be 
satisfactorily settled. He left Charles to 
follow his own bent, and, satisfied with having 
fathomed his intentions, he did not make any 
proposal to him. 

As few negotiations are concluded without 
money, and as ministers have been known to 
sell the hatred or friendship of their masters, 
all Europe believed that the Duke of Marl- 
borough had succeeded with the King of 
Sweden by means of the gift of a large sum 
of money to Count Piper, and the Count s repu- 

138 History of Charles XII 

tation has suffered for it to this very day. 
For my part I have traced this report to its 
source, and I have it on authority that Piper 
received a small present from the Emperor, 
with the consent of the King his master, and 
nothing from the Duke of Marlborough. It 
is certain that Charles was bent on dethron 
ing the Czar of Russia, that he took counsel 
of no one, and that he had no need of advice 
from Count Piper to wreak his long-meditated 
vengeance on Peter Alexiowitz. Lastly, the 
minister s reputation is absolutely vindicated by 
the fact that Charles paid honour to his memory 
long after, when, hearing of his death in 
Russia, he had his body taken to Stockholm, 
and buried with great pomp and magnificence 
at his own expense. 

The King, who had as yet experienced no 
ill-fortune, nor even any hindrance to success, 
thought that one year would dethrone the 
Czar, and that then he could retrace his steps 
as the arbiter of Europe; but his aim was 
first to humiliate the Emperor of Germany. 

Baron Stralheim, Swedish ambassador at 
Vienna, had quarrelled at table with Count 
Zobor, the Emperor s chamberlain ; the latter, 
having refused to drink to the health of 
Charles, and having accused him of treating 
his master too badly, Stralheim had given him 
the lie with a box on the ears, and had dared, 
after this insult, to demand reparation at the 
Imperial Court. 

History of Charles XII 139 

Fear of the displeasure of the King- of 
Sweden had forced the Emperor to banish the 
subject whom it was his duty to avenge. 
Charles was not satisfied, but insisted that the 
Count of Zobor should be handed over to him. 
The Court of Vienna had to swallow its 
pride and hand over the Count to the King, 
who sent him back, after having kept him 
prisoner some time at Stettin. Contrary to 
international law he further demanded that 
1,500 wretched Russians, who had escaped 
his arms and fled to the Empire, should be 
given up to him. The Court of Vienna would 
have had to consent to this strange demand, 
and they would have been handed over to 
the enemy, had not the Russian ambassador 
at Vienna arranged for their escape by different 

The third and last of his demands was the 
most exorbitant. He declared himself pro 
tector of the Emperor s Protestant subjects in 
Silesia, a province of the House of Austria, 
and not of the Empire ; he wanted the Emperor 
to grant them the liberties and privileges which 
had been gained by the Treaty of Westphalia, 
but nullified, or at least eluded, by the Treaty 
of Ryswick. The Emperor, whose great aim 
was to get rid of so dangerous a neighbour, 
still assented, and granted him all that he 
wanted. The Lutherans obtained more than 
100 churches, which the Catholics were obliged 
to cede by this treaty, but many of these con- 

140 History of Charles XII 

cessions, secured for them by the King of 
Sweden s fortune, were taken from them as 
soon as he could no longer impose laws. 

The Emperor, who was forced to make 
these concessions, and who submitted to 
Charles s wishes in everything, was Joseph, the 
eldest son of Leopold, and brother of Charles 
VI, who succeeded him. The Pope s nuncio, 
who then resided in the court of Joseph, 
reproached him severely for ceding, as a 
Catholic, the interests of his own religion to 
the heretics. " It is very lucky for you," 
answered the Emperor, smiling, " that the 
King of Sweden did not propose that I should 
turn Protestant, for had he done so I do not 
know what I might have done." 

Count Wratislau, his ambassador to Charles 
XII, brought the treaty in favour of the 
Silesians, and signed by his master, to Leip- 
sig. Charles then said he was satisfied, and 
the firm friend of the Emperor. But he was 
disgusted that Rome had opposed him to the 
utmost of her ability. He felt the greatest 
contempt for the weakness of the Court, which 
being at present the irreconcilable enemy of 
half Europe, always distrusts the other half, 
and only maintains its credit by its skilful 
diplomacy. He seemed determined on ven 
geance. He told Count Wratislau that the 
Swedes had once subjugated Rome, and that 
they had not degenerated as she had done. 

He let the Pope know that he would one day 

History of Charles XII 141 

demand the effects which Queen Christina had 
left at Rome. It is impossible to say how far 
this young conqueror would have carried his 
resentment and his arms, had fortune seconded 
his designs. Nothing then seemed an impossi 
bility to him ; he even sent several officers 
secretly to Asia, and as far as Egypt, to take 
plans of the towns and inform him of the 
strength of those countries. Certainly, if any 
one were capable of overturning the empire of 
the Persians and Turks, and then going on into 
Italy, it was Charles XII. He was as young 
as Alexander, as great a soldier, and as dar 
ing ; but he was more indefatigable, stronger, 
and more temperate ; then the Swedes, too, 
were perhaps better men than the Macedonians. 
But such plans, which are called divine, when 
they succeed, are regarded as chimeras when 
they fail. 

At last, all difficulties having been over 
come, and all his plans carried out, after 
having humiliated the Emperor, dictated to the 
Empire, protected the Lutherans in the midst 
of Roman Catholics, dethroned one king and 
crowned another, and made himself the terror 
of all princes, he prepared to start. The 
luxuries of Saxony, where he remained idle a 
whole year, had made no alteration in his 
mode of life. He rode out thrice a day, got 
up at four o clock in the morning, dressed 
unaided, never drank wine, only spent a quarter 
of an hour at table, exercised his men every 

142 History of Charles XII 

day, and indulged in no other pleasure than 
that of making- Europe tremble. 

The Swedes did not yet know what was to 
be their destination, but it was rumoured in the 
army that Charles might go to Moscow. Some 
days before he started he commanded the Grand 
Marshal of the Household to write out for him 
the route from Leipsig, then he paused, and, 
that the Grand Marshal should have no idea of 
his project, he added, with a smile, " and to 
all the capitals of Europe." The marshal 
brought him a list of them all, at the head of 
which he had purposely placed " Route from 
Leipsig to Stockholm." The majority of the 
Swedes longed to return thither, but it was 
far from the King s intention to take them 
back home. " Monsieur le Marechal," he said, 
"I see whither you would lead me; but we 
shall not return to Stockholm so soon." 

The army was already on the march, and 
passed near Dresden. Charles was at their 
head, riding, as was his habit, two or three 
hundred paces in advance of his guards. Sud 
denly they lost sight of him; some officers ad 
vanced at full gallop to see what had become 
of him, but they could not find him. In a 
minute the whole army took the alarm. They 
halted ; the generals assembled ; they were in a 
state of great consternation when they learned 
from a Saxon peasant what had become of him. 

As he was passing so near Dresden, he had 
taken it into his head to pay a visit to King 

History of Charles XII 143 

Augustus; he rode into the town, followed by 
three or four generals. Count Fleming, seeing 
them pass, had only time to run and let his 
master know. He suggested to Augustus a 
suitable reception on this occasion, but Charles 
came into the room in his boots, before Augustus 
had time to recover from his surprise. He was 
then ill, and in a nightshirt, but he hastily 
dressed. Charles breakfasted with him as a 
traveller taking leave of a friend, then he ex 
pressed a wish to see the fortifications. During 
the short time that they were going round 
them, a Livonian, exiled from Sweden, who was 
serving in the Saxon army, thought that he 
could not have a better chance of pardon. He 
felt sure that his Majesty would not refuse so 
small a favour to a prince from whom he had 
taken a crown, and in whose power he had 
placed himself. Augustus readily undertook the 
office he was a short distance from Charles, 
talking to General Hord. " I believe," he said, 
smiling, " that your master would not refuse 
me." " You don t know him," answered the 
General; "he would rather refuse you here 
than anywhere else." This did not prevent 
Augustus from asking a pardon for the Livo 
nian in the most pressing way. Charles re 
fused, in such a way that it was impossible to 
ask again. After having spent some hours on 
this strange visit, he embraced Augustus and 

On rejoining his army, he found all his 

144 History of Charles XII 

generals panic-stricken. He inquired the 
reason ; they told him that they had determined 
to besiege Dresden, in case he had been de 
tained prisoner there. "Pshaw!" said the 
King; "they dare not." The next day they 
got news that Augustus was holding a Council 
extraordinary at Dresden. " You see," re 
marked Renschild, " they are deliberating as 
to what they ought to have done yesterday." 
Some days later, Renschild, in an interview 
with the King, spoke with astonishment of the 
journey to Dresden. " I had confidence in my 
good fortune," said Charles; " but at one mo 
ment it looked critical. Fleming was not at all 
anxious that I should leave Dresden so soon." 



Charles leaves Saxony Pursues the Czar Advances 
into Ukrania His losses and wounds, and the 
battle of Pultowa The consequences of the battle 
Charles forced to escape into Turkey His 
reception in Bessarabia. 

AT last Charles left Saxony in September 1707, 
with an army of 43,006 men, formerly steel- 
clad, but now shining resplendent in gold and 
silver, and enriched with the spoils of Poland 
and Saxony. Every soldier had with him fifty 
crowns ready money ; not only, too, were all 
the regiments complete, but there were several 
supernumeraries to each company. Besides 
this army Count Levenhaupt, one of his best 
generals, was waiting for him in Poland with 
20,000 men ; he had, too, another army of 
15,000 in Finland, and recruits were on their 
way from Sweden. With all these forces it 
was not doubted that he would dethrone the 

The Emperor was then in Russia, trying to 
keep up the spirits of a party which King 
Augustus seemed to have deserted. His 
troops, divided into several corps, fled in all 
directions on the first report of the approach 
of the King of Sweden. He had advised his 
generals never to wait for the arrival of the 

148 History of Charles XII 

conqueror with a superior force, and he was 
well obeyed. 

The King of Sweden, in the midst of his 
march, received an embassy from the Turks. 
The ambassador was received in Piper s quar 
ters; he kept up his master s dignity by a 
certain display of magnificence, and the King, 
who was worse lodged, worse served, and 
more plainly clad than the humblest officer in 
his army, would often say that Count Piper s 
quarters were his palace. The Turkish 
ambassador presented Charles with 100 Swed 
ish soldiers, who had been taken by the 
Calmouks and sold in Turkey, redeemed by 
the Grand Master, and sent by him to the King 
as the most agreeable present he could make 
him. Not that the proud Ottoman meant to 
pay homage to the glory of Charles, but be 
cause the Sultan, the natural enemy of the 
Emperors of Russia and Germany, wished to 
strengthen himself against them by the friend 
ship of the King of Sweden and alliance with 

The ambassador complimented Stanislas on 
his accession ; so that he had been owned as 
King, in a short time, by Germany, France, 
England, Spain and Turkey. But the Pope 
deferred acknowledging him till time had con 
firmed him in a kingship of which a sudden 
fall might deprive him. 

Scarcely had Charles interviewed the ambas 
sador of the Ottoman Porte than he went in 

History of Charles XII 149 

search of the Russians. The Czar s troops 
had left and returned to Poland more than 
twenty times during the war; as the country 
lay open on all sides, without strongholds to 
cut the retreat of an enemy, the Russians were 
often able to return to the very spot where they 
had suffered defeat, and could even penetrate 
as far into the country as the conqueror. 
During Charles s stay in Saxony, the Czar had 
advanced to Leopold, on the southern frontier 
of Poland. He was at that time in the north, 
at Grodno, in Lithuania, about 100 leagues 
from Leopold. 

Charles left Stanislas in Poland with about 
1,000 Swedes and his new subjects to help him 
preserve his kingdom against his enemies at 
home and abroad ; he himself, at the head of 
his horse, marched through ice and snow to 
Grodno, in January 1708. He had already 
passed the Niemen, within two leagues of the 
town, before the Czar knew anything of his 
march. Directly the news came that the 
Swedes were upon them, the Czar left the town 
by the north gate, while Charles entered by 
the south. The King had only six hundred of 
his guards with him, the rest being unable to 
follow him. The Czar, imagining that a whole 
army was entering Crodno, fled with 2,000 
men ; but he heard that very day from a Polish 
deserter that he had abandoned the place to 
not more than six hundred men, the body of 
the enemy s army being still more than five 

150 History of Charles XII 

leagues away. He did not lose time, but sent 
a detachment of 15,000 cavalry in the evening 
to surprise the King of Sweden in the town. 
The 15,000 Russians, helped by the darkness 
of the night, advanced as far as the first 
Swedish guard without recognition. This 
guard consisted of thirty men, and they alone 
supported the charge of the 15,000 for seven 
minutes. The King, who was at the other end 
of the town, came up presently with his six 
hundred guards, and the Russians fled in 
haste. In a short time his army joined him, 
and he pursued the enemy. All the Russians 
dispersed throughout Lithuania, retiring 
hastily into the Palatinate of Minski, where 
they had a rendezvous. The Swedes, whom 
the King also divided into several corps, con 
tinued to pursue them for about thirty leagues 
of their way. The fleers and the pursuers 
made forced marches almost every day, though 
it was mid-winter. 

The soldiers of Charles and the Czar had 
long become indifferent to the seasons : it was 
only the terror inspired by the name of Charles 
which made the difference between the Rus 
sians and the Swedes. 

From Grodno eastward to the Borysthenes 
there is nothing but marshes, deserts, moun 
tains and immense forests. Even where the 
ground is cultivated no provision was to be 
found ; the country folk hid all their grain and 
Pther dry goods underground. In order to find 

History of Charles XII 151 

these subterranean magazines, they had to 
sound the earth with long poles tipped with 
iron. The Russians and the Swedes used these 
provisions by turns, but they were not always 
discovered, nor were they always sufficient 
when they were. 

The King of Sweden, who had foreseen these 
difficulties, had provided biscuit for his army, 
so that nothing hindered his march. After he 
had crossed the forest of Minski, where his 
men were obliged every moment to cut down 
trees to make way for the troops and baggage, 
he found himself, on the 25th of June, 1708, 
near Borislou, in front of the river Berezine. 

The Czar had assembled the best part of his 
troops in this spot and had entrenched himself 
to advantage ; his aim was to hinder the 
Swedes from crossing the river. Charles 
placed some of his regiment on the banks of 
the Berezine, close to Borislou, as though he 
intended to attempt the crossing in face of the 
enemy. At the same time he led his army 
about three leagues up the river, threw a bridge 
across it, cut his way through a body of 3,000 
men who defended that post, and marched 
straight against the enemy without a halt. 
The Russians did not wait for his arrival, but 
immediately decamped and withdrew towards 
Borysthenes, spoiling all the roads, and destroy 
ing all on their line of march, so that they 
might at least delay the Swedes advance. 

Charles surmounted all difficulties, continu- 

152 History of Charles XII 

ally advancing towards Borysthenes. On his 
way he met 20,000 Russians, entrenched at a 
spot called Hollosin, behind a marsh, which 
could not be reached without crossing a river. 
Charles did not wait till the rest of his infantry 
had arrived to make the attack, but threw 
himself into the water at the head of his foot- 
guards, and crossed the river and the morass, 
though the water was sometimes above his 
shoulders. While he thus attacked the enemy, 
he ordered his cavalry to pass round the morass 
and take them in the flank. 

The Russians, amazed that no barrier could 
defend them, were simultaneously routed by the 
King on foot, and by the Swedish horse. The 
horse, having made their way through the 
enemy, joined the King in the midst of the 
fray. He then mounted, but some time after, 
finding a young Swedish noble named Gyllen- 
stein, for whom he had great affection, 
wounded in the fray and unable to walk, he 
insisted on his taking his horse, and continued 
to command on foot at the head of his in 
fantry. Of all the battles he had ever fought, 
, this was in all probability the most glorious 
that in which he was exposed to the greatest 
risks, and in which he showed the greatest 
ability. The memory of it is kept by a medal 
with the inscription, " Silvae, paludes, aggeres, 
hostes, victi " on one side and * Victrices 
copias alium laturus in orbem " on the other. 

The Russians, driven out everywhere, re- 

History of Charles XII 153 

crossed the Borysthenes, which separates 
Poland from their own country. Charles lost 
no time in following them ; he crossed the 
great river after them at Mohilou, the last 
town in Poland, which is sometimes in the 
hands of the Poles, sometimes in those of the 
Czar, after the usual fate of frontier places. 

The Czar, seeing his empire, into which he 
was introducing arts and commerce, becoming 
a prey to a war which might in a short time 
ruin his plans, and perhaps lose him his throne, 
was thinking of peace, and even made pro 
posals by a Polish nobleman whom he sent to 
the Swedish army. Charles, who had been 
unaccustomed to granting peace to his enemy 
except in their capitals, only replied, " I will 
treat with the Czar at Moscow." 

When the Czar heard this haughty answer, 
" My brother Charles," he said, " would still 
pose as Alexander, but I flatter myself he will 
find me no Darius." 

From Mohilou, where the King crossed the 
Borysthenes, turning north along the river, 
upon the frontiers of Poland and Russia, is 
situated the country of Smolensko, through 
which lies the main road from Poland to Mos 
cow. The Czar fled by this road, and the King 
followed by forced marches. Part of the Rus 
sian rearguard was more than once engaged 
with the dragoons of the Swedish vanguard. 
Generally the latter got the advantage, but 
they weakened themselves by these skirmishes, 

154 History of Charles XII 

which were never decisive, and always meant 
the loss of some of their men. 

On the 22nd of September this year, 1708, 
the King attacked a body of ten thousand horse 
and six thousand Calmouks near Smolensko. 

These Calmouks are Tartars, living between 
Astrakan, which is part of the Czar s 
dominions, and Samarcande, the country of 
the Usbeck Tartars. The Calmouks country 
stretches from the east to the mountains 
which separate the Mogul from the western 
part of Asia. Those who dwell near Astrakan 
are tributary to the Czar. He pretends to 
absolute dominion over them, but their wander 
ing life hinders him from subduing them, and 
forces him to treat them as the Grand-Seignior 
treats the Arabs, sometimes bearing with their 
robberies, and at others punishing them. 

There are always some of the Calmouks in 
the Russian army, and the Czar had even suc 
ceeded in reducing them to discipline like the 
rest of his soldiers. 

The King fell on this army with only six 
regiments of horse and four thousand in 
fantry ; he broke the Russian ranks at the head 
of his Ostrogothic regiment and forced the 
enemy to retreat. The King advanced upon 
them by rough and hollow ways where the 
Calmouks lay hid ; they then appeared and 
threw themselves between the regiment where 
the King was fighting and the rest of the 
Swedish army. In an instaot both Russians 

History of Charles XII 155 

and Calmouks had surrounded this regiment 
and made their way close up to his Majesty. 
They killed two aides-de-camp who were fight 
ing near him. The King s horse was killed 
under him, and as one of the equerries was 
offering him another, both equerry and horse 
were struck dead on the spot. Charles fought 
on foot, surrounded by some of his officers who 
immediately hastened to rally round him. 

Several were taken, wounded or slain, or 
swept off to a distance from the King by the 
crowd which attacked them ; so that there were 
only five men left near him. By that extra 
ordinary good luck which till then had never 
deserted him, and on which he always relied, 
he had killed more than a dozen of the enemy 
with his own hand without one wound. At last 
Colonel Dardoff forced his way, with only one 
company of his regiment, through the Cal 
mouks, and came up just in time to save the 
King. The rest of the Swedes put the Tartars 
to the sword. The army re-formed, Charles 
mounted, and, fatigued as he was, pursued 
the Russians two leagues. 

The conqueror was still on the main road to 
the capital of Russia. The distance from 
Smolensko, where this battle was fought, to 
Moscow, is about 100 French leagues; the 
army had scarcely any provisions. The King 
was pressed to wait till General Levenhaupt, 
who was to bring up reinforcements of 15,000 
men, came to join him. Charles, who rarely 

156 History of Charles XII 

listened to advice, not only refused to listen to 
this wise counsel, but, to the great amazement 
of the whole army, left the Moscow road, and 
marched south towards Ukrania into the 
country of the Cossacks, between lesser Tar- 
tary, Poland and Russia. 

This country is about 100 French leagues 
from north to south, and about the same from 
east to west. It is divided into two nearly 
equal parts by the Borysthenes, which crosses 
from north-west to south-west ; the chief town 
is Baturin, on the little river Sem. The north 
ernmost part of Ukrania is under cultivation, 
and rich ; the southernmost part, in the forty- 
eighth degree, is one of the most fertile and at 
the same time the most deserted districts in the 
world ; bad management quite counteracts its 
natural advantages. 

The inhabitants of those parts, which border 
on lesser Tartary, neither plant nor sow lest 
the Tartars of Budziac, Precop and Moldavia, 
who are all brigands, should carry off their 

Ukrania has always aspired to freedom ; but 
being hedged in by Russia, the dominions of 
the Grand-Seignior, and Poland, it has been 
obliged to seek for a protector (who is, of 
course, a master) in one of those States. First 
it put itself under the protection of Poland, 
who treated it too much as a subject-state ; 
then they appealed to the Russians, who 
did their best to reduce them to serfdom, 

History of Charles XII 157 

At first the Ukranians had the privilege of 
choosing a prince, called general, but soon they 
were deprived of this privilege, and their 
general was nominated by the Russian Court. 

The office was then filled by a Pole called 
Mazeppa ; he had been brought up as page to 
King John Casimir, and had got a little learn 
ing at his Court. On the discovery of an 
intrigue with the wife of a Polish nobleman, 
the latter had him tied, stark naked, to a wild 
horse, and set him free in that state. The 
horse, which had been brought from Ukrania, 
returned to its own country, carrying Mazeppa 
with him half dead from hunger and fatigue. 
Some of the peasants gave him relief, and he 
stayed a long time among them, and dis 
tinguished himself in several attempts against 
the Tartars. The superiority of his intelli 
gence made him a person of consideration in 
the eyes of the Cossacks, and as his reputation 
daily increased the Czar was forced to make 
him Prince of Ukrania. 

One day, as he was sitting at table with the 
Czar at Moscow, the Emperor proposed to 
him to drill the Cossacks and make them more 
independent. Mazeppa pointed out the situa 
tion of Ukrania and the nature of the people 
as insurmountable obstacles. The Czar, who 
was over-heated with wine, and had not always 
sufficient self-control, called him a traitor, and 
threatened to have him impaled. On his return 
into Ukrania Mazeppa planned a revolt. The 

158 History of Charles XII 

Swedish army appearing shortly after on the 
frontier facilitated matters for him, and he 
resolved to gain independence, and to form for 
himself a powerful kingdom from Ukrania and 
the ruins of the Russian Empire. He was a 
man of great courage, of considerable enter 
prise, and most painstaking, though he was 
advanced in years. 

He made a secret league with the King of 
Sweden, to hasten the Czar s downfall and gain 
something himself out of it. He gave him a 
rendezvous near the river Desna ; Mazeppa 
promised to meet him there with 30,000 men, 
ammunition and provisions, and all his trea 
sure, which was immense. The Swedish army 
was therefore ordered to march towards that 
part of the country, to the great regret of the 
officers, who knew nothing of the King s treaty 
with the Cossacks. 

Charles sent orders to Levenhaupt to bring 
his troops and provisions with all haste to 
Ukrania, where he intended passing the winter, 
that, having subdued that country, he might 
conquer Russia the following spring; mean 
while he advanced towards the river Desna, 
which flows into the Borysthenes at Kiouw. 

The obstacles they had hitherto encountered 
on their march were trifles to those they met 
on this new route; they had to cross a forest 
fifty leagues broad, which was full of marshes. 
General Lagercron, who led the van with 5,000 
men and pioneers, led the army thirty leagues 

History of Charles XII 159 

too far to the east. They had marched four 
days before the King discovered their mis 
take. They regained the right road with some 
difficulty, but almost all the artillery and 
wagons were stuck fast or sunk in the mud. 

They then marched for twelve days in this 
painful and laborious fashion till they had eaten 
the little biscuit they had left, and so they 
arrived, spent with hunger and fatigue, on the 
banks of the Desna, where Mazeppa was to 
meet them. Instead of the Prince, however, 
they found a body of Russians advancing to 
wards them on the other side of the river. 
The King was much astonished, and decided 
to cross the Desna and attack the enemy. The 
banks of this river were so steep that they 
were obliged to let the soldiers down by cords ; 
then they crossed in their usual manner, some 
by swimming, some on hastily constructed 

The band of Russians, which arrived at the 
same time, were only 8,000, so that their resist 
ance was feeble, and this obstacle was also 

Charles advanced further into this desolate 
country, uncertain of his route and of 
Mazeppa s fidelity; at last the latter appeared, 
but rather as a fugitive than as a strong ally. 
The Russians had discovered and prevented his 
plan : they had fallen upon the Cossacks and 
cut them in pieces ; his chief friends were taken 
red-handed, and thirty of them had been broken 

160 History of Charles XII 

on the wheel. His towns were reduced to 
ashes, his treasures plundered, and the pro 
visions he was preparing for the King of 
Sweden seized. He himself escaped with diffi 
culty, accompanied by 6,000 men, and some 
horses laden with gold and silver. But he 
held out to the King the hope that he would be 
of some service from his knowledge of this 
unknown country, and by the affection of the 
natives, who, enraged with the Russians, came 
in troops to the camp, and brought provisions. 

Charles hoped that at least General Leven- 
haupt would come to repair this ill fortune ; he 
was to bring about 15,000 Swedes (of more 
use than 100,000 Cossacks), with stores and 
ammunition. He arrived at last, but almost 
in the same condition as Mazeppa. He had 
already passed the Borysthenes above Mohilou, 
and advanced about twenty leagues further on 
the road to Ukrania. He brought the King a 
convoy of 8,000 wagons, with the money he 
had raised in Lithuania and on march. On 
reaching Lesno, near the spot where the rivers 
Pronia and Sossa unite to flow into the Bory 
sthenes far below, the Czar appeared at the 
head of 50,000 men. 

The Swedish general, who had not quite 
16,000, decided not to entrench. Their many 
victories had given the Swedes so much con 
fidence that they never inquired as to the 
enemy s numbers, but only their position. 
Levenhaupt marched against them on the 7th of 

History of Charles XII 161 

October, 1708, in the afternoon. At the first 
attack they killed 15,000 Russians; the Czar s 
army took panic and fled in all directions, and 
the Emperor of Russia thought he would be 
entirely defeated. He saw that the safety of 
his dominions depended upon the action of the 
day, and that he could be ruined if Levenhaupt 
joined the King of Sweden with a victorious 

As soon as he saw his troops fall back he 
ran to the rear, where the Cossacks and Cal- 
mouks were posted, and said, " I order you to 
fire on every man who runs away, and even to 
shoot me, should I be so cowardly as to turn 
my back." Then he returned to the van and 
rallied the troops in person, assisted by the 
Prince Menzikoff and Prince Gallitsin. Leven 
haupt, who had pressing orders to join his 
master, chose to continue his march rather 
than to renew the battle, thinking that he had 
done enough to discourage the enemy from 

No later than eleven the next morning the 
Czar attacked him on the entrance to a morass, 
and spread his lines to surround him. The 
Swedes faced about, and the fight lasted two 
hours with equal resolution on both sides. 
The Russians lost three times as many men, 
but still held their position, and the victory 
was undecided. At four General Bayer brought 
the Czar reinforcements. The battle was then 
renewed for the third time with greater fury 


1 62 History of Charles XII 

than before, and lasted till nightfall. Then the 
force of numbers carried the day ; the Swedes 
were broken, routed, and driven back on their 
baggage. Levenhaupt rallied his men behind 
his chariots, and though they were conquered 
they did not flee. 

Not one from an army of about 9,000 men 
took to flight. The general formed them up as 
easily as if they had not been beaten. The 
Czar, on the other hand, passed the night 
under arms, and ordered his soldiers on pain 
of death, and his officers on pain of dismissal, 
to abstain from plunder. 

Next morning at daybreak he orderd a fresh 
attack. Levenhaupt had retired to a strong 
position some miles distant, after having 
spiked some of his cannon and fired some of 
his wagons. The Russians came up just in 
time to hinder the whole convoy from being 
burned, and seized six thousand wagons 
which they saved. The Czar, who wished to 
utterly crush the Swedes, sent one of his 
generals, called Phulg, to attack them for the 
fifth time, and he offered them honourable 
terms if they would capitulate. Levenhaupt 
refused, and the fifth battle was as bloody 
as any of the former ones. Of the 9,000 
soldiers he had left he lost half, the other half 
not breaking line. At last night came on, and 
Levenhaupt, after having fought five battles 
against 50,000 men, crossed the Sossa by 
swimming, followed by the 5,000 men remain- 

History of Charles XII 163 

ing to him. The wounded were carried over 
on rafts. The Czar lost about 20,000 Rus 
sians in these engagements, in which he 
had the glory of conquering the Swedes, 
and Levenhaupt the credit of disputing the 
victory for three days, and of retreating with 
out being forced from his last position. So 
that he came to his master s camp with the 
honour of having made so good a defence, but 
without ammunition or forces. The King of 
Sweden, therefore, without provisions, and cut 
off from communication with Poland, was sur 
rounded by enemies in the midst of a country 
where he had scarcely any resource but his 
own courage. 

In this extremity the memorable winter of 
1709, which was still more severe in those fron 
tiers of Europe than it was in France, 
destroyed a part of his army. Charles resolved 
to defy the season as he had his enemies ; he 
ventured on long marches with his troops 
during the bitter cold. It was on one of these 
marches that 2,000 of his men died of cold 
before his very eyes. The cavalry had no 
boots, and the foot no shoes, and hardly any 
clothes. They were forced to make footgear 
of the skins of beasts as best they could, and 
they often went hungry. They had even been 
obliged to throw the best part of their cannon 
into quagmires and rivers for want of horses 
to draw them ; so that this once flourishing 
army was reduced to 24,000 men at the point of 

164 History of Charles XII 

starvation. They neither got news from 
Sweden, nor were they able to send there. In 
this state of affairs one officer only complained. 
"What," said the King to him, "are you 
miserable at being so far from your wife? If 
you are really a soldier I will lead you to such 
a distance that you will not hear from Sweden 

< W* TVEXl ^L c Kf l^foR 

once in three years. Ok/cr , M TH^EE 

The Marquis of Brancas, now Swedish am 
bassador, told me that a soldier ventured to 
present the King, before the whole army, with 
a piece of bread that was black and mouldy. 
It was made from barley and oats, and was 
the only food they then had, and that in 
scanty quantities. The King received the piece 
of bread unmoved, ate it all, and then said 
coolly to the soldier, "It is not good, but one 
can eat it." This characteristic touch, insig 
nificant as it is (if, indeed, that should be called 
insignificant which increases respect and con 
fidence), did more than all the rest to help the 
Swedish army to bear hardships which, would 
have been insupportable under any other 

In these circumstances he at last received 
news from Stockholm, but only that his sister 
the Duchess of Holstein, aged 27, had been 
carried off by small-pox. She was as gentle 
and pitiful as her brother was imperious and 
implacable in revenge. He had always been 
very fond of her ; he felt her loss the more as, 
now that the tide of his fortune had turned, he 

History of Charles XII .165 

was more susceptible. He learned also that 
they had carried out his orders and raised 
troops and money, but could not send them to 
his camp ; for there lay between him and Stock 
holm nearly five hundred leagues and an enemy 
with a superior force to encounter. 

The Czar, who was as energetic as the King, 
after having sent fresh forces into Poland to 
assist the confederates, united under General 
Siniawski against Stanislas, and soon advanced 
into Ukrania, in the middle of this severe 
winter, to oppose the King of Sweden. He 
stayed there with the object of weakening the 
enemy by small engagements, for by this 
means he thought the Swedish army must be 
quite wrecked at last, as he was able to draw 
fresh forces every moment from his dominions, 
while they could not get recruits. The cold 
there must have been excessive, since it forced 
the two enemies to suspend hostilities. But 
on the first of February, amid ice and snow, 
they began to fight again. 

After several small skirmishes and some 
reverses, the King s army was reduced in April 
.to 18,000 men. Mazeppa alone, the Prince of 
the Cossacks, supplied them with the neces 
saries of life; without his assistance the army 
must have perished from hunger and des 

At this moment, the Czar, to attract 
Mazeppa to his service again, offered him terms ; 
but the Cossack stood by his new ally, either 

166 History of Charles XII 

from fear of the terrible punishment of the 
wheel, by which his friends had perished, or 
because he sought revenge. 

Charles, with his 18,000 Swedes and as 
many Cossacks, had not abandoned his plan of 
reaching Russia. Towards the end of May he 
went to siege Pultawa, on the river Vorskla, 
on the extreme eastern frontier of Ukrania, 
about thirteen full leagues from the Bory- 
sthenes, where the Czar had a magazine. This 
country is that of the Zaporavians, the 
strangest people in the world. They are a 
collection of former Russians, Poles, Tartars, 
and all make profession of a kind of Christi 
anity, and of a kind of freebooting brigand 
age. They elect a chief, whom they depose or 
assassinate ; they allow no women to live 
among them, but they kidnap all the children 
for twenty or thirty leagues round, and train 
them in their ways. During summer they are 
always in the field, during winter they sleep in 
vast barns, containing 400 or 500 men. They 
fear nothing, and live at liberty ; they risk 
death for the smallest booty, with the same 
boldness with which Charles XII faced it to 
bestow crowns. The Czar sent them 60,000 
florins in the hope that they would side with 
him ; they took the money and then, through 
the exertions of Mazeppa, declared for Charles : 
but they proved of very little use, for they 
think it ridiculous to fight for anything but 
booty. It was a great point gained that they 

History of Charles XII 167 

did no harm : there were about 2,000 of them 
at most who did regular duty. Ten of their 
chiefs were one day presented to Charles, but 
they had great difficulty in finding those who 
were not intoxicated, for they always began the 
day in that condition. They were taken into 
the trenches, and showed their skill in shooting 
with long rifles, for they could pick off the 
enemies they singled out at 600 paces away. 
Charles added to these bandits some 1,000 
Valaques ; then he laid siege to Pultawa, 
with an army of about 30,000 men, in a 
wretched condition and wanting all necessaries. 
The Czar had made Pultawa a magazine : if 
the King took it it would open the road to 
Moscow for him, and he could await, well 
supplied, the recruits he expected from Sweden, 
Livonia, Pomerania and Poland. As, then, his 
sole resource lay in the taking of Pultawa, he 
carried on the siege with vigour. Mazeppa, 
who had informants in the town, assured him 
that he would soon master it, and hope began 
to reanimate the army. His soldiers regarded 
the taking of Pultawa as the end of all their 

From the beginning of the siege the King 
realized that he had given his enemies some 
useful lessons in the art of war. Prince Menzi- 
koff, in spite of all his precautions, threw rein 
forcements into the town, and the garrison 
then amounted to almost 10,000 men. They 
made sorties, sometimes successfully; but 

1 68 History of Charles XII 

what made the town impregnable was the ap 
proach of the Czar, who was advancing with 
10,000 combatants. Charles XII went to meet 
him on the 27th of May, his birthday, and beat 
one of their corps ; but as he was returning 
from his camp he got a musket-shot, which 
pierced his boot and shattered his heel-bone. 
There was not the least sign on his face that 
he had been shot ; he continued calmly to give 
his orders, and remained mounted nearly six 
hours after the accident. One of his servants 
at last noticing that the sole of his boot was 
covered with blood, ran for the doctor; then 
the King s pain was so acute that they had 
to take him off his horse and carry him to his 
tent. The surgeons examined the wound and 
saw that it had already begun to mortify, and 
thought that the leg must be cut off. The con 
sternation in the army was great. But one of 
the surgeons, called Newman, better skilled 
and braver than the rest, was certain that he 
could save the leg by means of a deep incision. 

" Begin at once, then," said the King; " cut 
boldly, fear nothing." He held his leg with 
his own hands, looking at the incisions made 
as if they were in the leg of another. 

As they were putting on the dressing he gave 
orders for an assault next morning, but 
scarcely had he given the order than they 
brought him word that the whole army of 
the enemy was upon him. He was therefore 
obliged to alter his plan. Wounded and incapa- 

History of Charles XII 169 

ble of action, he found himself shut in between 
the river Borysthenes and the river which runs 
to Pultawa, in a desert district, with no forts 
or ammunition, and opposed to an army which 
cut him off from retreat or provisions. In this 
terrible position he did not, as might have been 
expected, assemble a council of war, but on 
the night of 7th July he sent for Marshal 
Renschild, and ordered him, without delibera 
tion, but without uneasiness, to prepare to 
attack the Czar next morning-. Renschild 
did not argue, but went to carry out his 

At the door of the King s tent he met Count 
Piper, with whom, as often happens between 
the minister and the general, he had long 
been on bad terms. Piper asked him if there 
were anything new. " No," said the General 
coldly, and passed on to give his orders. As 
soon as Piper entered the royal tent the King 
asked if Renschild had told him anything. 
"Nothing," answered Piper. "Well, then," 
answered the King, " I tell you that to-morrow 
we shall give battle." Count Piper was aston 
ished at so desperate a resolve, but he knew 
that his master could never be made to change 
his opinion ; he only expressed his astonish 
ment by his silence, and left the King to sleep 
till dawn. 

The battle of Pultawa was fought on the 
8th of July, 1709, between the two most famous 
monarchs in the world : Charles XII, distin- 

170 History of Charles XII 

guished by a course of nine years victories, 
and Peter Alexiowitz by nine years of pains 
taking 1 training of his troops to an equality 
with the Swedes ; the one famed for having 
given away the dominions of others, the other 
for having civilized his own ; Charles loving 
danger and fighting only for the sake of glory, 
Alexiowitz not running away from difficulties, 
and making war from interested motives only ; 
the Swedish King liberal from a generous tem 
perament, the Russian never generous but with 
some object in view; the former sober and 
temperate in an extraordinary degree, naturally 
brave and only once showing cruelty, the latter 
not having thrown off the roughness of his 
education or his race, as terrible to his sub 
jects as he was wonderful to strangers, and 
addicted to excess which, as a matter of fact, 
shortened his days. Charles bore the title 
" Invincible," which he might lose at any 
moment ; the nations had already given Peter 
the title " Great," which he could not lose by 
any defeat, as he did not owe it to his victories. 
To get a clear idea of this battle and the 
place where it was fought, one must imagine 
Pultawa to the north, the King of Sweden s 
camp to the south, slightly to the east; his 
baggage about a mile behind him, and the 
river Pultawa on the north side of the town, 
running from east to west. The Czar had 
passed the river about a league from Pultawa, 
towards the west, and was beginning to form 

History of Charles XII 171 

his camp. At daybreak the Swedes appeared 
above their trenches with four cannon for their 
artillery ; the rest were left in the camp with 
about 3,000 men, and 4,000 remained with the 
baggage. So that the Swedish army march 
ing against the enemy consisted of about 
25,000 men, of whom not more than 12,000 
were regulars. Generals Renschild, Roos, 
Levenhaupt, Slipenbak, Hoorn, Sparre, Hamil 
ton, the Prince of Wirtemburg, a relation of 
the King, and some others, most of whom had 
been at the battle of Narva, reminded the 
subalterns of that day, when 8,000 Swedes had 
destroyed an army of 100,000 Russians in 
entrenchments. The officers remarked it to the 
soldiers, and all encouraged one another on the 

The King conducted the march, carried in 
a litter at the head of his infantry. By his 
order a party of horse advanced to attack that 
of the enemy; the battle began with this 
engagement. At half-past four in the morning 
the enemy s cavalry lay to the west, on the 
right of the Russian camp : Prince Menzikoff 
and Count Golowin had placed them at inter 
vals between redoubts fortified with cannon. 
General Slipenbak, at the head of the Swedes, 
fell upon them. All who have served with the 
Swedes know that it is almost impossible to 
resist their first onset. The Russian squadrons 
were broken and put to flight. The Czar him 
self ran to rally them, and his hat was pierced 

172 History of Charles XII 

by a musket shot. Menzikoff had three horses 
killed under him, and the Swedes shouted 

Charles was sure that the battle was gained ; 
he had sent General Creuts about midnight 
with five thousand horse to attack the enemy s 
rear while he attacked their front, but, as ill- 
luck would have it, Creuts lost his way and did 
not appear. 

The Czar, who had thought that all was lost, 
had time to rally his cavalry, and fell on the 
King s horse in his turn; unsupported by 
Creuts detachment it was broken, and Slipen- 
bak taken prisoner. At the same time seventy- 
two cannon from the camp played on the 
Swedish horse, and the Russian foot, issuing 
from their lines, advanced to attack Charles. 

The Czar then detached Menzikoff and sent 
him to take up a position between Pultawa 
and the Swedes. He carried out his master s 
orders dexterously and promptly : not only did 
he cut the communication between the Swedish 
army and the troops remaining in the camp at 
Pultawa, but meeting a body of 3,000 reserves 
he cut them to pieces. Meanwhile, the Russian 
foot issued from their lines and advanced in 
order into the plain on the other side ; the 
Swedish horse rallied within a quarter of a 
league of the enemy s army, and the King, 
assisted by General Renschild, gave orders for 
a general engagement. 

He ranged his remaining troops in two 

History of Charles XII 173 

lines, his foot in the centre, his horse on the 
two wings. The Czar arranged his forces in 
the same way ; he had the advantage in num 
bers and also seventy-two cannon, while the 
Swedes had only four, and were running out of 

The Czar was in the centre of his army, and 
at that time bore the title of Major-General, 
and was apparently in the service of General 
Czermetoff; but as Emperor he went from 
rank to rank, mounted on a Turkish horse, a 
present from the Grand-Seignior, exhorting his 
officers and soldiers and promising them all 
rewards. At nine in the morning the battle 
began again. One of the first discharges of the 
Russian cannon carried off the two horses of 
the King s litter; he had two others harnessed 
in, and a second volley shattered the litter and 
threw the King out. The troops who were 
fighting near him believed he was killed ; in 
the consternation the Swedes lost ground, and, 
their powder failing and the enemy s cannon 
keeping up fire, the first line fell back on the 
second, and the second fled. In this last action 
of the Swedish army they were routed by a 
single line of 10,000 Russian infantry; so much 
had matters changed. Prince Wirtemburg, 
General Renschild and several leading officers 
were already prisoners; the camp before Pul- 
tawa was forced, and all in utterly hopeless 
confusion. Count Piper and other officers had 
left the camp and did not know what to do, 

174 History of Charles XII 

nor what had become of their King. They 
ran from one side of the field to the other ; 
Major Bere offered to lead them to the bag 
gage, but the clouds of dust and smoke which 
covered the field, and their own confusion, 
carried them to the other side of the town, 
where they were taken prisoners by the 

The King was unwilling to flee, and would not 
defend himself. General Poniatowski chanced 
to be with him at that moment. He was a 
colonel of King Stanislas Swedish guards, 
and a person of remarkable merit, who was so 
attached to Charles XII that he had accom 
panied him as a volunteer to Ukrania. He 
was a man who in all the chances of life, and in 
danger, where others would at most have only 
shown courage, always made his plans at once 
and met with success ; he signed to two soldiers, 
who took the King under the arms and put him 
on horseback in spite of the great pain of his 

Poniatowski, though he had no command in 
the army, being made general by necessity on 
this occasion, rallied 500 horse round the 
King s person : some were dragoons, some 
ordinary troopers, some officers. This band, 
inspired by the misfortune of their Prince, 
made their way through more than ten regi 
ments of Russians and took Charles through 
the midst of the enemy, the distance of a 
league, to the baggage of the Swedish army. 

History of Charles XII 175 

This amazing- retreat was an achievement in 
such a disastrous situation, but it was neces 
sary for the King to flee further. 

Though the King had never had a coach since 
he left Stockholm, they found Count Piper s 
among the baggage. They put him into it 
and started for the Borysthenes with all haste. 
The King, who had not spoken a single word 
from the time he was put on horseback till he 
came to the baggage, then asked what had 
become of Count Piper. * He has been taken 
prisoner with all his chancery officers," they 
told him. " And General Renschild and the 
Duke of Wirtemburg?" he asked. " They too 
are prisoners," said Poniatowski. " Prisoners 
of the Russians!" exclaimed Charles, with a 
shrug; " let us rather escape to Turkey." His 
expression did not change, however, and who 
ever had seen him and been ignorant of his 
position would never have suspected that he 
had been either conquered or wounded. 

While he was escaping the Russians seized 
his artillery in the camp before Pultawa, his 
baggage and his military chest, containing 
6,000,000 in specie, the spoil of Poland and 
Saxony. Nearly 9,000 Swedes were killed in 
the battle, about 6,000 were taken prisoners. 
There still remained some 18,000, including 
Swedes and Poles, as well as Cossacks, who 
escaped to the Borysthenes under the direc 
tion of General Levenhaupt. He went one 
way with these fugitives while the King, 

176 History of Charles XII 

with some of his cavalry, took another direc 
tion. The coach in which he was riding- 
broke down by the way, and they put him on 
horseback again. To complete his misfortunes 
he got lost in a wood during the night; there 
his courage could no longer make up for his 
spent strength, the pain of his wound was 
intensified by fatigue, and his horse fell under 
him from exhaustion. He lay for some hours 
at the foot of a tree, each moment in danger 
of a surprise from the conquerors who were 
looking for him everywhere. 

At last, on the night of July gth, he found 
himself on the banks of the Borysthenes, and 
Levenhaupt had just come up with the rem 
nants of the army. The Swedes saw with joy 
mingled with grief, their King whom they had 
thought to be dead. The enemy drew near; 
they had no bridge to pass the river, nor time 
to make one, nor powder to defend themselves 
with, nor provisions to save the army from 
perishing with hunger, for they had eaten 
nothing for two days. 

At all events, the rest of the army were 
Swedes, and the conquered King was Charles 
XII. Almost all the officers advised that a 
stand should be made to meet the Russians, 
and that they should die or conquer on the 
banks of the Borysthenes. Doubtless Charles 
would have decided on this course had he not 
been overcome with weakness ; his wound 
mortified and he had fever; and it has been 

History of Charles XII 177 

remarked that most men, when attacked with 
the fever of suppuration, lose the instinct of 
valour which, like other virtues, needs a calm 
head. Charles was no longer master of him-!: 
sejf. They carried him like a sick man who 
has lost consciousness. 

Happily they had still a miserable calash, 
which they had brought to that spot at great 
risk; they embarked it in a little boat, and the 
King and General Mazeppa in another. The 
latter had saved several coffers full of money, 
but as the current was very rapid and the wind 
began to blow the Cossack threw more than 
three parts of his treasure into the river to 
lighten the boat. Mullen, the King s chancellor, 
and Count Poniatowski, who was now more 
than ever indispensable to the King, for his 
remarkable presence of mind in difficulties, 
crossed over in other boats with some of the 
officers. Three hundred horsemen and a large 
number of Poles and Cossacks, relying on the 
strength of their horses, ventured to cross by 
swimming. Their troop, keeping close to 
gether, resisted the current and broke the 
waves, but all who tried to cross separately a 
little lower down were carried away and sank. 
Of the foot that tried to cross not one got to 
the other side. 

While the routed army was in this difficult 
position Prince Menzikoff came up with 10,000 
horse, each with a foot soldier behind him. 
The bodies of the Swedes who had died on the 


178 History of Charles XII 

way of wounds, fatigue and hunger were an 
index to the Prince of the route that the army 
had taken. The Prince sent a herald to the 
Swedish General to offer capitulation. Im 
mediately four generals were sent by Leven- 
haupt to receive the conqueror s order. Before 
that day 16,000 of King Charles s soldiers 
would have attacked the whole force of the 
Russian empire and have perished to a man, 
rather than have surrendered ; but after a 
battle lost and a flight of two days, and after 
having lost their Prince who had been forced to 
flee himself, the strength of every soldier being 
spent and their courage no longer supported by 
hope, the love of life overcame courage. The 
whole army was made prisoners of war. Some 
of the soldiers, in despair at falling into 
Russian hands, threw themselves into the 
Borysthenes, and the rest were made slaves. 
They defiled in Prince Menzikoff s presence and 
laid their arms at his feet, as 30,000 Russians 
had done nine years before at the King of 
Sweden s at Narva. 

But while the King then sent back all the 
Russian prisoners he was not afraid of, the 
Czar kept all the Swedes that were taken at 
Pultawa. These poor wretches were dispersed 
throughout the Czar s dominions, and particu 
larly in Siberia, a vast province of greater 
Tartary which stretches eastward to the 
frontiers of the Chinese empire. In this bar 
barous country, where the use of bread was 

History of Charles XII 179 

unknown, the Swedes, ingenious through 
necessity, exercised the trades and arts they 
had formerly been brought up to. All the 
distinctions which fortune makes between men 
were then banished, the officer who had no 
handicraft was forced to cut and carry wood 
for the soldier, who had now turned tailor, 
draper, joiner, mason, or smith, and got a 
livelihood by his labour. Some officers became 
painters and some architects, some taught 
languages and mathematics ; they even went 
so far as to erect public schools, which 
gradually became so useful and famous that 
they sent children there from Moscow. Count 
Piper, the King s first minister, was long im 
prisoned at Petersburg. The Czar, like the 
rest of Europe, believed that this minister had 
sold his master to the Duke of Marlborough, 
and so brought the arms of Sweden, which 
might have pacified Europe, on Russia, and 
he made his captivity more severe on this 
supposition. Piper died some years after at 
Moscow, having received little assistance from 
his family, which lived in great opulence at 
Stockholm, and uselessly lamented by his King, 
who would never humble himself by offering a 
ransom, which he feared the Czar would not 
accept, for there was never any challenge of 
exchange between Charles and the Czar. The 
Emperor of Russia, elated by a joy which he 
took no pains to conceal, received on the battle 
field the prisoners whom they brought to him 

i8o History of Charles XII 

in troops, and asked every moment, " Where, 
then, is Charles my brother?" 

He paid the Swedish Generals the compli 
ment of inviting them to his table; among 
other questions he asked Renschild : What 
were the numbers of the army of the King his 
master before the battle? Renschild answered 
that only the King had the list of them and 
never gave information to any one, but that 
he thought the whole number might be 35,000 
men, of whom 18,000 were Swedes and the 
rest Cossacks. The Czar seemed surprised, 
and asked how they dare invade so distant a 
country and lay siege to Pultawa with so small 
a force. " We were not always consulted," 
answered the Swedish General, " but like faith 
ful servants we obeyed our master s orders 
without ever contradicting him." On this 
answer the Czar turned to certain courtiers, 
who had been suspected of conspiring against 
him, " Ah !" he said, " see how a sovereign 
should be obeyed." 

Then, taking a glass of wine, " To the 
health of my masters in the art of war," he 
said. Renschild asked who they were whom 
he honoured with so high a title? " You, 
gentlemen, the Swedish Generals," answered 
the Czar. " Your Majesty is very ungrateful 
to handle your masters so severely," replied 
Renschild. When dinner was over the Czar 
ordered their swords to be restored to all the 
officers, and treated them as a Prince who 


History of Charles XII 181 

had a mind to give his subjects lessons in 
generosity and good breeding. But this same 
Prince, who treated the Swedish Generals so 
well, had all the Cossacks he caught broken on 
the wheel. 

Thus the Swedish army, which left Saxony 
in such triumph, was now no more : one half 
having perished from want, and the other half 
being enslaved or massacred. Charles XII 
had lost in one day the fruit of nine years 
labours and almost a hundred battles. 

He fled in a wretched calash, with General 
Hoorn, dangerously wounded ; the rest of his 
troops followed, some on horseback, some in 
wagons, across a desert where there were 
neither huts, tents, men, animals nor roads ; 
everything, even water, was lacking. 

That was at the beginning of July. The 
country is in the forty-seventh degree of 
latitude; the sun s heat was made less endur 
able by the dry sand of the desert; horses fell 
by the way, and men were near dying of 
thirst. Towards night they found a spring of 
muddy water ; they filled bottles with the water, 
which saved the lives of the King s little 
troop. After five days march he found himself 
on the banks of the river Hippais, now called 
the Bogh by the barbarians, who have dis 
figured even the names of the countries to 
which Greek colonies had brought prosperity. 
This river joins the Borysthenes some miles 
lower, and with it falls into the Black Sea. 

182 History of Charles XII 

Beyond the Bogh, towards the south, is the 
little town of Oczakou, frontier-town of the 
Turkish empire. The inhabitants, seeing ap 
proach a troop of men-at-arms whose dress 
and language were strange to them, refused to 
carry them over to Oczakou without an order 
from the Governor of the town, Mahomet- 
Bacha. The King sent this Governor an ex 
press message, asking for a passage. But the 
Turk, not knowing how to act in a country 
where a false step often costs a man his life, 
dare not act on his own responsibility without 
the permission of the Pasha of the province, 
who lived at Bender, in Bessarabia, thirty 
leagues from Oczakou. While they were 
awaiting this permission the Russians had 
crossed the Borysthenes, and approached to 
seize the King himself. 

At last the Pasha sent word to the King 
saying that he would send a small boat for 
him and for two or three of his suite. Then 
the Swedes seized by force what they could 
not obtain by gentle means : some went to 
the other bank in a little skiff, and seizing- 
some boats brought them to their bank. This 
was the means of their rescue, for the owners 
of the Turkish boats, fearing to lose the chance 
of some gain, came in crowds to offer their 
services ; just at this moment the favourable 
reply of the Governor of Bender arrived. But 
the Russians came up, and the King had the 
misfortune of seeing 500 of his followers who 

History Oi<- Charles XII 183 

had not been able to get over in time seized 
by the enemy, whose insulting boasts he heard. 
The Pasha of Oczakou asked his pardon, by 
an interpreter, for these delays, which had 
caused the capture of the 500 men, and be 
sought him not to mention it to the Grand- 
Seignior. Charles promised, after scolding him 
as if he were one of his own subjects. 

The Commander of Bender sent in haste an 
aga to wait on the King, and offer him a 
magnificent tent, provisions, wagons, all con 
veniences, officers and attendants, necessary to 
bring him with splendour to Bender. For it is 
customary with the Turks not only to defray 
the expenses of ambassadors to their place of 
residence but plentifully to supply, during the 
time of their sojourn, the needs of the Princes 
who take refuge among them. 




The state of the Ottoman Porte Charles retires to 
Bender His occupations His intrigues at the 
p or te His plans Augustus restored The King 
of Denmark attacks Sweden All the King s other 
territories are invaded The Czar keeps festival at 
Moscow The affair of Pruth History of the 

ACHMET the third was then Emperor of the 
Turks. He had been placed on the throne in 
1703, replacing his brother Mustapha, by a 
revolution like that which in England trans 
ferred the crown from James II to his son-in- 
law William. Mustapha was under the control 
of his Mufti, whom the people hated, and 
made his whole empire revolt against him. 
His army, with which he had reckoned to 
punish the malcontents, joined them, and he 
was seized, unceremoniously deposed, and his 
brother taken from the seraglio to be made 
Sultan, almost without bloodshed. Achmet 
confined the deposed Sultan in Constantinople, 
where he survived for several years, to the 
great surprise of the Turks, who had been 
accustomed to see the dethronement of their 
kings followed by their death. The only return 
the new Sultan made to the ministers, the 
generals, the officers of janissaries, and to 
those who had part in the revolution, was to 
execute them one after the other, for fear they 

1 88 History of Charles XII 

should subsequently attempt another revolu 
tion. By the sacrifice of so many brave men 
he weakened the empire but strengthened his 
throne. Henceforth his mind was bent on 
amassing treasure. He was the first of the 
sultans who ventured to make a small altera 
tion in the money, and to impose a new tax; 
but he was obliged to give up both these plans 
for fear of a rebellion, for the rapacity and 
tyranny of the Grand Seignior is felt only by 
the officers of the empire, who, whoever they 
may be, are slaves of the sultan ; but the rest 
of the Mussulmans live in absolute security, 
with no fears for their lives, fortunes and 

Such was the Emperor of the Turks, to 
whom the King of Sweden fled for refuge. 
He wrote to him as soon as he arrived in his 
territory. His letter is dated i3th of July, 
1709. Several different copies of it are extant, 
which are all condemned as mere fabrications, 
but of all those which I have seen there is not 
one which does not display pride, and which 
was not rather in accordance with his courage 
than with his situation. 

The Sultan did not reply till towards the 
end of September. The pride of the Ottoman 
Porte made Charles feel the gulf that it con 
sidered existed between the Turkish Emperor 
and a Christian fugitive and conquered King 
of part of Scandinavia. 

Charles was, as a matter of fact, treated as 

History of Charles XII 189 

an honourable prisoner. But he formed the 
design of turning- the Ottoman arms against his 
enemies ; he believed he could subdue Poland 
again, and reduce Russia to submission ; he 
sent an envoy to Constantinople, but his best 
helper in his great project was Poniatowski, 
who went to Constantinople unofficially, and 
soon made himself indispensable to the King, 
agreeable to the Porte, and dangerous to the 
grand vizirs themselves. 

One of those who seconded his designs most 
cleverly was a Portuguese doctor, Fonseca, 
living at Constantinople, a learned and able 
man, who had knowledge of men as well as 
of his own art, and whose profession gave him 
access to the Court, and often intimacy with 
the vizirs. I knew him well at Paris, and he 
confirmed all the details which I am going to 
relate. Count Poniatowski told me himself 
that he was clever enough to get letters through 
to the Sultana Valida, mother of the reigning 
Emperor, who had been at one time ill-used 
by her son, but was now beginning to recover 
her influence in the seraglio. A Jewess, who 
was often with the princess, was perpetually 
talking of the King of Sweden s exploits, and 
charmed her by reciting them. The Sultana, 
by a secret inclination which most women feel 
for extraordinary men, even without having 
ever seen them, took the King s part openly 
in the seraglio and called him "her lion." 
"When will you," she said sometimes to the 

i go History of Charles XII 

Sultan her son, "help my lion to devour this 
Czar?" She even went beyond the strict rules 
of the seraglio so far as to write several letters 
with her own hand to Count Poniatowski, who 
still possesses them. 

However, the King was taken to Bender 
with pomp, across the desert formerly called 
the desert of Getae. The Turks took care that 
his journey should be made as agreeable as 
possible; many Poles, Swedes and Cossacks, 
who had escaped from the Russians, came from 
different directions to increase his train. When 
he arrived at Bender he had 1,800 men with 
him, all fed and lodged, they and their horses, 
at the expense of the Grand Seignior. 

The King chose to encamp near Bender 
rather than in the town. The Serasquier, 
Jussuf, had a magnificent tent pitched for him, 
and also furnished all his suite with tents; 
some time after the King built a house on this 
spot, and his officers followed his example. 
The soldiers, too, raised barracks, so that the 
camp became gradually a little town. 

The King was not yet cured of his wound, 
and had to have a decayed bone removed from 
his leg, but as soon as he could mount a horse 
he renewed his usual exercises, rising at sun 
rise, tiring out three horses a day, and making 
his soldiers drill. His only amusement was an 
occasional game of chess. If details are / 
typical of character, it may be remarked that 
he always brought out his king in the game; ! 

History of Charles XII 191 

he used him more than his other pieces, and so 
always lost the game. 

At Bender he found plenty of everything 
about him, rare good fortune for a conquered 
and fugitive king ; for besides more than 
enough provisions and the 500 crowns a day 
he got from the Ottoman generosity, he got 
money also from France, and borrowed of the 
Constantinople merchants. Part of this money 
was used to carry on the intrigues in the 
seraglio, in buying the vizirs or procuring 
their downfall ; the rest he distributed profusely 
among his officers and the janissaries who 
guarded him at Bender. 

Grothusen, his favourite and treasurer, dis 
pensed these bounties ; he was a man who, 
contrary to the custom of a man of his station, 
was as eager to give as his master. One day 
he brought him an account of 60,000 crowns 
in two lines, " 10,000 given to the Swedes and 
janissaries, and the rest eaten up by me." 
"This," said the King, "is the kind of 
balance-sheet that I like ; Mullern makes me 
read whole pages for the sum of 10,000 francs, 
I like Grothusen s laconic style much better." 
One of his old officers, thought to be slightly 
covetous, complained to the King that he gave 
everything to Grothusen. " I give money," 
answered the King, " to none but those who 
know how to make use of it. " This generosity 
often reduced him to such straits that he had 
nothing to give. Better economy in his 

192 History of Charles XII 

liberality would have been more to his advan 
tage and no less honourable, but it was the 
Prince s failing to carry all the virtues to 

Many strangers hurried from Constantinople 
to see him. The Turks and the neighbouring 
Tartars came in crowds; all honoured and 
admired him. His rigid abstinence from wine, 
and his regularity in attending public prayers 
twice a day, spread the report that he was a 
true Mussulman. They burned to march with 
him to the conquest of Russia. 

During this life of leisure at Bender, which 
was longer than he had expected, he developed 
unconsciously a great taste for books. Baron 
Fabricius, nobleman of the duchy of Holstein, 
an agreeable youth who had the gaiety and 
the ready wit which appeals to princes, induced 
him to read. He had been sent to him as 
envoy from the Duke of Holstein, to protect 
the interests of the latter, and succeeded by 
the amiability of his manner. 

He had read all the French authors, and 
persuaded the King to read the tragedies of 
Corneille, and of Racine, and the works of 
Despreaux; the King did not at all enjoy the 
latter s satires, which are by no means his best 
performances, but he appreciated his other 
writings, and when he read the passage in the 
eighth satire, where he calls Alexander a 
" frantic madman," he tore out the leaf. 

Of all the French tragedies Mithradates 

History of Charles XII 193 

pleased him most, because the condition of the 
King, conquered and breathing forth ven 
geance, was like his own. He pointed out to 
M. Fabricius the passages that struck him, but 
he would read nothing aloud, nor venture on 
a word of French. Even afterwards, when he 
met M. Desaleurs, the French ambassador 
to the Porte, a person of distinction, who 
only knew his mother-tongue, he answered him 
in Latin, and when the ambassador protested 
that he did not understand a word of that 
language he called for an interpreter, rather 
than express himself in French. Such were the 
occupations of Charles at Bender, where he 
was waiting till a Turkish army should come 
to his assistance. 

His ambassador presented memoirs in his 
name to the Grand Vizir, Poniatowski, and 
supported them with his readily-acquired pres 
tige. The intrigue succeeded entirely ; he wore 
only Turkish dress, and he insinuated himself 
everywhere ; the Grand Seignior had him pre 
sented with a purse containing 1,000 ducats, 
and the Grand Vizir said to him, " I will take 
your King with one hand, and a sword in the 
other, and I will lead him to Moscow at the 
head of 200,000 men." But the first minister 
soon changed his mind. The King could only 
treat, while the Czar could pay; he did pay, 
and it was the money that he gave that Charles 
used ; the military chest taken at Pultawa pro 
vided new arms against the vanquished. No 

194 History of Charles XII 

more mention was made of making war on 
Russia. The Czar s influence was all-powerful 
at the Porte; they granted honours and privi 
leges to his ambassador at Constantinople such 
as had never been enjoyed by a previous envoy ; 
he was allowed to have a seraglio, that is, a 
palace in the quarters of the Franks, and to 
converse with foreign ministers. The Czar 
even felt strong enough to demand that Ma- 
zeppa should be handed over to him, just as 
Charles had demanded Patkul. Chourlouli-Ali- 
Pasha now found it impossible to refuse any 
thing to a Prince who made demands with 
millions behind him. Thus the same Grand 
Vizir who had solemnly promised to take the 
King of Sweden to Russia with 200,000 men, 
had the impudence to propose to him that he 
should consent to the betrayal of Mazeppa. 
Charles was enraged at the request. It is 
hard to say how far the Vizir would have 
carried the matter had not Mazeppa, who was 
then seventy years old, died at this juncture. 

The King s grief and resentment increased 
when he heard that Tolstoi, who had become 
ambassador from the Czar to the Porte, was 
served in public by the Swedes who had been 
enslaved at Pultawa, and that these brave men 
were daily sold in the market-place at Con 
stantinople. Besides, the Russian ambassador 
remarked aloud that the Mussulman troops at 
Bender were there rather as a guard to the 
King than for his honour. 

History of Charles XII 195 

Charles, abandoned by the Grand Vizir, and 
conquered by the Czar s money in Turkey, as 
he had been by his arms in Ukrania, found him 
self deluded, scorned by the Porte, and a kind of 
prisoner among- the Tartars. His followers 
began to despair. He alone remained firm and 
did not show dejection even for a moment. 
He thought that the Sultan was ignorant of the 
intrigues of his Grand Vizir; he determined to 
inform him, and Poniatowski undertook this 
bold task. Every Friday the Grand Seignior 
went to the mosque, surrounded by Solacks, a 
kind of guard, whose turbans were so high that 
they hid the Sultan from the people. Any one 
who had a petition to present to the Sultan, 
must mingle with these guards, and hold the 
petition up in the air. Sometimes the Sultan 
deigned to take it himself, but generally he 
bade an aga take charge of it, and afterwards, 
on his return from the mosque, had the petitions 
laid before him. There was no fear that any 
one would importune him with unnecessary 
petitions, or petitions about trifling affairs, 
for at Constantinople they write less in a year 
than at Paris in a day. Much less dare any 
one present petitions against the ministers, to 
whom the Sultan hands them generally without 
reading them. But Poniatowski had no other 
means of conveying the King of Sweden s com 
plaints to the Grand Seignior. He drew up a 
strong indictment of the Grand Vizir. M. de 
Feriol, then Turkish ambassador from France, 

196 History of Charles XII 

got it translated into Turkish. A Greek was 
hired to present it; he mingled himself with 
the King s guards, and held up the paper so 
high, and so persistently, that the Sultan saw 
it and took it himself. 

Some days after, the Sultan sent the King 
of Sweden, as the only answer to his com 
plaints, twenty-five Arabian horses, one of 
which had carried his Highness, and was 
covered with a saddle enriched with precious 
stones, and with massive gold stirrups. With 
this present he sent a polite letter, couched in 
general terms, and such as seemed to show 
that the Vizir had acted with the Sultan s 
orders. Chourlouli, too, who knew how to 
dissemble, sent five fine horses to the King. 

Charles said haughtily to the man who 
brought them, " Return to your master and 
say that I do not receive presents from my 
enemies." M. Poniatowski, who had already 
had the courage to get a petition against the 
Grand Vizir presented, had formed the bold 
plan of having him deposed; he knew that the 
Vizir was no favourite of the Sultan s mother, 
and that he was hated both by Kislar-aga, the 
chief of the black eunuchs, and by the aga of 
the janissaries. So he urged them all three to 
speak against him. It was a strange sight 
to see a Christian, a Pole, an unaccredited 
agent of the King of Sweden who had refuged 
with the Turks, caballing almost openly at the 
Porte, against a Viceroy of the Ottoman 

History of Charles XII 197 

Empire, and one who was, too, both a useful 
minister and a favourite of his master. 

Poniatowski would never have succeeded, 
and the mere notion of his design would have 
cost him his life, had not a stronger power than 
those on his side given the last blow to the 
Grand Vizir Chourlouli s fortune. The Sultan 
had a young favourite, who has since governed 
the Ottoman Empire and been killed in Hun 
gary in 1716, at the battle of Petervaradin, 
gained over the Turks by Prince Eugene of 
Savoy. His name was Coumourgi-Ali-Pasha ; 
his birth much the same as that of Chourlouli ; 
he was the son of a coal-heaver as the name 
signified for Coumir is Turkish for coal. 
The Emperor Achmet II, uncle of Achmet III, 
meeting Coumourgi as a child in a wood near 
Adrianople, was so struck by his great beauty 
that he had him taken to the seraglio. Mus- 
tapha, Mahomet s eldest son and successor, 
was taken with him, and Achmet III made him 
his favourite; he was then only selic-tar-aga, 
sword-bearer to the crown. His extreme youth 
did not allow him to stand for the office of 
Grand Vizir, but his ambition was to make 
it. The Swedish faction could never gain 
this favourite ; he was never a friend of King 
Charles, or of any other Christian prince, 
or their ministers, but on this occasion he 
was unconsciously of service to the King. 
He united with the Sultana Valida, and the 
leading officer of the Porte, to bring about 

1 98 History of Charles XII 

the fall of Chourlouli, whom they all hated. 
This old minister, who had served his master 
long- and well, was the victim of the caprice 
of a boy and the intrigues of a stranger. 
He was deprived of his dignity and his 
wealth, his wife, daughter of the last Sul 
tan, taken from him, and he himself banished 
to Cassa in Crimean-Tartary. The bul, i. e. 
the seal of the Empire, was given to Numan 
Couprougli, grandson of the great Couprougli 
who took Candia. This new Vizir was what 
misinformed Christians hardly believe a Turk 
can be, a man of incorruptible virtue and a 
scrupulous observer of the law, which he 
often set up in opposition to the will of the 

He would not hear of a war against Russia, 
which he thought unjust and unnecessary, but 
the same respect for the law which prevented 
him from waging war against the Czar, made 
him punctilious in the duty of hospitality to 
the King of Sweden. "The law," he said 
to his master, " forbids you to attack the 
Czar, who has done you no harm, but it com 
mands you to help the King of Sweden, who 
is an unfortunate Prince in your dominions." 

He sent his Majesty 800 purses (a purse 
being worth 500 crowns), and advised him to 
return peaceably into his own country, through 
the territories of the Emperor of Germany, or 
in some French vessels that were then lying in 
the harbour at Constantinople, and which M. 

History of Charles XII 199 

de Feriol, the French ambassador, offered to 
Charles to take him to Marseilles. Count 
Poniatowski continued negotiations with the 
minister, and gained in the negotiations an 
ascendancy of . which Russian gold could no 
longer deprive him in dealing with an incor 
ruptible minister. The Russian faction thought 
that the best plan was to poison such a danger 
ous diplomat. They bribed one of his servants, 
who was to give him poison in his coffee ; the 
crime was discovered in time; they found the 
poison in a little vial which they took to the 
Grand Seignior; the poisoner was judged in 
full divan, and condemned to the galleys, be 
cause, by Turkish law, crimes that have failed 
of execution are never punished by death. 
\ Charles, still persuaded that sooner or later 
he" would succeed in making the Turkish 
Empire declare against that of Russia, would 
agree to none of the proposals for his return 
in peace to his own dominions ; he persisted in 
pointing out to the Turks as dangerous the 
very Czar whom he had long despised; his 
emissaries kept up their, insinuations that Peter 
the Great was aiming at gaining control of 
shipping in the Black Sea; that, after having 
beaten the Cossacks, he had designs on the 
Crimea. Sometimes his representations roused 
the Porte, sometimes the Russian minister 
nullified their effect. 

While he was thus letting his fate depend on 
the caprice of a vizir, and was forced to put 

200 History of Charles XII 

up with the affronts as well as accept the 
favours of a foreign power while he was 
presenting- petitions to the Sultan, and living 
on hospitality in a desert his enemies roused 
themselves to attack his kingdom. 

The battle of Pultawa was at once the signal 
for a revolution in Poland. King Augustus 
returned thither, protesting against his abdica 
tion and the Peace of Altranstadt, and openly 
accusing Charles, whom he now no longer 
feared, of robbery and cruelty. He imprisoned 
Finsten and Imof, his plenipotentiaries, who 
had signed the abdication, as if in so doing 
they had exceeded their orders and betrayed 
their master. His Saxon troops, which had 
been the excuse for his dethronement, brought 
him back to Warsaw with most of the Polish 
counts who had formerly sworn fidelity to him, 
had afterwards done the same to Stanislas, and 
were about to renew their oath to Augustus. 
Siniawski himself joined his party, forgetting 
the idea he had had of making himself King, 
and was content as Grand General of the 
crown. Fleming, his first minister, who had 
been obliged to leave Saxony for a time, for 
fear of being given up as Patkul had been, 
managed matters at that time so as to bring 
over a great part of the Polish nobility to his . 

The Pope released his people from the oath 
of allegiance they had sworn to Stanislas. 
This step of the Holy Father, taken at the right 

History of Charles XII 201 

time, and supported by Augustus s forces, had 
no small weight in establishing the interests of 
the Court of Rome in Poland, where they then 
had no wish to dispute with the sovereign 
pontiff the chimerical right of meddling with 
the temporalities of kings. 

Every one was ready to submit to Augus 
tus s authority again, and received without the 
least opposition a useless absolution which the 
Nuncio did not fail to represent as necessary. 
Charles s power and the greatness of Sweden 
were now drawing to their last phase. For 
some time more than ten crowned heads had 
viewed the extension of Sweden beyond her 
natural boundaries, to the other side of the 
Baltic, and from the Duna to the Elbe, with 
fear and envy. Charles s fall and absence 
awakened the interests and jealousy of all these 
princes, after they had lain dormant for a long 
time through treaties and inability to break 

The Czar, who was more powerful than 
them all together, making the best use of his 
victory, took Wibourg, and all Carelia, inun 
dated Finland with troops, besieged Riga, and 
sent a corps into Poland to help Augustus to 
recover the throne. The Emperor was then 
what Charles had once been the arbiter of 
Poland and the North ; but he consulted only 
his own interests, whereas Charles s ambitions 
were always of glory or vengeance. The 
Swedish monarch had helped his friends, and 

202 History of Charles XII 

overcome his enemies, without exacting the 
smallest reward for his victories ; but the Czar, 
rather a prince than a hero, would not help 
the King of Poland except on condition that 
Livonia should be given up to him, and that 
this province, for the sake of which Augustus 
had begun war, should belong to the Russians 
for ever. 

The King of Denmark, forgetting the treaty 
of Travendal as Augustus had that of Altran- 
stadt, had from that time thoughts of making 
himself master of the Duchies of Holstein and 
Bremen, to which he renewed his claim. The 
King of Prussia had long-standing claims to 
Swedish Pomerania which he wished to revive ; 
the Duke of Mecklenburg was provoked at see 
ing Sweden still in possession of Wismar, the 
finest city in his duchy. This Prince had 
married the Emperor of Russia s niece, and his 
uncle was only looking for an excuse to estab 
lish himself in Germany, after the example of 
the Swedes. George, Elector of Hanover, also 
wanted to enrich himself from the spoiling of 
Charles. This Bishop of Munster, too, would 
have been glad to have made some claims had 
he possessed the means to do so. 

There were about 12,000 or 13,000 Swedes 
defending Pomerania, and the other districts 
which Charles held in Germany ; here was the 
seat of war. But this storm alarmed the 
Emperor and his allies. It is a law of the 
Empire that whoever invades one of the pro- 

History of Charles XII 203 

vinces should be considered an enemy to the 
whole Germanic body. 

But there was still greater difficulty involved, 
for all these princes, except the Czar, were 
then leagued against Louis XIV, whose power 
had for some time been as formidable to the 
Empire as that of Charles himself. 

At the beginning of the century Germany 
found herself hard pressed between the French 
on the south and the Swedes on the north. 
The French had crossed the Danube, and the 
Swedes the Oder; if their victorious forces had 
united, the Empire would have been lost. But 
the same fatality that had ruined Sweden had 
also humbled France ; yet some resources still 
remained to Sweden, and Louis carried on the 
war with vigour, though unsuccessfully. If 
Pomerania and the Duchy of Bremen became 
the seat of war, it was to be feared that the 
Empire would suffer, and being weakened on 
that side would be the less able to withstand 
Louis. To prevent this, the Princes of Ger 
many, Queen Anne of England, and the States 
of Holland, concluded at the Hague, in 1709, 
one of the most extraordinary treaties ever 

It was stipulated by these powers that the 
seat of the war should not be in Pomerania,* 
nor any other German State, but that Charles 
might be attacked by his enemies anywhere 
else. The King of Poland and the Czar them 
selves agreed to this treaty, and had a clause 

204 History of Charles XII 

inserted which was as strange as the treaty 
itself, to the effect that the 12,000 Swedes in 
Pomerania should not leave it to defend their 
other provinces. 

To safeguard the treaty it was proposed to 
raise an army, which was to encamp on the 
Oder, to maintain this imaginary neutrality. 
It was an unheard-of thing, to levy an army to 
prevent war ! Those who were paying the forces 
were, for the most part, very much concerned 
to bring about the war they were pretending to 
prevent. The army was, by the treaty, to 
consist of the troops of the Emperor, the King 
of Prussia, the Elector of Hanover, the Land 
grave of Hesse, and the Bishop of Munster. 

This project was, as might be expected, not 
carried through. The princes who were to 
furnish their quota for the army contributed 
nothing ; not two regiments were formed. 
There was much talk of neutrality, but no one 
observed it ; and all the Northern princes who 
had any controversy with the King of Sweden 
were left at full liberty to dispute who should 
have his spoils. 

At this point the Czar, having stationed his 
forces in Lithuania and left orders for carrying 
t on the siege of Riga, returned to Moscow, to 
show his people a sight as new as anything he 
had yet done in his kingdom. It was a 
triumph little inferior to that of the ancient 
Romans. He made his entry into Moscow 
under seven triumphal arches, erected in the 

History of Charles XII 205 

streets, and adorned with all that could be 
produced in that climate, and that the flourish 
ing trade which his energy had nourished could 
supply. The procession began with a regi 
ment of guards, followed by the artillery taken 
from the Swedes at Lesnow and Pultawa, each 
piece being drawn by eight horses with scarlet 
trappings hanging to the ground. Then came 
the standards, kettle-drums, and the colours 
won at these two battles, and carried by the 
officers who had won them ; all the spoils were 
followed by the Czar s picked troops. After 
they had filed past, the litter of Charles XII, 
in a chariot made for the purpose, appeared 
as it had been found on the battle-field, all 
shattered by cannon-shot. Behind this litter 
marched the prisoners two by two, and among 
them Count Piper, Prime Minister of Sweden, 
the famous Marshal Renschild, Count Leven- 
haupt, Generals Slipenbek, Hamilton, and 
Stackelburg, and all the officers and soldiers 
who were later scattered through Russia. 
Immediately behind them came the Czar, rid 
ing the same horse he had used at Pultawa; 
just behind him were the generals who had 
their share in the success of this battle; after 
them came another regiment of guards, and 
the wagons loaded with Swedish ammunition 
brought up the rear. 

This procession was accompanied by the 
ringing of all the bells in Moscow, by the 
sound of drums, kettle-drums and trumpets, 

206 History of Charles XII 

and an infinite number of musical instru 
ments, echoing each other. Volleys were dis 
charged from 200 cannon, to the acclamations 
of 5,000,000 men, who at every halt of the 
Czar in his entry cried, " God save the Emperor 
our father !" 

This imposing procession increased the 

C people s veneration for his person, and gave 

him greater prestige in their eyes than all the 
-\)good he had really done them. In the mean 
time he continued the blockade of Riga, and 
the generals subdued the rest of Livonia and 
part of Finland. At the same time the King 
of Denmark came with his entire fleet to 
attack Sweden, where he landed with 1,700 
men, whom he left under the command of 
Count Reventlau. 

At that time Sweden was governed by a 
regency, composed of some Senators appointed 
by the King at his departure from Sweden. 
The Senatorial body, which regarded the right 
of governing as their prerogative, were jealous 
of the regency. The State suffered from these 
divisions, but directly they received news at 
Stockholm after Pultawa, that the King was 
at Bender in the hands of the Turks and Tar 
tars, and that the Danes had made an attack 
on Schoner and had taken the town of Elsing- 
burg, all jealousy disappeared, and they con 
centrated on saving Sweden. There were now 
very few regulars left, for though Charles had 
always made his great expeditions with small 

History of Charles XII 207 

armies, yet his innumerable battles for nine 
years, the continual necessity for recruits, the 
maintenance of his garrisons, and the standing 
army he was obliged to maintain in Finland, 
Livonia, Pomerania, Bremen, and Verden, 
had cost Sweden, during the course of the war, 
more than 250,000 men; there were not as 
many as 8,000 of the veterans who, with raw 
forces, were now Sweden s only resource. 

The nation is born with a passion for war, 
and every people unconsciously imitate their 
King. Nothing was discussed from one end 
of the country to the other but the great ex 
ploits of Charles and his generals, and of the 
old regiment which fought under them at 
Narva, Duna, Crassau, Pultask, and Hollosin. 
Thus the humblest of the Swedes were filled 
with a spirit of emulation and thirst for glory. 
Besides this, they loved their King, were sorry 
for him, and hated the Danes thoroughly. In 
many other countries the peasants are slaves 
or are treated as such ; here they form part of 
the body politic, consider themselves citizens, 
and think worthy thoughts. So that in a 
short time these forces became the best in the 

By order of the regency, General Steinbock 
put himself at the head of 8,000 veteran troops 
and 12,000 recruits, to pursue the Danes, who 
were ravaging all the country round Elsing- 
burg, and had already put some places far 
inland under contribution. 

2o8 History of Charles XII 

There was neither time nor money to get 
uniforms for the soldiers ; most of the country 
labourers came dressed in their linen smocks, 
with pistols tied to their girdles by cords. 
Steinbock, at the head of this extraordinary 
army, came up with the Danes three leagues 
from Elsingburg, on the loth March, 1710. 
He intended to rest his troops some days, to 
entrench, and to give his raw recruits time 
to get accustomed to the enemy ; but the 
peasants clamoured to fight directly they 

Some officers who were there told me that 
they saw them almost all foaming with rage, so 
great is the Swede s hatred of the Dane. Stein- 
bock took advantage of this disposition, which 
is almost as effective in war as military discip 
line. The Danes were attacked, and the 
strange sight was seen of which there are, 
perhaps, no two other instances of raw forces 
equalling in bravery a veteran corps at the first 
attack. Two regiments of these undisciplined 
peasants cut the Danish army to pieces, and 
left only ten survivors. 

The Danes, entirely routed, retreated under 
the cannon of Elsingburg. The passage from 
Sweden to Zeeland is so short that the King 
of Denmark heard of the defeat of his army 
in Sweden the same day at Copenhagen, and 
sent his fleet to bring off the remnant of his 
army. The Danes hastily left Sweden five days 
after the battle, but, being unable to bring 

History of Charles XII 209 

away their horses, and not wishing to leave 
them to the enemy, they killed them all and fired 
their provisions, burning- their corn and bag 
gage, and leaving 4,000 wounded in Elsing- 
burg. The majority of these died from the 
infection from the large number of dead horses, 
and from lack of food, which even their own 
countrymen deprived them of, lest they should 
fall into Swedish hands. 

At the same time the peasants of Delecarlia, 
having heard in the depths of their forests that 
the King was prisoner in Turkey, sent a depu 
tation to the Regency at Stockholm, offering 
to go, at their own expense, to rescue their 
master from the enemy s hands with a force of 
20,000 men. This proposal, useless as it was, 
was heard with pleasure, because it proved the 
courage and loyalty of the proposers, though 
it was rejected ; and they gave the King an 
account of it, when they sent him word about 
Elsingburg. King Charles received this cheer 
ing news in his camp near Bender, in July 1710, 
just after another event which confirmed him 
in his hopes. 

The Grand Vizir Couprougli, who was op 
posed to his plans, was turned out of office 
after he had been in the ministry two months. 
Charles XII s little Court, and his adherents in 
Poland, boasted that he made and removed 
vizirs, and was governing Turkey from his 
retreat at Bender. But he had no hand in the 
ruin of this favourite. 


2io History of Charles XII 

The rigid justice of the Vizir, it was said, 
was the only cause of his fall; his predecessor 
had been accustomed to pay the janissaries, not 
out of the Imperial treasury, but from the 
money he got by extortion. Couprougli, on 
the other hand, paid them from the treasury. 
For this Achmet accused him of putting the 
subjects interest before that of the Emperor. 
" Your predecessor, Chourlouli," he said, 
" managed to find other ways of paying my 
troops." The Grand Vizir replied, " If he had 
the art of enriching your Highness by theft, it 
is an art of which I am proud to be ignorant." 

The great secrecy observed in the seraglio 
rarely lets such stories leak out, but this got 
known at the time of Couprougli s fall. The 
Vizir s courage did not cost him his head, be 
cause real goodness often forces even those 
whom it offends to respect. He had leave to 
retire to the island of Negropont. 

After this the Sultan sent for Baltagi Ma 
homet Pasha of Syria, who had been Grand 
Vizir before Chourlouli. The Baltagis of the 
seraglio, so called from balta, meaning an axe, 
are slaves employed to cut wood for the use of 
princes of the blood and the Sultana. This 
Vizir had been baltagi in his youth, and had 
always retained the name, according to the cus 
tom of the Turks, who are not ashamed to bear 
the name of their first profession, their father, 
or their birthplace. While Baltagi was a serv 
ant in the seraglio he was fortunate enough to 

History of Charles XII 211 

do Prince Achmet some trifling- service, that 
Prince being then a prisoner of State in the 
reign of his brother Mustapha. Achmet gave 
one of his female slaves, of whom he had been 
very fond, to Baltagi Mahomet, when he be 
came Sultan. This woman made her husband 
Grand Vizir by her intrigues; another intrigue 
deposed him, while a third made him Grand 
Vizir again. Baltagi had no sooner received 
the seal of the Turkish empire than he found 
the party of the King of Sweden dominant in 
the seraglio. The Sultana Valida, the Sultan s 
favourite, the chief of the black eunuchs, and 
the aga of the janissaries, were all in favour of 
war against the Czar. The Sultan had decided 
on it, and the very first order he gave the 
Grand Vizir was to go and attack the Russians 
with 200,000 men. Baltagi had never been in 
the field, but was no idiot, as the Swedes, out 
of pure malice, have represented him to be. 
When he received from the Sultan a sabre 
set with precious stones, " Your Highness 
knows, "he said, " that I have been brought up 
to use an axe and fell wood, and not to wield 
a sword, or to command armies. I will do my 
best to serve you ; but if I fail, remember that I 
have begged you not to lay it to my charge." 
The Sultan assured him of his favour, and the 
Vizir prepared to carry out his orders. The 
Ottoman Porte s first step was to imprison the 
Russian ambassador in the castle of seven 

212 History of Charles XII 

It is the custom of the Turks to begin by 
seizing those ministers against whom they de 
clare war. Strict observers of hospitality in 
every other respect, in this they violate the 
most sacred of international laws. They act 
thus unfairly under the pretext of fairness, per 
suading themselves and trying to persuade 
others that they never undertake any but a 
just war, because it is consecrated by the ap 
probation of their Muphti. Thus they look 
upon themselves as armed to chastise the viola 
tion of treaties (which they often break them 
selves), and argue that the ambassadors of 
kings at variance with them are to be punished 
as accomplices of their masters treachery. 
Besides this, they affect a ridiculous contempt 
towards Christian princes and their ambassa 
dors, whom they regard as only consuls and 

The Kan of Crimean-Tartary had orders to 
be ready with 400,000 Tartars. This Prince 
rules over Nagai, Bulziac, part of Circassia 
and all the Crimean district called by the 
ancients the Tauric Chersonese, whither the 
Greeks carried their commerce and their arms, 
building large cities there ; and whither the 
Genoese afterwards penetrated, when they were 
masters of the trade of Europe. 

In this country there are the ruins of Grecian 
cities, and some Genoese monuments still sub 
sisting in the midst of desolation and savagery. 
The Kan is called Emperor by his own subjects, 

History of Charles XII 213 

but in spite of this grand title he is a mere 
slave to the Porte. The fact that they have 
Ottoman blood in their veins, and the right 
they have to the Turkish Empire on the extinc 
tion of the race of the Sultan, make their family 
respected and their persons formidable even to 
the Sultan himself : that is why the Sultan 
dare not destroy the race of the Kans of Tar- 
tary ; but he hardly ever allows them to con 
tinue on the throne to an advanced age. The 
neighbouring pashas spy on their conduct, 
their territories are surrounded by janissaries, 
their wishes thwarted by the Grand Vizir, and 
their designs always suspected. If the Tartars 
complain of the Kan, this is an excuse for the 
Porte to depose him ; if he is popular among 
them it is regarded as a crime, for which he 
will be even more readily punished. Thus all 
of them leave the throne for exile, and finish 
their days at Rhodes, which is generally both 
their place of exile and their grave. 

The Tartars, their subjects, are the most dis 
honest folk in the world ; yet, at the same time 
(inconceivable as it seems), the most hospitable. 
They go a fifty leagues journey to fall upon a 
caravan and to destroy towns, but if any 
stranger happens to pass through their country, 
he is not only received and lodged everywhere, 
and his expenses paid, but everywhere the in 
habitants strive for the honour of having him 
as guest. 

The master of the house, his wife and 

214 History of Charles XII 

daughters vie with one another in his service. 
Their ancestors, the Scythians, transmitted to 
them this inviolable regard for hospitality ; and 
they still retain it, because the scarcity of 
strangers in their country, and the cheapness 
of provisions, makes this duty in no way bur 
densome to them. When the Tartars go to 
war with the Ottoman army they are main 
tained by the Sultan, but receive no other pay 
but their booty; this makes them more ardent 
at pillage than at regular warfare. 

The Kan, bribed by the presents and in 
trigues of the King of Sweden, got permission 
to have the general rendezvous of troops at 
Bender, under the King s eye, that he might 
realize that the war was being made for him. 
The new vizir, Baltagi, not being bound in the 
same way, would not flatter a foreign prince so 
far. He countermanded the order, and the 
great army was collected at Adrianople. 

The Turkish troops are not so formidable 
now as they were when they conquered so 
many kingdoms in Asia, Africa and Europe. 
Then they triumphed over enemies less strong 
and worse disciplined than themselves by physi 
cal strength, courage and the force of numbers. 
But now that Christians understand the art of 
war better, they seldom failed to beat the Turks 
in a drawn battle, even when their forces are 
inferior in number. If the Ottoman empire 
has lately gained some success, it is only in a 
contest with the Republic of Venice, reputed 

History of Charles XII 215 

more wise than warlike, defended by strangers, 
and ill supported by Christian princes, who are 
always divided among themselves. 

The janissaries and spahis attack in disorder, 
and are incapable of action under command, or 
of a rally ; their cavalry, which should be excel 
lent, considering- the good breed and agility of 
their horses, is unable to sustain the shock of 
German cavalry ; their infantry were not yet 
able to use the fixed bayonet; besides this, the 
Turks have had no great general since Cou- 
prougli, who conquered Candia. A slave 
brought up in the idleness and the silence of the 
seraglio, made a vizir through favouritism, 
and a general against his own inclinations, 
headed a raw army, without experience and 
without discipline, against Russian troops, with 
twelve years experience in war, and proud of 
having conquered the Swedes. 

The Czar, according to all appearances, 
must have vanquished Baltagi, but he made 
the same mistake with regard to the Turks as 
the King of Sweden was guilty of in his own 
case ; that is, he had too poor an opinion of his 
enemy. Upon the news of the Turkish pre 
parations he left Moscow; and having given 
orders to change the siege of Riga into a block 
ade, he drew up his army of 24,000 men on 
the Polish frontier. With this army he 
marched to Moldavia and Wallachia, formerly 
the country of the Daci, but now inhabited by 
Greek Christians, tributary to the Sultan. 

216 History of Charles XII 

Moldavia was then governed by Prince Can- 
temir, a Greek by birth, who had the talents 
of the ancient Greeks together with a know 
ledge of letters and of arms. He was reputedly 
descended from the famous Timur, famous 
under the name of Tamberlain : this genealogy 
seemed more distinguished than a Greek one. 
They proved it from the name of the con 
queror; Timur, they said, is like Temir : the 
title Kan, which Timur had before his conquest 
of Asia, appears again in the name Cantemir : 
thus Prince Cantemir is a descendant of Tam 
berlain ; that is the sort of basis on which most 
genealogies are built. 

To whatever house Cantemir belonged, he 
owed all to the Ottoman Porte. Scarcely had 
he been invested with his principality than he 
betrayed the Emperor his benefactor for the 
Czar, from whom he had greater expectations. 
He believed that the conqueror of Charles XII 
would easily triumph over an obscure vizir, 
with no military experience, who had ap 
pointed as his lieutenant the chief customs 
officer of Turkey; he reckoned on all Greece 
joining his faction, and the Greek priests en 
couraged him in his treachery. The Czar made 
a secret treaty with him, and having received 
him into his army, marched up country, and 
arrived in June 1711 on the northern side of 
the river Hierasus, now Pruth, near Jazy, the 
capital of Moldavia. 

As soon as the Grand Vizir heard that Peter 

History of Charles XII 217 

had arrived, he left his camp at once, and fol 
lowing the course of the Danube, was going to 
cross the river on a bridge of boats near Saccia, 
at the same spot where Darius had built the 
bridge that bore his name. The Turkish army 
marched so rapidly that they soon came in 
sight of the Russians, with the river Pruth 
between them. 

The Czar, sure of the Prince of Moldavia, 
never expected that the subjects might fail 
him ; but the Moldavians often oppose their 
interests to those of their masters. They 
liked the Turkish rule, which is never fatal 
except to the grandees, and pretends a leniency 
to its tributaries ; they were afraid of the Chris 
tians, especially the Russians, who had always 
used them ill. 

Those who had undertaken to furnish the 
Russians with provisions made with the Grand 
Vizir the same bargain they had made with 
the Czar, and brought all their provisions to 
the Ottoman army. The Wallachians, neigh 
bours of the Moldavians, showed the same care 
for the Turks, for to such a degree the remem 
brance of former cruelties had alienated their 
minds from the Russians. 

The Czar, thus frustrated of his hopes, which he 
had perhaps indulged too readily, found his army 
suddenly destitute of food and without forage. 

In the meantime the Turks crossed the river, 
cut off the Russians, and formed an entrenched 
camp in front of them. 

218 History of Charles XII 

It is strange that the Czar did not dispute 
the passage of the river, or at least repair this 
fault by engaging the Turks at once, instead 
of giving them time to tire out his army with 
fatigue and famine. But that Prince seems, 
in this campaign, to have acted in every way 
for his own ruin ; he was without provisions, 
with the river Pruth behind him, and about 
4,000 Tartars continually harassing him to 
right and left. In these extremities he said 
publicly, " I am at least in as bad a case as my 
brother Charles at Pultawa." 

Count Poniatowski, indefatigable agent to 
the King of Sweden, was in the Grand Vizir s 
army with some Poles and Swedes, who all 
thought the Czar s ruin inevitable. 

As soon as Poniatowski saw that the armies 
must inevitably meet, he sent word to the King 
of Sweden, who, eager for the pleasure of 
attacking the Russian Emperor, started that 
moment from Bender, with forty officers. After 
many losses, and several destructive marches, the 
Czar was driven back on Pruth, and had no 
cover left but some chevaux de frise and some 
wagons. A party of the janissaries and spahis 
fell immediately on his army in that defenceless 
condition, but they attacked in disorder, and 
the Russians defended themselves with an 
energy inspired by the presence of their Prince 
and despair. 

The Turks were twice driven back. Next 
day M. Poniatowski advised the Grand Vizir 

History of Charles XII 219 

to starve out the Russians, for they lacked all 
necessaries, and would be obliged to surrender 
at discretion in one day. 

The Czar has since then repeatedly acknow 
ledged that he never felt anything so acutely 
as the difficulties of his position that night : 
he turned over in his mind all that he had been 
doing for so many years for the glory and good 
of his people, so many great plans, always in 
terrupted by war, were perhaps about to perish 
with him, before having reached completion. 
He must either die of hunger or attack nearly 
200,000 men with feeble troops, reduced by half 
from their original number, a cavalry with 
scarcely a horse between them, and infantry 
worn out by hunger and fatigue. 

He called General Czeremetoff at nightfall, 
and ordered him peremptorily to have all ready 
by daybreak for an attack on the Turks with 
fixed bayonets. 

He gave strict orders also that all baggage 
should be burned, and that no officer should 
keep more than one wagon, so that in case of 
defeat the enemy might not have the booty 
they expected. 

Having made all arrangements with the 
general for the battle, he withdrew into his 
tent overcome by grief, and seized with con 
vulsions, to which he was subject, and which 
worry brought on with redoubled violence. He 
forbade any one to enter his tent during the 
night on any pretext whatever, not wanting 

220 History of Charles XII 

to receive remonstrances against a desperate 
but necessary resolve, and much less that any 
should witness the wretched state he was 
in. In the meantime they burned the greater 
part of the baggage as he had ordered ; all 
the army followed this example with much 
regret, and some buried their most cherished 
treasures. The generals had already given 
orders for the march, and were trying to give 
the army the confidence which they did not 
feel themselves ; the men, exhausted by fatigue, 
and starving, marched without spirit or hope. 
The women, of whom there were too many in 
the army, uttered cries which further unnerved 
the men; every one expected that death or 
slavery would be their portion next morning. 
This is no exaggeration, it is the exact account 
of officers who served in the army. 

There was at that time in the Russian camp 
a woman as extraordinary as the Czar himself. 
She was then known only by the name of 
Catherine. Her mother was an unfortunate 
country woman called Erb-Magden, of the vil 
lage of Ringen in Estonia, a province held in 
villeinage, which was at that time under the 
rule of Sweden. She had never known her 
father, but was baptized by the name of 
Martha. The priest of the parish brought her 
up out of pure charity till she was fourteen, 
then she went into service at Marienburg, in 
the house of a Lutheran minister whose name 
was Gluk. 

History of Charles XII 221 

In 1702, at the age of eighteen, she married 
a Swedish dragoon. The day after her mar 
riage part of the Swedish troops were beaten 
by the Russians, and the dragoon was in the 
action. But he never returned to his wife, and 
she could never learn whether he had been 
taken prisoner, nor later could she get any 
news of him. 

Some days after she was taken prisoner her 
self, and was servant to General Czeremetoff, 
who gave her to Menzikoff, a man who had 
known fortune s extremes, for he had become 
a general and a prince from being a pastry 
cook s boy, and then was deprived of every 
thing and banished to Siberia, where he died 
in misery and despair. The Czar was at supper 
with this prince when he first saw her and fell 
in love with her. He married her secretly in 
1707, not fascinated by womanly charms, but 
because he found that she had the strength of 
mind to second his designs, and even to con 
tinue them after him. He had long since put 
away his first wife Ottokefa, daughter of a 
boyard, on a charge of opposition to certain 
political reforms he had made. 

This was the greatest of all crimes in the 
Czar s eyes. He would have none in his family 
who differed from him. In this foreign slave 
he expected all the qualities of a sovereign, 
though she had none of the virtues of woman 
hood. For her sake he scorned the petty pre 
judices which would have hampered an ordi- 

222 History of Charles XII 

nary man, and had her crowned Empress. The 
same capacity which made her Peter s wife 
gave her the empire after her husband s death. 
Europe was amazed to see a bold woman, who 
could neither read nor- write, supply her lack 
of education and her weakness by spirit and 
courage, and fill the throne of a legislator 

When she married the Czar she left the 
Lutheran faith for that of the Russian Church ; 
she was baptized again according to the Rus 
sian rite, and instead of the name of Martha 
she took that of Catherine, by which she has 
been known ever since. This woman was in 
the camp at Pruth, and held a private council 
with the generals and the Vice-Chancellor 
while the Czar was in his tent. 

They agreed that it was necessary to sue for 
peace, and that the Czar must be persuaded to 
this course. The Vice-Chancellor wrote a let 
ter to the Grand Vizir in his master s name, 
which the Czarina, in spite of the Emperor s 
prohibition, carried into the tent to him, and 
after many prayers, tears and argument, she 
prevailed on him to sign it ; she then took all 
her money, all her jewels and valuables, and 
what she could borrow from the generals, and 
having collected by this means a considerable 
present, she sent it with the Czar s letter to 
Osman Aga, lieutenant to the Grand Vizir. 

Mahomet Baltagi answered proudly, with the 
air of a vizir and a conqueror, * Let the Czar 

History of Charles XII 223 

send me his first minister, and I will see what 
can be done." The Vice-Chancellor came at 
once, loaded with presents, which he offered 
publicly to the Grand Vizir; they were large 
enough to show they needed his help, but too 
small for a bribe. The Vizir s first condition 
was that the Czar, with all his army, should 
surrender at discretion. The Vice-Chancellor 
answered that the Czar was going to attack 
him in a quarter of an hour, and that the 
Russians would perish to a man, rather than 
submit to such shameful conditions. Osman 
seconded him by remonstrances. 

Baltagi was no soldier. He knew that the 
janissaries had been repulsed the day before, 
and was easily persuaded by Osman not to risk 
certain advantages by the hazard of a battle. 
He therefore granted a suspension of hostilities 
for six hours, during which the treaty could be 

During the discussion an incident occurred, 
proving that the word of a Turk is often more 
reliable than we think. 

Two Italian noblemen, related to a M. Brillo, 
colonel of a regiment of grenadiers in the 
service of the Czar, going to look for forage, 
were taken by the Tartars, who carried them 
off to their camp, and offered to sell them to an 
officer of the janissaries. The Turk, enraged 
at such a breach of the truce, seized the Tartars 
and carried them before the Grand Vizir, to 
gether with the two prisoners. The Vizir s r 

224 History of Charles XII 

them back at once to the Czar s camp, and had 
the two Tartars who had carried them off be 
headed. In the meantime the Kan of Tartary 
opposed the conclusion of a treaty which 
robbed him of all hopes of pillage. Poniatow- 
ski seconded him with urgent and pressing 
reasons. But Osman carried his point, not 
withstanding the impatience of the Tartar and 
the insinuations of Poniatowski. 

The Vizir thought it enough for his master 
the Sultan to make an advantageous peace ; 
he insisted that the Russians should give up 
Asoph, burn the galleys that lay in that port, 
and demolish the important citadels on the 
Palus-Mseotis ; that all the cannon and ammu 
nition of those forts should be handed over to 
the Sultan; that the Czar should withdraw 
his troops from Poland ; that he should not 
further disturb the few Cossacks who were 
under Polish protection, nor those that were 
subject to Turkey, and that for the future he 
should pay the Tartars a subsidy of 40,000 
sequins per annum an irksome tribute which 
had been imposed long before, but from which 
the Czar had delivered his country. 

At last the treaty was going to be signed, 
without so much as a mention of the King of 
Sweden ; all that Poniatowski could obtain from 
the Vizir was the insertion of an article by 
which the Russians should promise not to 
hinder the return of Charles XII, and, strangely 
enough, that a peace should be made between 

History of Charles XII 225 

the King and the Czar if they wished it, and 
could come to terms. 

On these terms the Czar got liberty to re 
treat with his army, cannon, artillery, colours 
and baggage. The Turks gave him provisions, 
and there was plenty of everything in his 
camp within two hours of the signing of the 
treaty, which was begun on the 2ist July, 1711, 
and signed on the ist of August. 

Just as the Czar, rescued from his dangerous 
position, was drawing off with drums beating 
and colours flying, the King of Sweden, eager 
to fight, and to see the enemy in his hands, 
came up; he had ridden post haste about 
fifty leagues from Bender to Jazy, and alight 
ing at Count Poniatowski s tent, the Count 
came up to him sadly and told him how he 
had lost a chance which would perhaps never 

The King, beside himself with rage, went 
straight to the tent of the Grand Vizir, and 
with flushed face reproached him for the treaty 
he had just made. 

" I have authority," said the Grand Vizir, 
calmly, " to make peace and to wage war." 

" But," answered the King, "had you not 
the whole Russian army in your power?" 

" Our law," said the Vizir solemnly, " com 
mands us to grant peace to our enemies when 
they implore our mercy." 

"Ah," replied the King, in a rage, "does 
it order you to make a bad treaty, when you 


226 History of Charles XII 

can impose the terms you please? Was it not 
your duty to take the Czar prisoner to 

The Turk, thus nonplussed, answered slyly, 
" And who would govern his empire in his 
absence? It is not fitting that all kings should 
be away from home." 

Charles replied with an indignant smile, and 
then threw himself down on a cushion, and, 
looking at the Vizir with resentment mingled 
with contempt, he stretched out his leg towards 
him, and, entangling his spur with his robe, 
tore it ; then jumped up, mounted, and rode 
to Bender full of despair. 

Poniatowski stayed some time longer with 
the Grand Vizir, to see if he could prevail on 
him by gentler means to make some better 
terms with the Czar, but it was prayer-time, 
and the Turk, without one word in answer, 
went to wash and attend to his devotions. 



Intrigues at the Porte The Kan of Tartary and the 
Pasha of Bender try to force Charles to depart 
He defends himself with forty servants against 
their whole army. 

THE fortune of the King of Sweden, greatly 
changed as it was, now failed him in the 
smallest details. On his return he found his 
little camp at Bender, and his whole quarters, 
under water, flooded by the waters of the 
Neister. He withdrew to a distance of some 
miles, near a village called Varnitza; and, as 
if he had a secret suspicion of what was going 
to happen to him, he had a large stone house 
built there, capable, in an emergency, of sus 
taining some hours siege; he furnished it 
magnificently, contrary to his usual custom, 
and in order to impress the Turks. Besides 
this he built two more, one for his Chancery, 
and the other for his favourite, Grothusen, 
whom he supported. While the King was 
thus building at Bender, as if it was his inten 
tion to stay always in Turkey, Baltagi, being 
more than ever fearful of his intrigues and 
complaints at the Porte, had sent the resident 
consul of the German Emperor to Vienna to 
gain for the King of Sweden a passage 
through the hereditary dominions of the house 
of Austria. This envoy returned in three weeks 
with a promise from the Imperial Regency 

230 History of Charles XII 

that they would give Charles all due honour, 
and conduct him safely to Pomerania. 

The application had been made to the 
Regency because Charles, the successor of 
Joseph, who was then Emperor, was in Spain 
as a rival with Philip V for the crown. While 
the German envoy was carrying out his mission 
to Vienna, the Vizir sent three pashas to the 
King of Sweden bidding him begone from 
Turkish territory. The King, who knew their 
mission, sent them a message, that if they were 
venturing on any dishonourable or disrespect 
ful proposal to him he would have them 
hanged forthwith. The pasha who delivered 
the message cloaked the harshness of his 
message in the most respectful language. 
Charles dismissed the audience without deign 
ing a word of reply; but his chancellor, who 
remained with the three pashas, signified in 
few words his master s refusal, which they 
had already concluded from his silence. 

But the Grand Vizir was not discouraged. 
He ordered Ishmael Pasha, the new serasquier 
of Bender, to threaten the King with the 
Sultan s displeasure if he did not haste to 
come to some conclusion. The serasquier was 
of an agreeable and tactful disposition, and 
had therefore gained Charles s good-will and 
the friendship of the Swedes. 

The King held a conference with him, and 
informed him that he would only depart from 
Turkey when the Sultan granted him two 

History of Charles XII 231 

things : the punishment of his Vizir, and 
100,000 men with which to return to Poland. 
Baltagi was aware of the fact that Charles s 
presence in Turkey meant his ruin, so he placed 
guards on all the roads from Bender to Con 
stantinople, with orders to intercept the King s 
letters; he also cut off his " thaim," the 
allowance that the Porte makes to exiled 
princes in her dominions. The King of 
Sweden s was immense, 500 crowns a day in 
money, besides all that contributed to the 
maintenance of a court in pomp and abund 
ance. As soon as the King heard that the 
Vizir had dared to cut off his allowance he 
turned to his steward, remarking, " So far 
you have had only two tables, for to-morrow 
prepare four." 

Charles XII s officers had never found any 
order of their master s impossible, but having 
neither money nor provision they were forced 
to borrow at twenty, thirty, and forty per 
cent, of the officers servants and janissaries, 
who had grown rich by the King s liberality. 
M. Fabricius, ambassador from Holstein, Jef 
freys, English minister, their secretaries and 
their friends, gave what they had; the King, 
with his usual pride, and without a thought for 
the morrow, lived on these gifts, which would 
not have long sufficed. They had to go through 
the Turkish guard, and send secretly to Con 
stantinople to borrow from European money 
lenders. All refused to lend to a king who 

232 History of Charles XII 

seemed to be powerless to pay; but one Eng 
lish merchant, named Cook, at last ventured 
to lend 40,000 crowns, taking the risk of 
losing them if the King of Sweden was killed. 
They took the money to the King s camp, just 
as they were feeling actual want, and were 
beginning to despair of supplies. 

In the meantime M. Poniatowski wrote 
actually from the Grand Vizir s camp an ac 
count of the Pruth campaign, accusing the 
Vizir of cowardice and treachery. An old 
janissary, enraged at the weakness of the 
Vizir, and bribed by Poniatowski, undertook 
the delivery of the letter, and, having got his 
discharge, presented it with his own hands to 
the Sultan. Some days later Poniatowski set 
out from the camp and went* to the Ottoman 
Porte to form intrigues against the Grand Vizir 
as usual. 

All seemed to favour the design. The Czar, 
now at liberty, was in no hurry to carry out 
his promises ; the keys of Azov did not come, 
and the Grand Vizir, who was responsible for 
them, justly fearing his master s resentment, 
dare not appear in his presence. 

The seraglio was then more full of intrigues 
and factions than ever. These cabals, which 
exist at all courts, and which, in our case, 
generally end in the removal of a minister from 
office, or at most by a banishment, always meant 
more than one execution in Constantinople. 

It ended in the execution of the former Vizir 

History of Charles XII 233 

Chourlouli, and of Osman, the lieutenant of 
Baltagi, who was the chief author of the Peace 
of Pruth, and who since the peace had held a 
prominent office at the Porte. Among the 
treasures of Osrnan they found the Czarina s 
ring- and 20,000 gold pieces, in Saxon, Polish 
and Russian coin ; this was a proof that it 
was money alone which had rescued the Czar 
from his perilous position, and had ruined the 
chances of Charles XII. The Vizir, Baltagi, 
was exiled to the isle of Lemnos, where he 
died three years later. The Sultan did not 
confiscate his property either at his exile or at 
his death ; he was not rich, and his poverty 
protects his memory. 

This Grand Vizir was succeeded by Joseph, 
whose fortune was as singular as that of his 
predecessors. He was a Russian by birth, and 
had been taken prisoner by the Turks at six 
years of age with his family, and had been sold 
to a janissary. He was long a valet in the 
seraglio, then became the second person in 
the empire where he had been a slave. But 
he was only the shadow of a minister. 

The young Ali-Coumourgi had placed him in 
the slippery post until he could seize it himself, 
and Joseph, his creature, had nothing else to 
do but affix the Imperial seals to the favourite s 
desires. The policy of the Ottoman Court 
seemed to be revolutionized from the very be 
ginning of this Vizir s ministry. The Czar s 
plenipotentiaries, who lived at Constantinople 

234 History of Charles XII 

both as ministers and hostages, were better 
treated than ever; the Grand Vizir counter 
signed the Peace of Pruth with them. But 
that which annoyed the King of Sweden more 
than all else was the news that the secret 
alliance made at Constantinople with the Czar 
was brought about by the mediation of the 
English and Dutch ambassadors. 

Since Charles s retreat to Bender, Constan 
tinople was occupying the position that Rome 
had so often held, as the centre of the business 
of Christendom. Count Desaleurs, the French 
ambassador at the Porte, was supporting the 
interests of Charles and of Stanislas ; the 
Emperor of Germany s minister was opposing 
them. The Swedish and Russian factions were 
falling foul of each other, as those of France and 
Spain have long done at the Court of Rome. 

England and Holland posed as neutrals, but 
were not really such ; the new trade of Saint 
Petersburg attracted the attention of those two 
trading powers. 

The English and the Dutch are always on 
the side of the prince who most favours their 
trade, and there was just then much to be 
gained from the Czar, so that it is no wonder 
that the English and Dutch ministers should 
work secretly in his interest at the Porte. One 
of the conditions of this new alliance was that 
Charles should at once be driven from the 
Turkish dominions. 

Perhaps the Czar thought him less formid 
able at home than in Turkey, where he was 

History of Charles XII 235 

always on the spot ready to raise the Ottoman 
arms against the Russian empire, or perhaps 
he hoped to seize him en route. The King of 
Sweden continued his petitions to the Porte to 
send him home through Poland with a large 
army. The Divan resolved to send him back, 
but only with a guard of 7,000 or 8,000 men, 
not like a King they wished to help, but as a 
guest they were anxious to be rid of. With 
this object in view the Sultan Achmet wrote 
him the following letter : 

" Most powerful of the Princes that worship 
Jesus, redressor of wrongs and injuries, and 
protector of justice in the ports and republics 
of South and North, shining in Majesty, lover 
of Honour and Glory, and of our sublime 
Porte, Charles, King of Sweden, whose enter 
prises may God crown with success. 

" As soon as the most illustrious Achmet, 
formerly Chiaoux-Pasha, shall have the honour 
to present this letter to you, adorned with our 
Imperial seal, be persuaded and convinced of 
the truth of our intentions expressed therein, 
namely, that, although we had planned to 
march again against the Czar, yet that Prince, 
to avoid our just resentment at his delay in the 
execution of the treaty concluded on the banks 
of the Pruth, and renewed again at our sublime 
Porte, having surrendered to us the castle and 
city of Azov, and having endeavoured by the 
mediation of the English and Dutch ambassa 
dors, our ancient allies, to form a lasting peace 
with us, we have granted his request, and 

236 History of Charles XII 

given up his plenipotentiaries, who remain with 
us as hostages, our Imperial ratification, after 
having received his from their hands. 

" We have given our inviolable and salutary 
orders to the right honourable Delvet Gharai, 
Kan of Budziack, of Crimea, Nagai, and Cir- 
cassia, and to our wise counsellor and noble 
serasquier of Bender, Ishmael (whom God pre 
serve and increase in magnificence and wisdom), 
for your return through Poland, according to 
your first plan which has been again laid 
before us from you. You must, therefore, 
prepare to set out next winter under the guid 
ance of Providence and with an honourable 
guard, that you may return to your own 
territories, taking care to pass through Poland 
in a peaceable and friendly manner. 

" You will be provided by my sublime Porte 
with all that is needed for your journey, both 
money, men, horses and wagons. But above 
all else we advise and exhort you to give the 
most express and detailed orders to the Swedes 
and other soldiers in your retinue not to com 
mit any act of disorder, nor be guilty of any 
action which may either directly or indirectly 
tend to the breach of this peace. By that 
means you will preserve our good-will, of which 
we shall endeavour to give great and frequent 
proofs as we shall find opportunity. The 
troops to attend you shall receive orders to 
that effect, according- to our Imperial will and 

History of Charles XII 237 

" Given at our sublime Porte of Constan 
tinople on the 1 4th of the month Rebyul Eureb, 
1214. Which corresponds to the igth April, 

This letter did not, however, entirely destroy 
the hopes of the King of Sweden. He wrote 
to the Sultan that he was ready to go, and 
would never forget the favour he had shown 
him ; but he added that he believed the Sultan 
was too just to send him away with nothing 
but a flying camp through a country already 
overrun with the Czar s troops. Indeed, the 
Emperor of Russia, in spite of the fact that 
the first article of the Treaty of Pruth obliged 
him to withdraw his forces from Poland, had 
sent recruits thither, and it seemed strange 
that the Sultan was ignorant of the fact. The 
bad policy and vanity of the Porte in suffering 
the Christian princes to maintain their ambas 
sadors at Constantinople, and not keeping one 
single agent in any Christian court, gives the 
former an opportunity of probing and some 
times of directing the Sultan s most secret 
resolutions, while the Divan is always ignorant 
of the most public transactions of Christen 
dom. The Sultan, shut up in the seraglio 
among his women and his eunuchs, sees only 
through the Grand Vizir s eyes; the latter is 
as inaccessible as his master, taken up with 
the intrigues of the seraglio, and without any 
communication with the world outside. He is 
therefore generally imposed on himself, or im- 

238 History of Charles XII 

poses on the Sultan, who deposes him or has 
him strangled for his first mistake, in order to 
choose another as ignorant or as treacherous 
as the former, who behaves in the same way 
as his predecessors and falls as soon as they. 

Such is, for the most part, the negligence 
and profound security of this Court, that if 
the Christian princes leagued against the Porte 
their fleets would be at the Dardanelles and 
their army at the gates of Adrianople before 
the Turks could think of taking the defensive. 
But the different interests which divide 
Christendom will protect that people from a 
fate for which they at present seem ripe in 
their want of policy and their ignorance in war 
and naval matters. 

Achmet was so little acquainted with what 
was happening in Poland that he sent an aga 
to see if the Czar s forces were there or not. 
Two of the King of Sweden s secretaries, who 
understood Turkish, went with him, to keep 
a check on him in the event of a false report. 
The aga saw the forces with his own eyes and 
gave the Sultan a true account of the matter. 
Achmet, in a rage, was going to strangle the 
Grand Vizir, but the favourite, who protected 
him, and thought he might prove useful, got 
him pardoned and kept him some time in the 

The Russians were openly protected by the 
Vizir, and secretly by Ali-Coumourgi, who had 
changed sides; but the Sultan was so angry, 

History of Charles XII 239 

the infraction of the Treaty was so palpable, 
and the janissaries, who often make the 
ministers, favourites and Sultans themselves 
tremble, clamoured so loudly for war that no 
one in the seraglio dare counsel moderation. 

The Sultan at once put the Russian ambas 
sadors, who were already as accustomed to go 
to prison as to a concert, in the seven towers. 
War was declared again against the Czar, the 
horse-tails hoisted, and orders issued to all the 
pashas to raise an army of 200,000 fighting 
men. The Sultan left Constantinople for 
Adrianople in order to be nearer the seat of 

In the meantime a solemn embassy from 
Augustus and the republics of Poland to the 
Sultan was on the road to Adrianople. At the 
head of this embassy was the Prince of Mas- 
sovia with a retinue of 300 persons. They 
were all seized and imprisoned in the suburbs 
of the city. Never was the Swedish party 
more hopeful than on this occasion; but these 
great preparations came to nothing, and all 
their hopes were dashed. If a minister of 
great wisdom and foresight, who was then 
living at Constantinople, is to be credited, 
young Coumourgi had other plans in his head 
than hazarding a war with the Czar to gain 
a desert. He wanted to take Peloponnesus, 
now called Morea, from the Venetians, and to 
make himself master of Hungary. 

To carry out his great designs he wanted 

240 History of Charles XII 

nothing but the office of Grand Vizir, for which 
he was thought too young. With this in view 
the friendship of the Czar was more important 
to him than his enmity. It was neither to his 
interest nor to his inclination to keep the King 
of Sweden any longer, much less to raise a 
Turkish army for him. He not only advocated 
sending the Prince away, but declared openly 
that henceforth no Christian minister ought to 
be tolerated at Constantinople ; that the ordin 
ary ambassadors were only honourable spies, 
who corrupted or betrayed the vizirs, and had 
too long interfered in the affairs of the seraglio ; 
that the Franks settled at Pera, and in the 
commercial ports on the Levant, were mer 
chants, who needed no ambassador, but only a 
consul. The Grand Vizir, who owed both his 
position and his life to the favourite, and who 
feared him besides, complied with his plans the 
more readily that he had sold himself to the 
Russians, and hoped to be avenged on the King 
of Sweden, who would have ruined him. 

The Mufti, Ali-Coumourgi s creature, was 
also completely under his thumb : he had given 
the vote for war against the Czar when the 
favourite was on that side, but he declared it 
to be unjust as soon as the youth had changed 
his mind. Thus the army was scarcely col 
lected before they began to listen to proposals 
for a reconciliation. After several negotiations 
the vice-chancellor Shaffiroff and young Czere- 
metoff, the Czar s plenipotentiaries and host- 

History of Charles XII 241 

ages at the Porte, promised that the troops 
should be withdrawn from Poland. The Grand 
Vizir, who knew that the Czar would not carry 
out this treaty, decided to sign it for all that ; 
and the Sultan, content with the semblance of 
laying down the law to the Russians, remained 
at Adrianople. Thus, in less than six months, 
peace was made with the Czar, then war was 
declared, then peace was renewed. 

The main article of all the treaties was that 
the King of Sweden should be forced to de 
part. The Sultan would not imperil his own 
honour and that of the Porte to the extent of 
exposing the King to the risk of being captured 
en route by his enemies. It was stipulated 
that he should be sent away, but on condition 
that the ambassadors of Poland and Russia 
should be responsible for the safety of his 
person; these ambassadors swore, in their 
masters names, that neither the Czar nor 
Augustus should molest him on his journey. 
On the other hand, Charles was not to endeav 
our to make any disturbance in Poland. The 
Divan, having thus determined the fate of 
Charles, Ishmael, serasquier of Bender, repaired 
to Varnitsa, where the King was encamped, 
and acquainted him with the Forte s resolve, 
explaining civilly enough that there was no 
time for delay, but that he must go. Charles s 
only answer was that the Sultan had promised 
him an army and not a guard, and that kings 
ought to keep their word. 

242 History of Charles XII 

In the meantime General Fleming, King 
Augustus s minister and favourite, maintained 
a private correspondence with the Kan of 
Tartary and the serasquier of Bender. A 
German colonel, whose name was La Mare, 
had made more than one journey from Bender 
to Dresden, and these were an object of sus 

Just at this time the King of Sweden caused 
a courier sent from Fleming to the Tartar 
prince to be seized on the Wallachian frontier. 
The letters were brought to him and de 
ciphered ; there was obviously a correspond 
ence going on between the Tartars and 
Dresden, but the references were so general 
and ambiguous that it was hard to say whether 
King Augustus s plan was to detach the Turks 
from the Swedish alliance, or to persuade the 
Kan to hand over Charles to his Saxons as 
he attended him on the road to Poland. 

It is hard to imagine that so generous a 
prince as Augustus would, for the sake of 
seizing the King of Sweden, risk the lives 
of his ambassadors and 300 Poles, detained at 
Adrianople as hostages for Charles s safety. 

On the other hand, Fleming was absolute, 
very shrewd, and quite unscrupulous. The 
outrageous treatment of the Elector by King 
Charles might be thought an excuse for any 
method of revenge, and if the Court of Dresden 
could buy Charles of the Kan of Tartary they 
may have thought that it would be no difficult 

History of Charles XII 243 

matter to purchase the liberty of the Polish 
hostages of the Ottoman Porte. 

These reasons were argued between the 
King, Mullern, his private chancellor, and his 
favourite Grothusen. They read the letters 
over and over again, and, their wretched plight 
increasing their suspicions, they resolved to 
believe the worst. 

Some days later the King was confirmed in 
his suspicions by the sudden departure of 
Count Sapieha, who had sought refuge with 
him, and now left him suddenly to go to 
Poland and throw himself into the arms of 
Augustus. On any other occasion he would 
have regarded Sapieha as a malcontent, but in 
the critical state of affairs he felt certain that 
he was a traitor; the repeated requests to him 
to begone made his suspicions a certainty. 
His own positiveness, together with all these 
probabilities, made him continue in the certainty 
that there had been a plot to betray him and 
deliver him up to his enemies, although the 
plot had never been proved. 

He might be wrong in thinking King Augus 
tus had made a bargain with the Tartars for 
his person, but he was much more so in de 
pending on the Ottoman Porte. But in any 
case he resolved to gain time. He told the 
Pasha of Bender that he could not go till he 
had the wherewithal to pay his debts, for 
though his thaim had been regularly paid his 
liberality had always forced him to borrow. 

244 History of Charles XII 

The Pasha asked how much he needed. The 
King answered at hazard 1,000 purses, that 
is, about 1,500,000 francs French money full 
weight. The Pasha wrote to his master about 
it; the Sultan, instead of the 1,000 purses 
which he demanded, sent him 1,200 with the 
following letter to the Pasha 

" The object of this Imperial letter is to 
inform you that, upon your representation and 
request, and that of the right noble Delvet 
Gherai Kan to our sublime Porte, our Imperial 
munificence has granted the King of Sweden 
1,000 purses, which shall be sent to Bender in 
the custody of the most illustrious Mahomet 
Pasha, to remain in your hands till such time 
as the King of Sweden departs, whose steps 
may God direct, and then to be given him with 
200 purses more, as an overplus of our Imperial 
liberality beyond what he desires. As to the 
route through Poland, which he has decided 
on, you and the Kan, who are to accompany 
him, must be careful to take such prudent and 
wise measures as shall prevent, during the 
whole journey, the troops under your command 
and those of the King of Sweden from any 
disorderly conduct or anything which may be 
reckoned a breach of the peace between our 
sublime Porte and the realm and republic of 
Poland, so that the King of Sweden may travel 
as a friend under our protection. 

"By so doing (and you are to desire it of 
him in set terms) he will receive all the honour 

History of Charles XII 245 

and respect due to his Majesty from the Poles, 
as we have been assured by the ambassadors 
of King Augustus and the republic, who have 
offered themselves and certain other of the 
Polish nobility, if required, as hostages for his 
safe passage. At the time which you and the 
right noble Delvet shall agree on for the march 
you shall put yourselves at the head of your 
brave soldiers, among whom shall be the 
Tartars, led by the Kan, and go with the King 
and his men. 

" May it please the only God, the Almighty, 
to direct your steps and theirs. The Pasha 
of Aulis shall continue at Bender, with a 
regiment of spahis and another of janissaries, 
to defend it in your absence. Now, by follow 
ing our Imperial orders and wishes in all these 
points and details, you will earn the continu 
ance of our royal favour, as well as the praise 
and rewards due to all such as observe them. 

" Given at our Imperial residence of Constan 
tinople, the 2nd day of the month Cheval, 
1124 of the Hegira. " 

While they were waiting for the Sultan s 
answer the King had written to the Porte, to 
complain of the supposed treachery of the Kan. 
But the passages were well guarded, and the 
ministry against him, so that his letters never 
reached the Sultan. The Vizir would not allow 
M. Desaleurs to go to Adrianople, where the 
Porte then was, lest he, as the King of 
Sweden s agent, tried to thwart their design 

246 History of Charles XII 

of driving him away. Charles, indignant at 
seeing himself hunted, as it were, from the 
Sultan s territory, resolved not to stir a step. 
He might have asked to return through German 
territory, or to take ship at the Black Sea, in 
order to reach Marseilles by the Mediterranean, 
but he preferred to ask no favour and see what 

When the 1,200 purses arrived, his treasurer, 
Grothusen, who from long residence in 
Turkey had learned to speak the language, 
went to the Pasha without an interpreter, 
hoping to get the money from him, and then to 
form some new intrigue at the Porte, on the 
false supposition that the Swedish party would 
at last arm the Ottoman Empire against the Czar. 

Grothusen told the Pasha that the King s 
equipage could not be prepared without money. 
" But," said the Pasha, " we are going to de 
fray all the expense of departure; your master 
will have no expenses while he continues 
under the protection of mine." Grothusen 
replied that the difference between the Turkish 
equipages and those of the Franks was so 
great that they must apply to the Swedish and 
Polish workmen at Varnitsa. 

He assured him that his master was ready to 
go and that this money would facilitate and 
hasten his departure. The too credulous Pasha 
gave him the 1,200 purses, and in a few days 
came and respectfully asked the King to give 
orders for his departure. 

History of Charles XII 247 

He was most surprised when the King told 
him he was not ready to go and that he wanted 
1,000 purses more. The Pasha was overcome 
by this, and remained speechless for some time; 
then he walked to a window, where he was 
seen to shed some tears. Then, turning to the 
King, he said, " I shall lose my head for having 
obliged your Majesty. I have given you the 
1,200 purses contrary to the express orders of 
my sovereign." With these words he took 
leave and was going away full of grief. 

The King stopped him and told him he would 
excuse him to the Sultan. " Ah !" replied the 
Turk, " my master can punish mistakes, but 
not excuse them." 

Ishmael Pasha went to tell the news to the 
Kan of Tartary. The Kan, having received 
the same order as the Pasha, not to let the 
1,200 purses be delivered before the King s 
departure, and having agreed to their delivery, 
was as apprehensive of the Sultan s resentment 
as the Pasha himself. They both wrote to the 
Porte to clear themselves, and explained that 
they had only parted with the 1,200 purses on 
a solemn promise made by the King s minister 
that they would go at once, and they entreated 
his Highness not to attribute the King s refusal 
to their disobedience. 

Charles, quite convinced that the Kan and 
the Pasha intended to hand him over to his 
enemies, ordered M. Funk, his envoy at the 
Ottoman Court, to lay his complaints against 

248 History of Charles XII 

them before the Sultan and to ask for 1,000 
purses more. His great generosity, and his 
indifference to money, hindered him from see 
ing the baseness of this proposal. He only 
did it to get a refusal so that then he might 
have a fresh pretext for failing to depart ; but 
a man must be reduced to great straits when 
he has recourse to such tricks. Savari, his 
interpreter, a crafty and enterprising character, 
carried the letter to Adrianople in spite of 
the Grand Vizir s care to have the roads 
guarded. Funk was forced to go and deliver 
this dangerous message, and all the answer he 
got was imprisonment. 

Thoroughly angry, the Sultan called an extra 
ordinary Divan and made a speech at it him 
self. His speech, according to the translation 
then made of it, was as follows 

" I hardly knew the King of Sweden, but 
from his defeat at Pultawa and the request he 
made to me to grant him sanctuary in my 
empire. I am under no obligation to him, nor 
have I any reason either to love or fear him; 
yet, thinking only of the hospitality of a 
Mussulman and my own generosity, which sheds 
the dew of its favour on small and great alike, 
I received and aided him, his ministers, officers 
and soldiers, in every respect, and for three 
years and a half have continually loaded him 
with presents. 

" I have granted him a considerable guard to 
take him to his own country. He has asked 

History of Charles XII 249 

for 1,000 purses to defray expenses, though I 
am paying- them all, and instead of 1,000 I 
have granted him 1,200. After getting these 
from the serasquier of Bender he wants 1,000 
more, and refuses to go under the pretext that 
the guard is too small, whereas it is too large 
to pass through the country of a friend and 
ally. I ask you, then, is it any breach of the 
laws of hospitality to send this prince away, 
and whether foreign princes would have any 
ground for accusing me of cruelty and injustice 
if I used force to make him go?" 

All the Divan answered that the Sultan might 
lawfully do as he said. 

The Mufti declared that Mussulmans are 
not bound to offer hospitality to infidels, much 
less to the ungrateful, and he granted his 
festa, a kind of mandate, which generally 
accompanies the Sultan s important orders. 
These festas are revered as oracles, though the 
persons who issue them are as much the 
Sultan s slaves as any others. 

The order and the festa were taken to Bender 
by the Master of the Horse and the first Usher. 
The Pasha of Bender received the order at the 
Kan s, whence he went at once to the Varnitsa 
to ask if the King would go away in a friendly 
way, or would force him to carry out the 
Sultan s orders. 

Charles XII, not being used to this threaten 
ing language, could not command his temper. 
" Obey your master if you dare," he said, 

250 History of Charles XII 

" and begone." The Pasha in indignation set 
off at a gallop, an unusual thing with a Turk. 
On the return journey he met M. Fabricius, 
and called out to him without stopping, " The 
King won t listen to reason; you ll see strange 
doings presently." The same day he cut off 
the King s supplies and removed the guard of 
janissaries. He also sent to the Poles and 
Cossacks to let them know that if they wanted 
to get any provisions they must leave the King 
of Sweden s camp and come and put them 
selves under the protection of the Porte at 

They all obeyed and left the King, with 
only the officers of his household and 300 
Swedes, to cope with 2,000 Tartars and 6,000 
Turks. There was now no more provision in 
the camp for man or beast. The King at once 
gave orders that the twenty fine Arabian horses 
they had given him should be shot, saying, 
" I will have neither their food nor their 
horses." This made a great feast for the 
Tartars, who, as every one knows, think that 
horse-flesh is delicious. In the meantime the 
Turks and Tartars invested the little camp on 
all sides. 

The King, with no signs of panic, appointed 
his 300 Swedes to make regular fortifications, 
and worked at them himself. His chancellor, 
treasurer, secretaries, valets, and all his ser 
vants, lent a hand to the work. Some barri 
caded the windows, others took the bars 

History of Charles XII 251 

behind the doors and placed them like but 

When the house was well barricaded, and 
the King had reviewed his pretences at fortifi 
cations, he began to play chess unconcernedly 
with his favourite Grothusen, as if everything 
had been perfectly safe and secure. It hap 
pened very luckily that Fabricius, the envoy of 
Holstein, did not lodge at Varnitsa, but at a 
small village between Varnitsa and Bender, 
where Mr. Jeffreys, the English envoy to the 
King of Sweden, lived also. These two minis 
ters, seeing that the storm was about to break, 
undertook to mediate between the Turks and 
the King. The Kan, and especially the Pasha 
of Bender, who had no intention of hurting the 
monarch, were glad of the offers of their 
services. They had two conferences together 
at Bender, at which the Usher of the seraglio, 
and the Grand Master of the Horse, who had 
brought the order from the Sultan, were 

M. Fabricius owned to them that the 
Swedish King had good reason to believe that 
they intended to give him up to his enemies in 
Poland. The Kan, the Pasha, and the rest, 
swore on their heads, calling God to witness, 
that they detested the thought of such a 
horrible piece of treachery, and would shed 
the last drop of their blood rather than 
show the least lack of respect to the King in 

252 History of Charles XII 

They added that they had the Russian and 
Polish ambassadors in their power, and that 
their lives should answer for the least affront 
offered to the King of Sweden. In a word, 
they complained bitterly of the outrageous 
suspicions which the King- was harbouring 
about people who had received and treated him 
so well. And though oaths are often the lan 
guage of treachery, M. Fabricius allowed him 
self to be persuaded by these barbarians. He 
thought he saw that air of truth in their pro 
tests which falsehood imitates but lamely; he 
knew that there was a secret correspondence 
between the Tartar Kan and Augustus, but he 
remained convinced that the object of this 
negotiation was only to force Charles to retire 
from the territories of the Sultan. 

But whether Fabricius was mistaken or not 
he assured them that he would represent to the 
King the unreasonableness of his jealousies. 
" But do you intend to force him to go?" he 
added. " Yes," answered the Pasha, " such are 
our master s orders." Then he desired them 
to consider again whether that order was to 
spill the blood of a crowned head. "Yes," 
answered the Kan with warmth, " if that head 
disobeys the Sultan in his own dominions." 

In the meantime everything was ready for 
the assault, and Charles s death seemed inevit 
able; but as the Sultan s command was not 
positively to kill him in case of resistance, the 
Pasha prevailed on the Kan to send a mes- 

History of Charles XII 253 

senger that moment to Adrianople, to receive 
his Highness s final orders. 

Mr. Jeffreys and M. Fabricius, having got 
this respite, hurried to acquaint the King with 
it. They hastened like bearers of good news, 
and were received very coldly; he called them 
forward, meddling mediators, and still insisted 
that the Sultan s order and the Mufti s festa 
were forged, because they had sent for fresh 
orders to the Porte. The English minister with 
drew, resolving to trouble himself no further 
with the affairs of so obstinate a prince. M. 
Fabricius, a favourite of the King, and more 
accustomed to his whims than the English 
minister, stayed with him, to exhort him not 
to risk so valuable a life on so futile an 

The only reply the King made was to show 
him his fortifications and to beg him to 
mediate so far as to obtain provisions for him. 
Leave was easily obtained from the Turks to 
let provisions pass into the King s camp till 
the couriers should return from Adrianople. 
The Kan himself had forbidden the Tartars to 
make any attempt on the Swedes till a new 
order came; so that Charles went out of his 
camp sometimes with forty horse, and rode 
through the midst of the Tartar troops, who 
respectfully left him a free passage; he even 
marched right up to their lines, and they did 
not resist, but opened to him. 

At last the Sultan s order arrived with com- 

254 History of Charles XII 

mand to put to the sword all the Swedes who 
made the least resistance, and not to spare the 
King s life; the Pasha had the civility to show 
the order to M. Fabricius, that he might make 
a last effort with Charles. Fabricius went at 
once to tell him his bad news. " Have you 
seen the order you refer to?" said the King. 
"I have," replied Fabricius. " Tell them," 
said the King, " from me that this order is a 
second forgery of theirs, and that I will not 
go." Fabricius fell at his feet in a transport of 
rage, and scolded him for his obstinacy. " Go 
back to your Turks," said the King, smiling at 
him; "if they attack me, I know how to 
defend myself." 

The King s chaplains also fell on their knees 
before him, beseeching him not to expose the 
wretched remnant over from Pultawa, and 
above all, his own sacred person, to death; 
adding, besides, that resistance in this case was 
a most unwarrantable deed, and that it was a 
violation of the laws of hospitality to resolve 
to stay against their will with strangers who 
had so long and generously supported him. 
The King, who had showed no resentment with 
Fabricius, became angry on this occasion, and 
told his priests that he employed them to pray 
for him, and not to give him advice. 

General Hoord and General Dardoff, who 
had always been against venturing a battle 
which in the result must prove fatal, showed 
the King their breasts, covered with wounds 

History of Charles XII 255 

received in his service, and assured him that 
they were ready to die for him, and begged him 
that it might be on a more worthy occasion. 

" I know," said the King, "by my wounds 
and yours that we have fought valiantly to 
gether. You have hitherto done your duty ; do 
it again now." 

The only thing remaining was to obey ; they 
were all ashamed not to seek death with their 
King. He prepared for the assault, secretly 
gloating over the pleasure and honour of resist 
ing with 300 Swedes the efforts of a whole 
army. He gave every man his place ; his 
chancellor, Mullern, his secretary, Empreus, 
and the clerks were to defend the Chancery 
house ; Baron Fief, at the head of the officers of 
the kitchen, was to defend another post; the 
grooms of the stables and the cooks had 
another place to guard, for with him every 
man was a soldier. He rode from his forti 
fications to his house, promising rewards to 
every one, creating officers, and declaring that 
he would make his humblest servant captain 
if he behaved with valour in the engagement. 

It was not long before they saw the Turks 
and Tartars advancing to attack the little 
fortress with ten cannon and two mortars. 
The horse-tails waved in the air, the clarions 
brayed, and cries of "Alia, Alia," were heard 
on all sides. Baron Grothusen remarked that 
they were not abusing the King as they shouted, 
but only calling him " demirbash," i.e. iron- 

256 History of Charles XII 

head ; so he resolved to go alone and unarmed 
out of the fort. He advanced to the line of 
the janissaries, who had almost all of them 
received money from him. " What, my 
friends," he said in their own language, " have 
you come to massacre 300 defenceless Swedes ? 
You brave janissaries, who have pardoned 
100,000 Russians, when they cried Amman 
(pardon) to you, have you forgotten the kind 
ness you have received at our hands? And 
would you assassinate the King of Sweden 
whom you loved so much, and who has been 
so generous to you? My friends, he asks only 
three days, and the Sultan s orders are not 
so strict as they would make you believe." 

These words had an effect which Grothusen 
himself had not expected ; the janissaries swore 
on their beards that they would not attack 
the King, and would give him the three days 
that he demanded. In vain was the signal 
given for assault. The janissaries, far from 
obeying, threatened to turn their arms against 
their leaders if three days were not granted 
to the King of Sweden. They came to the 
Pasha of Bender s tent in a band, crying 
that the Sultan s orders were forged. To this 
sedition the Pasha could oppose nothing but 

He pretended to be pleased with the gener 
ous resolve of the janissaries, and ordered them 
to retreat to Bender. The Kan of Tartary, 
who was a passionate man, would have made 

History of Charles XII 257 

the assault at once with his own troops ; but 
the Pasha, who would not allow the Tartars 
alone to have the honour of taking the King- 
while he might perhaps be punished for the 
disobedience of his janissaries, persuaded the 
Kan to wait till next day. 

The Pasha returning to Bender, assembled 
all the officers of the janissaries, and the older 
soldiers ; he read them and showed them the 
positive command of the Sultan, and the man 
date of the Mufti. Sixty of the oldest of them, 
with venerable grey beards, who had received 
innumerable presents from the King, proposed 
to go to him in person, and entreat him to put 
himself into their hands, and permit them to 
serve him as guards. 

The Pasha consented ; for there was no stone 
he would leave unturned rather than be forced 
to kill the King. So these sixty old soldiers 
went next morning to Varnitsa, having nothing 
in their hands but long white staves, their 
only weapon when they intend not to fight; for 
the Turks consider it a barbarous custom of the 
Christians to wear swords in time of peace, 
and to go armed to the churches or the houses 
of friends. 

They addressed themselves to Baron Grot- 
husen and Chancellor Mullern; they told them 
that they had come with the intention of serv 
ing as faithful guards to the King, and that if 
he pleased they would conduct him to Adrian- 
ople, where he might speak to the Sultan in 


258 History of Charles XII 

person. While they were making the proposal 
the King read the letters that had come from 
Constantinople and that Fabricius, who could 
not see him again, had sent to him privately by 
a janissary. These letters were from Count 
Poniatowski, who could neither serve him at 
Bender nor at Adrianople, having been detained 
at Constantinople by the Czar s order, from 
the time of the imprudent demand of 1,000 
purses. He told the King that the Sultan s 
order to seize his royal person was only too 
true, that the Sultan was indeed imposed upon 
by his ministers; but that the more he was 
imposed upon in the matter the more he would 
be obeyed, that he must submit to the times 
and yield to necessity, and that he took the 
liberty of advising him to attempt all that was 
possible in the way of negotiation with the 
ministers, not to be inflexible in a case where 
the gentlest methods would prevail, and to 
trust to time and diplomacy the healing of an 
evil which rough handling would aggravate 
beyond the hope of recovery. 

But neither the proposal of the old janis 
saries nor Poniatowski s letters could in the 
least convince the King that it was possible for 
him to give way without injuring his honour; 
he would rather die by the hands of the Turks 
than be in any sense their prisoner. He dis 
missed the janissaries without seeing them, 
sending them word that if they did not hurry 
he would shave their beards for them, which 

History of Charles XII 259 

in the East is considered the most provoking 
affront that can be offered. 

The old soldiers, in a rage, returned home, 
crying, " Down with this iron-head. Since he 
is resolved to die, let him." They gave the 
Pasha an account of their mission, and told 
their comrades at Bender of the strange recep 
tion they had met with. Then all swore to 
obey the orders of the Pasha without delay, 
and they were now as eager for the assault 
as they had been adverse to it the day 
before. The word was given at once; they 
marched up to the entrenchments, the Tartars 
were already waiting for them, and the ten 
cannon began to play. The janissaries on one 
side and the Tartars on the other, forced this 
little camp in an instant. Twenty Swedes had 
scarcely time to draw their swords, the 300 
were surrounded and taken prisoners without 
resistance. The King was then on horseback 
between his house and his camp, with Generals 
Hoord, Dardoff and Sparre; seeing that all his 
soldiers had suffered themselves to be taken 
before his eyes, he said with sangfroid to those 
three officers, " Let us go and defend the house. 
We ll fight," he added with a smile, " pro aris 
et focis." 

With them he immediately galloped up to 
the house, where he had placed about forty 
servants as sentinels, and which they had forti 
fied as best they could. 

These generals, though they were accus- 

260 History of Charles XII 

tomed to the obstinate courage of their master, 
could not but be surprised that in cold blood 
and in jest he should propose that they should 
defend themselves against ten cannon and a 
whole army; they followed him with twenty 
guards and domestics. 

But when they were at the door, they found 
it besieged by janissaries. Besides, nearly 200 
Turks and Tartars had already got in at a 
window, and had seized all the rooms, except 
a great hall, whither the King s servants had 
withdrawn. Luckily this hall was near the 
door at which the King intended entering with 
his twenty men. He threw himself from his 
horse, pistol and sword in hand, and his 
followers did the same. 

The janissaries fell on him from all sides, 
encouraged by the Pasha s promise of eight 
gold ducats to any who did but touch his coat, 
in case they could not take him. He wounded 
and killed all that came near him. A janissary, 
whom he had wounded, stuck his musket in 
the King s face, and if the arm of a Turk had 
not jostled him in the crowd the King would 
have been killed. The ball grazed his nose, 
and took off a piece of his ear, and then broke 
the arm of General Hoord, whose fate it was 
always to be wounded at his master s side. 

The King stuck his sword into the janissary s 
breast, and at the same time his servants, who 
were shut up in the hall, opened the door to 
him. He and his little troop slipped in as 

History of Charles XII 261 

swiftly as an arrow; they closed the door at 
once, and barricaded it with all they could find. 
Behold Charles shut up in this hall with all 
his attendants, about three-score men, officers, 
secretaries, valets, and servants of all kinds ! 

The janissaries and the Tartars pillaged the 
rest of the house and filled the rooms. 
" Come," said the King, " let us go and drive 
out these barbarians." Then, putting himself 
at the head of his men, he, with his own hands, 
opened the door of the hall, which opened into 
his bedroom, went in and fired on his 

The Turks, laden with booty, terrified at the 
sudden appearance of the King whom they 
had reverenced, threw down their arms and 
jumped out of the window or fled to the 
cellars. The King, taking advantage of their 
confusion, and his own men being animated 
with this piece of success, pursued the Turks 
from room to room, killed or wounded those 
who had not made their escape, and in a 
quarter of an hour cleared the house of the 

In the heat of the combat the King saw two 
janissaries who had hidden themselves under 
his bed. He thrust one through, but the other 
asked pardon, saying Amman." "I grant 
you your life," said the King, "on condition 
that you go and give the Pasha a faithful 
account of what you have seen." The Turk 
readily promised to do as he was told, and 

262 History of Charles XII 

was then allowed to leap out of the window 
like the others. 

The Swedes were at last masters of the house 
again, and shut and barricaded the windows. 
They did not lack arms, for a room on the 
ground floor, full of muskets and powder, had 
escaped the tumultuous search of the janis 
saries. This they turned to good account, 
firing close on the Turks through the window, 
and killing 200 of them in less than a quarter 
of an hour. 

The cannon played against the house, but as 
the stones were very soft they only made holes 
in the wall, but demolished nothing. 

The Kan of Tartary and the Pasha, who 
wanted to take the King alive, ashamed at 
losing time and men, and employing a whole 
army against sixty persons, thought it expe 
dient to fire the house in order to force the King 
to surrender; they had arrows twisted with 
lighted matches shot on to the roof and against 
the door and windows ; by this means the 
whole house was soon in flames ; the roof, all 
in flames, was about to fall on the Swedes. 
The King quietly gave orders for extinguish 
ing the fire, and finding a small barrel full of 
liquor he took hold of it himself, and with the 
help of two Swedes, threw it on the place 
where the fire was most violent. Then he 
found that it was full of brandy. The fire 
burned more furiously than ever, the King s 
room was burned, and the great hall, where 

History of Charles XII 263 

the Swedes were then, was filled with terrible 
smoke mingled with tongues of flame, that 
came in through the doors of the next rooms. 
Half the roof fell in, and the other had fallen 
outside the house, cracking among the flames. 

A guard called Walberg ventured, when 
things had got to this pass, to say that they 
must surrender. " What a strange man this 
is," said the King, " to imagine that it is not 
more glorious to be burned than to be taken 
prisoner." Another guard, called Rosen, re 
marked that the Chancery-house, which was 
only fifty paces away, had a stone roof, and 
was fire-proof ; that they might well sally out, 
gain that house, and there stand on the defen 

"A true Swede," cried the King; then he 
embraced him and made him a colonel on the 
spot. " Come on, my friends," he said, " take 
all the powder and ball you can carry, and let 
us gain Chancery, sword in hand." The 
Turks, who were all this while round the 
house, were struck with fear and admiration 
at seeing that the Swedes were staying inside 
in spite of the flames. But they were much 
more astonished when they saw them open 
the doors, and the King and his men fall on 
them desperately. Charles and his leading 
officer were armed with sword and pistol. 
Every one fired two pistols at a time at the 
instant that the door opened, and in a flash 
throwing away their pistols, and drawing their 

264 History of Charles XII 

swords, they drove back the Turks fifty paces; 
but the next moment the little band was sur 

The King-, booted according to custom, got 
his spurs entangled and fell. At once one- 
and-twenty janissaries fell on him, disarmed 
him, and took him away to the quarters of the 
Pasha, some holding his arms and others his 
legs, as a sick man is carried for fear of in 
commoding him. 

As soon as the King saw himself in their 
hands, the violence of his rage and the fury 
which so long and desperate a fight had 
naturally inspired, gave way to gentleness and 
calm ; not one impatient word escaped him, 
not one frown was to be seen. He smiled at 
the janissaries, and they carried him, crying 
" Alia," with mingled indignation and respect. 
His officers were taken at the same time, and 
stripped by the Turks and Tartars. This 
strange adventure happened on the i2th of 
February, 1713. It had extraordinary conse 



The Turks remove Charles to Demirtash King Stanis 
las is seized at the same time Bold action of M. 
de Villelongue Revolutions in the seraglio Battles 
in Pomerania Altena is burnt by the Swedes 
Charles returns to his kingdom His strange 
method of travelling His arrival at Straelsund 
The state of Europe at that time The losses of 
King Charles The successes of Peter the Great 
His triumphal entry into Petersburg. 

THE Pasha of Bender waited in state in his 
tent, with a certain Marco for interpreter, ex 
pecting the King. He received him with great 
respect, and asked him to rest on a sofa ; but 
the King disregarded his civilities and continued 

" Blessed be the Almighty," said the Pasha, 
" that your Majesty is safe. I am grieved that 
you have forced me to execute the Sultan s 
orders." The King, on the other hand, was 
only vexed that his 300 men had allowed 
themselves to be taken in their entrenchments, 
and said, "Ah! if they had fought like men 
we should have held out these ten days." 
" Alas," said the Pasha, " what a pity that so 
much courage should be misapplied." Then 
the King was taken on a fine horse with magni 
ficent trappings to Bender. All the Swedes 
were either killed or taken prisoners. The 
King s equipage, furniture and papers, and the 
most needful of his clothes were pillaged or 

268 History of Charles XII 

burned; on the roads the Swedish officers, 
almost naked and chained in pairs, followed 
the horses of the Tartars and janissaries. The 
Chancellor and the general officers were in the 
same condition, becoming slaves to those of the 
soldiers to whose share they fell. 

The Pasha Ishmael, having brought the King 
to his seraglio at Bender, gave him his own 
room, where he was served in state, but not 
without a guard of janissaries at the room 
door. They prepared a bed for him, but he 
threw himself down on a sofa in his boots, and 
fell fast asleep. An officer in waiting near by 
put a cap on his head; the King threw it off 
directly he awaked, and the Turk was amazed 
to see a king sleeping on a sofa in his boots 
and bare-headed. In the morning Ishmael 
brought Fabricius to the King, and when he 
saw his Prince s clothes all rent, his boots, his 
hands, and his whole person covered with 
blood and dust, his eyebrows scorched, yet 
even in this state smiling, he threw himself on 
his knees unable to speak ; but, soon reassured 
by the natural and gentle manner of the King, 
he resumed his ordinary familiarity, and they 
began to make sport of the battle. 

" They tell me," said Fabricius, " that your 
Majesty killed no fewer than twenty janis 
saries. 1 "No, no," said the King, " you 
know a story always grows in the telling." 
In the midst of the conversation the Pasha 
brought to the King his favourite Grothusen 

History of Charles XII 269 

and Colonel Ribbins, whom he had generously 
ransomed at his own expense. Fabricius 
undertook to ransom all the other prisoners. 

Jeffreys, the English ambassador, helped him 
with money, and La Mottraye, the French 
noble who had come to Bender from curiosity 
to see him, and who has written some account 
of these matters, gave all he had. These 
strangers, assisted by the Czar s advice and 
money, redeemed all the officers and their 
clothes from the Tartars and Turks. 

Next morning they took the King in a chariot 
decked with scarlet to Adrianople, and his 
treasurer Grothusen was with him ; the Chan 
cellor Mullern and some officers followed in 
another carriage. Many others were on horse 
back, and could not restrain tears at the sight 
of the King s chariot. The Pasha commanded 
the escort. Fabricius remarked that it was a 
shame that the King had no sword. " God for 
bid," said the Pasha; "he would soon be at 
our throats if he had a sword." But some 
hours after he had one given to him. 

While they were carrying, disarmed and a 
captive, the King who had shortly before dic 
tated to so many countries, and been arbiter of 
the North and the terror of all Europe, there 
occurred in the same neighbourhood another 
instance of the frailty of human greatness. 
King Stanislas, seized in the Turkish domin 
ions, was being taken prisoner to Bender at 
the same time as Charles was being taken to 

270 History of Charles XII 

Adrianople. Stanislas, without support from 
the hand that had made him king, having no 
money, and so no friends in Poland, retired 
to Pomerania, and as he was not able to keep 
his own kingdom had done his best to defend 
his benefactor s. 

He even went to Sweden to hasten the 
recruits needed in Livonia and Poland ; he did 
all that could be expected of him as friend to 
the King of Sweden. At this time the first 
King of Prussia, a very wise prince, justly 
uneasy at the near neighbourhood of the 
Russians, planned to league with Augustus and 
the Polish republic to dismiss the Russians to 
their own country, and to get Charles himself 
to share in the project. There would be three 
great results from such a course : the peace of 
the North, the restoration of Charles to his 
estates, and a barrier erected against the 
Russians, who were becoming formidable to 
Europe. The preliminary of this treaty, on 
which the tranquillity of the republic depended, 
was the abdication of Stanislas ; Stanislas not 
only agreed, but he undertook to carry through 
a peace which deprived him of the throne : 
necessity, the public good, the glory of sacrifice, 
and the interests of Charles, to whom he owed 
so much, decided him. 

He wrote to Bender, explaining to the King 
the position of affairs, the evils and their 
remedies. He besought him not to oppose an 
abdication which was necessary under the cir- 

History of Charles XII 271 

cumstances, and which was to take place from 
honourable motives ; he begged him not to 
sacrifice the interests of Sweden to those of 
an unhappy friend, who would rather sacrifice 
himself for the public good. 

Charles XII received the letters at Varnitsa, 
and said, in a rage, to the courier, before many 
people, " Well, if he will not be a king I shall 
find some one else." Stanislas insisted on the 
sacrifice that Charles refused to accept ; he 
wished to go himself to persuade Charles, and 
he risked more in the losing of a throne than 
he had done to gain it. He stole away at 
nine one night from the Swedish army, which 
he was commanding in Pomerania, and started 
with Baron Sparre, who was afterwards 
the Swedish ambassador to England and 
France, and another colonel. He took the 
name of a Frenchman called Haran, then major 
in the King of Sweden s army and since killed 
at Dantzig. He passed round the whole of 
the hostile army, stopped several times, but 
released under a passport in the name of 
Haran ; at last he arrived after many risks at 
the Turkish frontier. 

When he reached Moldavia he sent Baron 
Sparre back to his army, believing himself safe 
in a country where the King of Sweden had 
been so honoured ; he was far from suspecting 
what had happened since. 

They inquired who he was, and he said a 
major in Charles s service. They stopped him 

272 History of Charles XII 

at the bare mention of his name; he was 
brought before the hospodar of Moldavia, who, 
already informed from the newspapers that 
Stanislas had stolen away, had some inkling 
of the truth. They had described the King s 
appearance to him, and it was very easy to 
recognize his pleasant face with its extra 
ordinary look of sweetness. The hospodar 
questioned him pointedly, and at last asked 
what had been his work in the Swedish army. 
Stanislas and the hospodar were speaking in 
Latin. " Major," said Stanislas. " Imo maxi- 
mus est," replied the Moldavian, and at once 
offering him an arm-chair he treated him like 
a king, but like a captive king, and they kept 
a strict watch outside the Greek convent where 
he was forced to stay till they got the Sultan s 
orders. The order came to take him to Bender, 
whence they had just removed Charles. 

The news was brought to the Pasha as he 
was travelling with the King of Sweden, and 
he told Fabricius who, coming up in a chariot, 
told Charles that he was not the only king 
prisoner in Turkey, and that Stanislas was 
prisoner a few miles away. " Hasten to him, 
my dear Fabricius," said the King, " and tell 
him never to make peace with King Augustus, 
for we shall certainly have a change of affairs 

Fabricius had permission to go with the 
message attended by a janissary. After some 
miles journey he met the body of soldiers who 

History of Charles XII 273 

were bringing Stanislas, and addressed one 
who rode in the midst, in a Prankish dress and 
indifferently mounted. He asked him in Ger 
man where the King of Poland was. It proved 
to be Stanislas, whom he had not recognized in 
that disguise. " What," said the King, " have 
you forgotten me?" Fabricius then told him 
of the King of Sweden s sad condition, and of 
his unshaken but unsuccessful resolution. 

When Stanislas came to Bender, the Pasha, 
who was returning from accompanying Charles, 
sent the King an Arabian horse with elegant 
trappings. He was received in Bender with 
a volley of artillery, and, except that he was a 
prisoner, had no cause to complain of his 
treatment there. Charles was on the way to 
Adrianople and the town was full of gossip 
about his battle. The Turks both admired him 
and thought him blame-worthy ; but the Divan 
was so exasperated that they threatened to 
confine him in one of the islands of the 

Stanislas, who did me the honour of inform 
ing me on most of these details, assured me 
also that it was proposed in the Divan that 
he too should be kept prisoner in one of the 
Greek islands, but some months later the Sultan 
softened and let him go. 

M. Desaleurs, who could have championed 
him and prevented this affront to all Christian 
kings, was at Constantinople, as well as Ponia- 
towski, whose resourcefulness was always 


274 History of Charles XII 

feared. Most of the Swedes were at Adria- 
nople in prison, and the Sultan s throne seemed 
inaccessible to any complaints from the King 
of Sweden. 

The Marquis of Fierville, a private envoy to 
Charles at Bender, from France, was then at 
Adrianople, and undertook a service to the 
Prince at a time when he was either deserted 
or ill-used by all. He was luckily helped in 
this design by a French noble of good family, 
a certain Villelongue, a man of great courage 
and small fortune, who, fascinated by reports 
of the King of Sweden, had come on purpose 
to join his service. 

With the help of this youth M. de Fierville 
wrote a memorial from the King of Sweden, 
demanding justice of the Sultan for the wrong 
offered in his person to all crowned heads, and 
against the treachery of the Kan and the Pasha 
of Bender. 

It accused the Vizir and other ministers of 
having been corrupted by the Russians, of 
having deceived the Sultan, intercepted letters, 
and of having employed trickery to get from 
the Sultan an order contrary to the hospitality 
of the Mussulmans, in violation of the laws of 
nations, and this in a manner so unworthy of a 
great Emperor, that a king who had none but 
his retinue to defend him, and who had trusted 
the sacred word of the Sultan, was attacked 
by 20,000 men. 

When this memorial had been drawn up it 

History of Charles XII 275 

had to be translated into Turkish, and written 
upon the special paper used for the Sultan s 

They tried to get it done by several inter 
preters, but the King s affairs were at such a 
pass, and the Vizir so openly his enemy, that 
none of them at all would undertake it. At 
last they found a stranger whose hand was not 
known, so for a considerable fee, and a promise 
of profound secrecy, he translated the memorial 
and copied it on to the right sort of paper. 
Baron Ardidson counterfeited the King s hand 
and Fierville sealed it with the arms of Sweden. 
Villelongue undertook to deliver it to the 
Sultan as he went to the mosque. This had 
been done before by people with grievances 
against the ministers, but that made it now the 
more dangerous and difficult. 

The Vizir was certain that the Swedes would 
seek justice from his master, and knew from 
the fate of his predecessors what the probable 
sequel was. So he forbade any one to ap 
proach the Sultan, and ordered that any one 
seen in the neighbourhood of the Mosque with 
petitions should be seized. 

Villelongue knew the order, and that he was 
risking his life; but he dressed as a Greek, 
and, hiding the letter in his breast, went early 
to the place. He feigned madness, and danced 
into the midst of the two lines of janissaries, 
where the Sultan was to pass, and now and 
then dropped some money to amuse the guards. 

276 History of Charles XII 

When the Sultan was coming they wanted to 
push Villelongue aside ; he fell on his knees and 
struggled with the soldiers. At last his cap 
blew off, and showed that he was a Frank, 
from his long hair : he received several blows 
and was ill-used. 

The Sultan heard the scuffle, and asked what 
was the matter ; Villelongue cried with all his 
might, " Amman, Amman " (mercy), and 
pulled out the letter. The Sultan commanded 
that he should be brought before him. Ville 
longue hastened forward, and embracing his 
stirrup gave him the paper, saying, " Sued call 
dan " (the King of Sweden gives it to thee). 
The Sultan put the letter in his breast, went on 
to the mosque, and Villelongue was secured in 
one of the out-houses of the seraglio. 

The Sultan read the letter on his return 
from the mosque, and resolved to examine the 
prisoner himself. He changed the Imperial 
coat and turban, and, as he often does, took 
the disguise of an officer of janissaries, and 
took an old Maltese with him as interpreter. 
Thanks to his disguise Villelongue had a private 
talk of a quarter of an hour with the Turkish 
Emperor, an honour that was never done to 
any other Christian ambassador. He did not 
fail to detail all the King of Sweden s hard 
ships, accusing the minister and demanding 
vengeance with the greater freedom, because 
he was throughout the conversation talking to 
the Sultan as to an equal. He had recognized 

History of Charles XII 277 

the Sultan, although the prison was very dark, 
and this made him the bolder in his discourse. 
The seeming officer of the janissaries said to 
him, " Christian, be assured that the Sultan 
my master has the soul of an Emperor, and 
that if the King of Sweden is in the right he 
will do him justice." Villelongue was soon 
released, and some weeks after there was a 
sudden change in the seraglio, which the 
Swedes attribute to this conference. The 
mufti were deprived, the Kan of Tartary ban 
ished to the Rhodes, and the serasquier Pasha 
of Bender to an island in the Archipelago. 

The Ottoman Porte is so subject to such 
storms that it is hard to say whether this was 
an attempt to appease the King of Sweden or 
not; his subsequent treatment by the Porte 
showed little anxiety to please him. 

Ali-Coumourgi, the favourite, was suspected 
of having made all these changes for some 
private ends of his own ; the pretext for the 
banishment of the Kan and the serasquier of 
Bender was that they had given the King 
1,200 purses against the express orders of the 
Sultan. He put on the Tartar throne the son 
of the deposed Kan of Tartary, a young man 
who cared little for his father and on whom Ali 
counted for military help. Some weeks after 
this the Grand Vizir Joseph was deposed, and 
the Pasha Soliman was declared Prime Vizir. 

I must say that M. de Villelongue, and many 
Swedes, have assured me that the letter he 

278 History of Charles XII 

gave was the cause of these changes, but M. 
de Fierville denies this, and I have in other 
cases met with contradictory accounts. Now, 
an historian s duty is to tell plain matter of 
fact, without entering into motives, and he 
must relate just what he knows, without 
guessing at what he does not know. 

In the meantime, Charles was taken to a 
little castle called Demirtash, near Adrianople. 
Crowds of Turks had collected there to see him 
alight. He was carried on a sofa from his 
chariot to the castle; but to avoid being seen 
by this mob he covered his face with a cushion. 

It was several days before the Porte would 
consent to his residence at Demotica, a little 
town six leagues from Adrianople, near the 
river Hebrus, now called Marizza. Coumourgi 
said to the Grand Vizir, " Go and tell the King 
of Sv/eden he can stay at Demotica all his 
life. I warrant he will ask to move of his own 
accord before the year is over, and be sure you 
do not let him have a penny of money." 

So the King was moved to the little town of 
Demotica, where the Porte allowed him suffi 
cient supplies for himself and his retinue. 

They allowed him twenty-five crowns a day 
to buy pork and wine, a sort of provisions that 
the Turks do not supply, but as to the allow 
ance of five hundred crowns a day, which he 
had had at Bender, it was quite withdrawn. 
Scarcely had he arrived at Demotica with his 
small court than the Grand Vizir Soliman was 

History of Charles XII 279 

deposed ; his place was given to Ibrahim Molla, 
a haughty, bold and rough man. 

He had been a common sailor till the acces 
sion of Achmet III. This Emperor often dis 
guised himself as a private citizen, a priest, or 
a dervish; he would then slip in the evening into 
the cafes and other public places of Constanti 
nople to listen to what was said of him, and 
to hear the people s opinions with his own ears. 
One day he heard this Molla finding fault with 
the Turkish ships because they never brought 
home any prizes, and swore that were he a cap 
tain he would never return home without some 
infidel ship. The next morning the Sultan gave 
him a ship and sent him out on a cruise. A 
few days later the Captain brought back a 
Maltese boat and a Genoese galley, and in 
another two years he was Admiral, and then 
Grand Vizir. He was no sooner appointed 
than he began to think that he could dispense 
with the favourite, and to make himself indis 
pensable he planned to make war on the Rus 
sians ; in order to do so he set up a tent near 
the castle where the King of Sweden was living. 

He invited the King to meet him there with 
the new Kan of Tartary and the French am 
bassador. The King s misfortunes made him 
feel the indignity of being sent for by a subject 
the more; he ordered the Chancellor Mollern 
to go in his place, and because he feared that 
the Turks might be disrespectful, and force 
him to compromise his dignity, he resolved to 

280 History of Charles XII 

stay in bed during his stay at Demotica. This 
he did for ten months, just as if he had been 
ill. The Chancellor, Grothusen, and Colonel 
Dubens were his only table-companions. They 
had none of the conveniences of the Franks, 
all had been carried off at Bender, so that their 
meals lacked pomp and elegance. They waited 
on themselves, and Chancellor Mullern did all 
the cooking during that time. 

While Charles was thus staying in bed, he 
heard news of the wreck of all his foreign 

General Steinbock, famous for having driven 
the Danes out of Scandinavia, and for having 
defeated their picked troops with a band of 
peasants, was still maintaining the credit of the 
Swedish arms. He defended Pomerania, Bre 
men, and the King s possessions in Germany 
as long as he could, but could not prevent the 
Saxons and Danes united from passing the 
Elbe and besieging Stade, a strong town near 
that river, and in the Duchy of Bremen. It was 
bombarded and burnt to ashes, and the garri 
son was obliged to surrender at discretion, be 
fore Steinbock could come to their assistance. 

He had about 10,000 men, and half of them 
were cavalry, with which he pursued the enemy, 
though they were twice his number, and forced 
them to recross the Elbe. He caught them at 
a place called Gadebesck, on a small river of 
the same name, on the 2oth December, 1712. 
The Saxons and Danes were posted with a 

History of Charles XII 281 

marsh in front and a wood in the rear; they 
had all the advantage both in number and 
position, for there was no getting at them but 
across the marsh, through the fire of their 

Steinbock led on his men, and, advancing 
in battle order, began one of the most bloody 
engagements that had ever taken place be 
tween those rival nations. After a sharp fight 
of three hours duration, the Danes and the 
Saxons were forced back and had to leave the 

After this victory Steinbock could not but 
remember how the Danes had reduced Stade 
to ashes, and resolved to avenge himself on 
Altena, a town belonging to the King of Den 
mark. Altena is above Hamburg, on the river 
Elbe, which brings up large vessels thither. 
The King of Denmark had granted it great 
privileges, in the hope of making it a place of 
considerable trade. Hamburg therefore got 
jealous, and wished nothing but their destruc 
tion. When Steinbock came within sight of 
the place, h^ sent a herald to bid them begone 
at once with their possessions, for he intended 
to destroy their town immediately. 

The magistrates came and threw themselves 
at his feet and offered him a ransom of 100,000 
crowns. Steinbock said he must have 200,000. 
They begged for time to send to their corre 
spondent at Hamburg, and promised that he 
should have it by the next day. The General 

282 History of Charles XII 

told them that if they did not pay at once he 
would burn their town about their ears. 

His soldiers were in the suburbs ready with 
their torches in their hands. The town had no 
defence but a poor wooden gate and a dry ditch ; 
so that the poor wretches were forced to flee 
at midnight. It was on the Qth of January, 
1713; the weather was severely cold, and a 
great north wind helped to spread the flames, 
and to increase the sufferings of the people 
exposed in the open fields. 

Men and women, loaded with their property, 
went weeping and lamenting towards the 
neighbouring ice-clad hills. Paralytic old folk 
were carried by the young on their shoulders, 
women just delivered were carrying their chil 
dren, and died of cold on the hillside, in sight 
of their burning homes. The people had not 
all left the town when the Swedes fired it. It 
burned from midnight to about ten the next 
morning ; the houses, being mostly of wood, 
were easily burnt, so that by morning there 
was scarcely any trace of a town left. The 
aged, the sick, and the women of delicate 
health, who had refuged on the frozen ground 
while their houses were burning, dragged 
themselves to the gates of Hamburg, and 
begged that they would let them in and save 
their lives, but they were refused on the ground 
that there had been infectious disease among 
them. So that most of these poor wretches 
died under the walls, calling Heaven to witness 

History of Charles XII 283 

the cruelty of the Swedes, and of the still 
more inhuman Hamburgers. 

All Germany was scandalized by this vio 
lence. The ministers and generals of Poland 
and Denmark wrote to Steinbock, complaining 
of his cruelty, which was inexcusable because 
it was uncalled for, and must set God and man 
against him. 

He replied that he never would have gone 
to these extremities were it not to show his 
master s enemies how war ought to be made 
not like barbarians, but in consideration of 
the laws of nations ; that they had committed 
atrocities in Pomerania to ruin that beautiful 
country, and sell 100,000 people to the Turks; 
that his torches at Altena were only a fitting 
return for the red-hot bullets they had used at 
Stade; that it was with such violence that the 
Swedes and their enemies made war on each 
other. If Charles could have appeared then 
in Poland, he might possibly have retrieved 
his former fortune. His armies, though they 
needed his presence among them, were yet 
actuated by his spirit; but when the master is 
away success is seldom turned to good account. 
Steinbock gradually lost all that he had gained 
in those great actions, which might have been 
decisive at a more fortunate time. 

With all his success it was not in his power 
to prevent the Russians, the Saxons, and the 
Danes from uniting. They seized his quarters, 
and he lost several of his men in little skir- 

284 History of Charles XII 

mishes ; 2,000 of them were drowned in the 
Oder as they were going to their winter quar 
ters in Holstein ; these were losses which could 
not be repaired in a country where the enemy 
was strong in all directions. He intended to 
defend the country of Holstein against Den 
mark, but in spite of his ruses and efforts the 
country was lost, the whole army destroyed, 
and Steinbock taken prisoner. To complete 
the misfortunes of the Swedes, the King per 
sisted in his resolve of staying at Demotica, 
and fed his mind with vain expectations of 
help from Turkey. 

The Vizir, Ibrahim Molla, who had been so 
bent on war with the Russians in opposition 
to the favourite, was pressed to death between 
two doors. The post of Vizir was now so 
dangerous that none dare take the office; but 
after it had been vacant for about six months, 
the favourite Ali-Coumourgi took it. Then 
the King of Sweden abandoned all hope. He 
really knew Coumourgi, because he had been 
of service to him when the favourite s interest 
had corresponded with his own. 

He had spent eleven months buried in idle 
ness and oblivion at Demotica; this extreme 
idleness, following the most violent exercise, 
made the illness which he had before assumed 
a fact. All Europe believed he was dead, and 
the Regency which he had settled when he left 
Stockholm, getting no word from him, the 
Senate went to the Princess Ulrica Eleanora 

History of Charles XII 285 

to ask her to take the Regency during the 
absence of her brother. She accepted it ; but 
when she found that the Senate were trying to 
force her to peace with the King of Denmark, 
who was attacking Sweden from all sides, and 
with the Czar, she resigned the Regency in 
the certainty that her brother would never 
ratify the peace, and sent a long account of 
the affair to him in Turkey. 

The King received the dispatches at Demo- 
tica, and the despotic theories which he had 
inherited made him forget that Sweden had 
once been free, and that the Senate had for 
merly governed the kingdom together with 
the Kings. He looked on them as servants, 
who were usurping the government in the 
absence of their master ; he wrote to them that 
if they wanted to govern he would send them 
one of his boots, to whom they might apply 
for orders. Then, to prevent any attempt to 
overthrow his authority in Sweden, and to de 
fend his country, hoping for nothing further 
from the Ottomans, he depended on himself, 
and told the Grand Vizir that he would go 
through Germany. 

Desaleurs, the French ambassador who 
transacted all the affairs of Sweden, made the 
proposal to the Vizir. "Well," said the 
Vizir, " didn t I say that the year would not 
pass without the King s asking to go? Tell 
him that he is free to go or stay, but that 
he must fix his day, that we may not have a 

286 History of Charles XII 

repetition of the trouble we had with him at 

Count Desaleurs softened the form of this 
message to the King. The day was fixed, 
but Charles wished, in spite of his wretched 
position, to show the pomp of a grand king 
before leaving. He made Grothusen his 
ambassador extraordinary, and sent him to 
make a formal leave at Constantinople, with 
a suite of fourscore persons in rich attire. But 
the splendour of the Embassy was not so great 
as the mean shifts to which he descended to 
provide it were disgraceful. M. Desaleurs lent 
the King 40,000 crowns, Grothusen borrowed, 
through his agents at Constantinople, 1,000 
from a Jew, at the rate of fifty per cent., be 
sides 200 pistoles of an English merchant, and 
1,000 of a Turk. 

They amassed this money solely to act before 
the Divan the comedy of a Swedish embassy. 
At the Porte, Grothusen received all the honour 
paid to ambassadors extraordinary on their 
day of audience. The object of the whole 
thing was to get money from the Vizir, but 
the scheme failed. Grothusen proposed that 
the Porte should lend him a million. But the 
Vizir answered that his master could be gener 
ous when he wished, but that lending was 
beneath his dignity; that the King should 
have all necessary for his journey, and in a 
degree becoming to the giver ; and that pos 
sibly the Porte might send him a present of 

History of Charles XII 287 

uncoined gold, but that he was not to count 
on that. 

The King began his journey on the ist of 
October, 1714. A capigi-pasha, with six 
chiaoux, went to accompany him from Demir- 
tash, whither he had removed a few days 
before. The presents they brought him from 
the Sultan were a large scarlet tent embroi 
dered with gold, a sabre set with jewels, eight 
beautiful Arab horses, with fine saddles and 
stirrups set with massive silver. It is not 
beneath the dignity of history to tell that the 
Arabian groom, who had charge of the horses, 
gave the King an account of their genealogy; 
it is the custom there to think more of the 
family of a horse than of a man ; which is not 
unreasonable, for if we are careful of the breed 
these animals never degenerate. 

The convoy consisted of sixty chariots, laden 
with all sorts of provisions, and three hundred 
horses. The Pasha, knowing that many Turks 
had advanced money to the King s suite at 
high rate of interest, told him that, as usury 
was forbidden by the law of Mahomet, he de 
sired his Majesty to settle the debts, so that 
his resident at Constantinople should only pay 
the principal. "No," said the King, "if my 
servants have given bills for a hundred crowns 
it shall be paid, even if they have only received 
ten for it." He proposed to the creditors to 
go with him, and promised payment of all 
their debts; and many did go to Sweden, and 

288 History of Charles XII 

Grothusen was responsible for seeing that they 
were paid. 

The Turks, to show more respect for their 
guest, made very short stages in the journey ; 
this respectful delay bored the King ; he got 
up as usual about three in the morning ; as 
soon as he was dressed he himself called the 
capigi and the chiaoux, and ordered them to 
march in the midst of pitch darkness. The 
Turkish solemnity was not pleased by this novel 
way of travelling, and the King was glad to 
find it was so, and said that he would avenge 
Bender a little. 

When he arrived at the Turkish frontier, 
Stanislas was leaving it by another road, 
intending to withdraw into Germany to the 
Duchy of Deux Fonts, a country bordering on 
the Rhine Palatinate and Alsace, which had 
belonged to the King of Sweden ever since it 
had been united to the crown by Christina, 
successor to Charles XI. 

Charles assigned the revenue of this Duchy 
to Stanislas ; it was then reckoned at about 
70,000 crowns. And this was the end of so 
many wars and so many hopes. Stanislas 
both would and could have made an advan 
tageous treaty with Augustus, if Charles had 
not been so obstinate as to make him lose his 
actual estates in Poland only that he might 
keep the title King. 

The Prince stayed at Deux Fonts, till 
Charles s death, then this Duchy falling to the 

History of Charles XII 289 

Palatine family, he retired to Weissemburg in 
French Alsace. When M. Sum, King 
Augustus ambassador, complained to the 
Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, he re 
ceived this strange answer: "Sir, tell the 
King, your master, that France has ever been 
a refuge for kings in misfortune." 

The King of Sweden, having arrived on the 
German frontier, found that the Emperor had 
given orders for his reception with proper 
state throughout his dominions. The towns 
and villages where harbingers had fixed his 
route were making great preparations to enter 
tain him; and every one was looking forward 
to see the passing of this extraordinary man, 
whose conquests and misfortunes, whose least 
actions and whose very times of rest had made 
so much talk in Europe. But Charles disliked 
so much pomp, nor did he, as the prisoner of 
Bender, care to go on show; he had even 
resolved to never re-enter Stockholm till he 
had repaired his misfortunes. 

So dismissing his Turkish attendants at Ter- 
gowitz, on the border of Transylvania, he called 
his people together in a yard, and bade them 
not to be anxious about him, but make the 
best of their way to Stralsund, in Pomerania, 
about 300 leagues from that spot, on the Baltic. 
He took no one with him, but a certain During, 
and parted cheerfully with all his officers, leav 
ing them in astonishment, fear and grief. As 
a disguise he wore a black wig, a gold-laced 


290 History of Charles XII 

hat, and a blue cloak, passing for a German 
officer. Then he rode post-haste with his 
travelling companion. 

On the road he kept clear of places belong 
ing to his real or secret enemies, and so, 
through Hungary, Moravia, Austria, Bavaria, 
Wirtemburg, the Palatinate, Westphalia and 
Mecklenburg, he made the tour of Germany, 
and doubled his route. At the end of the first 
day, During, who was not used to such 
fatigues, fainted when he alighted. The King 
would not wait a moment, but asked him how 
much money he had. He said about a thou 
sand crowns. " Give me half," said the King; 
" I see you can go no further; I will go with 
out you." During begged him to rest for at 
least three hours, assuring him that then he 
would be able to go on, and desired him to 
consider the risk of travelling alone. The 
King would not be persuaded, but made him 
hand over the five hundred crowns, and called 
for horses. During, fearing the consequences, 
bethought himself of a plan. 

He drew the post-master to one side, and, 
pointing to the King, " Friend," he said, 
"this is my cousin; we are travelling on the 
same business, and you see he won t wait 
three hours for me ; pray give him the worst 
horse you have, and procure me a chaise or 
coach." He put a couple of ducats in the 
man s hand, and was obeyed punctually; so 
that the King had a horse which was both 

History of Charles XII 291 

lame and restive. He started at about ten at 
night, through wind, snow, and rain. His fel 
low-traveller, after a few hours rest, set out 
again in a chaise with very good horses. At 
about daybreak he overtook the King, with his 
horse in a state of exhaustion, and walking to 
the next stage. Then he was obliged to get 
in with During, and slept on the straw; then 
they continued their journey, on horseback 
during the day and sleeping in the coach at 
night. They did not make any halts, and so, 
after sixteen days riding, and often at the 
risk of being taken, they arrived at last at the 
gates of the town of Stralsund, at one o clock 
in the morning. The King shouted to the 
sentinel that he was a messenger from the 
King of Sweden in Turkey, that he must speak 
that very moment to General Ducker, the 
governor of the place ; the sentinel answered 
that it was late, that the governor was in bed, 
and that they must wait till daybreak. The 
King answered that he was on important 
business, and declared that if they did not wake 
the governor without delay he would have them 
all hanged. The next morning a sergeant went 
and called the governor ; Ducker imagined that 
he was perhaps one of the King of Sweden s 
generals ; the gates were opened, and the 
courier was brought into the room. Ducker, 
half asleep, asked the news. The King seized 
him by the arm. " What," he said, " my most 
faithful subjects have forgotten me!" The 

292 History of Charles XII 

General recognized the King ; he could hardly 
believe his eyes. He threw himself from his 
bed, and embraced his master s feet, shedding 
tears of joy. The news was all over the town 
in a minute ; every one got up, the soldiers 
collected round the governor s house; the 
streets were full of people asking if the news 
were true; the windows were illuminated, the 
conduits ran with wine, and the artillery fired 
a volley. 

In the meantime they put the King to bed, 
as he had not rested for sixteen days. They 
had to cut his boots from his legs, so much 
were they swollen from excessive fatigue. He 
had neither linen nor clothes. They hastily 
manufactured a wardrobe from whatever would 
fit him best that was in the town. When he 
had had some hours sleep, he got up to go 
and review his troops, and visit the fortifica 
tions. That very day he sent his orders to all 
parts for renewing the war against his enemies 
with more vigour than ever. 

Europe was now in a very different condition 
from that she had been in when Charles went 
away in 1709. The war in the South, between 
England, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal and 
Italy, was over; this general peace was due to 
some private quarrels in the English Court. 
The Earl of Oxford, a clever minister, and Lord 
Bolingbroke, one of the greatest geniuses and 
most eloquent men of his century, were in the 
ascendant against the famous Duke of Marl- 

History of Charles XII 293 

borough, and persuaded Queen Anne to make 
peace with Louis XIV. France having made 
peace with England, soon forced the other 
Powers to terms. Philip IV, grandson of Louis 
XIV, was beginning a peaceful rule over the 
ruins of the Spanish monarchy. The Emperor, 
master of Naples and Flanders, was firmly 
settled in his vast dominions. The only thing 
that Louis asked was to finish his long career 
in peace. Queen Anne of England died in 
August 1714, hated by half the nation for 
having given peace to so many States. Her 
brother James Stewart, an unfortunate prince 
excluded from the throne almost from his 
birth, failing to appear in England to try to 
recover a succession which new laws would 
have settled on him, had his party prevailed, 
George I, Elector of Hanover, was unani 
mously chosen King of Great Britain. The 
throne came to him not by right of descent, but 
by Act of Parliament. 

Called at an advanced age to rule a people 
whose language he did not understand, and 
where everything was strange, George con 
sidered himself rather Elector of Hanover than 
King of England; his whole ambition was for 
the improvement of his German States; nearly 
every year he crossed the seas to visit the sub 
jects who adored him. In other ways he pre 
ferred a private to public life; the pomp of 
majesty was burdensome to him, and what he 
liked was a familiar talk with a few old 

294 History of Charles XII 

courtiers. He was not the most dazzling king 
of Europe, but he was one of the wisest of the 
kings, and perhaps the only one who could, as 
king, taste the pleasures of friendship and a 
private life. These were the chief princes, and 
this was the position of affairs in South 
Europe. The changes that had occurred in the 
North were of another kind : the kings there 
were at war, but all united against the King 
of Sweden. 

Augustus had been long restored to the 
crown of Poland, by the help of the Czar, and 
with the consent of the Emperor, Queen Anne, 
and the States-General, who, though guaran 
tors of the Peace of Altranstadt, in Charles s 
better days, forgot their obligations when they 
found there was no longer anything to fear 
from him. But Augustus was not at peace in 
his kingdom. His people s fears of arbitrary 
power returned with the return of their King ; 
they had taken up arms to make him submit 
to the Pacta Conventa, a solemn compact they 
had with their King. 

They seemed to have summoned him home 
only to make war on him. At the beginning 
of these troubles not a word was said of Stanis 
las, his party seemed to have disappeared, and 
the King of Sweden was no more remembered 
than as a kind of torrent, which had for a time 
borne down all before it. 

Pultawa and Charles s absence, which 
caused the fall of Stanislas, was also the cause 

History of Charles XII 295 

of the fall of the Duke of Holsteln, Charles s 
nephew, who was dispossessed of his dominions 
by the King of Denmark. The King of 
Sweden had a great regard for the father, and 
was moved and humiliated by the son s losses. 
Besides, as he only acted for the sake of glory, 
the fall of princes which he had himself set up 
was as vexing to him as his own losses. His 
enemies vied with each other in profiting by 
his ruin. Frederic William, the new King of 
Prussia, who seemed as anxious for war as 
his father had been for peace, took Stetin and 
a part of Pomerania for four hundred thousand 
crowns, which he advanced to the King of 
Denmark and the Czar. George, Elector of 
Hanover, now King of England, had the 
Duchy of Bremen and Verden for three-score 
thousand pistoles which he had lent to the King 
of Denmark. Thus was Charles spoiled, and 
those who had gained these territories as 
pledges were from their interests as much op 
posed to him as those who had taken them 
from him. The Czar was indeed most of all 
to be feared. His former losses, his victories, 
and his very mistakes, combined with his dili 
gence to learn, and care to teach his subjects 
in their turn, and his hard work, made him a 
remarkable man. 

Riga, Livonia, Ingria, Carelia, part of Fin 
land, and all the countries that had been won 
by Charles s ancestors, were now subject to 
Russia. Peter, who had only twenty years 

296 History of Charles XII 

before not so much as one ship on the Baltic, 
had gained control of those seas with a fleet 
of no fewer than .thirty ships of the line. He 
built one of these ships with his own hands ; 
he was the best carpenter, admiral and pilot 
in the North. From the Gulf of Bothnia to 
the ocean he had sounded every league of the 
way. He had united the labour of a common 
sailor to the experiments of a theorist, and 
having become admiral gradually, and by dint 
of victories, as he had before when he aimed 
at land command. While Prince Gallitsin, a 
general made by him, and the best at second 
ing his plans, was completing the conquest of 
Poland, by taking Vasa and beating the 
Swedes, this Emperor put to sea to make a 
descent on Alan, on the Baltic, about twelve 
leagues from Stockholm. 

He went on the expedition in the beginning 
of July 1714, while his rival Charles was in 
bed at Demotica. 

He embarked at Cronslot, a harbour he had 
built four miles from St. Petersburg. The har 
bour, the fleet, the officers and sailors were all 
the work of his own hands, and he could see 
nothing that he had not made himself. 

The Russian fleet found itself off Aland on 
the 1 5th of July; it consisted of thirty ships of 
the line, four-score galleys, and a hundred half- 
galleys; it carried twenty thousand men, and 
was commanded by Admiral Apraxin, the Rus 
sian Emperor being Rear-Admiral. 

The Swedish fleet came up on the i6th, under 

History of Charles XII 297 

the command of Vice-Admiral Erinschild, and 
was weaker by two-thirds ; yet they fought for 
three hours, the Czar himself attacking the 
flag-ship, and taking it after an obstinate fight. 

The day of the victory he landed 16,000 
men at Aland, and took many of the Swedish 
soldiers who could not board their own fleet 
prisoners. Then he returned to his port of 
Cronslot, with the flag-ship and three smaller 
ones, a frigate, and six galleys, which he had 

From Cronslot he went to St. Petersburg, 
followed by his victorious fleet and the ships 
he had taken. He was greeted by a salute 
of 150 guns. Then he made his triumphal 
entry, which gave him more pleasure than that 
at Moscow, as it was in his favourite town, 
where ten years before there was not so much 
as a shed, and which now possessed 34,000 
fine houses. Then, too, he was at the head 
of a victorious army, and of the first Russian 
fleet ever seen in the Baltic; and among a 
people who, before his time, had never known 
what a fleet was. 

At Petersburg the ceremonies were much 
the same as at Moscow. The Swedish Vice- 
Admiral was the pihe de resistance. Peter 
appeared as Rear-Admiral, and a Russian, who 
represented the Czar on these occasions, was 
set upon a throne surrounded by twelve sena 
tors. The Rear-Admiral presented him with 
an account of his victories, and was then made 
Vice-Admiral in consideration of his services. 

298 History of Charles XII 

It was an odd ceremony, but suited to a 
country where the Czar had introduced military 
distinctions as a novelty. 

The Russian Emperor, having thus got the 
better of the Swedes by land and by sea, and 
having helped to expel them from Poland, was 
master there himself ; he made himself medi 
ator between the King and the people, an 
honour perhaps equal to that of setting up a 
King. The pomp and fortune of Charles had 
passed to the Czar; he made a better use of it 
than his rival, for he used all his successes for 
his country s good. If he took a town the 
chief artisans were transferred to Petersburg. 
The manners, arts and sciences of any place 
he took were carried home to enrich and refine 
his own country. So that of all conquerors he 
had the best excuse for his conquest. 

Sweden, on the other hand, had lost all her 
foreign possessions, and had neither trade, 
money, nor credit; her veterans were either 
killed or had died of want. More than a hun 
dred thousand Swedes were slaves in the vast 
Russian Empire, and as many more had been 
sold to the Turks and the Tartars. The male 
population was visibly becoming scarce ; but 
in spite of all this, their hopes revived when 
they heard that their King had arrived at 

The sentiment of respect and admiration for 
him was still so strong that the rustic youth 
crowded to enlist, leaving the land without 



Charles marries his sister to the Prince of Hesse He is 
besieged in Stralsund and escapes to Sweden The 
enterprise of Baron Gortz his premier Plans of 
reconciliation with the Czar An attack on Eng 
landCharles besieges Frederickshal in Norway- 
He is killed His character Gortz is beheaded. 

DURING these preparations the King gave his 
only surviving sister in marriage to Frederic, 
Prince of Hesse-Cassel. The Queen Dowager, 
his grandmother, aged fourscore years, did 
the honours of the fete on the 4th of April, 
1715, and died shortly afterwards. The King 
could not attend the ceremony, as he was so 
busy finishing the fortifications of Stralsund, 
which was in danger from the Kings of Den 
mark and Prussia. But he made his brother- 
in-law generalissimo of all the forces of Sweden. 
This Prince had served the States-General in 
the French war, and was considered a good 
soldier, a qualification for his sister s hand in 
the eyes of Charles XII. 

Misfortunes now followed as fast as victories 
had once done. In June 1715 the English 
King s German forces and those of Denmark 
invested the strong town of Wismar; the 
Danes, Saxons and Prussians, 36,000 of them, 
marched in a body to Stralsund to form a 
siege. Not far from Stralsund, five Swedish 

302 History of Charles XII 

ships were sunk by the Danes and Prussians. 
The Czar held the Baltic with two large men- 
of-war, and 150 transports, which had 30,000 
men on board. He threatened a descent on 
Sweden, appearing alternately on the coast of 
Elsingburg and Stockholm. All Sweden was 
in arms, expecting an invasion ; his land forces 
were chasing the Swedes from the places they 
held in Finland towards the Gulf of Bothnia, 
but he attempted nothing further. At the 
mouth of the Oder, a river that divides Pome- 
rania, and, passing Stetin, falls into the Baltic, 
there is a little island called Usedom. Its 
position makes it a place of considerable im 
portance, for it commands the Oder both on 
the right and the left, and whoever holds it is 
master of the navigation of that river. The 
King of Prussia had dislodged the Swedes, 
and was holding the place as well as Stetin, 
saying that he did so purely for the sake of 
peace. But the Swedes had retaken Usedom 
in May 1715, and held two forts there, one 
called Suine, on a branch of the Oder of that 
name, the other called Penamonder, of greater 
importance, on another branch of the river. 
The forts were manned with only 250 Pomera 
nians, commanded by an old Swedish officer 
called Kuze-Slerp, a man who deserves to be 
remembered. On the 4th of April the King of 
Prussia sent 1,500 foot and 800 dragoons into 
the island. They arrived and landed on the 
side of Suine without opposition. The Swedish 

History of Charles XII 303 

commander had left them this fort, as being 
the least important, and, not being able to 
divide his small force, he withdrew to the 
castle of Penamonder, resolving to await the 

So they were forced to make a formal siege. 
They shipped artillery at Stetin, and sent in a 
reinforcement of 1,000 Prussian foot and 400 
horse. On the i8th, they opened the trenches 
in two places, and a brisk battery was played 
by cannon and mortars. During the siege a 
Swedish soldier, sent privately with a letter to 
Charles, found means to land on the island 
and slip into the place. He gave the letter to 
the commander. It was as follows : " Do not 
fire till the enemy come to the edge of the 
ditch ; defend yourselves to the last drop of 
your blood. CHARLES." 

Slerp read the note, resolved to obey, and 
die as he was bid in his master s service. On 
the 22nd, at daybreak, the assault was made. 
The besieged did as they were told, and killed 
many, but the ditch was full, the breach large, 
and the besiegers too numerous. They entered 
at two different places at once. 

The commander now thought that he had 
no further duty but to obey orders and sell his 
life dear, so he abandoned the breaches, en 
trenched his few troops, who all had honour 
and courage enough to go with him, and placed 
them so that they should not be surrounded. 

The enemy hastened up, surprised that he 

304 History of Charles XII 

did not ask for quarter; but he fought a whole 
hour, and when he had lost half his soldiers, 
was killed at last with his lieutenant and major. 
There were then left 100 men and one officer; 
these asked that their lives might be spared, 
and were taken prisoners. In the commander s 
pocket they found his master s letter, which 
was taken to the King of Prussia. 

Just as Charles had lost Usedom, and the 
neighbouring islands which were quickly taken, 
while Wismar was on the point of surrender, 
with no fleet to lend aid, and Sweden in great 
danger, he himself was at Stralsund, besieged 
by 36,000 men. Stralsund, famous throughout 
Europe for the siege the King of Sweden sus 
tained there, is one of the strongest places in 
Pomerania. It is built between the Baltic 
and the Lake of Franken, near the Straits of 
Gella. There is no land passage to it but 
across a narrow crossway defended by a citadel, 
and by retrenchments that were once thought 
inaccessible. There was in it a garrison of 
9,000 men, and, more than all, the King of 
Sweden himself. The Kings of Denmark and 
Prussia besieged it with an army of 36,000 
men, consisting of Saxons, Prussians and 
Danes. The honour of besieging Charles was 
too great an incitement to them to make any 
task difficult, so the trenches were opened on 
the night between the igth and 2oth of 
October, 1715. 

The King of Sweden said at first that he 

History of Charles XII 305 

wondered how any place well manned and forti 
fied could be taken. True, he had taken many 
towns himself in the course of his victories, 
but none by regular attack. It was the fame 
of his exploits that gained them ; besides, he 
never judged others by his own standard, and 
always underrated his enemies. The besiegers 
carried on their work with great alacrity, and 
they were assisted by a curious chance. 

It is well known that the Baltic has no flux 
and reflux. The entrenchments of the town 
were thought impregnable, as there was an 
impassable marsh on the west and the sea on 
the east. 

No one had remarked before that in a strong 
westerly wind the waves of the Baltic roll 
back so as to leave only three feet of water 
under the entrenchment. They had always 
thought it deep. A soldier, happening to fall 
from the top of the entrenchment, was sur 
prised to find a bottom ; but having made that 
discovery, he concluded that it might make his 
fortune. So he deserted, and going to the 
quarters of Count Wakerbath, General of the 
Saxon forces, he told him that the sea was 
fordable, and that it would be easy to carry 
the Swedes entrenchments. The King of 
Prussia was not slow to take the hint 

The next day the west wind was still blow 
ing ; Lieutenant-Colonel Kepel entered the 
water with 1,800 men, and 2,000 advanced at 
the same time on the causeway; all the Prus- 


306 History of Charles XII 

sian artillery fired, and the Prussians and Danes 
gave an alarm on the other side. The Swedes 
were sure they could deal with those who were 
advancing with such rashness by the causeway ; 
but Kepel, coming in behind them from the 
sea, enclosed them so that they could make 
no headway, and the position was carried after 
terrible slaughter on both sides. Some of the 
Swedes retired into the town, but they were 
pursued by the besiegers, and some entered 
pell-mell with those that were fleeing. Two 
officers and four Saxon soldiers were already 
on the drawbridge, but they had just time to 
shut it, and took the men, and so for that time 
the town was saved. They found four-and- 
twenty pieces of cannon on the entrenchments, 
which they turned against the town. After this 
success the siege was carried on eagerly, the 
town being cannonaded and bombarded without 

Opposite Stralsund on the Baltic is the island 
of Ruegen, which is a rampart of the place, 
whither the garrison and people could retire 
if they only had boats. This island was of the 
first importance to Charles, for he knew that 
if the enemy were masters of it he would soon 
be invested both by sea and land, and probably 
buried in the ruins of Stralsund, or else taken 
prisoner by those whom he had formerly 
despised so much and used so harshly. 

However, the wretched state of his affairs 
had prevented him from sending a sufficient 

History of Charles XII 307 

garrison to Ruegen, and there were not more 
than 2,000 regular troops altogether on the 
island. For three months the enemy had been 
making all the preparations for an attack on 
it, but having built boats for the purpose, the 
Prince of Anhalt, favoured by good weather, 
made a landing at last with 12,000 men on the 
1 5th of November. 

The King, who was everywhere, was in this 
island; he joined 2,000 men who were en 
trenched near a little haven, about three leagues 
from where the enemy had landed. He 
marched with them at midnight, with great 
silence. The Prince of Anhalt had used what 
seemed unnecessary caution to entrench his 
cannon. His officers expected no attack by 
night, and had no idea but that Charles was 
safe at Stralsund. But the Prince, who knew 
Charles much better, ordered a deep ditch, 
with chevaux de frise on the edge, and took as 
much care as if he had to do with a superior force. 

At two in the morning Charles came to the 
enemy s camp, without the slightest noise. His 
soldiers said to one another, " Come, let us 
pull up the chevaux de frise." These words 
were overheard by the sentinels ; the alarm was 
quickly given, and the enemy stood to arms. 
The King, raising the chevaux de frise, saw a 
great ditch. "Ah," he said, "impossible; 
this is more than I expected." Not at all dis 
couraged, and knowing nothing of their num 
bers, nor they of his, for the night favoured 

3o8 History of Charles XII 

him in that, he decided at once, leaped into the 
ditch, followed by some of the boldest. The 
chevaux de frise was removed, the earth 
levelled with any trunks and branches they 
could find, and the bodies of the dead for 
fascines. The King, generals, and boldest of 
the officers and soldiers got on one another s 
shoulders as in assaults. 

The fight began in the enemy s camp; the 
vigour of the Swedes threw the Danes and 
Prussians into disorder, but their numbers 
being too disparate, the Swedes were repulsed 
in about a quarter of an hour, and repaired to 
the ditch. 

The unfortunate King rallied his troops in 
the field, and the fight was renewed with equal 
warmth on both sides. He saw his favourite 
Grothusen fall, and General Dardoff, and as he 
fought passed over the body of the latter 
while he was still breathing. During, his com 
panion from Turkey to Stralsund, was killed 
before his face. The King himself was shot 
near the left breast ; Count Poniatowski, who 
had been so lucky as to save his life before at 
Pultawa, had the good fortune to do the 
same again, and gave him a new mount. The 
Swedes retired to a part of the island named 
Alteferre, where they still held a fort ; from 
thence the King returned to Stralsund, obliged 
to leave those brave troops who had served 
him so well in that expedition ; they were all 
prisoners of war two days later. 

History of Charles XII 309 

Among the prisoners was that unfortunate 
French regiment, the debris of the battle of 
Hochstet, which had first served Augustus, and 
afterwards Charles. Most of the soldiers were 
drafted into a new regiment belonging to the 
son of the Prince of Anhalt, and he was their 
fourth master. In Ruegen the commander of 
this vagrant regiment was then the famous 
Count Villelongue, who had so nobly risked his 
life at Adrianople to save Charles. He was 
taken with all his men, and was ill rewarded 
for all his services, fatigues and sufferings. 

The King, having only weakened himself by 
all these prodigies of valour, pent up in Stral- 
sund and expecting to be taken, was yet the 
same as he had been at Bender. Nothing 
could surprise him. All day he was making 
ditches and entrenchments behind the walls, 
and at night he sallied out against the enemy. 
The town was badly damaged, bombs fell thick 
and fast, and half the town was in ashes. The 
townsfolk, far from complaining, were full of 
admiration for their master, whose temperance, 
courage and fatigues were astonishing; they 
acted as soldiers under him, following to the 
attack, and were now as good as another 

One day, as the King was dictating to a 
secretary some dispatches for Sweden, a bomb 
fell into the house, came through the roof, and 
burst very near his room. Part of the floor 
fell in, but the ante-room where he was at 

3io History of Charles XII 

work, being attached to a thick wall, was 
undisturbed, and by a lucky chance none of 
the splinters came in at the door, though it 
was open. In this noise and confusion the 
secretary dropped his pen, thinking that the 
house was coming- down. " What is the mat 
ter?" said the King calmly; "why are you 
not writing?" The man could only stammer 
out, "The bomb, Sire!" "Well," said the 
King, " what has that to do with our writing? 
Go on. " 

An ambassador of France, a M. de Croissy, 
was then shut up with the King in Stralsund. 
To send a man on an embassy to Charles was 
like sending him to the trenches. The King 
would talk with Croissy for hours together, in 
the most exposed places, where people were 
falling on all sides, killed by the bombs and 
cannon ; the King was unconscious of the 
danger, and the ambassador did not care to 
say anything to make him chose a safer place 
for business. Before the siege this minister 
tried his best to make a treaty between the 
Kings of Sweden and Prussia; but the one 
expected too much, and the other would not 
make any concessions. So that the only satis 
faction that Croissy got out of his embassy was 
the familiarity he enjoyed with this remarkable 
man. He often slept on the same cloak with 
him, and, as they shared so many dangers 
and fatigues, he was outspoken with him. 
Charles encouraged this in the case of those 

History of Charles XII 311 

he liked, and would sometimes say to Croissy, 
Veni, maledicamus de rege. " "Come, let 
us talk scandal of Charles." 

Croissy stayed in the town till the i3th of 
November. Then, with the permission of the 
enemy to pass with his baggage, he took leave 
of Charles, whom he left among the ruins of 
Stralsund with only a third of his garrison 
left, and fully resolved to stand an assault. 

In fact, the assault on the horn-work was 
made in four days. The enemy took it twice, 
and were twice beaten off. 

At last numbers prevailed, and they became 
masters of it. Charles stayed two days longer 
in the town, expecting every moment a general 
assault; on the i6th he stayed till midnight in 
a little ravelin quite destroyed by bombs and 
cannon ; the day after the principal officers 
begged him to stay no longer in this untenable 
situation, but retreat was now as dangerous 
as to stay there. The Baltic was full of Russian 
and Danish ships ; in the port at Stralsund 
there was only one boat with sails and oars. 
So many dangers made retreat glorious, and 
determined Charles to go; he embarked on the 
evening of December 2Oth, with ten persons 
aboard. They were obliged to break the ice, 
and it was several hours before they could get 
away. The enemy s admiral had strict orders 
not to let Charles escape from Stralsund. Hap 
pily they were to leeward of him, and could not 
approach. He ran the most risk in passing a 

312 History of Charles XII 

place called the Barbette, in Ruegen, where 
the Danes had fixed a battery of twelve cannon. 
They fired, and he made all the sail he could 
to get clear of their range. Two men were 
killed close by him, and at another shot the 
mast was shattered. In the midst of these 
dangers the King met two of his ships that were 
cruising in the Baltic, and the next day Stral- 
sund was surrendered, and the garrison made 
prisoners of war. The King landed at Isted 
in Scania, and came to Carlscrona, in a very 
different state from that in which he had left it, 
ten years before, when he started in a ship of 
twelve guns, to dictate to the North. 

As he was so near his capital, it was con 
cluded he would go there after so long an 
absence. But he could not bear the thought 
of it till he had gained some great victories. 
Nor did he want to see his people who loved 
him, and to whose burdens he had perforce to 
add to defend himself against his enemies. 
He only wanted to see his sister, and he sent 
for her to meet him near Lake Wetter, in Ostro- 
gothia. He rode post-haste with one attend 
ant, spent a day with her, and returned. 

At Carlscrona, where he passed the winter, 
he levied new forces everywhere. He thought 
his subjects were only born to follow him to 
war, and he had accustomed them to think 
so too. He enlisted many of but fifteen 
years old. In many villages there were only 
old men, women and children left ; in some 

History of Charles XII 313 

places the women ploughed unaided. It was 
still more difficult to get a fleet. But to bring 
that about commissions were given to pri 
vateers, who enjoyed great privileges to the 
ruin of the country, but who provided him with 
some ships. This was the last effort of Sweden 
to meet the great expense ; all the houses were 
searched, and half their provisions carried into 
the King s warehouses. All the iron in the 
country was bought up for his use and paid 
for in paper, which he sold for ready money. 
Whoever wore silk, or wigs, or gilded swords 
was taxed, and there was a heavy hearth-rate. 

A people thus loaded with taxation would 
have revolted under any other King, but here 
the most miserable peasant knew that his 
master was faring harder than he himself. 
So they quietly bore what their King was 
always the first to bear. In the public danger, 
private misfortunes were not thought of. They 
expected hourly an attack from the Russians, 
Danes, Prussians, Saxons, and the English. 
Their fear was so strong, and so well justified, 
that those who possessed valuables buried 

It was a surprise to all Europe, who had 
still an eye on Charles, when, instead of de 
fending his country about to be attacked by 
so many princes, he invaded Norway at the 
head of 20,000 men. Since the time of Hanni 
bal there had been no instance of a general 
who, unable to hold his own against his ene- 

314 History of Charles XII 

mies at home, had gone to attack them in 
their own dominions. His brother-in-law, the 
Prince of Hesse, accompanied him. There is 
no way from Sweden to Norway except by 
dangerous by-ways, where at every turn one 
meets with pools of water, formed by the sea 
between the rocks ; bridges have to be made 
every day. A very few Danes might have 
stopped the Swedish army, but they were not 
ready for such a rapid invasion. 

Europe was still more surprised to find the 
Czar so quiet, without descending on Sweden 
as he had intended. 

The reason was that he had a plan, which 
was one of the greatest, and one of the most 
difficult to carry out, that has ever been con 

Baron Gortz, a Franconian by birth, and 
Baron of the empire, having done the King of 
Sweden important services during his sojourn 
at Bender, was now his favourite and Prime 
Minister. He was the boldest and the most 
diplomatic of men : full of resource in advers 
ity, ambitious in his plans, and active in his 
policy, no project was too ambitious for him, no 
means too dear for his end ; he was prodigal 
with presents, oaths, truth and falsehood. 
From Sweden he went to England, France, 
Holland, to himself lay the train which he 
meant to use ; he was able to inflame all 
Europe, and that was his idea. What his 
master was at the head of an army, he was in 

History of Charles XII 315 

the cabinet, and this gave him more influence 
over Charles than any minister had ever had 
before. This King, who from the age of 
twenty had given orders to Court Piper, was 
now willing to receive them from Baron Gortz, 
and was the more submissive because his mis 
fortunes had made it necessary for him to ask 
advice, and because Gortz s advice suited with 
his courageous disposition. He found that of 
all the princes in league against him Charles 
felt especially resentful to George of Hanover, 
King of England : because he was the only 
one whom Charles had never injured, and had 
entered into the affair only as a mediator, with 
intent to hold Bremen and Verden, which he 
bought for a trifle from the King of Denmark. 

It was early that he discovered the Czar s 
secret discontent with the allies, who all wanted 
to prevent his getting any footing in Germany. 

Since the year 1714 the Czar had been in a 
position to make a descent on Sweden, but 
whether he could not agree with the Kings of 
Poland, England, Denmark, and Prussia, allies 
whose suspicions were justifiable, or whether 
he thought his troops not seasoned enough to 
attack that people at home, whose very pea 
sants had beat the pick of the Danish forces, 
he still took care to put it off. 

The want of money was what had hitherto 
delayed him. For the Czar was one of the 
greatest monarchs in the world, but not one 
of the richest, his revenue not amounting to 

316 History of Charles XII 

more than 18,000,000 French francs. He had 
discovered gold, silver, iron and copper mines, 
but the profit they yielded was uncertain, and 
the working- of them expensive. He had estab 
lished a great trade, yet at first it did not 
flourish ; his new conquests increased his 
power and his fame, but brought him very little 

Time was necessary to bind up the wounds 
of Livonia, a fertile country which had suffered 
much from a fifteen years war, by fire, sword 
and plague almost desolate of inhabitants, 
and a burden to the conqueror. The fleets he 
now maintained ; and every day some new 
enterprise was exhausting all his treasures. 
He had been reduced to the bad expedient of 
raising the value of the coinage, a remedy 
which never cures the evil, and is particularly 
injurious to any country where the imports 
exceed the exports. It was upon these grounds 
that Gortz had laid the basis of a revolution ; 
he was bold enough to suggest to the King 
of Sweden that he should make peace with the 
Czar, insinuating that the Czar was very angry 
with the Kings of Poland and England, and 
that Peter and Charles together might make 
the rest of Europe tremble. 

There was no making peace with the Czar, 
unless he yielded a good many provinces to 
the east and west of the Baltic, but he called 
his attention to the fact that in yielding such 
places as the Czar possessed already, and which 

History of Charles XII 317 

he could not possibly regain, he might have the 
honour of replacing Stanislas on the throne of 
Poland, and setting James II s son upon that of 
England, besides restoring the Duke of Holstein. 

Charles was pleased with all this, and 
without giving the matter much considera 
tion he gave the minister full powers to act : 
Gortz left Sweden with carte blanche for any 
prince he wished to treat with. His first 
business was to try how the Court of Moscow 
stood, which he did through the Czar s chief 
physician, a man devoted to the Pretender s 
interests, as most of the Scots are, where they 
are not in the pay of the English Court. This 
physician represented to Prince Menzikoff, with 
all the eagerness of a man much interested, 
the greatness and importance of such a plan. 
Prince Menzikoff was pleased with it, and the 
Czar approved it. Instead of an invasion of 
Sweden he sent his troops to winter in Meck 
lenburg, and came there himself on the pretext 
of settling some disputes between his nephew 
the Duke and his nobles : his real object was 
to gain a principality in Germany, for which he 
hoped to bargain with the Duke. 

The allies were angry at this step, not caring 
to have so terrible and formidable a neighbour, 
who, should he once gain German provinces, 
might become Emperor and oppress the sove 
reigns. The greater was their resentment, the 
more that Gortz s plan flourished. But he 
negotiated with all the confederates in order to 

3i8 History of Charles XII 

conceal his private intrigues. The Czar fed 
them all with vain hopes. Charles was all this 
while with his brother-in-law in Norway at 
the head of 20,000 men, the country was de 
fended by 110,000 Danes in separate bands, 
which were routed by the King and Prince of 
Hesse. Charles advanced to Christiania, the 
capital, and fortune smiled on him again, but 
from want of provisions he was forced to retire 
to Sweden, there to await the result of his 
minister s plan. 

This affair was to be carried through with 
profound secrecy, and elaborate preparations 
were necessary : these two are incompatible. 
Gortz planned to go as far as Asia in his quest, 
and though the means seemed undesirable, it 
would at least bring men, money and ships to 
Sweden, which could be used for an attack on 

For some time the pirates of all nations, and 
especially the English, had banded themselves 
together to infest the seas of Europe and 
America; they had received no quarter and 
had retired to Madagascar, a large island on 
the east coast of Africa ; they were quite 
desperate, and famed for actions which would 
have made them heroes had they been legal. 
They wanted a prince to take them under his 
protection, but international law shut them out 
from every harbour. 

When they heard that Charles XII was re 
turned to Sweden they hoped that, as lie was 

History of Charles XII 319 

devoted to war and forced to take share in it, 
and needed a fleet and soldiers, he would be 
glad to make terms with them. So they sent 
a deputy, who travelled to Europe in a Dutch 
ship, to propose to Baron Gortz that they 
might be received at Gottemburg, where they 
promised to prepare three-score ships loaded 
with treasure. 

The Baron persuaded the King to agree, and 
two Swedes were sent to negotiate with them. 
Then more honourable and substantial help 
came from Cardinal Alberoni, who directed the 
government of Spain long enough for his own 
reputation but not for the good and glory of 
that kingdom. 

He took up the project of setting James II s 
son on the English throne with great enthusi 
asm. But as he had only just taken up the 
ministry, and Spain was to be settled before 
he could attempt to overthrow thrones, it ap 
peared that there was no great likelihood of 
his undertaking the task at present. Yet in 
two years he had done so much for Spain, 
and had so raised her prestige in Europe that 
he had got the Turks (it is reported) to attack 
the Emperor. Then he took steps to remove 
the Duke of Orleans from the Regency and 
King George from the English throne. Such 
danger lies in the power of one single man 
who is absolute, and has the sense and capacity 
to use his power. 

Gortz, having made this beginning in the 

320 History of Charles XII 

Courts of Russia and Spain, went secretly to 
France, and thence to Holland, where he inter 
viewed representatives of the Pretender s party. 
He got special information concerning the 
strength, number, and position of the dis 
affected in England, what money they could 
raise, and what men they could put in the 
field. They only wanted 10,000 men, with 
which they would feel assured of success. 
Count Gyllemburg, the Swedish ambassador in 
England, acting under Gortz s instructions, 
had several meetings with the disaffected ; he 
encouraged them and promised them all they 
wanted. The Pretender s party even advanced 
considerable sums, which Gortz received in 
Holland, and with which he bought ships and 

Then he secretly sent some officers to France, 
especially a certain Folard, who, having served 
in thirty French campaigns without mending 
his fortune, had volunteered with Charles, not 
with any ulterior motive, but just to serve 
under a prince with such a reputation. He 
especially hoped to get the Prince to adopt 
the new discoveries he had made in the art of 
war, which he had studied theoretically and 
had published views of in a commentary of Poly- 
bius. Charles was pleased with his ideas, and, 
as he was never governed by convention, he 
intended to make use of Folard in his attack 
on Scotland. 

The main point for Baron de Gortz was to 

History of Charles XII 321 

settle a peace between Charles and the Czar, 
in spite of the many difficulties in the way. 
Baron Osterman, a man of weight in Russia, 
was not so ready to agree with Gortz. He 
was as cautious as the other was enthusiastic. 
One was for letting things gradually ripen, the 
other wanted to reap and sow together. Oster 
man was afraid his master, pleased with the 
plan, would grant too advantageous terms with 
Sweden, and so delayed the conclusion of the 
matter. Luckily for Gortz the Czar himself 
came to Holland at the beginning of 1717 on 
the way to France, for he had yet to see this 
nation, criticized, envied, and imitated by all 
Europe. He wanted to satisfy his insatiable 
curiosity, but also he hoped to arrange some 
political matters. 

Gortz had two talks with the Emperor at 
the Hague, and did more by their means than 
he could have done in six months with pleni 
potentiaries. Everything went well, his great 
plans seemed quite unsuspected, and he hoped 
they would only be known to Europe in their 
execution. The first who discovered these 
intrigues was the Duke of Orleans, Regent 
of France, who had spies everywhere. The 
Duke, having personal obligations to the King 
of England, made the discovery of the whole 
plot against him. At the same time the Dutch, 
having suspicions of Gortz s behaviour, com 
municated them to the English ministry. Gortz 
and Gyllemburg were getting on with their 


322 History of Charles XII 

schemes rapidly, when one was arrested at the 
Hague and the other in London. 

As Gyllemburg had broken international law 
by the conspiracy they did not scruple in Eng 
land to attack his person. But it was thought 
exceedingly strange that the States-General 
imprisoned Baron Gortz out of mere friendship 
for the King of England. They even went so 
far as to appoint Count Velderen to question 
him. This was going very far, and as it 
turned out, only added to their confusion. 
Gortz asked Velderen if he knew him. " Yes," 
said the Dutchman. "Well, then," he an 
swered, " you must then be aware that I shall 
only answer what I like." 

All the foreign ministers protested against 
the wrong done to the persons of Gortz and 
Gyllemburg. Nothing could excuse the Dutch 
from breaking so sacred a law in seizing the 
King of Sweden s premier, who had never done 
anything against them, and so violating the 
spirit of freedom which has attracted so many 
strangers and has been the cause of her great 
ness. The King of England acted within his 
rights in seizing an enemy, so that the letters 
found among Gyllemburg s papers from him to 
Gortz were printed to justify the King s pro 

The King of Sweden was in Scania when 
the printed letters came with the news of his 
ministers having been seized. He only smiled 
and asked if his letters were printed too, and 

History of Charles XII 323 

ordered the English ambassador and all his 
family to be seized. But he could not take 
the same vengeance on the Dutch, because 
they had no minister then at the Court of 
Sweden. He kept a disdainful silence towards 
England and Holland. 

The Czar s behaviour was just the opposite : 
as he was not named but only hinted at by 
distant references in the letters of Gortz and 
Gyllemburg, he wrote a long letter full of 
congratulations to the King of England on the 
discovery, with assurances of his good-will. 
King George received his protestations with 
incredulity, but pretended to believe them. A 
plot laid by private men is at an end when 
once discovered, but where kings are concerned 
a discovery only makes it go further. The 
Czar came to Paris in 1717, and did not spend 
all his time in viewing the wonders of art and 
nature there : the academies, public libraries, 
cabinets of the antiquaries and royal palaces. 
He made a proposal to the Regent which, had 
it been accepted, would have put the finishing 
touch to the greatness of Russia. It was this : 
to himself ally with the King of Sweden, who 
would yield many countries to him, to take 
from the Danes their power in the Baltic, to 
weaken England by a civil war, and to attract 
to Russia all the trade of the North. He had 
thoughts, too, of setting up Stanislas against 
King Augustus, so that when the fire was 
kindled in all directions he could fan the flame 

324 History of Charles XII 

or damp it as he saw fit. With these views he 
proposed to the King s Regent to mediate 
between Sweden and Russia, and to make an 
offensive and defensive alliance with them and 
Spain. The treaty, though so natural and 
so useful to the nations concerned, putting 
into their hands the balancing of power in 
Europe, was yet rejected by Orleans, for he 
did just the opposite and made a league with 
the Emperor and the King of England. 

Political motives were then so powerful 
with all princes that the Czar was going to 
declare war against his old friend Augustus, 
and to help Charles his mortal enemy; while 
France, for the sake of the English and Ger 
mans, was going to declare war against a grand 
son of Louis XIV, after having so long sup 
ported him at great expenditure of blood and 
treasure against those very enemies. All that 
the Czar could obtain was that the Regent 
should interpose for the freeing of Baron Gortz 
and Gyllemburg. He returned to Russia about 
the end of June, having shown a rare example 
of an emperor travelling to improve his mind. 
But what most of the French people saw of 
him was a rough, unpolished exterior, the 
result of his education, while they were blind 
to the legislator and the genius who had 
founded a new nation. What he had sought 
for in Orleans he soon found in Alberoni, who 
governed all Spain. Alberoni wanted to restore 
the Pretender : first as the minister of Spain, 

History of Charles XII 325 

so ill-used by the English, and secondly because 
he had a personal quarrel with the Duke of 
Orleans for his close alliance with England 
against Spain; besides, he was a priest of 
that Church for which the Pretender s father 
had lost his crown. 

The Duke of Ormond, as unpopular in Eng 
land as the Duke of Marlborough was admired, 
had left the country at the time of George s 
accession, and was now in Spain. He went 
with full powers from the King of Spain to 
meet the Czar, in Courland, accompanied by a 
certain D Irnegan, an Englishman of ability 
and daring. The business was to ask the 
Princess Anna, the Czar s daughter, for mar 
riage with James s son, in the hopes that such 
an alliance would bring the Czar over to the 
King s side. Baron Gortz, among his other 
schemes, had intended this lady for the Duke 
of Holstein, who did marry her later. As 
soon as he heard of the Duke of Ormond s 
plan he grew jealous and did what he could to 
defeat it. 

He left prison in August with the Count 
Gyllemburg, without any apology from the 
Swedish to the English King. At the same 
time the English ambassador and his family 
were released at Stockholm, where their treat 
ment had been a great deal worse than Gyllem 
burg s in London. 

Gortz at liberty was an implacable enemy, 
for besides his other aims he now sought 

326 History of Charles XII 

vengeance. He went posthaste to the Czar, 
who was now better pleased with him than 
ever, for he undertook to remove in less than 
three months all obstacles to a peace with 
Sweden. He took up a map which the Czar 
had drawn himself, and, drawing a line from 
Wibourg, by Lake Ladoga, up to the frozen 
ocean, promised to bring his master to part 
with all that lay east of that line, besides 
Carelia, Ingria, and Livonia. Then he men 
tioned the marriage of the Czar s daughter to 
the Duke of Holstein, holding out hopes that 
the Duke would readily give his country in 
stead, and if once he became a member of the 
Empire the Imperial crown would, of course, 
come to him or some of his descendants. The 
Czar named the isle of Aland for the confer 
ences between Osterman and Gortz ; he asked 
the English Duke of Ormond to withdraw lest 
the English Court should take alarm. But 
D Irneg-an, his confidant, remained in the town 
with many precautions, for he only went out at 
night and never saw the Czar s ministers but 
in the disguise of either a peasant or a Tartar. 

As soon as the Duke of Ormond went, the 
Czar impressed upon the King his courtesy in 
having sent away the chief partisan of the 
Pretender, and Baron Gortz returned to Sweden 
with great hopes of success. 

He found his master at the head of 30,000 
troops with all the coast guarded by militia. 
The King needed nothing but money, but he 

History of Charles XII 327 

had no credit at home or abroad. France, 
under the Duke of Orleans, would give him 
none. He was promised money from Spain, 
but that country was not yet in a position to 
support him. 

Baron Gortz then tried a project he had 
tried before. He gave copper the same value 
as silver, so that a copper coin whose intrinsic 
value was a halfpenny might, with the royal 
mark, pass for thirty or forty pence, just as 
the governors of besieged towns have some 
times paid their soldiers with leather money 
till they could get better. Such expedients 
may be useful in a free country, and have often 
been the salvation of a republic, but they are 
sure to ruin a monarchy, for the people quickly 
lose confidence, the minister is unable to keep 
faith, the money paper increases, individuals 
bury their specie, and the whole plan fails, 
often with disastrous results. This was the 
case in Sweden. Baron Gortz had paid out his 
new coin with discretion, but was soon carried 
beyond what he had intended by forces he could 
not check. Everything became excessively 
dear, so that he was obliged to multiply his 
copper coin. The more there was of it the 
less was its value. Sweden was inundated 
with this false money, and one and all com 
plained of Gortz. So great was the veneration 
of the people for Charles that they could 
not hate him, so the weight of their dis 
pleasure fell on the minister who, as 

_ a 

Y 2 

328 History of Charles XII 

foreigner and financier, was sure to suffer their 

A tax that he arranged on the clergy gave 
the final touch to the universal hatred; priests 
are only too ready to plead that their cause is 
God s, and publicly declared him an atheist, 
because he asked for their money. The new 
coins were embossed with the figure of heathen 
gods, and hence they called them the gods of 

The ministry joined in the universal hatred 
of him, all the more ardently because they 
were powerless. None in the country liked 
him except the King, whom his unpopularity 
confirmed in his affection. He placed absolute 
confidence in him, giving him also his entire 
confidence at home. He trusted to him, too, 
all negotiations with the Czar, especially as to 
the conference at Aland, which of all things he 
wished to urge on with the greatest haste. 

As soon as Gortz had completed at Stock 
holm the arrangements for the treasury which 
demanded his presence, he went away to com 
plete with Osterman the great work he had 
in hand. These were the preliminaries of that 
alliance which was to have changed the face of 
affairs in Europe, as they were found among 
Gortz s papers. 

The Czar was to keep Livonia, part of In- 
gria, and Carelia, leaving the rest to Sweden. 
He was to join Charles in restoring Stanislas, 
and to send to Poland 80,000 men to dethrone 

History of Charles XII 329 

the very king on whose side he had been fight 
ing- for so many years before ; he was to supply 
ships to carry 30,000 to Germany and 10,000 
to England ; the forces of both were to attack 
the King of England s German dominions, 
especially Bremen and Verden ; the same troops 
were to restore the Duke of Holstein and 
force the King of Prussia to an agreement 
by parting with a good deal of his new acquisi 

Charles acted henceforth as if his own 
victorious troops had done all this, and de 
manded of the Emperor the execution of the 
peace of Altranstadt. But the Court of Vienna 
scarcely deigned an answer to one whom they 
feared so little. The King of Poland was 
not altogether so safe, but saw the storm com 
ing. Fleming was the most suspicious man 
alive and the least reliable. He suspected the 
designs of the Czar and the King of Sweden 
in favour of Stanislas, so he endeavoured to 
have him taken off to Deux Ponts, as James 
Sobieski had been in Silesia. But Stanislas 
was on his guard, and the design miscarried. 

In the meantime Charles was making a 
second attempt upon Norway in October 1718. 
He had so arranged matters that he hoped to 
be master of the country in six months. 

The winter is fierce enough in Sweden to 
kill the animals that live there, but he chose 
to go and conquer rocks where the climate is 
more severe and the snow and ice much worse 

330 History of Charles XII 

than in Sweden, instead of trying to regain his 
beautiful provinces in Germany. 

He hoped his new alliance with the Czar 
would soon make it possible for him to retake 
them, and his ambition was gratified by the 
thought of taking a kingdom from his victori 
ous foe. 

At the mouth of the river Tistendall, near 
the bay of Denmark, between Bahus and Anslo, 
stands Fredericshall, a place of strength and 
importance, which is considered the key to the 
kingdom. Charles began its siege in Decem 
ber. The cold was so extreme that the soldiers 
could hardly break the ground. It was like 
digging trenches in rock, but the Swedes were 
nothing daunted by fatigue which the King 
shared so readily. Charles had never suffered 
so severely. His constitution was so hardened 
by sixteen years hardship that he would sleep 
in the open in a Norwegian mid-winter on 
boards or straw, wrapped only in his mantle, 
and yet keep his health. 

Some of the soldiers fell dead at their posts, 
but others who were nearly dying dare not 
complain when they saw their King bearing it 
all. Just before this expedition he heard of 
a woman who had lived for several months on 
nothing but water, and he who had tried all 
his life to bear the hardest extremes that nature 
can bear resolved to try how long he could fast. 
He neither ate nor drank for five days, and on 
the sixth, in the morning, he rode two leagues 

History of Charles XII 331 

to his brother s, where he ate heartily, yet 
neither his large meal nor his long fast 
incommoded him. 

With such a body of iron, and a soul of so 
much strength and courage, there was not one 
of his neighbours who did not fear him. 

On the nth of December, St. Andrew s day, 
he went to view his trenches at about nine 
in the evening, and finding the parallel not 
advanced as much as he wished, he was a 
little vexed at it. But M. Megret, the French 
engineer who was conducting the siege, told 
him the place would be taken in eight days 
time. " We shall see," said the King, " what 
can be done." Then, going on with the engi 
neer to examine the works, he stopped at the 
place where the branch made an angle with 
the parallel ; kneeling upon the inner slope, 
he leaned with his elbows on the parapet, to 
look at the men who were carrying on the 
entrenching by starlight. 

The least details relating to the death of 
such a man as Charles are noted. It is there 
fore my duty to say that all the conversation 
reported by various writers, as having taken 
place between the King and the engineer, are 
absolutely false. This is what I know actually 

The King stood with half his body exposed 
to a battery of cannon directed precisely at the 
angle where he stood. No one was near him 
but two Frenchmen : one was M. Siquier, his 

332 History of Charles XII 

aide-de-camp, a man of capacity and energy, 
who had entered his service in Turkey, and 
was particularly attached to the Prince of 
Hesse; the other was the engineer. The 
cannon fired grape-shot, and the King was 
more exposed than any of them. Not far be 
hind was Count Sveren, who was command 
ing the trenches. At this moment Siquier and 
Megret saw the King fall on the parapet, with 
a deep sigh; they came near, but he was 
already dead. A ball weighing half-a-pound 
had struck him on the right temple, leaving a 
hole large enough to turn three fingers in ; 
his head had fallen over the parapet, his left 
eye was driven in and his right out of its 
socket; death had been instantaneous, but 
he had had strength to put his hand to his 
sword, and lay in that posture. 

At this sight Megret, an extraordinary and 
feelingless man, said, " Let us go to supper. 
The play is done." Siquier hastened to tell 
the Count Sveren, and they all agreed to keep 
it a secret till the Prince of Hesse could be 
informed. They wrapped the corpse in a grey 
cloak, Siquier put on his hat and wig ; he was 
carried under the name of Captain Carlsbern 
through the troops, who saw their dead King 
pass, little thinking who it was. 

The Prince at once gave orders that no one 
should stir out of the camp, and that all the 
passes to Sweden should be guarded, till he 
could arrange for his wife to succeed to the 

History of Charles XII 333 

crown, and exclude the Duke of Holstein, who 
might aim at it. 

Thus fell Charles XII, King of Sweden, at 
the age of thirty-six and a half, having experi 
enced the extremes of prosperity and of 
adversity, without being softened by the one 
or in the least disturbed by the other. All his 
actions, even those of his private life, are 
almost incredible. Perhaps he was the only 
man, and certainly he was the only king who 
never showed weakness; he carried all the 
heroic virtues to that excess at which they be 
come faults as dangerous as the opposed 
virtues. His resolution, which became obsti 
nacy, caused his misfortunes in Ukrania, and 
kept him five years in Turkey. His liberality 
degenerated into prodigality, and ruined 
Sweden. His courage, degenerating into rash 
ness, was the cause of his death. His justice 
had been sometimes cruel, and in later years 
his maintenance of his prerogative came not 
far short of tyranny. His great qualities, any 
one of which would immortalize another prince, 
were a misfortune to his country. He never 
began a quarrel; but he was rather implacable 
than wise in his anger. He was the first whose 
ambition it was to be a conqueror, without 
wishing to increase his dominions. He desired 
to gain kingdoms with the object of giving 
them away. His passion for glory, war, and 
vengeance made him too little of a politician, 
without which none has ever been a conqueror. 

334 History of Charles XII 

Before a battle he was full of confidence, very 
modest after a victory, and undaunted in defeat. 
Sparing others no more than himself, he made 
small account of his own and his subjects 
labours ; he was an extraordinary rather than 
a great man, and rather to be imitated than 
admired. But his life may be a lesson to kings 
and teach them that a peaceful and happy reign 
is more desirable than so much glory. 

Charles XII was tall and well shaped. He 
had a fine forehead, large blue eyes, full of 
gentleness, and a well-shaped nose, but the 
lower part of his face was disagreeable and 
not improved by his laugh, which was unbe 
coming. He had little beard or hair, he spoke 
little, and often answered only by the smile 
which was habitual to him. 

Profound silence was preserved at his table. 
With all his inflexibility he was timid and bash 
ful; he would have been embarrassed by con- 
{ versation, because, as he had given up his 
whole life to practical warfare, he knew 
nothing of the ways of society. Before his 
long leisure in Turkey he had never read any 
thing but Cesar s commentaries and the 
history of Alexander, but he had made some 
observations on war, and on his own cam 
paigns from 1700-1709; he told this to the 
Chevalier Folard, and said that the MSS. 
had been lost at the unfortunate battle of 
Pultawa. As to religion, though a prince s 
sentiments ought not to influence other men, 

History of Charles XII 335 

and though the opinion of a king so ill- 
informed as Charles should have no weight in 
such matters, yet men s curiosity on this point 
too must be satisfied. 

I have it from the person who has supplied 
me with most of my material for this history, 
that Charles was a strict Lutheran till the 
year 1707, when he met the famous philosopher 
Leibnitz, who was a great freethinker, and 
talked freely, and had already converted more 
than one prince to his views. I do not believe 
that Charles imbibed freethought in conversa 
tion with this philosopher, since they only had 
a quarter of an hour together; but M. Fabri- 
cius, who lived familiarly with him seven years 
afterwards, told me that in his leisure in 
Turkey, having come in contact with diverse 
forms of faith, he went further still. 

I cannot help noticing here a slander that is 
often spread concerning the death of princes, 
by malicious or credulous folk, viz., that when 
princes die they are either poisoned or assassin 
ated. The report spread in Germany that M. 
Siquier had killed the King ; that brave officer 
was long annoyed at the report, and one day 
he said to me, " I might have killed a King 
of Sweden, but for this hero I had such a 
respect that, had I wished to do it, I should 
not have dared." 

I know that it was this Siquier himself who 
originated this fatal accusation, which some 
Swedes still believe, for he told me that at 

336 History of Charles XII 

Stockholm, when delirious, he shouted that he 
had killed the King of Sweden, that he had 
even in his madness opened the window and 
publicly asked pardon for the crime; when on 
his recovery he learned what he had said in 
delirium, he was ready to die with mortifica 
tion. I did not wish to reveal this story during 
his life; I saw him shortly before his death, 
and I am convinced that, far from having 
murdered Charles, he would willingly have laid 
down his life for him a thousand times over. 
Had he been capable of such a crime it could 
only have been to serve some foreign Power 
who would no doubt have recompensed him 
handsomely, yet he died in poverty at Paris, 
and had even to apply to his family for aid. 

As soon as he was dead the siege of Frederic- 
shall was raised. The Swedes, to whom his 
glory had been a burden rather than a joy, 
made peace with their neighbours as fast as 
they could, and soon put an end to that abso 
lute power of which Baron Gortz had wearied 
them. The States elected Charles s sister 
Queen, and forced her to solemnly renounce 
her hereditary right to the throne, so that she 
held it only by the people s choice. She 
promised by oath on oath that she would never 
secure arbitrary government, and afterwards, 
her love of power overcome by her love for her 
husband, she resigned the crown in his favour 
and persuaded the States to choose him, which 
they did under the same condition. Baron 

History of Charles XII 337 

Gortz was seized after Charles s death, and 
condemned by the Senate of Stockholm to be 
beheaded under the gallows, an instance rather 
of revenge than of justice, and a cruel insult 
to the memory of a king whom Sweden still 

Charles s hat is preserved at Stockholm, and 
the smallness of the hole by which it is pierced 
is one of the reasons for supposing he was 


ACHMET III, Emperor of the 
Turks, 187 ; receives letter from 
Charles XII, 188 ; treats the 
king as an honourable prisoner, 
189-196; decides on war against 
Russia, 211 ; imprisons Russian 
ambassador, ib.\ his letter to 
Charles XII offering to send 
him home with an escort, 235, 
236 ; Sultan again declares war 
against Russia, 239 ; again 
makes peace, 241 ; sends money 
and directions for the King of 
Sweden s departure, 244, 245 ; 
sends peremptory orders to him 
to leave his territory, 251 ; sends 
orders to put all the Swedes to 
the sword and not to spare the 
king s life, 254 ; sends troops to 
attack the king s house, 255 ; 
reads the petition presented him 
by de Villelongue, 276 ; inter 
views him in disguise, 276, 277 ; 
he banishes the Kan of Tartary 
and the Pasha of Bender, 277 ; 
his farewell presents to Charles 
XII, 287 

Alberoni, Cardinal, his dealings in 
Spain, 319 ; sides with the 
Pretender, 325 

Altena, burnt by General Stein- 
bock, 282 ; terrible suffering of 
the inhabitants, 282, 283 
Altranstadt, peace concluded at, 


Anne, Queen of England, con- 
eludes treaty at the Hague, 203 ; 
her death, 293 

Augustus, Elector of Saxony and 
King of Poland, 17, 19, 20 ; con 
cludes treaty with Peter the 
Great against Sweden, 34 ; 
besieges Riga, 46 ; meeting with 
Peter the Great at Brizen, 58 ; 
intrigues against, by opposing 
parties, 70-72 ; forced to flee, 77 ; 
endeavours to collect troops, 78, 
79 ; his army defeated at 
Clissau, 81 ; at Pultask, 85 ; 
withdraws to Thorn, 85 ; is 
declared by the Assembly in 
capable of wearing the crown, 

90; his narrow escape of 1 icing 
captured, 91 ; advances on War 
saw, ioi ; victorious entry into, 
102 ; finally forced to retreat 
from Poland, 106 ; is sent for by 
Peter the Great to conference at 
Grodno, 113 ; arrests Patkul, 
ib. ; shut up in Cracow, the last 
town left him, 117; writes to 
Charles XII asking for peace, 
120 ; his victory over the Swedes, 
123 ; enters Warsaw in triumph, 
ib,\ accepts Charles XII s terms 
of peace, 124; his meeting with, 
at Gutersdorf, 124, 125 ; is forced 
to write a letter of congratulation 
to Stanislas, 125, 126; and to 
give up his prisoners, 126 ; 
returns to Poland after battle of 
Pultawa, 200 ; his embassy to 
the Sultan, 239 ; insists on 
Charles XII being sent away, 
241 ; his restoration to the Crown 
of Poland, 294 ; his people force 
him to submit to the Pacta 
Conventa, 294 

Azov, surrendered to the Porte, 
22 4 2 35 

Syria, made Grand Vizir, 210; 
has orders toattack the Russians, 
211 ; his answer to the Czar s 
letter suing for peace, 222, 233 ; 
his terms, 223, 224 ; concludes a 
treaty of peace with the Czar, 
224, 225 ; his efforts to force 
Charles XII to depart from 
Bender, 229, 230 ; cuts off the 
king s supplies, 231 ; Ponia- 
towski plots against him, 232 ; 
his lieutenant is executed and he 
himself exiled, 233 ; his death, 

Bender, Governor of, handsome 
reception of Charles XII by, 

Borysthenes, escape of Charles 
XII and his troops to, after 
Pultawa, 175, 176; troops 
drowned while attempting to 
cross, 177 




CALISH, victory at, 122, 123 ; 
Peter the Great s commemor 
ation of, 133 

Calmouks, their country, 154 ; de 
tachment of, in Russian army, 
Charles XII s narrow escape 
from, 154, 155 

Cantemir, Prince of Moldavia, 
forgets benefits received from 
the Porte, and makes treaty 
with the Czar, 216 

Catherine, wife of Peter the Great, 
her early history, 220-222 ; 
persuades the Czar to sue the 
Grand Vizir for peace, 222 

Charles XI abolishes the authority 
of the Senate, 10 ; his character, 
ib. ; his marriage, ib. ; death of 
his wife, 13 ; his cruelty to her 
and oppression of the people, 
ib. ; his death, ib. 

Charles XII, his birth, early edu 
cation, tastes and character, u, 
12 ; anecdotes of, 12 ; his acces 
sion, 13, 14 ; takes the reins of 
power into his own hands, 15, 
16 ; his coronation, 16, 17 ; 
sudden transformation of his 
character, 37, 38 ; begins war 
with Russia and its allies, 39 ; 
his skill and courage, 40, 41 ; 
his first success in arms, 43, 44 ; 
concludes the war with Den 
mark, 46 ; his victory at Narva 
over 80,000 Russians, 40-54 ; 
war vessels constructed by, 59 ; 
his artifice to hide his move 
ments, 59 ; defeats the Saxons 
and enters Birzen, 60, 61 ; his 
further successes against the 
King of Poland, 73 ; refuses to 
see the Countess of Konigs- 
marck, 75 ; receives the embassy 
of the Polish State, 76 ; arrives 
before Warsaw, 79 ; his inter 
view with Cardinal Radjouski, 
80 ; his victory at Clissau, 81 ; 
enters Cracow, 82 ; his accident 
and false report of his death, 
82 ; his success at Pultask, 85 ; 
his indifference to danger, 86 ; 
besieges Thorn, 89 ; resists 
temptation of seizing the throne 
of Poland, 92 ; offers it to 
Alexander Sobiesky, ib. ; re 
ceives Stanislas Leczinski and 
nominates him King of Poland, 
97, 98 ; takes Leopold by assault, 
ico ; joins Stanislas against 

Augustus, 103 ; his continual 
success, ib. ; his pursuit of 
Schtillemburg, 105, 106 ; his 
preparations for the coronation 
of Stanislas, 108 ; present in 
cognito at the ceremony, no; 
defeats Russian troops, 114, 115 ; 
massacres his prisoners, 117 ; 
enters Saxony, ib. , visits the 
field of Lutzen, 118 ; levies 
money and food from the 
Saxons, 118, 119; his method 
for enforcing good behaviour 
on his troops, and their severe 
discipline, 119 ; anecdote of, and 
soldier, 119, 120; his absolute 
rule in Saxony, 120 ; terms of 
peace offered by him to Augustus, 
121 ; his troops defeated by the 
Russians, 123 ; account of his 
interview with Augustus at 
Gutersdorf, 124, 125 ; his cruel 
sentence on Patkul, 127 ; re 
ceives ambassadors from all 
parts, 135 ; Duke of Marl- 
borough s interview with, 135- 
137 ; his determination to 
dethrone the Czar, 137, 138 ; 
his exorbitant demands on the 
Emperor of Germany, 138-140; 
sends officers to Asia and Egypt 
to report on their strength, 141 ; 
magnificence of his plans, ib. ; 
continues his hardy mode of 
life, ib. ; account of his visit to 
Augustus in Dresden, 142, 143 ; 
alarm of his officers, 143, 144 ; 
leaves Saxony to pursue the 
Czar, 147 ; receives Turkish 
ambassador, 148 ; starts in search 
of the Russians, 149 ; enters 
Grodno, ib. ; arrives at the 
river Berezine, 151 ; his strata 
gem, ib. ; leads his forces on 
foot and wins gloriously at 
Borysthenes, 152 ; his haughty 
answer to the Czar, 153 ; his 
narrow escape from detachment 
of Calmouks, 154, 155 ; leaves 
the Moscow road and turns 
south towards Ukrania, 156; 
his secret league with Mazeppa, 
158 ; terrible difficulties and 
hardships of his march, 159 ; 
Mazeppa reaches him with only 
a few men left, 160 ; is cut 
off from communication with 
Poland without provisions, 163 ; 
extreme cold destroys a part of 



his army, ib. ; miserable condi- 
tion of his soldiers, ib. ; anecdote 
of, 164; receives supplies from 
Mazeppa, 165; advances on 
Pultawa, 166 ; is wounded, 168 ; 
battle of Pultawa, 169-175 ; his 
retreat and escape, 175, 176; 
his dangerous condition, 176, 
177 5 . finally reaches the river 
Hippias, 181 ; his narrow escape 
from the Russians, 182 ; some 
of his troops captured, ib. ; 
handsomely received by the 
Commander of Bender, 183 ; 
his letter to Achmet III, 188 ; 
his journey across the desert to 
Bender, 190 ; his life and occu 
pation at, 102, iQ3 ; his anger 
and disappointment at his treat 
ment by the Porte, 194, 195 ; 
angrily rejects the Sultan s pre 
sent, 196 ; advice and money 
given him by new Grand Vizir, 
198 ; clings to the hope of 
rousing the Turks to declare 
war against Russia, 199 ; con 
trast of, with Peter the Great, 
201, 202 ; his numerous enemies, 
ib. ; starts to join the Vizir 
against the Russians, 218 ; his 
rage at finding the treaty 
between the Vizir and the Czar 
concluded, 225, 226 ; rides back 
to Bender in despair, 226 ; builds 
himself a large stone house at 
Bender, 229 ; Baltagi s efforts 
to force him to depart, 229, 230 ; 
the king agrees only on condi 
tion of the Vizir s punishment, 
231 ; his supplies cut off, ib. ; 
finds difficulty in borrowing 
money, 231, 232 ; petitions the 
Porte to send him home with 
large army, 235 ; letter from 
Achmet to, 235, 236 ; refuses 
to go without an army, 241 ; 
his courier seizes letter from 
General Fleming to the Tartars, 
242 ; the Sultan sends money 
and directions for his departure, 
244, 245 ; his letters to Sultan 
intercepted, 245 ; refuses to 
listen to reason or to move, 
250; his supplies cut off, ib. ; 
barricades his house, 251 ; pre 
pares for assault, 255; refuses 
all advice and offers of media 
tion, 253, 254, 257, 258; his 
courage, 260 ; defends his house 

with only forty followers against 
the Turkish forces, 261 ; his 
house set on fire by assailants, 
262 ; his coolness, 263 ; he and 
his followers make a sally, and 
are taken prisoners, 264 ; his 
reception by the Pasha, 265 ; 
his chancellor and officers made 
slaves, 268 ; retains his natural 
and gentle manner even in ca 
lamity, ib. ; is taken in a chariot 
to Adrianople, 260; his officers 
redeemed by Jeffreys and La 
Mottraye, ib. ; has a sword 
given him, ib, ; is angry at 
hearing of the abdication of 
Stanislas, 271 ; hears that Stan 
islas is a prisoner a few miles 
away, and sends Fabricius to 
him, 272 ; is removed to the 
castle of Demirtash, 278 ; is 
allowed to reside at Demotica, 
279 ; stays in bed for ten months, 
279, 280 ; hears of the wreck of 
his foreign dominions, 280 ; is 
taken ill, 284Jreceives dispatches 
from his sister, 285 ; sends arro 
gant message to the Senate in 
Sweden, ib. ; determines to 
leave and return home, ib. ; he 
borrows money to provide a 
Swedish Embassy to Constanti 
nople, 286; receives presents 
from the Sultan before leaving, 
287 ; his journey, 287, 288 ; pre 
parations made for his enter 
tainment in Germany, 289 ; 
disguises himself and with one 
officer rides for sixteen days till 
he reaches Stralsund, 291 ; the 
loss of his dominions, 294, 295 ; 
is besieged in Stralsund, 304- 
311 ; his escape, 311, 312 ; spends 
a day with his sister, 312 ; raises 
money and recruits, 312, 313 ; 
invades Norway, 313 ; advances 
to Christiania, 318 ; hears of 
Gortz and Gyllemburg being 
seized, 322; enters Norway again 
and besieges Fredericshall, 330; 
his soldiers die of cold, ib. , his 
extraordinary powers of endur 
ance and constitution, 330, 331 ; 
his death, 332 ; description of, 
334 ; his religious views, 335 ; 
his hat in which he was killed 
preserved at Stockholm, 337 
Charles Gustayus, invades Po 
land, 10 ; his conquests, ib. ; 



endeavours to establish abso 
lutism, ib. , his death, ib. 

Charlotte, wife of Stanislas, 
crowned Queen of Poland, no 

Chourlouli, Grand Vizir, breaks 
his promise of help to Charles 
XII, 194; Poniatowski plots 
against, 195 ; the Sultan s favour 
ite helps towards his downfall, 
198 ; is dismissed and banished, 

Christian II, King of Denmark, 
6 ; driven from Sweden by 
Gustavus Vasa, 8 

Christian III, King of Denmark, 
makes arrangement with his 
brother concerning the Duchies 
of Holstein and Sleswick, 18 

Christine, Queen of Sweden, her 
character, 9 ; her resignation, 9, 

Clement XI threatens excom 
munication to those who assist 
at coronation of Stanislas, 107 

Clergy forbidden by King of 
Sweden to take part in politics, 

Clissau, victory of Swedes at, 81 

Constantinople, its position as the 
centre of Christendom, 234 ; 
Swedish and Russian factions 
at, 234 ; bad policy of the Porte, 

Copenhagen, Charles XII s success 
at, 43, 44 

Coumourgi-Ali-Pasha, favourite 
of the Sultan, his history, 197 ; 
plots downfall of Grand Vizir, 
197, 198 ; secretly protects the 
Russian cause, 238, 239 ; his 
plans, 240 ; his intrigues, 277, 
278 ; made Grand Vizir, 284 

Cracow, Charles XII, entry of, 82 

Criminals, Turkish law concerning, 

DANES, attacked by Steinbock and 

his raw recruits, 207, 208 ; cut 

to pieces by, 208 
Dantzig, punishment of, by Charles 

XII s troops, 88 
Delecarlia sends deputation to 

Regency at Stockholm offering 

to go and rescue the king, 209 
Demotica, Charles XII s residence 

at, 27 8 Jr. 
Diet, held in Poland and Lithuania, 

description of, 64 ; duties of, 65 ; 

summoned to meet at Warsaw, 

70 ; factions in, 70, 71 ; breaks 
up in disorder, 73 ; assembled 
by Charles XII, 83 ; by Peter 
the Great at Leopold, and Lubin, 
132, 133 

Dresden, visit of Charles XII to 
Augustus at, 142, 143 

ED\VIGA EI.EANORA of Holstein, 

wife of Charles X, her regency, 


Elbing, entered by Charles XI I, 89 
England, her neutral pose, 234 ; 

secretly favours the Czar, ib. ; 

alliance of, with the Porte, 234, 

2 35 
Europe, state of, at the period of 

Charles XII s return to his 

country, 292^". 

FABRICIUS, envoy of Holstein, 251; 
is persuaded of the integrity of 
the Kan and the Pasha, 252 ; is 
anxious to mediate for Charles 
XII, but king receives him 
coldly, 253 ; he makes a last 
effort to save the king, 254 ; is 
overcome at seeing the king a 
prisoner and with rent clothes, 
268 ; undertakes to ransom the 
prisoners, 269 

Ferdinand IV, King of Denmark, 
17 ; attacked and defeated by 
Charles XII, 40-46 ; treaty with, 

S , 87 ; renews his claim to 
olstein, 202 

Fleming, General, minister of 
King Augustus, his correspond 
ence with the Kan of Tartary, 
242 ; letter of his seized by 
Charles XII s courier, 242 

Frauenstadt, battle of, 115, 116 

Frederic, Prince of Hesse-Cassel, 
Charles XII marries his sister 
to, 301; accompanies his brother- 
in-law in his expedition into 
Norway, 314 

Fredericshall, besieged by Charles 
XII, 330; death of king at, 332; 
the siege raised, 336 

French, regiment of, taken pri 
soners by Saxon troops, 116 ; 
enter service of King of Sweden, 
117 ; further notice of, 331 

GERMANY, its position at the be 
ginning of i8th century, 203 ; 
Princes of, conclude treaty of 
the Hague, ib* 



Gortz, Baron, Charles XII s pre 
mier, great scheme of, 314, 316; 
the Czar approves of it, 317 ; 
sends secretly to interview 
representatives of Pretender s 
party, 320; his intrigues dis 
covered, and is arrested at the 
Hague, 321, 322 ; is set at 
liberty, 325 ; his efforts to effect 
a peace between the Czar and 
Charles XII, 326; hatred of 
Swedes towards, 327, 328; seized 
after the king s death and be 
headed, 336, 337 

Grodno, conference between Peter 
the Great and Augustus at, 113 ; 
result of, ib. ; Charles XII enters 
town in pursuit of Czar, 149 

Grothusen, Charles XII s treas 
urer, gets possession by false 
assurances of the money sent 
by the Sultan, 246 ; goes out 
alone to address the janissaries 
sent to take the King of Sweden, 
256 ; is taken prisoner and ran 
somed by the Pasha, 269 ; ac 
companies the king to Adrian- 
ople, 269; with him at Demotica, 
280 ; sent as ambassador extra 
ordinary to the Sultan, 286 ; fails 
to borrow money from the Porte, 
ib. ; killed at siege of Stralsund, 

Gustavus Adolphus, his conquests, 
8, 9 ; his death, 9 

Gustavus Vasa, 7 ; his deliverance 
of Sweden from King Christian 
and the bishops, 8 j introduces 
Lutheranism, ib. ; his death, ib. 

Gyllemburg, Count, Swedish am 
bassador, conspires with Baron 
Gortz, and is arrested in London, 
320, 322 ; set at liberty, 325 

HAGUE, the, treaty of, 203 

Holland, States of, conclude treaty 
of the Hague, 203 ; neutral pose 
of, 234 ; secretly support the 
Czar, ib. ; alliance of, with the 
Porte, 234, 235 

Holstein, Duchess of, sister of 
Charles XII, dies of smallpox, 

Holstein, Duchy of, 18; its strug 
gle with Denmark, 18, 19 ; cause 
of,supported by Charles XII, 46; 
renewed claim of Denmark to, 

IBRAHIM MOLLA, elected Grand 
Vizir, 379; his history, ib.; plans 
to make war with the Russians, 
ib. ; is pressed to death between 
two doors, 284 

Ishmael, Pasha of Bender, sent to 
acquaint King of Sweden with 
the Sultan s resolve that he must 
quit his territories, 241 ; re 
ceives letter and money from the 
Sultan enforcing his orders, 244 ; 
his fear and trouble on finding 
Grothusen had deceived him, 
247 ; his further interview with 

grace before the janissaries as 
sault the king s house, 257 ; 
offers prize to those who can 
take the king, 260 ; he and the 
Kan fire the king s house, 262 ; 
the king is carried prisoner to 
his quarters, 264 ; his reception 
of the king, 265, 266 ; gener 
ously ransoms Grothusen and 
Colonel Ribbins, 269 ; is ac 
cused by De Villelongue and 
banished by the Sultan, 276, 277 

JANISSARIES, their mode of attack, 

Jeffreys, English envoy, en 
deavours to mediate between 
the King of Sweden and the 
Turks, 251, 253 ; helps the king 
with money, 269 ; with assist 
ance of La Mottraye redeems 
the Swedish officers, 269 

Joseph, Emperor of German) , 
accedes to Charles XII s exorbi 
tant demands, 138-140; signs 
treaty in favour of Silesian 
Lutherans, 140 

Joseph, succeeds Baltagi as Grand 
Vizir, his early history, 233 ; 
the creature of Ali-Coumourgi, 
233 ; countersigns the Peace of 
Pruth, 234 ; is accused by De 
Villelongue to the Sultan and 
deposed, 276, 277 

KAN of Tartary, his dependence 
on the Porte, 212, 213 ; his 
opposition to the treaty _ be 
tween the Turks and Russians, 
224 ; corresponds with the 
minister of King Augustus, 
242 ; swears treacherously that 



lie will be responsible for Charles 
XII s safe conduct, 251 ; his 
anxiety to commence the assault 
on the king s house, 256 ; fires 
the king s house, 262 ; is ac 
cused by De Villelongue to the 
Sultan and banished, 276, 277 

Konigsmarck, Countess of, sent to 
negotiate with Charles XII, 74 ; 
the king refuses to see her, 75 

Kuze-Slerp, his brave defence of 
Usedom, 302-304 

LECZINSKI. See Stanislas 
Leopold, taken by assault by 
Charles XII, 100 ; Diet at, 
T 3 2 > X 33 

Levenhaupt, Count, Charles XII s 
general in Russia, 147, 158 ; his 
victory over the Russians, 160- 
161 ; is pursued by the enemy, 
161 ; disputes the victory for 
three days against odds, 162, 
163 ; reaches the king without 
provisions, 163 ; at Pultawa, 
171, 175 ; reaches the Bory- 
sthenes, 176 ; surrenders with 
remainder of troops, 178 ; in 
sion of 

triumphal processi 



Lithuania, two parties in, 69, 70 
Livonia, its struggle for independ 

ence, 20, 21 
Louis XIV, league against, 203 ; 

carries on war after Charles 

XII s defeat, 203 

Queen of Denmark and Nor 
way, 6 

Maryborough, Duke of, interview 
with Charles XII, 135-7 

Mazeppa, tale of, 157 ; made 
Prince of Ukrania, ib. ; plans 
a revolt, 157, 158 ; his secret 
league with Charles XII, 158 ; 
his loans and treasures taken 
and plundered, 160 ; reaches 
Charles XII as a fugitive, ib. ; 
furnishes the king with neces 
saries of life, 165 ; refuses the 
Czar s offers, 165, 166 ; escapes 
with Charles XII after Pultawa, 
177 ; his death, 194 

Menzikoff, Prince, defeats the 
Swedes under General Meyer- 
feld, 123 ; at battle of Pultawa, 
169-175 J comes up with the 
Swedes at the Borysthenes, 177, 

178 ; the Swedish force sur 
renders to him, 178 

Moldavians side with the Turks 
against their prince, 217 

Moscow, Peter the Great s tri 
umphal entry into, 204-206 

NARVA, besieged by Peter the 
Great, 48 ; great battle of, 
49-54 ; taken by assault by 
Peter the Great, no; barbarity 
of Russian soldiers at, in 

Numan Couprougli, Grand Vizir, 
his incorruptible honesty, 198 ; 
his advice to Charles XII, ib. ; 
turned out of office, 209 ; his 
answer to Achmet, 210 ; retires 
to Negropont, ib. 

OGINSKI, head of one of the rival 
factions in Lithuania, 69, 133 

Ottoman Porte, state of, 188; 
influence of the Czar at, 193, 

PAIKEL, Livonian officer, en 
deavours to save his life by 
disclosing the secret for manu 
facturing gold, 129 

Patkul, General, joins the Russian 
side, 113 ; Czar s ambassador in 
Sweden, ib. ; arrested by order 
of Augustus, ib. ; Charles XII 
insists on his release, 126 ; his 
terrible end, 127, 128 

Peter the Great, 17, 18 ; his con 
quests, 21 ; his education and 
early life, 24, 25 ; his reforms, 
26-29 ; builds St. Petersburg, 
32 ; his barbarity, 32, 33 ; con 
cludes treaty with King of 
Poland against Sweden, 34 ; 
his defeat at Narva, 49-54 ; 
meeting and further treaty with 
King of Poland, 58 ; takes 
Narva by assault, no; checks 
the outrages of his soldiers, 
in ; lays the foundations of 
St. Petersburg, ib. ; invites Au 
gustus to conference at Grodno, 
113 ; departs suddenly to check 
an insurrection, ib. ; his troops 
dispersed by Charles XII and 
Stanislas, 114, 115 ; his troops 
victorious over the Swedes, 123 ; 
his anger at and revenge of the 
execution of his ambassador, 
130-132 ; enters Poland with 
over 60,000 men. 132 ; his 



desolation of, 134 ; withdraws 
into Lithuania, ib. ; flies at the 
approach of Charles XII, 149 ; 
leaves Grodno by one gate as 
Charles enters at another, ib. ; 
is driven from the Berezine, 
151 ; defeated at Borysthenes, 
152 ; sees his country deso 
lated and makes proposals to 
Charles XII, 153; the king s 
haughty answer, ib. ; his de 
feat by the Swedes under 
Levenhaupt, 161 ; pursues the 
enemy and brings them to a 
stand, ib. ; after three days 
righting his superior forces gain 
the upper hand, 162 ; at Pultawa, 
169-175 ; his elation at his suc 
cess, 170, 180; his admiration 
of the Swedish generals, 180 ; 
cruelty to the Cossack prisoners, 
181 ; makes use of his victory 
to seize other places and sends 
troops to Poland. 201 ; contrast 
of, with Charles XII, 201, 
202 ; agrees to treaty of the 
Hague, 203 ; triumphal entry 
into Moscow, 204-206; hears of 
Turkish preparations against 
him, 215 ; makes a treaty with 
Prince Cantemir and marches 
into Moldavia, 216 ; finds him 
self without provisions, 217 ; is 
driven back on Pruth, 218 ; his 
difficult position, 219 ; deter 
mines to attack the Turks, 
destroying all that might serve 
as booty to the enemy, ib. , is 
induced by the Czarina to sue 
for peace, 222 ; concludes treaty 
with Grand Vizir, 224, 225 ; 
fails to fulfil his promises, 232 ; 
Sultan declares war against, 
239 ; peace again concluded, 
241 ; insists on Charles XII 
being sent away, ib. , gains 
control of the Baltic, 296 ; his 
victory over the Swedish fleet, 
297 ; triumphal entry into St. 
Petersburg, ib. , supports Baron 
Gortz s scheme, 317 ; his be 
haviour on hearing of Gortz s 
arrest, 323 ; his proposal of 
alliance to the Regent of France, 
ib. ; his daughter asked in 
marriage for the Pretender, 325 
Piper, Count, prime minister of 
Charles XII, 15, 16, 17, 41, 43, 
72, 80; advises Charles XII to 

take the crown of Poland, 91,92 ; 
negotiates with the plenipotenti 
aries of Augustus, 121 ; question 
as to whether he received money 
from the Duke of Marlbprough, 
Z 37) J 38 5 receives Turkish am 
bassador, 148; at Pultawa, 169, 
173 ; his imprisonment at St. 
Petersburg and death, 179 ; in 
Peter the Great s triumphal 
procession, 205 

Pirates, send to Charles XII to 
make terms with them, 318, 319 
Poland, government and general 
condition of, 62-67 ; torn by con 
flicting parties, 70-74 ; embassy 
sent by, to Charles XII, 76 ; 
throne of, declared vacant, 90 ; 
crown of, offered to Alexander 
Sobiesky, 92 ; Stanislas Lee- 
zinski elected and crowned king, 
99, 109 ; invaded by Peter the 
Great, 132 ; two kings and two 
primates in, ib. , insurrection in, 
after battle of Pultawa, 200 ; 
Augustus returns to, as king, ib. \ 
miserable condition of, 134 ; the 
people s fear of arbitrary power, 
294 ; force Augustus to submit 
to the Pacta Conventa, ib. , the 
Czar makes himself master in, 

Pomerania, battles in, 280 

Poniatowski, General, 174, 177; his 
designs at Constantinople, 189, 
193 ; draws up indictment against 
the Grand Vizir and presents it 
to the Sultan, 195, 196 ; plots 
against the Grand Vizir, 196 ; 
negotiates with new Grand 
Vizir, 199 ; attempts to poison 
him, ib. ; in Grand Vizir s army 
against the Russians, 218; op 
poses the treaty of peace, 224 ; 
sends letter to Sultan accusing 
the Grand Vizir, 232 ; sends 
letter of advice to Charles XII, 
258 ; at siege of Stralsund, 

Posnania, Bishop of, handed over 
to papal legate, 102 ; carried to 
Saxony, and dies, 103 

Pretender, the, James II s son, 
plots for placing him on the 
throne, 317, 319, 320, 325 

Prussia, the first king of, league 
proposed by, to secure peace and 
the restoration of Charles XII, 



Pruth, Peace of, 225, 234 ; Sultan s 

anger at infraction of, 239 
Pultawa, great battle of, 169-175 ; 

RADJOUSKI, Cardinal, his intri 
gues, 70, 71 ; opposes the king in 
the Diet, 76 ; his manifesto, 77 ; 
flees from Warsaw, ib. ; his 
interview with Charles XII, 80 ; 
takes his oath of fealty to the 
latter, 83 ; throws off his mask 
and declares Augustus incapable 
of wearing the crown of Poland, 
90 ; unable to oppose the election 
of Stanislas, 99 ; finds legitimate 
excuse for not consecrating him, 
109 ; his death, ib. 

Renschild, General under Charles 
XII, 41 ; defeats Schullemburg 
at Frauenstadt, 115, 116; with 
Stanislas in Poland, 134 ; remark 
on the Council at Dresden, 144 ; 
at Pultawa, 169, 172 ; taken 
prisoner, 173 ; conversation with 
the Czar, 180 ; in triumphal 
procession of the Czar, 205 

Riga, besieged by the King of 
Poland, 46 

Rome, Court of, its policy, 102, 
107; Charles XII "s disgust with, 

Russian prisoners massacred by 
Charles XI I and Stanislas, 117 

Ryswick, peace of, 14 

of. by Peter the Great, in, 112 

Sapieha, Princess, head of one of 
the rival factions in Lithuania, 
69 133 

Saxony, entered by Charles XII, 
117; tax levied on, 118 ; his 
method for protecting the in 
habitants from the ill-conduct 
of his soldiers, 118, 119 ; his 
absolute rule over, 120 

Schullemburg, Count, in command 
of Augustus s troops, 104 ; his 
plan of formation in battle, 104, 
105 ; he saves his army, 106 ; 
statue erected to him by 
Venetian Republic, 106 ; his 
defeat by General Renschild at 
Frauenstadt, 115. 116 

Silesia, Charles XII demands 
restitution of privileges to its 
Protestant subjects, 139, 140 

Siniawski, Grand General, his 
ambition, 134 ; heads a third 

party against Augustus and 
Stanislas, 134, 135 ; joins party 
of Augustus, 200 

Sobiesky, Alexander, refuses 
crown of Poland, 92, 93 

Sobiesky, Jacques, partisans of, 
70, 72 ; earned off by Saxon 
soldiers, oo 

Stade, bombarded and burnt by 
the Danes, 280 ; General Stein- 
bock s revenge, 283 

Stanislas Leczinski, appointed 
deputy to Charles XII by 
assembly at Warsaw, 97 ; his 
character, 98, nominated King 
of Poland, ib. ; finally elected, 
99 ; attacked in Warsaw, ici ; 
joined by Charles XII, 103 ; his 
victory over Augustus, 106 ; his 
coronation, 109 ; Poland entered 
by Peter the Great during his 
absence, 132 ; his return to, and 
popularity, 134 ; Pope releases 
the people from their oath of 
allegiance to, 200 ; agrees to 
treaty of the Hague, 203 ; taken 
prisoner in the Turkish do 
minions and carried to Bender, 
269 ; his efforts on behalf of 
Charles XII, 270; willingly 
abdicates the throne of Poland 
for the public good, 270 ; dis 
guises himself and tries to 
reach the King of Sweden, 

271 ; is taken and well treated, 

272 ; Fabricius allowed to bring 
him a message from Charles 
XII, 272 ; Pasha sends him 
an Arabian horse, 273 ; Sultan 
finally releases him, ib. ; 
Charles XII assigns him the 
revenue of the Duchy of Deux 
Ponts, 288 ; retires to Weissem- 
burg, 289 

Steinbock, General, heads an army, 
chiefly composed of raw recruits, 
to pursue the Danes, 207 ; cuts 
the enemy to pieces, 208 ; defends 
Pomerama, 280; his victory 
over the Danes and Saxons at 
Gadebesck, 280, 281 ; he burns 
Altena, 282 ; his answer to 
complaints of his cruelty, 283 ; 
loses his army and is taken 
prisoner, 284 

Stralsund, siege of, 304-311 
Sweden, its climate, 3 ; its fauna, 
4 ; its soil, 5 ; its ancient con 
stitution, 5, 6; conquered by 


Margaret of Valdemar, 6 ; its 
later history,^. ; treaty of Russia, 
Denmark and Poland against, 
34 5 >ts government by a Re 
gency during Charles XI I s ah- 
sence, 206 ; loses all her foreign 
possessions, 295, 298 ; scarcity of 
male population in, 298 ; people 
heavily taxed, 313 ; their readi- 
ness to help the king, ib. 
Swedes, their stature and endur 
ance, 4; fate of those taken 
prisoners at Pultawa, 17 8, 179; 
sold as slaves at Constantinople 
194.; their love of war and of 
their king, 207 ; their inveterate 
hatred of the Danes, 208 ; thou 
sands made slaves, 298 

TARTARS, description of, 213 ; their 

extreme hospitality, 213, 214; 

receive no pay in war but their 

booty, 214 
Tartary. See Kan 
Thorn, King of Poland, retires to, 

85 ; siege of, by Charles XII, 

Turkish troops, description of, 214 

Turks, embassy from, to Charles 

XII, 148 ; present the king with 

one hundred Swedish soldiers 

who had been redeemed by the 

Grand Master, 148 


Ulrica Eleanora, Princess, sister 
of Charles XII, asked to take 
the Regency in Sweden, 285; 
refuses to make peace with Den 
mark and resigns, ib.; sends ac 
count of affairs to her brother, 

U t ed T T^ aken from the Swed e* 
by the Prussians, 303 

VALIDA, Sultana, favours Swedish 
cause, 2ii 

Villelongue, Monsieur de, his bold 
action on behalf of Charles XII, 
274 ; presents petition to the 
Sultan at the risk of his life, 275, 
276 ; has interview with Sultan, 
W.; is released, 277; taken 
prisoner at siege of Stralsund, 

WARSAW, Charles XII appears 
before, 79 ; battle near, 81 ; Au 
gustus enters it as a victorious 
sovereign, 102; coronation of 
Stanislas in, 109 ; entered in 
triumph by Augustus, 123 

Winter of 1709, memorable, 163 ; 
Charles XII loses 2,000 men on 
one march, ib. 

Wirtemberg, Prince, taken pris 
oner at Pultawa, 173 

, its need of a protector 
in one of the surrounding States, 
156 ; seeks protection from 
Poland, ib.; from Russia, 156. 

if a protector ZAPOKAVIANS, description of, 166 
ndmg States, Zobpr, Count, Emperor s chamber- 

wtinn ft. J,^ },{. quarre ( w j th Swedish 

ambassador and its results, 138-