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The struggle between Denmark and Sweden under Charles X left abiding marks upon the national life of both adversaries. While in Sweden, as has been shown in an earlier chapter, the Regents were negotiating a general peace of the north, the Danish Estates assembled at Copenhagen to repair the ruin wrought by war (September, 1660). So terrible had been its disasters that a great part of Denmark lay waste, and the Crown was compelled to repudiate part of its debt and to sell one-half of its vast estates to pay the remainder. The clergy and burghers, uniting in a new feeling of enthusiasm for the King who had heroically defended his capital, were more bitter than ever against the nobles, to whose selfishness they might well ascribe the devastated and defenceless state of the country, the triumphant establishment of the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and the loss of many provinces by both Denmark and Norway beyond the Sound. That some five or six hundred families should monopolise the chief places in Church and State, own half the soil of Denmark, enjoy freedom from taxation, and evade the burden of national defence, was a political situation which, after the heroism of the King and of the capital, men could not but regard as anomalous. It remained to be seen whether there existed in Denmark any force capable of effecting a reform.

Frederick III had already manifested his consciousness of augmented influence. He had rided with the aid of secret advisers, kept great offices vacant, left seats in the Council unfilled, departed from its recommendations, and, in defiance of the nobles and of the Peace of Roeskilde, laid hands upon his treacherous former Minister and favourite, Count Korfits Ulfeld. Oligarchical rule, however, still appeared to flourish; and in Denmark, as in Sweden, the Rigsraad, or permanent Council, was an organ of the nobility. The monarchy and the people, alike enfeebled by the long ascendancy of the nobles, had not learned to act in concert. Of the lower Estates, moreover, some enjoyed privileges of their own which formed a bar to common action. As to freedom from taxation, the Bishops the capital, and Kristianshavn ranked as nobles. It is therefore probable that, although the King’s power had been increased by the War, although he was ready to strike, and although popular leaders were not wanting who would support him against the nobles, some patriotic self-sacrifice on the part of the First Estate might yet have averted revolution.

At the Diet, however, which had been summoned to sanction a complete change in the national system of taxation, the members of this Estate showed that they had learned nothing. In place of the old direct taxes, the Government proposed a wide system of indirect taxes on commodities in daily use, together with duties on certain movables and contracts. The nobles at once claimed exemption for themselves and their villeins; and to the former demand they clung firmly during heated negotiations between the several Estates. It therefore became possible for the leaders of the clergy and burghers, Hans Svane, the Bishop, of Zealand, and Hans Nansen, the Burgomaster of Copenhagen, to strike a great blow for the monarchy and for the nation. By inducing the Bishops and citizens to lay down their privileges, on condition that the nobles and university did the same, they confronted the Rigsraad and nobles as a solid Opposition, which advanced a far-reaching claim of equality before the law. At the end of September the oligarchical party capitulated. The struggle had, however, demonstrated afresh both the selfishness and the weakness of the caste lampooned as “hares and wasters of the realm.” With an ambitious Queen by his side, and Hans Svane and Hans Nansen as his allies, Frederick deter­mined to follow up his advantage with a coup d'état.

A bloodless campaign of six days, October 8-13, 1660, sufficed to give to the feeble monarchy the prospect of becoming the most absolute in Europe. On October 8, after much secret preparation, the clergy and burghers resolved to pffer Denmark to Frederick III as a hereditary kingdom, and called upon the nobles to concur in a joint resolution of the Rigsraad. On the 10th, after some stormy scenes, the First Estate refused and prepared to quit the Diet. Thereupon, the Opposition turned to the King. Frederick was a student and an alchemist rather than a leader of men, and at this crisis many conflicting influences were at work upon his mind. At last, relying on the army and on the citizens of Copenhagen, which was placed in a state of siege, he resolved to break the resistance of the aristocracy by armed force. The threat sufficed; and, on October 13, Denmark became in due form of law a monarchy hereditary in both the male and the female line of the reigning House.

The establishment of hereditary monarchy was neither in letter nor in spirit the establishment of absolutism. Both the instrument which was signed by the priests and burghers and the formal letter in which the Rigsraad declared its unanimous agreement with them provided that the privileges of all men should be maintained. The invaluable alliance of Copenhagen had in great part been inspired by ambition for civic privilege. Neither the Rigsraad nor the Estates dreamed of putting a period to their own existence. From the morrow of the King’s triumph until his death in 1670, however, the history of Denmark is that of her transformation into an absolutist State. The Charter, by the grant of which according to custom Frederick had purchased the dwindling remnants of royal power, was now surrendered to him in return for a mere promise to rule as a Christian king to the satisfaction of every Estate. Within a week, the existence of the Rigsraad as an independent power had come to an end. Before the end of the year, the Estates had quitted Copenhagen, with no security for their privileges save the royal word. In January, 1661, a document was drawn up for general signature, in which the subscribers made an unconditional declaration that they had solemnly committed to the royal line absolute rule over Denmark and Norway. The pretensions of the King and the ostentation of the Queen greiw unceasingly. Five years after the revolution the quintessence of autocracy was formulated in the Kongelov (King’s Law), which remained a royal secret until after Frederick’s death.

Meanwhile, both in Denmark and in Norway, absolutism was taking the customary means for preserving itself. Those who, like Ulfeld, might imperil the dynasty were punished with a violence bom of panic. After a generation of frequent and disastrous wars, foreign policy was directed towards the preservation of peace. Frederick sought a good understanding with Gottorp and an alliance with France, which might give him security against both Gottorp and Sweden. A new administration was built up, for which talent and royalism were necessary qualifications, and which was no longer the exclusive property of the nobles. Many high offices, both civil and military, were filled by Germans. The Rigsraad received the name of Royal Council and became a Court of law. After the Swedish fashion, Colleges or Departments of State were established, and the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway were divided into districts each governed by a sheriff with a fixed salary. The central Government showed itself active, but always paternal. Essaying no social revolution, it left the nobles opulent and the commons depressed. The former soon accepted the autocracy, and the latter did not repudiate their royal ally. Offices were now open without distinction of birth; and Copenhagen, though baulked of its high ambitions, added to its prvileges and doubled its population. Norway, too, gained in independence and privilege, though falling short of the height of her desires.

During the later years of Frederick III the Government was profoundly influenced by one of the few brilliant statesmen to whom Denmark has yet given birth. Peter Schumacher, a cosmopolitan young citizen of Copenhagen, an eye-witness of the English Restoration and of the dawning autocracy of Louis XIV, entered Frederick’s service in 1663. His ability soon gave him great influence over his master and all others with whom he came in contact. It was he who, in November, 1665, expressed in the Kongelov the autocratic ideals of the King, and who became the custodian of a document which might by its absolutism have displeased the people, and which by its rules for the succession would certainly have displeased the Queen. When, in February, 1670, Frederick III was succeeded by his son Christian V, Schumacher soon displaced the German Minister Christopher Gabel and became the real ruler of the State. A disciple of Hobbes, he inspired and facilitated the wider development of autocratic power. The Kongelov was published, and its author received a grant of arms and the title of Count of Griffenfeld—a name which Louis XIV declared to be that of one of the world’s greatest Ministers. Under Griffenfeld’s influence there was established a new high nobility, in which he himself accepted a place, a new order of merit, that of the Dannebrog, a new system of titles, and a new aristocracy of service. At the same time, under the impetus given by Griffenfeld and by his friend Ulrik Frederik Gyldenlove, a son of Frederick III, the Government showed great activity at home. The finances were reformed, provision made for trade and industry, immigration facilitated, and the army reorganised so as to increase its Danish constituents and diminish the foreign. The navy became one of the largest in Europe, and Kort Adeler, the Norwegian naval hero who created it anew, found an apt pupil in Niels Juel, who was named Admiral at twenty-eight. At the same time, the administration both central and provincial was systematised, and a new Privy Council of seven members was established at its head. In Norway, under Gyldenlove, the action of Government was equally vigorous. The seat, of power remained at Copenhagen; but in administration, defence, and material well-being the land made progress during the years of peace.

The prime object of Griffenfeld always was to secure power both for himself and for his country by keeping the peace. In 1673 he became Grand Chancellor and thenceforward devoted himself to the foreign policy of the State. Here, for a few years, his adroitness in dealing with the manifold difficulties of the time called forth universal admiration. He restored the prestige of his country, gained subsidies without fighting, and maintained peace with both Gottorp and Sweden, the apparently irreconcilable foes of Denmark. He was wise enough to see that the secular enmity between the Scandinavian nations was injurious and unnecessary* In many respects, however, he played the part of Wolsey to his master. Christian V, who much resembled his grandfather Christian IV, was a shallow and dissolute, but popular and vigorous, young soldier, who was burning to win back the lost provinces with the sword. In 1675, as will presently be shown, he seized the opportunity of fulfilling his engagements to the opponents of France and at the same time assailing Sweden. The enterprise prospered; and in the following year Griffenfeld was sacrificed by the autocracy which he had helped to rear. From 1675 to 1679 the so-called War of Scania raged between Denmark and her Scandinavian neighbour, whose fortunes during fourteen years of peace may now be traced.


In 1661, when Sweden made peace at Kardis with Russia, the last and most obstinate of her foes, it became clear how vast was the advance which she had made in fifty years. When Gustavus Adolphus ascended the throne, it had just been demonstrated by war that her power was less than that of Denmark. Charles X, on the other hand, had treated Denmark as insolently as Napoleon treated Spain. With the exception of Norway, always separated from her neighbour by a broad belt of desolation, the Swedes were masters of the vast Scandinavian peninsula. Towards the south, in Pomerania and Bremen-Verden, they had secured large outworks beyond the sea, and had thus become a formidable constituent of the Empire, with the estuaries of two great German rivers in their grasp. In the east, not only did they hold provinces enough to prevent Russia from launching a boat upon the Baltic without their leave, but they had compelled Poland to renounce her claim to much that she had regarded as rightly hers. By half a century of warfare Sweden had thus acquired the unquestionable primacy of the north.

This imposing empire, however, was reared upon a foundation whose fissures were open to every man’s view. A political structure so heterogeneous bristled with problems, national and international. The international dangers of Sweden, indeed, began on her own side of the sea. Norway, which successive Swedish warrior-kings strove in vain to conquer, still menaced Sweden’s flank. Yet more ominous, as events were soon to prove, was the fact that the fertile lowlands of the south, which had lately been wrested from Denmark, had not ceased to look across the Sound for their overlord. In Norway and in Scania, therefore, Denmark possessed two dangerous auxiliaries for the war of revenge which might naturally follow upon a turn such as in 1660 had been given to a struggle more ancient than the Vasa line. That she would watch her opportunity, was, moreover, rendered yet more probable by the connexion—still represented in the person of Hedwig Eleonora, the consort of Charles X—between Sweden and the House of Holstein-Gottorp, whose interests seemed irreconcilable with those of the Danish dynasty. There were other reasons which made Sweden suspect her neighbour. Her German possessions, Bremen and Verden on the one hand, and western Pomerania on the other, might well appear to Frederick III, as they had appeared to Axel Oxenstierna, in the light of so many parallels advanced against Denmark. The peace of Scandinavia, it was clear, had not been assured in 1660; yet for her discord meant weakness. So long as Sweden and Denmark remained consistently hostile, foreign nations would never fail to play off the one against the other, and Sweden could never obtain that naval supremacy which was the first essential of a Baltic empire.

In the wider sphere of Europe, Sweden occupied a position of greater insecurity than in Scandinavia. Her outworks in Germany, for which she had striven so long, afforded her some security, but at the cost of some danger. With the city of Bremen she had already had one armed conflict, and was soon (in 1666) to enter on another. Her lands between Weser and Elbe were standing provocations to several German Princes, while those to the west of the Oder challenged others, of whom the Great Elector was the chief. The dominion of an alien race in one part of Germany affronted the whole Germanic body, and by binding the Swedes to the House of Habsburg aggravated the difficulties of their international position. In an age of rivalry between France, her old ally, and the Emperor, it was a serious matter for Sweden that she had now become a German Power. So far as Poland was concerned, it seemed as though the quarrel which had endured for two generations had been settled at Oliva. But the Baltic Provinces, inhabited inland by a turbulent native nobility and a population of serfs, offered difficulties of their own. Peace with the Tsar, moreover, could never be deemed safe so long as the Swedish empire was flung right across the path of Russian national aspiration; and for some years it was anticipated that the treaty which had cost so much labour at Kardis would be broken. To hold the gates of Russia was, moreover, to hazard conflict with the Maritime Powers; while the Dutch were particularly sensitive to the efforts of Sweden to transfer her commerce into the hands of her own subjects. 

The dangers of Sweden’s international position, however, might well be deemed less formidable and less acute than those which menaced her nearer home. Many of her potential enemies might be foiled by diplomacy, or embroiled with each other, or even be forced at the end of a successful war to make further sacrifices to Sweden. But the social and economic diseases which were afflicting the body politic would yield only to treatment which must be perilous and which might be fatal. The Swedish State was young, and its constitution could not yet be deemed mature. Though raised to greatness and in a measure ordered and organised by Gustavus Adolphus and Oxenstierna, its basis was changing before its structure had been firmly built. The Church still asserted great independence of the State. The nobles still maintained that no law could survive their veto. Charles XI, a sickly child, formed the sole barrier against a disputed succession. The testament of his father, Charles X, provided for a regency; but, at the risk of civil war, the will was so far set aside that Adolphus John, the brother of the late King, was excluded from all share in the Government. For twelve years, until the King’s majority (December, 1672), Sweden had to endure an administration which possessed ill-defined powers, was uncertain as to the division of power between the Regents and the Council, and was compelled to submit to the uncertain interference of Estates which were themselves engaged in an internecine struggle. The approach of Queen Christina, who more than once showed a disposition to resume her Crown, sufficed to throw both Church and State into a panic.

In its dissensions and uncertainty, moreover, the administration did but reflect society in Sweden. Now, as under Christina, peace brought out the national defects. War, it has often been asserted, was at this time the most lucrative industry of Sweden. It is untrue, indeed, that in any given year the State had drawn pecuniary profit from her campaigns. Individual soldiers, such as the Wrangels, had grown rich; but the peasants and the Treasury looked to peace for financial salvation. It is none the less true that the sole national enterprise in which Sweden excelled was war, and that peace soon made it apparent that the moral fibre of the nation had softened. Many of the nobles had become luxurious, arrogant, and rapacious. Jealous of every vestige of wealth and power in non-noble hands, they quarrelled among themselves about precedence with a violence that made every festival a likely occasion for strife. Industry and commerce, inchoate in almost everything except furniture of war, but feebly adjusted themselves to the changed conditions. There was hardly a section of the population without a long list of grievances against every other section. And, when the levies of Charles X were disbanded, the homesteads which should have supported them in time of peace were found too often to have been alienated to private persons by the Crown.

The decay of the political structure designed to sustain the army formed but part of the formidable problem with which the Regency was confronted. Despite her imposing empire and the pomp of a few great nobles, Sweden remained one of the poorest and least populous countries of Europe. Her exchequer was empty. Her bank was tottering. Her civil service had long remained unpaid. To meet the most pressing claims of the army, disbanded in 1660, the Councillors were obliged to pledge their private credit, while the sum of 30,000 dollars for the English sailors was raised by pawning the cannon from the fleet. The National Debt approached 10,500,000 dollars, at a time when Crown lands to the annual value of some millions had passed into the hands of the nobles.

The Regency of five great Officers of State under the nominal presidency of the Queen Dowager, which took the reins after a sharp conflict between the noble and the non-noble Estates, contained no states­man of commanding genius. The youthful Queen Hedwig Eleonora was a dilettante rather than a politician. But in the aged and unbending aristocrat Per Brahe, who had sat in the Council since the days of Gustavus Adolphus, the Regents possessed a Steward worthy alike of the honoured name which he bore and of the almost regal patrimony which had long prospered under his paternal hand. The Treasurer, the taciturn but efficient Gustaf Bonde, proved himself likewise a stubborn patriot, and his budget of 1662 came to be regarded as a pattern from which it was almost treason to depart. Brahe and Bonde, with three colleagues, formed the Regency which gave Sweden peace with all her enemies, arrived at a settled plan of government, exerted itself for the advancement of trade and justice, and met the Diet of 1664 with a record of four years’ active and equitable administration.

Although the administration of the Regency in its early years is entitled to fair credit, yet signs were not wanting that the kingdom lacked a king. The Regents owed at least a nominal responsibility to the Council, and both Regents and Council were substantially delegates of the nobles. The familiar weaknesses of party government therefore made their appearance. Crown lands were bestowed upon the Regents and their friends, while in three years more than forty families received ennoblement. Worst of all, the Chancellor and the brother-in-law of the Queen, Count Magnus Gabriel de La Gardie, attained to an influence which only the weakest of kings would have allowed. Himself of French ancestry, La Gardie shed over the rugged Swedish Court something of the lustre of Versailles. Rich, handsome and urbane, he knew no rival as an orator and as a man of feeling. All his contemporaries pronounce his talents and his person brilliant. He was the Maecenas to whom Sweden owed many of the literary and artistic achievements which mark the age. In forming and consolidating his political influence he proved adroit, while on occasion he showed himself both penetrating and energetic. But there was in him something too superficial for his station and his times. A lover of dignified ease, he would abandon politics for months together. During four months of the year 1672 he spent twelve days at Stockholm. When stoutly opposed he yielded, and in the hour of disaster he collapsed.

For nearly fifteen years, however, La Gardie was the cynosure of Sweden. His power, it is true, depended on a majority in the Council; and this was by no means always at his command. But, on the whole, his influence was predominant, and under it the national ruin was almost consummated. At the beginning of the year 1661 the National Debt amounted to some ten and a half million dollars—a sum which mocked at mere retrenchment. Financial equilibrium could not be honestly established in the near future except by special votes of supplies or by substantial resumptions of the alienated Crown lands. But the former was refused by the Diet, and the latter—the “Reduction” resolved on in 1655—broke down. In vain Bonde struggled with the passive resistance of Brahe and the active hostility of La Gardie. The common vice of oligarchy proved too strong. The endowment of the State was now firmly regarded as the inheritance of a caste. Those who had as yet received none of the Crown lands demanded that they should not be left out in the cold; and the annual protest of the Treasury fell on deaf ears.

In 1667 Bonde died. No longer opposed by this champion of Swedish honesty and independence, La Gardie held the Treasury at his mercy. To the end of his career he never understood how facts could be too hard for graceful words; and he now turned inevitably to financial jugglery, in order to meet the heavy annual deficit. “Cease paying off debt,” he urged, “and borrow, anticipate, take foreign subsidies; and not a doit of deficit will remain.”

Warning voices were heard in opposition to a policy so ruinous in time of peace. Per Brahe, the quasi-monarch of mid-Sweden, urged retrenchment, but in vain. Year by year, the finances grew more involved, until at last their chaos spread to the department of foreign affairs. Bonde had struggled hard to keep expenditure within the limits of revenue and had even contrived to pay off a small part of the debt. In 1667, however, a Commission reported a deficit of over three million dollars—the result largely of the gifts, exemptions, and privileges lavished by the Regency upon themselves and their supporters. It was under the pressure of financial necessity, which Regency, Council, and Diet would make no sacrifice to meet, that in 1672 La Gardie embarked Sweden on the venture, equally dishonest and disastrous, of an alliance with France.

For the next quarter of a century the efforts of France to make Sweden her dependant created the chief problems of Swedish foreign policy. A series of skilful diplomatists—Pomponne, Feuquieres, Bethune, d’Avaux—formed and maintained at Stockholm the party of Louis XIV. But the French connection, in later years accepted or rejected by the Bang after careful consideration of the national interest, was now accepted by the Regency in the fatuous belief that France would pay liberally for services which Sweden was unwilling, if not unable, to perform. “Let us act like merchants,” said one of their number, “so as to get money enough and do naught else for it than sit still; but let us have our troops ready for all emergencies.” In this spirit they prepared to bargain with the King of France. At this time Louis XIV wished to complete the isolation of the Dutch by paralysing their German allies. He therefore offered to Sweden an annual subsidy of 400,000 crowns in time of peace, and 600,000 in time of war, on condition of keeping 16,000 men for eventual action in Germany. La Gardie, an optimistic amateur in statecraft, hoped to line his own pockets and to avert the need for retrenchment at the cost of a mere promise. Sweden had joined the Triple Alliance of 1668 in the hope of receiving subsidies from the enemies of France at a time when peace was imminent. Now, by a new and equally censurable speculation, the Chancellor set in motion forces destined to overwhelm himself and to bring his country to the verge of destruction. On April 8,1672, Sweden closed with France; and on the next day she concluded with England, the client of France, a treaty to the prej udice of the Dutch. Yet the States General were immediately assured that Sweden would not deviate one hair’s-breadth from her previous compact with them. Three days later, 200,000 Frenchmen crossed their frontier.

The Treaty with France had still nearly ten years to run when, in December, 1672, Charles XI became of age to govern. For a time, his reign seemed to be merely a prolongation of the Regency. Though the Estates were disposed to take a fax less favourable view, the young King received the report of the Regents with a grateful declaration that they and their heirs were for ever freed from farther indictment on account of their actions.

The sovereignty, though in name no longer fettered, had passed to a youth so untutored that later generations believed him still unable to read or write, and so shy that a foreign ambassador declared it cruelty to make him speak. His enthusiasm was for field-sports, especially for mimic war. In all else, La Gardie, his uncle, seemed to be his tutor. Under such auspices, Sweden advanced gaily along the road to ruin. In the Swedish polity, however, it was impossible that any change connected with the throne should remain void of constitutional effect. Two grave consequences swiftly resulted from the majority of the King. La Gardie, rejoicing to govern through a docile youth instead of through a fickle assembly of forty members, began to withdraw portions of public business from the consideration of the full Council, and to transact them with the King and a few Councillors and Secretaries. Thus the Chancellor’s dislike of criticism and the King’s of ceremony caused a royal Cabinet to come into being. More immediately apparent, however, was the influence of the King in the departments of revenue and of war. A soldier cherishing a deep reverence for the royal office, Charles found himself a King who could neither borrow money, nor pay his servants—nor provide for the support of his army in time of peace. Unhampered by that regard for persons which had hitherto rendered it almost ineffective, he turned naturally to the “Reduction” (the origin of which has been explained in an earlier volume) to banish such infamy. Incited by the rough giant John Gyllenstiema, he pressed the claims of the Crown with so much vigour that in 1674 nearly 3000 homesteads were recovered. Many of these were assigned to the support of the army and navy; but even more important than the immediate relief to the services was the demonstration of the power of the Estates to decree, and of the Crown to procure, relief for the penury of the State at the expense of private persons.

Whither this might have led, how the King’s character might have developed while the need of the State and the clamour of the people beat against the rampart of aristocratic power—these things can only be surmised. The “fourteen years in which it had pleased the Most High to vouchsafe that our dear fatherland should sit at peace” were drawing to a dose. Early in 1674, Sweden found herself manoeuvred by France into a war which she desired to avoid, and which she was to prove herself beyond all expectation incompetent to conduct. The young King, who had been trained for war and not for peace, dreamed of leading Swedish troops to fresh victories on German soil. La Gardie, corrupted by French gold, still hoped to gain subsidies by a show of arming. But the nation, heroically ready for sacrifice on behalf of its religion or its independence, loathed the conflict into which it was now betrayed. La Gardie raised an army which Sweden could not maintain massisted, in order to receive without fighting subsidies which Louis soon refused to pay on these terms. In vain the duped Chancellor struggled to break through the net in which he had enmeshed his country. He tried to induce England to mediate for peace, Louis to change his policy, Holland to purchase Swedish neutrality, and the Great Elector to desist from war. As Feuquieres had foreseen, however, the army transported to Swedish Pomerania to menace the Emperor was soon compelled, by lack of supplies, to cross the frontier of Brandenburg, so that in December, 1674, Sweden found herself at war with the Great Elector, the Emperor’s ally. She sought in vain an alliance with Denmark; and, six months later, the Dutch joined the number of her foes.

The events of 1674 had shown the depths to which Swedish diplomacy had sunk since the days of Axel Oxenstierna. The campaign of 1675 was to show that Swedish strategy had sunk as low since the days of Charles X. The Council was for giving foreign Powers the least possible offence, while Wrangel though full of martial ardour, was no longer capable of constructing a plan of operations. Midsummer was scarcely past, when the slow uncertain movements of the Swedish forces were rudely interrupted by the Great Elector’s victory at Fehrbellin, described elsewhere, which at one blow changed the position of Sweden in Germany. For a quarter of a century to come, the military prestige of Sweden was shattered. Wrangel’s army sank to 7000 men; and, unless a new host could cross the sea to his assistance, the whole of Pomerania was lost. Christian V suddenly overwhelmed the Duke of Holstein- Jottorp and declared war upon Charles XI. La Gardie fell into a political stupor. The Estates, assembled at Upsala, plucked up courage to call in question the policy of the Regents. Confronted by the prospect of an investigation, the Council showed itself timorous and divided. Per Brahe declared with tears that, though he had been at forty Diets, he had never heard the like; but the King undertook to comply with the wish of the Estates. At Michaelmas they dispersed, having placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the monarchy, and having voted men and money to the utmost of their ability.

In the hour of national disaster Charles XI began to play the dictator. But the most fevered energy could not remedy in a moment the military decay for which the Regency was to blame. In October, stimulated by the King’s threats, a Swedish fleet put to sea, but only demonstrated its incompetence in navigation. Secure against invasion, the Danes took Wismar, and made preparations, both in Zealand and in Norway, to attack Sweden; while the Great Elector, the Brunswick-Luneburg Dukes, and the Bishop of Munster rapidly overran Bremen, Verden, and Swedish Pomerania. The early months of 1676 merely developed the situation reached in 1675. In Germany, Konigsmarck, with some 6000 ill-found troops, concentrated his efforts ou the defence of Stralsund, Rugen and Stettin. Meanwhile a naval disaster off Oland (June 1, 1676) confined the main force of Charles XI to the peninsula and enabled the Danes, at the end of June, to launch a triple invasion against their lost provinces.

During two eventful years the fate of Sweden hung upon the struggle in Scania. Its earliest phase revealed the revolution in the comparative strength of the combatants which sixteen years of autocracy on the one side and aristocracy on the other had brought about. Instead of besieging Copenhagen, the Swedes were compelled to despatch troops in all haste to man their decaying fortresses, and to withdraw the remnant of the army, less than 6000 strong, out of the invaders’ reach. While one force marched south from Norway under Gyldenlove and another landed at Ystad in southernmost Sweden, Duke John Adolphus of Holstein-Plon crossed the Sound with 14,000 men. He soon proved his own quality and that of his men by capturing Landskrona, an invaluable base of operations, and by storming in two hours the fortress of Kristianstad, which was reputed impregnable. These successes made Scania once more a Danish province. The exulting peasants fell upon the estates and other property of the Swedish nobles and officials, and began a bitter guerilla warfare which Charles found it well-nigh impossible to extinguish.

The young King seemed for a time paralysed by events which belied the experience of two generations, and for days together would speak to no one. Feuquières, who tried in vain to cajole him into returning to Stockholm, reported that his crown was in peril. Then, suddenly, he rushed to the rescue of Halland and West Gotland. He had formed a fixed idea, which greatly embarrassed Helmfelt and his other generals, that he must deliver Sweden by a pitched battle. At Fyllebro near Halmstad he crushed a Danish detachment under Major-General Duncan, and took up a position which had the effect of frustrating the invasion of Gyldenlove. He had now moreover become intimate with the patriot John Gyllenstierna, whose harsh genius gave him fresh inspiration against the national enemy and against the aristocracy which had brought his country so low. With the aid of Gyllenstierna and Erik Dahlberg, he assembled a national army more than 15,000 strong and engaged in a winter campaign of manoeuvres. To regain Scania, however, proved a terribly difficult task. Operating in a hostile country, the Swedes, mainly through disease, dwindled to some 8000 men. The King, however, was determined not to quit Scania without a battle. At last, on the night of December 3, the vigilance of the Danes relaxed and they found themselves compelled to fight near Lund. A confused and desperate struggle ensued. Helmfelt and Charles, who fought like a hero of old, crushed the Danish left under King Christian, but rode so far in pursuit that their weary comrades of the centre and left were brought to the verge of destruction. Gyllenstiema and Feuquieres fled from what seemed to be a lost battle, but the troops bravely stood their ground until the King cut his way back to them and gained a complete victory. Nearly half the combatants, 5000 Danes and 3000 Swedes, had fallen, and Charles captured 2000 men with the Danish camp and artillery.

The victory of Lund rescued the Swedes from a well-nigh desperate plight and led to the recovery of Helsingborg, Kristianopel, and Karlshamn, Above all, it made Charles XI the hero of the army and of the nation. Scania, however, was by no means regained. The Danes still held Landskrona and Kristianstad. No severity could stamp out the guerilla warfare. A victorious invasion by the Norwegians under Gyldenlove assisted the Danes. In May, 1677, Christian took the field with 12,000 men, while the Swedes had less than half that number in the field. The strategy of Charles was still to march straight at the enemy, sword in hand; and, but for a mysterious error on the part of his opponent, he must have been crushed. When wiser counsels prevailed on both sides, the Danes found themselves masters of central and southern Scania; and in June and July the victories of Niels Juel off Femern and in the bay of Kjoge confirmed their command of their sea. But Malmo remained Swedish; its assailants fell out among themselves; a great assault failed; and at the end of June the Danes were compelled to abandon a siege which had cost them some 4000 men. These losses contributed greatly; to give Charles the victory in a pitched battle near Landskrona (July 14), when, after eight hours’ fighting, he drove the Danes from a field where 3000 of their number had fallen. After this disaster, Christian was content to stand on the defensive near Landskrona, and actually detached some 5000 men to help the Great Elector in Pomerania and Rugen. In spite of the continual guerilla warfare and the dangerous incursions which Gyldenlove and his Norwegians renewed in 1677 and 1678, the mainland had been saved by the victories of the Swedish King.

The campaigns of 1677 and 1678, however, for the time, cost Sweden the remnants of her dominions in Germany. The wonderful though unavailing defence of Stettin, the triumph of Konigsmarck over the Danes in Rugen, and the stoical retreat of Horn from the borders of east Prussia to Riga, added lustre to the Swedish arms without checking the advance of the Great Elector. But the victories of Louis XIV in war and diplomacy atoned for the failure of his ally. Since the spring of 1677, negotiations for a general peace had been carried on at Nymegen. There Bengt Oxenstierna displayed a futile readiness to join with any Power that could promise advantages to Sweden. While the ambassador offered to betray France, his master most obstinately insisted that the French should invade Germany in order to compel the restoration to Sweden of every acre that she had lost. The issue deeply wounded Charles XI. In February, 1679, France and Sweden made up their quarrel with the Emperor and the Empire, and Louis and Leopold undertook to mediate between the northern Powers. The former, acting as the self-constituted guardian of Sweden, at the same time made peace at Celle between Charles XI and the three Brunswick-Luneburg Dukes. The disgusted monarch, whose subsequent severe illness was attributed to chagrin, was powerless to resist, and next month averted a similar slight by coming to terms with the Bishop of Munster. The greatest boon, peace with the Great Elector, was however flung to Sweden by Louis XIV. At the end of June, 1679, by the Peace of Saint-Germain, she recovered all her possessions in Pomerania except a strip of territory on the right bank of the Oder.

Two months later, although Jens Juel and Gyllenstierna were negotiating in the cathedral at Lund, Louis dealt with Christian V as he had dealt with the Great Elector. By the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Denmark restored her conquests to Sweden and received only an insignificant sum of money in exchange. Finally, in October, the state of nominal war between Sweden on the one hand and Spain and the Dutch on the other was brought to an end.

The chances of war and politics had thus fixed the balance of power in Scandinavia where the great Gustavus, Oxenstierna, and Charles X had left it. For a moment indeed it seemed as though the ideal of abiding Scandinavian concord, which Griffenfeld had conceived and Gyllenstiema developed, might be realised. The formal Peace concluded between Denmark and Sweden at Lund was accompanied by an intimate commercial and military alliance. In the spring of 1680 a common coinage for the three Scandinavian kingdoms was decreed, and the new unity found expression in the marriage of Charles XI with Ulrica Eleonora, the pious sister of Christian V. The untimely death of Gyllenstierna in June, 1680, may therefore be regarded as a misfortune for Scandinavia as a whole. Gyllenstierna died at the moment when his ideas for both the international and the domestic policy of Sweden seemed likely to prevail. Although there was none to take his place as the architect of Scandinavian unity, the peace between the weary Danes and Swedes remained for two decades unbroken. Within the Swedish realm, moreover, men were groping their way towards a goal which his eyes had clearly seen. To make the King an autocrat, to arraign the Regents, to resume the alienated Crown lands, to restore order in the finances and to establish a territorial army—these had been to him means as valuable as the entente with Denmark towards the supreme purpose of making Sweden strong and independent. During the War, especially at the Diet held at

Halmstad early in 1678, demands for a new “Reduction” had been heard, and the Estates had laid before the King a statement of the faults and infirmities from which the constitution of the realm was suffering. At the same time every possible rival, to the monarchy had been swept away by the War. La Gardie, the high nobility, and the Council were di­credited or paralysed. War had made Charles XI virtually a dictator; and the nation, save perhaps a few great nobles, looked expectantly towards a King who might maintain the same ascendancy in times of peace.

No period illustrates better than the years 1675 to 1697 the truth that the history of Sweden has been the history of her Kings. It was Charles XI who transformed the Swedish Crown, created Charles XII and bequeathed them to each other. Having rescued the State by force of arms, he remoulded her by laws and administration. His heir he endowed with many of his own qualities, trained in his own school, and invested with the purple mantle of absolutism. Yet the personal life of the King who raised monarchy so high was that of a peasant. For months together he dwelt remote from his capital and inaccessible to all save a few Ministers and servants. The French ambassador, who more than once stalked the royal quarry to his lair, got little profit by intruding upon a Prince who rivalled Louis XIV in kingly pride, Charles delighted in feverish rides of from seventy to ninety miles in a day; and in his wide and sparsely peopled realm these could be performed almost in solitude. On the parade ground, where few words save those of command were needed, he gladly played his part, and was wont to hew asunder faulty harness with his own sword. But the usages and pleasures of society he detested; he was married on an obscure manor, and forbade all festivity at the birth of his first-born son. He preferred a written petition to an audience, and a midnight drive into Stockholm to torch-bearers and triumphal arches. Thus few of his contemporaries enjoyed an opportunity of penetrating his mind or estimating his capacity. To some he seemed a stupid, gullible tyrant; to others, the wise and resolute father of his people—and neither view can be pronounced wholly wrong.

In seeking the master-key to the history of the reign which the character of the King supplies, several facts seem clear. Unlike his father, Charles XI had not reached maturity when called upon to save the State. Before the War he was a backward youth whom de La Gardie kept in leading-strings. The shock of 1675 made him a man; the storms of 1676, a veteran. Thenceforward until 1693, when the death of his Queen banished all peace from his mind, he appears, while gaining experience of affairs, to have suffered from the corrupting influence of absolute power. Like all autocrats, he was liable to be imposed upon by flattery, but a puppet he never was. During the War he overruled his generals. From 1676 till 1680 he may have accepted Gyllenstierna as his tutor in politics; but it is idle to maintain that through all the developments of the next seventeen years he had no fresh source of inspiration. He always believed himself to be master in his own realm, and the attitude of his later Ministers, Klas Fleming, Nils Bielke, and Bengt Oxenstierna, suggests that his belief was well founded. Hating diplomacy, he readily entrusted others with the conduct of foreign affairs, but only on condition that certain guiding principles should be carried out to his own satisfaction. Ignorant, of unattractive appearance, mediocre talent, and limited outlook on life, his unexampled political success was to prove how a firm will combined with simple honesty, courage, and common sense may constitute greatness in a king.

At the close of the War, Charles found the Council discredited, Sweden half-ruined, and himself the hope of the nation. Under these conditions he met the Estates at Stockholm in October, 1680. The Diet of 1680, followed by that of 1682, was to effect nothing less than the transformation of Sweden from a limited to an absolute monarchy. This revolution appears to have been thought out beforehand, facilitated by the appointment of formidable nobles to posts overseas, and accomplished by parliamentary strategy. Feuquières observed that the Guards were quartered in Stockholm, while five or six thousand men, chiefly under Livonian or foreign officers, lay close at hand. The whole movement was directed by a King whose nature impelled him, in debate, in negotiation, and in war alike, to rush straight towards his unconcealed goal. Charles was indeed not destitute of advisers. Gyllenstierna, with his plans for an army of 80,000 men and an alliance with Denmark, had doubtless sowed fruitful seeds in his mind. Louis XIV had counselled him to remain in the background and merely to accept the profitable proposals of the Estates. Klas Fleming, as strenuous as the King in the public service and an able opponent of the high nobles, obeyed the royal command to act as president (Landtmarskallc) of the First Estate, and must have stood in relations of peculiar intimacy with his master. Hans Wachtmeister, the most conspicuous of a group of old comrades in war whom Charles always trusted, was regarded as expressing in his many and passionate speeches ideas at least acceptable to the King. It is difficult, however, to resist the conclusion that the victorious result must be ascribed to Charles himself, and that its secret lay, not in craft and astuteness, but in a will firm even to fanaticism, an unbounded sense of duty, and the irresistible logic of the situation.

The forms of deliberation indeed contributed much to the triumph of national need and popular resentment over wealth and privilege. The four Estates (nobles, clergy, burghers and peasants) met separately and corresponded with the King and with one another chiefly in writing and through formal embassies. Thus, although the nobles were ready to claim an authority not inferior to that of the three non-noble Estates combined, and although the peasants sometimes declared themselves incapable of forming any opinion on high politics, the Crown could normally make use of the unanimous votes of three Estates to overcome the reluctance of one. Even if this procedure were not practicable, a royal proposition could be laid before the four Estates severally and their answers severally received. From these four documents it was Charles’ wont to distil a single answer in the sense desired by him and to return it to the Estates for signature, which no individual dared to refuse. In dealing with the First Estate, moreover, the Crown possessed the inestimable advantage of selecting its president. Not only did Klas Fleming act as both official channel and mediator between King and nobles, but it also lay in his power to prevent unacceptable motions from being put to the vote, or to withhold the shelter of the ballot from those who might have ventured to give a secret vote against the Crown. Dissensions between the members of the Council and the remainder of the high nobles, and others, far more acute and permanent, between the greater and the lesser nobles, helped to complete the ascendancy of the King.

Thus aided, the Crown obtained its ends with unprecedented thoroughness and speed. The familiar torpor of the executive, indeed, afforded no clue to the pace of the deliberative assembly of Sweden. The Council had been wont to break off for months together, and when it was nominally in session an attendance of two, or even of one, of the forty members was not unknown. Feuquières complained that to procure the transaction by it of a piece of business was as hard as to make two Popes and three Kings of Poland. Ten years after the death of Gyllenstierna, the correct basis on which to calculate his salary as ambassador was still in question. The Estates, on the other hand, unhampered by complex forms of procedure, anxious to return to their homes, confronted with simple questions to which their class interests suggested the answer, and in a sense presided over by the Crown, were ready to sanction the most weighty enactments in a few days. The King first asked for means to establish the independence of the State, and Hans Wachtmeister declared to his brother nobles that this could be accomplished without a new grant, if only the Regents were brought to book. A storm of conflicting passions was thus let loose; but within six days Charles and the Estates had decreed that those persons or their heirs who had been responsible for the government during the minority should be tried by a Great Commission. This body, which was appointed on October 26, 1680, and took the place of the Commission of enquiry appointed in 1675, consisted of nine members from each of the four Estates chosen by that Estate in concert with the Crown. The fortunes of 118 great Houses depended on its deliberations.

Immediately after the appointment of the Great Commission, the three non-noble Estates joined in petitioning the King for a new and more comprehensive Reduction. The tempest which this demand aroused would have cowed a monarch less resolute than Charles. The whole military staff clamoured for redress. The Council came in a body to implore him to intervene. Civil war, if not revolution, seemed imminent. But the King, courteously expressing his disbelief that any party could desire other than the public good, declared his willingness to confirm the measures on which the four Estates should agree. Neither the Council nor the majority in the House of Nobles ventured to carry resistance to greater lengths than noise and disorder. Before the end of November, the nobles had consented to the resumption by the Crown of all counties and baronies and all other of the alienated royal domains whose rent exceeded 600 dollars. The carrying-out of this vast Reduction was entrusted to a Commission, whose members, like those of the Great Commission, received a written indemnity from the Estates. Though the business of the Diet was now at an end, Charles kept it assembled, in order to remove any impediments which the two Commissions might encounter. Before the Estates finally dispersed, they gave proof that their struggles had prepared the way for autocracy. By allowing the attack on the nobles to come from their social inferiors, Charles had commended the monarchy not only to the party who thus became victorious, but also to their victims, who would rather trust to a king than to a mob. When therefore he enquired of the Estates how far he was bound by the Form of Government, and whether the Council was in truth, as it had made some pretence of being, a separate Estate of the Realm, they were unanimous for absolutism. The King, they declared in December, 1680, was bound by no form of government, but only by the law of Sweden. In ruling his hereditary realm, he need consult his Council only when and how he pleased, and was responsible to God alone. They farther besought him to make provision for the government in case of his own decease.

For several years after 1680, the two Commissions were busily transferring the wealth of the nobles to the coffers of the State. Charles had the most pressing reasons for the eagerness with which he spurred on the Commissions. His precise integrity could not but feel humiliated when his ambassador, after emptying his own pockets in the public service, vainly besought the jewellers of Copenhagen to supply trinkets for the King of Sweden to present to his future Queen. The poverty and consequent peril of the nation at a time when a European conflagration was daily expected, and when Denmark and Brandenburg were leagued with France, forms the best apology for the tyranny of the Commissioners. The Councillors adjudged responsible for public acts during the King’s minority were condemned to make good the injury which these acts were deemed to have inflicted on the State, together with interest which in many cases was fixed at twelve per cent. The heirs of Bonde, the patriotic apostle of retrenchment, were thus mulcted of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The Rad or Council, however, divided and leaderless as it was, discredited by its futility the argument of the learned Rudbeck that Radman and Rhadamanthus were the same. Charles settled every disputed point at his pleasure and several times altered the procedure. Before the end of May, 1682, the Great Commission pronounced the last of its verdicts, and a commission of settlement was at work upon details. By 1689 the main harvest had been garnered in. Some 4,000,000 dollars passed from the great Houses to the Crown, and this enormous sum sufficed to turn the balance of political power. The birth of the Commission had proved that the Estates were superior to the Council. Its work rendered the Crown superior both to the Council and to the Estates.

While the great Houses were thus enduring the blows of the Great Commission, they were exposed to still heavier chastisement from the Commission of Reduction, which the King likewise inspired and over which the untiring Klas Fleming presided until his death in 1685. The great surrender of 1680 had been made by the nobles in the full expectation that this would be the final sacrifice exacted from them by the Crown. At the Diet which met at Stockholm in October, 1682, they were undeceived. Many of the great Houses had now been laid low. Their latifundia were reverting to the Crown. The Council of the Realm had become, in composition and in name alike, a Royal Council. But the hostility of the non-noble Estates remained unquenched, and they clamoured for a further Reduction as the only means of paying the debts of the State. As in 1680, therefore, both sides were brought to commit all authority over the Reduction and much else into the willing hands of the King. From this Diet Charles emerged a full-fledged autocrat. He claimed, with slender limitations, the right to make laws, to order the succession, to abolish freedom of speech, to levy taxes, to direct education,administration and the Church, and under one or another branch of the Reduction to repudiate most of the debts due from the Crown to its subjects, while, appropriating most of their property at will. At the same time, a standing army was in contemplation which, when complete, would render the King wholly independent of the Estates. Sweden, it seemed, in guarding against oligarchy, had abjured her ancient freedom.

From 1682 to the King’s death in 1697, the Swedish nation had experience of benevolent despotism—the appropriate prelude to the career of Charles XII, who was bom in the former year. During this period Sweden’s political record is marked by few events of special significance. For more than fourteen years, however, all was done that royal power and energy could do to realise, both by foreign and domestic policy, the ideals of Charles XI. For Sweden the indispensable condition of future strength was rest, and the monarch who delighted in the life of a soldier therefore made himself an unbending opponent of war. Diplomacy, which he was said to regard as “an unnecessary scholastic,” he delegated to Bengt Oxenstierna, and accepted the ideas of his Minister on condition that Sweden kept clear of vassalage to France and of war. Under the guidance of Oxenstierna, he had, in September, 1681, joined with the Dutch in the so-called Hague Treaty of Guarantee, by which the two Powers engaged to defend for twenty yearsthe Treaties of Westphalia and Nymegen, which were then being violated by Louis XIV. Despite the efforts of the French party at Stockholm to overthrow the Minister, his policy of diplomatic opposition to France as the disturber of Europe continued to prevail; Swedish troops played so limited a part in the War of the Grand Alliance that Charles XI could act as mediator in the negotiations for its close. 

In internal affairs, Sweden derived benefit from a foreing policy which often appeared cowardly and insincere. In many branches of the national life progress became possible. Although Church and State were uniting to massacre witches, and although the King was too ignorant and too practical to play the patron, science, literature and art flourished as never before in Sweden. The nation seemed to be struggling to fit itself for the great position which it owed to the fortune of war and politics. It strove to incorporate with itself the non-German provinces which it had won, and at the same time to increase the strength and culture which afforded the only basis of empire. In education, in worship, and in law, Scania was made Swedish. The serfs of Livonia were safeguarded against the nobles, at a time when the Reduction was pressing upon that province with a severity which drove Patkul to rebellion. A national army and a national fleet grew up; yet the revenue exceeded the yearly needs of the State. But all initiative came from the Crown, and every class was taught to look to the King alone. The Council had become a law-court, the Diet an echo, while the governmental offices or Collegia, which were now regularly paid, fell into the position of unambitious instruments of the royal will. The ascendancy of the great nobles had vanished with their estates. Charles succeeded, moreover, where the great Gustavus had failed, in bridling the Church. In 1686 a new Ecclesiastical Law enforced the supremacy of the State, and the King took care to make this supremacy real. A new Swedish service-book, catechism, hymn-book, and Bible were the fruits of his zeal for reform.

For industry and commerce Charles did all that benevolent despotism could accomplish. By incessant journeys of inspection he gained insight into the resources of the land and the needs of the people. He preserved peace, improved the administration of justice, began a revision of the law, and resorted to the well-known contrivances of the Mercantilists for creating trade by legislation, and for preserving Sweden for the Swedes. The industries which made the greatest advance were however those of cloth, iron and shipbuilding, which supplied the needs of the King’s greatest creations—the army and the fleet.

Among the proudest achievements of Charles XI the Indelningsverk, or establishment of a system of territorial tenures for a standing army of some 38,000 men, ranks high. A principle which existed in the time of Gustavus Vasa, and which had been developed by Charles IX and Gustavus Adolphus, became in consequence of the King’s triumph over the nobles the basis of the national force. Its essence lay in the assignment of Crown lands to the direct and permanent support of soldiers. Some estates were granted to officers, others enjoyed free of dues on condition of supporting a cavalryman and his horse. To escape the conscription, by which, in time of war, every tenth peasant had to become a soldier, most of the rural districts agreed to provide land on which in time of peace an equivalent number of soldiers could subsist as peasants. Thus Sweden gained security at home, while the spoils of the nobles enabled her to garrison her conquered provinces by hiring some 25,000    mercenaries. A similar territorial system provided for the support of most of the men who were required to man the national fleet, which was organised by Hans Wachtmeister at the new naval station of Karlskrona. Thirty fight ships of the line, manned by some 11,000 men, had been built before Charles died.

The first years of autocracy were thus for Sweden years of activity, order, and growth. Yet even under the sway of Charles XI many of the familiar vices of absolutism made their appearance. Personally the most unassuming of mankind Charles claimed and obtained for his office the most subservient renunciation of popular freedom. He could pardon a drunkard who gave battle to the royal suite, but he could not pardon criticism of his father’s testament recorded a quarter of a century before. Ruling with the aid of a few secretaries and friends, he became the unconscious centre of faction and of intrigue. The Reduction, which gave rise to a regular government department and added some two and a half million dollars to the annual revenue, developed into an offensive tyranny. No land except such as could be proved to have never belonged to the Crown was secure against confiscation, and small inquisitorial commissions were despatched to determine whose inheritance should be taken and whose left. As was almost inevitable, corruption spread. In a year and a half (1701-2) the family of Konigsmarck expended a sum equivalent to nearly £6000 of our money in bribing the officials of the Reduction. Charles had solved the problem of dealing with the great nobles; but he bequeathed to Sweden the still greater problem of settling the position and powers of the Crown.


Christian V survived his brother-in-law by little more than two years. The fall of Griffenfeld, who was charged with treason and condemned to life-long imprisonment in 1676, extinguished the glory of his reign. In the War of Scania, as well as at home, Denmark became a, prey to faction and intrigue. The despicable clique which had overthrown Griffenfeld allied itself with the King’s mistress, who was presented with some of the late Minister’s estates; and public policy was thus made subservient to private gain and spite. In the early stages of the War, while the Duke of Plon was still dominant and successful, Christian V’s hopes had been as buoyant as those of his grandfather in 1625. He dreamed of recovering the lost provinces, of crushing Gottorp, of acquiring Bremen, Lubeck, Wismar and Rugen, of enjoying the Sound Dues unimpaired by the Swedish exemption, and of controlling the commerce of the Elbe—in short, of establishing a position on the Baltic which might transfer to Denmark the commercial empire of the Dutch. The later campaigns, however, brought not merely disappointment to the King, but also exhaustion to the kingdom, which had supplied men and money for the War, and which, in both war and peace, was burdened with a costly imitation of the splendour of Louis XIV.

After the Peace of 1679, however, the need of the Treasury and the ambition of the King prompted a reorganisation of the country. In area and in social structure, Denmark had been rapidly transformed. The financial basis of the army was now reconstructed, and the land underwent a survey which facilitated a revised scheme of taxation, the most scientific in Europe. Despite the opposition of the clergy, Huguenots were brought in with the right to non-Lutheran worship. Trade and industry were overwhelmed with government regulations. Most famous of all, in 1683 there was published the “Danish Law of King Christian V”— a codification compiled under Frederick III and revised under his successor—and from this Code, which was common to all the provinces, both autocracy and popular convenience gained much. These reforms were in part the work of new men. The bureaucracy, composed largely of German burghers, was gaining rank and influence. The punishment of Olaf Rosenkrans for his Apologia nobilitatis Daniae (1681) bore witness to the decline of the old nobility, while the influence exercised by the incorruptible aristocrat Jens Juel from the close of the War to 1697 proved that autocracy was not entirely dependent on its creatures.

The foreign policy of Denmark from the Peace of Lund to the death of Charles XI (1679-97) led to little positive result at the moment, but helped to bring on the great convulsion of the north under Charles XII. Baffled on the side of Sweden, Christian and his advisers turned their eyes southward, and would gladly have accepted intimacy with the conquerors of Scania to secure a free hand in Schleswig-Holstein. Charles XI, however, adhered with honourable pertinacity to the Gottorp cause; and his steadfastness, together with the trend of European politics, frustrated the designs of Christian V. In 1684, the Danes, acting in the French fashion of the hour, seized the portion of Schleswig belonging to the House of Gottorp, and hinted, not obscurely, that the recovery of Scania was predicted by the stars. Five years later, however, after a congress at Altona (1687-9), they were compelled to disgorge. In 1694, on the accession of Duke Frederick IV, the Gottorp question once more became acute. In place of a weary voluptuary, Denmark was confronted by an ambitious young soldier who threatened to cross the plans of Christian by forestalling the Crown Prince Frederick in the competition for a Swedish bride.

It was the Gottorp question which, as a matter of fact, determined the policy of Denmark. Christian desired nothing better than a double marriage between his children and those of Charles XI, provided that his designs on Gottorp were thereby furthered. In default of an understanding with Sweden, however, he was ready to incite Tsar Peter against her Baltic provinces, and to intrigue with her famine-stricken peasants, and with the victims of the Reduction. In 1697, when a Regency came into power at Stockholm, he sent into the territory of the Duke an army which demolished his new fortifications. The attitude of Sweden and of the numerous enemies of France compelled him to recall the troops, and next year Duke Frederick married Hedwig Sophia, the favourite sister of Charles XII. The issue of this marriage, male or female, would stand dangerously near the Swedish throne. Frederick, moreover, became Swedish generaHsKvmo in Germany, and proceeded to restore his fortifications with Swedish aid. Christian accordingly continued his negotiations with the Tsar and lent an ear to the adventurous proposals of his nephew, Augustus II of Poland. Patkul thus found abundant material for a conflagration of the North.

The intimacy between Charles XII and Duke Frederick constituted a standing menace to Denmark. In August, 1699, another active young autocrat, Frederick IV, succeeded his father at Copenhagen. A defensive treaty with the Tsar had been signed on the previous day, and, early in November, Augustus, Peter and Frederick agreed to make a combined attack upon the Swedish empire. In the spring of 1700 this design ripened into the great Northern War, the course of which is related elsewhere. The part played in it by Denmark may therefore be traced, here very briefly; while an account of the peaceful activities of Frederick IV is.reserved for a future chapter.

While Denmark and Sweden were deliberately preparing to fight, neither could calculate exactly the extraneous support which the other would receive when hostilities began. Frederick, trusting in his strong fleet to command the Sound and in his eastern allies to distract Sweden, despatched his main army against the Duke of Gottorp in April, 1700. His allies proved less active, and his own success less rapid, than he had hoped; and he was soon brought to a standstill by the walls of Tonning and the troops of Brunswick-Liineburg under the Elector George Lewis of Hanover, the future King of England. The campaign, thus checked, swiftly ended in failure. Frederick had left his navy under the command of Ulrik Christian Gyldenlove, a royal bastard aged twenty-two years, and a timid Board of War. They permitted the English and Dutch,, impatient of a northern distraction which might favour Louis XIV, to send ships to the Sound, where they were joined, after a daring piece of navigation, by Charles XII and his fleet. Thus master of the sea, the young King swooped down upon defenceless Zealand. To his disgust, however, the Danish War was extinguished, and Copenhagen saved, by the Peace of Traventhal (August, 1700).

The Peace of Traventhal marked another failure on the part of Denmark to curb Gottorp and Sweden, but failed to cut the roots of their hostility. With the House of Gottorp the King of Denmark remained in a state of perpetual friction, and the alliance of that House with Sweden and Brunswick-Luneburg survived the death of Duke Frederick on the field of Klissow (July 19, 1702). By forming a militia, by hiring out his mercenaries to fight against Louis XIV, by diplomatic efforts and by care for the finances, the King prepared for a struggle which seemed inevitable, while the prospect of it was rendered doubly formidable by the triumphs of Charles XII.

In 1708, however, the Swedish army was entangled in Russia. Frederick, a self-indulgent prince, who was more than once guilty of bigamy, ventured to seek his pleasure in Italy for the winter. At this time Peter was clamouring for Danish help and the coalition of 1700 seemed likely to be revived. On his way homeward Frederick visited Saxony and came to an agreement with Augustus II (June, 1709). The twq Kings bound themselves, conditionally upon the cooperation of the Tsar, to take up arms for the full restitution of their Polish and Scandinavian dominions. According to the published articles, Germany was to remain undisturbed; but a secret agreement provided for the annexation of part at least of Schleswig-Holstein and of Poland.

The confederates, however, failed to secure either an offensive alliance with Frederick I of Prussia or money from the Tsar. It was, moreover, hardly to be expected that the Maritime Powers would be more ready than in the days of Frederick III to tolerate a Danish empire on both shores of the Sound. Frederick’s treasury was by no means full, nor was his army strong enough to assure a victorious invasion of Sweden. It might well happen, as so often in the history of the north, that the Swedes would gain compensation from their neighbours for disasters further afield. These arguments for peace were urged upon Frederick both in the Council Chamber and from the pulpit. A war party however existed, an autocrat was in power, and after Poltawa the verdict was for war. In October, 1709, Frederick and the Tsar entered into an alliance to confine Sweden within her rightful boundaries. Next month 15,000 men under Count Reventlow crossed the Sound, bearing upon their ammutution waggons the motto “Jut nunc out nunquam.” This improvised expedition met with well-deserved failure. The men were ill-found and ill-paid; no simultaneous invasion from Norway came to pass; Reventlow fell ill; and, in March, 1710, Magnus Stenbcick and his Swedes crushed the whole enterprise at Helsingborg.

Never since 1710 have the Danes crossed the Sound as foes of Sweden. Frederick, indeed, trusting in the traditional Danish superiority at sea, planned to bring a Russian corps to Zealand and to renew the attack in the autumn. In a series of naval movements, however, Hans Wachtmeister proved that his own work and that of Charles XI had made the Swedish fleet strong enough to frustrate the enterprise. Next year (1711) the Plague, which carried off more than one-third of the inhabitants of Copenhagen, paralysed the Northern War.

At this time, however, thanks to the imprudence of Charles XII, the Danes received encouragement on all hands to attack the Swedish possessions on their own side of the sea. The War therefore assumed a new form. While Norway cooperated by descents upon southern Sweden, and the Danish fleet strove to regain the command of the sea, the Danes, Saxons, and Russians invaded the scattered Swedish provinces in northern Germany.

In September, 1712, the Danes, with the help of the Saxon artillery, captured Stade and seized the whole of Bremen and Verden. Meanwhile Stralsund was attacked by all three allies, until in September Stenbock arrived there with more than 16,000 men at his disposal. To destroy this army must be the condition of further progress by the allies. It fell to Frederick, assisted by the Saxon cavalry, to make the first attempt; but Stenbock gained a great victory at Gadebusch (December, 1712). Frederick thereupon threatened to make peace, if Peter would not join him in Holstein, where the victor of Gadebusch threatened to repeat the exploits of Charles X. The Tsar obeyed the summons; and Stenbock, who had found shelter in the Gottorp fortress of Tonning, was imprisoned there by the forces of the three allies. In May, 1713, he capitulated to Frederick with some 11,000 men at Oldensworth. The Danes did not fully carry out the terms of the capitulation, which, owing to the anxiety of their allies to depart, were favourable to Sweden. Stenbock and many of his troops were imprisoned until death or peace set them free.

Despite the craft of Gortz, the movements of Stenbock had enabled Frederick to fasten a quarrel upon Gottorp. After the capitulation, therefore, the hope of making conquests where they were most desired by his dynasty spurred him on to great military preparations and diplomatic efforts. Favoured by the impracticable attitude of Charles XII, he captured Tonning early in 1714, and began to negotiate with Frederick William I and George I for the partition of the Swedish dominions in Germany. In April, 1715, while Charles XII defended Stralsund, the Danish fleet secured the command of the sea; and in the following month the compacts were made which, as Frederick hoped, would enable him to acquire the Gottorp portion of Schleswig and a sum of money for Bremen and Verden. For these prizes the Danish fleet contended at Stralsund. After the fall of the fortress at the close of 1715, Riigen and western Pomerania as far as the Peene were placed in Frederick’s hands.

So long as Charles XII lived, however, a hard frost in the Sound might expose Copenhagen to the vengeance which it now became his fixed idea to wreak on his hereditary foes. Failing Denmark, he, in the winter of 1715-6, turned against Norway, and occupied the town of Christiania, but was driven from the fortress by the arrival of help from Denmark. At Frederikshald, on the border, he again met with a stout resistance; and in July a brilliant feat of the Norwegian naval hero Tordenskiold, who captured or destroyed 44 Swedish ships, compelled him to retreat.

Again, in the summer of 1716, Frederick contemplated invading Scania with Russian help, and a combined army more than 50,000 strong prepared to cross the Sound. In the autumn, however, the Tsar, perhaps fearing both the might of Charles and the treachery of Frederick, abandoned the enterprise; nor could he be induced to resume it. His defection alienated George I; and, while Charles was preparing a mighty army, Frederick could no longer reckon upon his allies for aggrandisement or even for defence.

In 1717 he despatched Tordenskiold against Swedish harbours, but without success; and next year the storm broke upon the outnumbered and ill-found Norwegians. The death of Charles in December, 1718, rescued Norway from peril and made it possible once more to negotiate with Sweden for peace.

The Swedes, however, were far from willing to purchase peace from Denmark. In 1719, Frederick made yet another campaign, in which he led a Norwegian invasion in person, while Tordenskiold with mingled audacity and good fortune captured the port of Marstrand and its strong fortress of Karlsten. Frederick, however, did not follow up this success.

The defection of George and Frederick William, and his own strained relations with Peter the Great threatened to leave Frederick alone face to face with Sweden. Thus his only hope of profit lay in a speedy peace. To gain Schleswig, he therefore accepted the mediation of England and France. In July, 1720, by the Treaty of Frederiksborg, his old boundaries were confirmed, while Sweden recognised his possession of Schleswig, which was guaranteed to him by Great Britain and France. He further received from Sweden 600,000 dollars and a renunciation of her exemption from the Sound Dues. Two great wars had thus established in Scandinavia an even balance of power.