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Charles XI had carefully provided against the contingency of his successor’s minority; and the five Regents appointed by him entered upon their functions immediately after his death (April 15, 1697). The Regents, if not great statesmen, were, at least, practical politicians, who had not in vain been trained in the austere School of Charles XI; during the seven months in which they held sway no blunder was made, and no national interest was neglected. At home the Reduction was cautiously pursued, while abroad the successful conclusion of the great peace congress at Ryswyk was justly regarded as a signal triumph of Sweden’s pacific diplomacy. The young King, a lad of fifteen, was daily present in the Council; and his frequent utterances on every subject, except foreign affairs, showed, we are told, a maturity of judgment far beyond his years. He had been carefully educated by excellent tutors under the watchful eyes of both his parents. His extraordinary courage and strength of character had, from the first, profoundly impressed those around him, though his dogged obstinacy occasionally tried them to the uttermost. His wise and loving mother had been at great pains to develop his better nature by encouraging those noble qualities—veracity, courtesy, piety, and a strong sense of honour and fair play—which were to distinguish him throughout life, while his precocious manliness was not a little stimulated by the rude but bracing moral atmosphere to which he was accustomed from infancy. Intellectually he was very highly endowed. His natural parts were excellent, and a strong bias in the direction of abstract thought, and of mathematics in particular, was noticeable at an early date. His memory was astonishing. He could translate Latin into Swedish or German, or Swedish or German into Latin at sight, and on his campaigns not infrequently dispensed with a key while inditing or interpreting despatches in cipher.

Almost from infancy the lad had been initiated into all the minutiae of the administration. When, in his later years, Charles XI went his rounds, reviewing troops, inspecting studs, foundries, dockyards and granaries, it was always “with my son Carl”. For the science of war the young Charles had a marked predilection, and always took an active part in the “ sham-fights ” in which Charles, XI delighted. It is very probable that the influence of Charles XI over his son was far greater than is commonly supposed and may account for much that is otherwise inexplicable in Charles XII’s character, such, for instance, as his precocious reserve and taciturnity, his dislike of everything French, and his inordinate contempt for purely diplomatic methods. Yet, on the whole, had the young prince been allowed the opportunity of gradually gaining experience, and developing his naturally great talents, for the next few years, under the guidance of his guardians, as Charles XI had intended, Sweden might still have remained a great Power. Unfortunately, a noiseless domestic revolution and the menace of a league of partition, defeated all the wise calculations of Charles XI.

On Saturday, November 6, 1697, the Swedish Riksdag assembled at Stockholm; and, on the following Monday, the Estate of Nobles, jealous of the authority of the Regents, and calculating upon the grateful liberality of a young prince unexpectedly released from the bonds of tutelage, sent a deputation to the King inviting him to take over the government of the realm. Charles received the delegates graciously, but suggested that on so important a matter the Senate, should first be consulted. The Senate and the Regents, weakly determining not to lag behind the nobility in their devotion to the Crown, waited upon the King forthwith; and Chancellor Bengt Oxenstiema, acting as spokesman,begged his Majesty to gladden the hearts of his subjects by graciously assuming supreme power. Only when Charles had expressed his willingness to concur with the desires of his faithful subjects were the three lower Estates of the realm formally acquainted with the action of the nobility and invited to cooperate. The lower Estates proved to be as obsequious as the gentry, for a joint deputation from all four Estates thereupon proceeded to the palace ; and, in answer to their earnest solicitations, Charles declared that he could not resist their urgent appeal, but would take over the government of the realm “in God’s name.’’

A short period,of suspense ensued, followed by bitter disappointment. The Riksdag was dissolved after a three weeks’ session, and a humble petition of the nobility for a remission of their burdens was curtly rejected. The subsequent coronation was marked by portentous innovations, the most significant of which were the King’s omitting to take the usual coronation oath and placing the crown upon his head with his own hands. The Government assumed more and more of an autocratic complexion. The French Minister, d’Avaux, describes Charles at this period as even more imperious in public than his father had been Antimonarchical strictures, however respectful or indirect, were promptly and cruelly punished. Many people began to fear “a hard reign”. Yet the general opinion of the young King was favourable. His conduct was evidently regulated by strict principle and not by mere caprice. His refusal to countenance torture as an instrument of judicial investigation, on the ground that “confessions so extorted give no sure criteria for forming a judgment,” showed him to be more humane and more enlightened than the majority of his Council, which had defended the contrary opinion. His intense application to affairs was specially noted by the English Minister Robinson.

But, while Charles XII was thus serving his political apprenticeship at home with exemplary diligence, the political horizon abroad was darkening in every direction; and a league, of apparently overwhelming strength, had already been formed for the partition of Sweden. The person primarily responsible for the terrihle conflagration known as the great Northern War was Johan Reinhold Patkul, a Livonian squire. A Swedish subject, he had entered the Swedish army at an early age, and was already a captain when, in 1689, at the head of a deputation of Livonian gentry, he came to Stockholm to protest against the rigour with which the land-recovery project of Charles XI was being carried out in his native province. But his representations were disregarded, and the violent and offensive language with which, in another petition, addressed to the King three years later, he renewed his complaints, involved him in what is known as the great Livonian process.” To save himself from the penalties of high treason, Patkul left the country, and was condemned in contumaciam to lose his right hand and his head. His estates were at the same time confiscated. For the next four years he led a vagabond life, but in 1698, after vainly petitioning the new King, Charles XII, for pardon, he entered the service of Augustus II of Poland.

There can be no doubt that Patkul was harshly treated by Charles XI. Moreover, he was an exile from Livonia so long as it belonged to Sweden. But we must be very cautious in speaking about the patriotism of Patkul. He acted exclusively from personal motives; his point of view was that of the German junker; and he had no thought for the liberties of the Livonian people, who to him were mere serfs. He did not care to whom Livonia might belong, so long as it did not belong to Sweden. The aristocratic Republic of Poland was, however, the most convenient suzerain for Livonian noblemen; and the present King of Poland, as a German, was pecul arly acceptable to them. Accordingly, in 1698, Patkul proceeded to Dresden, and overwhelmed Augustus with proposals for the partition of Sweden. The first plan was a combination against her of Saxony, Denmark, and Brandenburg; but, Brandenburg failing him, he was obliged to admit Russia into the scheme instead. This he did very unwillingly, shrewdly anticipating that the Tsar might prove to be the predominant partner. Peter was to be content with Ingria and Esthonia, while Augustus was to obtain Livonia, nominally as a fief of Poland, really as an hereditary possession of the Saxon House. Military operations against Sweden’s Baltic provinces were to be begun simultaneously by the Saxons and the Russians. As to the latter, Patkul insisted that “they were not to practise their usual barbarities”— a stipulation significant of the opinion then entertained of the Muscovite soldiery. Denmark, which had a real grievance against Sweden as the zealous protector of the Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp, was to draw off the Swedish forces to her western provinces, while Peter and Augustus simultaneously attacked her from the east. The allies succeeded in hood­winking the unsuspicious Swedes completely. So early as August 24,1699, a convention between Denmark and Russia had forged the first link in the chain of treaties which was to unite Sweden’s three hostile neighbours against her. This convention was, originally, a league for mutual defence; but one of the earliest measures of the new King of Denmark, Frederick IV, was to conclude an offensive alliance with Augustus II against Sweden (September 25, 1699). The action of the Danish King had been accelerated by the marriage of Charles XII’s favourite elder sister, Hedwig Sophia, to Frederick IV, Duke of Gottorp, for whom Charles soon conceived a strong affection. This treaty was, however, only to be binding if the Tsar acceded to it within three or four months.

Patkul, accompanied by the Saxon general Carlovitz, arrived at Moscow in September, 1699. They found that they had been preceded by a Swedish embassy sent by Charles XII to confirm the Peace of Kardis. Peter, on this occasion, went far towards justifying the accusation of inveterate duplicity so frequently brought against him afterwards. He was sufficiently superstitious, indeed, to avoid kissing the cross on the renewal of the treaty. But the temptation to secure the Baltic sea-board, with all its commercial and civilising possibilities, was too strong for his easy morality. He solemnly assured the Swedish envoys that he would faithfully observe all his treaty obligations; yet, at a secret coriferenfce, held at Preobrazhenskoe with the Saxon and Danish envoys, he had already signed (November 22, 1699) the partition treaty. Everything was done by Peter to allay the growing suspicions of the Swedish Minister, Kniperkrona. When questioned point-blank as to the designs of Augustus, Peter professed incredulity and indignation. “If the King of Poland dares to seize Riga,” he said, “I shall take it away from him myself.”

During the remainder of 1699 both Sweden and Denmark vigorously prepared for war. A Danish army, 17,800 strong, assembled in Holstein; while Charles XII equipped his father’s fleet, and mobilised a Swedish army-corps which was to penetrate into Holstein from Pomerania and Wismar. At this juncture, western Europe was startled by the tidings that the Saxons had invaded Livonia. But, in May, 1700, the troops of Augustus II, repulsed from Riga by the veteran Dahlberg, were defeated at Jungfemhof, and driven over the Dwina; the Livonian gentry showed no disposition to rise in arms at the appeal of Patkul; and the discomfited Augustus, already in difficulties, urged the Tsar to fulfil his part of the compact by invading Ingria. This Peter at once proceeded to do. His objective was Narva, the key of the province, at the mouth of the Narova. The Russian army, about 40,000 strong, consisted, with the exception of the Guards, of three divisions of raw troops, levied so late as November, 1699. Theodore Golovin, now a Field-marshal as well as Prime Minister, commanded in chief, Peter occupying, as usual, a subordinate position. Narva was reached bv October 4; but the siege artillery, delayed by the bad roads, could not open fire until the end of the month, and the commandant rejected every summons to surrender. At the end of November, the Russian camp was astounded by the intelligence that the young King of Sweden, who was supposed to be fighting desperately in Denmark, was approaching at the head of “an innumerable army.” The incredible tidings were true. The timidity of the Danish admiral Gyldenlove; the pressure upon Denmark of a combined Anglo-Dutch squadron sent by William III to the Baltic to localise the war; and, above all, the audacity of Charles, who, despite the protests of the most experienced seamen, had insisted on forcing the eastern channel of the Sound, the dangerous Flinterend, hitherto reputed to be unnavigable, had placed Denmark at his mercy; but by the Treaty of Traventhal (August 18,1700) he had, as is related elsewhere, contented himself with bringing about a satisfactory settlement with Holstein-Gottorp. This brilliant début enabled Charles to give his undivided attention to the defence of his eastern borders, and he acted with that swiftness which was the secret of his greatest successes. On October 6 he reached Pemau, with the intention of first relieving Riga; but, hearing that Narva was in great straits, he decided to turn northwards against the Tsar. After a five weeks’ sojourn at Wemburg to collect his forces, he set out for Narva on November 13, against the advice of all his generals, who feared the effect on untried troops of a week’s march through a wasted land, along boggy roads guarded by three formidable passes, which a little engineering skill could easily have made impregnable. Fortunately, the firet two passes were unoccupied; and the third, Pyhajoggi, which Sheremetieff attempted to defend with 6000 men, was captured by Charles in person. On November 19, the little army reached Lagena, a village about nine miles, from Narva, and early on the following morning it advanced in battle array.

Battle of Narva.

Peter did not wait for his youthful antagonist. He knew that his wretched recruits could not be pitted, against veterans; indeed, he would never have brought them to Narva at all had he conceived the appearance of Charles XII to be even a remote possibility. He could not help them if he stayed with them, while any mishap to himself would, inevitably, have brought about the collapse of the new Russia which he was so painfully uprearing., At all events, he fled away to Novgorod, taking with him Golovin, whom he also could not afford to lose, and leaving his demoralised army in the charge of a mysterious adventurer, presumably of Magyar origin, calling himself Prince Carl Eugen de Croy or de Croie, who had had some military experience in the Austrian and Danish services. The result was a foregone conclusion. On November 20, Charles XII, with 8000 men, attacked the Russians behind their entrenchments in the midst of a snowstorm. In an hour the Muscovite left wing was broken, while their cavalry, which might easily have turned the Swedish flank, fled in panic tenor. Only on the right did the Guards defend themselves obstinately behind their waggons till the end of the short winter’s day. The unfortunate de Croy surrendered to escape being murdered by his own men, and most of the foreign officers followed his example.

The very ease of his victory was injurious to Charles XII. His beat counsellors now urged him to turn all his forces against the terrified fugitives; establish his winter-quarters in Muscovy; live upon the country till the spring, and then take advantage of the popular discontent against Peter to make him harmless for the future. But Charles declared that he would postpone the settlement of the Russian quarrel till he had summarily chastised Augustus. “There was no glory in winning victories over the Muscovites,” he said; “they could be beaten at any time.” It is easy from the vantage-point of two centuries to criticise Charles XII for neglecting the Muscovites to pursue the Saxons, but, in the circumstances, his decision was, apparently, correct. Charles had every reason to think the civilised and martial Saxons far more formidable than the Muscovites; and he had good cause for hating Augustus more than his other enemies. The hostility of Denmark, on account of Gottorp, was perfectly intelligible; and so was that of Muscovy so long as Sweden held old territory formerly Muscovite and barred Muscovy from the sea. There was no excuse at all for the Elector of Saxony. Yet he had been the prime mover in the league of partition. He had deceived Sweden to the veiy last moment with false assurances of amity, and Charles could never trust him to remain quiet even if they made peace with each other. From this point of view Charles’ policy of placing a nominee of his own on the Polish throne in lieu of the incalculable Augustus, was a policy, not of overreaching ambition, but of prudent self-defence.

Nevertheless, it saved Peter, who was immensely relieved by the withdrawal of his great rival. He had cut a sorry figure enough at Narva; after the defeat his tenacity and resourcefulness once more extort our admiration. Adversity always seemed to stimulate rather than depress him. He at once formed the nucleus of a new army out of the 23,000  fugitives who had escaped from Narva, and they were speedily reinforced by ten freshly recruited dragoon regiments of 1000 men each. An ukase directed all the churches and monasteries in the Tsardom to send him their bells to be cast into cannon to supply the place of the artillery lost at Narva; and, in less than twelve months afterwards, they were converted into 300 guns at a cost of 10,000 roubles. But Peter’s chief anxiety was that Augustus should keep Charles occupied. At a conference with Augustus at Birse, in Samogitia, at which Patkul also was present, the two allies resolved that neither of them should make a separate peace with Sweden. Peter further undertook to supply Augustus with 20,000 fresh troops, and 100,000 lb. of powder, and pay him for three years 100,000 roubles annually, which he had to raise by forced loans from the great monasteries and rich merchants like the Stroganoffs.

The troops left by Charles XII to defend the Baltic provinces amounted only to 15,000 men. In the most favourable circumstances these could not seriously hope to defend against a tenfold odds, a frontier extending from Lake Ladoga to Lake Peipus, from Lake Peipus to the Dwina, and from the Dwina to the Gulf of Riga. And the circumstances were unusually unfavourable. Charles not only took his best men and his best officers away with him to Poland, but forbade the Senate, which ruled Sweden during his absence, to send any reinforcements to the Baltic provinces, so long as the more important Polish war lasted. Peter, he argued, could easily be kept in check by a few raw corps till Augustus had been dealt with. It was a fatal miscalculation.

With Pskoff as their starting-point, the Muscovites, during 1701 and 1702, made frequent incursions into Ingria and Livonia. On January 7, 1702, the Swedish general Schlippenbach was overwhelmed by Sheremetieff at Errestfer, losing 3000 killed and wounded, and 350 prisoners. Peter was in ecstasies. “Narva is avenged,” he cried. Sheremetieff received his marshal’s baton. Urged on incessantly by Peter, the new Field-marshal attacked Schlippenbach a second time, in July, 1702, at Hummelshof, and with a force of 30,000 men inflicted a still more terrible defeat upon him, the Swedes losing 5500 out of 8000 men. To intimidate the enemy still further, and prevent him from drawing Upon the country for supplies, Sheremetieff, by the express command of Peter, proceeded, methodically, to devastate as much of Livonia as lie could reach with his Cossacks and Calmucks. Between Pemau and Reval, and thence round by the sea to Riga, everything was obliterated. In September, 1702, Peter himself appeared at Ladoga, in order to superintend the conquest of Ingria. The little fortress of Noteborg was taken by assault after a heroic defence by its garrison of 410 men against 10,000. Peter renamed it Schlusselburg. On May 12, 1703, another small fortress, Nyen, or Nyenskans (renamed Slottburg), at the mouth of the Neva, was captured by Sheremetieff. Presently the woodman’s axe was busy among the virgin forests in the marshes of the Neva, and a little wooden village began to rise up on the northern shore of the river. This little village was called St Petersburg. For the defence of the town on the sea-side, the fort of Kronslot, subsequently called Kronstadt, was built on the adjacent island of Retuwari, from plans drawn by Peter himself. A harbour, large enough to enclose the rapidly increasing Russian fleet, which Peter was already constructing on the river Suiva, was also begun at Kronslot; and all the feeble and ill-directed attempts of the Swedes during the next few years to interrupt the work came to nothing.

Campaign of 1704.—Position of Sweden.

In the spring of 1704 the Muscovites, after reducing all the open towns of Ingria to ashes, sat down before the two great fortresses of Dorpat and Narva. Sheremetieff, with 20,000 men, began the siege of the former place in the beginning of June, and it surrendered on July 24. Narva was besieged, by the Scotch general Ogilvie, whom Patkul had picked up at Vienna and enlisted in Peter’s service for three years On August 20 the fortress was taken by assault, and a frightful massacre ensued, in which not even the women and children were sparedt. Peter arrived two hours after the place had fallen, and stopped the carnage by cutting down a dozen of the plunderers with his own hand.

Peter would now have made peace with Sweden, had he been allowed to retain St Petersburg. He was in possession of all he wanted, for, as yet, he had no intention of conquering Livonia for himself (hence his barbarous treatment of it), inasmuch as he still regarded it as Augustus’ share of the spoil. But he required time to consolidate his position in the Baltic provinces; and for this purpose it was necessary to keep Charles “sticking in the Polish bog” a little longer, by actively assisting Augustus, who was again in serious difficulties. Meanwhile, Charles XII, after the campaign at Narva, had gone into winter-quarters round Dorpat, fixing his head-quarters at Lois Castle, midway between Dorpat and Lake Peipus, so as to be able to commence hostilities in the early spring.

Meanwhile, an event occurred which completely changed the face of European politics. In November, 1700, died Charles II of Spain, bequeathing the Spanish monarchy to Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV, who thereupon openly repudiated the partition compact which he had made with the Maritime Powers. A war between France and the Maritime Powers was now inevitable, and both sides looked to Sweden for assistance. The competing French and Imperial ambassadors appeared in the Swedish camp, while the English and Dutch were equally busy at Stockholm. Oxenstierna saw in this universal bidding for the favour of Sweden a golden opportunity of ending “this present lean war, and making his Majesty the arbiter of Europe.” But Charles met all the representations of his Ministers with a disconcerting silence. At last the urgent appeal of Baron Lillieroth, the able Swedish representative at the Hague, who stated that both William III and Heinsius were uneasy at the unnecessary prolongation of the Northern War and desirous of knowing the real sentiments of Charles, drew from him the reluctant reply“ It would put our glory to shame, if we lent ourselves to the slightest treaty accommodation with one who has so vilely prostituted his honour.” This obvious reference to Augustus convinced the western diplomatists that nothing was to be expected from the King of Sweden till he had chastised the Elector of Saxony.

On July 8, 1701, Charles transported his army across the Dwina, in the face of 30,000 Russians and Saxons, strongly entrenched on the opposite shore at Dunamiinde, routed them in a two hours’ engagement, and followed up his victory by occupying Courland, then a Polish fief, which he at once converted into a Swedish governor-generalate. Then, after recapturing all the Swedish forts on the Dwina, and purging the land of Saxons and Russians, he established his winter-quarters round Wiiigen in western Courland (September to December, 1701).

Charles’ proximity to the Polish border had greatly disturbed Augustus; and the Polish primate, Cardinal Radziejowski, had written to Charles reminding him that Poland was at peace with Sweden, forbidding him in the name of the Republic, to cross the border; and offering to mediate between the two monarchs. Charles’ reply excluded every hope of negotiation. He bluntly demanded the deposition of Augustus, threatening, in case of non-compliance, himself to punish the common foe. After this it is not surprising that a reaction in favour of Augustus began in Poland itself; and Patkul, who, in 1702, exchanged the Saxon for the Russian service, did all in his power to induce the Republic to join the anti-Swedish league. The Tsar also now concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with Poland, and it became clear that, with the exception of the powerful Lithuanian family of Sapieha, most of the Polish nobles were still on the side of the King in possession.

In January, 1702, Charles established himself at Bielowice in Lithuania, and, after issuing a proclamation declaring that “the Elector of Saxony” had forfeited the Polish throne, set out for Warsaw, which he reached on May 14. The Cardinal-Primate was then sent for and ordered to summon an extraordinary Diet for the purpose of deposing Augustus. A fortnight later Charles quitted Warsaw to seek his enemy, and on July 2, with only 10,000 men, routed the combined Poles and Saxons at Klissow, on which occasion his brother-in-law, the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, was shot dead by his side. Three weeks later, Charles, with: only a cane in his hand, stood before the citadel of Cracow, and captured it by an act of almost fabulous audacity. Thus, within four months of the opening of the campaign, the Polish capital and the coronation city were both in the possession of the Swedes.

During the next two months Charles remained inactive at Cracow, awaiting reinforcements, and regarding impassively the chaotic condition of the unhappy Polish Republic. After Klissow, Augustus made every effort to put an end to the war, but his offers were not even considered. The campaign of 1703 was remarkable for Charles’ victory over the Saxons at Pultusk (April 21), and for the long siege of Thom, which occupied the Swedish King for eight months, but cost him no more than fifty men, after which he went into winter-quarters round Heilsberg, in the diocese of Ermeland. Meanwhile, his Polish partisans had succeeded in forming a confederation, under the protection of the Swedish general Rehnskjold, which assembled at Warsaw in January, 1704, and was energetically manipulated by Count Arvid Horn, Charles’ special envoy, who persuaded it to depose Augustus. But months of fruitless negotiations ensued before Augustus’ successor could be fixed upon, Augustus complicating matters by seizing the Sobieskis, the most acceptable candidates, in Imperial territory, and locking them up in the fortress of Pleissenberg. Charles finally cut the knot himself by selecting the Palatine of Posen, Stanislaus Leszczynski, a young man of blameless antecedents, respectable talents, and ancient family, but without sufficient force of character or political influence to sustain himself on such an unstable throne. Nevertheless, with the assistance of a bribing fund and an army-corps, Count Horn succeeded in procuring the election of Stanislaus (July 6, 1704), by a hastily gathered assembly of half-a-dozen castellans and a few score of the lesser nobility.

The insecurity of the new King was demonstrated when Augustus, taking advantage of a sudden southward raid of Charles’, recaptured Warsaw (August 26). But his triumph was of short duration. In October, Charles routed the Saxons at Punitz, and, after chasing them as far as Glogau, returned to Poland, and pitched his camp at Rawitz, completely cutting Augustus off from Poland. There he remained for eight months, using every effort firmly to establish Stanislaus. A coronation Diet was summoned to Warsaw in July, 1705; an attempt to disperse it by an army of 10,000 Saxons was frustrated by the gallantry of the Swedish general, Nieroth, with 2000 men; the difficulty about the regalia, which had been carried off to Saxony, was surmounted by Charles himself providing his nominee with a new crown and sceptre; and, finally, Stanislaus was crowned King, with great splendour, on October 4, 1705. The first act of the new King was to conclude an alliance between Sweden and the Polish Republic, on the basis of the Peace of Oliva, whereby Poland agreed to assist Sweden against the Tsar.

Early in 1705, Peter, encouraged by favourable reports from his Minister, Peter Tolstoi, at Stambul, resolved to help Augustus by transferring the war to Poland. He had previously (August 30, 1704) put some heart into his ally, by making a fresh treaty of alliance with him in which the Republic was also included. By this treaty Peter undertook to provide Augustus with 12,000 Muscovite auxiliaries; to pay for the maintenance of an additional Polish army-corps of 26,000 infantry and 21,000 cavalry, and to furnish subsidies amounting to 200,000 roubles a year till the war was over. An attempt of the indefatigable Patkul to bring the King of Prussia into the anti-Swedish league failed because of Frederick I’s fear of Charles and his jealousy of Peter’s progress on the Baltic shore. In June, 1705, Peter appeared at Polock, where 50,000 Russians were concentrated under Ogilvie and Sheremetieff. Sheremetieff was detached to.reconquer Courland, but was so badly beaten at Gemaurhof (June 16) by the Swedish general, Adam Lewenhaupt, whose genius had, during 1704, saved Riga from the combined Russians, Poles, and Saxons that Peter was obliged to hasten to his Field-marshal's assistance. Lewenhaupt thereupon fell back again upon Riga; and the Russians, after capturing Mittau and occupying Courland, went into winter-quarters round Grodno.

During the winter, Patkul made fresh efforts to gain the King of Prussia by holding out the bait of “Royal” or Polish Prussia; but the negotiations failed, because Russia had yet to show by conquering the unconquerable King of Sweden that she was able to fulfil her promises. From Berlin Patkul proceeded to Dresden to conclude an agreement with the Imperial commissioners for the transfer of the Russian contingent of troops from the Saxon to the Austrian service. The Saxon Ministers, after protesting in Vain against the new arrangement, arrested Patkul, and shut him up in the fortress of Sonnenstein (December 19), altogether disregarding the remonstrances of Peter against such a gross violation of international law.

The campaign of 1706

But the fate of Patkul was speedily forgotten in the rush of events which made the year 1706 so memorable. In January, Charles XII suddenly appeared in eastern Poland to clear the country of the partisans of Augustus, and attack the Russian army, under Ogilvie, entrenched at Grodno. But Ogilvie could not be tempted out of his entrenchments, and all that Charles could do was to cut off his communications with Russia and ruin his sources of supply. Augustus, meanwhile, had hastened from Grodno to Warsaw, and united his Russian and Polish troops with the Saxon forces under Schulenburg, for the purpose of crushing the little Swedish army stationed under General Rehnskjold, in the province of Posen, intending afterwards to return and fall upon Charles at Grodno, while Ogilvie attacked him in front. This plan was frustrated by Bebnskjold’s brilliant victory at Fraustadt (February 3) over the combined forces of the allies whom he almost annihilated, only 5000 out of 20,000 succeeding in escaping. Fearing for his own army at Grodno, Peter thereupon ordered Ogilvie to retreat into the heart of Russia, burying his heavy guns in ice-holes, and breaking up his army into numerous detachments, so that at least some of it might escape. Ogilvie protesting, he was superseded by Menshikoff; and the Russian army, favoured by the spring-fioods of the Niemen, which obstructed the pursuing Swedes, retreated so rapidly upon Kieff, that Charles was unable to overtake it, and abandoned the pursuit among the trackless morasses of Pinsk. Leaving his exhausted troops to rest for a few weeks in Volhynia, he hastened off to Saxony to finish with Augustus, to the intense relief of Peter in his paradise, as he called St Petersburg. In the autumn of the same year, the combined forces of Augustus and Menshikoff defeated the Swedish general Marderfeld at Kalisch (October 29); but the victory came too late to repair the shattered fortunes of the Elector. On September 24, his Ministers at Dresden had concluded with Charles the Peace of Altranstadt, which was ratified by Augustus at Petrikow in Poland (October 20). By this treaty, Augustus recognised Stanislaus as King of Poland; renounced all his anti-Swedish alliances, especially the alliance with Russia; and undertook to support the Swedish army, during the winter, in Saxony, and to deliver up Patkul. To the last he was insincere. Thus, while imploring Charles to keep secret the Peace of Altranstadt, as otherwise he would fear for his personal security, he privately assured the Tsa;r of his unalterable devotion, and negotiated at Berlin and Copenhagen for a fresh anti-Swedish league. Charles rent asunder this web of falsehood by publishing the treaty and compelling Augustus to ratify it afresh (January 19, 1707) and carry out all its stipulations, not one of which was of the slightest political advantage to Sweden. Patkul was now removed from his Saxon dungeon and handed over to Charles. He was broken on the wheel and then decapitated (October 10), Charles having rejected an appeal for mercy from his own sister, the Princess Ulrica Leonora, on the ground that one who had forfeited his life as a traitor could, for example’s sake, not be pardoned. Charles’ conduct on this occasion was legitimate if harsh, but that of Augustus was wholly infamous. He had deliberately handed over to a horrible death a man who, after serving him to the utmost of his ability, had trusted in his honour.

It was now that Peter seriously attempted to come to terms with his terrible opponent. This he could only do by soliciting the mediation of the Powers, as Charles steadily refused to have any direct communication with him. He began in London. At the end of 1706, Andrei Matvieeff was sent there from Holland to promise Peter’s adhesion to the Grand Alliance, if Great Britain would bring about a peace between him and Sweden. If necessary, Matvieeff was to bribe Harley, Godolphin, Marlborough, and the other Ministers. “I know not whether Marlborough would be inclined thereto, as he is already immensely rich,” wrote Peter privately, “but you may promise him £1000.” After a long procrastination, Harley informed Matvieeff that the Queen could not at present afford to quarrel with the King of Sweden, especially as he had engaged not to attack the Emperor. On the Continent, Peter’s Dutch agent, Huyssens, negotiated with Marlborough direct. The Duke promised to meet the Tsar’s wishes if a principality in Russia were granted to him. Peter at once gave him the choice between Kieff, Vladimir, and Siberia, besides promising him, in case a peace with Sweden was concluded by his efforts, 50,000 thalers a year, “a rock ruby such as no European potentate possesses,” and the order of St Andrew in brilliants. But nothing came of it, although Peter now declared his willingness to surrender all his Baltic possessions except St Petersburg. In the spring of 1707 Peter negotiated for the mediation of France, through Desalliers, the French Minister at the Court of Francis II Rákóczy, Prince of Transylvania, whom Peter, for a moment, had thought of setting up in Poland as a rival to Stanislaus. Charles was approached on the subject of peace; but, recognising that the line of the Neva was really vital to the existence of Sweden’s Baltic empire, he refused to cede St Petersburg, and insisted on Peter’s restitution of all his conquests and the payment of a war indemnity. Meanwhile the Swedish Ministers at Vienna, the Hague, and elsewhere, insisted perpetually that, if Russia were allowed to increase, all Europe would be exposed to the peril of a second Scythian invasion; and all Europe was inclined to believe them. Prince Eugene, to whom Peter now offered the throne of Poland, refused the dangerous gift; and the Emperor hastened to recognise Stanislaus for fear of offending Charles. At Berlin, even the offer of 100,000 thalers could not tempt the Prussian Ministers to undertake the ungrateful task of mediation. Peter was evidently given up for lost.

Mazepa. [1707

All diplomatic expedients for pacifying Charles having failed, Peter prepared to bear the brunt of a war a outrance with the invincible Swede. At a Council of War, held at the village of Mereczko, in Lithuania, in 1707, he decided not to oppose the Swedes in the open field, but to retire before them, drawing them further and further from their base, devastating the country before them and harassing them as much as possible, especially at the passage of the principal rivers. He had previously commanded that all the country-folks should be warned beforehand of the approach of the enemy that they might have time to hide their stores of com in pits, or in the forests, and drive their cattle into the trackless swamps. The Cossack Hetman, Ivan Mazepa, was entrusted with the defence of Little Russia and the Ukraine. Kieff, with its congeries of fortress-monasteries, was additionally fortified and well supplied with artillery. All the light troops, including the Cossacks, were to fall back behind the Dnieper.

Charles’ departure from Saxony had been delayed for twelve months by a quarrel with the Emperor, against whom he had many just causes of complaint. The religious question presented the most difficulty. The Court of Vienna had treated the Silesian Protestants with tyrannical severity, in direct contravention of the Treaty of Osnabriick, of which Sweden was one of the guarantors ; and Charles demanded summary and complete restitution in so dictatorial a fashion that the Emperor prepared for war. But political considerations prevailed. The sudden apparition of the King of Sweden and his “blue boys” in the heart of the Empire fluttered all the western diplomatists; and the allies at once suspected that Louis XIV had bought the Swedes. Marlborough was forthwith sent from the Hague to the castle of Altranstadt, near Leipzig, where Charles had fixed his head-quarters, “to endeavour to penetrate the designs of the King of Sweden.” He soon convinced himself that western Europe had nothing to fear from Charles, and that no bribes were necessary in order to turn the Swedish arms from Germany to Muscovy. Nevertheless Charles’ presence in central Europe seriously hampered the movements of the allies; and the fear lest he might be tempted to assist France, the traditional ally of Sweden, finally induced the Emperor to satisfy all his demands, the Maritime Powers agreeing to guarantee the provisions of the Treaty of Altranstadt.

Delayed during the autumn months in Poland by the tardy arrival of reinforcements from Pomerania, Charles XII was not able to take the field till November, 1707, when he had under him an army of 24,000 horse and 20,000 foot, two-thirds of whom were veterans. The respite was of incalculable importance to the Tsar, who, at this very time had suddenly to cope with a dangerous Bashkir rising on the Volga, followed by a rebellion of the Don Cossacks under Kondraty Bulavin, against “the innovations.” So hardly pressed was he as to be forced to employ barbarians against barbarians, Calmucks against Bashkirs, for want of regulars. On Christmas Day, 1707, Charles reached the Vistula, which he crossed on New Year’s Day, 1708, although the ice was in a dangerous condition. On January 26 he entered Grodno, only two hours after Peter’s departure. “For God’s sake,” wrote Peter to Menshikoff on this occasion, “entrust the command of the rear­guard to faithful men of our own people and not to foreign fools.” The sneer is illuminating. It shows that even in the service of war the Muscovites were beginning to dispense with leading-strings.

On February 12, Charles encamped at Smorgonie on the Velya, one of the tributaries of the Niemen. Two courses lay open to him. Either he might recover the lost Baltic provinces before attacking the Tsar, or he might pursue Peter into the heart of his Tsardom, and dictate peace to him after destroying his army. His ablest officers strongly advised him to adopt the first course as being both “cheap and reasonable”; but the alternative appealed irresistibly to the young hero’s love of adventure, and tempted him by presenting difficulties which would have been unconquerable by anyone but himself. And, unfortunately for Sweden, he adopted it. This plan was, apparently (for even now it is largely guess-work) first, after crossing the Dnieper, to unite with the army-corps of Lewenhaupt, which was advancing from Riga to join him, and then to winter in the fruitful and untouched Ukraine, whose fortresses were to be held at his disposal by the Cossack Hetman Mazepa. Simultaneously, the Finnish army under Lybecker, with the help of the fleet, was to take St Petersburg and recapture Ingria, while Stanislaus, aided by a third Swedish army under Krassow, was to quell all disaffection in Poland. In the summer of 1709, the three Swedish armies, reinforced by the Poles, the Cossacks, and the Crimean Tartars, were to attack Muscovy from the north, south and east simultaneously and crush Peter between them. The realisation of such a scheme, which absolutely disregarded difficulties, and was built upon nothing but the most fantastic hypotheses, lay far beyond the bounds of possibility.

After a brief rest at Smorgonie, Charles XII resumed his march eastwards. The superior strategy of the Swedes enabled them to cross the first two considerable rivers, the Berezina and the Drucz, without difficulty, but on reaching the Wabis, Charles found the enemy posted on the other side, near the little town of Holowczyn, in an apparently impregnable position and evidently bent upon barring his passage. But his experienced eye instantly detected the one vulnerable point in the six mile long Russian line; on July 4, 1708, he hurled all his forces against it; and, after a fierce engagement, from daybreak to sundown, the Russians fell back with a loss of 3000 men.

The victory of Holowczyn, memorable besides as the last pitched battle won by Charles XII, opened up the way to the Dnieper; and four days later Charles reached Mohileff, where he stayed till August 6 waiting for Lewenhaupt. The Swedes now began to suffer severely, bread and fodder running short, and the soldiers subsisting almost entirely on captured bullocks. The Russians, under Sheremetieff and Menshikoff, would not risk another general engagement, but slowly retired before the invaders, destroying everything in their path, till at last the Swedes had nothing but a charred wilderness beneath their feet and a horizon of burning villages before their eyes. Moreover, the Muscovites now began to display an unusual boldness, attacking more and more frequently, with ever-increasing numbers, as, for instance, at Chernaya Napa (September 9), where they fell upon an isolated Swedish division which lost 3000 men and was only saved from annihilation by the arrival of Charles himself. By the time the frontier of eighteenth century Russia was reached at Micbanowich (October 1) it was plain to Charles that he could go no further eastwards through the devastated land, and at Tatarsk he held his first council of war. Rehnskjold prudently advised the King to wait for Lewenhaupt, whose reinforcements and caravan of provisions were becoming indispensable, and then to retire to Livonia, so that he might winter in his own lands. But Charles, partly from a horror of retreating, partly because of an urgent summons from Mazepa, resolved to proceed southwards instead of northwards, and to this resolu­tion everything else was sacrificed.

And now began that last march of the devoted Swedish army through the forests and morasses of Severia and the endless steppes of Ukraine which was to be a long-drawn-out agony, punctuated by a constant succession of disasters. The first blow fell in the beginning of October, when the unhappy Lewenhaupt joined Charles with the debris of the army he had saved from the not inglorious rout of Lyesna, where the Russians witk vastly superior forces, had interrupted and overwhelmed him after a two days’ battle (September 29-30), in which the Swedes lost 8000 killed and wounded, 16 guns, 42 standards, and 2000 waggons of provisions, and the Russians 4000 killed and wounded. And Lewenhaupt was sacrificed in vain, for when, on November 8, Mazepa at last joined Charles, at the little Severian town of Horki, he came not as the powerful Dux militum Zaporowiensium, but as a ruined man with little more than his horsetail standard and 1300 personal adherents.

The unlooked-for collapse of Mazepa was a terrible blow to Charles XII. He had built his hopes of ultimate victory on his alliance with the Cossack Hetman; and, in justice to Charles, it must be admitted that this alliance, so far from being a mere mirage luring him on to destruction, as which Swedish historians generally have regarded it, was really the one solid and substantial element in his fantastic combinations. The fact has been quite overlooked that, in those days, the Hetman of the Zaporogian Cossacks was often the determining factor of Oriental politics. Chmielnicki had held the balance even between Poland and Muscovy for years. Doroszenko, as the ally of the Sultan, had, for a time, been more powerful than Tsar and King combined. Mazepa himself was not so much the subject as the semi-independent tributary of the Muscovite Crown. He ruled on the Dnieper with more than princely power. 100,000 Cossacl horsemen were at his disposal. The whole Ukraine obeyed his lightest nod. The Khan of the Crimea addressed him as “my brother.” If Charles X of Sweden, one of the astutest statesmen as Well as the greatest warrior of his age, in the plenitude of his power considered it not beneath his dignity to seek the alliance of the Hetman Chmielnicki against Poland, why should not his grandson, Charles XII, have sought the alliance of the Hetman Mazepa against Muscovy, now that Poland also was on his side? The power and influence of Mazepa were fully recognised by Peter the Great himself. No other Cossack Hetman had ever been treated with such deference at Moscow. He ranked with the highest dignitaries in the State, sat at the Tsar’s own table, and flouted the Tsar’s kinsfolk with impunity.

Mazepa would doubtless have remained loyal, had not Charles XII crossed his path. At the very beginning of the great Northern War, the crafty old Hetman began to have his doubts how this life-and-death struggle, going on before his very eyes, would end. As Charles continued to advance, and Peter to retreat, Mazepa made up his mind that Charles was going to win and that it was high time he looked after his own interests. Moreover, he had his personal grievances against Peter. The Tsar was going so fast, that the arch-conservative old Cossack could not follow him; and he was jealous of the omnipotent favourite Menshikoff. More than once, some of his Cossack squadrons had been taken away from him to be converted into dragoons, and he deeply resented it. But he proceeded very cautiously. Not till September 27, 1707, when King Stanislaus wrote to him direct, practically offering him his own terms if he would take the anti-Muscovite side, did he determine to do so. The crisis came when Peter ordered him actively to cooperate with the Russian forces in the Ukraine. Mazepa hereupon took to his bed, and sent word to the Tsar that he was on the point of death. The same day he communicated with Charles’ First Minister, Count Piper, and agreed to harbour the Swedes in the Ukraine, and close it against the Russians (October, 1708). Rut Peter was too quick for him. He at once sent Menshikoff to see “the dying Hetman.” Mazepa at once took horse, and “sped away like a whirlwind,” for three days and three nights, to the nearest Swedish outposts. Peter instantly commanded Menshikoff to have a new Hetman elected, and to raze Raturin, Mazepa’s chief stronghold in the Ukraine, to the ground. In the race to Baturin which now followed between Charles and Menshikoff, the Muscovites outmarched the exhausted Swedes; and when Charles, a week later, passed by the Cossack capital, all that remained of it was “a heap of smouldering mills and ruined houses, with burnt, half-burnt and bloody corpses” scattered all around.

At the end of 1708, the Swedes had to encounter a new and terrible enemy in the great frost, the severest that Europe had known for a century. So early as the beginning of October the cold was intense; by November 1, firewood would not bum in the open air and the soldiers warmed themselves over big bonfires of straw. But it was not till the vast open steppes of the Ukraine were reached that the unhappy Swedes experienced the full rigour of the icy Scythian blast. By the time the army arrived at the little Ukrainian fortress of Hadjach, which they took by assault (January, 1709), wine and spirits froze into solid blocks of ice; birds on the wing fell dead; saliva congealed in its passage from the mouth to the ground. The sufferings of the soldiers were hideous. “You could see,” says an eye-witness, “some without hands, some without feet, some without ears and noses, many creeping along after the manner of quadrupeds.” “Nevertheless,” says another eye-witness, “though earth, sky, and air were against us, the King’s orders had to be obeyed, and the daily march made.” Never had Charles XII seemed so superhuman as during those awful days. It is not too much to say that his imperturbable equanimity, his serene bonhomie, kept together the perishing, but still unconquered, host. His military exploits were prodigious. At Cerkova he drove back 7000 Russians with 400, and at Opressa, 5000 Russians with 300 men.

The frost broke at the end of February, 1709, and then the spring floods put an end to all active operations for some months. The Tsar set off for Voronezh to inspect his Black Sea fleet; while Charles encamped at Rudiszcze, between the Orel and the Worskla, two tributaries of the Don. By this time the Swedish army had dwindled from 41,000     to 20,000 able-bodied men, mostly cavalry. Supplies, furnished for a time by Mazepa, were again running short. All communications with Europe had long since been cut off. Charles was still full of confidence. He hoped in the ensuing ampaign, with the help of the Tartars, the Zaporogians and the Hospodar of Wallachia, to hold his own till Stanislaus, with Rrassow’s army-corps, had joined him by way of Volhynia. On May 11 he began the siege of Poltawa, a small fortress on the western bank of the Worskla,and the staple of the Ukraine trade, so as to strengthen his position till the arrival of Krassow. But the ordinary difficulties of a siege were materially increased by the lack of artillery and ammunition, and by the proximity of the Russian main army, which arrived a few days later, and entrenched itself on the opposite bank of the Worskla. Peter himself was delayed by the resistance offered by the Zaporogian Cossacks at the instigation of Mazepa, in their syech, or great water-fortress, among the islands of the Dnieper; but on June 8, “this root of all the evil and the main hope of the enemy,” as Peter called it, was stormed by the dragoons of Volkovsky and Galaghan. A week later the Tsar set out for Poltawa, arriving there on June 15.

Battle of Poltawa—Second league against Sweden. [1709

At last Peter had resolved to make a firm stand. “With God’s help I hope this month to have a final bout with the enemy,” he wrote to Admiral Apraksin. Yet even now, though the Swedes were a famished, exhausted, dispirited host, surrounded by fourfold numbers, Peter decided at a council of war, held soon after his arrival, that a general attack was too hazardous. Charles XII had never yet been defeated in a pitched battle, and Peter was determined to take no risks. Only when the garrison of Poltawa contrived to let him know that their powder had run out, and the enemy’s sappers were burrowing beneath their palisades, did he order his army to advance. On that very day a crowning calamity overtook the Swedes. While reconnoitring the Russian camp, Charles received a wound in the foot from the bullet of a Cossack patrol, which placed him hors de combat. On hearing of this mishap, Peter resolved not to refuse battle, if it were offered him. Charles was equally ready to fight, and at a council of war held on June 26, Marshal Rehnskjold, whom he had appointed commander-in chief in his stead, was ordered to attack the Russians in their entrenchments on the following day. The Swedes joyfully accepting the chances of battle in lieu of miseries of all sorts and slow starvation, advanced with irresistible elan, and were at first successful on both wings. After this, one or two tactical blunders having been committed, the Tsar, taking courage, irew all his troops from their trenches, and enveloped the little band of Swedish infantry in a vast semi-circle, bristling with guns of the most modem make, the invention of a French engineer, Le Metre, which fired five times to the Swedes’ once, and literally swept away the Guards, the heart and soul of the army, before they could grasp their swords. After a desperate straggle, the Swedish infantry was annihilated, while the 14,000 cavalry, exhausted and demoralised, surrendered, two days later, at Perevolchna on the Dnieper, which they had no means of crossing, Charles XII, half delirious with pain, in his litter, escorted by Mazepa and 1500 horsemen, took refuge in Turkish territory. “The enemy’s army,” wrote Peter to his friend Romodonovsky next morning, “has had the fate of Phaethon. As for the King, we know not whether he be with us or with our fathers.” To Apraksin he wrote: “Now, by God’s help, are the foundations of Petersburg securely laid for all time.” At the end of the year, on his return to “the Holy Land,” he laid the foundation-stone of a church dedicated to St Sampson, to commemorate the victory of the strong and patient man who had at last vanquished his masters in the art of war.

The immediate result of the battle of Poltawa was the revival of the hostile league against Sweden. On hearing of Peter’s victory, Augustus sent his chamberlain, Count Vizthum, to arrange for a conference; and the two monarchs met on a bridge of boats in the Vistula, a mile from Thorn, where, on October 17,1709, a treaty cancelling all former compacts was signed. Peter undertook to assist Augustus to regain the throne of Poland; and, by a secret article, it was agreed that Livonia should form part of the victor’s hereditary domains. Previously to this (June 28), an alliance had been concluded at Dresden between Augustus and Frederick IV of Denmark, “to restore the equilibrium of the north, and keep Sweden within her proper limits.” Nevertheless, for fear of the Western Powers, which were amicably disposed towards Sweden, and by no means inclined to part with the Danish and Saxon mercenaries in their service, so long as the War of the Spanish Succession continued, the two Princes agreed to exempt Sweden’s German possessions from attack unless their own possessions in the Empire were attacked by Sweden. The confederates then proceeded to Berlin, to persuade Frederick I of Prussia to accede to the new alliance; but the Prussian Minister, llgen, restrained his royal master from taking any decisive step. Consequently, “ the league of the three Fredericks ” was of so general a character that it did little more than engage the King of Prussia to prevent the passage through his territories of any Swedish troops bent on invading the territories of Denmark or Saxony.

And now Frederick IV, despite the angry remonstrances of the Maritime Powers, resolved to attack Sweden at the very time that the Tsar was harrying the remnant of her Baltic provinces. But Sweden was now to show the world that a military State, whose strong central organisation enabled her to mobilise troops more quickly than her neighbours, is not to be overthrown by a single disaster, however serious. She could still oppose 16,000 well-disciplined troops to the Danish invader, and these troops were commanded by Count Magnus Stenbock, the last, but not the least, of the three great Caroline captains—the other two of whom, Rehnskjold and Lewenhaupt, were now captives in Russia. Her fleet, too, was still a little stronger than the Danish fleet, and, besides her garrisons in Stralsund, Wismar, Bremen, Verden, and other places, she had Krassow’s army-corps of 9000 strong in Poland. Then came the tidings of Poltawa, and, in an instant, the authority of King Stanislaus vanished. The vast majority of the Poles hastened to repudiate him and make their peace with Augustus, and Leszczynski, henceforth a mere pensioner of Charles XII, accompanied Krassow’s army-corps in its retreat to Swedish Pomerania. Ou November 12, 1709, 15,000 Danes landed in Scania, but, after gaining some slight advantage, were routed by Stenbock at Helsingborg (March 10, 1710), and compelled to evacuate Sweden. Yet, failure though it was, the short Scanian campaign had been of material assistance to the Tsar. It had prevented the Swedish Government from sending help to the hardly pressed eastern provinces, and had thus given Peter a free hand there. On July 15, 1710, Riga, into which Peter personally had the satisfaction of hurling the first bomb, was starved into surrender. During the next two months Pemau and Reval fell. Finland had already been invaded; and in June the fortress of Viborg was captured.

But, suddenly, alarming news from the south interrupted the Tsar’s career of conquest in the north. Immediately after Poltawa, Peter Tolstoi, the Russian ambassador at the Porte, demanded the extradition of Charles and Mazepa. This was a diplomatic blunder, as it irritated the already alarmed Turks. Tolstoi next reported “great military preparations made in great haste.” In August he offered the Grand Mufti 10,000 ducats and 1000 sables, if he would hand over the fugitives; but the Mufti gravely replied that such a breach of hospitality would be contrary to the religion of Islam. Evidently the Turks wished to prolong the Russo-Swedish War till they were ready to take the field themselves. Nor was Charles himself idle. For the first time in his life, he was obliged to have recourse to diplomacy; and his pen now proved almost as formidable as his sword. First he sent his agent, Neugebauer, to Stambul with a memorial in which the Porte was warned that, if Peter were given time, he would attack Turkey as suddenly and unexpectedly as he had attacked Sweden in 1700. The fortification of Azoff and the building of a fleet in the Black Sea clearly indicated his designs, and a Suedo-Turkish alliance was the only remedy against so pressing a danger. “Reinforce me with your valiant cavalry,’’ concluded Charles, “and I will return to Poland, reestablish my affairs, and again attack the heart of Muscovy.” These arguments, very skilfully presented, had a great effect upon the Porte; and, when Neugebauer was reinforced by Stanislaus Poniatowski, Charles’ ablest diplomatist, the crisis became acute. At first, indeed, the Muscovite prevailed. In November, 1709, the Russo-Turkish peace was renewed, on the understanding that Charles should be escorted to the Polish frontier by Turkish, and from Poland to the Swedish frontier by Russian, troops. But in January, 1710, Poniatowski succeeded in delivering to the Sultan personally a second memorial by Charles, convicting the Grand Vezir, Ali Pasha, of corruption and treason; and in June he was superseded by Neuman-Kiuprili, whose first act was to lend Charles 400,000 thalers free of interest. Kiuprili also would have avoided weir, if possible; but the patriotic zeal of the semi-mutinous Janissaries was too strong for him, and he had to give way to the still more anti-Russian Grand Vezir, Baltaji Mehemet. Peter, encouraged by his Baltic triumphs, now thought fit to take a higher tone with the Porte, and in October, 1710, categorically enquired Whether the Sultan desired peace or war, and threatened an invasion unless he received satisfactory assurances forthwith. The Porte, unaccustomed to such language from Muscovy, at once threw Tolstoi into the Seven Towers; while the Grand Vezir was sent to the frontier at the head of 200,000 men.

The campaign of the Pruth.

On March 19, 1711, war was solemnly proclaimed, in the Tsar’s presence, against “the enemies of the Cross of Christ”, in the Uspensky Cathedral; and Peter immediately set out for the front. At Iaroslavl, on June 12, he concluded a fresh alliance with Augustus, confirmatory of the Treaty of Thom. The petitions and promises of the Orthodox Christians in Turkey now induced the Tsar to accelerate his pace, and he concluded on his way a secret treaty of alliance with Demetrius Cantemir, Hospodar of Moldavia. Peter had expected that a general insurrection of the Serbs and Bulgars would have compelled the Grand Vezir to recross the Danube; but unexpected difficulties suddenly accumulated. On June 27, Sheremetieff, the Russian commander-in-chief, reported that the whole land had already been sucked dry by the Turks and he knew not where to look for provisions and provender. At a council of war, held at the end of June, Peter decided to advance still further, in order to support Sheremetieff and unite with the Orthodox Christians. On July 16 he reached Jassy, by which time the question of supplies had become so pressing, that all other considerations had to be subordinated to it. On the rumour reaching him that an immense quantity of provisions had been hidden by the Turks in the marshes of Fulchi, near Braila, Peter crossed the Pruth, and searched for these phantom supplies in the forests on the banks of the Sereth. On August 8 the advance- guard reported the approach of the Grand Vezir; and the whole army hurried back to the Pruth, fighting rear-guard actions all the way. On August 11 the Muscovites, now reduced to 38,000 men, entrenched them­selves ; and the same evening 190,000 Turks and Tartars, with 300 guns, leleagiitred them on both sides of the Pruth. An attack upon the Russian camp on the same day was repulsed; but the position of the Russians, with provisions for only a couple of days, and no hope of succour, was desperate. Had Baltaji only remained stationary for a week, he could have starved the Muscovites into surrender without losing a man or wasting a shot. Learning, however, from a Turkish prisoner that the Grand Vezir was pacifically inclined, Vice-Chancellor Shafiroff persuaded Sheremetieff to send a trumpeter to the Turkish camp with an offer of peace. It was the merest forlorn hope, and Sheremetieff himself remarked that the Grand Vezir would be the craziest person in the world to take half when, by waiting a little longer, he could have the whole. Nevertheless, after a second and more urgent summons, the Grand Vezir professed his readiness to negotiate; and on the same day, Shafiroff, with three interpreters and two couriers, departed upon what everyone regarded as a fool’s errand. His instructions strikingly reflect the extreme depression of the Tsar. Peter was now ready to surrender virtually all his Baltic conquests, except St Petersburg; to recognise Stanislaus Leszczynski as King of Poland; and to give complete satisfaction to the Sultan. He also authorised Shafiroff to promise the Grand Vezir and his chief officers 230,000 roubles, if the Muscovite army were permitted to return home unmolested. Shafiroff acquitted himself of his difficult task with consummate ability. The terms of the Peace which he brought back with him on August 12 were, in the circumstances, amazingly favourable. The Russian army was allowed to retire, in return for a solemn engagement to retrocede Azoff, to dismantle Taganrog and the other fortresses on the Sea of Azoff, to interfere no more in Polish affairs, and to grant the King of Sweden a free passage to his domains.

The only person who took no part in the general rejoicing was the Tsar. After loudly declaring his intention of delivering the Christian population of Turkey from the Mohammadan yoke and driving the Turks out of Europe, he had signed a peace by which he abandoned the Sea of Azoff, and undertook to destroy the choicest works of his own hands, his fortresses, and his costly new-built fleet! Peter’s desponder cj is clearly reflected in the letter which he addressed to the newly instituted Senate, while the negotiations with the Porte were still proceeding. In this letter he informs his Ministers that he is surrounded by a countless Turkish army, and, without a special manifestation of God’s grace, sees nothing before him but a hopeless pitched battle or Turkish captivity “ In the latter case,” he continues, “regard me no longer as your Gosudar, and obey no orders from me, though they may be under my hand and seal, till I appear among you. And in case of my death, elect the worthiest as my successor.”

Two days before the Russian army departed from the Pruth, Charles XII, who had provided the Grand Vezir with a plan of campaign before­hand, arrived on the scene of action. Only then did he receive the unwelcome news that peace had been concluded. Well might he denounce the conduct of Baltaji as a treason to the Sultan as well as to himself. “He seems to have more regard,” wrote Charles, “for the conservation of the enemy’s army than for the advantage of the Ottoman Porte.” Even now, however, Charles did not abandon the struggle. He was materially assisted by Peter’s tergiversations. Skilfully taking advantage of them, Charles, at last, procured the dismissal of Baltaji; and his own friend, Jussuf, Aga of the Janissaries, became Grand Vezir in Baltaji’s stead. War was hereupon once more declared against Russia; and the Sultan announced that, in the spring, he would in person lead his army against the Tsar. Then Peter so far gave way as to abandon Azoff and raze Taganrog, without waiting for the dismissal of Charles XII. But the danger was not yet over. Early in 1712, the influential French ambassador at Stambul began urging the Sultan to declare war against Russia for the third time. Peter, he argued, fairly enough, was not to be trusted, and, if only the Sultan sent Charles home with an escort of 30,000 Turks and 15,000 Tartars, all Poland would hail his advent. The persistent hope of obtaining such escort was the real cause of Charles’ long sojourn in Turkey. But the British and Dutch Ministers now came to the assistance of Shafiroff whom Peter had been obliged to leave as a hostage in the hands of the Turks. They persuaded the Grand Vezir to accept a treaty, drafted by themselves, for a twenty-five years’ truce between Russia and the Porte. Peter undertaking to evacuate Poland, and acknowledge the sovereignty of the Porte over the Cossacks (April, 1712). This treaty cost Shafiroff 84,900 Venetian ducats, of which the friendly Ministers received 6000 apiece. But the continuance of the Russian troops in Poland, long denied, could not be concealed for ever. Poniatowski presented a third memorial from Charles to the Sultan, emphasising and commenting on this flagrant breach of the April treaty; on November 1, a Turkish courier returned from Poland with confirmation of the fact; on December 21 the Sultan set out for Adrianople; and war was declared against Russia for the third time. Shafiroff reported that this change of front was entirely the Sultan’s doing. He had never liked the Peace of the Pruth, and, egged on by the French ambassador, was resolved to reinstate Charles, to whom he had sent a present of 600,000 francs. In the beginning of 1713, however, more favourable reports arrived from Shafiroff. It now appeared that the Sultan had declared war for the purpose of extorting a cession of territory from the Poles; but, as they remained firm, and showed no disposition to reject Augustus since his last reinstalment, he had concluded that the Tsar was stronger in Poland than his rival, and that the French and Swedish Ministers had reported falsely. He also feared that, in the present temper of the Janissaries, disaster might mean his own deposition. He therefore requested Charles to depart from Turkey. Charles refused to budge and on February 1, 1713, was attacked at Bender. For eight hours Charles with only 40 men defended his unfortified house against 12,000 Turks with 12 guns. Two hundred Turks fell, ten by the King’s own hand. It took a dozen Janissaries to overwhelm him single-handed in his attempt to escape from the burning house. The negotiations with Russia were then resumed. But the eyes of the Turks had now, for the first time, been opened to the fact that the Polish and the Eastern questions were inseparable, and to its inevitable corollary that Russia’s predominance in Poland was a direct menace to the Porte. The new Grand Vezir, Ali Pasha, now demanded tribute from Russia, with the obvious intention of provoking a rupture (June, 1713); and Shafiroff only averted a declaration of war by bribing the Grand Mufti. Finally, however, (July 16, 1713) the Pea.ce of Adrianople, mediated by the Maritime Powers, adjusted all the outstanding differences between Russia and the Porte.

On retiring from the Pruth, Peter, after a brief visit to Carlsbad, proceeded to Krossen (November 13, 1711) to concert measures with his allies for the vigorous prosecution of the Swedish war, which was now transferred to Germany, where the long struggle for the dominion of the North was to be fought out.

By this time Sweden’s position had distinctly deteriorated. In March 1710, the Swedish Senate had concluded a neutrality compact with the Emperor, Prussia, Hanover, Great Britain and Holland, whereby Charles’ possessions in northern Germany were guaranteed against attack, on condition that Krassow’s army in Pomerania abstained from hostilities, within the German Empire and was not employed either in Poland or Jutland. This guarantee treaty was, in the circumstances, a prudent act of statesmanship; but Charles incontinently rejected it, as interfering with his plans, thereby greatly irritating the Maritime Powers, already by no means so well disposed towards Sweden as heretofore in con­sequence of the depredations of the Swedish privateers in the Baltic: In 1712, the unwisdom of Charles’ summary renunciation of a compact intended for his special protection became apparent. Not only did the Tsar and Augustus II determine to proceed against the Swedish possessions in Germany, but they persuaded Frederick IV of Denmark to join them. The plan of the allies was for the Danes to invade the Bremen and Verden territory, where Stade was the chief fortress, while the Russians and Saxons simultaneously attacked Stralsund. Stade capitulated (September 7) to the Danes, who thereupon occupied Bremen and Verden; but the allies failed to make any impression on Stralsund, and the abortive siege led to a violent quarrel between the Kings of Poland and Denmark which the Russian Ministers barely succeeded in comppsing.

But now a fresh danger suddenly threatened Peter and his allies. From the first the Maritime Powers had been far more amicably disposed towards Sweden than towards Muscovy. This anti-Russian bias was strongest in England, where the interference of semi-barbarous Muscovy in European affairs was felt to be far more offensive than the haughty aloofness of the Swede. Before Poltawa, Sweden was generally regarded as the natural counterpoise to Russia and entitled, so far as she discharged that useful political function, to the support of the Maritime Powers. Hence, Great Britain recognised Stanislaus as King of Poland; and in London the Russian ambassador Matvieeff was treated with contemptuous indifference. His arrest (January 21, 1709), on a warrant obtained against him by two shopkeepers and a lace-merchant for a debt of £50, was the last straw. Though the much-ruffled ambassador was speedily released and promised every satisfaction, his arrest was reported by him from the Hague to Peter as the crowning outrage of “the Christ-hating English nation”; but the Tsar was in such straits at the time that he had to condone the offence. Even after Poltawa, the tone of the British Cabinet was persistently unfriendly. The British and Dutch Ministers at Copenhagen had done their utmost to prevent Denmark from acceding to the second coalition against Sweden; and Bolingbroke told van der Lit, the new Russian ambassador in London, that Great Britain never could put up with Russia’s obvious intention of extruding the King of Sweden from German soil. In the course of 1712, the Maritime Powers offered their mediation in the Northern War in so threatening a manner that Peter declared this to be, not mediation, but intimidation. Nevertheless, he expressed himself willing to make peace on the vague stipulation that all the ancient Russian lands which he had reconquered should be retroceded to him. As, however, Charles XII refused to make any surrender, “whatever the conjunctures may be,” all idea of mediation was finally abandoned.

This obstinacy was to cost Charles dear. At Bender he had elaborated a fresh plan of campaign too heroic to be practicable. Magnus Stenbock was to form a new army-corps in Sweden, convey it to Pomerania, and, invading Poland from the north, reinstate Stanislaus on the throne, and drive out Peter and Augustus, while Charles and the Turks cooperated from the south. On September 24,1712, Stenbock succeeded in transporting an army of 9400 men, a park of artillery, and a quantity of transports laden with stores, to RÚgen, despite the disturbing presence of a large Danish fleet which subsequently destroyed the greater part of the transports. After reinforcing himself from the garrison of Stralsund, he had at his disposal an effective army of 17,000 men. He rightly refused to accept the responsibility of plunging blindly into Poland leaving Sweden’s German possessions to their fate, especially as Prussia also now began to adopt a threatening tone; but, since it was equally impossible for him to remain at Stralsund, from lack of provisions, he marched west­wards into Mecklenburg, reached Wismar in safety, and proceeded to live on the land. But, even here, he could not long remain in safety. The Danes were advancing against him from the south-west, the Russians and Saxons from the south-east; and, to prevent their junction, he resolved to attack the weaker foe, the Danes, whose army was little superior to his own. By forced marches he overtook the Danes near Gadebusch, before the Saxons could join them or overtake him, and won a victory (December 20, 1712), which well deserved the congratulations bestowed upon the victor by Marlborough, but was of very little service to Sweden. Hoping to crush Denmark, as Torstexisson had done in 1643, by occupy­ing Jutland, Stenbock crossed the Holstein frontier on New Year’s Day, 1713; and after, with wanton barbarity, destroying the defenceless city of Altona he marched northwards through Holstein, hotly pursued by the combined armies of the three Powers under the Tsar’s command. Cut off from Jutland and surrounded on every side by enemies, Stenbock finally (February 14,1713) took refuge in Tonning, the chief fortress of Holstein-Gottorp, Sweden’s one ally. Three months later, after an unsuccessful attempt to break through the beleaguering force, Stenbock, with the assistance of the Holstein Minister von Gortz, capitulated at Oldenburg (May 6,1713), obtaining honourable terms of surrender for his army, now reduced to 11,000 men, though he himself remained in Danish captivity till his death (1717).

No sooner was Stenbock safely shut up in Tonning, than Peter went in search of fresh allies. But neither the Elector of Hanover nor the King of Prussia, to whom he successively applied, would listen to him. Peter hereupon determined to conquer Finland in order “to break the stiff necks of the Swedes,” and have something definite to surrender, when the time for negotiation should have arrived. The necessary preparations were made immediately after his return to St Petersburg in March, 1713; and on May 21 the Russian fleet sailed. The defence of Finland had been entrusted to the incapable Lybecker, who heaped blunder upon blunder; and his gallant successor, Karl Gustaf Armfelt, with hopelessly inadequate forces, could do little but retreat skilfully northwards. His own and Finland’s fate were finally decided on March 13,1714, at the bloody battle of the Storkyro, when the Swedish general stood at bay with his raw levies against threefold odds and was annihilated. By the end of 1714 the whole grand-duchy was in the enemy’s possession.

In Germany, during the summer of 1713, the Swedish fortress of Stettin had been besieged by the Russians and Saxons. It capitulated in September and was occupied by neutral Prussian and Holstein troops on the understanding that it was to be restored to Sweden at the conclusion of a general peace. “The Stettin Sequestration,” as it was called, was primarily the work of the Holstein Ministers von Gortz and Bassewitz. Their object was to tempt Prussia over to Charles; and the Court of Berlin actually agreed to drive the Danes out of Holstein and guarantee the neutrality of Charles’ German possessions in the hope of subsequent compensation. But the diplomatists had reckoned without Charles XII, who at once denounced “the Stettin Sequestration,” naturally refusing to recognise the right of Prussia, a neutral Power, to occupy one of his fortresses under any conditions.

During the summer of 1714, owing to the incurable jealousy between Denmark and Saxony, the war languished; and fresh efforts were made to bring about a general pacification at the Congress of Brunswick. Peter was willing to make peace with Sweden if all the territory ceded to her by Russia at the Peace of Stolbova were now retroceded. In case of emergency, he was even willing to restore Livonia provided that all its fortresses were previously demolished. But his principal object was to bind Denmark more closely to him. Now that the tide of victory had carried the Russian arms in triumph up to the head of the Gulf of Bothnia, while the Swedes were driven back to their native peninsula, any future operations against them would largely depend upon the possession of sea-power. But the Russian navy consisted, for the most part, of galleys, and consequently in any attack upon the great arsenal of Karlskrona, where the military and naval forces of Sweden were now concentrated, the cooperation of the Danish navy was indispensable. Peter therefore offered Denmark 150,000 roubles a year in subsidies and an auxiliary army of 15,000 men, maintained at his own expense, for a descent upon Scania, which Denmark now hoped to regain. But the Danes considered the proffered assistance inadequate, and they also imposed as a precedent condition the active cooperation of Prussia, who was to guarantee them the possession of Bremen and Verden, in return for a Danish guarantee of Stettin to Prussia.

In April, 1714, the Elector of Hanover came forward with a fresh scheme of partition. According to this project, Prussia was to have Stettin, while Bremen and Verden were to be assigned to Hanover, and Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark, who with Prussia should undertake to capture Stralsund, Hanover occupying Wismar, which was to be transferred to Mecklenburg. Peter warmly approved of the Hanoverian scheme; but it foundered on the hostility of Denmark, who naturally refused to part with her own conquests, Bremen and Verden. A simultaneous attempt by the Marquis de Chateauneuf, the French Minister at the Hague, to bring about an understanding between Peter and Charles failed because of the Tsar’s profound distrust of France. At this juncture, an event occurred which profoundly affected northern politics—the death of Queen Anne (August 1, 1714). The Suedophil Tory Ministry disappeared; and the most unscrupulous of Charles XIFs despoilers ascended the English throne as George I. Three months later, Charles XII reappeared upon the scene. On September 20 he had quitted Turkey, and, after traversing Austria, and making a long ditour by Niimberg and Cassel, to avoid the domains of the Saxon Elector, arrived unexpectedly, at midnight, November 11 (0. S.), at Stralsund, which, besides Wismar, was all that now remained to him on German soil.

The year 1715 was memorable for the conclusion of the so-called “English affair,” which resulted in the formation of a third coalition against Charles XII. The author of this league of spoliation was the new King of England; and the preliminaries were arranged in February at Copenhagen. Prussia had all along been playing a waiting game. Her final accession to the league was extorted by the categorical question of George I's Minister at Berlin, whether she was going to join the league, or not. In England the Whig Ministry felt obliged to support the monarch of its choice; and a British fleet was sent to the Baltic to cooperate, to a limited extent, with the Danes and Russians against Sweden. The treaties signed on May 2 and June 7, 1715, between Hanover and Denmark, and on May 17, at Copenhagen, between Denmark and Prussia, arranged all the details of the projected partitions. Wolgast and Stettin were to fall to the share of Prussia; Rugen and Pomerania north of the Peene to Denmark, which was also to have the absolute control of Holstein-Gottorp; and the duchies of Bremen and Verden to Hanover, which was to purchase them from Denmark for 600,000 rix-dollars. Charles formally protested against this traffic in property of which he was the real owner, and refused to have any dealings with his plunderers; and ultimately Hanover declared war against him (October, 1715). Thus, at the end of 1715, Sweden, now fast approaching the last stage of exhaustion, was at open war with Great Britain (Hanover), Russia, Prussia, Saxony and Denmark. For twelve months Charles XII defended Stralsund with almost super­human heroism. Again and again, at the head of his “blue boys,” he drove the allies from the isle of Usedom, and when, at length, it was captured at a heavy cost, the delight of the Kings of Denmark and Prussia at their hard-won triumph knew no bounds. But the hostile forces proved overwhelming, and on December 23, 1715, Stralsund, now little more than a rubbish-heap, surrendered, Charles having, effected his escape to Sweden, after evading the Danish cruisers, two days before.

It had become evident to all the members of the anti-Swedish league that, till Charles had been attacked in the heart of his own realm, the war might drag on indefinitely. But when it came to the execution of the plan of invasion, insuperable obstacles presented themselves. Saxony and Hanover were jealous of Denmark; and all three were incurably suspicious of the Tsar; yet, without Peter’s active cooperation, Charles was practically unassailable. At the beginning of 1716, Peter justified their suspicions by his high-handed interference in German affairs. At the end of January, he punished the independent city of Danzig for trading with Sweden, even going the length of seizing all the Swedish vessels in the harbour, and compelling the Danzigers to build him privateers for nothing; but when, on May 11, by the Treaty of Danzig, he guaranteed Wismar and Warnemiinde to Duke Charles Leopold of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, on his marriage with Peter’s niece, the Tsarevna Catharine Ivanovna, the prospect of seeing Mecklenburg a Russian out­post infuriated George I and Frederick IV.

There can be no doubt that the Mecklenburg compact was a blunder. The most capable and experienced of Peter’s own diplomatists, Prince Boris Kurakin, now at the Hague, had strongly dissuaded him from it.

The Duke was of notoriously bad character; and he was not even divorced from his first wife. Kurakin counselled his master at least not to imperil the profitable British alliance by aggrandising Charles Leopold at the expense of Peter’s own allies. The Tsar disregarded this advice; and complications immediately ensued. Prince Repnin, sent by Peter with an army-corps to help Hanover and Denmark to reduce Wismar, was informed that his services were not required; and when the fortress capitulated (April 15) the Russian contingent was refused admittance. Peter was deeply offended. But his necessities compelled him to dissemble his wrath; and, at a meeting between the Tsar and Frederick of Denmark, at Altona, on June 14, the invasion of Scania, where Charles XII had established himself in an entrenched camp defended by 20,000 men, was definitely arranged. On July 28, Peter arrived at Copenhagen with his squadron; and 30,000 Russians and 23,000 Danes began to assemble in Zealand, in order to make the descent under cover of the English, Danish, and Russian fleets. But July passed by, and still the Danes held back. In mid-August, Peter cruised off the Scanian coast to examine the lie of the land, and discovered that the Swedes were very strongly entrenched. Peter was naturally cautious; and his caution had been intensified by the terrible punishment with which his one act of temerity had so severely been visited, five years before, on the banks of the Pruth. Charles XII, he argued, always formidable, would be doubly so at bay in the midst of his own people. Moreover Peter was growing more and more suspicious of his allies; and their prolonged delay in striking at the common foe, seemed to point to negotiation, or, at least, some understanding with Sweden. He submitted his doubts to two councils of Russian Ministers and generals on September 23 and 27 (O. S.); and they unanimously advised him to postpone the descent to the following year. Such was the real cause of the sudden and mysterious abandonment of the Scanian expedition.

The Peace Negotiations of Baron Görtz.

Peter’s resolution was duly communicated to the Danish and Hanoverian Governments, and produced a storm of indignation which nearly blew the league of spoliation to pieces. In October the Russian troops quitted Denmark, and went into winter-quarters at Mecklenburg. The same month Peter concluded a fresh defensive alliance with Frederick William of Prussia at Havelberg, whence he proceeded to Amsterdam, where he was joined by his six most eminent diplomatists, including Shafiroff, Tolstoi, and Kurakin, and where he received tidings from London of the arrest of the Swedish Minister, Count Carl Gyllenborg, for alleged participation in a Jacobite conspiracy engineered by Charles XII, who was said to have sent, or to be sending, a fleet with an army of 17,000 men to Scotland. Such an escapade seemed to Peter just the sort of thing to which Charles XII was likely to put his hand. He anticipated a war between Sweden and England at the very least.

“Am I not right in always drinking to the health of this enterprising hero?” he wrote to Apraksin; “Why, he gives us for nothing what we never could buy at any price!” But the Tsar was wrong. The whole scheme originated in the fertile brain of Baron von Gortz, who in 1715 had passed out of the Holstein-Gottorp into the Swedish service; but it was sternly discountenanced by Charles. Indeed Peter’s relations with George I now became worse instead of better, for George refused to have any dealings with Peter personally till Mecklenburg had been evacuated by the Muscovites.

Unable to obtain anything from England, Peter now turned to France, since the death of Louis XIV less hostile to Russia. The political outcome of Peter’s visit there (May 7—June 20, 1717) was the Treaty of Amsterdam (August 15), between France, Russia, and the United Provinces, guaranteeing each other’s possessions. But this treaty meant very little so long as Sweden continued to show a bold front against the divided league of partition; and after a fresh coldness had arisen between Peter and George, owing to the curt refusal of the latter to place fifteen British line-of-battle ships at the former’s disposal “ to bring the King of Sweden to reason,” Peter resolved, at last, to treat directly with Sweden. The chief intermediary was Görtz, who, gifted with uncommon astuteness and audacity, seems to have been fascinated by the heroic element in Charles’ nature. He owed his extraordinary influence over the King to the fact that he was the only one of Charles’ advisers who believed, or pretended to believe, that the strength of Sweden was still far from being exhausted, or, at any rate, that she had a sufficient reserve of force to give impetus to a high-spirited diplomacy This was Charles’ own opinion. Charles was now willing to relinquish a portion of the duchies of Bremen and Verden, in exchange for a commensurate part of Norway, due regard being had to differences of soil and climate. Thus, his invasions of Norway in 1716 and 1718, so far from being mere adventurous escapades, were mainly due to political speculation. It was obvious that, with large districts of Norway actually in his hands, he could make better terms with the provisional: holders of his ultramarine domains. But the exchange of a small portion of Bremen and Verden for something much larger elsewhere was the utmost concession he would make; and this was an altogether inadequate basis for negotiation. Anyone but Görtz would have retired from the affair altogether. But he trusted in his ability to persuade Charles into treating, and thus bring him over gradually to his own plans.

GÓrtz first felt the pulse of the English Ministry, who rejected the Swedish terms as excessive; whereupon he turned to Russia. Formal negotiations were opened at Lofo, one of the Aland Islands (May 23, 1718), Gortz being the principal Swedish, and Osterman, Peter’s most astute diplomatist, since the disgrace of Shafiroff, the principal Russian, commissioner.                                          .

In view of the increasing instability of the league of partition, Peter uncerely desired peace with Sweden; but he was resolved to retain the bulk of his conquests. Finland he would retrocede, but Ingria, Livonia, Esthonia, and Carelia, with Viborg, must be surrendered by Sweden. If Charles consented, Peter undertook to compensate him in whatever direction he might choose. It was not oidy peace, but an alliance with the King of Sweden, that the Tsar wanted. “When all ancient grudges and sorenesses are over between us,” wrote Peter privately “we two between us will preserve the balance of Europe.” Görtz was promised a gratuity of 100,000 roubles if peace were concluded.

Two things were soon plain to the keen-witted Osterman—that Gortz was hiding the Russian conditions from Charles, and that the Swedish feeling was altogether opposed to the Russian negotiations, rightly judging that nothing obtained elsewhere could compensate for the loss of the Baltic provinces. Twice the negotiations were interrupted in order that Görtz and Osterman might consult their principals. In October, Osterman, in a private report to the Tsar, accurately summed up the whole situation. The negotiations, he said, were entirely Gortz’ work. Charles seemed to care little for his own interests, so long as he could fight. In the circumstances, it might fairly be argued that he was not quite sane. Sweden’s power of resistance was nearly at breaking-point. Every artisan and one out of every two peasants had already been taken for soldiers. He strongly advised that additional pressure should be brought to bear by a devastating raid on Swedish territory. There was, however, a chance that Charles might break his neck, or be shot in one of his adventures; “and such an ending, if it happened after peace had been signed, would relieve us from all our obligations.”

Osterman’s anticipations were realised in an extraordinary way. On December 12, 1718, Charles XII was shot dead in his trenches while on the point of capturing the Norwegian fortress of Fredrikssten. The irresolution of the young Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, the legitimate heir to the throne, sealed the fate of a party already detested in Sweden because of its identification with Gortz, who was arrested the day after Charles’ death and executed for alleged high-treason in February, 1719. In March, Charles’ one surviving sister, Ulrica Leonora, was elected Queen of Sweden, and the negotiations at Lofo were resumed. But the Swedish plenipotentiaries now declared that they would rather resume the war than surrender the Baltic provinces; and, in July, a Russian fleet proceeded to the Swedish coast and landed a raiding force which destroyed property to the value of 18 millions of roubles. The Swedish Government, far from being intimidated, hereupon broke off all negotiations with Russia (Sep­tember 17); and pacific overtures were made instead to Hanover, Prussia, and Denmark. By the Treaties of Stockholm, November 20, 1719, and February 1, 1720, Hanover obtained the “bishoprics” of Bremen and Verden for herself, and Stettin and district for her confederate Prussia. The prospect of coercing Russia by means of the English fleet had alone induced Sweden to consent to such sacrifices; but when the last demands of Hanover and its allies had been complied with, she was left to come to terms as best she could with the Tsar. The efforts which Great Britain made at Vienna, Berlin, and Warsaw in the course of 1720-1, to obtain, by diplomatic means, some mitigation in favour of Sweden of Russia’s demands proved fruitless, chiefly owing to the stubborn neutrality of Prussia; and though an English fleet was despatched to the Baltic to protect Sweden’s coasts, it abstained from intervention, when, in the course of 1720, the Russian forces again de­scended upon the hapless land and destroyed four towns, 41 villages, and 1026 farms. In her isolation and abandonment Sweden had no choice but to reopen negotiations with Russia, at Nystad, in May, 1720. She still pleaded hard for at least Viborg; but a third Russian raid accelerated the pace of the negotiations, and, on August 30,1721, by the Peace of Nystad, Sweden ceded to Russia, Livonia, Esthonia, Ingria, the province of Eeksholm, and the fortress of Viborg. Finland west of Viborg and north of Keksholm was retroceded to her, and she was also granted an indemnity of two millions of thalers and free trade in the Baltic.

On September 14, a courier, with a sealed packet, containing the Treaty of Nystad, overtook Peter on his way to Viborg. On opening the packet the Tsar declared, with perfect justice, that this was the most profitable peace Russia had ever concluded. “Most apprentices,” he jocularly observed, “generally serve for seven years; but in our school the term of apprenticeship has been thrice as long. Yet, God be praised, things could not have turned out better for us than they have done;” And, indeed, the gain to Russia by the Peace of Nystad, which terminated a war of twenty-one years, was much more than territorial. In surrendering her choicest Baltic provinces, Sweden had also lost the hegemony of the North, and all her pretensions to be considered a Great Power.