THE BOY CONQUEROR—CHARLES XII OF SWEDEN
By E. S. Brooks
In an old, old palace on the rocky height of the Slottsbacke,
or Palace Hill, in the northern quarter of the beautiful city of
Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, there lived, just two hundred
years ago, a bright young prince. His father was a stern and daring
warrior-king—a man who had been a fighter from his earliest boyhood;
who at fourteen had been present in four pitched battles with the
Danes, and who, while yet scarce twelve years old, had charged
the Danish line at the head of his guards and shot down the stout
Danish colonel, who could not resist the spry young warrior. His
mother was a sweet-faced Danish princess, a loving and gentle lady,
who scarce ever heard a kind word from her stern-faced husband,
and whose whole life was bound up in her precious little prince.
And this little Carolus, Karl, or Charles, dearly loved his tender
mother. From her he learned lessons of truth and nobleness that
even through all his stormy and wandering life never forsook him.
Often while he had swung gently to and fro in his quaint, carved,
and uncomfortable-looking cradle, had she crooned above him the
old saga-songs that told of valor and dauntless courage and all the
stern virtues that made up the heroes of those same old saga-songs.
Many a time she had trotted the little fellow on her knee to the
music of the ancient nursery rhyme that has a place in all lands
and languages, from the steppes of Siberia to the homes of New York
and San Francisco:
"Ride along, ride a cock-horse,
His mane is dapple-gray;
Ride along, ride a cock-horse,
Little boy, ride away.
Where shall the little boy ride to?
To the king's court to woo"—
and so forth, and so forth, and so forth—in different phrases but
with the same idea, as many and many a girl and boy can remember.
And she had told him over and over again the saga-stories and fairy
tales that every Scandinavian boy and girl, from prince to peasant,
knows so well—of Frithiof and Ingeborg, and the good King Rene;
and about the Stone Giant and his wife Guru; and about the dwarfs,
and trolls, and nixies, and beautiful mermaids and stromkarls. And
she told him also many a story of brave and daring deeds, of noble
and knightly lives, and how his ancestors, from the great Gustavus,
and, before, from the still greater Gustavus Vasa, had been kings
of Sweden, and had made the name of that Northern land a power in
all the courts of Europe.
Little Prince Charles was as brave as he was gentle and jolly, and
as hardy as he was brave. At five years old he killed his first
fox; at seven he could manage his horse like a young centaur; and
at twelve he had his first successful bear hunt. He was as obstinate
as he was hardy; he steadily refused to learn Latin or French—the
languages of the court—until he heard that the kings of Denmark
and Poland understood them, and then he speedily mastered them.
His lady-mother's death, when he was scarce twelve years old, was
a great sadness, and nearly caused his own death, but, recovering
his health, he accompanied his father on hunting parties and military
expeditions, and daily grew stronger and hardier than ever.
In April, 1697, when the prince was not yet fifteen, King Charles
XI, his stern-faced father, suddenly died, and the boy king succeeded
to the throne as absolute lord of "Sweden and Finland, of Livonia,
Carelia, Ingria, Wismar, Wibourg, the islands of Rugen and Oesel,
of Pomerania, and the duchies of Bremen and Verdun"—one of the finest
possessions to which a young king ever succeeded, and representing
what is now Sweden, Western Russia, and a large part of Northern
A certain amount of restraint is best for us all. As the just
restraints of the law are best for men and women, so the proper
restraints of home are best for boys and girls. A lad from whom
all restraining influences are suddenly withdrawn—who can have
his own way unmolested—stands in the greatest danger of wrecking
his life. The temptations of power have been the cause of very
much of the world's sadness and misery. And this temptation came
to this boy King of Sweden called in his fifteenth year to supreme
sway over a large realm of loyal subjects. Freed from the severity
of his stern father's discipline, he found himself responsible to
no one—absolutely his own master. And he did what too many of
us, I fear, would have done in his position—he determined to have
a jolly good time, come what might; and he had it—in his way.
He and his brother-in-law, the wild young Duke of Holstein, turned
the town upside down. They snapped cherry-pits at the king's
gray-bearded councillors, and smashed in the windows of the staid
and scandalized burghers of Stockholm. They played ball with the
table dishes, and broke all the benches in the palace chapel. They
coursed hares through the council-chambers of the Parliament House,
and ran furious races until they had ruined several fine horses.
They beheaded sheep in the palace till the floors ran with blood,
and then pelted the passers-by with sheep's heads. They spent the
money in the royal treasury like water, and played so many heedless
and ruthless boy-tricks that the period of these months of folly was
known, long after, as the "Gottorp Fury," because the harum-scarum
young brother-in-law, who was the ringleader in all these scrapes,
was Duke of Holstein-Gottorp.
But at last, even the people—serfs of this boy autocrat though they
were—began to murmur, and when one Sunday morning three clergymen
preached from the text "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is
a child," the young sovereign remembered the counsels of his good
mother and recalled the glories of his ancestors, saw how foolish
and dangerous was all this reckless sport, turned over a new leaf,
became thoughtful and care-taking, and began his career of conquest
with the best victory of all—the conquest of himself!
But though he curbed his tendency to profitless and hurtful
"skylarking," he had far too much of the Berserker blood of his
ancestors—those rough old vikings who "despised mail and helmet
and went into battle unharnessed"—to become altogether gentle in
manners or occupation. He hated his fair skin, and sought in every
way to tan and roughen it, and to harden himself by exposure and
neglect of personal comfort. Many a night was passed by the boy on
the bare floor, and for three nights in the cold Swedish December
he slept in the hay-loft of the palace stables, without undressing
and with but scanty covering.
So he grew to be a lad of seventeen, sturdy, strong, and hardy, and
at the date of our story, in the year of 1699, the greater part of
his time was given up to military exercises and field sports, with
but little attention to debates in council or to the cares of state.
Among his chief enjoyments were the sham fights on land and water.
Many a hard-fought battle was waged between the boys and young men
who made up his guards and crews, and who would be divided into
two or more opposing parties, as the plan of battle required. This
was rough and dangerous sport, and was attended often with really
serious results. But the participants were stout and sturdy Northern
lads, used to hardships and trained to physical endurance. They
thought no more of these encounters than do the boys of to-day of
the crush of football and the hard hitting of the baseball field,
and blows were given and taken with equal good nature and unconcern.
One raw day in the early fall of 1699, sturdy young Arvid Horn,
a stout, blue-eyed Stockholm boy, stripped to the waist, and with
a gleam of fun in his eyes, stood upright in his little boat as
it bobbed on the crest of the choppy Maelar waves. He hailed the
"Holo; in the boat there! Stand for your lives!" he shouted, and
levelled his long squirt-gun full at the helmsman.
Swish! came the well-directed stream of water plump against the
helmsman's face. Again and again it flew, until dripping and sore
he dropped the tiller and dashed down the companion-way calling
loudly for help.
Help came speedily, and as the crew of the king's yacht manned the
rail and levelled at their single assailant the squirt-guns, which
were the principal weapons of warfare used in these "make-believe"
naval engagements, the fun grew fast and furious; but none had so
sure an aim or so strong an arm to send an unerring and staggering
stream as young Arvid Horn. One by one he drove them back while
as his boat drifted still nearer the yacht he made ready to spring
to the force-chains and board his prize. But even before he could
steady himself for the jump, another tall and fair-haired Stockholm
lad, darting out from the high cabin, rallied the defeated crew
and bade them man the pumps at once.
A clumsy-looking fire-engine stood amidship, and the crew leaped
to its pumps as directed, while the newcomer, catching up a line
of hose, sprang to the rail and sent a powerful stream of water
straight against the solitary rover.
"Repel boarders!" he cried, laughingly, and the sudden stream from
the fire-engine's nozzle sent young Arvid Horn staggering back into
But he rallied quickly, and with well-charged squirt-gun attacked
the new defender of the yacht. The big nozzle, however, was more
than a match for the lesser squirt-gun, and the small boat speedily
began to fill under the constant deluge of water from the engine.
"Yield thee, yield thee, Arvid Horn; yield thee to our unconquerable
nozzle," came the summons from the yacht; "yield thee, or I will
drown you out like a rat in a cheese-press!"
"Arvid Horn yields to no one," the plucky boy in the boat made answer,
and with a parting shot and a laughing "Farväl!" he leaped from
the sinking boat into the dancing Maelar water. Striking boldly out,
he swam twice round the boat in sheer bravado, defying the enemy;
now ducking to escape the pursuing stream, or now, while floating
on his back, sending a return shot with telling force against the
men at the pump—for he still clung to his trusty squirt-gun.
The fair-faced lad in the yacht looked at the swimmer in evident
"Is it, then, hard to swim, Arvid Horn?" he inquired.
"Not if one is fearless," called back the floating boy.
"How; fearless?" exclaimed the lad on the yacht, hastily. "Do you
perhaps think that I am afraid?"
"I said not so," replied young Arvid, coolly sending a full charge
from his squirt-gun straight up in the air.
"No; but you mean it—good faith, you mean it, then," said the lad,
and flinging off wig, cocked hat, and long coat only, without an
instant's hesitation he, too, leaped into the Maelar Lake.
There is nothing so cooling to courage or reckless enthusiasm as
cold water-if one cannot swim. The boy plunged and floundered,
and weighty with his boots and his clothing, soon sank from sight.
As he came spluttering to the surface again, "Help, help, Arvid,"
he called despairingly; "I am drowning!"
Arvid, who had swum away from his friend, thinking that he would
follow after, heard the cry and caught a still louder one from the
yacht: "The king, the king is sinking!"
A few strokes brought him near to the over-confident diver, and
clutching him by his shirt-collar, he kept the lad's head above
water until, after a long and laborious swim, he brought his kingly
burden safe to land—for the fair-haired and reckless young knight
of the nozzle was none other than his gracious majesty, Charles
the Twelfth of Sweden.
"Truly it is one thing to be brave and another to be skilful,"
said the king, as he stood soaked and dripping on the shore. "But
for you, friend Arvid, I had almost gone."
"You are very wet, sire, and may take cold," said Arvid; "let us
hasten at once to yonder house for warmth and dry clothes."
"Not so, Arvid; I do not fear the water—on land," said the king.
"I am no such milksop as to need to dry off before a kitchen fire.
See, this is the better way"; and catching up a stout hazel-stick,
he bade Arvid stand on his guard. Nothing loath, Arvid Horn accepted
the kingly challenge, and picking up a similar hazel-stick, he
rapped King Charles' weapon smartly, and the two boys went at each
other "hammer and tongs" in a lively bout at "single-stick."
They were soon thoroughly warmed up by this vigorous exercise,
and forgot their recent bath and the king's danger. It was a drawn
battle, however, and, as they paused for breath, King Charles said:
"Trust that to drive away cold and ague, Arvid. Faith,'tis a rare
"Could it be done on horseback, think you?" queried Arvid, always
on the lookout for sensation.
"And why not? 'Tis well thought," said the king. "Let us straight
to the palace yard and try it for ourselves."
But ere they reached the palace the idea had developed into still
The king's guards were summoned, and divided into two parties.
Their horses were unsaddled, and, riding "bareback" and armed with
nothing but hazel-sticks, the two forces were pitted against each
other in a great cavalry duel of "single-stick."
King Charles commanded one side, and young Arvid Horn the other. At
it they went, now one side and now the other having the advantage,
the two leaders fighting with especial vigor.
Arvid pressed the king closely, and both lads were full of the
excitement of the fray when Charles, careless of his aim and with
his customary recklessness, brought his hazel-stick with a terrible
thwack upon poor Arvid's face. Now Arvid Horn had a boil on his
cheek, and if any of my boy readers know what a tender piece of
property a boil is, they will know that King Charles's hazel-stick
was not a welcome poultice.
With a cry of pain Arvid fell fainting from his horse, and the
cavalry battle at "single-stick" came to a sudden stop. But the
heat and the pain brought on so fierce a fever that the lad was
soon as near to death's door as his friend King Charles had been
in the sea fight of the squirt-guns.
The king was deeply concerned during young Arvid's illness, and
when the lad at last recovered he made him a present of two thousand
thalers, laughingly promising to repeat the prescription whenever
Arvid was again wounded at "single-stick." He was greatly pleased
to have his friend with him once more, and, when Arvid was strong
enough to join in his vigorous sports again, one of the first
things he proposed was a great bear-hunt up among the snow-filled
forests that skirted the Maelar Lake.
A day's ride from Stockholm, the hunting-lodge of the kings of
Sweden lay upon the heavily drifted hill-slopes just beyond the
lake shore, and through the forests and marshes two hundred years
ago the big brown bear of Northern Europe, the noble elk, the now
almost extinct auroch, or bison, and the great gray wolf roamed in
fierce and savage strength, affording exciting and dangerous sport
for daring hunters.
And among these hunters none excelled young Charles of Sweden.
Reckless in the face of danger, and brave as he was reckless, he
was ever on the alert for any novelty in the manner of hunting that
should make the sport even more dangerous and exciting. So young
Arvid Horn was not surprised when the king said to him:
"I have a new way for hunting the bear, Arvid, and a rarely good
"Of that I'll be bound, sire," young Arvid responded; "but-how may
"You shall know anon," King Charles replied; "but this much will I
say: I do hold it but a coward's part to fight the poor brute with
firearms. Give the fellow a chance for his life, say I, and a fair
fight in open field—and then let the best man win."
Here was a new idea. Not hunt the bear with musket, carbine, or
wheel-lock? What then—did King Charles reckon to have a wrestling
bout or a turn at "single-stick" with the Jarl Bruin? So wondered
Arvid Horn, but he said nothing, waiting the king's own pleasure,
as became a shrewd young courtier.
And soon enough he learned the boy-hunter's new manner of bear-hunting,
when, on the very day of their arrival at the Maelar lodge, they
tracked a big brown bear beneath the great pines and spruces of the
almost boundless forest, armed only with strong wooden pitchforks.
Arvid was not at all anxious for this fighting at close quarters,
but when he saw King Charles boldly advance upon the growling bear,
when he saw the great brute rise on his hind legs and threaten to
hug Sweden's monarch to death, he would have sprung forward to aid
his king. But a huntsman near at hand held him back.
"Wait," said the man; "let the 'little father' play his part."
And even as he spoke Arvid saw the king walk deliberately up to the
towering bear, and, with a quick thrust of his long-handled fork,
catch the brute's neck between the pointed wooden prongs, and with
a mighty shove force the bear backward in the snow.
Then, answering his cry of "Holo, all!" the huntsmen sprang to
his side, flung a stout net over the struggling bear, and held it
thus, a floundering prisoner, while the intrepid king coolly cut
its throat with his sharp hunting-knife.
Arvid learned to do this, too, in time, but it required some extra
courage even for his steady young head and hand.
One day, when each of the lads had thus transfixed and killed his
bear, and as, in high spirits, they were returning to the hunting-lodge,
a courserman dashed hurriedly across their path, recognized the
king, and reining in his horse, dismounted hastily, saluted, and
handed the king a packet.
"From the council, sire," he said.
Up to this day the young king had taken but little interest in the
affairs of state, save as he directed the review or drill, leaving
the matters of treaty and of state policy to his trusted councillors.
He received the courserman's despatch with evident unconcern, and
read it carelessly. But his face changed as he read it a second
time; first clouding darkly, and then lighting up with the gleam
of a new determination and purpose.
"What says Count Piper?" he exclaimed half aloud; "Holstein laid
waste by Denmark, Gottorp Castle taken, and the duke a fugitive?
And my council dares to temper and negotiate? Ack; so! Arvid
Horn, we must be in Stockholm ere night-fall."
"But, sire, how can you?" exclaimed Arvid. "The roads are heavy
with snow, and no horse could stand the strain or hope to make the
city ere morning."
"No horse!" cried King Charles; "then three shall do it. Hasten; bid
Hord the equerry harness the triple team to the strongest sledge,
and be you ready to ride with me in a half hour's time. For we
shall be in Stockholm by nightfall."
And ere the half hour was up they were off. Careless of roadway,
straight for Stockholm they headed, the triple team of plunging
Ukraine horses, driven abreast by the old equerry Hord, dashing down
the slopes and across the Maelar ice, narrowly escaping collision,
overturn, and death. With many a plunge and many a ducking, straight
on they rode, and ere the Stockholm clocks had struck the hour of
six the city gates were passed, and the spent and foaming steeds
dashed panting into the great yard of the Parliament House.
The council was still in session, and the grave old councillors
started to their feet in amazement at this sudden apparition of
the boy king, soiled and bespattered from head to foot, standing
there in their midst.
"Gentlemen," he said, with earnestness and determination in his
voice, "your despatch tells me of unfriendly acts on the part of the
King of Denmark against our brother and ally of Holstein-Gottorp.
I am resolved never to begin an unjust war, but never to finish an
unjust one save with the destruction of mine enemies. My resolution
is fixed. I will march and attack the first one who shall declare
war; and when I shall have conquered him, I hope to strike terror
into the rest."
These were ringing and, seemingly, reckless words for a boy of
seventeen, and we do not wonder that, as the record states, "the
old councillors, astonished at this declaration, looked at one
another without daring to answer." The speech seemed all the more
reckless when they considered, as we may here, the coalition against
which the boy king spoke so confidently.
At that time—in the year 1699—the three neighbors of this young
Swedish monarch were three kings of powerful northern nations—Frederick
the Fourth, King of Denmark; Augustus, called the Strong, King of
Poland and Elector of Saxony, and Peter, afterward known as the
Great, Czar of Russia. Tempted by the large possessions of young
King Charles, and thinking to take advantage of his youth, his
inexperience, and his presumed indifference, these three monarchs
concocted a fine scheme by which Sweden was to be overrun, conquered,
and divided among the three members of this new copartnership
of kings—from each of whom, or from their predecessors, this boy
king's ancestors had wrested many a fair domain and wealthy city.
But these three kings—as has many and many another plotter in
history before and since—reckoned without their host. They did not
know the mettle that was in this grandnephew of the great Gustavus.
Once aroused to action, he was ready to move before even his would-be
conquerors, in those slow-going days, imagined he had thought of
resistance. Money and men were raised, the alliance of England and
Holland was secretly obtained, a council of defence was appointed
to govern Sweden during the absence of the king, and on April 23,
1700, two months before his eighteenth birthday, King Charles bade
his grandmother and his sisters good-by and left Stockholm forever.
Even as he left, the news came that another member in this firm of
hostile kings, Augustus of Saxony and Poland, had invaded Sweden's
tributary province of Livonia on the Gulf of Finland. Not to be
drawn aside from his first object—the punishment of Denmark—Charles
simply said, "We will make King Augustus go back the way he came,"
and hurried on to join his army in southern Sweden.
By August 3, 1700, King Charles had grown tired of waiting for his
reserves and new recruits, and so, with scarce six thousand men,
he sailed away from Malmo—clear down at the most southerly point
of Sweden—across the Sound, and steered for the Danish coast not
twenty-five miles away.
Young Arvid Horn, still the king's fast friend, and now one of
his aids, following his leader, leaped into the first of the small
barges or row-boats that were to take the troops from the frigates
to the Danish shore. His young general and king, impatient at the
slowness of the clumsy barges, while yet three hundred yards from
shore, stood upright in the stern, drew his sword, and exclaimed:
"I am wearied with this pace. All you who are for Denmark follow
me!" And then, sword in hand, he sprang over into the sea.
Arvid Horn quickly followed his royal friend. The next moment
generals and ministers, ambassadors and belaced officials, with
the troops that filled the boats, were wading waist-deep through
the shallow water of the Sound, struggling toward the Danish shore,
and fully as enthusiastic as their hasty young leader and king.
The Danish musket-balls fell thick around them as the Danish troops
sought from their trenches to repel the invaders.
"What strange whizzing noise is this in the air?" asked the young
king, now for the first time in action.
"'Tis the noise of the musket-balls they fire upon you," was the
"Ack, say you so," said Charles: "good, good; from this time
forward that shall he my music."
In the face of this "music" the shore was gained, the trenches were
carried by fierce assault and King Charles's first battle was won.
Two days later, Copenhagen submitted to its young conqueror, and
King Frederick of Denmark hastened to the defence of his capital,
only to find it in the possession of the enemy, and to sign a
humiliating treaty of peace.
The boy conqueror's first campaign was over, and, as his biographer
says, he had "at the age of eighteen begun and finished a war
in less than six weeks." Accepting nothing for himself from this
conquest, he spared the land from which his dearly remembered mother
had come from the horrors of war and pillage which in those days
were not only allowable but expected.
King Augustus of Poland, seeing the short work made of his ally
the King of Denmark, by this boy king, whom they had all regarded
with so much contempt, deemed discretion to be the better part of
valor and, as the lad had prophesied, withdrew from Livonia, "going
back by the way he came." Then the young conqueror, flushed with his
successes, turned his army against his third and greatest enemy,
Czar Peter, of Russia, who, with over eighty thousand men, was
besieging the Swedish town of Narva.
A quaint old German-looking town, situated a few miles from the
shores of the Gulf of Finland, in what is now the Baltic provinces
of Russia, and near to the site of the czar's later capital of St.
Petersburg, the stout-walled town of Narva was the chief defence of
Sweden on its eastern borders, and a stronghold which the Russian
monarch especially coveted for his own. Young Arvid Horn's uncle,
the Count Horn, was in command of the Swedish forces in the town,
which, with a thousand men, he held for the young king, his master,
against all the host of the Czar Peter.
The boy who had conquered Denmark in less than six weeks, and forced
a humiliating peace from Poland, was not the lad to consider for
a moment the question of risk or of outnumbering forces. In the
middle of November, when all that cold Northern land is locked in
ice and snow, he flung out the eagle-flag of Sweden to the Baltic
blasts, and crossed to the instant relief of Narva, with an army of
barely twenty thousand men. Landing at Pernau with but a portion
of his troops, he pushed straight on, and with scarce eight thousand
men hurried forward to meet the enemy. With a courage as daring
as his valor was headlong, he surprised and routed first one and
then another advance detachment of the Russian force, and soon
twenty-five thousand demoralized and defeated men were retreating
before him into the Russian camp. In less than two days all the
Russian outposts were carried, and on the noon of the thirtieth of
November, 1700, the boy from Sweden appeared with his eight thousand
victory-flushed though wearied troops before the fortified camp
of his enemy, and, without a moment's hesitation, ordered instant
"Sire," said one of his chief officers, the General Stenbock, "do
you comprehend the greatness of our danger? The Muscovites outnumber
us ten to one."
"What, then!" said the intrepid young king, "do you imagine that
with my eight thousand brave Swedes I shall not be able to march
over the bodies of eighty thousand Muscovites?" And then at the
signal of two fusees and the watchword, "With the help of God," he
ordered his cannon to open on the Russian trenches, and through a
furious snow-storm charged straight upon the enemy.
Again valor and enthusiasm triumphed. The Russian line broke before
the impetuosity of the Swedes, and, as one chronicler says, "ran
about like a herd of cattle"; the bridge across the river broke under
the weight of fugitives, panic followed, and when night fell, the
great Russian army of eighty thousand men surrendered as prisoners
of war to a boy of eighteen with but eight thousand tired soldiers
at his back.
So the boy conqueror entered upon his career of victory. Space does
not permit to detail his battles and his conquests. How he placed
a new king on the throne of Poland, kept Denmark in submission,
held the hosts of Russia at bay, humbled Austria, and made his
name, ere yet he was twenty, at once a wonder and a terror in all
the courts of Europe. How, at last, his ambition getting the better
of his discretion, he thought to be a modern Alexander, to make
Europe Protestant, subdue Rome, and carry his conquering eagles into
Egypt and Turkey and Persia. How, by unwise measures and foolhardy
endeavors, he lost all the fruits of his hundred victories and
his nine years of conquest in the terrible defeat by the Russians
at Pultowa, which sent him an exile into Turkey, kept him there a
prisoner of state for over five years; and how, finally, when once
again at the head of Swedish troops, instead of defending his own
home-land of Sweden, he invaded Norway in the depth of winter, and
was killed, when but thirty-six, by a cannon-shot from the enemy's
batteries at Frederickshall on December 11, 1718.
Charles the Twelfth of Sweden was one of the most remarkable of the
world's historic boys. Elevated to a throne founded on despotic
power and victorious memories, at an age when most lads regard
themselves as the especial salt of the earth, he found himself launched
at once into a war with three powerful nations, only to become in
turn the conqueror of each. A singularly good boy, so far as the
customary temptations of power and high station are concerned—temperate,
simple, and virtuous in tastes, dress, and habits—he was, as one
of his biographers has remarked, "the only one among kings who had
lived without a single frailty."
But this valorous boy, who had first bridled his own spirit, and
then conquered the Northern world, "reared," as has been said,
"under a father cold and stern, defectively educated, taught from
childhood to value nothing but military glory," could not withstand
the temptation of success. An ambition to be somebody and to do
something is always a laudable one in boy or girl, until it supplants
and overgrows the sweet, true, and manly boy and girl nature, and
makes us regardless of the comfort or the welfare of others. A
desire to excel the great conquerors of old, joined to an obstinacy
as strong as his courage, caused young Charles of Sweden to miss
the golden opportunity, and instead of seeking to rule his own
country wisely, sent him abroad a homeless wanderer on a career of
conquest, as romantic as it was, first, glorious, and at the last
In the northern quarter of the beautiful city of Stockholm, surrounded
by palaces and gardens, theatres, statues, and fountains, stands
Molin's striking statue of the boy conqueror, Charles the Twelfth
of Sweden. Guarded at the base by captured mortars, the outstretched
hand and unsheathed sword seem to tell of conquests to be won and
victories to be achieved. But to the boy and girl of this age of
peace and good-fellowship, when wars are averted rather than sought,
and wise statesmanship looks rather to the healing than to the
opening of the world's wounds, one cannot but feel how much grander,
nobler, and more helpful would have been the life of this young
"Lion of the North," as his Turkish captors called him, had it been
devoted to deeds of gentleness and charity rather than of blood
and sorrow, and how much more enduring might have been his fame and
his memory if he had been the lover and helper of his uncultivated
and civilization-needing people, rather than the valorous, ambitious,
headstrong, and obstinate boy conqueror of two centuries ago.