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Life of Charles the Twelfth. you.--Be honest." Upor which, throwing some pistoles among them, he went away, leaving them full of admiration of his virtue, and repentance for their crime. In the mean time, Charles went a second time to attempt the conquest of Norway, in the month of October 1718. He had taken his measures so well, that he hoped to be master of the kingdom in six months. He chose rather to go among rocks to conquer, in the midst of snow and ice, and in the depth of winter, which kills animals, even in Sweden, where the air is not so sharp, than to undertake the recovery of his fine provinces in Germany, out of the hands of his enemies; but he hoped his new allia ance with the czar, would soon put bim in a condition of regaining all those provinces : besides the glory there would be in taking a kingdom from a victorious enemy.
: At the mouth of the river Tistendall, near the bay of Denmark, between the town of Bahus and Anslo, is situated Frederickshall a place of great strength and importance, and looked apon as the key of that kingdom. Charles layed siege to it in the month of December. The soldiers, nuinbed with cold, could hardly break up the frozen ground; it was like opening trenches in a rock; but the Swedes could not think much of their labour when they saw a king at their head, who underwent the same fatigues: and Charles had never known greater than the present. His constitation, tried in eighteen years painful exercise, was hardened to that degree, that he slept in the open fields in Norway, in the depth of winter, upon straw of a board, covered only by a cloak, without damaging his health in the least. Several of his soldiers died of the cold upon their posts; and others, almost frozen to death, seeing their king siffer with them, did not dare to complain. A little before this expedition, having heard of a woman ia Scandinavia named Joan Dotter, who had lived many inonths without taking any nourishment but water, he, who all his life had studied to support the greatest extremities that human life is capable of, was resolved to try how long he could fast. He spent five days without eating or drinking; on the sixth, in the morning, he rode two leagues to his brother-in-law's, the prince of Hesse, where he eat very much' without feeling the least inconvenience, either from his five days fasting, or the plentiful meal he then made. With this body of iron, endued with a soul of such strength and courage, in whatever condition he was, he had not one neighbour but leared him. On the 11th of December, St. Andrew's day, he went, at nine o'clock at niglit, to visit the trenches, and not finding the parallel enough advanced to his mind, lie seemned much displeased. Monsieur Megret, a French engineer, who conducted the siege, assured him, the place would be taken in eight days. “We shall see that,” said the king, and continued to visit the works with the engineer. He stopped at a place where the boyau made an angle with the parallel, and kneeling on the inner talus and resting his clbows on the para pet, he remained for some time viewing the works, that were carrying on in the trenches, by star-light.
The least circumstances are essential, when they relate to the death of so great a man as. Charles XII. therefore, I must needs take notice, that all the conversation that so many writers, and even Monsieur de la Motraye, have related to be between the king and the engineer Megret, is entirely false. What follows, I know to be the truth of the matter. The king stood
Life of Charles the Ta elith. with half his body exposed to a battery of cannon, pointed directly against the angle where he was ; there were none but two Frenchien near him, one was Monsieur Siker, his Aid-de-camp, a man of understanding and courage, who came into his service in Turkey, and was particularly attached to the prince of Hesse; the other was this engineer. The cannon fired upon them, with chain-shot, and the king stood more exposed to it than any one. little behind was count Swerin, who commanded the trenches, and count Posse, captain of the guards, and an aid-de-camp, named Kulbert, received orders from him. Siker and Megret saw the king the moment he fell upon the parapet, fetching a deep sigh ; they ran to him, but he was dead. A heavy ball, of half a pound, had struck him on the right temple and made a hole big enough to turn three fingers in. His head was lying over the parapet, the lest eye was beaten in, and the right out of its socket. He was dead in an instant, but had streogth enough in that instant, by a natural motion, to clap his hand to the guard of his sword, in which attitude he lay. At this sight, Megret, a singular man, of a great deal of indifference, said nothing but, “ The play is over, let us be gone.” Siker ran immediately to acquaint count Swerin of it; they all agreed to keep his death a secret to the soldiers, till the prince of Hesse could be informed of it. They covered his body with a grey cloak; Siker put his Peruke and hat on the king's head, and in this Manner, carried Charles, under the name of captain Carlsberg, through the troops, who saw their dead king pass by without suspecting any thing of the matter. The prince ordered immediately that no one should stir out of the camp, and had all the roads to Sweden guarded, that he might have time to take his measures to place the crown upon his wife's head, and exclude the duke of Holstein, who perhaps might bave laid claim to it, Thus fell Charles XII. king of Sweden, at the age of thirty-six years and a half, after having proved the highest prosperity and the greatest adversity, without being softened by the one, or one moment shaken by the other. Almost all his actions, even in private life, were far beyond probability. He was, perhaps, the only man, and certainly the only king, whoever lived without any weakness. He carried all the virtues of a hero to that excess, that they became faults, and were as dangerous as the opposite vices. His resolution, turned to obstinacy, occasioned his misfortunes in Ukrania, and kept him five years in Turkey; his liberality, degenerating into profufusion, ruined Sweden; his courage, by his rashness, was the occasion of his death; his justice sometimes went to cruelty ; and, in his last years, the maintaining his authority approached to tyranny; his great qualities, one of which would have immortalized another prince, have proved the misfortune of his country. He never attacked any person first; but he was not as prudent as he was implacable in his revenge. He was the first who had the ambition to be a conqueror without the desire of enlarging his dominions. He coveted empires to give them away. His passion for glory, for war, and for revenge, prevented his being a good politician, without which, there never was a conqueror. Before a battle he had great confidence, was modest after a victory, and undaunted after a defeat. As rigorous to others as himself, setting at nought the labours and lives of his subjects as well as his own. Singular, rather than a great man, and more to be admired than imitated, His life ought to teach kings, that a peaceable and happy reign is preferable
Life of Charles the Tuelfth. to so much glory. Charles XII. was of a tall and noble stature, bad a fine forehead, large blue eyes, full of sweetness, and a handsome nose; but the lower part of his face was disagreeable, and much disfigured by a frequent laughter, which came only from his lips. He had but little hair upon his head or beard. He spoke very little, and oftentimes only answered by this. laugh, which was become habitual to him. There was always a profound silence at his taule. Notwithstanding the inflexibility of his temper, he al. ways retained that timidity which is called bashsulness, and was confounded in company; for, having giving himself up so much to labour and war, he knew but little of conversation. Before his leisure among the Turks, he had read nothing but Cæsar's commentaries and the history of Alexander : but he had wrote some reflections upon war, and his own cain paigns, from 1700 to 1709 ; this he owned to the Chevalier de Follard, and told him the manuscript was lost in the unhappy battle of Pultowa.
With respect to religion, though the sentiments of a prince ought not to influence those of other men, and the opinion of a monarch so little instructed as Charles XII. can be of no great weight in such matters, yet it is pecessary in this point, as well as others, to satisfy the curiosity of men, who are eager to know every thing relating to Charles XII. I know, from the person who trusted me with the principal memoirs of this history, that Charles XII. was an orthodox Lutheran till the year 1707, when he saw, at Leipsic, that famous philosopher M. Leibnitz, who thought and spoke freely, and always inspired more princes than one with sentiments of freedom, Charles XII. received, from the conversation of this philosopher, a good deal of indifference for Lutheranism. Afterwards having more leisure, among the Turks, and taking a view of divers religions, he carried his indifference much farther. He preserved none of his first principles but what related to an absolute predestination, which is a doctrine that favoured his courage, and justified his temerity. The czar had the same sentiments with him upon religion and destiny; but he talked of them oftener; for he would converse familiarly of all things with his favourites, and had so much the advantage over Charles XII. that he had studied philosophy, and had the giit of eloquence. I cannot forbear speaking here of a calumny, too often renewed on the death of princes, whom evil-minded, or credulous men, will always have to be poisoned or assassinated. The report was spread in Germany, that Monsieur Siker himself was the man who had killed the king of Sweden. This brave officer was for a long time very uneasy at this report; and speaking of it to me, one day, he used these words, “I might have killed the king of Sweden; but such was my respect for that hero, I could not have dared to do it, had I been willing."
After his death the siege of Frederickshall was raised. The Swedes, al. most ruined by the glory of their prince, thought only how to make peace with their enemies, and put a stop to that absolute power that baron Goerts had exercised over them. The states freely elected for their queen, the princess, sister of Charles XII. but obliged her solemnly to renounce all heriditary right to the crown, since she only held it from the suffrages of the nation; she promised, by repeated oaths, never to attempt to re-establish arbitrary power; she afterwards sacrificed her royalty to her conjugal affection, in giving up her crown to her husband, and engaged the states ta Lije nj Charles ihe Tuci ih. elect that prince, who mounted the throne upon the same conditions as she had done.
Baron Goerts, who was put under an arrest immediateiy after the death of Charles XII. was condemned by the senate of Stockholm, to have his head cut off, at the foot of the gallows; an example rather of revenge tbaa justice, and a cruel affront to a king whom Sweden yet admires.
END OF THE LIFE OF CHARLES THE TWELFTH.
INDEX TO VOL IV.
the capture of, by Adm. Sawyer.... 475
of Marmont, pursuit of, by Earl
133 175 253 188 189 251 256 334 409
Foreigners in British service, remarks
and Spanish armies, state of .. 273
Gazettes 67 70 79 153 927 300 302 308
314 381 382 384 386 403 405 473 475