CHARLES XIV. (1763-1844), king of Sweden and Norway, born at Pau on the 26th of January 1763, was the son of Henri Bernadotte (1711-1780), procurator at Pau, and Jeanne St Jean (1725-1809). The family name was originally Deu Pouey, but was changed into Bernadotte in the beginning of the 17th century. Bernadotte's christian names were Jean Baptiste; he added the name Jules subsequently. He entered the French army on the 3rd of September 1780, and first saw service in Corsica. On the outbreak of the Revolution his eminent military qualities brought him speedy promotion. In 1794 we find him as brigadier attached to the army of the Sambre et Meuse, and after Jourdan's victory at Fleurus he was appointed a general of division. At the battle of Theiningen, 1796, he contributed, more than any one else, to the successful retreat of the French army over the Rhine after its defeat by the archduke Charles. In 1797 he brought reinforcements from the Rhine to Bonaparte's army in Italy, distinguishing himself greatly at the passage of the Tagliamento, and in 1798 was sent as ambassador to Vienna, but was compelled to quit his post owing to the disturbances caused by his hoisting the tricolor over the embassy. On the 16th of August 1798 he married Désirée Clary (1777-1860), the daughter of a Marseilles banker, and sister of Joseph Bonaparte's wife. From the 2nd of July to the 14th of September he was war minister, in which capacity he displayed great ability. About this time he held aloof from Bonaparte, but though he declined to help Napoleon in the preparations for the coup d'état of November 1799, he accepted employment from the Consulate, and from April 1800 till the 18th of August 1801 commanded the army in La Vendée. On the introduction of the empire he was made one of the eighteen marshals of France, and, from June 1804 to September 1805, acted as governor of the recently-occupied Hanover. During the campaign of 1805, Bernadotte with an army corps from Hanover co-operated in the great movement which resulted in the shutting up of Mack in Ulm. He was rewarded for his services at Austerlitz (December 2, 1805) by the principality of Ponte Corvo (June 5, 1806), but during the campaign against Prussia, the same year, was severely reproached by Napoleon for not participating with his army corps in the battles of Jena and Auerstädt, though close at hand. In 1808, as governor of the Hanse towns, he was to have directed the expedition against Sweden, via the Danish islands, but the plan came to nought because of the want of transports and the defection of the Spanish contingent. In the war against Austria, Bernadotte led the Saxon contingent at the battle of Wagram, on which occasion, on his own initiative he issued an order of the day, attributing the victory principally to the valour of his Saxons, which Napoleon at once disavowed.
Bernadotte, considerably piqued, thereupon returned to Paris, where the council of ministers entrusted him with the defence of the Netherlands against the English. In 1810 he was about to enter upon his new post of governor of Rome when he was, unexpectedly, elected successor to the Swedish throne, partly because a large part of the Swedish army, in view of future complications with Russia, were in favour of electing a soldier, and partly because Bernadotte was very popular in Sweden, owing to the kindness he had shown to the Swedish prisoners during the late war with Denmark. The matter was decided by one of the Swedish couriers, Baron Karl Otto Mörner, who, entirely on his own initiative, offered the succession to the Swedish crown to Bernadotte. Bernadotte communicated Mörner's offer to Napoleon, who treated the whole affair as an absurdity. Bernadotte thereupon informed Mörner that he would not refuse the honour if he were duly elected. Although the Swedish government, amazed at Mörner's effrontery, at once placed him under arrest on his return to Sweden, the candidature of Bernadotte gradually gained favour there, and, on the 21st of August 1810, he was elected crown-prince.
On the 2nd of November Bernadotte made his solemn entry into Stockholm, and on the 5th he received the homage of the estates and was adopted by Charles XIII. under the name of Charles John. The new crown-prince was very soon the most popular and the most powerful man in Sweden. The infirmity of the old king and the dissensions in the council of state placed the government, and especially the control of foreign affairs, entirely in his hands. The keynote of his whole policy was the acquisition of Norway, a policy which led him into many tortuous ways (see Sweden: History), and made him a very tricky ally during the struggle with Napoleon in 1813. Great Britain and Prussia very properly insisted that Charles John's first duty was to them, the former power rigorously protesting against the expenditure of her subsidies on the nefarious Norwegian adventure before the common enemy had been crushed. After the defeats of Lützen and Bautzen, it was the Swedish crown-prince who put fresh heart into the allies; and at the conference of Trachenberg he drew up the general plan for the campaign which began after the expiration of the truce of Pläswitz. Though undoubtedly sparing his Swedes unduly, to the just displeasure of the allies, Charles John, as commander-in-chief of the northern army, successfully defended the approaches to Berlin against Oudinot in August and against Ney in September; but after Leipzig he went his own way, determined at all hazards to cripple Denmark and secure Norway. For the events which led to the union of Norway and Sweden, see Sweden: History and Norway: History. As unional king, Charles XIV. (who succeeded to that title in 1818 on the death of Charles XIII.) was popular in both countries. Though his ultra-conservative views were detested, and as far as possible opposed (especially after 1823), his dynasty was never in serious danger, and Swedes and Norsemen alike were proud of a monarch with a European reputation. It is true that the Riksdag of 1840 meditated compelling him to abdicate, but the storm blew over and his jubilee was celebrated with great enthusiasm in 1843. He died at Stockholm on the 8th of March 1844. His reign was one of uninterrupted peace, and the great material development of the two kingdoms during the first half of the 19th century was largely due to his energy and foresight.
See J.E. Sars, Norges politiske historia (Christiania, 1899); Yngvar Nielsen, Carl Johan som han virkelig var (Christiania, 1897); Johan Almén, Atten Bernadotte (Stockholm, 1893); C. Schefer, Bernadotte roi (Paris, 1899); G.R. Lagerhjelm, Napoleon och Carl Johan under Kriget i Tyskland, 1813 (Stockholm, 1891).
(R. N. B.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)