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Carl XIII (October 7, 1748 – February 5, 1818), was King of Sweden from 1809 and King of Norway from 1814 to his death. He was the second son (and younger brother to King Gustaf III) of King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, sister of Friedrich II the Great.

Though known as King Carl XIII in Sweden, he was actually the seventh Swedish king by that name, as Carl IX (reigned 1604–1611) had adopted his numeral after studying a fictitious history of Sweden. In Norway he is known as Carl II.

Early life

Prince Carl was placed under the tutelage of Hedvig Elisabet Strömfelt and then Ulrica Schönström. He was appointed grand admiral when he was but few days old. He was described as a good dancer at the amateur theatre of the royal court. Reportedly he was not very close to his mother. The Queen preferred her youngest children, Sophie Albertine and Fredrik Adolf.

Carl was, however, his father’s favorite, and similar to him in personality. He was also described as close to his brother Gustaf during their childhood.

Because of his position as the heir to the throne after his elder brother Gustaf, he was early targeted as a useful tool for the opposition to his brother: already in the 1760s, the Caps (party) tried to use him against his brother the crown prince through his then love interest countess Brita Horn, daughter of the Cap’s politician Adam Horn. Gustaf, however, was always careful to prevent Carl from being used by the opposition, which came to its first test during the December Crisis (1768), when Carl, ultimately, did not let himself be used by the Caps party. In 1770, he made a journey through the Holy Roman Empire and France alone.

Reign of Gustaf III

After the death of his father in 1771, when his brother the crown prince was abroad, the Caps once again attempted to use him against his brother, now King Gustaf III of Sweden, and his mother Louisa Ulrika used this in order to have her own rights as a dowager queen respected by the Caps. Upon the departure of his mother to Prussia, and the return of his brother, however, Gustaf III managed to win him to his side.

In 1772 he cooperated in the Revolution of 1772 of his elder brother, King Gustaf III. He was given the task of using his connections in the Caps party to neutralize it and secure the southern provinces by use of the military, tasks he performed successfully and for which the king rewarded him with the title Duke of Södermanland.

Duke Carl in early years was the object of his mother’s plans to arrange political marriages for her children. On the wish of his mother, he was to be married to her niece, his cousin, Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt, a plan to which he had agreed in 1770. The government, however, refused to issue negotiations because of the costs. After the accession of Gustaf III and the coup d’état which introduced absolute monarchy, his brother terminated these plans against their mother’s will in October 1772, and began negotiations for a marriage between Carl and his cousin Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp.

As King Gustaf III had not consummated his own marriage, he wished to place the task of providing an heir to the throne with his brother. Carl agreed to the marriage in August 1773, and the marriage took place the following year.

Hedwig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (March 22, 1759 – June 20, 1818) was daughter of Duke Friedrich August I of Holstein-Gottorp and Princess Ulrike Friederike Wilhelmine of Hesse-Cassel. The wedding between Carl, Duke of Södermanland and his cousin Hedwig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp took place in Stockholm on July 7, 1774 when she was fifteen years old and Carl was 26.

Hedwig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp was also a famed diarist, memoirist and wit. She is known by her full pen name (above), though her official name as queen was Charlotte (Charlotta).

After a false alarm of a pregnancy of Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte in 1775, the king finally consummated his own marriage.

King Gustaf III was married to Princess Sofie Magdalene of Denmark the eldest surviving child of King Frederik V of Denmark and his first consort, the former Princess Louise of Great Britain, the youngest surviving daughter of King George II of Great Britain and Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach.

The royal couple lived separate private lives and each had extramarital affairs. During the great succession scandal of 1778, when queen dowager Louisa Ulrika questioned the paternity of the issue of Gustaf III, Carl sided with his brother the king against their mother, this despite the fact that it was in fact he who had informed her of the rumors regarding the legitimacy, something he however withheld from the king.