Friday, 26 September 2014

Charles XI and the Battle of Lund – 1676

60 mm C-in-C base of Charles XI for 
my Battle of Lund 1676 collection.
Miniatures are from Warfare.

Charles XI came into this world in 1655 at the Royal castle “Tre Kronor” in Stockholm. He was born at a time when the expansionistic legacy of Gustavus Adolphus and Charles X, saw Sweden at its pinnacle of Empire with land possessions all around the Baltics and in Northern Germany. 

The Swedish Empire at its pinnacle 1658. 
Both Charles XI and Charles XII would be forced to 
fight to keep it together.

Charles XI was only four years old when his father died shortly after returning from a military campaign in Poland. As the young boy was deemed “Unfit to rule”, the rains of Sweden was thus placed into the hands of a cabinet of advisors called “Förmyndare”, consisting to a large degree of old and new nobility connected to the Swedish military expansion. 

Charles XI on his horse "Brilliant" - a present from Louis XIV.
This is the portrait I used as inspiration for the vignette.

As a young boy Charles was subjugated to a rigorous and very ambitious study plan, reflecting the official view of a modern and “enlightened” monarch suited to rule the great Nordic Empire of Sweden. The studying proceeded, apparently with very little result for the young monarch. What wasn’t known at the time was, that Charles XI suffered from strong dyslexia. This would result in a very “personal” style of writing and spelling, which today can be appreciated though his journal, which he kept on a daily basis.

Charles XI in the midst of battle,
crossing through the enemy's lines.

Charles ascended to the throne in 1672, and with his practical and pragmatic mentality, he quickly found that the Cabinet of advisors had mismanaged affairs to a alarming degree, and the need for some hands on change was imminent. Immediately he set upon a long and controversial restructuring process, not only reducing the political power of the Swedish nobility but also strengthening the Crown’s economy by widespread confiscations of land, from both nobility and church. 

A typical soldier's farm from the "Indelningsverket".
If the soldier got killed in battle, his widow could marry a new soldier
 or be forced to vacate the farm.

Not only the hard pressed Swedish economy got a galvanization, but also the army, which now had suffered about 50 years of decline since the glory days of Breitenfeld and Lutzen. Ever the practical man, Charles XI implemented a genius system – the “indelningsverket”. A simple concept where each soldier under the Crown would get a small farm to keep in peace time. Here he could grow crops, raise a family and live a good and healthy life. 

Each farm clearly marked the regiment and company to which its resident belonged.
Here the Wartofta Company of the Royal Skaraborg Regiment.

When war lured, the king could effectively call up 18.000 foot soldiers and 8.000 cavalrymen from these farmsteads on a very short notice, as each unit already had a drilled and predetermined mobilization plan. The regiments were strong in morale, as each unit consisted of men from the same shire or “socken” in Swedish. So when the fighting was at its worst, with bullets and cannonballs tearing through the ranks, these men who were all acquainted from back home, would stand fast as no one wanted to loose their face in front of the neighbour. 

This reform was the very hearth the Swedish army of this period, later referred to as the “Karoliner” period due to the name of the ruling kings, Charles XI (Karl in Swedish) and his son Charles XII.

Another shot of the monarch as he gallops 
across the battle field on his horse Brilliant.

Early on Charles XI proved to be much more the hands on reformist and modernizer of Sweden, rather than an expansionistic warrior king like his father and the earlier Gustavis Adolphus, with his campaigns during the Thirty Years War.

In an attempt to diplomatically cool things down with the Nordic arch-rival, Denmark, Charles XI was engaged to the Danish King’s sister, Ulrika Eleonora, one year younger than Charles.

At the battle of Lund Charles got so caught up in the action,
that he rode up to a Danish regiment and gave the order to attack.

They were a good match, and would later have a seemingly happy marriage, but due to the pan-European intrigues of France and Holland, and a complex network of alliances and defensive pacts, Sweden and Denmark suddenly was forced to declare war on each other – The Scanian War. Something the Danish King, Christian V apparently did not mind too much, as he saw it almost as his life’s mission to re-conquer the lost East-Danish provinces. Thus the wedding was postponed, and the reformist Charles was forced to become a warrior king.

Risking everything, Charles dashes through the Danish lines
and rejoins his main force at the battle of Lund.

At the decisive battle of Lund Charles lead his army in person. The odds were sky high, but Charles proved his worth and the fate of the battle was decided with him, when he bravely risked his own life breaking through the Danish lines to reunite his army, and create a crushing pincer manoeuvre, that would break the entire Danish army. 

After the Scanian War, Charles XI continued on his reforms, strengthening Sweden against future threats. Now much wiser from his previous experience of “profitable” European alliances, he managed to keep Sweden neutral and out of the power sphere and wars of Louis XIV.

Close up - Warfare offers some nicely proportioned horses,
and there is not much flash to clear. 

In 1697 the now 41 years old Charles XI became ill. After a long and painful fight against pancreas cancer he died on the 5th April 1697, leaving the Swedish Empire economically fit and with Europe’s most professional army. Something his son would need much sooner than he had preferred. 

Thanks you very much for reading!


  1. Great paintjob and a nice little history recap.

    1. Thanks Engel - often in the shadow of his son, I thought Charles XI deserved a little international advertising :0)

  2. Replies
    1. Cheers Christopher - yeah, one can only respect a King who actually lead his men in person and at the front, and that was the feeling I was aiming for here. Glad you liked the result!

  3. Great history lesson and a lovely Vignette of Charles too!

    1. Thank you very much Chris. This man deserved a little spotlight, he really did some groundbreaking reforms, without which his more popular son would have been toast in no time. Happy you enjoyed the read, he was truly fascinating to study.

  4. Breathtaking paintjob! The dark and muted colours really stand out against the white horse. Despite not beeing my period I always enjoy your little lessons in history accompanying your models.

    1. I'm very glad to hear M, thank you so much for your kind words.
      I really wanted to get that coat as close to the portrait as possible, so it took some laboratory work - very happy you liked the outcome!

  5. Outstanding vignette of Charles with a interesting composition. Enjoyable bio of Charles too!

    1. Thanks Jonathan, really appreciate it! Very happy you like the little write up too - Charles XI is today the only of the so-called Swedish "warrior kings" to have his portrait on a money note - the 500 KR note (next largest value), mainly due to his innovative reforms. Like with Napoleon, I can only speculate what he could have achieved, if the surrounding states had left him alone.

  6. Wow! What a splendid centerpiece for the Swedish army. He sure looks like he means business.

    Nice bit of history as well.

    1. Thanks Jonas, happy to get some Swedish approval here, as this is a man you want to portray the right way. Lets hope he can bring some good luck to Michael and Jesper in Copenhagen, they'll need it ;0)

  7. Great post, the historic background is very interesting, and this vignette just awesome, I love your base, really splendid!

    1. Thank you very much Phil! Its always nice to hear that the write-up is appreciated, as I sometimes do tend to get quite long winded :0) Thanks for the kind words on the basing, something I adopted to give the feeling of a cold, clear winter morning just days before the snow will fall.

  8. Stunning! Great centre piece for the Swedish army. /Mattias

    1. Thanks Mattias, I hope he will do his men proud when he crosses Öresund in a few weeks with his 28 mm army, and features in the heart of the Danish capital, once again staking his claim on the Southern Swedish Provinces ;0)

  9. Some great history and an excellent looking figure!

    1. You're very kind Ray, thanks :0) Happy to have you by for a read and a comment, cheers!

  10. That was a fascinating post, on a period I don't know much about - Excellent!

    1. Even if Charles is generally less know than his son,I tell you this guy was fascinating to read about - glad you liked my little recap! Thanks for dropping by for a read and a comment!

  11. Excellent brushwork and basing again. The history is also very interesting.

    1. Thanks Dean, as you can see the arms race is on for the big Scanian War game in the end of October in Copenhagen. Next week I'm hoping to post the Danish King, cliffhanger ;0) Take care, and thanks for dropping by!

  12. Stunning paint work Sören and greate Swedish history lesson !...from a Dane;)

    Loved to let him command my infantry yesterday !

    1. Thanks Michael, I hope he will lead his men to glory in Copenhagen later this month! By the way, a second history lesson, this time in Danish Schnaps culture, is awaiting you on the other side of Öresund - but that should be no problem for a Dalecarlian :0)

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