sweden's last war and the norwegian constitution

Histories of all Scandinavian countries are connected with each other. For several centuries Denmark and Norway were under the same ruler, the same for Finland and Sweden. Let’s remind ourselves of the Kalmar Union or the fact that Vikings originated from the whole North. Scandinavia was self-sufficient. But sometimes tracks of the history combined the northern countries with continental Europe.

Norwegian constitution, source: https://www.uib.no/en/news/52038/eu-law-puts-norwegian-constitution-under-pressure

Norwegian constitution, source: https://www.uib.no/en/news/52038/eu-law-puts-norwegian-constitution-under-pressure

FRENCHMAN TAKES OVER SWEDEN

There are several threads in the premodern history when Scandinavian people were involved in the events on the continent. We can mention here Vikings, the Thirty Years’ Wars or the Great Northern War, when Sweden or Denmark (or both) played important political role. Scandinavia did not come up as the main role player when we discuss Napoleonic wars. At some point we might connect present Swedish dynasty with those times and that’s it. But Napoleonic wars made a great impact on Scandinavian countries beyond the fact of enthroning Bernadotte. Sweden fought their last war and Norway gained their constitution.

No need of historical education is needed to be aware that Napoleon himself requires a book, not a two pages long text on the internet. In order to keep everything condensed, I jump into the year 1813. Sweden was ruled by Charles XIII, who was childless and with no chance of having a natural heir. So three years earlier, in October 1810, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected as a crown prince as Karl Johan, who will have succeed a Swedish throne after Charles XIII. In the face of king’s bad health condition, Bernadotte was the actual leader of the country. One of the reasons for choosing French marshal for a Swedish king was a hope to regain Finland from Russia. Frenchman seemed to be the best choice – easier alliance with France means stronger position against Russia. To put it mildly, Karl Johan failed those expectations. In March 1813 he joined the Sixth Coalition alongside with England, Russia and Prussia.

Bernadotte, presenting if not complaisance then at least admiration towards Russian’s tsars, never aimed to regain Finland. He focused on conquering Norway. Joining the Sixth Coalition was supposed to help him to achieve that. England offered help with that cause, in addition to that ceded Guadeloupe to Sweden. In July 1813 Karl Johan, Friedrich Wilhelm III from Prussia and representatives from Austria and England met at the Trachenberg palace and planned the strategy for upcoming campaign. Karl Johan was given a command over 160,000 troops in the northern army, consisting of 30,000 Swedish soldiers. The campaign ended with the battle at Leipzig in October 1813 and the defeat of Napoleon. Technically, the northern army participated in the battle, but practically Bernadotte saved his soldiers as much as he possibly could. The true military campaign that mattered to him was coming afterwards and it was against Denmark. It seemed inevitable, as the Sixth Coalition won and according to the plan, Norway was going to become part of Sweden, after centuries of connection with Denmark.

What we see here is Sweden's coat of arms from the rule of Charles XIV. Lion with an axe stands for Norway, lion with three streams represents Folkungs and sheaf of grain is a symbol of Vasas (obviously). Beside the sheaf there is coat of arms of the house Bernadottes - Ponte Corvo, a bridge with an eagle above it.

What we see here is Sweden's coat of arms from the rule of Charles XIV. Lion with an axe stands for Norway, lion with three streams represents Folkungs and sheaf of grain is a symbol of Vasas (obviously). Beside the sheaf there is coat of arms of the house Bernadottes - Ponte Corvo, a bridge with an eagle above it.

 

TERRITORIAL JUGGLE

After Leipzig Karl Johan marched towards the German-Danish border. He conquered Lübeck, Kiel, Holstein and some parts of Schleswig. In January 1814 peace of Kiel was signed, but its resolution wasn’t as simple as ceding Norway to Sweden. I believe that sometimes the easiest explanation is the best one, so let’s make it as follows:

  • Denmark lost Norway to Sweden

  • Denmark kept Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands

  • Sweden gave Denmark Rügen and the rest of Swedish territories on the Pomerania

  • Sweden received some money as a state and Karl Johan was also paid personally

BUT

  • Sweden claimed that Denmark failed in ceding Norway, so it wasn't entitled to overtake Rügen

SO

  • Rügen and the rest of Swedish Pomerania was ceded to Prussia

  • Prussia gave Denmark Lauenburg

  • France received Guadeloupe (remember the island that England promised Sweden?), for which England got 24 million francs

So from the original resolutions only one came into life – Sweden and Norway created a union.

Oh wait.

Eidsvoll assembly, source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_Constituent_Assembly

Eidsvoll assembly, source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_Constituent_Assembly

 

WHAT WAS IN THE NORWEGIAN CONSTITUTION FROM MAY 17TH 1814?

In the summer of 1814 Norwegians rebelled against the union with Sweden. Their leader was a Danish prince, Christian Fredrik, who was also the last governor of Norway. On May 17th 1814 the constituent assembly in Eidsvold adopted a constitution. It was considered to be one of the most liberal constitutions of its times. Again, in order to avoid a boring passage filled with law that makes you fall asleep immediately, I present below a block of points that seemed important to me, which is also easy for you to skip.

Norwegian constitution from May 17th 1814 guaranteed:

  • the sovereignty of the people - it was the people who chose their representatives to rule on their behalf

  • that every male citizen who was 25 years old and lived in Norway for at least 5 years or worked at the public office, owned piece of land or a property of a particular value, had a right to vote

  • that every male citizen, who was 30 years old and lived in the kingdom for at least a decade, could have been chosen as a representative

  • the separation of powers: the king was the executive power, Storting was the legislative, control and budget power, and the courts were the judicial power

  • that in a particular government no father and son or two brothers could have been seated.

  • that a person could have been sentenced or put in jail only by the rule of law

  • that the tortures were abolished

  • the freedom of speech

  • economic freedom

  • the rule of law

Despite the project, the constitution did not guarantee the freedom of religion. Lutheranism was the state religion and parents were obliged to raise their children in this faith. Besides this not very liberal law, the constitution states as well that Jews were excluded from the kingdom and conducted a non-tolerance law towards Jesuits and Monastic orders.

Beside the constitution, the assembly proclaimed Christian Fredrik as the king of Norway. Karl Johan gathered 45,000 soldiers at the Norwegian border and mobilized the fleet. Swedish victory was a matter of time, so Norwegians started a negotiation process. It was concluded at the Moss convention in August 14th 1814. Christian Fredrik abdicated and his place at the throne was taken by Charles XIII. Karl Johan agreed to accept the Norwegian constitution, later on adopted by the Swedish Riksdag.

Napoleonic Wars were the last military and political involvement of Sweden in the European conflicts. The meeting at the Trachenberg palace was the last moment of Swedish political significance.

Storting, view from the Karl Johan street, source: https://www.dagbladet.no/kultur/stortinget-og-slottet-skulle-se-hverandre-inn-i-oynene/60416009

Storting, view from the Karl Johan street, source: https://www.dagbladet.no/kultur/stortinget-og-slottet-skulle-se-hverandre-inn-i-oynene/60416009