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I have been the Head of the History Department of Hvitfeldtska Gymnasiet in Gothenburg, Sweden, the last 6 years. Before that I taught History at a few High Schools, Colleges and Universities. One of my main areas has been Nordic History. I have written several papers about Finland and Sweden during the 19th and 20th Century, but has some knowledge about the development in Norway, Denmark and on Iceland as well. Questions before the 18th century are also OK all though I have written less papers about this time period...

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  • 4 weeks later...
Given the fact that the loss of Finland in 1809 was such a traumatic event for Sweden, why was there no real attempt to regain the country in 1814?

Or, to put the question another way, why did Bernadotte attack Norway instead of Finland?

This question is very interesting since it involves a real ”historical soap opera” – the coming of the French Field marshal Bernadotte to the Swedish Crown. A short answer would be – Sweden let go of the ideas of recapturing Finland after the war started to go bad for France in Russia 1812. A longer answer would involve more;

After the agreement between Russia and France in Tilsit pressure was put on Sweden, Denmark (which included Norway at the time) and Portugal to join the continental blockade of Great Britain. After the bombardment of Copenhagen in August-September 1807 Denmark became an ally of France. The Swedish King Gustavus IV Adolphus remained pro-British. In February 1808 Russia attacked Finland and three weeks later Denmark and France declared war against Sweden. This was first of all to force Sweden to accept the continental blockade. The war against Russia was a Swedish failure but the war against France and Denmark caused less problems. France did not put very much effort into it and the Danes were hindered to leave the Danish ports by a combined Swedish-British Fleet.

In March 1809 the Swedish King Gustavus IV Adolphus was replaced by his uncle Carolus XIII through a coup d`état. Carolus XIII was childless and had to accept an agreement where the Swedish Parliament elected the new successor. After the coup Sweden tried to regain peace with Russia without any success. After some regular Russian troops had landed in proper Sweden (outside the city of Umeå) a truce was accepted and negotiations started. In the Peace Treaty of Hamina (Fredrikshamn) September 17th 1809 Sweden ceded Finland to Russia.

The loss of Finland was a chock for Sweden. The recapturing of Finland was at first the main future foreign aim but very soon an old plan of gaining Norway instead took shape. We can clearly see the formation of two groups;

1. The idea of the annexation of Norway was supported by the man behind the coup in March, General Georg Adlersparre + his followers. He also recommended a more neutral foreign policy with good relations to Great Britain.

2. The other group was supported by some younger officers and government officials that wanted to seek French support for the recapturing of Finland.

Actual events led to a mixture of the aims of these two groups. Sweden would come closer to France but choose a more neutral foreign policy where they annexed Norway…

Due to the work of the pro-Norway group (General Adlersparre and his followers) Prince Christian August of Augustenburg (who was the Danish Commander of the Norwegian troops) was suggested as the successor of Carolus XIII. Prince Christian August was willing to accept the choice – after Sweden and Denmark had made a Peace Treaty. In December 1809 the Treaty of Jönköping was signed between Denmark and Sweden without any land losses (or gains). In January 1810 Sweden signed a Peace Treaty with France. Sweden was forced to join the continental blockade against Great Britain but the country didn’t loose any land. Instead Sweden regained Swedish Pomerania (lost 1807). Prince Christian August was elected (and formally adopted by Carolus XIII) the Crown Prince of Sweden. A few months later he had a stroke during a military exercise in Scania and dropped dead.

The Swedish government under General Adlersparre now focused on Prince Christian Augusts brother – Duke Fredrik Christian of Augustenborg. Before he could be suggested the majority of the government wanted Napoleons opinion. An appointed courier was sent to the Swedish Embassy in Paris. At the same time a young Swedish officer, lieutenant Carl Otto Mörner, received a copy of the same documents and was encouraged to also ride to Paris as a courier. Mörner travelled faster than the official courier. He left the documents at the Swedish Embassy and then he went on a private mission; to contact a few French Field marshals and get one of them to accept the offer of the Swedish Crown. One of the top names was Field Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte – Prince of Ponte-Corvo. Bernadotte was married to Désirée, sister to Joseph Bonaparte’s wife, and Napoleons old fiancée. Bernadotte was cautious and diplomatic in his answers to this proposal, but at the same time he showed interest.

At the preparation for the yearly meeting of the Swedish Estates in Örebro in August 1810 suddenly two candidates to the Swedish Crown existed. A majority of the preparation Committee was clearly ready to suggest Duke Fredrik Christian of Augustenborg when a French Merchant J.A. Fournier (ex-consul in Gothenburg) showed up and gave several promises in the name of Bernadotte. These promises included a big Swedish loan from France, good business deals as well as some land compensation. Fournier could not show any official documents that showed a connection to Bernadotte, still several very influential persons in the Swedish government choose to believe him.

Field marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected Swedish Crown Prince (and formally adopted by Carolus XIII) August 21st 1810. None of the earlier promises were fulfilled… After an evaluation of the sources around this event we can trace the following main reasons for the election of Bernadotte;

- It was explained as the wish of Napoleon

- It fulfilled the demands of a powerful and military skilled successor

- The economical agreements were very appealing…

- but most of all Sweden would get closer to France which would be a step towards the recapture of Finland! Bernadotte was the pro-Finnish group candidate.

A few weeks after the election of Bernadotte France demanded that Sweden would cut all relations to Great Britain, that Sweden would fully apply the continental blockade (Sweden had kept some trade up and lots of goods was smuggled into Sweden) and officially declare war against Britain. Sweden did some of this, but the war against Great Britain 1810-1812 never became more than a paper declaration.

Bernadotte initiated a new direction in the Swedish foreign policy. He first of all worked for a better relationship with Russia. He assured Czar Alexander I that Sweden had no intention of an immediate or future recapture of Finland. At the same time he criticized Denmark and expressed the opinion that the people of Norway were unhappy and wished to be united with Sweden.

Bernadotte’s policy of a union with Norway was quite persistent. He negotiated officially with both Russia and France to win their support in forcing Denmark to hand over Norway to Sweden. He also started secret negotiations with Great Britain during the Autumn of 1811 (when the two countries were officially in war against each other). Meanwhile the alliance between France and Russia kept getting weaker…

The real point of change in the Swedish foreign policy came after the French attack without any formal declaration of war against Swedish Pomerania in January 1812. French troops occupied the area, the Swedish administration was replaced by a French one, the Swedish estates were confiscated and Swedish officers and soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. All this was done due to the unwillingness of Sweden to act firmly against Great Britain.

Bernadotte now made an alliance with Russia (April 5th 1812). This alliance was once again confirmed after the French attack on Russia in June 1812. In July 1812 Sweden and Great Britain signs a Peace treaty (Treaty of Örebro). During 1812 Bernadotte has the opportunity to put pressure on Russia about Finland (during the French march towards Moscow) but he instead offers Swedish assistance to Russia against France (although he suggests Finland as a temporary award for this service… this is the closest we get to a Bernadotte plan to recapture Finland). Czar Alexander I turns the Swedish offer down. This concludes the question about a Swedish reconquest of Finland.

During Spring 1813 Sweden makes an agreement with Great Britain. This agreement involves Swedish engagement in the war against Napoleon. Bernadotte has a very low profile in this war against his former countrymen. The main theories around his obvious cautious behaviour are high hopes and ambitions about the French succession after Napoleon, but if this failed he needed a plan B – as the Swedish Crown Prince and future King. After the battle of Leipzig in October 1813 a big part of the Northern Army under the command of Bernadotte moves towards Denmark. This campaign is over after just a few weeks. At the Peace Treaty of Kiel January 14th 1814 Norway is ceded to Sweden. As some compensation Denmark receives Swedish Pomerania.

These news were not well received in Norway. Some representatives gets together in Eidsvoll where they proclaimed the Independence of Norway; elected the Danish Prince Christian Fredrik to be King of Norway and established a genuine Norwegian constitution. This was concluded on the 17th of May 1814 (after this Norway’s “National Day”). In July 1814 Swedish forces under Bernadotte attacked Norway. After some early and fairly easy victories Bernadotte starts to negotiate with the representatives of Norway. In Moss a revised version of the Eidsvoll documents were accepted. Norway will have to accept a union with Sweden where the Swedish King also is the King of Norway and the Swedish foreign policy is common for both countries, but Norway will have its own parliament and take care of all domestic politic. This document was signed in August 1814. These agreements were later confirmed at the Congress of Vienna 1814-1815.

What’s important to not forget is that the Swedish loss of Finland 1809 to Russia was followed by a lenient treatment of Finland as a relatively independent part of the Russian Empire. It would have been hard to convince Finland of any advantages belonging to Sweden. The attitude of a large part of the educated class and amongst many garrison officers in Finland was against Sweden and had been so for several years (since the start of the Independence movement in the 1770’s). “Our destiny is, in any event, to fall under Russia, but our position will be much worse if we do not voluntarily submit”. Finland had watched how the Russian Empire steadily grew stronger in comparison with Sweden. They had also heard for many years Russia declare its intention to conquer all of Finland and when that happened grant a certain extent of independence to be conferred upon Finland. These ideas were appealing to these men that had watched how Finland always was of minor concern to the Swedish government in Stockholm. The Finnish population was discontent with the policy of nearly always see Swedish natives appointed to the more important political positions. The Swedish war plans also revealed an ignorance of Finland as part of the Swedish Kingdom; If attacked by Russia the troops in Finland should retreat to Helsinki and Ostrobothnia. The Army should first of all defend the mother country and then try to build up strength for a campaign to regain the lost territory. These plans meant that the territory in the southeast just should been handed over. This was a district where numerous noblemen in the officer corps had their homes and landed property. Finland was once again just reduced to a battlefield and there wouldn’t be any change as long as Finland was joined to Sweden. This is exactly what happened when the war broke out in 1808. This is also why Sweden couldn’t automatically count on Finland’s support in a Swedish campaign to recapture the lost part of the old Swedish Kingdom…

This was the longer answer…


Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell
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  • 6 years later...

Swedish Gripen planes headed to Libya

Published: 2 Apr 11 09:07 CET | Double click on a word to get a translation

Updated: 2 Apr 11 13:23 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/32972/20110402/

Share18 Three Swedish fighter jets headed Saturday to Sardinia en route to taking part in NATO operations against the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, a military spokesman said.

The three JAS Gripen fighters, of a total nine aircraft pledged by Sweden,

took off at 10.00am from the Ronneby base on Sweden's southern

coast, army spokesman Rickard Wissman told AFP.

Another five Gripens and a C-130 Hercules usable for mid-air refueling were

to leave early Sunday, he said.

“Those that come first can in principal start to work already on Sunday, but it's up to NATO to decide when that will happen," Wissman told news agency TT

The deployment, decided Tuesday by the Swedish government, won

parliamentary approval on Friday.

Sweden's role will be limited to enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and

will not involve any ground strikes as demanded by the left-wing opposition.

The mission involving some 130 support troops will fly under NATO command

and last three months at most. Wissman said Sweden would also provide "reconnaissance means" in a form to be decided.

Sweden is not a member of NATO, although it has been in NATO's

Partnership for Peace programme since 1994 and has contributed some 500 troops to the alliance's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) force in


Sweden also took part in operations in Kosovo.

Nevertheless Sweden's air force has not been involved in action since it

took part in a UN-mandated operation in the then Belgian Congo from 1961-63.

The Libyan operation will be the first combat tour for the JAS Gripen 39,

produced by the Swedish defence group Saab.

Sweden's Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway are already taking part in

Libyan air operations.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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