This is how King Charles XII was killed

This is how King Charles XII was killed
This is how King Charles XII was killed


KILLED IN HALDEN: The painting “Karl XIIs likfärd”, painted in 1878 by the Swedish history painter Gustaf Cederström (1845-1933), today in the Gothenburg Museum of Art. The picture depicts the retreat of the Swedish forces after the unsuccessful siege of Fredriksten fortress during the second Norwegian campaign in 1718, and where the Swedish king Karl XII was shot and killed.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For more than 300 years, speculation has raged about what actually happened when the Swedish king Karl the twelfth died during the siege of Fredriksten fortress. Now Finnish scientists believe they can confirm the cause of death – and where the bullet was probably fired from.

On a cold and foggy November evening in 1718, the Swedish king Karl XII was shot and killed at Fredriksten fortress in Halden. The death marked the end of Sweden’s era as a great power.

But the question has long been who killed him. Was the Swedish king killed by his own, war-weary soldiers, or was it a Norwegian soldier who fired the fatal shot? Like, for example, Jo at Vedlo, which NRK has previously mentioned?

The royal remains have been autopsied three times, in 1746, 1859 and 1917. The last time they were exhumed from the grave in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm, X-rays were also taken.

It has been known that Charles XII died from a bullet that pierced his skull, but the details of the rest of the course of events have been uncertain.

Now, however, researchers at the University of Oulu in Finland believe they can confirm the cause of death, writes the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.

Modern methods

Among other things, the researchers have used forensic research methods and test firings on ballistic models, which have the same properties as a human head, to solve the mystery. They have examined the size of the bullet hole in the felt hat that the king was wearing when he was hit, and the bullet wound in the skull, which can be seen on X-rays.

The researchers believe that they have once and for all dispelled the myth that Charles XII was assassinated by his own soldiers.

THE WARRIOR KING: According to Finnish researchers, Karl XII of Sweden was most likely killed by Norwegian kardesk ammunition fired from Fredriksten fortress on 30 November 1718.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The test firings were done with a ten-caliber rifle and a 28 millimeter cannon, according to the Finnish broadcaster YLE.

The injuries that occurred show that in all probability the king was not killed by a lead musket ball. A lead bullet would have left a different kind of trace in the skull than those that appear on the X-rays.

Kardesk ammo

According to the recent research results, which have been published in the scientific journal PNAS Nexus, which is a collaboration between the National Academy of Sciences and the University of Oxford, King Charles XII probably died from iron kardesk ammunition, with a diameter well over 20 millimeters.

A kardesk is a form of projectile that was used as an anti-personnel weapon over shorter distances, and was particularly effective against dense infantry formations as used in the 17th and early 19th centuries. A cartridge charge consists of a series of smaller bullets, which act in much the same way as a shotgun, with a wide dispersion of smaller fragments from a main cartridge.

On the basis of the damage to the king’s skull, the researchers believe that the projectile probably moved at a speed of approximately 200 meters per second, which corresponds to the speed of a projectile fired from a distance of approximately 200 meters – i.e. from Fredriksten Fortress.

Most likely it was therefore a Norwegian bullet that killed the Swedish king, the Finnish researchers conclude.

The article is in Norwegian


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