Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/87

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
81
MENTAL AND MORAL HEREDITY IN ROYALTY.

ter, energy and abilities. Besides, we find Wolfgang of Palatine, 1569, the great grandfather, a man of great distinction in his day. As Catherine, the mother of Charles and sister of the great Gustavus Adolphus, was intellectual and energetic, we have here in starting the new dynasty a selection of by far the better members of the family.

Charles X., himself, was a rather remarkable character, being a man of the greatest enterprise and, as a commander, showed the family brilliancy in a striking degree. His measures were in general entirely just, his only noteworthy weakness being his passionate temper.[1]

The only child of Charles X. was Charles XI., who became king of Sweden in his turn and began to exercise his power in 1692. He seems to repeat the character of his father almost exactly.

Charles was chaste, temperate, economical, vigilant and active, a patron of letters, severe yet not implacable, prone to anger but easily softened. If we consider the interior administration of affairs, Charles XI. was one of the wisest monarchs who ever sat upon the throne of this kingdom. To him Sweden stands indebted for many excellent regulations which still subsist.[2] He promoted manufacture, commerce, science and arts, subverted the power of the senate, and when he died, left a flourishing kingdom to his son Charles XII.[3] He died aged forty-two, lamenting, it is said, upon his death bed, as the only reproach to his memory, the natural violence of his temper, which he had not sufficiently corrected.[4]

Charles XI. married Ulrica Eleonora, a virtuous and intellectual princess. She was a daughter of Frederick III. of Denmark, and sole representative among six children of that little group of brighter lights forming Denmark's highest intellectual wave, and centered about Christian IV., her greatest king.

From this union sprang two daughters, in no way remarkable, beside one son, born in 1682, who, as Voltaire says, 'became as Charles XII. perhaps the most remarkable man who ever existed upon this earth, who united in himself all the great qualities of his ancestors, and who had no fault or misfortune except in having them too greatly exaggerated.' Invincibly obstinate from childhood, the only way of moving his will was through his sense of honor. Charles was inordinately ambitious from youth, his only desire being to imitate the career of Alexander the Great. When only eighteen years old an opportunity was given him to display his 'extraordinary martial genius' in his unequal contest against three of the most powerful monarchs in Europe. Peter the Great, of Russia; Frederick IV., of Denmark, and Augustus, King of Poland, thinking on account of the youth of Charles to divide his kingdom between them, formed a league against


  1. Coxe, 'Travels,' IV., 34. 'Ency. Brit.' 9th ed.
  2. Coxe, 'Travels, IV., 39.
  3. Lippincott's 'Biog. Diet.'
  4. Schloetzer's 'Briefwechsel,' I., 147.