As you probably know, I’m a big fan of music. I’m open to pretty much every genre, but rock is my natural home. I played a lot of Nirvana on a drum-set back in high school, and while I’m a bit less grungy now, I still dig distorted guitar. One song that Youtube recently threw at my feet and I fell in love with is “Carolus Rex,” as performed by the band Follow The Cipher. While it was originally performed by the band Sabaton, what fascinates me so much about this song is that it’s not about some random ruler, but rather about Sweden’s Charles XII.
Charles was the King of Sweden – which was, at the time, a substantial empire – during the “Great Northern War.” I won’t get into the long story about it (The brilliant folks behind Extra History did a six-video series on the war, mainly focused on Charles), but Charles ascended to the throne at fifteen years old just like the song references. He was immediately thrust into war when Sweden’s neighbors – Poland/Lithuania, Denmark-Norway, and Peter The Great’s Russia – united against the unproven ruler in hopes of reshaping the map of Europe to their liking.
Charles was not a bad ruler. Admittedly, his entire reign and most of his life was dedicated to the war, but he advocated scientific research in fields related to war, and he was the kind of ruler who led his troops into battle, himself. He was a brilliant military mind with an exceptionally skilled army, and I guess I would compare his military effectiveness to Napoleon’s in that he wielded an elite force to defeat numerically superior enemies, and only began to fail as his nation was worn down and depleted.
Of course, Charles actually died from a bullet (or possibly cannon grape-shot) to the head while preparing for a siege, where Napoleon was exiled, returned and raised a new army, then was exiled further away. On the other hand, until his death Charles devoted himself to the war effort. He had plenty of flaws as a leader, refusing to seek peace when he held the upper hand, but he was just a child thrown into command of a nation surrounded by enemies. How could he be anything other than demanding?
It’s hard to tell why certain music speaks to certain people. Maybe this song just catches me because of it’s driving, marching bass-line and drums. Maybe the vocal tones get me. However, the lyrics strike me because they sound exactly like a young man at the peak of his confidence, taking over control of an impossible disaster and throwing back the tide with seeming ease. “Chosen by heaven,” indeed! The implication was that he was the only one capable of saving his country, and perhaps he could have done better for it than he did.
On the other hand, he could just as easily have simpered, surrendered, and allowed Sweden to suffer without a fight.
There’s something to respect in all of this
Jesse Pohlman is an author from Long Island, New York. He writes Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and even super-hero novels you can pick up at his Amazon Author’s Page, mostly for the Kindle.