19 April 2013 - King Karl Johan 250 anniversary

The story of King Karl III Johan is rather unusual. He started as a private in the French Army and advanced to be king of Sweden and Norway.

NK 1848

Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was born in Pau in the South of France in 1763. He joined up at the age of 17 and soon distinguished himself as a soldier. He was appointed Brigadier General in 1794.

In 1809 a number of dramatic events take place in Sweden. King Gustav IV Adolf is forced to abdicate after a coup d’etat and the Swedish Parliament appoints the Duke of Södermanland as the new king under the name of Karl II. There are also forces at work in Sweden who wish closer ties with the great French empire. Their eyes fall on Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s most successful generals. The Parliament unanimously elects Bernadotte as crown prince and he takes the name of Karl Johan. Karl II dies in 1818 and Karl III Johan succeeds him as king of Sweden and Norway. Later the same year he is formally crowned king of Norway in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814 Denmark had been forced to cede Norway to Sweden. Karl Johan was soon to discover that there was a noticeable difference between the two countries. While the Swedes clung to the aristocratic system of government, the climate in the young Norwegian state was different. In Norway, people wanted reforms and more and more freedom – and at a speed that Karl Johan found difficult to match. Norway’s nostalgic feelings about 1814 and its Constitution were also to be a source of continual irritation to the King.

In 1825 Karl Johan and his queen Desirée laid the foundation stone for the Royal Palace in Christiania. The King had chosen the location himself and the Palace was his way of demonstrating his goodwill towards Norway. The Palace was finished in 1848.

When Karl Johan visited Norway, he always came as sovereign and head of state. He made several round trips in the country. One of the longest took place in the summer of 1835. The route went north through Sweden to Norrland, from there over to Trondheim and then down through Østerdalen to Christiania. He was well received and has said himself that he was met with jubilation everywhere.

The final years of Karl Johan’s life in Sweden were a mixture of seclusion and harrowing political events. Gradually his influence weakened; he was afflicted by illness and died in 1844.

NK 1848
Date of issue: 19 April 2013
Value and subject:
Kr 30.00: The monument to King Karl Johan in Oslo
Design and engraving: Sverre Morken
Method of printing: Recess / offset
Printing house: Joh. Enschedé Security PrintNK