Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718). He was pretty much the main character of the Great Northern War.
Charles XII became king at the age of 15 In 1697, after the death of his father. Sweden was at this time a great power in the baltic region. In 1700, Denmark-Norway, Saxony-Poland and Russia declared war on Sweden, assuming the now 18 years old king would be easy to win over. They were wrong. Charles and the (well-organised and disciplined) Swedish army won victory after victory against numerically superior enemy forces.
Then in 1707 he made the decision to invade Russia. This went pretty much as one can expect, and in 1709 the swedish army suffered a crushing defeat at Poltava, and were shortly after forced to capitulate. The king, who had been injured and not able to lead the battle, fled to Turkey. He stayed there for a long time trying to persuade the sultan to go to war against Russia. The turks, who had originally been rather thrilled to have the Swedish king there, eventually got fed up with him.
In the Autumn of 1714, Charles XII hence left and made the rather impressive feat of riding through Europe from Turkey to Stralsund in 14 days. In 1715 he finally returned to sweden. At this time, most of the Swedish domains had fallen and Finland was occupied by the Russians, however, Charles decided to continue the war on another front, and invaded Norway. On the 30th of november 1718 he was shot in the head while laying siege to Fredriksten Fortress. Who shot him is stil a mystery; was it the enemy, a war-weary swede, or a political assassination? the weirdest theory is that he was shot with a button.
Charles XII was quite a legendary figure in his own time, being described as “the alexander of the north”. Voltaire wrote a biography about him in 1731. Charles XII was certainly Intelligent, having received a solid education,and definitely something of a military genius. Unfortunately he was also extremely stubborn and unwilling to compromise, which probably made the whole war situation worse. Charles devoted pretty much all of his life to the war. He preferred wearing a rather simple military uniform (see painting above) and none of those fance baroque wigs that were in back then. Frequently, Charles XII would ride in the frontlines of battle, setting and example to his soldiers, who respected him greatly. Despite this, he almost never got injured which lead to the rumor that he was immune to bullets. Charles XII has also been described as emotionless, and he allegedly remained celibate his whole life.
Today, Charles XII is one of the most controversial and disputed figures in Swedish history. He has frequently been blamed for the ruining of the Swedish Empire, due to not ending the war when he had the chance. He has also been romanticised as a great hero. However, people are aware that autocratic warrior kings don’t really fit Swedens current image as a peaceful and liberal nation. The neo-nazis tend to idolise Charles XII, which doesn’t exactly improve his image.