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Thursday, 18 October 2018
Karl XII : kungamord (once more)
Topic: Literature

The newspaper article I discussed in the previous entry is a key piece of evidence in the book. I would argue that an experienced historian with knowledge of the events of 1718 who found such a sensational item would react in two ways:

1. Could it be a false rumour going round Europe, much as there in 1709 had been a rumour that the Swedish army had been victorious in the battle of Poltava (a lengthy account of the victory even found its way into the official Swedish newspaper)? The experienced historian would then proceed to check some Dutch, French and German newspapers to see if they contained the same story. 

2. The experienced historian would carefully analyze the other news reports on the same page and look at the paper very closely. Could it be that those pages weren't from 1718? 

Why would he/she be incredulous? Well, because an event  of this magnitude (a revolution in Sweden and an official proclamation of the King's death more than a month before he actually was killed) would surely have left traces everywhere. The new authorities would have had to inform the county governors, the bishops and so on - there would be letters everywhere. Not only that, there would be a need to explain how a small British paper in Lincolnshire would know something which for example the Danish government or their commanders in Norway didn't. How come the Czar knew, but Goertz who negotiated with the Russians didn't? It is, in short, very hard work to build a theory which would explain all of this. 

Now to what Nordenkull on page 72 calls evidence of Frederick's guilt:

1. The coup: as explained above and in the previous post this is based on a British newspaper item which has been incorrectly dated. 

2. That Frederick managed to surround the King with people loyal to him: it's not clear that all of them were or that this in itself would mean anything. Above all it's not clear who the replaced people were.

3. There was a Swedish artillery battery on Oskleiva, which fired the lethal bullet. The King's body was then carried to the trenches etc: No evidence for the existence of such a battery is presented. No evidence for the theory that the King was hit by a number of canister balls is presented. No evidence for an alternative place of death is presented. (what I mean by evidence is witness accounts, maps, drawings etc. - any sort of contemporary documentation). No discussion about the possibility of making precision shots with canister at such a distance or what the likely spread of such a volley would be etc. No discussion of why "murder by artillery" was chosen ahead of a simple gunshot at close range etc.

4. Kaulbars and Maigret by mistake disclosed the plot in their testimonies: Kaulbars (if Anonymous is indeed him) points to Overberget - how can this be an evidence of murder? Maigret speaks of a large projectile and dismisses the idea that someone on the Swedish side killed the King - how can this be evidence of murder?

5. Frederick manipulated the Council of War on 1 December: it's far from obvious why "an unfortunate and very lamentable event" should be interpreted as referring to a shot from the Swedish side. Surely it would be possible to use the same words about a stray norwegian bullet?

6. The participants in the plot were rewarded in various ways: well, it was quite natural for officers to be promoted. My "old friend" Gustaf von Psilander went from being the son of a minor official to baron and head of the Admiralty. Was he also involved in a plot or was he (like Cronstedt) good at his work? 

In short: I would label a lot of the book pure speculation. One example: the author suggests that Charles XII in October made a trip to Armfeldt's army. Has she studied "Riksregistraturet" (copies of outgoing letters from the King's field chancery)? No evidence of this is presented. Has she looked for Royal letters written to county governors or various government bodies in Stockholm during this period to check where and when they are dated? No evidence of this is presented. Has she checked if there are records from the King's kitchen, i.e. evidence of where he spent days and nights, who dined with him etc? No evidence of this is presented...

I have spent hundreds (if not thousands) of hours during the last twenty years pouring over actual documents sent to Charles XII and his officials and letters and documents signed by him. I have visited quite a few archives in several different countries and bought copies from many, many more. I have today scans or photos of more than one thousand volumes from mostly Swedish, Baltic, Danish and Norwegian archives, i. e. I have done real archival research many, many times and spent a very considerable amount of my private money (and vacation days) doing it. Why? Because it is a fascinating period. I have made an index of about 15,000 incoming letters in the archive of the Swedish Governor General of Livonia. I have bought hundreds of books published in Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other relevant countries in order to keep up with research abroad. I have also fact checked a significant number of book manuscripts before publication and I have been heavily involved in other ways in a couple of book projects, including Peter From's "Karl XII:s död". So I do know something about the period and the events in 1718, perhaps even more than most people do. Based on all of this I must say that I rather resent being "lectured" by some who have done very little of such hard, time consuming and costly work (see above). 

This will, barring unforeseen events, be my final statement about this strange book. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:50 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 22 October 2018 3:08 PM MEST
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