Karl XIV Johann of Sweden- Alleged Quote

Feb 2011
1,148
Scotland
Did Karl XIV Johann, previously Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte of France, really say

"I, who was once a Marshal of France, am now only King of Sweden" ?

I have seen it quoted, but never attributed to any specific occasion.

As far as I can see he was a proud and conscientious Monarch determined to succeed for his country and himself and thoroughly at odds with the person who made him a Marshal. I cannot imagine he would have said such a thing, at least publicly.

On the other hand, he was a supposedly dyed-in-the-wool republican who seized the chance to be King when offered.

The quote seems a romantic 'statement he ought to have said' rather than one he is known to have said- can anyone confirm this one way or the other?
 
Last edited:
Jun 2013
745
Agraphur
Just something someone wanted him to have said. Much like that he would have "death to the kings" tatooted on his arm. googeling it's seems to be from some american newspapers in 1913 and something he would have said when they brought the remains of Napoleon to Paris in 1840.

The statement makes little sense in context. As a republican, Bernadotte opposed the empire and the high point of his French career was as minister of war in the directorate. He didn't own his success to Napoleon and they were never friends. He got the marshal baton more as a payoff for his relucant support of Napoleon then in recognition of military achievements. So him cherishing Napoleon's crumbs over the Swedish crown that was result of his own efforts seems outright silly.

And why would he put down his new country and people in this fashion even if he had some sentimental attachment to the title.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,935
Just something someone wanted him to have said. Much like that he would have "death to the kings" tatooted on his arm. googeling it's seems to be from some american newspapers in 1913 and something he would have said when they brought the remains of Napoleon to Paris in 1840.
In the US perhaps? The allegation is older than that. Supposedly it comes from a revolutionary period play, "The Bedfellow", where someone has a tatoo like that. Apparently it was felt to be a good fit for Bernadotte.

As for the deprecation of Sweden, that really sounds more like something his wife, Desirée — who was always the staunch Bonapartiste of that couple, and intensely dislike Sweden — might have said.
 
Jun 2013
745
Agraphur
In the US perhaps? The allegation is older than that. Supposedly it comes from a revolutionary period play, "The Bedfellow", where someone has a tatoo like that. Apparently it was felt to be a good fit for Bernadotte.

As for the deprecation of Sweden, that really sounds more like something his wife, Desirée — who was always the staunch Bonapartiste of that couple, and intensely dislike Sweden — might have said.
Yes I just mentioned it as another example. People likes to attribute quotes and situations to people whose life and personality gives them more spice. It's like Stalin that gets all these sayings and stories of brutal cynisim.
I wouldn't know if Bernadotte had "death to the kings" tattoed on his arm but when you think about it, it's something that it's a little to cool and funny for it to be true and it's easy to see why someone would make it up and why it would become a popular tale.