Charles XV

Charles XV also Carl (Carl Ludvig Eugen); Swedish: Karl XV and Norwegian: Karl IV (3 May 1826 – 18 September 1872) was King of Sweden (Charles XV) and Norway, there often referred to accurately as Charles IV, from 1859 until his death. Though known as King Charles XV in Sweden (and also on contemporary Norwegian coins[1]), he was actually the ninth Swedish king by that name, as his predecessor Charles IX (reigned 1604–1611) had adopted a numeral according to a fictitious history of Sweden.[2]

Charles XV
Charles XV photographed by Mathias Hansen around 1865
King of Sweden and Norway
Reign8 July 1859 – 18 September 1872
Coronations3 May 1860, Stockholm
5 August 1860, Trondheim
PredecessorOscar I
SuccessorOscar II
Born(1826-05-03)3 May 1826
Stockholm, Sweden
Died18 September 1872(1872-09-18) (aged 46)
Malmö, Sweden
Burial9 October 1872
Louise of the Netherlands
(m. 1850; died 1871)
  • Louise, Queen of Denmark
  • Prince Carl Oscar, Duke of Södermanland
Carl Ludvig Eugen
FatherOscar I
MotherJosephine of Leuchtenberg
ReligionChurch of Sweden


An equestrian portrait of Charles XV, painted by Carl Fredrik Kiörboe, circa 1860
Statue of Charles XV in Stockholm
Adjutant Daniel Nordlander (upper left), with Adjutant Fritz von Dardel, Ordonnance Officer Ferdinand-Alphonse Hamelin, General Henri-Pierre Castelnau, King Charles XV of Sweden and Prince Oscar, future King Oscar II of Sweden, at the International Exposition (1867) in Paris, France.

Early life

He was born in Stockholm Palace, Stockholm in 1826 and dubbed Duke of Scania at birth. Born the eldest son of Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden and his wife Crown Princess Josephine, he would be second in line to the throne of his grandfather, the ruling King Charles XIV John of Sweden. During his childhood he was placed in the care of the royal governess countess Christina Ulrika Taube.[3] When he was just 15, he was given his first officer's commission in 1841 by his grandfather the king.

Crown Prince

The aging King Charles XIV John would suffer a stroke on his 81st birthday in 1844, dying little more than a month later. His successor would be his son, Charles's father Oscar, who ascended the throne as King Oscar I of Sweden. Upon his father's accession to the throne in 1844, the youth Charles was made a chancellor of the universities of Uppsala and Lund, and in 1853 chancellor of Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. On 11 February 1846 he was made an honorary member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.[4]

The Crown Prince was Viceroy of Norway briefly in 1856 and 1857. He became Regent on 25 September 1857, and king on the death of his father on 8 July 1859.[5] As grandson of Augusta of Bavaria, he was a descendant of Gustav I of Sweden and Charles IX of Sweden, whose Vasa blood returned to the throne after being lost in 1818 when Charles XIII of Sweden died.

On 19 June 1850 he married in Stockholm Louise of the Netherlands, niece of William II of the Netherlands through her father and niece of William I of Prussia, German Emperor, through her mother. The couple were personally quite dissimilar; Louise was a cultured and refined woman, however, she was considered to be quite plain and Charles was disappointed with her appearance. Louise was in love with her husband, whereas he preferred other women, saddening her deeply. His well-known mistresses included the actress Laura Bergnéhr, the countess Josephine Sparre, Wilhelmine Schröder and the actresses Hanna Styrell and Elise Hwasser, and the Crown Prince neglected his shy wife. On the other hand, his relationship to his only daughter, Louise, was warm and close.[6]


As Crown Prince, Charles's brusque manner led many to regard his future accession with some apprehension, yet he proved to be one of the most popular of Scandinavian kings and a constitutional ruler in the best sense of the word. His reign was remarkable for its manifold and far-reaching reforms. Sweden's existing municipal law (1862), ecclesiastical law (1863) and criminal law (1864) were enacted appropriately enough under the direction of a king whose motto was: Land skall med lag byggas – "With law shall the land be built".[5] Charles also helped Louis De Geer to carry through his reform of the Parliament of Sweden in 1866. He also declared the freedom of women by passing the law of legal majority for unmarried women in 1858 – his sister Princess Eugenie became the first woman who was declared mature.[7]

Charles, like his father Oscar I, was an advocate of Scandinavianism and the political solidarity of the three northern kingdoms, and his friendship with Frederick VII of Denmark, it is said, led him to give half promises of help to Denmark on the eve of the war of 1864, which, in the circumstances, were perhaps misleading and unjustifiable. In view, however, of the unpreparedness of the Swedish army and the difficulties of the situation, Charles was forced to observe a strict neutrality.[5] He died in Malmö on 18 September 1872.[8]

Charles XV attained some eminence as a painter[5] and as a poet. He was followed on the thrones of both Norway and Sweden by his brother Oscar II.

In 1872, Charles XV had controversial plans to enter a non-morganatic marriage with the Polish countess Marya Krasińska through the assistance of Ohan Demirgian, plans that aroused opposition both in the royal house and government and which were interrupted only by his death.[9]


By his wife, Louise of the Netherlands, Charles had two children, a son who died in infancy and a daughter who married the King of Denmark. The early death of his only legitimate son meant that he was succeeded on the throne of Sweden by his younger brother Oscar II.

Louise Josephine Eugenie31 October 185121 March 1926married, 1869, Frederick VIII of Denmark; had issue including Christian X of Denmark and Haakon VII of Norway.
Carl Oscar Vilhelm Frederik14 December 185213 March 1854died in infancy of pneumonia.

Charles also sired an illegitimate son, Carl Johan Bolander, (4 February 1854 - 28 July 1903), the father of Bishop Nils Bolander[10] and daughter, Ellen Svensson Hammar (28 October 1865 - 1931), and it has been widely rumored that he had many more extramarital children.[11]

No subsequent king of Sweden to this day is Charles's descendant. However, his descendants are or have been on the thrones of Denmark, Luxembourg, Greece, Belgium and Norway. A few weeks before Charles's death, his daughter Louise (then the Crown Princess of Denmark) gave birth to her second son. The young Prince of Denmark became christened as grandfather Charles's namesake. In 1905 this grandson, Prince Carl of Denmark, ascended the throne of Norway, becoming thus his maternal grandfather's successor in that country, and assumed the reign name Haakon VII. The present king, Harald V of Norway, is Charles' great-great-grandson, through his father and mother.[12]


National decorations[13]
  • Knight and Commander of the Seraphim, with Collar, 3 May 1826
  • Knight of the Order of Charles XIII, 3 May 1826
  • Commander Grand Cross of the Sword, 3 May 1826
  • Commander Grand Cross of the Polar Star, 3 May 1826
  • Grand Cross of St. Olav, with Collar, 3 May 1826
Foreign decorations[13]
  •  Denmark:[14]
    • Knight of the Elephant, 16 July 1846
    • Cross of Honour of the Order of the Dannebrog, 22 September 1856
    • Grand Commander of the Dannebrog, 10 June 1860
  •  Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold (civil), 16 September 1849[15]
  •  Austrian Empire: Grand Cross of St. Stephen, 1850[16]
  •  Spain: Knight of the Golden Fleece, 26 June 1855[17]
  •  Kingdom of Italy: Knight of the Annunciation, 28 July 1861[18]
  • Duchy of Anhalt: Grand Cross of Albert the Bear, 5 June 1864[19]
  •  Kingdom of Bavaria: Knight of St. Hubert, 1846[20]
  • Ernestine duchies: Grand Cross of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order, April 1864[21]
  • French Empire:
  • Kingdom of Greece: Grand Cross of the Redeemer
  •  Kingdom of Hanover: Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order, 1849[22]
  • Mexican Empire: Grand Cross of the Mexican Eagle, with Collar, 1865[23]
  •  Nassau: Knight of the Gold Lion of Nassau, July 1858[24]
  •  Netherlands: Grand Cross of the Netherlands Lion
  •  Luxembourg: Grand Cross of the Oak Crown
  •  Kingdom of Portugal: Grand Cross of the Sash of the Three Orders
  • Kingdom of Prussia:
    • Knight of the Black Eagle, 1 December 1846[25]
    • Grand Cross of the Red Eagle
  •  Russian Empire:
    • Knight of St. Andrew
    • Knight of St. Alexander Nevsky
    • Knight of the White Eagle
    • Knight of St. Anna, 1st Class
  • Beylik of Tunis: Husainid Family Order


Prince of Sweden and Norway,
Duke of Scania (1826-1844)

Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway,
Duke of Scania (1844-1859)

King Charles XV of Sweden
and Norway

Monogram of King Charles XV
of Sweden



  1. Example
  2. Article Karl in Nordisk familjebok
  3. Gustaf Elgenstierna, Den introducerade svenska adelns ättartavlor. 1925-36.
  4. Lars Roar Langslet. "Karl 4, Konge (1826-1872)". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  5. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Bain, Robert Nisbet (1911). "Charles XV.". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 932.
  6. "Karl 4, Konge (1826-1872)". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  7. Erik Opsahl. "Karl 4 – 1826-72". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  8. Cronholm, Neander N. (1902). A History of Sweden from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. ch 41 pp 289–99
  9. Ohan Demirgian, urn:sbl:17456, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av Carl-Gustaf Thomasson.), hämtad 2014-12-13.
  10. Sahlberg, Carl-Erik (1994). Nils Bolander: diktare och predikant (in Swedish). Aneby: KM-förl. p. 11. ISBN 91-86112-39-2. SELIBR 7755088.
  11. Lagerqvist, Lars O.; Åberg, Nils; Hjelm, Lars E. (2002). Kings and rulers of Sweden: a pocket encyclopaedia (2., rev. ed.). Stockholm: Vincent. p. 48. ISBN 91-87064-35-9. SELIBR 8836893.
  12. Ole Kristian Grimnes. "Haakon 7". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  13. Sveriges och Norges Statskalender (in Swedish), 1872, p. 459, retrieved 2018-01-06 via
  14. Bille-Hansen, A. C.; Holck, Harald, eds. (1872) [1st pub.:1801]. Statshaandbog for Kongeriget Danmark for Aaret 1872 [State Manual of the Kingdom of Denmark for the Year 1872] (PDF). Kongelig Dansk Hof- og Statskalender (in Danish). Copenhagen: J.H. Schultz A.-S. Universitetsbogtrykkeri. pp. 1, 5. Retrieved 1 May 2020 via da:DIS Danmark.
  15. "Liste des Membres de l'Ordre de Léopold", Almanach Royal Officiel (in French), 1850, p. 33 via Archives de Bruxelles
  16. "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  17. "Caballeros de la insigne orden del toisón de oro", Guía Oficial de España (in Spanish), 1864, p. 155, retrieved 10 December 2019
  18. Cibrario, Luigi (1869). Notizia storica del nobilissimo ordine supremo della santissima Annunziata. Sunto degli statuti, catalogo dei cavalieri (in Italian). Eredi Botta. p. 118. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  19. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch für das Herzogthum Anhalt (1867), "Herzoglicher Haus-Orden Albrecht des Bären" p. 18
  20. Bayern (1867). Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Königreichs Bayern: 1867. Landesamt. p. 8.
  21. Staatshandbücher für das Herzogtums Sachsen-Altenburg (1869), "Herzogliche Sachsen-Ernestinischer Hausorden" p. 21
  22. Staat Hannover (1858). Hof- und Staatshandbuch für das Königreich Hannover: 1858. Berenberg. p. 70.
  23. "Seccion IV: Ordenes del Imperio", Almanaque imperial para el año 1866 (in Spanish), 1866, p. 243, retrieved 29 April 2020
  24. Staats- und Adreß-Handbuch des Herzogthums Nassau: 1859. Schellenberg. 1859. p. 7.
  25. Liste der Ritter des Königlich Preußischen Hohen Ordens vom Schwarzen Adler (1851), "Von Seiner Majestät dem Könige Friedrich Wilhelm IV. ernannte Ritter" p. 23
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