What would you do if, at the tender age of 15, you already had the responsibility of taking care of and ruling a nation? Seeing that you’re not invaded by other empires, all while making sure that your people are happy and your town is peaceful? That’s what Charles XII had to do when his father, the king of Sweden, died from abdominal cancer.

The Beginning of The Great Northern War

In 1697, Charles sat on the throne and ruled over Sweden. Just three years after an alliance of Denmark–Norway, Saxony–Poland–Lithuania, and Russia was formed, they wasted no time launching an attack against the Swedish Empire, knowing that a young and inexperienced king now led it. The idea came from Peter the Great, who wanted to get the Baltic Sea, which was, unfortunately, under Sweden’s power. When Charles XI died, they thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take it, starting the Great Northern War.

Unfortunately for them, that wasn’t going to be the case.

Portrait of Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia. (Amsterdam Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Charles was unfazed by the three-way alliance. In August 1700, he deployed an army of 10,000 near Copenhagen in Denmark, a surprise attack that caught Frederik IV of Denmark-Norway off-guard. Unable to defend his city, he didn’t have much choice but to agree on a peace treaty called the Peace of Travendal. For Charles, that’s one less attacker of his nation, so he could focus on Peter the Great of Russia, who happened to wage war with Sweden that very same day the peace treaty was signed.