He was a Gascon soldier from the Revolution, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. He had grown up and made his path during this troubled period through the shear strength of his wrists, his wit and his military genius. He had gotten into contact with Bonaparte, but the latter, in some ways, was jealous of him as Bernadotte bested him both strategically and militarily, and, more importantly, had swept away his fiancée, Désirée Clary.
Throughout the years, Bernadotte realized he did not have much of a future in Bonaparte’s France, as the man would prevent him from rising in station. He set his sights elsewhere. He realized that the Kingdom of Sweden was in need of an heir. So he ran to Stockholm, presented himself to the Swedes and declared that Napoleon wanted him to be the future king of Sweden. At the time, all of Europe trembled in front of the French Emperor, and his desires were orders.
Afraid to suffer a tragic fate, the Swedes accepted. Thereupon, Bernadotte returned to Paris, met up with Napoleon and proclaimed that the Swedes unanimously wanted him for their king. Napoleon could only accept, thrilled in some ways to be rid of his competitor.
Bernadotte, this Southern Frenchmen of the sun, went to settle in this northern country of snow and endless winters. Ambition made his adaptation perfect, unlike for his wife, the ex-fiancée of Napoleon, Désirée Clary. She only came once to Sweden, was crowned, looked around her and fled back to Paris, never to return.
In France, things started to turn sour for Napoleon.
His partisans, kings he had had installed on most of Europe’s thrones, started to wonder how to avoid being mixed up in his debacle. Bernadotte felt no such remorse. He had been named by the Swedes, not by Napoleon, and was completely integrated to his new homeland. Without hesitating, he abandoned Napoleon’s clan and joined that of France’s invaders, allowing him to be one of the only inventions of the great emperor to survive his fall.
Europe finally rid of the Corsican Ogre, Bernadotte continued to reign in peace. Upon his death, he ordered that, against custom, he not be undressed to have his corpse washed.
His wish was not respected and it was understood why he had formulated it in the first place. A souvenir from the revolution in which he had partaken, he had in his wild youth had “Death to the king” tattooed across his chest, which is a bit embarrassing when one is sovereign of Sweden.