King Carl XV. Of Sweden And Norway
( Originally Published 1881 )
FROM Gustaf Adolf Square, looking over Norrbro, one sees the massive royal palace ; to the right there is a low, small wing attached to it. The simple and unostentatious taste of Carl XV. had made him choose this comfortable and home-like part of the extensive building for his own abode ; the larger rooms of the main building were used only on state occasions.
On my arrival, I wished to see the king, not as a matter of idle curiosity or vanity, but to pay my respects to the head of the State before travelling through the country, and to become acquainted with this popular sovereign. On inquiry, I found that this was no easy matter. The queen-consort having died some time before my arrival, the court was in mourning; the king himself was just recovering from a serious illness, and was not living at that time in Stockholm. Nevertheless, I made a formal application for an audience, and, to my surprise, the next day the following letter, written in French, was received by the American minister :
"The Minister of Foreign Affairs has the pleasure to announce to Monsieur Andrews, Minister Resident of the United States of America, that his Majesty the King will receive Mr. Du Chaillu in a private audience, to-morrow, Saturday, at eleven (11) o'clock in the morning, in the small apartments of his Majesty, in the Palace of Stockholm.
"The Count of Wachtmeister takes this opportunity to present to Mr. Andrews the assurances of his most distinguished consideration. "Stockholm, June 16th, 1871."
Not only had my request been at once granted, but his majesty paid me the compliment of coming to Stockholm and granting me a private audience. I arrived at the unpretending entrance of the private apartments of the palace three or four minutes before the time appointed for my reception; a sentry was on duty at the door outside, but he did not ask me where I was going. Accompanied by the servant from the hotel, who had come to show me the way, I ascended a flight of stairs, and there saw a sailor, and by him stood two servants dressed in mourning. I asked for the king; they opened a door, and I found myself in an unpretentious library, in the centre of which was a billiard-table; the books were bound simply, and were evidently intended to be used-not merely to be looked at. I had been hardly three minutes in this room, when a gentleman, plainly dressed, walked quickly through, as if in a great hurry, followed by two military officers. He said "Good-morning" to me as he passed by, and disappeared into the next room—the door being shut behind him. So quickly did he salute me, that he gave me no time to return his salutation. The officers returned, and, with a bow, said, " The king is ready to receive Mr. Du Chaillu ;" and, opening the door, introduced me to the presence of the sovereign, and, closing it, left me alone with him. Carl XV., of Sweden and Norway, came towards me; I advanced at once, but had hardly time to bow, when he extended his hands and gave me a warm greeting, saying that he was very glad to see me in Sweden. His friendly welcome, his frank and open countenance, and the total absence of formality, drew me, instinctively and sympathetically, towards him, and made me feel at once quite at ease.
The king was tall and slender, and of 'a dark complexion. Although he bore the marks of sickness in his face, I did not wonder that some years before he had passed for one of the handsomest of living sovereigns.
I thanked his majesty, in behalf of the literary men and travellers of America; for giving me an audience, and added that many among us in the United States knew of him as a poet and an artist, and that we all admired him as a monarch who ruled over a free country. "Yes," he replied; "we are free, for we have a constitutional government. I am glad to hear that you are to travel in Sweden and Norway, and see us as we are." I answered that I intended to explore the Peninsula of Scandinavia thoroughly, from one end to the other, for several years, and become acquainted with the people. Little then did I know of the many courtesies that were to be extended to me everywhere.
"Let us seat ourselves," said King Carl; and at the same time lie pointed to a chair by a small table at one of the windows looking out upon Gustaf Adolf Square. The king took the seat opposite, and, taking a ease from his pocket, he offered me a cigar. Learning that I had never smoked in my life, or used tobacco in any form, he said, before lighting a cigar,
"Will the smoke annoy you ?"
"Not at all," was my answer.
The king continued, "I am astonished that a traveller like you does not smoke; you do not know how much you miss," sending out at the same time a puff of smoke.
"Ignorance is bliss," said I.
" We know you in Scandinavia," he added. "Several of your works have been translated into Norwegian and Swedish; and you will find that you are not a stranger among us,"
" Will your majesty do me the honor of accepting my works in English ?"
"With pleasure," he replied; and he added "Travel well; visit our public schools in Norway and Sweden, our universities,our scientific institutions: we all believe in education. See our railways, our canals; observe everything. You will probably get acquainted with many of our scientific men, who will take great pleasure, I have no doubt, in showing you our collections."
We talked of agriculture. "Before I was a king," said he, "I was a farmer. I was fond of that life, but had to abandon it;I have now no time to spare, for I have much to do." Then he spoke again of the progress Sweden and Norway had made in education. " The uneducated must be partly educated. We have an excellent law ; every child must go to school ;" and his eyes beamed with earnestness as he spoke. "I am very glad," I replied, "to see that your majesty is not one who, being educated, believes that others should remain ignorant ; that you are not like those who think it is best for the world that there should be one class instructed and another left in entire ignorance, nor like those who are opposed to general education, Nit are unwilling that their own children should be uneducated."
Then we spoke of telegraphs, of railways, of manufactures. "We must have more railways, more capital, and more people, for we have a large country; and if it were thoroughly improved, we- could support a much larger population."
We conversed about Lapland and the north of Sweden. "I have walked a great deal through Lapland," remarked the king; " I love to walk." Then the conversation turned upon hunting, and he incidentally mentioned that he had never worn a morning-gown in his life. Glancing around the cosy room, with low ceiling, filled with an exquisite collection of antiques, armors, and old curiosities, I asked permission to examine them. "Certainly," he replied, he took great interest in showing them, and explained the history of many valuable specimens gathered by him.
Coming back to the table, we talked politics ; we spoke of the state of Europe—the disastrous war into which France had plunged herself having just ended.
I said, " I have heard that your majesty is opposed to the penalty of death."
"A man has not the right to take the Iife of another," said he, musingly and sadly. ',I' have been obliged to sign a death-warrant or two, it was because I could not go against the public opinion of the country." Looking then at his watch, he said : "You know that I am in mourning ; I am not in good health, and I do not live in Stockholm. Come to-morrow (Sunday) to the Ulriksdal, where I reside now. It is but a short distance from Stockholm." Ile kindly explained to me the way to go there by boat, and when to start ; and added,"I must write the name and how to go there on a card, for fear that you might forget." Having no paper, I begged him to write on one of my visiting-cards ; but the king's plain pencil-case was out of order, and I lent him mine; and, after writing the directions, he rose, which was a hint for me that it was time to leave. His majesty gave me a warm grasp of the hand, and said, " Tomorrow !" acid I retired after an audience of one hour.
A charming sail of two hours brought me to the landing leading to the Ulriksdal. On the way the steamer passed through a floating bridge, twenty -seven hundred feet in length, connecting the shores of Lilla Wartan fjord. The palace is most delightfully situated on the shores of the Eds viken (viken, the bay). The building occupies three sides of a square, and was built by the great Captain Jacob de la Gardie. King Bernadotte, the grandfather of the present king, used it as a barrack ; Carl XV. transformed it into a beautiful summer residence, where he chiefly lived during the warm months. On my way from the landing to the palace, not a soldier, policeman, or liveried servant was to be seen; and the people were walking to and fro. The doors leading to the different staircases were open, also the lower windows, through which any one could easily have .entered, and persons were fishing in front of the royal residence.
I paused at the foot of the leading staircase, but saw no-body; then went to the next, and still found no one to accost. Then I called, "Nobody here?" from the bottom of the stair; when a man from the upper story peeped over the balustrade as if to say, "What do you want ?" "Is the king at home ?"I asked. " No," was the answer. " Yes," said I ; " I have been invited to come." The individual disappeared, and soon afterward descended, made a profound reverence, and showed me the way up the stairs. On reaching the first landing, he gave me to understand that his majesty was at the end of a suite of apartment*, whither I proceeded. As I came to the fourth room, I saw the king engaged in painting. As soon as his majesty heard my steps, he put on his coat, exclaiming, "Welcome to the Ulriksdal, Mr. Du Chaillu ;" and gave the a warm grasp of the hand. "As you see," he continued, " I am painting and finishing a landscape;" and at the same time he presented me to his instructor. "Why does your majesty take the trouble of putting on your coat?" I asked ; "you will not be able to paint so easily." But he kept it on, and we fell into conversation. " I have had great trouble in finding your majesty," I said, "for there are no soldiers or policemen to keep watch over you, or servants looking on, to prevent people from getting into the palace." "Soldiers to guard me!" said he, smiling "indeed, no: the soldiers are for the country, not for me. I would rather not be a king if I were obliged to have soldiers to watch over me. We are all free here."
Such was the simplicity of Carl XV. The people seem to know so well the proprieties of life that they abstain from intruding, or dogging the steps of a man, though he be a sovereign. This want of curiosity may be also attributed, in part, to the fact that the king is seen everywhere, like any other citizen of the country, and the people therefore become accustomed to his presence.
I begged his majesty to continue painting. "No," said he; "let me show you the curiosities-of all, sorts that I have collection this palace. I love this place so much that I always spend a great part of the summer here." He bade me put on my hat, and, placing upon his own head a broad-brimmed soft felt one, led me, in the most unpretending way, from room to room, showing me, with great pride, a beautiful and rare collection of furniture, china, Gobelin tapestry, old pottery, tank-drinking-cups, horns, etc., many of the objects being very old and of great beauty, and some of much historical interest, and all testifying to his artistic taste.
Then we came to his 'own room, where he opened a cabinet and showed me some of his own photographs; asked if I thought they were good, and gave me one, and at my request wrote his name under the picture, Then, taking up a little book containing many autographs of illustrious persons, that he had secured, he suddenly said, "Do me the kindness to write your name in this," which I did, with great diffidence.
When the hour of departure came, he accompanied me to the foot of the stairs and to the door, and, as he said adieu, gave me a warm shake of the hand, wishing me success and health in my journey to the far North, and adding, "Do not fail to come and see me on your return."
The next morning an orderly brought me a package containing two lithographs representing the dining-room of the Ulriksdal, sent to me by the king, and a letter from one of the chamberlains accompanying the present, with the best wishes of his majesty for my journey.
Such was my first acquaintance with this amiable monarch. The more I saw him afterwards, the more I appreciated his friendly feeling towards rue, and, like his countrymen, learned to admire his many noble traits of character.
He was very often seen in the streets of Stockholm and Christiania, and to visit the shops like any other gentleman; and, when recognized, every one felt that the sovereign had the same right as any other man to walk the streets without being followed or stared at. Hats were doffed in salutation ; but this custom is so prevalent that any well-known citizen has but little time to do anything else than to salute those whom he meets while promenading. Several times I have seen him get out of his carriage to talk to gentlemen, and get in again when the conversation ended—showing, in this respect, the true rule of politeness. His punctuality in all his appointments was proverbial.
His death occurred on the 18th of September, 1872, and lie was mourned from one end of Scandinavia to the other. In many humble cottages, where his portrait hung upon the walls, I heard sincere regrets for his loss. He went under the name of "Good King Carl." His best friends were among the peasants and the lowly; many a Swede has told me that they thought that since the time of the Wasas there had not been a sovereign so much regretted. He was loved in spite of all his faults ; popularity he never courted, for he was in-dependent, and hated state ceremony ; and it was that very independence which made him dear to the masses : they loved his simplicity of manner, his kindness of heart, his frankness, and even his abruptness. There was a certain magnetism in his bearing which attracted men to m m. I. heard a few persons censure him for his free and simple habits, declaring that he should have been more formal. Ile had faults-who has not ?—but they were forgotten in the light of so many good qualities. Ile had only one daughter, who is married to the Crown-prince of Denmark. Ile was succeeded by his brother, now Oscar II., who is in many respects unlike him. The present king is an accomplished scholar, a good musician and poet, and a man of great tact; he speaks several languages, and English perfectly ; and to him I can only wish Iong life and prosperity, and as great popularity as was enjoyed by his father, Oscar I., and by his brother, Carl XV.