The Bloodless War Between Britain and Sweden sets the Stage for One of the Bloodiest Battles of the Napoleonic Era

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A Brief History

On November 17, 1810, Sweden declared war on its ally the United Kingdom to begin the Anglo-Swedish War, although no fighting ever took place and there were no casualties!

Digging Deeper

Prior to 1810, Britain and Sweden were allies against Napoleonic France.  In 1810, however, the situation changed.  France and Sweden concluded The Treaty of Paris on January 6, 1810, forcing Sweden to join the Continental System, a trade embargo against Great Britain.  Next, after The Swedish Crown Prince Charles August died on May 28, 1810, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a Marshal of France and husband of Napoleon’s former fiance (herself the sister of Napoleon’s eldest brother’s wife), was elected crown prince of Sweden on August 21, 1810.   Under these circumstances, on November 13, 1810, Napoleon sent an ultimatum to Sweden’s government demanding that Sweden declare war against Great Britain within five days.  This war began on November 17, 1810.

Unfortunately for Napoleon, Britain and Sweden never actually fought against each other during the two years of conflict.  Indeed, the only thing that could possibly count as bloodshed brought about by the Anglo-Swedish War of 1810-12 occurred amongst Swedes.   As a precautionary measure in case if Britain attempted an invasion of Sweden, the Swedish government conscripted farmers into military service.   When on June 15, 1811, a group of farmers objecting to conscription rioted, as a result, Major-General Hampus Mörner with 140 men killed 30 farmers in an effort to disperse them.

As it came to pass, when Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, a time when it would have really helped to have had as many allies as possible, his relationship with Sweden’s government had deteriorated to such an extent that Sweden signed a peace treaty with Britain on the same day that Russia did the same (July 18, 1812).

A year later, Napoleon’s former marshal and future king of Sweden fought with Russia against Napoleon in the massive battle of Leipzig.  In this decisive defeat for Napoleon, the French emperor’s army suffered some 60,000 casualties, nearly half that number dead and wounded, an astonishing number for a single battle when one considers that in over 8 years of fighting in Iraq (2003-2011), the United States of America lost 4,487 killed.  Question for students (and subscribers): Imagine what it would be like to suffer 60,000 casualties in just one of many battles of a long war!  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

The following are among the best recent books published on this time period (we recommend reading them in the order listed below):

Conner, Susan P.  The Age of Napoleon (Greenwood Guides to Historic Events 1500-1900).  Greenwood, 2004.

Markham, J. David.  Napoleon For Dummies.  For Dummies, 2005.

Zarzeczny, Matthew D.  Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Joshua06 of a memorial plate to the Treaty of Örebro, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.