Researchers clear up Swedish King’s mysterious death from 1718

King Charles XII was shot to death over 300 years ago in a battle in Norway. Ever since, debate has raged as to whether he was hit by an enemy bullet or assassinated by an ally. Now, two Finnish researchers claim to have solved the mystery once and for all.

Researchers clear up Swedish King's mysterious death from 1718
Charles XII in Kungsträdgården, central Stockholm. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

On a foggy November evening in 1718, Charles XII was killed during a siege in Norwegian Fredrikshald, now Halden. Ever since, his death has been shrouded in mystery.

The Swedish warrior king died from a bullet to the head, but there has been a great deal of speculation over the years as to whether the bullet was fired from an enemy weapon or a Swedish soldier tired of battle.

Now, researchers from Uleåborg University in Finland claim that they have solved the riddle by test-firing different kinds of ammunition, according to a study published in the PNAS Nexus scientific journal. According to Finnish researchers, Charles XII was killed by an iron bullet with a diameter of over 20 millimetres, and based on the bullet hole left in his skull, the bullet was probably travelling at a speed of around 200 metres a second.

The hole in Charles XII’s skull, pictured in 1917. Photo: Scanpix/TT

This proves, the researchers claim, that the bullet came from the enemy fortress around 200 metres away from where the King died – and not from one of his own soldiers.

Over the years, a number of theories around the King’s death have been presented. As recently as 1998, Danish experts claimed that he was killed by a Swedish bullet, as the hole in his skull supposedly matched the caliber used in Swedish muskets.

Another stubborn rumour which has raged throughout the centuries is that Charles XII was assassinated using a button from his own uniform.

The King’s body has been exhumed and autopsied three times, most recently in 1917, when his skeleton and skull were X-rayed.

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