Oscar I - Encyclopedia

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OSCAR I. (1799-1859), king of Sweden and Norway, was the son of General Bernadotte, afterwards King Charles XIV. of Sweden, and his wife, Eugenie Desiree Clary, afterwards Queen Desideria. When, in August 1810, Bernadotte was elected crown prince of Sweden, Oscar and his mother removed from Paris to Stockholm (June 1811). From Charles XIII. the lad received the title of duke of Sodermanland (Sudermania). He quickly acquired the Swedish language, and, by the time he reached manhood, had become a general favourite. His very considerable native talents were developed by an excellent education, and he soon came to be regarded as an authority on all social-political questions. In 1839 he wrote a series of articles on popular education, and (in 1841) an anonymous work, Om Straff och straffanstalter, advocating prison reforms. Twice during his father's lifetime he was viceroy of Norway. On the 19th of June 1823 he married the princess Josephine, daughter of Eugene de Beauharnais, duke of Leuchtenberg, and granddaughter of the empress Josephine. In 1838 the king began to suspect his heir of plotting with the Liberal party to bring about a change of ministry, or even his own abdication. If Oscar did not actively assist the Opposition on this occasion, his disapprobation of his father's despotic behaviour was notorious, though he avoided an actual rupture. Yet his liberalism was of the most cautious and moderate character, as the Opposition, shortly after his accession (March 8th, 1844), discovered to their great chagrin. He would not hear of any radical reform of the cumbrous and obsolete constitution. But one of his earliest measures was to establish freedom of the press. Most of the legislation during Oscar I.'s reign aimed at improving the economic position of Sweden, and the riksdag, in its address to him in 1857, rightly declared that he had promoted the material prosperity of the kingdom more than any of his predecessors. In foreign affairs Oscar I. was a friend of the principle of nationality. In 1848 he supported Denmark against Germany; placed Swedish and Norwegian troops in cantonments in Fiinen and North Schleswig (1849-1850); and mediated the truce of Malmo (August 26th, 1848). He was also one of the guarantors of the integrity of Denmark (London protocol, May 8th, 1852). As early as 1850 Oscar I. had conceived the plan of a dynastic union of the three northern kingdoms, but such difficulties presented themselves that the scheme had to be abandoned. He succeeded, however, in reversing his father's obsequious policy towards Russia. His fear lest Russia should demand a stretch of coast along the Varanger Fjord induced him to remain neutral during the Crimean War, and, subsequently, to conclude an alliance with Great Britain and France (November 2 5th, 1855) for preserving the territorial integrity of Scandinavia. Oscar I. left four sons, of whom two, Carl (Charles XV.) and Oskar Fredrik (Oscar II.), succeeded to his throne.

See T. Almen, ' Dien Bernadotte (Stockholm, 1896); and C. E. Akrell, Minnen frcin Canis XIV., Oscars I. och Canis X V. Lagar (Stockholm, 1884, 1885). Also NORWAY (history) and SWEDEN (history).

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