Gary: Today’s special episode is by Matthew McDonald. Matthew is a PhD candidate in European History at Princeton University. He is a scholar of the history of the French language, with a particular interest in how European elites spoke French in countries like Germany, Sweden, and Russia during the Ancien Régime. Today he will tell the story of how Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte ascended the military-political hierarchy during Napoleonic France, became King of Sweden and founded the royal house that still rules that country to this day.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the French History Podcast. I’m here today to talk about Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, also known as Karl the Fourteenth Johan of Sweden, who lived from 1763 to 1844. But just who is this Bernadotte, and what is he doing on a podcast about French History? As his birth name—Jean-Baptiste—might lead you to assume, this particular Swede was actually a Frenchman; a commoner from Béarn, a small region at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France from Spain. The young Bernadotte joined the French army, and rose quickly in the ranks at the outbreak of the French Revolution.
But it wasn’t just the Revolution that ignited Bernadotte’s spectacular career. If his success could be summed up in a single word, that word was Napoleon: the Corsican general who became the emperor of France. Just like Bernadotte, Napoleon was an Old Regime officer who became a general in the Age of Revolutions. In 1794, Napoleon’s brother Joseph married a wealthy heiress from Marseilles named Julie Clary; and Napoleon planned to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He became engaged to Julie’s sister Desirée in 1795. Yet only a year later, Napoleon broke off the engagement; and Desirée ultimately married (who else?) Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. So while Bernadotte and Napoleon had a personal connection through Desirée Clary, Napoleon’s brother was also married to Desirée’s sister; the two generals were also brothers-in-law.
These family relations were important because Napoleon appointed many of his family members to positions of power across Europe; his brother Joseph, the one who married Desirée’s sister, became the King of Naples in 1806 and the King of Spain in 1808. Yet Bernadotte’s appointment came not from Napoleon himself, but from the four estates of the Swedish Riksdag, or Parliament. The country had deposed its previous king, Gustav the Fourth Adolf, in 1809; and the current king, Gustav’s uncle Charles the Thirteenth, was already quite old and lacked a suitable heir. When the Swedes appointed Bernadotte as king in 1810, they hoped that he would ally with Napoleon and fight against Sweden’s old enemy, Russia. In the end, however, Bernadotte did the opposite. As the kingdom’s Crown Prince, he joined the Russians and the British in 1812, turning against his own brother-in-law. And while Napoleon was soon deposed and ended his years in exile, Bernadotte enjoyed a long and happy life. He served as King of Sweden for three decades, from 1818 to 1848, and his descendant; Carl the Sixteenth Johan–sits on the Swedish throne today.
In this podcast, I want to argue that Bernadotte, in a way, was Napoleon’s twin. Both came from obscure families at the periphery of mainland France. Both spoke French with an accent throughout their lives, Napoleon a Corsican one and Bernadotte one from Gascony; and both were military generals who made their fame through the French Revolution and then moved into politics as the European Old Regimes tottered and fell.
It is curious, then, why historians of France don’t know more about Bernadotte. The largest reason perhaps lies in the fact that he was a traitor to his country. As Napoleon recounted in his memoirs: “Bernadotte was a serpent nurtured at our breast . . . it was he who gave our enemies the key to our politics and tactics from our armies.” This observation rings true in ways that Napoleon may not have even realized. Whether it was as French Minister of War in 1799, as Proconsul of Hanover in 1804, as husband, as Prince, as King—Bernadotte modeled himself after Napoleon. He learned how to conduct politics from one of the masters of the age. Bernadotte was a serpent at Napoleon’s breast; and their family ties kept them together, even as ideology pulled them apart. If Napoleon was one of the greatest generals, leaders, and visionaries of the Revolutionary era, then Bernadotte was something more—a savvy Napoleon that made a kingdom and actually succeeded in keeping his throne.
So Bernadotte’s story begins at the very edges of France—in the city of Pau in the Pyrenee Mountains on January 26, 1763. After a half-hearted (and unsuccessful) attempt to become a lawyer like his father, he joined the French colonial regiment Royal-la-Marine in 1780. He drifted throughout the eastern Mediterranean, serving in various posts from Corsica to Marseilles. Students of the French Revolution know how the outbreak of war accelerated military careers to an extent unimaginable under the Old Regime. Bernadotte’s first promotion as an officer took eleven and a half years: his second, only sixteen months. By 1794, Bernadotte was leader of his own regiment.
It is around this time that Bernadotte may have first met Napoleon. As I mentioned earlier, their relationship grew closer as Bernadotte courted and then married Napoleon’s former fiancée, Desirée Clary, in 1798. Napoleon was the godfather of their first child, Oscar; and it is possible that Napoleon even named him after a character in the epic poems of Ossian, a famous set of tales from the period.
This is also when we first see Bernadotte learning from Napoleon’s example. As some of you may know, Napoleon was not only an innovator on the battlefield; as an aspiring writer and trashy novelist, he was also one of the first generals to grasp the modern concept of a public-relations campaign. As he led the French invasion of Italy in 1797, Napoleon distributed broadsheets to the army with innovative names like the Journal of Bonaparte and of Virtuous Men and France as Viewed by the Army of Italy. His publicists pushed these army broadsheets to Parisian newspapers like the Universal Monitor. Napoleon stayed fresh in French minds as he conquered new lands for the government of the period, known as the Directory. By 1798, his image-making reached a new phase. He commissioned prints of his Italian adventures and became the first Revolutionary general to strike a series of medals—all, of course, without the permission of his bosses back home. The Revolution had overturned old conventions, and Napoleon took full advantage of this new environment.
What’s striking is that we can see Bernadotte, only a year or two later, doing exactly the same thing. After Napoleon’s successful Italian campaign came to a close, he began laying plans for a subsequent campaign in Egypt. His brothers, Lucien and Joseph, thought that their brother-in-law Bernadotte would make an ideal ally in Paris as Napoleon went out campaigning. They helped to secure Bernadotte’s new post as the French Minister of War on July 2, 1799. Like Napoleon, Bernadotte published a flurry of circulars and pamphlets and encouraged patriotic sentiment in the struggle against counterrevolution. I’ve read a lot of his releases; and his style was not yet fully developed, and it was marked more by spontaneity than by total control. Yet the sheer novelty of his Napoleonic publicity campaign ensured that these enthusiastic messages had a tremendous effect.
We can see Bernadotte’s success as the Ministry of War fought against Royalist counterrevolutionaries in the south of France near Toulouse. This insurrection was as much a battle of armies as it was a war of ideas, a challenge to convince citizens of the virtues of Directory government. Bernadotte printed a series of open letters at the Imprimerie Douladoure, a publisher in Toulouse that distributed circulars throughout the region. Waxing Caesarian, Bernadotte proclaims: “The Republic and its laws must triumph, and the tēars this may cost are the crimes of these incorrigible loyalists…Place these conspirators under the inflexible yoke of the law.” Bernadotte’s publicity campaign also reached past France’s borders in accordance with Napoleon’s own plans. When Napoleon began his second Italian campaign (1799-1800), Bernadotte sent reports to his soldiers that praised Napoleon’s leadership. As Napoleon’s publicity lines buzzed from Rome to Paris; Bernadotte’s own trails of publicity winded backwards–from metropolitan France back into Italy. His missives praising Napoleon as a great man are one of the first moments where we see how Bernadotte pursued his own publicity in conscious imitation of Napoleon’s technique.
We know with the benefit of hindsight that Bernadotte would ultimately cut loose from Napoleon’s control in 1812; but already at this early stage, Bernadotte was not quite committed to the projects of his brother-in-law. While he had been a political moderate before 1799, he began to flirt with figures on France’s extreme Left, neo-Jacobins who wanted a return to the days of the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. We must remember that Bernadotte actually becomes a king about a decade later, so this wasn’t a true ideological shift; it was more of a political one, motivated by a personal rivalry with a powerful minister named Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès who had deposed him as the Minister of War. Nevertheless, when Napoleon organized a coup to put himself at the head of France’s government on November 9, 1799 (referred to in the Revolutionary calendar as the famous Eighteenth Brumaire), Bernadotte was notably absent. He did not oppose Napoleon; but neither did he move to support him. As Bernadotte’s great biographer Thorvald Höjer put it, his mood was “undoubtedly hostile” towards the coup as a whole.
So Bernadotte was hostile towards the coup; and this made his future quite a bit complicated. You see, Napoleon was quite famous for his nepotism. He ruled Europe through his family; they staffed important positions and gave him important advice. Even the coup on the Eighteenth Brumaire came to fruition through the decisive action of his brother Lucién. Bernadotte was family, a brother-in-law to all the Bonapartes. On the other hand, he was already prideful and unpredictable—as Napoleon put it, “a serpent at our breast” who could not be counted on. So Napoleon worked out a solution. He kept Bernadotte in his government, but tracked his movements with his secret police. He also tried to send him far away so that he could not make trouble in Paris. At one point, he proposed Bernadotte as the French ambassador to the United States; at another, he even considered appointing him as the governor of Louisiana, a vast territory in North America that stretched across the full length of the Mississippi River: from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. After years of tension, family won over ideology; Napoleon promoted Bernadotte to become a Marshal of the Empire, the highest military rank, in 1804. At the same time, he sent him far away. Bernadotte became the proconsul, or governor, of the German territory of Hanover.
While Bernadotte was in Hanover, he continued his efforts at Napoleonic publicity that he had begun as Minister of War back in 1799. One key area where we can see Berndotte at work is with a series of medals that he made to celebrate his new position. A medal, in this period, was an object of diplomacy. It was a piece of precious metal that showed the power of the person who had minted it. On the front of his medal, Bernadotte printed the following: “To Napoleon, Emperor of the French.” On the reverse can be seen two crossed hammers with another inscription: “The Mines and the Factories of the Harz Mountains, Protected During the War.” Bernadotte sent this medal to Imperial family members and senior officials; while it declared allegiance to Napoleon, the medal also betrayed a glimmer of rebellion. When received from Bernadotte himself, the medal asserted his status as the new Proconsul of Hanover. The size and weight of the piece was a further declaration that he, Bernadotte, was the one that had protected the rich silver mines of the Harz Mountains; and it was Bernadotte whose silver could sustain France in a Continent-wide conflict.
We also can see Bernadotte associated with another medal forged in Paris around 1806. This time, it celebrated a new position: as the Prince of Ponte-Corvo in Italy. Napoleon hoped to re-create a French or even a European nobility in the wake of Revolution. And his family members needed to have princely titles. So he took the small territory of Ponte-Corvo and made Bernadotte its ruler. Napoleon explained his reasoning to his brother Joseph, then the King of Naples, in the following way:
It was in thinking of your wife, as I have many generals in my army who have served me better and have bonds [with me] that I can more rely on. But I felt that it would be suitable if the brother-in-law of the Queen of Naples could have a mark of distinction where you are.
In reality, Bernadotte was more of a mayor than a prince; the borough had only 5,600 inhabitants to its name. Yet this was hardly an oversight, but part of a common pattern. Napoleon was torn between promoting Bernadotte as a family member and in keeping him at a distance, and this pattern repeated itself throughout the entirety of his reign.
So now that we’ve set the scene and described Bernadotte and Napoleon, let’s turn our attention to the northernly Kingdom of Sweden. From its origins under Gustav Vasa in the 16th century, the Swedish empire was much larger than Sweden is today. It included both Sweden and Finland across the Baltic Sea. In Sweden’s seventeenth-century “great power period,” or Stormaktstiden, the empire reached new heights. It stretched from the Baltic states of Estonia and Livonia to the site of modern St. Petersburg in the east, and even included parts of Germany—known as Swedish Pomerania—to the south. While it reached its zenith under the great king Gustavus Adolphus, this period came to a close at the turn of the eighteenth century under his successor Charles the Twelfth. Charles lost the pivotal Battle of Poltava against Tsar Peter of Russia in 1709. In the decade that followed, the Russians took back many of Sweden’s possessions in the Eastern Baltic.
Sweden’s nobility, too, took advantage of the situation. They wrested back control of their country from a long line of absolutist queens and kings. The Riksdag, or Swedish Parliament, instituted a new “Era of Liberty,” or Frihetstiden, that stretched from 1718 to 1772. The kings and queens of this period had limited powers. They could not even choose royal tutors for their children without Parliamentary oversight. And while the formal “Era of Freedom” ended with a new coup in 1772, the Swedish Parliament retained a spirit of independence that would come back in 1810 when they voted to install Bernadotte as their new king.
As you might have inferred, Bernadotte’s arrival in Sweden was the product of yet another defeat. Sweden’s king, Gustav the Fourth Adolf, was a fierce opponent of Napoleon and wanted to restore the French Old Regime; and he declared war on the French Empire. Napoleon responded by occupying Swedish Pomerania, the country’s strip of territory on the coast of Northern Germany. Once the Russians and the Danish made their peace with Napoleon, they, too, attacked Sweden. Russian troops occupied Swedish Finland, a move that cut the Empire in half. Popular anger turned the nobility and the military against the Crown; a leading noble, Axel von Fersen, was torn limb from limb by an angry mob, and Gustav the Fourth soon abdicated in the spring of 1809.
The Swedish Riksdag took control of the restless country. They nominated the deposed king’s uncle to become the nation’s Karl the Thirteenth. But this was only a temporary solution. The aging Karl was already sixty years old, and had suffered a heart attack the same year that he was elevated to the throne. Moreover, he was childless. Without a designated heir, it was possible that the deposed Gustav the Fourth or one of his relatives would plot to regain the throne. The Riksdag nominated a Danish prince, Christian August, to be the heir to Karl the Thirteenth; but the young Christian fell from his horse in a freak accident just a few months later, hit his head on a rock, and died.
Spooky indeed—but who should Sweden pick as the new crown prince? As Sweden was no longer a great empire, the country had to choose an ally, whether it was Denmark, Great Britain, France, or Russia. It was the only way to survive on the international stage. Over time, a growing faction within the Riksdag concluded that they should appoint one of Napoleon’s relatives or generals. As Napoleon controlled almost all of Europe, the French would be the best possible ally; and with a commanding general at the head of a rejuvenated Sweden, the country could use French power to take back Finland that they had lost to the Russians in 1809.
The only problem with this strategy was that most of Napoleon’s relatives were already royalty. When the Swedes contacted Eugène de Beauharnais, for example, he responded that he was already the Viceroy of Italy. He hardly wished to leave his position to become the Crown Prince of Sweden. In this position, it is only natural that Bernadotte’s candidacy would come to the fore. He was related, if only by marriage, to the great Napoleon; many Swedes already knew him from his time as the governor of nearby Hanover and Hamburg in northern Germany; and, most of all, Bernadotte’s military prowess would be a fearsome advantage as Sweden sought to regain its lost province of Finland from Russia.
Bernadotte’s candidacy gained steam back in Sweden; meanwhile in France, Napoleon was less than enthused. As always, he doubted Bernadotte’s loyalty. He rightly feared that his marshal might turn against him at any moment. In the end, however, he acquiesced; the advantages of having another Frenchman on yet another foreign throne outweighed the drawbacks of Bernadotte’s perennial inconstancy. The Riksdag soon elected Bernadotte king. He chose the new name, Charles the Fourteenth, in honor of the current king and his new adoptive father; yet he added another particle, Charles the Fourteenth Johan, to recall his original name of Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte.
Once he became the Crown Prince, however, Bernadotte began to act in a way that surprised almost everybody. Many Swedes were quite pleased when Bernadotte focused almost exclusively on foreign affairs and let the Riksdag continue with the minutiae of daily administration; the new Crown Prince never learned Swedish and relied instead on old friends that he brought from France and older French-speaking Swedish nobles, who were more than happy to carry out his orders while maintaining a modicum of power for themselves. On the other hand, the nominal king Charles the Thirteenth continued to decline in health. While he lived until 1818, he was unable to attend to the daily pressures of ruling a kindgom, and ceded most of his powers to the younger Bernadotte.
Bernadotte began his reign as an ally of the French. And while Napoleon was at the height of his power, he still suffered from Great Britain and her control of the seas. Realizing after Trafalgar that he could not defeat the country’s powerful navy, he turned to another strategy—a Continent-wide trade embargo that would starve the island nation into submission. Beginning in 1806, he began to apply this blockade, which historians call the Continental System. The problem for Sweden was that Napoleon ordered the country to cease its trade with Great Britain—but failed to give the country any money so that it could support itself through the difficulties of the Continental blockade.
Bernadotte took advantage of the situation by playing Great Britain and France against each other. Even as he wrote Napoleon effusive letters and promised to share military intelligence, he allowed British and American ships to trade Swedish iron for English salt at the port of Gothenburg. As he wrote to Napoleon: “The King [Charles XIII] could remark how much my heart has been savagely torn between my attachment to Your Majesty and the sentiments of my new duties.” Napoleon ultimately responded with force; when he began his campaign to conquer Russia in 1812, he conquered Swedish Pomerania yet again so as to leave the entire Continent under his control. Bernadotte, perhaps sensing that Napoleon was heading to a grand defeat, used the episode as an excuse to change sides in the conflict; he allied with Great Britain and with Russia and planned how to enter the war once more—but against Napoleon rather than with him.
I mentioned earlier that Bernadotte’s policies in 1812 shocked everybody. The big shock to the Swedes was that Bernadotte had allied with Russia, which meant that they could no longer hope to take back Finland. A province of Sweden for about five centuries, the Finnish elite spoke Swedish. While the countries were connected by culture, Bernadotte argued that the physical distance across the Baltic meant that Swedish control there would be tenuous at best in the face of Russian power. Bernadotte chose to look West instead of East. He saw Sweden’s most natural acquisition instead as the Kingdom of Norway, under the control of neighboring Denmark. While the Norwegians had a distinct culture from the Swedes and, in the period, wrote in Danish, Bernadotte saw the advantages that would come from controlling the entire Swedish-Norwegian penninsula. Surrounded on three sides by the ocean and on the fourth by the Arctic Circle, Sweden-Norway would be an inpenetrable fortress that could determine its own position in European affairs.
To accomplish this task, however, Bernadotte needed to sell the conquest of Norwary to a domestic and international audience. The way that he did this was through propaganda, an exercise in Napoleonic public relations. He enlisted a trio of Napoleon’s personal enemies; Germaine de Stael, Benjamin Constant, and a German, Auguste Schlegel; to accomplish this task. Bernadotte had known de Staël since he attended her renowned salon, the “Constitutional Circle,” during the Paris Directory with Benjamin Constant in 1797. Herself a Swede by marriage, Staël accepted her countryman’s patronage. Publishing “by authority of Bernadotte,” she wrote a pamphlet, “Against the Continental System,” that argued for Sweden’s entry in the Napoleonic Wars on the side of Britain and Russia against France. While Napoleon’s Continental System was a chokehold on free trade and Swedish liberties, Sweden could become the “intermediate link in the chain” that naturally connected British and Russian commerce. Staël writes, “They both seek [Sweden’s] friendship and respect her independence, as the surest guarantees against the continental system of subjugating the Baltic.” By opposing the asphyxiating Continental System, Sweden could become the keystone of a new Anglo-Russian alliance. Following Staël’s arguments, writer Benjamin Constant published the pro-Bernadotte On Conquest and Usurpation in 1814. He argued that Bernadotte’s Swedish dynasty should model itself not after France, but after Britain. Maritime free trade, not a universalized French culture, was the true foundation of a stable constitutional monarchy.
Staël and Constant critiqued the Continental System; and in doing so, they provided the clearest exposition of Bernadotte’s rhetorical pirouette. Pivoting from a ‘cultural’ alliance to a ‘natural’ alliance, Bernadotte reclaimed the ‘natural boundaries’ of Scandinavia, and ultimately wrested the kingdom of Norway from the Danes in 1814. Bernadotte had learned much from Napoleon. Even in overturning the Franco-Swedish alliance, he used the propaganda techniques that he had developed over a decade earlier in the service of the armies of France.
We all know how the story of Napoleon ends. Beset on all sides by his former allies, Bernadotte among them, he abdicates and is sent to the island of Elba off the coast of Italy. From there, he comes back to France, declares himself Emperor, and rules again for one hundred and eleven days until the pivotal Battle of Waterloo, on June 18, 1815, where he is bested for the final time. The victorious Allies exile him to the remote island of St. Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Thus defeated, Napoleon dies there a few years later in 1821.
But how do things end for Bernadotte? While he has been acting as the de facto king since Karl the Thirteenth’s health took a turn for the worse around 1812, he finally became King in 1818. Of course, since 1814, he had also taken control of the kingdom of Norway, as he had formed a personal union between the two crowns. Elevated as but one of many monarchs in the Napoleonic period, he was one of the only ones to keep his throne.
The final test, for Bernadotte was to secure this throne for his descendants. He had multiple competing interests when he navigated the marriage market for his son Oskar. He initially sought to link his regime to the bloodlines of the Swedish nobility. Noble Jacob de la Gardie proposed that Oskar marry the elder daughter of Gustav Adolf IV, the former king deposed when the Russians conquered Finland in 1809. This match would have had little benefit outside of the kingdom. On the Continent, powerful and conservative families still opposed Bernadotte’s kingship, including the restored Bourbons that had replaced Napoleon in France.
Should the Bernadottes marry an established dynasty from a minor state like Denmark, Mecklenburg, or Hesse? Or should they forge bonds with a family within Sweden? Ultimately, the family chose a third option, with more risk and even more reward. Oskar Bernadotte moved to court Joséphine von Leuchtenberg, the granddaughter of Napoleon’s first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais. Her widower Eugène, as you remember, was once the Viceroy of Italy; after Napoleon’s defeat, he took refuge in Bavaria and became the Prince of Leuchtenberg, a small territory within the country.
But there were issues with the younger Josephine as the future queen of Sweden. Most notably, she was not set to inherit great wealth. Her father held an honorific and invented title from the King of Bavaria, and it was initially unclear if Eugène’s descendants could even inherit his property. Eugène sent numerous letters to his executors in the months before the marriage, charging them to “take the greatest economy in every category of expenses.” His records show that he still owed money to Emmanuel de Las Casas and Dr. Barry O’Meara, both of whom attended to Napoleon during his final days on St. Helena. Eugene de Beauharnais cared greatly about two additional issues: her daughter’s youth (she was 17) and the future of Joséphine’s Catholic faith in a Lutheran country.
Courting the shades of Napoleon seemed to go against every notion of dynastic stability. But once the marriage was concluded, it actually contributed to both intense and lasting bonds between the Bernadottes and the Beauharnais. The marriage finally induced Jean-Baptiste’s wife, Desirée Clary, to move from Paris to Stockholm to sit as Queen of Sweden in 1823. She also continued to correspond with her sister-in-law, Auguste-Amelie de Beauharnais, long after the marriage had been concluded. Writing in 1827 upon the birth of a royal daughter to Prince Oskar and Princess Joséphine, Desirée writes: “My heart jumps with liveliness as does yours, I adopt the joy we owe to her, the manifestation of our dearest wishes.” Bernadotte and Beauharnais had been joined into one. Members of Napoleon’s extended family had contributed to the legacy of his enemy, Jean-Baptiste.
Bernadotte had done the impossible. Born into an impossibly common family from the Pyrenees, his son’s marriage continued the dynasty that sits on the Swedish throne today. I hope to have shown you how Bernadotte’s adventure forms an important part of French history—one that is too often overlooked today. The three-volume full-length biography in English, by Dunbar Plunket Barton, is a century old; even in France, Napoleon declaimed Bernadotte as a traitor, “a serpent at our breast,” and poisoned over a century of historiography against him. In Sweden, too, scholars have worked to show how Bernadotte integrated himself into his new Scandinavian homeland, calling him a “representational Odin. But they haven’t taken full account of how Bernadotte learned his skills of propaganda and self-presentation as a minister, as a governor, a marshal, and even as a prince in Napoleon’s armies.
In a way, the story of the Bonapartes and the Bernadottes ends neither in France nor in Sweden, but in the unlikeliest of places: New Jersey. When Napoleon lost his throne, it was not just Eugène de Beauharnais who had to leave his position; his brother Joseph Bonaparte, the family link to Bernadotte through Julie and Desiree Clary, lost his title as the King of Spain in 1813. He ultimately chose exile in the United States, where he built a grand estate called “Point Breeze” on the Delaware River; the land lies in what is now Bordentown, New Jersey, where it will form a state park due to open to the public in the very near future. Eugene de Beauharnais, the ancestor of the family that married with the Bernadottes, also came to New Jersey, but only after his death. His papers were bought at auction in the twentieth century and donated to Princeton University, where they can be found today. It is an unlikely journey, perhaps, for the archives of a man who once called himself the Viceroy of Italy—but such a journey is no less improbable than the one made by Jean-Baptiste’s descendants, from the south of France to Stockholm, where they form the Swedish House of Bernadotte today.