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Swedish King Proclaimed 'Death to All Kings!'

Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte was born in 1763, the son of a French government worker. As a young man he joined the army, and by the start of the French Revolution, he had risen to sergeant. Eventually, he became one of Napoleon's first marshals. But in an odd twist of history, Bernadotte found favor in the eyes of the King of Sweden, Charles XIII, for his treatment of Swedish soldiers taken prisoner during a battle with Napoleon's troops. When Sweden's crown prince suddenly died in 1810, Sweden astonishingly offered to put Bernadotte next in line for the throne—the commander of a former enemy!

The son of a French government worker was renamed Charles John, the new Crown Prince of Sweden. In 1818, after the death of King Charles XIII, Bernadotte assumed the throne as King Charles XIV John. He was a popular but harsh monarch who reigned until his death in 1844 at the age of 81. It is said that during the embalming process they discovered an ironic secret: Years earlier, when the king was still simply Jean Baptiste, he had acquired a tattoo, obviously during the French Revolution. On his chest was a picture of a red cap, a symbol of liberation, with the French words "Mort aux rois!" or "Death to All Kings."

History is filled with leaders like Bernadotte—people who railed against the authority over them but then seized power and lorded it over others. There is only one King who had all the power of the universe, and yet released it to save others.

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