Charles XI’s War – The Scanian War Between Sweden and Denmark, 1675-1679
Michael Fredholm von Essen
Helion (Century of the Soldier) 2019
Reviewed by Bernd Biege
We all heard of the Thirty Years War, and the Great Northern War, but apart from that, Scandinavian military history is often lost in a bit of fog, mist, and oppressive darkness – much like Scandi crime films. So you’d be forgiven that “The Scanian War” has you phoning for a friend, and asking the audience. It was a war (or rather a melange of several armed conflicts) in-between. Overshadowed by more momentous events for non-Scandinavians, and fought somewhere at the back of the European beyond.
Von Essen quite appropriately calls this conflict “Charles XI’s War”, it was without doubt the greatest challenge the young King of Sweden (he succeeded to the throne as a four-year-old, and died of cancer aged 41) had to face. And catapulted him into a twenty year mission to stabilise the Swedish Empire, albeit under absolutist rule. After the Treaty of Lund, finally ending the war with Denmark-Norway, Sweden enjoyed the most peaceful period of the era.
But back to less peaceful times – the Scanian War was triggered by the Franco-Dutch War, when the Swedish Empire sided with France, and the United Provinces convinced their ally King Christian V of Denmark-Norway that invading Skåneland (Scania) would be a great idea. Especially as Sweden had just invaded Brandenburg in support of France. Later the Gyldenløve War erupted as a border conflict with Norway (under Danish rule).
If this all has you confused, pick up von Essen’s book, and everything will become much clearer. Because this is not an Osprey-like quick gander at a conflict with eight colour plates (though the book actually has them), this is a detailed military monograph on every aspect of the conflict you might want to know about. From grand strategy, such as it was, to the ingenious adaptations of musket balls made by soldiers to maximise their maiming potential.
Verdict in short? This (plus a decent set of rules) is all the wargamer needs to refight the Scanian War, that much punch is packed into the 258 pages. Having said that, von Essen’s book also seems to contain all a military historian would need to know about the conflict. It simply is a cracker.