The name Carl, or Karl, which is the Northern Germanic form of the name Charles, has been a popular choice for many Swedish kings and royals throughout history. In fact, most Swedish kings have been named Karl or Carl, including the current king, Carl XVI Gustaf. Deriving from the word ”ceorl’, meaning “free man” or “man”, the name is believed to have been introduced in Sweden during the Viking Age.
Swedish kings named “Karl” have historically spelled their name differently during their lifetime, such as “Carl” and “Carolus”. However, in the early 20th century, it was decided that all royalty with names derived from “Carl” would use the standardized spelling of “Karl”.
The popularity of the name Carl among Swedish kings can be traced back to the 12th century, when the first Swedish king named Karl, Karl Sverkerson, became king of Sweden in 1161. Karl Sverkerson’s name as king was Karl VII – a name assigned to him since six other kings named Karl were mentioned in ‘The history of all Geatish and Swedish kings‘. However, most of them were likely fictive.
Another early Karl was the youngest son of Gustav Vasa, Karl IX. He inherited the throne from his two older brothers after years of feuding within the family for the throne. Karl IX was also the father of the well-known warrior king Gustaf II Adolf and therefore grandfather to the rebellious Queen Kristina.
READ: Kristina Vasa: The life and death of Sweden’s rebel Queen
A few other famous kings with the name Carl, Karl, or Charles, include Karl XIV Johan, the first Bernadotte king who was given the Swedish throne by Napoleon Bonaparte and is the great-great-great grandfather of the current king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf.
The current King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf, who was named after his grandfather, is the longest-reigning monarch in Swedish history. He has been on the throne since September 15, 1973.
In Sweden, the King’s Name Day is a public flag day and is marked with salutes fired by the Swedish Armed Forces from stations around the country. The name day falls on January 28th in honor of Charles the Great’s, better known as Charlemagne, death anniversary.
Featured image: Photo of Carl XVI Gustaf: Anna-Lena Ahlström/The Royal Court of Sweden