Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was born on 26 January 1763 in Pau, in this very house. The son of a magistrate, he gave up his law studies at the age of 17 to join an infantry regiment, then went on to excel in the French Revolutionary Army. In 1798, he became Ambassador of France to Vienna, then married Désirée Clary, whose sister was the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother.
Having served as Minister of War in 1799, he was appointed a Marshal of the Empire when Napoleon became Emperor in 1804. He fought in the Battle of Austerliz and was later made Prince of Pontecorvo.
In 1810, he was selected as a candidate to succeed King Charles XIII of Sweden, whose children had died in infancy. To everyone’s surprise, he won the election. Adopted by the Swedish king, he ruled the country as Prince of Sweden and conquered Norway. He became King of Sweden and Norway in 1818 under the name Charles XIV John.