Today we associate Sweden with liberal values and a peaceful society. It has not been involved in a war since the Napoleonic era. However, in the Early Modern Period the Kingdom of Sweden was one of the powerhouses of Europe and the greatest power in Northern Europe<ref> Peterson, Gary Dean. Warrior kings of Sweden: the rise of an empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (London, McFarland, 2007), p. 2</ref>
. Under the House of Vassa the kingdom had expanded greatly. It had emerged as one of the real winners from the Thirty Years War. By the 1660s the Kingdom of Sweden directly controlled the modern states of Finland and the Baltic States. It also had extensive possessions in Northern Germany, Poland and Russia <ref> Peterson, p. 215</ref> . Its fleet also dominated the Baltic. Charles XI of Sweden had managed to defend the extensive Empire and had greatly expanded its influence. This able king died while still a relatively young man. His son became king of Sweden at the age of fifteen. The young monarch belonged to the Royal German House of Palatinate. Charles was the only surviving son of Charles XI and his German wife Ulrika Eleonora the Elder.
The young monarch at first had been controlled by a council of regents but at the incredibly young age of fifteen he became the sole ruler of the kingdom. The sight of a mere boy on the Throne of Sweden alerted the neighbours of the Swedes. They all had grievances with the Swedes and resented what they saw as their domination in the Baltic Sea. In 1700, a triple alliance of the kingdoms of Denmark, Poland and Russia launched a three-pronged attack on the Swedes. The Poles and Danes attacked the Swedes in Northern Germany and the Russians attacked them in the Baltics and thus began the Great Northern War. It seemed that the young Swedish monarch would lose his empire but the young man was to prove himself to be a military genius. Charles launched a surprise attack on Copenhagen and knocked the Danes out of the war. Charles then secured major victory over a much larger Russian army in 1700 at the Battle of Narva, when Peter the Great narrowly escaped with his life. Later Charles campaigned in Poland and imposed his choice of king on the country. The Swedes secured devastating victory by Swedish forces under the general Rehnskiöld over the Russians and their Saxon allies at the Battle of Fraustadt in 1706<ref>
. Thomas Derry, History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland (2000) p 154</ref> . By that year all the enemies of Charles XII had been vanquished and only Peter the Great remained at war. The Russian Tsar sued for peace but Charles rejected the overtures and decided to invade Russia. By this time, he was popularly known as ‘The Alexander of the West’, a comparison with Alexander the Great <ref> Voltaire. The History of Charles XII (London, Upton House, 1911), p. 34</ref>
====Charles XII invasion of Russia, 1708-1709====