Charles XII is entirely his own thing. Attacked by Denmark, Poland, and Russia simultaneously after coming to the throne as a teenager for no other reason than that they all wanted land and thought a teenage king would be easy prey, he set to and knocked Denmark out early, then defeated an entrenched Russian army ten times the size of his own at Narva, then pushed King Augustus of Poland back to Saxony and set up his own king in his stead, and then turned Back Around to push the slowly resurgent Russians back into their own territories.
But rock star didn’t know when to stop. His sense of justice and revenge were magnified beyond all reason. Did he NEED to spend time and resources to push Augustus from every last possible stronghold and gain control of every facet of Polish-Lithuanian political life? Did he need to take a numerically inferior army and plod deeper and deeper into Russia with no sure source of sustinence (okay, he thought he had the Ukrainian Mazeppa to help him out, but still)? Then, once his forces were destroyed at Poltava, did he need to stay for YEARS as a guest of the sultan, trying to stir him up to attack Russia even as he got reports of devastation in his own country and very pointed orders from the Porte to clear the hell out. (Always a fanatic about exercising, he even stayed in bed an entire year pleading sickness to keep the Turks from expelling him before he had a chance to strike one more time at the treacherous Russians.)
That’s why the Janissaries called him Iron Head, but the story gets rather stranger from there. After he finally was booted out of the Turkish Empire (which only happened when he was captured after trying to hold off a Turkish army with just 30 men, most of them cooks and servants), and he was finally home in Sweden again, he and Peter the Great, his longtime arch-arch-nemesis, actually set down to create a secret peace together. GASP! It’s totally true – by this time the rest of Europe was picking apart Sweden’s mainland possessions and also doing everything they could to block the spread of Russia, so, through Baron Gortz, the two monarchs seized upon the idea of an alliance that would cut into the heart of Europe, and might well have implemented it had not Charles died at the age of 36.
– Count Dolby von Luckner