Bullet Button – Varberg, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

Bullet Button

This innocuous-looking button may have been used to assassinate a king.  

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It’s said that Charles XII of Sweden, a heroic warrior king from the 18th century, could not be hit by a bullet. Legend has it that bullets would simply wiz past him, as if protected by some otherworldly force. Folktales were told how the king would often empty his boots of bullets on the battlefield, exclaiming it was too hard to walk with them full of “blueberries.” He was known as the “the Lion of the North” and due to his swift movements in battle he has also dubbed, “the Swedish Meteor.” 

However, while on campaign in Denmark held Norway, Charles was shot and killed. While it’s likely the king was killed by a grapeshot or sniper round while monitoring the construction of a trench, folklore and some scientific evidence have lead to uncertainty surrounding how the king fell.

One legend states that it was this button, on display at the Halland Museum of Cultural History, that pierced the skull of the king. Some witnesses claimed the shot that hit Charles came from the Swedish side of the battlefield, the work of a possible assassin. Due to stories that the king was impervious to bullets, its believed an assassin somehow managed to acquire a button from the king’s uniform and filled it with lead. The thought was that a non-bullet could strike the king.  

There is some support for this theory. In 2002, a DNA analysis showed fragmentary traces of the same group of DNA on the button as the blood that stained King Charles’s gloves. However, no definitive conclusions could be drawn. Another bit of evidence supporting this theory is that the name of the soldier who discovered the bullet-button, Nordstierna, was a veteran of the Great Northern War. He also farmed the region where the bullet was discovered.  Stories and theories abound, for now, however, the death of King Charles XII remains a historical cold case. 

Know Before You Go

The bullet button is on display in the regional museum of Varberg.