The Coldest Winter In Memory

Album: Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1996)

Songfacts®:

  • This bears a striking similarity to Stewart's earlier song "Roads To Moscow;" the latter is written from the perspective of a soldier who is taken prisoner in Soviet Russia during the Second World War; the former from that of a Swedish soldier who served under Charles XII.
  • Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718) inherited the throne from his father at age 15 and fought the Great Northern War enjoying a string of victories and routing the much larger Russian Army, but he was eventually to face defeat. By the Battle of Poltava in June 1709 Charles was seriously wounded, and much of his army destroyed. Escaping to Turkey he was initially welcomed, but eventually the Sultan tired of his schemes, and he was forced to flee. Charles died in uncertain circumstances during a siege in Norway but was probably killed by a Norwegian bullet.
  • The fall of Charles XII is the main theme of the song but Stewart draws parallels with his defeat to the loss of Dunwich. Many towns and villages of East Anglia have been lost to the North Sea, but the Ancient City of Dunwich is by far the most important. The Domesday Book lists 3 churches in Dunwich; during the reign of Henry II it had 52 churches, chapels and related buildings. In 1680, the sea destroyed many buildings, and by 1702 was lapping at the doors of St. Peters.

    In the song Stewart refers to the legendary Dunwich bells, which are said to be heard chiming beneath the waves. A modern version of the legend is that a mermaid rings a bell on the ruins in order to lure divers into the depths. The last three churches to be lost had their bells removed but some of them were lost overnight when the sea broke through the town's defences.
  • Stewart's song has been subjected to several rewrites causing it to become "melodramatic," he said. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

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