The paucity and taciturnity of our sources make it impossible to give anything like an adequate picture of Old Poland during the first four centuries of its existence.
Over his son was, indeed, far greater than is commonly supposed, and it accounts for much in Charles XII.'s character which is otherwise inexplicable, for instance his precocious reserve and taciturnity, his dislike of everything French, and his inordinate contempt for purely diplomatic methods.
" I may confidently affirm," wrote John Fell, the dean of Christ Church, to Lord Sunderland, " there is not any one in the college who has heard him speak a word against, or so much as censuring, the government; and, although very frequently, both in public and private, discourses have been purposely introduced to the disparagement of his master, the earl of Shaftesbury, he could never be provoked to take any notice, or discover in word or look the least concern; so that I believe there is not in the world such a master of taciturnity and passion."
He was not greatly beloved by his clergy, who felt their intellectual distance too great, and were alternately frozen by his taciturnity and appalled by his sarcasm.