Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
This is priceless. (Via Helsingin Sanomat, 2002).
...The upright figure of Count Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland, the Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defence Forces in WW2 and the 6th President of the Republic (1944-46), enters the dining room of Mikkelin Klubi, the Mikkeli Club, with a slight swing in his walk.With a subtle nod he invites his table company to sit down."And what shall we be served for lunch today?" he politely asks the waiter, who informs him that the menu consists of Vorschmack and Zander Walewska.The meal-times of the WW2 Finnish Defence Forces HQ in the town of Mikkeli in Eastern Finland have been restored to life by actor Timo Närhinsalo , who first played the part of Mannerheim a couple of years ago in a play called Airo and Brita at the Mikkeli Theatre.The praised performance then led to this dinner theatre experiment...
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
In his memoirs, Dix-huit ans auprès du Roi Léopold, Count Robert Capelle, former secretary of King Leopold III of the Belgians, quotes a description of Queen Astrid by her father, Prince Carl of Sweden. It is a lovely, touching portrayal, and one which accords with every other description of Astrid I have seen.
Astrid was not granted a long life; she was too good for this base world. But all her life, as wife, mother, and queen, and especially as she was short-lived, like our Nordic summer, was a rare and brilliant proof of the truth of the words her father addressed to her, as a twenty-year-old bride. For, throughout her whole life, she was the same person, with a heart that was pure, devoted, and frank, as she was during her childhood and youth; and she was truly loved as no human being had ever been loved on this earth. She was granted every happiness, until the moment when her young heart broke and she departed into eternity...In response to her own, ardent desire, Astrid pursued her studies alone, without companions. We suggested to her a lively, kind little girl who, as it seemed to us, would suit her, in the hope that this girl would help her to overcome her shyness and would strengthen her sense of her own worth; but she immediately begged to be alone, with her young teacher, whom she loved. Her natural shyness was the reason why she had difficulty, at first, in being at ease with other children and in being completely herself in their company. It was the intimate reason for her request, which we did not feel entitled to deny, although it was against our belief in the advantages of companionship in learning.Our Astrid's modesty did not derive from self-satisfaction, and it was not based on any other fault of character. She had a heart of gold, everyone considered her a wonderful child. During her childhood, she wept easily, and, once she had begun to weep, the flood of tears would never end. But her tears were not the result of excessive sensitivity, but rather the expression of her despair in the face of her own shyness; when the reason was not the fact that her dear mother - Noni, as the children called her - had to leave for a trip, or that one of those she loved was ill, or that some other grief had pained her sensitive heart. But, at times, she could also overflow with joy. She was not at all a gloomy child, but simply reserved, and her disinterested and affectionate heart opened up more and more, as the years passed and she began to dominate herself. She loved everyone, in her discreet fashion, and everyone loved her...If Astrid had been able to live and to celebrate her silver wedding, as her mother did, I am certain that she would have become, after 25 years, a wife as radiant as her mother had been in her time, and that Astrid's husband and their children would have had no fewer reasons than I and my children to thank and to bless her, and to render her the beautiful homage which I, one day, rendered her mother: "Sweden may be proud of her daughter!"
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Part I in a series exploring the true relationship between Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, and Count Axel von Fersen, a Swedish emissary at the court of Louis XVI. There is no proof that they were lovers.
...The Swedish nobleman was in the service of his sovereign King Gustavus III and Count Fersen’s presence at the French court needs to be seen in the light of that capacity. The Swedish King was a devoted friend of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and Gustavus, even more than the queen’s Austrian relatives, worked to aid the King and Queen of France in their time of trouble. Fersen was the go-between in the various top secret plans to help Louis XVI regain control of his kingdom and escape from the clutches of his political enemies. The diplomatic intrigues that went on behind the scenes are more interesting than any imaginary romance. (The queen’s relationship with her husband is more interesting as well.) However, books and movies continue to add this sensationalism to the queen’s life, as if anything could be more sensational than the reality. Serious modern and contemporary scholars, however, such as Paul and Pierrette Girault de Coursac, Hilaire Belloc, Nesta Webster, Simone Bertiere, Philippe Delorme, Jean Chalon, Desmond Seward, and Simon Schama are unanimous in saying that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that Marie-Antoinette violated her marriage vows by dallying with Count Fersen...
Part II, HERE.
Part III, HERE.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Margareta Leijonhufvud (1516-1551) was the second wife of King Gustav I of Sweden, and the mother of most of his children. The daughter of an eminent noble family, Margareta was an intelligent, beautiful woman. Her marriage was fairly happy. As Queen, she avoided political involvement, devoting her time to her family.
Despite her husband's introduction of Lutheranism to Sweden, Margareta remained a Catholic all her life. It was painful for her to witness the dissolution of monasteries, and to make clothes and curtains from textiles seized from the Church. Although she never tried to influence Gustav's policies, she generously supported the Brigittine abbey of Vadstena.
Margareta's long series of pregnancies devastated her health, and, after a boat trip on Lake Målaren, she contracted pneumonia and died. She was only 35 years old, and was deeply mourned by the King.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A hero for some, a villain for others, Gustav I cannot be ignored. He was the founder of the Vasa dynasty, the liberator of his country from the Danes, the ruler responsible for bringing Lutheranism to Sweden. Gustav Eriksson was born May 12, 1496, the son of Erik Johansson and Cecilia Månsdotter. His family belonged to the highest Swedish nobility. Like most Scandinavians at the time, Gustav used no family name. He was originally known by his given name and patronymic, but the name of the dynasty, derived from the family's heraldry, has been given to him by later authors. At the time of Gustav's birth, Sweden belonged to the Kalmar Union, joining all three (technically independent) Scandinavian kingdoms in the person of a single monarch.
Denmark's dominant role in the Kalmar Union aroused Swedish resentment, and conflicts and wars between the kingdoms were frequent. Gustav's father participated in the revolt led by the Swedish regent, Sten Sture the Younger, against the Danish (and Union) king, Christian II. After a bitter struggle, Christian conquered Sweden. He seized Stockholm in 1520, executing a number of Sture's followers, including Erik Johansson. The young Gustav escaped by hiding, later to join, and eventually lead, the rekindled Swedish rebellion. From 1521-1523, he fought the Danes with a small army recruited from Dalarna. The Danes were eventually defeated, Sweden gained independence, and Gustav was proclaimed King on June 6, 1523. This date has been celebrated, ever since, as the country's national holiday.
Hitherto, Gustav had posed as a loyal son of the Catholic Church, but soon introduced Lutheranism to Sweden, in an effort to consolidate and expand his power.The Swedish church, led by Gustavus Trolle, Archbishop of Uppsala, had supported (or, at least, was viewed as supporting) the Danes, so it was not surprising that a conflict with the newly independent Swedish state rapidly emerged. Shortly after Gustav's accession, Trolle was banished. The King appealed to Rome to authorize the appointment of an Archbishop of his own choice, Johannes Magnus. The Pope refused to grant his request and insisted upon Trolle's reinstatement (Rome later relented, but, by then, it was too late). A feud between Pope and King erupted. To justify making his own episcopal appointments, Gustav espoused Lutheranism, which gave monarchs jurisdiction over ecclesiastical affairs. He favored the Lutheran scholar, Olaus Petri, and entrusted his brother, Laurentius, with the see of Västerås. The Petri brothers eagerly propagated Lutheranism in Sweden, and the years to come would see many critical changes, including the introduction of Lutheran Bibles, clerical marriage, and royal confiscation of church property.
Gustav's reign was shaken by a number of rebellions, sparked by his harsh and autocratic methods and his suppression of Sweden's traditional religion. The people of Dalarna, his staunchest supporters during the war of independence, revolted several times during the first decade of his rule, and were brutally suppressed. The peasants of Småland rose up in 1542. Under their leader, Nils Dacke, they put up a bitter (and, for several months, remarkably successful) fight in the dense woods, but were ultimately defeated by Gustav's army (supplemented by able royal propaganda, aimed at turning the population against Dacke). Nils perished in the struggle, and there are widely varying accounts of his end. He has traditionally been portrayed as a traitor to Sweden, but modern scholarship has adopted a more nuanced view, sometimes even lionizing him as a "Robin Hood" figure. In any case, his proclamations to his followers apparently centered on understandable grievances- the abolition of traditional Catholic practices, the seizure of church bells and church treasures to be melted down for money...
The final years of Gustav's reign were marked by an inconclusive war with Ivan the Terrible of Russia. On September 29, 1560, after a long period of illness, Gustav died, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Erik XIV. The heritage of this daring, cunning, capable and ruthless ruler has been much disputed, with many viewing him as the father of his country and a national hero, and others (especially, among recent, revisionist scholars) considering him a tyrant, who kept an iron grip on church and state alike...
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Three paintings by famed Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905), representing contrasting emotions.A mother's love: Queen Blanka of Norway and Sweden ( born Blanche of Namur) with her son Haakon.
A family's sorrow: the burial of a young Finnish child.
The hatred of deadly foes: Duke Karl, (later Charles IX of Sweden), insulting the corpse of his enemy, Klaus Fleming, governor of Finland. Fleming had been a vigorous supporter of the legitimate King of Sweden, Sigismund, whom Karl dethroned. Legend has it that when the victorious Duke burst into the room, he taunted Fleming (who had died conveniently of apoplexy at a critical moment during the civil war- at the time, people suspected he had been murdered), pulling his beard and gloating: "If you were alive, your head would not be very secure." The governor's fearless widow responded: "If my late lord were alive, you would not have entered this chamber."
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Drottningholm Palace is the private residence of the Swedish royal family and a popular tourist attraction. It is located on the island of Lovön, near Stockholm.
Drottningholm derives its name ("Queen's islet") from the fact that it was originally a gift from the 16th century monarch, King John III, to his Polish-born wife, Catherine Jagellonica. Since those days, the palace and grounds have seen many renovations, changes, and additions.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Here is a prayer for the re-conversion of Scandinavia to Catholicism.
Good Jesus, prostrate at Thy feet, we humbly implore Thee, by Thy most sacred wounds and by the Precious Blood which Thou didst shed for the salvation of the whole world, that Thou wouldst deign to cast a look of pity on the peoples of Scandinavia, seduced from the Faith for so many centuries, and plunged in the darkness of heresy, separated from thy Church, deprived of the participation of the adorable Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood, and of the other Sacraments instituted by Thee, as the refuge of souls in life and in death. Remember, O Redeemer of the world, that for these souls too Thou didst suffer bitter death, with the loss of all Thy blood. Bring back, O good Shepherd, these wandering sheep of Thine to the one fold and to the healthy pastures of Thy Church, so that they may form with us one flock, tended by Thee, and by thy Vicar on earth, the supreme Pontiff, whom, in the person of the Apostle St. Peter, Thou didst commission to feed Thy sheep and Thy lambs. Graciously hear, O good Jesus, the prayers which we offer Thee with the most lively trust in the love of Thy Sacred Heart, and to Thy most holy Name be praise, glory, honour, world without end. Amen.(Source: from the Raccolta. An indulgence of 300 days, once a day. Pope Leo XIII, 18 April 1885.)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Here are the autographs of two royal cousins - Sigismund III (1566-1632) and Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632). They championed opposing religions and vied bitterly for the Swedish throne. Strangely, they died in the same year- Gustavus on the battlefield of Lützen, fighting for the Protestant cause, and Sigismund of age and illness in the Royal Castle of Warsaw.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
I am always annoyed when people seem to find tales of royal adultery and scandal delightfully entertaining and hilarious. When one thinks of the miserable and betrayed spouses, the broken family lives, the moral and spiritual destruction of the lovers, one can only conclude that these stories may be dramatic and interesting, but in a tragic way. A sad example from Swedish history is Hedvig Taube, who became, against her will, the mistress of King Frederik I and eventually paid with her life.
Born in 1714, Hedvig was a Swedish noblewoman. Gambling debts had ruined her family when, at 16, she caught the eye of the aging and dissolute monarch. Hedvig tried to reject his advances, but in vain. Courtiers arrived, pressuring her to accept the position of "lady-in-waiting to the Queen" while, in reality, she was to become the King's mistress. Hedvig's own family, eager to restore their finances by winning royal favor, joined in urging her to yield to Frederik's wishes. Her resistance finally collapsed. The Swedish admiral, Carl Tersmeden, described her future life to her in glowing terms. Hedvig apparently had different views. When the carriage arrived to transport her to court, she lamented: "My fate is harder than I can bear. I am forced to expose my virtue to save my family, ruined by gambling."
Frederik installed Hedvig in a splendid palace of her own, making her Sweden's first maîtresse-en-titre. This caused great public scandal. Previous Swedish kings had had affairs, but never before official mistresses "in the French way." The pious Queen, Ulrika Eleonora, locked herself in her room in protest, the Lutheran clergy refused to pay homage to the King and satirical pamphlets circulated in Stockholm. Representatives of the clergy rebuked the lovers, apparently even lecturing Hedvig in bed (where she had withdrawn, feigning illness, to avoid the reprimand). At one point, the Queen's displeasure and the public outrage threatened Hedvig with exile. Nonetheless, the King was quite indifferent to the scandal. He publicly acknowledged his children by Hedvig (his marriage, by contrast, was childless) and persuaded the Emperor to make her a Countess of the Holy Roman Empire. (Her sons were also given noble Hessian titles). Hedvig was unhappy, but was able to lead an interesting cultural life, becoming a noted salonist and patron of the arts.
In 1744, however, Hedvig's position proved fatal to her when she died giving birth to the King's fourth child. She was only 30 years old. Rumors arose that she had been poisoned by the King's brother, Prince Wilhelm of Hesse, as she had grown too expensive for Hessian state coffers... Along with her stillborn infant, she was buried in Strängnäs. She was soon forgotten, as Frederik moved on to another aristocratic mistress, Catharina Ebba Horn, and consorted with prostitutes. Such was the sad ending to Hedvig's glamorous but brief and, in many ways, tragic life.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Gunilla Bielke was the second wife of King John III of Sweden (1537-1592). Born June 25, 1568, she was a noblewoman, the daughter of Johan Axelsson Bielke, state councillor and governor of Östergötland. Soon after the death of his first wife, the Polish princess Catherine Jagellonica, King John began looking for a new bride. His choice was 16-year-old Gunilla, a famed blonde beauty (no portrait is said to do her justice).
The royal family were outraged at the prospect of such a mésalliance. Only a princess, they insisted, was a suitable bride for the King, but John remained adamant. He reportedly declared that he wanted a beautiful wife and paintings of foreign princesses were not to be trusted! John, however, also encountered opposition from an unexpected quarter...Gunilla herself. She was betrothed to a fellow aristocrat, and initially rejected the monarch's proposal. Deeply offended, John slapped her in the face with his glove and departed in anger.
Gunilla's relatives, however, eagerly desiring the royal connection, pressured their daughter to accept the King's hand. The couple were married in Västerås in February, 1585. Four years later, they had a son. He was named John, after his father, and eventually titled Duke of Östergötland. As Queen, Gunilla played an important political role. At a time when the state religion of Sweden still hung in the balance (between Lutheranism and Catholicism), the firmly Protestant young woman influenced her husband in favor of the Reformation. (By contrast, John's first wife, Queen Catherine, had promoted the Catholic cause).
After John's death, Gunilla was accused of stealing royal property from the palace in Stockholm. She clashed, on religious grounds, with the new Queen, Anna of Austria, bride of her step-son, the devoutly Catholic King Sigismund. Yet, Gunilla insisted on remaining in the capital to claim her share of John's inheritance. She later retired to Bråborg Castle, in Östergötland, where she died, on her 29th birthday, June 25, 1597.
Friday, August 7, 2009
One of Finland's best loved authors. According to a biography, courtesy of Petri Liukkonen:
...Aleksis Kivi was born at Nurmijärvi in southern Finland, some twenty miles north of Helsinki. He came from a poor background. His mother was Annastiina (Hamberg) Stenvall, the daughter of a smith, who was five years older than her husband. Eerik Johan Stenvall, Kivi's father, was a tailor, who could read and write. Eerik had learnt Swedish, the language every educated Finnish spoke, before a Finnish-language culture fully developed. Kivi also acquired a complete mastery of Swedish. However, in the wake of national awakening Kivi translated his surname (Stenvall, 'stone-bank') into Finnish (Kivi, 'stone').In 1846, at the age of twelve, Kivi left for school in Helsinki, where he found lodgings at the home of a prison warder. For a year his teacher was A.J. Cranberg, an old sailor, and at his small cottage Kivi studied among others Swedish. While living at the home of a master tailor, named Albin Palmqvist, he read widely in his library. With Palmqvist's daughter, Albina, who was five years his senior, he discussed of such writers as Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Byron. Kivi fell in love with Albina, and according to some sources, he proposed marriage. Albina went in 1853 to Denmark, where she started to use morphin for her neuralgia. During the following years, Albina spent much time abroad, but when she visited Finland, she met Kivi several times. Kivi never married and Albina also remained single. However, Albina possibly influenced a number of Kivi's female characters in his plays, including Liisa in YÖ JA PÄIVÄ (1866), Elma in KARKURIT (1866), Lea in LEA (1868), Marianne in CANZIO (1868).Kivi managed to finish in 1857 secondary school, although he occasionally neglected his studies, partly because he suffered from hunger. In 1859 Kivi managed to enter the University of Helsinki, where he read the classics of world literature and became interested in the theater. At the Swedish teatter of Helsinki, he saw plays by Molière and Schiller and he was familiar with the Danish dramatist Ludvig Holberg. Kivi's first play, KULLERVO (1859), was based on the Kalevala and showed the influence of Shakespeare in its dramatic technique. In Helsinki Kivi made friends with J.V. Snellman, the famous philosopher, journalist and politician, who helped him economically. Among his friends were also such Finnish-speaking intellectuals as Fredrik Cygnaeus, Elias Lönnrot, Julius Krohn, and Emil Nervander.At university Kivi studied sporadically. He was more interested in writing and intended to become a celebrated poet like Runeberg. Kullervo won a competition held by the Finnish Literature Society. With the prize money Kivi could continue his literary career. In Nurmijärvi and Siuntio he was helped by Charlotta Lönnqvist, a self-sacrificing benefactress, and perhaps also by the Adlercreutz family. From 1863 Kivi devoted himself to his calling. He published 12 plays, collection of poems and Seven Brothers, which he wrote for ten years. The work was crushed by the influential critic August Ahlqvist, who opposed its realism. Ahlqvist's hostile criticism became later a symbol of oppression of artistic freedom. "It is a ridiculous work and a blot on the name of Finnish literature," Ahlqvist wrote in the newspaper Finlands Allmäna Tidningen.Seven Brothers is a humorous novel depicting orphan brothers, which first appeared in four volumes in 1870. To evade the Lutheran Church's requirement, that they learn to read and write before confirmation, the brothers flee to the wilderness. After encountering all kinds of disasters, they return to society – matured and ready to take responsibilities. Kivi's individualism and his unconventional approach won him many enemies among the Fennoman movement, which emphasized agrarian and conservative values. Kivi also challenged taboos concerning what was considered decent. His independent country boys were considered too wild – they were not modelled on an idealized picture of the people, but revealed their ignorance, laziness, tendency to heavy drinking, and 'Roussean' resistance to bourgeois values. Moreover, Kivi's mixture of comical, mythological, and tragic was not understood. Nowadays Seven Brothers has been interpreted at many levels. ---JUHANI: On one corner of the earth a day of peace still gleams for us. Ilvesjärvi lake yonder, below Impivaara, is the harbour to which we can sail away from the storm. Now my mind is made up.--LAURI: Mine was made up last year already.--EERO: I'll follow you even into the deepest cave on Impivaara, where it is said the Old Man of the Mountains boils pitch, with a helmet made of a hundred sheepskins on his head.--TUOMAS: We'll all move there from here.--JUHANI: Thither we'll move and built a new world.(from Seven Brothers)In 1865 Kivi won the State Prize for his play NUMMISUUTARIT (The Heath Cobblers). He lived in Siuntio from 1864, reading, writing, visiting Helsinki – and when he could afford it, occasionally drinking in taverns. Kivi also wrote a play about a beer outing at Schleusingen, OLVIRETKI SCHLEUSINGENISSÄ (1866), which was not published during his lifetime, and a brisk drinking song: "Hail, brown barley juice, / Hail strong foaming cheer! / Let it all go down / So long as it's beer." (transl. by Keith Bosley) While in Nurmijärvi, Kivi liked to swim, fish and roam the wild forests with his rifle on his shoulder.Although Kivi had influential supporters, among them Kaarlo Bergbom, who established the Finnish Theatre, he was deeply depressed by the attacks of Ahlqvist and other critics. In the late 1860s Charlotta Lönnqvist could not support the author any more. All of Kivi's money, which he earned from his writings, went to debts. His last years were shadowed by economical worries, and a physical and mental breakdown. However, most of his life Kivi had been healthy.Suffering from schizophrenia, he was in a mental hospital in Lapinlahti. After nine months, on May 1872, his brother Albert brought him from Lapinlahti to Tuusula, where he spent his last months in a small rented cottage. Kivi died on the same year on December 31. According to the popular legend his last words were: "Minä elän!" (I am alive!)...Among Aleksis Kivi's most famous poems is 'Sydämeni laulu' (Grove of Tuoni, grove of night / Song of my Heart) – a dark and very moving work, in which a woman seems to wish her baby dead. The poem was basis for Jean Sibelius song (Op. 18 No. 6) with the same title from 1898. In the poem a mother sits alone with her child and asks: "Tell me, my child, my summerbright, tell me: wouldst thou not sail away from here to a haven of everlasting peace while the white pennant of childhood still flies clean? On the shore of a misty, tideless lake stands the dark manor of Tuoni; there in the heart of a shadowy grove, in the bosom of a dewy thicket a cradle is prepared for thee with snowy linen and wrappings. Hear therefore my song; it wafts thee to the land of the Prince of Tuoni." ('Grove of Tuoni' can be translated as 'Grove of Death'. Keith's Bosley's translation in Aleksis Kivi: Odes from 1994 uses more modern language than Alex Matson in his work.) Although none of the brothers die in Seven Brothers, death is also one of themes in the book. Usually literary critics have emphasized humorous aspects of the story.Grove of Tuoni, grove of night!There thy bed of sand is light.Thither my baby I lead.Mirth and joy each long hour yieldsIn the Prince of Tuoni's fieldsTending the Tuonela cattle.Mirth and joy my babe will know,Lulled to sleep at evening glowBy the pale Tuonela maiden.Surely joy hours will hold,Lying in thy cot of gold,Hearing the nightjar singing.Grove of Tuoni, grove of peace!There all strife and passion cease.Distant the treacherous world."(Translated by Alex Matson)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
On April 17, 2004, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, daughter of Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, was christened at the Royal Palace in Oslo. The princess' godparents included her paternal grandfather, King Harald V of Norway; Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; Prince Felipe, Prince of Asturias; her aunt, Princess Märtha Louise; and her maternal grandmother, Mrs. Marit Tjessem.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
One of the most romantic and tragic Swedish queens was Karin Månsdotter (1550-1612). She was a woman of the people, born into a family of farmers. Her last names is simply a patronymic meaning "daughter of Måns." Legend has it that she was a totally pure, innocent girl. This, however, is probably not completely true- apparently she worked at a tavern before coming to court. Nonetheless, she was, by all accounts, beautiful, kindhearted and humble.
As a teenager, she became a maid to Princess Elisabeth, sister of King Erik XIV of Sweden. The King soon fell in love with the lovely, gentle Karin, and made her his mistress. Like other princes of the period, Erik had had many ladies in his life, but his passion for Karin was quite unique. He dismissed all his other mistresses and treated her with a generosity and devotion that baffled the court. Poor Karin was even accused of using witchcraft and love potions to inspire this single-minded attachment.
Legend presents Karin as a calming, moderating influence on the King, a counterweight to his ruthless, Machiavellian advisor and spymaster, Jöran Persson. In the 19th century painting above, we see a representation of the two opposing influences: the tormented King sitting on the floor, with innocent Karin on one side and sinister Persson on the other. As the King descended into madness, paranoia, and tyranny, nobles attempted to appeal for royal clemency through Karin's intercession.
Karin bore the King two surviving children: Sigrid (1566-1633) and Gustav (1568-1607). In 1567, Erik married Karin morganatically, and, the next year, made her his Queen. Her son became the royal heir. The commoner's elevation to royal consort scandalized the aristocracy, perhaps contributing to the atmosphere of discontent with Erik among the high nobility. In any case, shortly after Karin's coronation, Erik's brothers, John and Karl, rebelled and dethroned the unfortunate King. John seized the crown and Erik, Karin and their children were imprisoned. In 1573, to prevent the birth of any more legitimate offspring (with a claim to the throne) Karin was forcibly separated from her husband. Together with her children, she was transported to Finland and imprisoned there, until Erik's death (probably from poisoning) in 1577.
As a widow, Karin was kindly treated (perhaps from guilt?) by the royal family. She was granted the Finnish estate of Kangasala, and lived in comfort with her daughter Sigrid. (Her son was exiled to Poland and lived as a mercenary). Karin became popular in Finland. During the famous peasant revolt, the Cudgel War (1596-1597), the rebels spared her property. Today, Karin has a magnificent tomb in the Cathedral of Turku.
Here is a piece of music inspired by Karin's story:
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Ulrika Wilhelmina (Minna) Canth, (1844-1897) was a famous, influential Finnish playwright and author of short stories. She was passionately preoccupied with social problems and, in particular, the oppression of women in 19th century Finland. Her work was often dark and tragic. Here is a biography, courtesy of Petri Liukkonen:
Minna Canth was born in Tampere as the daughter of Gustaf Wilhelm Johnson and Ulrika... Johnson. Her father was a worker at the Finlayson cotton factory. He rose in the position of a foreman and in 1853 the family moved to Kuopio, a small but culturally active town 500 kilometers from Helsinki. Johnson worked in Kuopio as a shop manager, and was able to provide his daughter a good education. Canth studied at Jyväskylä Teachers' Seminary, but left her studies and married in 1865 her teacher Johan Ferdinand Canth, nine years her senior. From 1874 to 1876 she wrote for the regional publications Keski-Suomi and later for Päijänne (1878-79).After the death of her husband in 1879, Canth moved with her seven children to Kuopio. She took charge of her father's shop - he had died a few year earlier, and the business was doing poorly. The draper's shop, the 'Tampereen Lankakauppa', selling Finlayson's fabrics, started to flourish, and Canth found more time to literary aspirations. Her first book, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1879. Canth's first drama, MURTOVARKAUS, was produced next year. It gained a huge success, and was produced in 1897 also in Sweden. With Murtovarkaus Canth started her ten year cooperation with Kaarlo Bergbom (1843-1906), who had founded the Finnish Theatre. He encouraged Canth to write ethnological, rustic comedies for the broad audience, but this was not what the author herself wanted to do. However, her next play, ROINILAN TALOSSA (1885), delighted Bergbom with its lively characters and folkdances.In the beginning of the 1880's, Canth adopted ideas from such authors as Taine, Ibsen, Strindberg and Zola. She read widely social sciences, ethics, psychology, natural sciences, religious thinkers. Canth become interested in the position of women and workers, and the conflict between religion and Darwin's ideas of evolution. Her new, more socially concerned plays, were attacked by conservative and religious authorities. Among them was the influential... party director Agathon Meurman, who also persecuted Juhani Aho and other liberal writers. Social criticism was a relatively new phenomenon in Finnish literature, and Canth was more outspoken than contemporary male writers.Canth's KOVAN ONNEN LAPSIA (1888, 'Hard luck's children') was banned immediately. Her most famous play, PAPIN PERHE (1891, The pastor's family) depicted crisis in a bourgeois family. TYÖMIEHEN VAIMO (1885, The worker's wife), revealed the misery of a poor and submissive wife, Johanna, her husband's alcoholism, and the evils of prostitution. Johanna is exploited by her husband Risto, who controls her savings, spends the family's money on drink, and eventually steals the cloth his wife has woven. When Johanna is threatened by imprisonment, she breaks down and dies. Kerttu or "Homsantuu", the gipsy girl, represents another type of woman. She is ready to kill Risto, who has betrayed her.Homsantuu. Did you have mercy on me, scoundrel? You deceived me treacherously a second time, seduced me worse than before. You thought: she is the scum of the world, you won't be punished for it if you ruin her. But you are mistaken. This scum of the world for whom nobody cares, takes her vengeance upon you herself.Risto. Take it in some other way. Spare my life.Homsantuu. No, you must die. And so must I."(from The Worker's Wife)However, Kerttu's bullet misses, and she is arrested. Risto goes back to tavern without feeling pity. In Canth's dark vision there is clear contrast between the prevailing social order and women's rights. In Papin perhe (The Parson's family) Canth studied ideological battle inside a middle-class family. The old-fashioned father, Henrik Valtari, does not accept his daughter's theatrical career. His son Jussi refuses to join the reactionary newspaper which his father supports and choses instead a progressive newspaper. When his children have began their own life, Valtari starts a reconciliation process.Although Canth championed for many ideas, she left the debate about language and nationality (i.e. between Swedish- and Finnish-speakers) to other writers, such as Juhani Aho, who shared her anticlerical and reformist views. Juhani Aho had been her protégé as a student, but Canth's guidance was more important for Heikki Kauppinen, later known as Kauppis-Heikki. He worked at her store as a sales assistant, and started his own career as a writers.Canth portrayed her characters with understanding and realism. Women were more or less victims of circumstances or the patriarchal order. However, her suffering wives were not Madonna figures. They did not fit well in the ideological struggle for national unity. Among Canth's most famous literary figures are the independent and rebellious Homsantuu from The Workers Wife, Hanna, a young girl depressed by narrow-minded life in a small city from a short story (1886), and Kauppa-Lopo, a warm-hearted proletarian woman living outside the norms of bourgeois society. The family was in Canth's writings the basis, which mirrored larger social problems. With her brave approach to topical, polemic issues Canth was a constant target of conservative critics, especially clergymen, but at the same time her home in Kuopio attracted such writers and artists as Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Jean Sibelius, K.A. Tavastsjerna, and the Halonen family.In 1889-90 Canth edited in collaboration with A.B. Mäkelä her own journal, Vapaita aatteita (Free ideas). It published - without asking - writings from Maupassant, Brandes, Tolstoy, and Hamsun, and introduced to Finnish readers new findings in astronomy, psychiatry, biology, meteorology and other sciences. Canth showed also understanding toward lighter literature. Although Canth was full of energy as a business woman and writer, her heath started to deteriorate in the 1890s, and she died on May 12, 1897 in Kuopio.