Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lonely Queen (Ensam drottning) by Gerd Ribbing

A lovely, paper copy version of the old style!
Sophia Magdalena, Danish princess, was betrothed to the Swedish king/crown prince when she was five years old. They actually married in 1766 by proxy when she was 20, and she was crowned queen in 1772. This was a marriage of convenience, as often in those days, and its main reason was to keep a good relationship between Sweden and Denmark. The book tells her story between the years 1783 - 1813. I don't really know why it starts at this date, and why the earlier years are not included. Maybe it would have been too long? The book was written in 1959, so written in a different style than is done today. It is full of extracts from memoirs, letters and other writings at the time, which give you a good idea of the different characters and the times.

Sophia Magdalena, considered a great
beauty at the time
She seemed to have been quite a sad character and her life was certainly not easy. It helped, of course, that she was raised to be a queen, which she also knew from a very early age. She was young when she came to the Swedish court, which in those days was very merry. Gustav III was a fan of Louis XIV of France, and wanted to have a similar court with theatres, plays, music, parties etc. Sophie Magdalena, was a very shy person so it was not always to her liking. Furthermore, Gustav III, was a little bit of an unrestful person, mental problems, and was not always easy to be around, being very animated. However, she knew her duties and fulfilled them as well as she could. She seemed to have loved her husband and absolutely adored her son, Gustav Adolf. Her younger son died at a young age, and they did not get any more children, so it is natural that she was very anxious for her only son.

One of her great sorrows was that there was always a question on the legitimacy of her son. It took seven years for the couple to produce a child, the reason being that they did not know how to do it! Sophia was strictly and religiously brought up and together with her introverted character, and her not liking the merry court, made her less attractive in the eyes of the king. The king on his side was a rather feminine character, watched over like a hawk by his mother the Dowager Queen, who did not want any competition in influencing her son. Their were rumours that the king was a-, bi- or homosexual, already in those days, and he was definitely sexually immature.

Gustav III
Something had to be done and the king asked his Riksstallmästare (Master of the Horses), Count Adolf Fredrik Munck to help them out. He did help them out and the result was a son and heir. At the time there was a lot of talk and a famous artist, Sergel, made drawings which are somewhat chocking even today, on how it possibly could have been done! There were rumours all over the court and city that Munck was the father and not the king. The rumours continued for many years, hurting the queen, who insisted that the king was the father.

This is only mentioned in a backward glance in the book, but it is a recurring moment of sadness for Sophia that people should doubt her. They got two sons, but the youngest died very young, which was also something that made her life sad. She can not have had a 'funny' life. In those days I guess they did not expect it, but still, some pleasures in life there should be. Sophia was all her life a dutiful queen who put the state and family first. It does not mean that she followed in everything that the king said and did, she was opposing him at times, which made him insecure and unstable. The letters between the two are very dear and loving so they seemed to have had a special love for each other, although so different.

Gustav IV Adolf
The son, Gustav IV Adolf, was only around 10 years old when his father died. His uncle took on the governing to help him. He married Friederike Dorothea of Baden with whom he had five children. He governed as king from 1792 (when his father was killed at the infamous Masquerade Ball) until 1809 when he abdicated. He then travelled restlessly through Europe trying to find a place for himself. He was considered a little bit crazy and could never stay too long in one place. He held up a correspondence with his mother and she expressed nothing but love for him. He died in 1837.

It was a big blow to Sophia when he abdicated because she, as a princess, knew the importance of continuing a royal line. However, she always looked for his happiness so was happy for him. She also had to see several crown princes appear and disappear until the government decided to offer 'the post' to the French marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte!

And so ends the Vasa royal family and in comes the Bernadotte royal family which is still on the Swedish throne today. Next in line will be Crown Princess Victoria who will be the first queen we have had in a long time! Her firstborn being a daughter, we will have another queen coming after her mother.

The Crown Princess with husband and daughter

I really liked this book. I thought it would be more 'stiff' being over 50 years old, but it was lovely written. The author, for sure has respect for her subject, and is adding to the story written letters and other documents that give us an insight into the persons and the times.

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