lørdag 25. desember 2010

Christina of Saxony, Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden

As I am Norwegian myself, I thought to present to you one of our queens, Christina of Saxony, or Christine av Sachsen as she is known as in Scandinavia. As she was also born on Christmas Day I thought it would be a nice fit to present her on this day as well.

Humiliated by her husband’s relationship to her lady-in-waiting Edel Jernskjæg, which went as far as the King travelling to Denmark with his mistress, leaving his wife behind, Queen Christina showed herself as a strong and forceful woman who would not let the capital, Stockholm, go when a rebellion broke out in Sweden against Denmark and the Kalmar union in 1501.

Christina was born on the 25th of December, 1461 to Ernest, the Elector of Saxony and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria (not to be confused with the Empress of Austria nor the Queen of Belgium). When she was sixteen she was betrothed to the son of Christian I of Denmark and Norway, John (or Hans as he is known as in Scandinavia). A year later, she travelled to Copenhagen and married on the 6th of September. John became King of Denmark in 1481 and King of Norway in 1483. Christina was crowned together with her husband. Together they went on to have five children, but only two of the children, Christian II and Elisabeth, reached adulthood.

Christina was a devout Catholic and was offended when two of her brothers fought for Reformation. Her brothers, Frederick and John, were actually two of the most important supporters Martin Luther had in the beginning. Charity was important to her, and she was a patroness of religious art and the writing of psalms and religious poetry.

What Christine is most known for is being the queen who refused to surrender Stockholm to the rebellions of the Kalmar union. She barred herself and a 1000 men inside the walls of the castle “Tre Kronor”, meaning “Three Crowns”. However, after eight months she had to give in after the Danish soldiers had been reduced from 1000 men to 70 by sickness (a plague had broken out) and starvation. There were rumours that the queen herself was dead! When she surrendered her position, she turned herself over to lady Ingeborg Tott, who met her at the castle and followed her to a convent. However, before she surrendered, she said she was only willing to do so if she herself and the people with her were allowed to go back to Denmark. The promise was made, but broken by Sten Sture the Elder who took her as a prisoner and held her at Vadstena Abbey until the peace negotiations with her husband was completed in 1503, after which she was released and returned to Denmark. After nearly three years she was finally home in Denmark, where her husband and his mistress had, in the meantime, enjoyed themselves. The king had also sent their daughter Elisabeth to Brandenburg to marry Joachim 1 Nestor, the Elector of Brandenburg.

The Queen decided to separate from her husband and had her own court at Næsbyhoved. She went to Germany in 1504 on a pilgrimage and she also visited her daughter while there. In 1513 she was widowed and her son Christian became king. She lived her life quietly at her small court, and died on the 8th of December 1521, at the age of 59. She was buried beside her husband.

Source: http://www.nb.no/utlevering/contentview.jsf?&urn=URN:NBN:no-nb_digibok_2007112600088#&struct=DIV76 ”Norges dronninger gjennom tusen år” by Nils Petter Thuesen, 1991.

torsdag 16. desember 2010

Cecilia Renata of Austria, Queen of Poland

A woman loved by both the people and her husband, she had a strong political influence over her husband the King, until the day he realised that her family, the Habsburgs, would not give him assistance in waging a war against Sweden.

Cecilia Renata was born on the 16th of July, 1611 in Graz as the 6th child and third daughter (although the firstborn daughter, Christine, died as an infant) to Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Maria Anna of Bavaria.

Her father sent a proposal of marriage between her and the Polish king, Wladyslaw IV, which arrived in Warsaw sometime in the spring, 1636. The dowry of the archduchess was to be 100, 000 zloty, and also that the emperor would pay the dowry for the king’s father’s two wives. Additionally the son of Wladislaw and Cecilia Renata was to obtain duchy of Opole and Racibórz in Silesia. However before everything was confirmed and signed, Ferdinand II died, and Cecilia’s brother, Ferdinand III, backed away from giving the Silesian duchy to the son of Wladislaw. Finally, on the 9th of August she was married in Vienna by proxy, and then in Warsaw by person on September 13, 1637 at the age of 26. She was crowned on the same day at St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw which angered the nobility of Poland as Krakow was the city of coronations.

Cecilia proved to be a clever and energetic woman, and she really liked it at the Polish court where she was very popular among the nobles. One woman wrote in her memoirs that the new queen was a very polite woman, and that she would ask other women to sit with her even though she was queen. She became good friends with her sister-in law, Anna Catherine, who would go on to marry Phillip William, Elector Palatine. Cecilia also stayed in touch with her brothers whom she shared a loving relationship to.

There was one thorn in her side at the Polish court, however, and that was her husband’s mistress, Hedwig Luszkowska. Since the king would not remove her, she had to find a clever way to do it, and what better than to marry her off? So the mistress was out of the way, and on the 1st of April 1640 she gave birth to her first child and heir, Sigismund Casimir. Unfortunately he died only two years after his mother, aged only seven. When he was two years old however, Cecilia gave birth to a girl on the 8th of January, Maria Anna Isabella. But also this child would not reach adulthood, and died only a year later, giving Cecilia and Wladyslaw no living heirs.

Cecilia was politically active, and advocated a Habsburg and pro-Catholic point of view and allied herself with the pro-Habsburg faction of Chancellor Jerzy Ossoliński and pro-Catholic Albrycht Stanislaw Radziwill. She had much to say about the royal nominations for important official positions, and her influence over her husband was so strong that his childhood friend, Adam Kazanowski, no longer exerted any political influence over the king. This changed however when the king realised that he would get no assistance from her brother, and so her power waned and he started to disregard her advices.

Cecilia Renata died on the 24th of March 1644 in Vilnius (she was Grand Duchess of Lithuania after all) at the age of 32. The cause of death is stated to have been an infection. She was mourned by Waldyslaw, and also left a good impression on the public. She is buried at Wawel Cathedral in Krakow besides her husband. I have actually been inside this church and seen her tomb.