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Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg

Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg

Queen consort of sweden
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen consort of sweden
A.K.A. Katharina von Sachsen-Lauenburg
Gender female
Birth 24 September 1513 (Ratzeburg, Herzogtum Lauenburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)
Death 23 September 1535 (Stockholm, Stockholm Municipality, Stockholm County, Sweden)
Star sign Libra
Mother: Catherine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Duchess of Saxe-Lauenburg
Father: Magnus I, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg
Siblings: Francis IDuke of Saxe-LauenburgClara of Saxe-LauenburgDorothea of Saxe-LauenburgSophie of Saxe-Lauenburg
Spouse: Gustav I of Sweden
Children: Eric XIV of Sweden
Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg
The details

Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg (Katarina in Swedish) (24 September 1513 – 23 September 1535) was the first consort of Gustav I of Sweden and Queen of Sweden from 1531 until her death in 1535.


Catherine was born in Ratzeburg to Magnus I, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg and Catherine, daughter of Henry IV, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Her marriage to Gustav I of Sweden was arranged for political reasons. Gustav wished to marry shortly after having conquered the Swedish throne, and after having failed in his negotiations to marry Dorothea of Denmark, who was however also proposed to by Philip of Hesse, who was considered more advantageous; Sophia of Mecklenburg and Anna of Pomerania, whose parents considered his rule too unstable; and Hedwig of Poland, whose parents discontinued negotiations because of the Swedish Reformation, he was advised to consider the Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg.

Though the Duchy was small and poor, it had many advantages: its dynasty was related to many of the most powerful dynasties of Europe, which would give valuable connections with the German princes; it was Protestant, which was important for the ongoing Swedish Reformation, but could also give Imperial connections through Catherine's mother; it would give a valuable link to Denmark, as Catherine's older sister Dorothea was married to Christian, the Crown Prince of Denmark; and finally, the Duchy was at that point known as a center for mercenaries, which was important for Gustav as a newly established ruler. The negotiations started in 1528, but was delayed several years as the bride's father doubted the stability of the throne, partially confirmed by events such as the Dalecarlian rebellions. Finally, after mediation from Lübeck, they were completed after almost three years, and Catherine was granted the counties of Korsholm, Kalmar and Öland as a dower.

In September 1531, Catherine was escorted to Sweden on a fleet by the "highest lords and ladies of the realm" headed by her future sister-in-law Margaret and her spouse Count John of Hoya, and met her future spouse for the first time. Their wedding were celebrated in Stockholm on her 18th birthday 24 September 1531. Shortly after the royal wedding, Brita Leijonhufvud, the daughter of the king's second cousin Ebba Eriksdotter Vasa, was married to the king's courtier and favorite Gustav Olsson Stenbock (they were to be the parents of the king's third wife Catherine Stenbock) and the king's niece Brita Joakimsdotter Brahe was engaged to riksråd Birger Nilsson Grip: both of these events were hosted by the royal couple, and were the first Catherine hosted as queen of Sweden.

Very little is known about queen Catherine as a person and her tenure as queen. There are no information of her courtiers, though she is assumed to have brought ladies-in-waiting from Germany in addition to her Swedish ones, among whom Margaret Leijonhufvud (the king's future second queen) is likely to have been one. Traditional history describe Catherine as capricious, cold, melancholic and discontent, and the marriage has been described as a stormy and unhappy one, despite the fact that there are no contemporary information of this. On 13 December 1533, she fulfilled her most important task as queen consort by giving birth to an heir to the throne: the future Erik XIV.

In September 1535, during a ball given to the honor of her brother-in-law, king Christian III of Denmark, who was visiting the Swedish royal court, queen Catherine fell during a dance with Christian III while pregnant. The fall confined her to bed and led to complications, and she died 23 September with her unborn child.

At the time of her death, king Gustav was engaged in the Count's Feud, and his opponents in this conflict, Lübeck and Rostock, spread the rumor that he had murdered his queen by beating her in the head with a silver cane after a report from a spy that she had slandered him to Christian while dancing. The exhumation of Catherine's skeleton made in the 1940s show no signs of any such injury, and no accusations were ever made by her family. Further more, Christian III himself confirms the serious fall of queen Catherine in his private letters, even though he was no friend of Gustav Vasa.

In traditional history writings, queen Catherine was given a bad reputation and often presented as a bad example and contrast to the second queen of Gustav I, queen Margaret Leijonhufvud, who was made to be a stereotypical perfect ideal queen.


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