|Death||August 26, 1551 (Mälaren)|
Margaret Leijonhufvud (née Margareta Eriksdotter; 1 January 1516 in Ekeberg Castle, Närke – 26 August 1551 in Tynnelsö Castle, Södermanland) was Queen of Sweden from 1536 to 1551 as the spouse of King Gustav I.
Margaret Leijonhuvfud was a member of one of Sweden's most powerful noble families, daughter of Erik Abrahamsson Leijonhufvud, a man executed in the Stockholm bloodbath, and Ebba Eriksdotter Vasa, a relative of the king. She belonged to the early Leijonhufvud clan of Swedish nobility (the name meaning Lion's Head).
In 1535, the King was widowed by Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg and left with only one legitimate child. A new marriage for the King was deemed necessary, and his decision to choose a spouse from among the nobility has been explained by the need to secure support and allies among the nobility for his rule, and the various political and religious difficulties, along with the great cost and time involved in securing a marriage with a foreign princess.
According to tradition, Margaret was engaged to Svante Sture when the King decided to marry her, but her family broke the engagement and married her former fiance was to her sister, Martha Leijonhufvud, instead. A story describes how her sister's marriage came about. According to tradition, the King caught his new Queen and her former fiancé together alone, with the young man, Svante Sture, on his knees before the Queen. The King reportedly asked in a rage: "What is this?!" upon which Queen Margaret swiftly answered: "My Lord Sture is asking me for the hand of my sister!" At this, the king just as swiftly answered: "Granted!" And so, Svante Sture hastily married the Queen's sister Martha Leijonhufvud. It does not seem that Queen Margaret and Svante Sture ever again did anything that could be seen as improper. If they did, they were not discovered.
Margaret married King Gustav 1 October 1536 in Uppsala, and was crowned Queen there the next day. During the first years of their marriage, Margaret's mother Ebba played a dominating role in the royal court, and it was said that even the King did not dare to oppose his mother-in-law; her influence, however, was not political. The other members of Margaret's family were also given prominent positions and frequently seen at official royal ceremonies: several of her male relatives were knighted and appointed members of the royal council, and the following decade became known as belonging to that of the Kungafränderna (The King's Relatives), meaning the relatives he acquired through the marriage with Margaret.
Margaret was described as intelligent and beautiful, and the marriage was considered a happy one. The King was not known to be unfaithful to her. Queen Margaret is credited with meaningful influence over the monarch. Her influence was of the kind accepted for a queen consort — that of speaking to the King on the behalf of others. She was very active in this regard and often successful, something Gustavus himself admitted, when he reduced a sentence at her request. However, she is not said to have used her influence to promote any personal agenda of any kind, and did not pressure him more than was traditionally suitable for a queen consort. Her behavior contrasted with that of Queen Gunilla Bielke, who was said to meddle in politics. Margaret was not thus not considered politically active.
Margaret allegedly had the ability to keep the monarchs temperament under control, and was a calming influence on him. She managed to get punishments he meted out reduced, and advised him to show mercy and leniency, all of which made her popular. Because of this activity, which is evident by her remaining correspondence, she received a large number of petitions from supplicants who used her as a go-between for them and the King. She made donations to the still active Vadstena Abbey, following the example of her family: her mother was also the benefactor of Vreta Abbey. She remained a Catholic her entire life. Among the objects of her charity were the remaining catholic convents, and she was known to be a benefactor of the Vadstena Abbey.
Queen Margaret devoted her life to domestic duties and family life. This did not apply only to her own children, but also to her birth family, to whom she was loyally devoted her entire life and kept a close connection to. Margaret often used the services of a cunning woman, the peasant-wife Brigitta Andersdotter, whom she often hired to see to the health of herself, her sister Märtha and their children, and who was much appreciated for her skill. Margaret was also a landlord in her own right, and she was closely involved in the management of her personal estates and its dependents.
The monarch trusted Queen Margaret. He gave her tasks, such as supervising the governors of royal estates and power holders such as bailiffs or landholders to prevent power abuse that could breed political unrest. In 1543, he asked her to send spies to Södermanland to investigate whether there was any truth in rumored plans for rebellion there. In the early 1540s, he instructed the governors of the royal castles to keep them for her in her name until his son became of age, if he should die while his heir was still a child. In his succession order of 1544, he stated that if he should die when he successor was still a child, Margaret should rule as regent in a guardian government with representatives of the nobility.
Margaret was almost constantly pregnant, which devastated her health. In August 1551, she and her children made an excursion by boat on Mälaren between Gripsholm and Västerås, and on their return, she took ill with pneumonia. According to the chronicle of Aegidius Girs, Margaret thanked her consort on her death bed for making her queen, regretted that she had not been worthy of it, and asked her children not to quarrel. When she died, she was deeply mourned by the king. Tradition say that an eclipse took place upon her death. She died at Tynnelsö Castle.
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