This article was written by Sophie Strid.
Margaret Leijonhufvud was Queen of Sweden from 1536 until her death in 1551. Born Margareta Eriksdotter on 1 January 1516 at Ekeberg Castle, she was the daughter of Ebba Eriksdotter Vasa and Erik Abrahamsson Leijonhufvud, who was executed in the Stockholm bloodbath when Margaret was only four years old. In 1536, she married King Gustav I and thus became Queen at the age of 20.
Little is known about her upbringing. However, as a future noblewoman, Margaret’s childhood education is likely to have consisted of reading, writing, economics, and German. Also, it was customary for a girl of the nobility to spend time in a convent. Margaret is also believed to have been the maid-of-honour to Queen Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg, which would have completed her education.
When Catherine died in 1535, Margaret was selected to be the King’s new wife. Born into one of the leading Swedish noble families, she would create a strong alliance between the King and the nobility as Queen. Although there is no evidence of how Margaret felt about marrying the King, a traditional tale tells the story of how she hid in a box when the King came to propose at her parents’ estate.
The couple married 1 October 1536 at Uppsala Cathedral, and the union meant good news for the bride’s family. Margaret’s two brothers were knighted at the time of the wedding, her brother-in-law was given a prestigious position within the parliament, female relatives were granted personal lands, and her mother began having an influential role at the court.
Margaret has been described as intelligent and beautiful. She was a loyal wife to the King throughout their marriage, which has been described as a happy one resulting in a total of 10 children. As Queen, Margaret’s main responsibility initially was the royal household which she managed skillfully and with compassion. She never meddled in politics but would perform tasks assigned to her by the King, over whom she had a calming influence. She possessed a diplomatic ability and became popular for advising the King to show mercy and gentleness, who eventually gave her political responsibilities such as sending spies for investigation and various tasks within foreign policy.
Despite the Swedish reformation which began in 1527, Margaret remained a devoted Catholic throughout her life.
Due to her being almost constantly pregnant, Margaret’s health slowly deteriorated. In August 1551, she became ill with pneumonia during a boat trip with her children. Shortly after, Margaret died at Tynnelsö Castle at the age of 35. According to legend, an eclipse took place at the time of her passing.