Anna Vasa of Sweden

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Anna of Sweden
Anna Wazówna.jpg
House House of Vasa
Father John III of Sweden
Mother Catherine Jagellon
Born 17 May 1568
Eskilstuna, Sweden
Died 26 February 1625(1625-02-26) (aged 56)
Brodnica, Poland
Burial Church of St. Mary, Toruń, Poland
Religion Protestant

Anna Vasa of Sweden (also Anne, Polish: Anna Wazówna; 17 May 1568 – 26 February 1625) was a Polish and Swedish princess. She was the sister of the monarch of Poland, Sweden and Lithuania, Sigismund III Vasa, and the starosta of Brodnica and Golub.


Early life[edit]

Anna was the youngest child of Duke John of Finland and Catherine Jagellonica, sister of Sigismund II Augustus of Poland. Her birth took place in Eskilstuna and was just after her family was released from captivity at Gripsholm, during which she had been conceived.

Her father ascended in 1569 to the throne of Sweden as John III. Like her brother Sigismund, Anna was raised a Catholic by her mother, and attended Catholic mass with her mother and brother with the consent of her father. In 1584, Anna converted to the Lutheran faith on her own initiative. According to tradition, the change in her conviction was made on the death bed of her mother in 1583: her mother, who feared Purgatory, was comforted by her Jesuit confessor, who assured her that purgatory did not exist, but was merely used to warn common and simple minded people. The queen raged and sent the Jesuit away, but this was to have made Anna feel distaste for the falseness of Catholicism. This is unconfirmed, but Anna did convert on her own initiative a year after her mothers death.

After the death of her mother, her maternal aunt queen Anna Jagiellon suggested that she be sent to Poland to be raised there, but was turned down by John III. She had her own court, supervised by her mothers former Mistress of the Robes, Karin Gyllenstierna. Several marriages were suggested. In 1577, there had been discussions to arrange the marriage between Anna and an Austrian archduke, either Matthias or Maximilian, but this became impossible after her conversion in 1584: when her Catholic aunt Princess Cecilia of Sweden suggested that she arrange a Catholic royal match for her in 1585, John III replied that Anna had converted to Lutheranism the year before.

In 1587, her brother Sigismund was elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania as Sigismund III. Her aunt Anna Jagiellon repeated her offer to have Anna with her in Poland, and this time, John III gave his consent for the sake of Sigismund: "So that the time now in the beginning would not be to long for your dear lord brother". Anna and Sigismund had a close relationship with each other. Anna left with Sigismund for Poland 12 September 1587 and was present at his coronation. During her stay at the Polish court, she attracted negative attention by celebrating Lutheran masses with her court.

In 1589, Anna accompanied Sigismund to their father in Swedish Estonia. She was present during the stormy councillor's meeting in Reval and was asked by Erik Sparre to intercede as mediator between her father and those Councillors he prosecuted, which she did. She followed her father back to Sweden, were she spent the following years.

In 1592, Anna returned to Poland to attend the wedding between her brother and Anna of Austria. She was disliked at the Polish court because of her religion and the influence she had over Sigismund, and was suspected for having supported her fathers plans to arrange a protestant marriage for Sigismund with Christina of Holstein-Gottorp. The Arch Bishop was so provoked by her Lutheran services that her threatened both Anna and Sigismund with excommunication. Her sister-in-law Anna of Austria, however, prevented any persecution of her. In July 1593, she carried her new niece Anna Maria at her baptismal. Cardinal Batori proposed a marriage for her with the Prince of Siebenbürgen.

Anna engaged herself to marry her father's first cousin, Count Gustav Brahe who was a general in Poland. She fell in love with him as a child - he was raised at the royal court. The couple later met at the house of Brahes sister, Ebba Sparre, meetings which was considered scandalous: it was said, that Brahe had plans to take the throne through a marriage with Anna. In 1589, Brahe came to Poland, and her brother Sigismund was not averse to the idea. Although it was not the most desirable marriage proposed to her, she declined all other suitors. However, time passed and nothing came of her intended marriage. A definite explanation of this has not been found in historical sources.

During her brother's Swedish reign[edit]

In 1592, her brother Sigismund succeeded also to the throne of Sweden at the death of their father. In September 1593, Anna returned to Sweden in the company of her brother King Sigismund and her sister-in-law Queen Anna. She was regarded with distrust by the Papal envoy Germanico Malaspina. During the scandalous riot between Catholics and Protestants during the burial service of her Polish musician Sowka in Riddarholmskyrkan in November 1593, her own priest Olaus Simonis participated on the protestant side. Anna herself visited Duke Charles in Uppsala in February 1594, and attended the anti-Catholic sermon of Ericus Schepperus. Sigismund had plans to make Anna his regent in Sweden during his stay in Poland. This plans, however, were opposed by their uncle Charles, Duke of Södermanland, who managed to have the Swedish council to appoint himself.

In 1594, Sigismund returned to Poland, while Anna remained in Sweden. Malaspina had convinced him to leave her behind because of her involvement in the religious riot in Riddarholmskyrkan and reminded him about the Arch Bishop's threat of excommunication. Anna was given an allowance with Stegeborg Castle as residence of her own court with the fiefs of Hammarkind, Björkekind, Östkind and Lösing härad. At Stegeborg, she cultivated her interests for herbal medicine. In 1595, Anna arranged for the love marriage between her maid of honour Sigrid Brahe and Johan Gyllenstierna against the consent of the couple's families. This became considered a great scandal, as Brahe was engaged to another by her family, and issued a feud which discredited her and placed her in conflict with Duke Charles, who refused to mediate: she finally managed to create a settlement between the families at the Söderköping Riksdag of 1595.

The Sparre Affair was to be the final break between Anna and Duke Charles. Count Erik Larsson Sparre was a staunch supporter of Sigismund, and Anna kept a coffin for him and Stegeborg, which Duke Charles confiscated. He further more had her correspondence with Sparre and countess Ebba Sparre opened. Since 1592, Sigismund negotiated about a marriage between Anna and Margrave John George of Brandenburg. The plans were almost finalized in 1596, but the political tension between Sweden and Poland, Sigismund and Duke Charles complicated them. In February 1598, Sigismund demanded that Charles allow for Anna to return to Poland. The official reason was that her wedding to Brandenburg was finally set to Easter that year. Charles attempted to prevent her departure by demanding an inventory of her Swedish property and the promise that it would be confiscated by the state should she die unmarried. Anna protested, advised Charles to cooperate with Sigismund and offered herself as a mediator. At the return of Sigismund to Sweden, Anna immediately joined him in the civil war that erupted between Sigismund and Charles. She was given the task to mediate, but because of Charles' lack of confidence in her, she was not able to achieve much. Duke Charles called Anna a poisoner and used that in denigration of Sigismund. After Sigismund's defeat at the Battle of Stångebro in 1598, she left Sweden to live with him in Poland.

Later life[edit]

After 1598, Anna spent the rest of her life in Poland, though she always referred to herself as a Princess of Sweden. Known as Anna of Svecia (Anna of Sweden), she was Protestant member of a Catholic royal family, and acted as a protector of the exiled protestant Swedish loyalists of Sigismund. Princess Anna maintained her good relationship and her influence upon Sigismund, and she functioned as his political adviser i the affairs of state, something which made her a controversial figure in Poland. She became a protector not only of the exiled Swedish protestants in Poland but also of Polish protestants, though it is no longer considered correct that she spoke for their behalf at the parliament of 1613.

During the captivity of Carl Gyllenhielm in Poland in 1610-1613, she gave him much attention. She was given the task to interrogate Gyllenhielm by Sigismund, who listened hidden by a curtain. Before Gyllenhielm, she accused Charles IX of having conspired to create a conflict between Sigismund and John III, something Gyllenhielm denied.

Anna remained unmarried. In 1602, duke Charles de Gonzaga-Nevers suggested a marriage to a French prince, which was never realized. The negotiations with Brandenburg was finally discontinued in 1609. The rumors that she had a love relationship with the exiled Swedish count Gustav Brahe, a supporter of Sigismund, have never been confirmed, but it was used by Charles IX, who feared her political influence and in a letter to Sigismund from 1607 referred to her as: "Your poisonous sister, the creator of all evil and born to the destruction of all lands and the Kingdom". Charles IX once feared that she would marry Czar Dmitrij of Russia, which was however a false rumor.

Sigismund made Anna starosta of Brodnica in 1605 and Golub in 1611. Both her fiefs were situated in Protestant East Prussia, which was then a Polish fief. She divided her time between her fief and the court of her brother. Anna's appanage was Strasburg (now Brodnica), a Royal Prussian district in Poland near the Baltic, where she lived in Golub and Strasburg. She became very respected because of her great learning. She was interested in literature, music, gardening and medicine. She was a specialist in medicinal herbs and kept her own apothecary. By the help of an Italian assistant, she made her own experiments in herbal medical knowledge. She financed the herbarium of Simon Syrenius.

Anna was buried at the Church of St. Mary in Toruń, Poland several years after her death, as a Pope had first forbidden the burial of a Protestant in a blessed graveyard in Catholic Poland. Only her nephew, king Władysław IV Vasa, got that decree reversed. He built a beautiful black Dębnik marble tomb monument with a white alabaster figure of his beloved aunt.