Elvira Madigan

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For the 1967 Swedish film, see Elvira Madigan (film).
Elvira Madigan
Sixten Sparre

Elvira Madigan (4 December 1867 – 20 July 1889) was a Danish tightrope walker and trick rider, whose illicit affair and dramatic death at the hands of her lover were the subject of the Swedish film of 1967.

Early life[edit]

She was born Hedvig Antoinette Isabella Eleonore Jensen in Flensburg in northern Germany. Her mother was a Norwegian circus performer and her father a Danish stablemaster. Her mother later lived with the American circus manager John Madigan.


While performing in Sweden with her stepfather's circus, she met a Swedish cavalry officer, Lieutenant Count Bengt Edvard Sixten Sparre (27 September 1854 – 19 July 1889). Sparre and Madigan fell in love, but their love was impossible, partly due to the fact that Sparre was married and the father of two children. After exchanging love letters for a year, they ran away together to Denmark in June 1889, where they spent about a month. When they ran out of money, they packed a picnic basket, went out to the Nørreskov ("North forest") on the island Tåsinge, Denmark, and had a last meal, after which Sparre shot Madigan and himself with his service revolver (the place is marked by a white stone at 55°00′18″N 10°38′02″E / 55.00506°N 10.63377°E / 55.00506; 10.63377). Madigan was 21 years old and Sparre 35 years old.

Madigan's and Sparre's grave is situated on the cemetery of Landet on Tåsinge and is still today visited by tourists and lovers from all over the world. Their tragic love story has some resemblance to the Austrian Mayerling drama, in which Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover took their lives in January 1889.

Film adaptations[edit]

The story of Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre has been the subject of three films. The 1967 Swedish film, directed by Bo Widerberg, is the best known. It features a dramatic scene involving Madigan's death after a picnic. The soundtrack features the Andante from Piano Concerto No. 21 in C (K 467) by Mozart, which is sometimes informally referred to as the "Elvira Madigan" Concerto. There was a Danish film made the same year, and an earlier Swedish film in 1943.

Musical influence[edit]

  • The Swedish pop band Komeda recorded an original song "Elvira Madigan" on their third English album Kokomemedada.
  • The English folk band Mr. Fox recorded their song "Elvira Madigan" on their second album, The Gipsy.
  • The Chicago chamber pop duo The Heavy Boxes recorded their own song "Elvira Madigan (Walkin' a Tightrope)" on their second EP, "History Is Made At Night".
  • Elvira Madigan is also the name of a Swedish symphonic black metal band.
  • The Danish folkmusic band Dræsinebanden has made a song (in Danish) about Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre called Elvira og Sixten

External links[edit]