Catherine Charlotte De la Gardie

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Arenius - Catharina Charlotta Taube

Countess Catherine Charlotte De la Gardie (née Catharina Charlotta Taube; 5 April 1723 – 24 March 1763), also known as Catherine Charlotte de La Gardie, was a Swedish countess and courtier. She is famed for her support of the smallpox vaccination in Sweden, and for stopping the last witch trial in her country.

Life[edit]

Born to Count Edvard Didrik Taube of Odenkat and Kristina Maria Falkenberg, Catherine was the younger sister of the royal favourite Hedvig Taube. She served as hovfröken to Crown Princess Lovisa Ulrika in 1744-48, and married Count Pontus Fredrik De la Gardie, brother of scientist Eva Ekeblad, in 1748. After the wedding, she settled at Sjöö Castle.

Catherine Charlotte De la Gardie has been described as talented, brave, beautiful and clear sighted, without prejudices and with an open mind.[1] She received but a shallow education meant to make her attractive on the marriage market, but she educated herself in various subjects as an autodidact, and became a supporter of the age of enlightenment.[2]

She was a life friend of Olof von Dahlin and Carl von Linné, who expressed his admiration of her.[3]

Pioneer of Smallpox vaccination[edit]

One of the two act for which she is most famed, is as a pioneer of smallpox vaccination. Her efforts to encourage the use of vaccination has sometimes been referred to as the breakthrough for smallpox vaccination among the public, and though this may be an exaggeration, she is known as an avid supporter of the then very controversial method.[4]

Smallpox vaccination was officially introduced to Sweden in 1756, initially meeting with a great deal of resistance. De la Gardie is regarded as one of the pioneers of smallpox vaccination, as she actively sought to encourage the public to implement it.[5] The resistance among the peasantry was great, but she managed to convince some parents of the peasantry to vaccinate their children, which allegedly caused a breakthrough in the willingness to use smallpox vaccination among the peasantry.[6] The children in question has, whether correctly or not, been referred to as the first Swedish children to be vaccinated.[7]

Prevented a witch trial[edit]

The second act for which she is remembered was her successful efforts to stop the last witch trial in Sweden. In 1757, a witch hysteria broke out in the parish of Ål in Dalarna, where thirteen women and five men were accused of abducting children and bringing them to a witches' sabbath. The governor Pehr Ekman ordered their arrest, interrogation and torture.

De la Gardie became aware of the trial during a trip to Dalarna in 1758. By the help of her connections, she informed the authorities in the capital and thus managed to have the trial stopped. The matter had been treated by the local authorities and church, and when it became known in the country, it was treated as a scandal. While witchcraft trials was formally still legal in Sweden, the law was in practice considered defunct and witch trials a phenomena of the past. The parliament issued an investigation, the accused were all freed, and Governor Ekman, who had accepted charges of witchcraft and had allowed torture, was sentenced to jail and stripped of his position.

De la Gardie helped the victims of the witch hunt with legal assistance and made sure they were granted compensation from the state, as the torture had made them incapable of work.

For this act, she was nationally hailed as a heroine and was in 1761 awarded a medal by Riddarhuset with the inscription: Catharina Charlotta Taube, comitissa De la Gardie, Fulcrum infelicibus, Ob XII ab injuria servatos cives Ordo R. Equ. 1761.[8]

Love triangle[edit]

Catherine Charlotte De la Gardie was a friend of the poet Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht, whose most famous poem, Öfver en Hyacint, is a love poem which describes Nordenflycht's love for the young Johan Fischerström. The last poem of Nordenflycht depicts the love triangle between Nordenflycht, Fischerström and Catherine Charlotte De la Gardie, which took place during the winter of 1762/3, when Fischerström was employed as an inspector at the estate of De la Gardie, Sjöö Castle, while Nordenflycht rented a cottage nearby.[9]

De la Gardie died after having contracted a fatal disease while nursing the sick.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cathérine Charlotte De la Gardie (f. Taube), urn:sbl:17374, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av B. Boéthius); hämtad 29 October 2013. (in Swedish)
  2. ^ Cathérine Charlotte De la Gardie (f. Taube), urn:sbl:17374, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av B. Boéthius); hämtad 29 October 2013. (in Swedish)
  3. ^ Cathérine Charlotte De la Gardie (f. Taube), urn:sbl:17374, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av B. Boéthius); hämtad 29 October 2013. (in Swedish)
  4. ^ Cathérine Charlotte De la Gardie (f. Taube), urn:sbl:17374, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av B. Boéthius); hämtad 29 October 2013. (in Swedish)
  5. ^ Cathérine Charlotte De la Gardie (f. Taube), urn:sbl:17374, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av B. Boéthius); hämtad 29 October 2013. (in Swedish)
  6. ^ Svenskt biografiskt handlexikon (in Swedish)
  7. ^ Wilhelmina Stålberg, Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor (Notes of Swedish women) (in Swedish)
  8. ^ Wilhelmina Stålberg, Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor (Notes of Swedish women) (in Swedish)
  9. ^ Österberg, Carin et al., Svenska kvinnor: föregångare nyskapare (Swedish women: Predecessors, pioneers). Lund: Signum 1990. (ISBN 91-87896-03-6) (in Swedish)