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The wedding without a priest – Hedevig Gyllenståhl (Ch. 4.2)

Being the daughter of a rich nobleman, it came as no surprise when Hedevig Gyllenståhl was courted by two men simultaneously. However, Hedevig was decided on one and her parents on the other…

From beyond the seas – A history of the Alfort family

 Chapter 4, section 2 

The wedding without a priest – Hedevig Gyllenståhl

Hedevig Gyllenståhl's signature on the inventory of Gabriel's estate 1710.

Hedevig Gyllenståhl, högt bedröfwat Encka, i.e. deeply grieved widow, 1710.

Hedevig Gyllenståhl is described as a proud and wilful, but at the same time warm-hearted and righteous woman who was always generous towards the needy. In many ways, the impression is of a modern woman; she definitely would not allow her father to be the judge of whom to marry, and she did not give in to rude threats from a male suitor either.

She had not turned 18 when two determined young suitors started to vie for her hand and inheritance. One was lieutenant colonel (överstelöjtnant) Gustaf Adolf Macklier (16/8 1675 – 15/3 1706), and the other was captain Bengt Rudebeck (30/12 1670 – 12/2 1724), whose grandfather was the famous bishop Johannes Rudbeckius. Macklier had the most impressive ancestry, but Rudebeck, who was four years his senior, had brilliant references from the army, something which would naturally have impressed the self-made war veteran Gabriel Gyllenståhl much more.

It all started at a Christmas ball in 1698, probably at Linnekulla. Both young men had come to win her hand, but they decided on opposite tactics. Macklier chose to approach Hedevig personally in an attempt to win her heart. He trusted that her parents would then be moved by their hopefully mutual love afterwards and consent to a marriage. Rudebeck, on the other hand, decided to waste no time and went directly to her father to ask for her hand. Thanks to surviving letters, we can reconstruct the sequence of events fairly accurately.

On a certain Friday while they were staying in the area, Macklier brought cornet Jean Bergman with him to Linnekulla as a witness at his planned proposal. Rudebeck was already there, and it was clear that he had come with the same objective. In fact, Macklier was very much in fear of being too late. The two rivals both stayed till Sunday, when they all went to church in the morning. After the service, everybody was invited to dine at the parsonage in Torpa. In the afternoon, there was dancing, but soon afterwards Macklier and his friend Jean Bergman succeeded in catching Hedevig alone.

He started cautiously by asking her whether she was engaged to Rudebeck, and was much relieved to hear that she was not, “although father and mother want it, it can never happen, for I shall never have the heart to love him”.

Fastän pappa och mamma så vilja hava, kan det dock aldrig ske, ty jag får aldrig hjärta att älska honom.

Encouraged by this answer, Macklier asked her what she thought of his own person. This step, too, got a favourable reception: “if it were up to me, I like the lieutenant better“.

Om det stode hos mig, så tycker jag mer om herr löjtnanten.

He then offered her a ring, and they made a mutual promise in the presence of their witness never to give each other up (aldrig vilja övergiva varandra). In the morning, Macklier wanted to go to her parents to ask for their consent, but she dissuaded him from the scheme, being convinced that nothing good would come of it.

In the meantime, Rudebeck had spent the time making friends with her parents, and had actually succeeded in obtaining their consent. He therefore considered the engagement with Hedevig a fact and gave her a ring, which she of course returned. He did not give up that easily, however, but rather decided to cheat her into the engagement.

A few days later, the aforementioned Jean Bergman invited the party to his home Härsås. It was a dark December evening, and Hedevig had fallen asleep in a chair. The unscrupulous Rudebeck now saw his chance to slip the ring onto her finger in her sleep. Unfortunately for him, she immediately woke up and angrily flung the ring away. At several occasions afterwards, her father tried to convince her to accept the ring and the man, but she told him “with crying tears” (med gråtande tårar), that she would rather die than do so.

Shortly afterwards, Gabriel had left for Stockholm, where he received a courteous letter in which Macklier informed him of the engagement existing between his daughter and himself and asked for her hand. Gabriel strongly resented the fact that his daughter had taken such a step without consulting him, and he decided then and there to enforce his will on her. On returning home, he angrily showed the letter to Rudebeck, who was so incensed by it that he threatened to kill his rival. This was probably more than Gabriel had bargained for, so he persuaded him to leave for Germany, where he had taken employment with the elector of Brandenburg. They agreed that she would probably give in after a while. Hedevig’s favourite Macklier also left Linnekulla for the admiralty at Karlskrona. It must have been an awful time for them all.

Before leaving, Rudebeck had completed his good work by thoroughly charming Gabriel’s wife, Hedevig’s stepmother, who does not seem to have had any particularly warm feelings for her stepdaughter. The two carried on a lively correspondence by post after his departure, and she encouraged his suit by telling him, untruthfully, that Hedevig had started to waver, something which she would never do. Rudebeck even won over the stepmother’s companion, Cajsa Alf, by writing her flattering letters in French! From his point of view, the scene was now set for his final triumph.

Hedevig was of course never going to give in, but her stepmother finally convinced her that she ought at least to answer her suitor’s letters. She knew that a letter would count as a sign of attachment and would thus furnish Rudebeck with proof that an engagement existed. In this way, it might be possible to force her to accept the proposed marriage by legal means. Hedevig was not stupid, however, so on 21st January 1699 she sat down and thought out a way to avoid this scheme of her stepmother’s. She cleverly devised an extremely courteous missive which at the same time could not possibly be taken for a love letter:

Mon Confident.

Jag tackar Hr. Capiten för hans galanta brev, som han gjorde mig den äran och skriver till mig. Så kan jag intet med mindre jag måtte besvara hans brev och tackar honom för all civilitet och hövlighet, som han har behagat visat emot mig; skall ock med tiden visa att vara min confidents vän och tjänarinna alltid igen; därmed förbliver jag min confidents tjänstevilligste tjänarinna och bästa vän.

Mon Confident.

I thank the Captain for his gallant letter, which he did me the honour of writing to me. I cannot but answer his letter and thank him for all the civility and courtesy which it has pleased him to show me; shall also with time turn out to be my confident’s friend and servant ever again; thereby I remain my confident’s most obliging servant and best friend.

Her parents involved many relatives in their attempts to win her over. Being constantly plagued by them, it is no wonder that she grew increasingly moody and irritable. She had nobody to confide in, as all of her family’s friends were on her parents’ side. After a time, she became so depressed that she was believed to be in danger of hurting herself if not looked after continuously. From then on, she was kept more or less imprisoned in her home, on top of her other worries.

She was quite desperate by now, but she had one last hope: the pastor Eric Hahl, who was her spiritual advisor and bound by sacred duty to help her in her plight. The problem was reaching him without anyone noticing. She could not go to the parsonage, so she wrote him a letter in which she urged him to speak to her father on his next visit to Linnekulla:

Efter såsom min käre far begärt, att hr. kyrkoherden skulle komma hit att förhöra mina systrar, så ber jag ock, att hr. kyrkoherden ville vara så dygdig att övertala min k. far, att han icke plågar mig längre med det som kyrkoherden lärer väl bekant vara, men (jag menar) om hr. Kapiten Rudebeck, efter jag aldrig nånsin har fått mitt sinne därtill och aldrig har haft; därför bönfaller jag hos hr. kyrkoherden, att så framt hr. kyrkoherden är min själasörjare, att han då måste hjälpa mig hos min k. far och frumor, att de måtte hava det medlidande med mig, att så framt jag är deras barn, att de icke längre måste plåga mig därmed; jag har aldrig haft någon glädjestund, sedan jag honom den första gången såg, därföre ber jag ännu tusende gånger, att hr. kyrkoherden måste hjälpa mig härifrån.

Since my dear father has requested that the pastor come hither to interview my sisters, I also ask that the pastor be so virtuous as to convince my dear father that he not plague me any longer with that which must be known to the pastor, but (I mean) about Captain Rudebeck, as I have never come to want it and never have; I therefore beseech the pastor that to the extent that the pastor is my spiritual advisor, he must help me with my dear father and mother, that they have the compassion with me, that to the extent that I am their child, they not plague me with it any longer; I have never had a moment of joy since I first saw him, therefore I once more beg a thousand times that the pastor help me hence.

Even in this most desperate of her letters, she manages to compose a text which refers to the relationship with Rudebeck as an abstract it, rather than anything approaching an engagement, thus presenting it as something external which has no part in her life but has been foisted on her by outsiders. A masterly piece of communication, in other words.

Pastor Erik Hahl's signature on the Torpa church accounts 1699. In former years, Gabriel used to sign them.

Pastor Eric Hahl’s signature on the Torpa church accounts 1699. In former years, Gabriel had signed them.

The pastor was deeply troubled by this supplication. On the one hand, he dearly wished to help the child, but at the same time, he feared the mighty major’s reaction if he were to meddle in his affairs. He might very easily lose his job, for one thing. Gabriel had after all been the one who had helped him to his living and installed him in the parish. What was he to do? He went to Linnekulla to interview her sisters on the appointed day, and he cautiously mentioned the letter that he had received. Most probably, he was taking stock of the situation by presenting the case in a neutral light before attempting to introduce his own opinion. When he returned home, however, he thought things over and decided that he must speak his mind for Hedevig’s sake, so he spent the evening composing a long letter to Gabriel in which he proved convincingly that forcing a daughter to marry against her will in this way was against both religious and secular law.

Tvungen kärlek doger intet – den som söker fägna sig av tvungen kärlek, han fägnar sig av intet, densamma gör illa så mot sig själv som mot den, där till kärlek tvungen varder. Mitt råd oförgripligen att utlåta är detta: Var och en fader och moder förfare sig väl uti dylika mål, att icke ett svårt samvete därpå följer.

Forced love is no good – who seeks to rejoice in forced love rejoices in nothing. That same person does evil to himself as well as to the person on whom love has been forced. My unassailably given council is this: That each and every father and mother act well in such cases, lest a heavy conscience be the consequence.

These weighty words, which concluded the pastor’s letter, made a deep impression on Gabriel, who was after all a righteous and religious man with strong moral principles. The pastor had consolidated his argument with examples from the Bible as well as from ecclesiastical law, and Gabriel could not argue with that. Thus convinced that he was in fact wronging his daughter, he finally gave in to her wishes and agreed to let her marry Macklier.

Gabriel’s wife was not happy about this; after all the flattering letters she had received from Rudebeck, she had a hard time accepting her husband’s sudden change of heart. She must eventually give in to his wishes, however, and nothing now remained but to communicate the altered situation to the unsuspecting suitor in Germany, whom she had convinced that Hedevig was becoming less set against him. It was a very uncomfortable situation she had brought upon herself.

Hedevig, her father and her stepmother each wrote Rudebeck a letter on the occasion. Both of her parents assured him that they had done their utmost to convince their daughter, but to no avail. They both urged him to forget his unrequited love. They both tried to buy his forbearance and resignation in their own way, unsuccessfully as it turned out. Gabriel attempted to console him by ensuring a promotion for him in a company in Sweden, while his wife endeavoured to flatter him by writing that she hoped he would:

slår det alldeles ur sina tankar, ty en cavalier, som hr. Capiten är, han får väl alla dagar en hustru och intet har behov att träta sig till hustru, det ser icke cavallers ut.

banish it completely from his thoughts, for a cavalier, such as the Captain is, will most definitely get a wife and has no need to quarrel for a wife, which does not look very chivalrous.

Flattery and insult in one sentence. In fact, Rudebeck never married. He went back to the continent and eventually settled in Vienna, where he was attached to the imperial court as a Swedish representative. He died in Sweden in 1724.

The reason for the attempt at flattery and consolation is clear. If the parents had promised him their daughter’s hand then he could claim a legal right to marry her. This was what they were hoping to avoid, but unfortunately that was exactly what Rudebeck did intend. From his point of view, the lady was his, and his rival had illegally tried to steal her from him. Being himself unable to quit his duties in Berlin at the time, he appointed his brother Paul Rudebeck as his representative in court. The first step in the plan was to effect a legal prohibition against the marriage until Rudebeck could return in person and claim his right.

Gabriel was highly troubled by the trial. He was always in legal dispute with someone, but for once it was not just about money but rather reflected on his person as a man and father. He now claimed that Rudebeck was simply after the family fortune. Regarding the letters sent to him in Germany, he said that they had merely been written in order to appease Rudebeck after he had threatened to stab and shoot his rival.

Gabriel never considered the possibility that Rudebeck might really achieve something in court, so he just went on planning his daughter’s grand wedding for 2nd August 1699. He spent the summer at Börsjö as usual, and he therefore asked the pastor at the local church in Risinge, Jonas Lithunius, to proclaim the banns. However, the Rudebecks claimed that, apart from the fact that the bride was, to their minds, engaged to another man, she did not belong in that parish at all, since her main place of residence was Linnekulla in Torpa parish. As the law demanded that the banns be proclaimed in her home parish, the wedding could not take place. Gabriel protested that both parishes were their homes, since they lived in Torpa during the summer and in Risinge during the winter. It is unclear why he did not simply let the pastor in Torpa perform the ritual, but perhaps Gabriel was still not able to look him in the eye after he had decided to meddle in his private affairs.

Pastor Lithunius did not know what to do, but he tended towards the Rudebeck brothers’ opinion that the marriage could not proceed, at least in his parish. He therefore sent his wife to Börsjö to say that he would not risk breaking ecclesiastical law. If he was counting on the effects of feminine diplomacy, however, he was sorely disappointed, because Gabriel succeeded in calming her by giving her his assurances that he would take full responsibility for any consequences. Satisfied that nothing bad could come of it, she then returned home, promising to come back with her husband the next day.

The big day arrived, and so did the groom and a multitude of noble guests. A big party was thrown by the bride’s father, complete with a sumptuous dinner. The time drew near when the wedding was to take place, but the pastor was only conspicuous by his absence. Hours went by, but he never came. The next day, the groom’s friend Jean Bergman was sent to the parsonage to enquire after the pastor, who answered that he did not dare perform the wedding ritual in light of Rudebeck’s prohibition. Bergman pointed out that this prohibition was not legally valid because Rudebeck had failed to provide bail for the forfeited wedding costs, which were substantial, but the pastor would rather keep out of it.

Hedevig was of course intensely miserable. She had fought hard for her right to marry the one she loved, and now that she had finally reached the day of her wedding, happiness was exchanged for shame. The wedding at Börsjö with no priest and no marriage became the talk of the town. There was nothing to do but to await the court decision two weeks later.

Gabriel, too, was highly indignant. Early that morning he called on his secretary and dictated a letter to the authorities in which he accused the pastor of failing in his duty and complained about the indignity, harm and cost which his disobliging behaviour had occasioned. He even got his wedding guests to sign a statement to the effect that:

Såsom nedanskrevne å förledne gårdag efter kallelse hava infunnit oss i Börsjö att bevista copulationsacten emellan välborne hr. överlöjtnanten Macklier och välborna jungfru Hedvig Gyllenståhl; alltså oppå begäran attestere vi, det hr. major Gyllenståhl då gjorde ett så skönt och kosteligt bröllop åt sin måg och dotter med allehanda tractamenter, som en någonsin förrätta kunde.

As those who have signed below have yesterday shown up by invitation at Börsjö in order to attend the copulation act [i.e. wedding ceremony] between the right hon. lieutenant Macklier and the right hon. maiden Hedvig Gyllenståhl; thus upon request we attest that major Gyllenståhl made such a wonderful and costly wedding for his son-in-law and daughter with all sorts of refreshments, as anyone could provide.

He estimates the cost of the festivities to have exceeded several thousand dalers – a priestly sum of money several times larger than the one with which his former secretary had run away to the continent.

We do not know exactly how the story of Hedevig’s two rivals ended, except that Hedevig and Gustaf Adolf Macklier did marry before the end of the year, and it is possible that the ceremony itself took place in the capital. However that may be, on 10th November 1700, their daughter Maria Catharina was born, and it was at her christening that Erik Alfort was present as described above.

Anders Wetterström's signature on Gabriel's estate inventory after his death.

Anders Wetterström’s signature 1710.

Unhappily, it was not going to be a very long marriage – Gustaf Adolf died in 1706 after only six years. By then, her father had also departed this world. She then married his former secretary, royal court commissary Anders Wetterström (11/1 1669 – 11/12 1735), who had worked for him during the trial against Rudebeck, and consequently knew all her troubles.

Their daughter Anna Brita (1/1 1716 – 5/7 1770) was later to marry her cousin, Gabriel Ahlfort. It was common at the time to marry within the family, especially in the upper class, and consequently the early generations are a tangle of relations. Thus, Maria Margareta’s grandchild Catharina Lovisa von Gertten would also eventually marry Gabriel Ahlfort’s son Gustaf Adolf Alfort.

I de tidiga generationerna gifte man sig helst med någon inom kretsen av adliga och förmögna, och det blev därför ofta inom familjen. Genom åtskilliga generationer uppbyggdes det sålunda ett invecklat rotnät.

In the early generations, marriage partners were often sought within a narrow circle of relatives and upper-class friends. Consequently, an intricate network of tangled roots was built up over the generations.

Hedevig had two children by her first husband and another six by her second, two of whom died young.

  • 1.  icon-female Maria Catharina Macklier (10/11 1700 – 26/10 1778)
    • icon-user Carl Gustaf Gripensköld  icon-play
  • 2.  icon-male Johan ”Jon” Gabriel Macklier (25/12 1701 – 28/12 1775)
    • icon-user Hedvig Rosenqvist af Åkershult  icon-play
  • 3.  icon-male Claës Georg  (1710 – 12/3 1741) Wetterström
    • icon-user Elisabet Strand  icon-play
  • 4.  icon-male Gustaf Adolf Wetterström (1711 – 14/6 1786)
    • 1.  icon-heart Ingeborg Ingellersdotter icon-play
    • 2.  icon-user Elisabet Christina Stråle af Sjöared  icon-play
  • 5.  icon-male Carl Magnus (1713 – 1717) icon-times
  • 4.  icon-female Anna Brita Wetterström (1/1 1716 – 5/7 1770)
  • 6.  icon-female Hedvig Sofia Wetterström (1716 – 15/3 1782)
    • icon-user Göran Rimmius
  • 7.  icon-male Claës Magnus (1717 – 1722)  icon-times

As adults, almost all of them either were or married officers.

Anders Wetterström died in 1735, and less than two years later his wife Hedevig followed him to the grave. It is possible that she did not die a natural death, since the beautiful and heart-warming note that the priest made in the church registry at her burial states that she was buried “in silence”, an expression which would usually signify that she had had a hand in her own death. Some of the text is difficult to read:

7 Octobris begrofs i tysthet framledne Commissariens Sal. Hr And: Wetterströms efterlemnade fromma Enkja-Fru på Somvijk; hwilkens dödliga frånfälle ej utan salta heta tårar af mångom mycket afsaknas och beklagas för hennes ömma och warma hiertelag och hielpsamhet in til sin död emot the nödlidande. Thenna Sal. fruns Namn i denna usla jämmerdahlen war Ädel och Wällborne fru Hedevig Margaretha Gyllenståhl.

On 7th October was buried in silence the deceased Commissary Mr And. Wetterström’s surviving pious widow at Somvik; whose deadly decease not without salty and hot tears from many is much missed and lamented for her tender and warm heart and helpfulness until her death towards the needy. This dec. mistress’ name in this miserable vale of tears was Noble and Right Honourable Mrs Hedevig Margaretha Gyllenståhl.

Hedevig's death 1737. Malexander parish.

Hedevig’s death 1737. Malexander parish.

 icon-arrow-right The next section ”An unhappy marriage” tells the touching story about Maria Gyllenståhl’s rough husband captain Erik Alfort.


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