Captain Erik Alfort was a naval captain through and through. He did not take well to being stranded on land and having to navigate in social life, and in his frustration he did not treat his wife at all well.
An unhappy marriage – Maria Gyllenståhl
The second daughter Maria Gyllenståhl had a very different personality. According to contemporary sources, she was rather “stupid but innocent and timid” (enfaldig men oskyldig och blödig) – the exact opposite of her older sister. Even so, her troubles would occasion her father even more worries.
Her marriage to captain Erik Alfort was far from happy. We do not really know whether she chose her own husband or let her father decide for her, given her allegedly compliant character. It is after all worth remembering that she was 23 years his junior! She would have known, of course, that marrying a military man meant not seeing him for months at a time and never really knowing what he was up to. Erik would have returned to the navy after the wedding in 1701, and he probably spent most of his time in the Baltic Sea. In that environment, he acquired some particularly rough manners, and when he was back on land for a brief visit to Liljeholmen, he had difficulties behaving civilly. He drank too much, and he could be violent towards his wife, hitting her and pulling her hair. It would not have been a pretty sight. Maria, or Maja as she was called in informal settings, was really afraid of him and regularly had to flee to her sister’s place Somvik.
Several attempts at a reconciliation between husband and wife were made by their family and friends, but to no avail. Finally, in 1705, they agreed to settle their differences and both promised to mend their ways. Their relationship did not improve, however, and in the end their disagreements found their way into the cathedral chapter instead. Family and friends were now entirely on the side of Maria, but on the other hand they were presumably all her family, and most of them her friends, given that he spent most of his time away from home. One of them was a certain Mrs Anna Printzensköld, who wrote to the bishop for help:
bedrövade frun, som är mycket enfaldig av sig, att hennes anhöriga mycket frukta, där hon så illa hanteras av sin man, att hon kan komma alldeles från sitt förstånd, som hon är redan mycket förskräckt och ängslig, som jag med mina ögon sett!!
the grieved lady, who is very simple, that her relatives very much fear, as she is so ill treated by her husband, that she may completely lose her mind, as she is already very frightened and anxious, which I have seen with my eyes!!
At the first interview in the cathedral chapter on 9th January 1707, only the husband was present, as Maria was busy dealing with the distribution of her deceased father’s estate among his heirs. He presented a picture of his wife as a hysterical woman who had run away from him seven times (in as many years) and had hit him and scratched his face. He also blamed her sisters for inciting this behaviour.
Two weeks later, they were both present. Maria demanded a temporary separation from her husband, as 1) she never felt safe from him, 2) he threatened to beat her when she had to leave her home, 3) the farmers were treated so ill that four farms were uninhabited, 4) he had accused her of being unfaithful, and 5) she was treated as a servant girl in her own home. She also had other accusations which were never made public, due to their being of such a nature as would inhibit a conciliation. One can only speculate what they would have been about, but they would probably not have made him look good.
Erik in his turn accused his wife of verbal assault, apart from repeating the other accusations. As no agreement could be achieved, it was decided that the case must go to the secular court. However, a few days later the captain handed in a conciliatory document which had been signed by both, and there are signs that matters would slowly improve over the following years. That same year, Erik left the navy and settled permanently on Liljeholmen, which must have demanded a considerable amount of his attention if he wanted to retain any of the farmers. It is possible that he became more adjusted to family life when he got used to not being at war and perhaps got to know his wife and children a little better. They only had two children, a daughter of five, Maria Catharina, and a son of four, Gabriel. Surprisingly, six years later they had another son, whom they called Carl Henric.
- 1. Maria Catharina “Maja Caisa” Ericsdotter Alfort/Ahlfort/Allfort (7/8 1702 – 31/10 1781)
- Jonas Ekstrand Smålandssläkten
- 2. Gabriel Ahlfort (27/10 1703 – 10/1 1780)
- Anna Brita Wetterström Östgötasläkten
- 3. Carl Henric Ahlfort (28/10 1713 – 7/5 1740)
- Sara Larsdotter
Being so much younger than her husband, Maria still had much of her life to live when Erik died – in fact, they both lived to the age of 70. In this state, she started to regret the loss of her daughter, and the hard manner in which they had both treated their children. To make up for it, she made sure that her grandson Gustaf Ståhlgren was well provided for despite his being an illegitimate son.
When she died at Liljeholmen on 22nd November 1753, the priest made a note in the registry, which hints at a more Gyllenståhl-like approach to life in her later years:
mycktet tålig sacktmodig som nog lidit, der hos förnögd
very tough (and) meek, although suffering nonetheless content
Maybe she wasn’t so frail after all – she just had a more introvert personality, but she could ride out the rough captain’s storm in the long run. There is also evidence that she had inherited other of her father’s characteristics. She was in legal dispute with her neighbours much of the time, right until her death, so that when her estate was distributed, her son Gabriel had to pay the expenses for a dispute with captain Atterbom, a relative of the poet Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom, who many years later would fall in love with his granddaughter Lovisa Alfort.
The estate that went to her heirs consisted of Liljeholmen, Håraholmen incl. Häggarp, Järkarehultet, Tokudden, Berget, Sågstugan and Fiskarp in Östergötland County, Kopparhult and Blåvik in Vadstena County, Börgöl in Finspånga County and Gunnarstorp in Jönköping County.
icon-arrow-right The next section “The unsuitable suitor” tells the story of Märta Gyllenståhl’s secret betrothal and a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.