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Ex-Queen Catherine of Sweden in a bust at her grave in Turku Cathedral
Queen Catherine as drawn by Ex-King Eric XIV in prison

Karin Månsdotter (In English Catherine, "Carin", "Karen", in Finnish:Kaarina Maununtytär), (November 6, 1550–September 13, 1612) was Queen of Sweden and wife of Eric XIV of Sweden.

Karin was the daughter of the Måns, first soldier and later jailkeeper (her last name was simply a patronymicon meaning "daughter of Måns") and his wife Ingrid, said to have sold vegetables on the square, whose family was peasants in Uppland. Both her parents are believed to have died in c. 1560. She was at one point employed as a waitress at the tavern of Gert Cantor before she was employed at court. She was working as a maid to the King's sister, Princess Elizabeth, when she became mistress to the king in 1565.


Royal mistress

The position seems to have been quite official, as she was given nice clothes and appeared with him openly at court, and was given her own apartment and servants. Thus, she could be regarded as the first official royal mistress in Sweden, although only Hedvig Taube otherwise is considered an official royal mistress in Sweden. When her daughter Sigrid was born in 1566, she was treated as though she was a legitimate princess. Before this, the king had a whole harem of mistresses, such as Agda Persdotter and Doredi Valentinsdotter, but when Karin entered his life, he dismissed them all. She also received education and learned to read and write. His treatment of her caused much astonishment. The ideas of the time suggested witchcraft and love potions to explain the deep attachment [1]

Tradition say Karin had a fiance before she met Eric: a soldier named Maxiimilian. After she had become royal mistress, he managed to get in to the palace, were he was discovered by Carl the manservant and taken to the king, who had him killed. It is not known how true this story is [1]

Karin Månsdotter's portrait was done only in her husband's scribbled drawings in captivity and in a latter-day bust at her grave[2] (a portrait long believed to be of her has been discovered to be of her sister-in-law). She was described as a very beautiful girl with long blond hair and innocent eyes, and her personality seems to have been calm, humble and natural. The king was mentally unstable, and she seems to have been the only one who could comfort him and calm him down, which made her appreciated by his relatives, who considered her good for him. She had no personal enemies at court, but she was not respected, and their marriage in 1568 was considered a scandal and may have contributed to his dethronement.

Karin Månsdotter, Eric XIV and Jöran Persson, in Georg von Rosen's painting of 1871

It is unknown whether Karin Månsdotter had any political influence, but a popular image in Swedish history was of her serving as a counterweight to the king's advisor Jöran Persson; a painting by Georg von Rosen three hundred years later (1871) illustrates this, showing the king on the floor, confused by his inner demons, with Karin Månsdotter at one side holding his hand, looking like an innocent angel giving him strength to resist the demands of Jöran Persson, standing on the other side of him, trying to get him to sign a document.

Her contemporaries early used her to give Eric appeals on their behalf, especially the nobles at court did this, and it seems as she did her best to do so, which is illustrated in the Sture Murders in Uppsala 1567, which could perhaps describe the form of her influence on Eric. In May 1567, Eric is considered to have suffered from some sort of mental collapse. He had gathered several men from the noble family Sture, among them count Svante sture, and imprisoned them. Countess Märta Sture, sister of the former queen Margaret Leijonhufvud, sent an appeal to Karin Månsdotter and asked that the prisoners be protected. Karin sent for her and assured her that no none will hurt the prisoners. Later the same morning, the king visited Svante Sture in prison, fell on his knees before him and begged for his friendship. Later the same day, however, the Sture prisoners was executed all the same.


This detail comes from an 1870s glass painting by Wladimir Swertschkoff in the Cathedral of Turku pictures Karin Månsdotter "rejecting the crown". At her side are the two children Sigrid Eriksdotter Vasa and Gustav Eriksson Vasa.

Eric XIV married Karin morganatically in 1567, and officially in 1568, when she was ennobled and crowned queen under the name Katarina Magnusdotter (a fancified version of her name). The coronation was celebrated with great festivities in Stockholm to confirm the new queen's legitimacy. The wedding was unique; never before had the children of the couple been present at a royal wedding; both the infant son and daughter of Eric and Karin were present to confirm their official status. Karin's relatives were dressed in clothes made for them by the royal tailor. During the coronation, the Lord Chancellor, who was carrying the crown, fainted and dropped the crown to the floor. Immediately afterward, Eric's brothers rebelled and he and his family were imprisoned.

It is said, that during the dethronement, Karin fell on her knees before Queen Dowager Katarina Stenbock, crying out; "Forgive him!", as a reminder of the insanity of the King, of which the wedding was considered a sign, and one of the reasons for the coup, and then to the king's brother, the future King John III of Sweden, crying out the same thing; "Forgive him!", but she was completely ignored. This touching scene, portrayed in an old film about her, was most likely a myth - among other things, the Queen Dowager had left the castle at that time - but it illustrates the probably truthful image of her and her personality.

Queen Karin and her children were separated from her husband in 1573 to prevent the birth of any more legitimate offspring. King Eric described it in his diary as: " My wife has been taken from me by use of violence." Karin and her children were taken to the Castle of Turku (Åbo) in Finland where she remained under house arrest until the death of her husband four years later. In 1575, her son was taken from her and sent to Poland to be placed under the care of the Jesuits, but she was allowed to keep her daughter. In 1577, she received the news of her husband's death, but she was treated with kindness and given a manor in Kangasala, Finland, where she lived the rest of her life.


Catherine's monumental grave in Turku Cathedral

She returned to the Swedish court on two occasions; in 1577, newly widowed, she travelled to Stockholm to ask for economic support (which she was given) and in 1582, she met Queen Catherine Jagiellon and Queen Dowager Katarina Stenbock in what was called the "Three Queens Visit".

In 1587, her daughter Sigrid was appointed lady-in-waiting to the new king's daughter, Princess Anna of Finland, who followed her brother King Sigismund to Warsaw where he had been elected king. Karin accompanied her on her journey. In Warsaw, she met her son Gustaf again, twelve years after he was taken from her. He was now a Catholic, he had forgotten her and they could not speak to each other because he had forgotten the Swedish language, and Karin knew no other language; she could identify him only by the help of his birthmarks. She saw him once again in Estonia in 1595, and unlike the previous meeting, this has been confirmed. He was poor and was working as a mercenary. She tried to help him financially, and for the rest of her life, she tried to get permission for him to return to Sweden, but she never saw him again. Her daughter Sigrid, on the other hand, married two Swedish noblemen and often spent time with her mother.

Karin became respected and liked in Finland; during the great rebellion Cudgel War in 1596-1597, the rebels refrained from plundering her estate. She is buried in the Cathedral of Turku.

Although three of the queens in Sweden during the same century were not of royal blood, (but noble), Karin Månsdotter was the only Swedish queen before modern times to be a commoner - unless you wish to count Desiree Clary, who was born a commoner but ennobled many years before she became royal - and her fate has been regarded as quite unique and romantic.


Karin Månsdotter had the following children with the king;

  • Princess Sigrid of Sweden (1566–1633) (born before the marriage), lady-in-waiting, wife of two noblemen.
  • Prince Gustav of Sweden (1568–1607) (born before the marriage), mercenary.
  • Prince Henrik of Sweden (1570–1574)
  • Prince Arnold of Sweden (1572–1573)

Karin Månsdotter in fiction

Karin Månsdotter has been portrayed in films and books. The film Karin Månsdotter (film) [1] by Alf Sjöberg was made in (1954).


  1. ^ a b Herman Lindqvist, "Historien om Sverige. Gustav Vasa och hans söner och döttrar" (The History of Sweden. Gustav Vasa and his sons and daughters). (1997)
  2. ^ Sveriges drottningar by Herman Lindqvist, Norstedts (Stockholm) 2006 p 183 & 185
  • Herman Lindqvist, "Historien om Sverige. Gustav Vasa och hans söner och döttrar" (The History of Sweden. Gustav Vasa and his sons and daughters). (1997)
  • Herman Lindqvist (2006). Historien om alla Sveriges drottningar (in Swedish). Norstedts Förlag. ISBN 9113015249.
  • Lars-Olof Larsson: Arvet efter Gustav Vasa (The legacy of Gustav Vasa) (2005)


Karin Månsdotter
Born: November 6 1550 Died: September 13 1612
Swedish royalty
Preceded by
Katarina Stenbock
Queen consort of Sweden
Succeeded by
Catherine Jagellon

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