Sophie Piper

Sophie Piper

Portrait of Sophie Piper, by Carl Fredrik von Breda
Born Eva Sophie von Fersen
30 March 1757
Died 2 February 1816
Löfstad Slott
Nationality Sweden
Occupation lady in waiting
Known for Confidant of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte, confidant of Axel von Fersen the Younger, suspected of involvement in the death of Karl August.

Eva Sophie Piper (30 March 1757 - 2 February 1816, Löfstad Slott), née Sophie von Fersen, was a Swedish noble and lady in waiting. She was the daughter of Axel von Fersen the Elder and Hedvig Catharina De la Gardie and the sister of Axel von Fersen the Younger and Hedvig Eleonora von Fersen. She is foremost known for her close friendship with Queen Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte, who dedicated her famous diary to her.

Life

Sophie von Fersen accompanied her mother in the Swedish entourage selected to great Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte upon her arrival in Sweden in 1774, were the two of them became very close and intimate friends.

Known as one of the beauties of the court of Gustav III of Sweden, Sophie was proposed to by duke Frederik Adolf, the king's youngest brother and third in line to the throne, in 1774. The Prince had earlier (1770) proposed to her cousin, Ulrika von Fersen, but had been declined. Her father forbade the marriage, since he had no wish to bind his family to the royal family. Both Sophie and her father feared that she would have been humiliated by the King and the Queen Dowager, who both disliked the match[1] An attempt to elope was prevented by Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte. In 1777 she married chamberlain Adolf Ludwig Piper (1750–1795).

According to the historian and gossip-specialist Crusenstolpe, Sophie disliked also Frederik Adolf, whose mental faculties were restricted. This is, however, contradicted by contemporary descriptions made by her father and Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte. After Prince Frederick Adolf had proposed to Sophie, she informed the Princess, who welcomed her as a sister-in-law because of their friendship but advised her to inform her father. When Frederick Adolf presented his proposal to her father in January 1774, her father declined with the motivation that it was not a suitable match and that although honored, he must decline for the sake of loyalty to the royal house. [2] Sophie was by that time already promised to Count Piper, because he was rich and the families were friends. Frederick Adolf was not met with open opposition by his family, but his mother the Queen dowager and brother the King was in fact opposed to it. Fredrick Adolf was sent away, and the King and the Queen dowager proposed that Sophie be lady in waiting. Her father stated in his papers that the reason for this suggestion was to "abuse the youth and lack of experience of my daughter and, if they could, make her the official mistress of the Duke", and he therefore declined.[3] When Frederick Adolf continued to be in love with Sophie von Fersen after two years had passed, his brother Charles and him proposed to Sophie von Fersen that they would abduct her from a ball of Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte to Prince Fredericks residence Tullgarn Palace, were a priest would be waiting to perform the ceremony before it could be prevented.[4] Sophie declined the offer after having consulted Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte, mostly, as it seem, out of pride. She told Frederick Adolf her decision at a masquerade ball in the presence Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte. When Frederick Adolf tried to convince her to change her mind, she was almost ready to do so, but asked Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte to take her to another room, so that her feelings would not persuade her to accept. [5] After this, she accepted that her official engagement with Count Piper be proclaimed. After her marriage, Frederick Adolf left for Italy.

From about 1790, she was involved in a long term relationship with Baron Evert Wilhelm Taube af Odenkat, cousin of Hedvig Taube. This affair took place in parallel with the affair of her friend Princess Hedvig Elizabeth Charlottes and her younger brother Fabian von Fersen, and the two women gave each other messanges in their letters referring to "F." and "T."[6]

In 1786 Sophie became hovmästarinna to the royal duchess and later Queen Hedwig von Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, known in Sweden as Hedvig Elisabet Charlotta. She was the duchess's closest friend, and the historically-interesting diary of the duchess, which were written in form of a correspondence between them, survives. The duchess called Sophie the only true friend she had ever owned, and in 1816, she wrote a biography of Sophie Piper.

Sophie was also the closest confidante of her brother Axel, known as a favourite and possible lover of Marie Antoinette - for reasons of caution the letters between Axel and Sophie make numerous references to that relationship, but out of caution Marie is never referred to by name but always as "She" or "Josephine" ; the Swedish historian Alma Söderhjelm has demonstrated that these are aliases for Marie Antoinette.

After she was widowed in 1795, she followed her lover Evert Willhelm Taube to Germany in 1798: after his death in Karlsbad in 1799, she returned to Sweden, where she took the responsibility of her brother Axel's household in 1801.

After the deposition of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden in 1809, the Fersen siblings were known supporters of the Gustavian party, who wished for the son of the deposed monarch to be acknowledged as heir to the throne. Instead, Carl August, prince of Augustenburg, was chosen Like her brother Axel, Sophie fell under false and unfounded suspicion of involvement in crown prince Karl August's death in 1810. Both Sophie and Axel were rumored to have poisoned August. Axel was killed in the street on 20 June 1810 by an angry mob while escorting the funeral possession of Carl August. This became known as the Fersen murder. Sophie was also subjected to persecution at this occasion, but she managed to escape. She was warned that she would be forced to share his fate, and she therefore left Stockholm the same night disguised as a maid and sought refuge at Rydboholm Castle. The day after, she was given permission by the king to be placed in safe custody at Vaxholm Castle. She demanded a court to investigate her involvement in the death of the crown prince. She remained at Vaxholm until November, when she was cleared from all charges. During the investigation, she received several proposals of marriage, one from Georg Carl von Döbeln: she did not accept, but it led to a correspondence between them. Sophie was described as a charming beauty but was also feared for her ambition and sharp tongue.

She lived out her final years retired to Löfstad Slott‎ near Norrköping.

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ Cecilia af Klercker (1908) (in Swedish). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok I 1775-1782 (The diaries of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte II). P.A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. p. 44. ISBN 412070. 
  2. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)
  3. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)
  4. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)
  5. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)
  6. ^ Alma Söderhjelm (1945). Gustav III:s syskon (The siblings of Gustav III) Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 23033 (Swedish)

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