Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg

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Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg (11 November 1599 – 28 March 1655) was a German princess and queen consort of Sweden.

She was the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg and Anna, Duchess of Prussia, daughter of Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia.

In the year 1620 Maria Eleonora married, with her mother's consent but against her brother's will, the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. She bore a daughter, Christina, in 1626.

She was described as the most beautiful queen in Europe, and, as her daughter later said, had "all the virtues and vices" associated with her gender.


Early life

Maria Eleonora's father, Johann Sigismund of Brandenburg, was an indolent glutton and drunk. Due to his corpulence he was often short of breath and his action radius was further reduced by gout. Still, his reign was a fairly happy one. In 1614 he issued an Edict of Tolerance to uphold religious freedom. He converted from Lutheranism to Calvinism, but allowed his wife and children to remain Lutherans. Maria Eleonore's mother, Anna of Prussia, was as dominant and energetic as her husband was indolent. When the Hohenzollern couple had a row, plates were often broken. The Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony (1585-1656), who had married Anna's sister Magdalene Sibylle, once wrote to Johann Sigismund that if his wife would vex him as Johann Sigismund's did off and on, he would surely hit her.

Young Gustav II Adolph

In 1616, the 22-year-old Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden started looking around for a Protestant bride. He had since 1613 tried to get his mother's permission to marry the noblewoman Ebba Brahe, but this was not allowed, and he had to give up his wishes to marry her, though he continued to be in love with her. He received reports with the most flattering descriptions of the physical and mental qualities of pretty, 17-year-old Maria Eleonore. Elector Johann Sigismund was well inclined towards the Swedish King, but he had become very infirm after an apoplexic stroke in the autumn of 1617. His determined Prussian wife showed a strong dislike for this Swedish suitor, because Prussia was a Polish fief and the Polish King still resented that he had lost Sweden to Gustav Adolph's father.

Maria Eleonore had additional suitors in young William of Orange, Wladislaw Wasa of Poland, Adolph Friedrich of Mecklenburg and even the Prince of Wales. Maria Eleonore's brother, George Wilhelm, was flattered by the offer of the British Crown Prince and proposed their younger sister Katharina (1602-1644) as a more suitable wife for the Swedish King. Maria Eleonore, however, seems to have had a preference for Gustav Adolph. For him it was a matter of honour to acquire the hand of Maria Eleonore and none other. He had the rooms of his castle in Stockholm redecorated and started making preparations to leave for Berlin to press his suit in person, when a letter arrived from Maria Eleonore's mother to his mother. The Electress demanded in no uncertain terms that the Queen Dowager should prevent her son's journey, as "being prejudicial to Brandenburg's interests in view of the state of war existing between Sweden and Poland". Her husband, she wrote, was "so enfeebled in will by illness that he could be persuaded to agree to anything, even if it tended to the destruction of the country". It was a rebuff that verged on an insult.

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