Topic: Source criticism
In 2007 the Swedish historian Svante Norrhem published a book called Kvinnor vid maktens sida : 1632-1772. In it he analyses the position of women close to power, i. e. the wives of some of the most powerful members of Swedish aristocracy. On pages 78-79 he describes and interprets a curious episode in General Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's memoirs. In the autumn of 1706 the General carried out an expedition into Lithuania, where he had some skirmishes with enemy forces. At one point Lewenhaupt handed over the army to Major General Stackelberg and made a short visit to Riga. According to Lewenhaupt's memoirs this quickly became a subject for gossip and people started saying that the General neglected his official duties and came to Riga only for some private matter, i.e. negotiations concerning his daughters marriage. Lewenhaupt claims that his secretary Klinthen helped spread such innuendos and that some of them focused on Lewenhaupt's wife and her alleged vanity. These, the General suggests, were based on an misinterpretation of a conflict between the wife of Deputy Governor Rembert von Funcken's second wife Margareta Christina Frölich (1683-1735), daughter of former governor Carl Gustaf Frölich.
According to Lewenhaupt's memoirs v. Funcken's wife started to use the official seats in St. Peter's church, which forced the Lewenhaupt's own wife to sit among the burgher's wives. This resulted in gossip and criticism directed against von Funcken's wife, who then proceeded to buy another chair close to the official ones and make it bigger than the former. Lewenhaupt states that he, upon returning to Riga, confronted the Riga town councillor Ulrich and asked him how he as churchwarden could have allowed this to take place. Ulrich defended himself by saying that von Funcken had wanted it done and as he was in charge when Lewenhaupt was away they felt that his wish could not be denied. Ulrich suggested that Lewenhaupt talk to von Funcken, but the general refused. This was, he stated, a matter for the town council and the church wardens - they must restore the chairs or else face dire consequences. Major General von Funcken would at first not budge and sent Colonel Budberg to Lewenhaupt as an negotiator. Lewenhaupt told Budberg that von Funcken had allowed the King's rights to be infringed and if he had any complaints against Lewenhaupt he should write to Charles XII. Even former governor Frölich and eventually also von Funcken came to Lewenhaupt, asking him to reconsider, but were told that nothing could be done as it was an official and not a private matter.
Now, this is a fascinating story and Norrhem seems to believe that this is what happened and that there was nothing more to it. He even suggest that the conflict resulted in a complete break between the two families, but Lewenhaupt himself does not go that far. He claims that von Funcken initially was obstinate and tried to make things difficult for Lewenhaupt, but eventually apologized.
But does Lewenhaupt tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well, nobody seems to have looked for additional evidence. Surely there has to be something if the matter eventually involved the town council, former governor Frölich, churchwarden Ulrich, Colonel Budberg etc? Let's have a look:
On 4 October 1706 Lewenhaupt wrote to von Funcken from the Lithuanian town Kėdainiai. In the letter he accuses the Major General of having opened private letters addressed to Lewenhaupt and orders him to give every arriving letter to Lewenhaupt's wife, who will then open them in the presence of an official from the Governor's Chancellery and determine which are private and which are official. This order was repeated in another letter written six days later. Could this have caused friction between the two men? When did Lewenhaupt make his short visit to Riga?
To be continued...