Anna Klemetsdotter (Hogenskild) was a court stewardess and a wealthy landowner.
Anna Klemetsdotter was born in 1513, shortly after her father Klemet Hogenskild had passed away. Her mother was Anna Hansdotter (Tott) of Nynäs gård in Nousis, in southwestern Finland. Anna was educated both by her mother and at Nådendal convent, where she also lived for a while when she was a young girl.
In 1530 Anna Klemetsdotter married Jakob Krumme, constable of Bohus county. The couple had two daughters, named Ingeborg and Kristina, but shortly thereafter, in 1532, Jakob Krumme died. Anna Klemetsdotter then entered into her second marriage, in 1537, with Nils Pedersson Bielke, a gentleman of the court who later became a councillor to the treasury. She and Nils had three sons and a daughter together. Nils died in a drowning incident in 1550 and from then on Anna Klemetsdotter lived as a widow.
According to surviving correspondence Anna Klemetsdotter was keen to continue some of her husband’s financial duties after his death. However, the royal response to her request stated that such responsibilities would be too much for a defenceless woman. Instead Anna Klemetsdotter was appointed court stewardess, initially to Katarina Stenbock, and subsequently to one of King Gustav Vasa’s daughters. As such her responsibilities included running her royal mistresses’ courts and recruiting young women for positions within them. These women were often her own relatives.
Anna Klemetsdotter appears to have been a supporter of what remained of the Bridgettine convent in Sweden. She made donations to the convents in Vadstena and Nådendal and also paid for intercessionary prayers for her family members. However, she also maintained good relations with the new Lutheran church representatives. Anna Klemetsdotter’s eldest son, Hogenskild Bielke, gained his basic education from the reformer Mikael Agricola in Åbo, and all three of her sons later studied in Wittenberg.
Anna Klemetsdotter received a hand-written copy – perhaps even written in his own hand – from Mikael Agricola of Olaus Petri’s En svensk krönika. It was the norm amongst educated people to exchange gifts of books and it is clear that she took an interest in the learned discussions of her time. Anna Klemetsdotter’s archive and her own notes also reveal that she had knowledge of contemporary healing skills, as expected of noblewomen who were the main carers of families and in charge of their farm servants.
Anna Klemetsdotter was well-liked and appreciated by the royal family and by her own family. Further, she also had a good relationship with the poorly Duke Magnus. She could sometimes appear as a demanding and strict woman when running her farms as she did not hesitate to punish disobedient tenants or servants. As was usual for the nobility of the time she also became involved in several court cases generated by inheritance disputes which arose between her relatives.
Following the death of her step-brother Anna Klemetsdotter remained the sole heir of her mother’s and father’s farms and landholdings in both Sweden proper and Finland. During the 1560s she owned over 300 properties in Södermanland, Västergötland, Småland, and Finland. She was thus one of the largest landowners in sixteenth-century Sweden who also engaged in agricultural trade. Tens of servants, both women and men, worked at her larger manors and excess produce was even exported.
Anna Klemetsdotter’s main farm was Åkerö in Södermanland. She had inherited it from her maternal aunt. However, she often spent lengthy periods of time at the royal court and with her relatives. Celebrations formed an important part of socialising and it was often Anna Klemetsdotter who would invite the extended family and friends to celebrate weddings, baptisms, and other significant days at Åkerö. It was an aristocratic virtue to be generous and hospitable: the Åkerö accounts and other archival documents reveal that Anna Klemetsdotter lived up to this ideal. She also supported various hospitals and poor individuals.
Anna Klemetsdotter’s daughters married wealthy men whilst her sons were well-educated, in particular her eldest son, Hogenskild Bielke. During the 1590s, however, her sons fell out of favour with Duke Karl. Both Hogenskild and Ture were executed in the course of the Linköping bloodbath, whilst Klas Bielke was exiled. Anna Klemetsdotter did not, however, live to see this as she died in 1590, aged 77. She was buried in November that year in Bettna church in Södermanland.