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Christina Anna Skytte


Noblewoman, erroneously recorded as participating in piracy

Anna Skytte was a Swedish noblewoman portrayed in older Swedish historiographical accounts as one of the few known cases of female pirates. Later research has, however, debunked these accounts as myth.

Anna Skytte was born in 1643. She grew up on the Strömserum estate in Småland. Her parents were Anna Nilsdotter Bielkenstierna and Jacob Skytte af Duderhof.

Anna Skytte married Gustaf Drake, a cavalry captain in 1662. Just a year prior he had orchestrated one of the most notable cases of Baltic Sea piracy of the seventeenth century in the company of Gustaf Adolph Skytte, Anna Skytte’s elder brother and soon to be Gustaf Drake’s brother-in-law. In August 1661 the pair set sail from Kalmar on Anna Skytte’s brother’s yacht, with a 13-man crew. A couple of weeks later, just beyond the coast of Blekinge, they attacked a Dutch vessel, carrying salt, wine, and various other goods of minor value. The entire 5-man crew was murdered. The crime was discovered following investigations by the vessel’s owners into the disappearance of their ship and Gustaf Adolph Skytte was sentenced to death and executed in April 1663, along with three of the crew who had been actively involved in the piracy.

Shortly after Gustaf Adolph Skytte’s arrest Gustaf Drake, who had been one of the driving forces in the decision to attack the Dutch vessel according to crew statements, fled with Anna Skytte to Prussia in the autumn of 1662. The couple returned to Sweden at the end of 1663 following the decision of Göta court of appeal to relieve Gustaf Drake of all charges of complicity in the attack. This court case has traditionally been viewed as a scandalous one. Anna Skytte lived out the rest of her life at the Drake family estate of Hagelsrum in Småland. The couple had two children together, of which only their son, Gustaf, survived into adulthood.

According to the historian Anders Fryxell and his Berättelser ur svenska historien, published in 1846, Anna Skytte had allegedly been participating in an earlier case of piracy in 1657 in which Gustaf Adolph Skytte obtained the yacht which was subsequently used in the attack on the Dutch ship four years later. Anna Skytte, it was alleged, who was then aged 13 or 14 (a fact Fryxell ignored), along with her brother and other accomplices, murdered the yacht’s crew after it had left the Netherlands carrying the Swedes as passengers. Gustaf Adolph Skytte then apparently used the murdered captain’s seal to generate a false title-deed to the yacht. One of the accomplices who threatened to reveal what had happened was then allegedly subsequently murdered by Anna Skytte and her brother.

This account of Anna Skytte piratical activities was then further developed by another historian and author, Gustaf Volmar Sylvander, a few decades after Fryxell’s version had been released. Sylvander, in the third part of his monumental piece of work entitled Kalmar stads och slotts historia, published in 1865, states that Anna Skytte participated “in the guise of a female warrior in all sorts of blood-thirsty piratical acts” before her marriage to Gustaf Drake. Sylvander’s juicy descriptions of Anna Skytte’s and her brother’s piratical activities were a great hit in their day and still serve as the background to the claims that Anna Skytte was one of the few known historical female pirates.

However, as the historian Rudolf Thunander has shown, it is very unclear on which sources Fryxell, Sylvander, and later historians based their assertions regarding Anna Skytte’s alleged participation in her brother’s and husband’s piratical activities. Thunander, in his detailed survey of the Göta court of appeal legal records which led to the damning judgement on Gustaf Adolph Skytte – and the acquittal of Gustaf Drake – found no information which supported claims that Anna Skytte had been participating in either of the two documented cases of piracy in 1657 and 1661, or in any other case of piracy. Thunander’s investigations do, however, reveal that Anna Skytte may have stolen her brother’s seal and generated a false letter, dated 2 September 1662, in which he shouldered all of the blame for the attack on the Dutch vessel and thus relieved Gustaf Drake of any responsibility and acquitted him of any involvement in the enterprise.

Anna Skytte died in 1677.

Stefan Eklöf Amirell
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)

Published 2018-03-08

You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Christina Anna Skytte,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Stefan Eklöf Amirell), retrieved 2024-04-15.

Other Names

    Alternate name: Skytte af Duderhof

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Married
  • Mother: Anna Nilsdotter Bielkenstierna
  • Father: Jacob Skytte af Duderhof
  • Brother: Gustaf Adolph Skytte af Duderhof
more ...


  • Privatundervisning i hemmet, Strömsrum: Ståndsmässig uppfostran


  • Birthplace: Stockholm
  • Stockholm
  • Strömsrum
more ...


  • Thunander, Rudolf, Skytten och Draken: sjörövare på Östersjön : deras dåd och dom, Atlantis, Stockholm, 1994