Christiana Oxenstierna defied the law when she disobeyed her aristocratic family and secretly married a man she herself had chosen to be her husband.
Christiana Oxenstierna was born in 1661. She was the sixth child of eight born into an aristocratic and wealthy family. Both her mother, Marca Christiana von Löwenstein und Scharfeneck, and her father, Gabriel Gabrielsson Oxenstierna, belonged to families of the high aristocracy. Her father held high-ranking positions for both Queen Kristina and King Karl X Gustav. Christiana Oxenstierna became an orphan at a young age: her mother died when she was eleven years old, and her father died the following year. Her brother Gustav Adolf Oxenstierna then became her legal guardian, in fulfilment of legal practise. However, it was her paternal aunt, Countess Anna von Dohna, who actually cared for and reared her in her own home in Stockholm.
Christiana Oxenstierna was already said to have been “unusually educated and well-read in the Scriptures”. Through her paternal aunt she became close to a priest named Nicolaus Bergius. He preached at the newly-established French Lutheran congregation which met at her paternal aunt’s home. As he tended to suffer from serious depressions Christiana Oxenstierna tried so support his rehabilitation by visiting and engaging in edifying conversations. Their meetings eventually led to the development of a mutual romantic relationship.
When Gustav Adolf Oxenstierna came to learn about this love affair he put an end to their plans to get married, arguing that a noblewoman could not marry a priest. Although that kind of transgression across social estates sometimes did occur, it was very rare and required the permission of a legal guardian. Within the higher aristocracy most members were particularly keen to retain their exclusivity. Christiana Oxenstierna and Nicolaus Bergius were then forced apart, but they reunited a few years later. In 1691 they married in secret, having found two priests who agreed to perform the ceremony. About a year later Christiana Oxenstierna fell pregnant, at which point she informed her relatives of her secret marriage.
This engendered a major scandal and Gustav Adolf Oxenstierna accused the couple of defying the law. These kinds of unions threatened the aristocracy and insulted its privileged status, as the count put it in a letter to the king and to the representatives of the nobility who sat in the Riddarhus (house of nobility). These kinds of crimes would result in “the disappearance of all order”. The members of the aristocracy supported the charge of that the law had been broken and that a punishment should ensue. King Karl XI, however, took another view. He had introduced absolutism in Sweden and often opposed the aristocracy’s power-grabbing attempts and their proposals. He decided that the issue was nothing but a private matter which did not concern anyone not directly involved. The king also rejected the enforced prohibition of marriages between the social estates – as proposed by Gustav Adolf Oxenstierna.
Christiana Oxenstierna broke off contact with most of her aristocratic family. During the remaining ten years of her life she and her husband focused on a variety of charitable works, particularly providing education for poor children. She also cared for her husband’s sibling’s children, who had become orphaned. All four children born to her died in early infancy. In 1701, following the birth of her fourth child, Christiana Oxenstierna died, aged 39. Even though some of her family members could have opposed it Christiana Oxenstierna was buried in her father’s crypt in Storkyrkan in Stockholm. The priest was able to perform her burial there because Christiana Oxenstierna had funded the repairs to the crypt.
Christiana Oxenstierna’s personal selection of her spouse, in direct opposition to her family’s will, was viewed negatively for a long time after her death. Nicolaus Bergius, who survived her by a few years, wrote a book entitled Kort beskrifning af then högwälborna frus, fru Christiana Juliana Oxenstiernas lefwernes lopp, published in 1704, to counteract the slander.