Margareta Birgersdotter (Grip) was a landowner and genealogist.
Very little is known about Margareta Birgersdotter’s childhood. According to herself, she was born in 1538, the third of thirteen siblings of whom twelve are known. Their father was Birger Nilsson (Grip), a member of the Council of the Realm and their mother was Brita Joakimsdotter (Brahe), a niece of King Gustav Vasa. From 21 February 1534 until 12 July 1543, Birger Nilsson (Grip) was the military commander at Läckö Castle, which is often said to be the birth place of Margareta Birgersdotter. In her early twenties, on 1 November 1562 in Söderköping, she married Erik Månsson (Natt och Dag), a knight and member of the Council of the Realm. The year after, their son Erik Eriksson was born, and the same year or possibly at the beginning of 1564, Margareta Birgersdotter’s husband died, making her a widow. Her son Erik died of the plague when he was only three years old and she inherited the estate Bro (now Brokind), in Vårdnäs parish in the province of Östergötland. Margareta Birgersdotter has herself recounted that she too endured the plague and was ill for twelve weeks.
In Kalmar on 31 August 1571, Margareta Birgersdotter married for the second time. Her new husband was the very influential Sten Axelsson Banér who among other things worked as a diplomat for King Johan III. During the 15 years of their marriage, Sten Axelsson Banér held various positions of trust in Östergötland and Margareta Birgersdotter must also have spent time in the district where she was also an important landowner. She registered herself in Bro and Händelö. Her greatest contribution was however as a genealogist, since she documented her family in Margareta Grips bok, now preserved in the archives at Trolleholm. The book gives a unique account of an aristocratic woman’s great insights into genealogy and economy in the 1500s. According to Margareta Birgersdotter, she has ”had this post mortem account written about my late relative Bo Jonsson Grip, Lord High Steward of Sweden”. She starts with an account of the relationship and continues with the coats of arms and family trees of the noble clans, as well as transcripts of letters and accounts. Most of the book’s over 400 pages were written by her scribe, but she also wrote parts herself, in what the genealogist Hans Gillingstam calls her ”easily recognisable handwriting”. Margareta Birgersdotter’s knowledge about farming and economy are obvious from her notes in the margins concerning the nature of her lands.
Apart from the important notes about farms and estates, and her accounts of the relationships between various branches of the family in Margareta Grips bok, she expressed in print her Christian religious convictions in numerous prayers and thanksgivings. Concerning her son, she described her thankfulness over the child and that “my husband and I were allowed to see this joy together, before you separated us from each other”. She writes that she “shivered for a whole year” before her deity gave her back her health again and “gave me a good husband and a house and home and the most enjoyable place to live that any Christian could come across, with all the good aspects I could wish for in this world, with stone houses and timbered houses, lovely oak forests and streams and islands, pretty flowering meadows and deer, both tame and wild”.
The historian Ellen Fries states that Margareta Birgersdotter, as a widow in her thirties, was appointed Chief Court Mistress to the young queen Karin Månsdotter and that she was well respected “by all, high and low” on account of “her pleasant nature and her good social gifts”, but it is not clear where this information comes from. Margareta Birgersdotter (Grip) states herself that after her mother’s death in 1554 she came to King Gustav Vasa and was well liked by everyone at the court, but this must have been before her first marriage.
Margareta Birgersdotter (Grip) died in 1586 at Bro. She is buried in the church at Vårberg.