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PhD Student, University of Turku
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The aim of my research is to examine the female agencies of the royal Vasa princesses in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. I consider the five princesses – Katarina (1539–1610), Cecilia (1540–1627), Anna (1545–1610), Sofia (1547–1611) and Elisabet (1549–1597) – as goal-oriented agents with intentions to influence the decision making of their male relatives. Moreover, the princesses can be considered as worthy actors in marriage and alliance negotiations, as well as actors in other areas of politics. The sons of King Gustav Vasa (especially Erik XIV and John III) and their power struggles are often emphasized in traditional historiographical accounts of this period, with their five sisters are usually only briefly mentioned or completely disregarded. This research aims to rectify this, and is inspired by the idea that despite the princesses being subordinate to their brothers, they possessed their own sphere of influence. My research questions are as follows: what kind of agencies can be built around the princesses? What kind of authority (or power) was given to the princesses and how did they use it? And what kind of authority (or power) did they pursued?
In this research, I see the family as a social unit. The family is also the most important and perhaps also the most expected sphere for the early modern princesses to act in. For the ruling House of Vasa, the family and the larger family network played a vital part in politics as well as economics. For each and every member of the family it was important also to bind personal networks, not only for the benefit of the individual but also for the benefit of the whole royal family.
My main source is the correspondence between the princesses and the family, including members of the vast family network, and a diverse collection of other sources including accounts, memoirs, wills and, for example, the marriage contracts between the Vasa princesses and their spouses.