Times are changing ...
... and we change with them
Quote of the week
“Everything is repeated, in a circle. History is a master because it teaches us that it doesn't exist. It's the permutations that matter.”
―Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum
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The last few days have taken us into winter here in Sweden. We had snow for the first time, not much, almost gone in the evening. Other parts of Sweden have had terrible snowfall causing a big mess in communications, both on the roads and railways. When I grew up there was always a lot of snow in the winter, and I can’t remember that causing any big problems. During recent years there has not been that much snow, so when it comes, it seems to be a big surprise for the institutions that have to deal with removing the snow. There is a common word for whatever weather catastrophe these days: climate change. Just in time for the end of the COP27 and what seems like minor results.
Leonora Christina and her miserable life
In one of my first newsletters I promised to tell you about a famous prisoner who was locked up in the Blue Tower at Christiansborg castle. It was not any prisoner, but Leonora Christina (1621-1698), daughter of king Christian IV and his second wife Kirsten Munk. When she was fifteen years old she was married to the ‘Steward of the Realm’ Count Corfitz Ulfeldt, a rich and powerful man, who could be somewhat erratic. The couple lived an adventurous life, changing loyalty sides as suited them, going from golden days to a decline leading them to be traitors to the crown(s). Yes, they served several masters. Leonora Christina remained loyal to her husband, following him into every adventure which, as we shall see, was not so good for her. It seems to have been a happy marriage nevertheless, as long as it lasted.
Leonora Christina and Corfitz Ulfeldt
This is a very short retelling of their lives and adventures. In those days it was a skill to survive court life. Friends and enemies, fights for power and control. Loyalty changing depending on who had the power. In 1651 it was rumoured that Ulfeldt was involved in a plot to poison the royal family, and the couple had to leave Denmark. They travelled to Amsterdam and then Stockholm, and became international fugitives, always on the run, looking behind their backs for their enemies. Ulfeldt went into the service of the Swedes (Denmark and Sweden being enemies at the time), receiving the title Count of Sölvesborg for his services. However, always playing with high cards, he was discovered to be a double traitor and the couple had to escape and went back to Copenhagen. It turned out not to be a good idea since they were arrested. Imprisoned for two years in the castle of Hammershus (a wonderful castle ruin today, well worth a visit) on the isle of Bornholm, they finally managed to pay a ransom for their freedom.
The treasons did not end there. As usual they needed money so Leonora Christina went to England in order to persuade King Charles II to repay money Ulfeldt had lend him during the King Charles’ exiled years. The King was not interested, betrayed her and sent her straight back to Denmark, where she was arrested. She refused to acknowledge any crimes on her husband’s part. In the end she did consent to the accusations against the promise that Ulfeldt and her children would be set free.
She was betrayed once again. Ulfeldt was sentenced to be executed and their children exiled. He managed to escape and joined the children abroad, of which she was not told. She had to watch him burning in effigy. Leonora Christina never saw her husband again. There are no evidence that he tried to save her, or see her again. Her love was eternal, and she stood by her man “for better and for worse”. Unfortunately, Mr Ulfeldt did not take the vows as seriously. He died in 1664, near Basel in Switzerland.
Leonora Christina spent the next twenty-two years imprisoned, without charge. She was held in the Blue Tower of Christiansborg’s castle, where she lived under miserable condition. After a long ordeal she was let out of prison, but not before the death of the Queen Dowager Sophie Amalie, who was her antagonist, died in February 1685.
Having spent twenty-one years, nine months and eleven days in the Blue Tower she was finally released in 1685. Her last years were spent quietly in the Maribo Abbey on the island of Lolland, editing her notebooks which she wrote in prison. The book, Jammers Minde (A Memory of Lament”) has become a classic of 17th century Danish literature. “It explores her prison years in detailed and vivid prose, recounting her crises, confrontations, humiliations, self-discipline, growing religious faith and serenity, together with descriptions of hardships she endured or overcome.” (from Wikipedia)
A few notes on her memoirs. According to the preface the book is written for her children and it is not entirely clear if she intended it to be published. The first part covers the first three weeks of imprisonment and adjustment. The second part covers the years 1663-74 and the third one the rest of the time until she was released in 1685.
Today it is considered one of the most important literary work of prose of the time. It is part political but also includes personal confessions and crises. Critics says she writes in a down to earth fashion describing smells and sounds, often with some kind of disgust, other times with a grotesk sense of humour. It sounds like an interesting book to read. If anyone is interested it can be downloaded for free on Manybooks.net with the title: Memoirs of Leonora Christina, Daughter of Christian IV. of Denmark Written During Her Imprisonment in the Blue Tower at Copenhagen 1663-1685.
It might never have been published at all if it wasn’t for her son Leo Ulfeldt. After his mother’s death he took the manuscript with him. It was inherited in a descending line in the family, until one day it just disappeared into the library of the Waldstein family. It was discovered by Leonora Christinas ascendant Count Johann von Waldstein, only in 1868, some two hundred years after it was written. He sent it to Denmark to be examined by experts. This led to the publication in 1869. In 1920 the Danish state bought the manuscript and today it is kept at the National History Museum at Frederiksborgs slott.
The wonders of history when old manuscripts find their way into the public sphere again. A while ago I visited Torups castle for an Arts & Crafts exhibition (of which you could read her). The lady of the house had a copy of Jammers Minde and I noticed it since she had organised a personal cover on it. Isn’t it beautiful?
And that brings us to the coincidences. Torups castle (situated outside Malmö) was built by Danish nobility. It turns out that Christian IV often visited the castle during the time the Grubbe family owned it. In 1647 the castle was bought by … yes, your are right, Corfitz Ulfeldt. He lost it when the Swedish crown withdrew it in 1660. I guess the treason played a role. However, in 1735 Ulfeldts grandson Jochum Beck got it back. History goes in circles.
That takes us back to Umberto Eco’s quote of the week. What is a permutation? You don’t know? Me neither, and I don’t know if I am the wiser after reading this explanation.
“In mathematics, a permutation of a set is, loosely speaking, an arrangement of its members into a sequence or linear order, or if the set is already ordered, a rearrangement of its elements. The word "permutation" also refers to the act or process of changing the linear order of an ordered set.” (Wikipedia)
Musings this week
Lately, I have started to listen to podcasts. Mostly I choose podcasts on history and literature, but there are other interesting ones out there. Recently, I was recommended two great podcasts.
Crooked Media and their series Winds of change. An amazing story that keeps you hooked from the beginning. From their website:
“It’s 1990. The Berlin Wall has just come down. The Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse. A heavy metal band from West Germany, the Scorpions, releases a power ballad, “Wind of Change.” The song becomes the soundtrack to the peaceful revolution sweeping Europe — and one of the biggest rock singles ever. According to some fans, it’s the song that ended the Cold War.
Decades later, New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe hears a rumor from a source: the Scorpions didn’t actually write “Wind of Change.” The CIA did.
This is Patrick’s journey to find the truth. Among former operatives and leather-clad rockers, from Moscow to Kyiv to a GI Joe convention in Ohio, it’s a story about spies doing the unthinkable, about propaganda hidden in pop music, and a maze of government secrets. “Wind of Change.” An offbeat eight part investigation
Wind of Change is an Original Series from Pineapple Street Studios, Crooked Media and Spotify. Follow Wind of Change on Spotify to binge the full season.”
BBC, Radio 4 - Intrigue
I have been recommended The Ratline and Tunnel 29, and there are more interesting stories from around the world.
Winston Churchill is probably the most quoted man in the world, possibly with the exception of Oscar Wilde. According to some reports he said “the only statistics you can trust are the ones you have falsified yourself.” Another prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, also had a view on statistics, saying there were “three kind of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.”
The truth is, I would think, that you can prove anything with statistics, and it depends how it is collected. It is quite interesting to read though. I receive a local magazine in me letterbox, Galore Weekend, and they publish a page with different kind of interesting facts and statistics. In the latest issue it was data about mobile phones. Here are three notes and three statistics.
On 3 April the first mobile phone call was made. It was the inventor Martin Cooper at Motorola who called a competitor from the pavement in New York, just to tell him that he had won. As they say; ‘Schadenfreude is the only true joy’.
9:41 - It seems that all pictures av iPhones show the time 9:41. It is the time when Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone in 2007 at the MacWorld Expo. At that time the phone only had 15 apps. A somewhat discreet start.
6.648.000.000 is the number of people who have smartphones today, about 83% of the world population. If you add mobile phones which are not smartphones you reach 7,26 billions people, which is 91% of the world population. It is quite amazing.
Contactless payments (Apple Pay, Google Pay etc) - I was quite surprised to see which areas in the world use this payment method the most:
Asia & Oceania - 44%
Middle East & Africa - 12%
North America - 10%
Europe - 8%
South America - 8%
Number of people listening to music only through streaming (% per country) - another set of surprising figures.
Kina - 87%
France - 78%
India - 78%
USA - 76%
Sweden - 76%
Great Britain - 72%
Germany - 69%
Most expensive influencers, people earning most per post on Instagram (average 2022, in million US dollar)
Christiano Ronaldo - 2.4
Kylie Jenner - 1.84
Lionel Messi - 1.78
Selena Gomez - 1.74
Dwayne Johnson - 1.71
Kim Kardashian - 1.69
Ariana Grande - 1.69
Beyoncé - 1.39
Khloe Kardashian - 1.32
Kendall Jenner - 1.29
Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. "Times are changed; we also are changed with them". So true and with these words I wish you a pleasant week.
My two blogs;
The Content Reader, (in English) where I write about books
Den tillfälliga besökaren (in Swedish) where I share my life and interests in books, history, travel and everything that makes life interesting.
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