STUART, MARTA HANSDOTTER [SSNE 6433]
Martha Stuart was the daughter of Colonel Hans Stuart of Ochiltree [SSNE 1645] and his Swedish wife Brita Ericsdotter Soop. Martha was born in Scotland during one of her father’s several journey’s back to his native country. After the family moved to Sweden, Martha married a French Lieutenant-Colonel, Anton Ydron, but was widowed in 1632 after her husband died at the battle of Nürnberg. Although widowed in 1632, there is little indication of any immediate request for help from the Swedish state with regard to any pension or living. She did write to the Chancellor of Sweden, Axel Oxenstierna, to remind him of her husband’s 26 years of loyal service, but this was standard practice by widows of veterans in Swedish service at this time. Rather, Martha lived off the revenue of properties gifted to her husband for his military service. Unusually, Martha took on the management of thher estates in her own right. Nevertheless, from the late 1640s Oxenstierna acted as a patron to Martha and her family on several occasions. For example, in 1647 she thanked Oxenstierna for his help with regard to a royal donation of income in kind for her based on a large share of crops harvested from an ecclesiastical tithe. The following year Oxenstierna recommended Martha to the Landshövding Johan Berndes, stating that she should receive payment for some of her husband’s possessions which had apparently been illegally taken by a Captain Ferret (Forrat?). During this time Martha also sought Oxenstierna’s help concerning one of her sons who was joining Swedish military service. He was apparently unable to pay for a horse and therefore Martha implored Oxenstierna to confer with General Robert Douglas to equip her son gratis until he was able to repay him. She further requested that Douglas stand as guarantor for any ransom for her son should he become a captive. Martha later sought the Chancellor’s aid in getting her sons ennobled and introduced into Riddarhuset – The Swedish House of Nobility. This was granted in 1649 when both her sons were elevated into the peerage. Martha Stuart thus evidently had the ear and direct support of the most powerful man in Sweden and – through him – senior members of the Scottish military community, including General Robert Douglas. If not familiar with Swedish geography, one might miss a crucial detail in the Stuart-Oxenstierna dynamic. While it is true that the Widow Stuart corresponded with ‘Chancellor Oxenstierna’, one should also note that her requests were also directed to her immediate neighbour. Martha Stuart lived and farmed on the island of Almö, situated in lake Mälaren while Oxenstierna resided ‘next door’, slightly to the south west at Tidö Slott. Martha Stuart’s later letters to Oxenstierna certainly read like requests to a local magnate and rather than to the chancellor of Sweden. For example, on 20 November 1651 she asked Oxenstierna to sell her two farm horses since she had suffered great damage in regard to her livestock. She offered to pay for these at the first opportunity, but with hay rather than specie. On another occasion she complained about the high prices of hay and referred to the big floods which had affected her lands. On this occasion she asked Oxenstierna to sell her two oxen which would allow her to continue her husbandry. Albeit that these and her other requests for intervention were being made to a man who happened to be the Chancellor of Sweden, Widow Stuart was also simply asking a close neighbour to help out a fellow farmer in times of need. It was in this spirit that Oxenstierna responded. Martha Stuart lived out the remainder of her life managing her island estate at Almö. She died in 1653 and was survived by her sons. She proved to have been an exceptionally resilient woman who demonstrated her abilities in activities as varied as husbandry, farm management while also moving in the elite circles of the Swedish government, military and noble society.
Riksarkivet: Oxenstiernska samlingen. Axel Oxenstierna af Södermöre. (RA/720701.019) Volym. E 757. She wrote 15 letters to Oxenstierna between 1647-1653.
Svenska Adelns Ättartavlor, vol. 7, p.793.
This article was authored by Kathrin Zickermann and Steve Murdoch