Monday, June 28, 2010

Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre

A Tragic Romance


Troense, where Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre stayed in a guest-house, until they ran out of money.

She was born Hedvig Antoinette Isabella Eleonore Jensen in Flensburg in Germany. Her mother was a Norwegian circus performer and her father a Danish stablemaster. Her mother later lived with the American circus manager John Madigan. Elvira had her debut at five and performed as a line dancer together with her stepsister Gisella as the "Sisters Madigan" in 1886, when she was nineteen. They had an enormous success, they travelled from one triumph to another - in Paris, London, Berlin, Bruxelles, Amsterdam and Odessa.


The graves of Elvira Madigan and her lover Sixten Sparre.

While she in 1887 was in Sweden with her stepfather's circus, she met a Swedish cavalry officer, Lieutenant Count Bengt Edvard Sixten Sparre (27 September 1854 – 20 July 1889). Sparre was the son of a landowner and was married to a rich lady of the nobility, but he fell madlessly in love with the beautiful circus princess. They exchanged love letters for a year and ran away together to Denmark in June 1889, where they spent about a month at the island Tåsinge south of Funen. At last they had no money and could see no way out. They brought with them a picnic basket and went out to a forest south of Valdemar Slot, where they had a last meal and committed suicide in July 1889 with Sixten Sparres service revolver. Elvira was 21 years old and he was 35.


A shady 250 year old oak near the graves.

The graves of Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre grave are situated on Landet cemetary on the island Tåsinge and is still today visited by tourists from far and wide. Their tragic love story has some resemblance to the Austrian Mayerling drama, where Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria shot his mistress and himself in January 1889.

The romance, the suicide and the following scandal was both then and later hot stuff for journalists and writers. In 1967 Bo Widerberg revived the beautiful and sad story in his movie "Elvira Madigan", which is especially remembered for its music, the second movement of Mozarts piano concerto nr. 21, now often mentioned as "The Elvira Madigan".


photo Landet kirke, Tåsinge 1999:grethe bachmann

4 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

I have heard of, but have not seen the movie, Elvira Madigan. Now, I must. What a sad, but enchanting story. Thank you for introducing it to me. I love history such as this. Nice to see photos of these places, as well.

Thyra said...

Thanks Teresa. It is a movie with beautiful photography. And music. Those two young people were not fictional like in most other movies - they had lived and loved and were so unhappy. I cried a lot. When I saw their grave I was very touched.

swamericana said...

Sixten and Elvira. What a terrible ending. The network of sociability is accountable for this in a large way. He couldn't escape and neither could she. So very sad. Lived, loved and were so unhappy -- you said it well.

Thyra said...

Thank you Jack. A young couple of today would experience another kind of love story.
Grethe