Gunilla Bielke

Gunilla Bielke

Gunilla Bielke (1568 – 1597) was the second wife and queen consort of John III of Sweden. She was a politically influential queen.

Early life

Gunilla Bielke was the daughter of the king's cousin, the former governor of Östergötland, Johan Axelsson Bielke, and had been raised at the royal court since she was ten years old as a playmate of the king's daughter, Princess Anna. In 1582, she was made lady-in-waiting to the queen. Just like two of the previous queens, Margareta Leijonhufvud and Katarina Stenbock, she was engaged when the king decided to marry her, and initially refused the king's proposal; the king was so enraged by this that he slapped her in the face with his gloves. But her family forced her to agree, the engagement was broken, and she was married to the king in 1585, to the rage of the king's sisters, who considered it a misalliance despite the fact that their own mother was also a noblewoman; the king's brothers and sisters all refused to attend.


Bielke was a very beautiful, blond girl at the time of her marriage, (no portrait is said to have done her justice) and apparently, the king married her mainly due to sexual attraction and as a remedy for depression in old age, caused by the death of his first wife. These were the reasons he himself told the government and, when asked why he did not marry a princess, he told them he wished to have a beautiful wife and that portraits of foreign princesses were not to be trusted.

She was given a very large allowance and is regarded as one of the richest of the queens of Sweden. Queen Gunilla had a significant influence on the ageing king; she is credited with having influenced him in Protestantism the same way his former Queen, Catherine Jagiellon, had influenced him in Catholicism, and on several occasions, the king openly admitted to having changed his opinion and his decisions "for the sake of our mistress the dear Queen's wishes". In 1590, her husband freed a group of political prisoners, members of the parliament, on her request.


After the king's death she remained at the Castle in Stockholm, prepared to fight for an inheritance for herself and her son. She was accused by her brother-in-law, the future Charles IX of Sweden, of staying in the capital as the only royal representative to steal from the Royal Castle's belongings. She was also accused by King Sigismund's wife Anna of Austria of having stripped the Castle when the new King and Queen arrived from Poland in 1593. The two Queens hated each other for religious reasons, but Gunilla refused to leave Stockholm before she had secured her inheritance. She was given some of it and then retired to Bråborg Castle, where she remained for the four years until her death. She was interred in Uppsala Cathedral.


* John, Duke of Östergötland.


*Herman Lindqvist (2006). Historien om alla Sveriges drottningar (in Swedish). Norstedts Förlag. ISBN 9113015249.
* Åke Ohlmarks "Alla Sveriges drottningar"


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