Princess Charlotta ‘Eugénie’ Augusta Amalia Albertina Bernadotte, was born on 24 April, 1830, and died on 23 April 1889 in Stockholm. She was the only daughter born to King Oscar I and Queen Josephine. Her musical training included composition and performance. Musicians and singers were often invited to perform in soirées and concerts held at the Royal Palace. Princess Eugénie composed pieces for this milieu, particularly piano works and songs. She was engaged in charity work throughout her life. Elected as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1859.
Princess Eugénie was the only daughter born to Oscar I and his consort Josephine. Education in the arts was a necessity for members of the royal family during the 1800’s. Both of Eugénie’s parents had received a thorough musical education and they had a great interest in music, especially opera. They happily looked forward to watching performances at the Stockholmsoperan (The Royal Opera) and attended concerts. Oscar had contact not only with Swedish composers such as Franz Berwald and Adolf Fredrik Lindblad, but also with Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. The parents’ musical interests were passed on to their children. Eugénie and her four brothers were taught drawing, sculpture, literature and music by several of the best musicians and artists. They took singing lessons from Isak Berg and piano lessons from Lindblad. Particularly Eugénie and her brother Gustaf were interested in music, and learned to compose.
Princess Eugénie frequently attended performances at Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera). She also practiced music at home in the Royal Palace. Musical soirées and concerts were held there throughout her entire life, often with musicians and singers invited from the Opera House, joined by the royal family and members of the court. This was a crucial musical environment for Princess Eugénie, because unlike her brothers, musical participation in public was less feasible.
Throughout her life, Princess Eugénie had a delicate health. Based on her physician’s advice, she traveled to the seaside in Gotland to improve her constitution. In 1861 she commissioned a summer house to be built in Fridhem, just south of Visby. There she spent her summers, devoting much of her time to charity work and religious meetings, until her death. But she also cultivated her artistic interests by means of her large social circle, which included guests such as the author Carl David av Wirsén and architect Per Ulrik Stenhammar, along with his son Wilhelm..
Apart from her summer months at Fridhem, Princess Eugénie lived her entire life at the Stockholm Palace. She never had her own family, remaining close to her mother instead. Together, they exercised their common religious and musical interests, including performing collections of spiritual songs written by Eugénie and the poet, author, hymn and spiritual songwriter Lina Sandell.
Princess Eugénie’s works were performed mainly at the court. Solo songs and duets had a special place at the musical soirées, whereas her spiritual songs were performed in religious contexts. Waltzes, gallops and polonaises for piano were well suited for balls and similar dance events.
One of the songs performed at the soirées was ‘Klockorna’, for soprano and tenor with piano accompaniment, with lyrics by Queen Josephine. This song clearly has the character of a folk song, but with a more constructed, polished ending. The piano accompanies the song, emphasizing the lyrics at times with the use of tone painted motifs. The more elaborate ‘Till vågen’, a duet for soprano and alto with piano accompaniment, demands more from the vocalist. Princess Eugénie’s secular songs differ slightly from her spiritual songs, which resemble folk tunes and have simpler vocal parts. Overall, her vocal works give the impression of a composer who has a fine sense of interpreting text and the capacity to compose works with a diversity of melodies and harmonies, even within a small format.
Eugénie’s ability to create variety within a given format is also noticeable in her piano compositions. ‘Drottning Josefinas Polonaise’ is a good example of an opening piece at a dance. It was precisely to the strains of a polonaise that dance couples would proceed into the ballroom. Here the first part, with its strongly marked rhythms and fanfare-like melodies, contrasts against a more melodic second part.
Her dance compositions also include a ‘Louisa-Wals’, which was probably written in connection with a party dedicated to Crown Prince Charles’ wife, Louise. It is a comparatively long composition with many sections in different styles. ‘Tullgarns galopp’ was performed at the King’s Ball on 28 January 1856. It is a fast piece, in which a steady rhythmic figure in the bass forms the foundation for a melody in sections with many different motifs.
Princess Eugénie’s works are rarely heard today. But they are good compositions which were appreciated during her lifetime, and a few of them were printed at the time by various publishers. That she attained recognition for her compositions is reflected in the fact that she was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1859. Her participation at the musical soirées and religious gatherings was important for the groups of people that gathered around her. For her nieces and nephews, she was also an important role model in the arts.
Karin Hallgren © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Alm, Göran: Prinsessan Eugénie: Bilder från en glömd värld, Lund: Signum, 1987.
Becker, Gunnel & Kjell Blückert (eds): Drottning Josefina av Sverige och Norge, Stockholm: Veritas, 2007.
Hagen, Ellen: Prinsessan Eugénie: Konstnärinna och filantrop, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1929.
Hallgren, Karin: Kungafamiljen i Stockholms musikliv, in Nils Ekedahl (ed.), En dynasti blir till: Medier, myter och makt kring Karl XIV Johan och familjen Bernadotte, Stockholm: Norstedt, 2010, pp. 159−187.
Hildebrand, Bengt: ‘Eugénie’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 14, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1953.
Lindhjem, Anna: Kvinnelige komponister i Skandinavien, Fredriksstad, 1931 .
Vretblad, Åke: ‘Eugénie’, in Sohlmans musiklexikon, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1975.
Summary list of works
Piano music (Drottning Josefinas Polonaise, Louisa-Wals, Tullgarns galopp, etc.), songs and duets (Hvad fattas mig än, Romance, etc., duets such as Klockorna, Till vågen, etc.), choral works.