Kategoriarkiv: Military

Fritz von Dardel paints Augusta’s lieutenants – and tags them

I was actually going to write about Augusta’s first love. Then I got curious about all the young men who were interested in her. In 1845, Augusta was 18 and her admirers, who had just started their military careers, were in their late 20s. Augusta and her best friend Lotten Westman met them at balls, theatres, and concerts. After Augusta left Stockholm, Lotten wrote letters which included the latest gossip.

Gossip about Bergenstråhle, Löwegren, Edholm, and Bildt.

Lotten to Augusta, Stockholm, October 1845

”I saw all your admirers at Gunther’s concert last Tuesday – Bergenstråhle, Löwegren, Edholm, etc, etc., as I believe there is a multitude of them. Do you know, I made a startling discovery that Knut Bergenstråhle has ”moonlight” on top of his head. I sat on the balcony, thus high above them all, and made that little discovery. Lieutenant Löwegren looks like ”world contempt and bitterness” when you see him out on town and I think he has become completely transparent tout pour nous.”

Lotten to Augusta, Stockholm, 18 December 1845

Sketch of couples on their way to a masquerade ball. Fritz von Dardel 1842.
Sketch of couples on their way to a masquerade ball. Fritz von Dardel 1842.

”All your admirers, the Bergenstråhles, Löwegren, Bildt, and God only knows the rest of them, were at the masquerade ball at Carlberg and {unreadable verb} the masked ones. They themselves were not wearing masks; it would have been a shame to put masks on such beautiful faces.”

Lotten to Augusta, Stockholm, 7 April 1847.

”Lieutenant Bergenstråhle was at Ekströms and I had the honor to “gallop” with Lieutenant Knut. Lieutenant Löwegren was also there. Seriously, I like him and he looks rather handsome.”

Fritz von Dardel paints the social scenes

What did these young lieutenants look like?

Enter Fritz von Dardel.

Von Dardel was a contemporary, well-connected nobleman who had a passion for drawing and painting social scenes. He was the same age as Augusta’s lieutenants and attended the same social events. In a world before cameras, he recorded the events in sketches and paintings. Many times he included himself in the painting. And he was ahead of his time by tagging people in his paintings by writing their names in the margins.

In the picture below, Augusta’s friend Lieutenant Edholm is the young man in the middle (as tagged).

The Coronation Ball Given by the Nobles, 16 Oct 1844. Painting by Fritz von Dardel. Lieutenant Erik af Edholm is dancing with the voluptuous woman in the middle.


In the picture below, Augusta’s friend Knut Bergenstråhle is the young lieutenant holding the hand of the young girl dressed in yellow. Did Augusta attend this ball?

The Amaranth Ball, 6 January 1845. Painting by Fritz von Dardel. Knut Bergenstråhle is the young lieutenant in the middle.
The Amaranth Ball, 6 January 1845. Painting by Fritz von Dardel. Knut Bergenstråhle is the young lieutenant in the middle.

Fritz von Dardel also painted Lieutenant Löwegren as he was playing piano at some social gathering.

Ludvig Löwegren by Fritz von Dardel
Ludvig Löwegren by Fritz von Dardel

So what became of Augusta’s lieutenants?

Knut (b. 1816) and his brother Claes (b. 1819) Bergenstråhle became army officers.

Ludvig Löwegren (b. 1817) became an army officer, a pianist, and a composer.

Erik af Edholm (b. 1817) became an officer, marshal at the court of King Karl XV, and director of the Royal Theatre.

Gillis Bildt (b. 1820) became prime minister of Sweden in 1888.

Augusta's lieutenants later in life. Top row: Knut and
Augusta’s lieutenants later in life.
Top row: Knut and Claes Bergenstråhle.
Bottom row: Löwegren, Edholm, and Bildt.






A Belated Happy Birthday, Fredrik Wahlfelt!

Paul Axel Fredrik Wahlfelt was born 200 years ago, on 19 February 1817.

It is very likely that Wahlfelt might not have celebrated his birthday. The featured image above is one of the few paintings of a Victorian era family birthday celebration. Celebrating birthdays became more common among well-off families at this time, but it was still more common to celebrate one’s namesday.

Lieutenant Wahlfelt in Fritz von Dardel’s painting

Anyway, remember Lieutenant Wahlfelt? He proposed to Augusta in the spring of 1849 and she rejected him. The truth is, she didn’t seem to think highly of him:

12 March 1851 (Augusta and her mother were visiting the Ribbing family)
”Mother and I was visiting Ribbingens today where, marvelously, Baron Fredrik happened to keep company and was as decent and agreeable as he can be when he wants to. We departed early, for I had a premonition that Lieutenant Wahlfelt could get the idea to transport his insipid personality to Clara {where Ribbingens lived}, which definitely would not have been pleasant.”

27 March 1851 (Augusta was invited to a glamourous ball given by Minister Wallensten)

”Lieutenant Wahlfelt was, thank God, resentful of me all evening so I was spared from hearing his stupid reasoning.”

Because Fredrik Wahlfelt (sometimes referred to as Paul or Pålle Wahlfelt) didn’t marry or have children, there is nobody to keep his memory alive. So to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of his birth, here are a few biographical notes.

A little more about Fredrik Wahlfelt

Photographs of Wahlfelt in the 1860s (Source: Riksarkivets porträttsamling)

Paul Axel Fredrik Wahlfelt was the second of 3 children born to lieutenant colonel Svante Fredrik Wahlfelt and Kristina Ulrika Tham. When Augusta met him, he was a lieutenant in Andra Lifgardet. He became captain in 1851 and major in 1862. From 1839, he was a teacher at the Gymnastic Central Insitute (GC) in Stockholm and later also at the military academies, Karlberg and Marieberg, where he taught gymnastics and weaponry. In 1851, he achieved the rank of senior teacher at GC, a title he kept until his death in the spa-city of Wiesbaden, 16 July 1873 (age 56).

Wahlfelt contributed to both theoretical and practical aspects of teaching gymnastics and weaponry. He also developed a bayonet fencing rifle.

Bayonet Fencing Rifle was a rifle modified for bayonet fencing.




One cadet at Karlberg described Wahlfelt in his memoir* :

P.H. Ling teaching in the gymnastics and fencing hall at the Gymnastic Central Institute. Drawing by Egron Lundgren 1839.

“In gymnastics and fencing, we had as a teacher the renowned fencing master Major Pålle Wahlfelt. He, as well as the majority of physical education teachers at that time, were not clear about the meaning of Ling’s admirable educational system and, therefore, taught gymnastics at Karlberg according to a system that was not a system at all. But he had a great ability to fire up us boys with his electrifying command and his energetic shouts.”

Bayonet fencing positions according to Ling’s system

“Seeing Major Wahlfelt fencing against two opponents was a delight. None of us has hardly reached a similar skill with said weapon.”

The fatal fencing accident of his nephew
Of the 3 siblings Wahlfelt, only Fredrik’s older brother Carl Svante Vilhem (1815-1886) married and had children. His oldest son, Nikolai Axel Fredrik Wilhelm, was born in 1861. At that time, the family lived in Finland. Axel obtained an MS degree and taught mathematics. He married Agata Magdalena Lönnblad. In 1893, he was living in Stockholm in order to work on his PhD in mathematics at the university.

Victorian fencing attire: Cruikshank’s picture of fencing on St. James Street in 1822

Axel was also a good fencer, just like his father and uncle Fredrik had been. On 20 February 1893, he had just finished a fencing lection with his instructor Drakenberg when he and a friend, Lieutenant Fid, continued with some free fencing. They were both wearing face masks as required. Somehow, the tip of Lieutenant Fid’s foil penetrated Axel’s mask between the nose and the left eye and Axel fell to the floor. The eyewitness account stated that there was no bleeding, but because he was lifeless, Lieutenant Drakenberg realized the urgency and called for a doctor. Axel died soon after arriving at the hospital, 32 years old.

Family descendants in the USA
At the time of the tragic accident, Axel’s wife Agata was pregnant with their first child. The child, Bror Axel Svante Wahlfelt, was born on 18 June 1893 in Helsinki, Finland.

What became of him? Ancestry.com has the clues.

Thirty-one years later, he is listed as a sailor on the Swedish vessel “Anten” arriving from Shanghai, China to Port Townsend, WA on 25 June 1924. He had joined the crew in Newcastle and is listed as deserted after arrival in the US. On 31 March 1931, Svante then marries Hilja Leskinen in Manhattan, NY. In 1942, he registers for the World War II draft, giving his address as 2301 Wyoming Ave, Washington, DC (in Kalorama, DC, and next to what is now the Embassy of Yemen).

Svante died in 1963. His wife Hilja and her sister Maria Wikberg both lived in Saline, MI until they passed away. Svante and Hilja’s daughter Ruth Ebba Märta was born in 1933, married a Christophersen, and had 3 sons, which are listed as living in Denmark. Her sister Maria, who of course is not genetically related to the Wahlfelts, had a daughter, Ethel Posldofer, who in turn had 2 sons and several grandchildren. Descendants who probably have no idea of their grand family history.


*Source: Kadettminnen av överste Claës Christian August Bratt 1927 (pdf available online)