Emilie Högquist

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Emilie Högquist
Emilie Hogqvist.jpg
Emilie Högquist
Born Emilie Sophie Högquist
(1812-04-29)29 April 1812
Stockholm, Sweden
Died 18 December 1846(1846-12-18) (aged 34)
Turin, Italy

Emilie Sophie Högquist (29 April 1812 – 18 December 1846) was a Swedish actress and the mistress of Oscar I of Sweden. She was a star of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, the most celebrated dramatic Swedish primadonna of her time, called the Swedish Aspasia, and also famous for her love affairs. She has been called the first female celebrity within Swedish drama.


She was the daughter of Anders Högquist, butler of count Carl De Geer, and Anna Beata Hedvall. Her brother Jean and her sister Hanna were also to become stage artistes. Like her sister, she was placed in the Dramatens elevskola by her mother in 1821: she also participated in the children's theatre of Anders Selinder, the Selinderska Barntheatern.

Through her father's profession, Emilie Högquist was exposed early to interest from men of the upper classes. Her mother was known to host balls, to which she invited female students from the Dramatens elevskola and introduced them to officers, diplomats and other upper class. Further more, the royal theatre also hosted balls from time to time, in which men were allowed to buy a dance from a female theatre student to help the finances of the theatre[1] Both her mother's balls and the balls given by the theatre were considered of ill-repute, because they were thought to be opening an opportunity for prostitution when the students were introduced to wealthy men[2] In the case of Emilie Högquist, it is known that she was in fact prostituted by her mother, when she introduced her at the age of fourteen to a rich older man [3]

Between 1826 and 1828, she was a member of the travelling theatre company touring the country side. Upon her return, she was accepted as a student at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm. She debuted at the royal theatre in the play Qväkaren in 1828. In 1831, she was contracted at the royal theatre. Her younger brother Jean Högquist (1814–1850), who was also considered to be great talent, followed her there, but his self-destructive way of life made him too undisciplined for the theatre, and she sent him to America. Jean Högquist was very close to his sister: he returned in 1846, and when Emilie died, he became so self-destructive that he died only four years later.


Emilie had her breakthrough after the great strike called "The second Torsslow argument" in 1834, when the great star Sara Torsslow left the theatre with her husband. Torsslow had been the most notable "sentimental actress" and comedienne up till then, and when she left, the theatre had to find a replacement for those roles. They were first given to Charlotta Eriksson, but Eriksson, a star with a different repertoire and expression, was not suited for the Torsslow's parts. Emilie Högvist was now given her chance and immediately excelled. She was received with great enthusiasm in these roles and took over Torsslow's audience as well as gaining an admiring following of her own. Her salary can illustrate her rise in career; in 1835, Emilie Högquist had a wage of 1.200. As a comparison, the primadonna Henriette Widerberg had a salary of 1.600, and the minimum salary of an actress was 200.

She was the most celebrated Swedish primadonna of her time, called the Swedish Aspasia; few other dramatic actresses in Sweden before her had enjoyed her popularity and success. Emilie Högquist has been compared to the opera singer Henriette Widerberg, as their lives, personalities and careers were much alike, and she was also to replace Widerberg in many ways: though she is regarded as much more gifted artistically then Widerberg, who was an excellent singer but more talked about for her beauty.

Her talent was demonstrated through romantic and comic parts. She was very much appreciated in so called "French salon comedies", a very popular genre of the time. An initial criticism of her abilities was her weak voice; she herself admitted that she had the "voice of a chicken", but she made the most of it.[4] She was helped with this problem after a student trip to Paris 1836-37, where she was instructed by the French actress Mademoiselle Mars, and when she returned, she was called an ideal of grace and taste, and her earlier "chicken-voice" had been replaced by a voice that "caressed the ear". Among her parts were "Qväkaren och dansaren" (The quaker and the dancer) by Scribe, "Shakspears Kär" (Shakespear's love), "Jungfrun av Orleans" (The Maid of Lorraine) by Schiller, Mary Stuart (play) and "Hamlet". She had 125 roles in her repertoire. She also toured in Finland.

Private life

After having a daughter with British diplomat John Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield, Högquist made the acquaintance of Crown Prince Oscar. He rented a luxury apartment for her and eventually set up his second family there, close to the Stockholm Palace where his wife and legitimate children lived. Allegedly Oscar spent alternate nights at the palace and with Emilie. By Oscar, she had two sons, Hjalmar and Max. Max was named for Maximilian de Beauharnais, Oscar's brother-in-law. The two boys were unofficially referred to as "the Princes of Lapland".[5] Max grew up to become a merchant in China, where he died in 1872. Hjalmar died in 1874 in London.

Emilies apartment was known for its "Asian luxury". She was a celebrated hostess and held a salon that was quite famous, counting artists and men of important positions among her dinner guests, though it was never visited by female members of the upper classes because of her reputation as a courtesan. During her grand days as a star in the 1840s, she was also active in charity to help those in poverty. She was the benefactor of the former primadonna Henriette Widerberg. Her health, however, declined during these years. In the theatre, she was replaced by Zelma Hedin.


Emilie died at age 34 in Turin, Italy, where she had gone to try to cure her ailments, probably tuberculosis and cancer. She was one of the three famous Swedish artistes who were officially celebrated in a memorial in 1847.


With John Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield :

  • Tekla, born October 1833

With King Oscar I of Sweden:

  • Hjalmar Högquist, born 18 June 1839 in Hamburg, died 1874 in London.
  • Max Högquist, born 12 August 1840 in Stockholm, died 1872 in China.

In fiction

The love between Emilie Högquist and Oscar I of was Sweden portrayed in the film Emilie Högquist starring Signe Hasso and Georg Rydeberg (1939), one of the most expensive made in Sweden during the 1930s.

See also


  1. Nordin Hennek, Ingeborg: Mod och försakelser. Livs- och yrkesbetingelser för Konglig Theaterns skådespelerskor 1813-1863. Gidlunds. Södertälje (1997)
  2. Nordin Hennek, Ingeborg: Mod och försakelser. Livs- och yrkesbetingelser för Konglig Theaterns skådespelerskor 1813-1863. Gidlunds. Södertälje (1997)
  3. Stålberg, Wilhelmina: Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor (Swedish)
  4. Carin Österberg, "Svenska Kvinnor" (Swedish)
  5. Söderhjelm & Palmstierna in Oscar I, Bonniers, Stockholm 1944, p. 279
  • http://runeberg.org/sqvinnor/0223.html(Swedish)
  • http://historiska-personer.nu/min-s/p1b49fc03.html(Swedish)
  • http://runeberg.org/nfbh/0175.html(Swedish)
  • Carin Österberg: Svenska Kvinnor; Föregångare, pionjärer (Swedish Women; predecessors, pioneers) (Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar. Första bandet 1772-1842 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days 1772-1842) (1917) (Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar. Första bandet 1842-1918 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days 1842-1918) (1918) (Swedish)