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Carin du Rietz

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Carin or Karin (Catharina) du Rietz (1766-1788), was a Swedish woman who became a soldier at the Royal guard dressed as a man. Her story was a well known and discussed event in her time, and later seen as one of the many examples of the vivacious Gustavian age.

Biography Edit

The daughter of lieutenant Carl du Rietz and Eva Cronhjelm, she was described as a woman with the education of an Amazon, with power and courage, temperament and beauty, and a "mind of fire". She grew up in a mansion in Småland.

She ran away from home three times; the cause was thought to have been the strictness of her parents combined with the "reading of too many novels". The first time, she reached Stockholm, where she was discovered and captured by her brothers; the second time she escaped to her doting grandparents on Värmdön. The third time, however, she dressed herself like a man and enlisted in the Royal regiment at court in Stockholm.

During her time as a guard soldier, she preserved her male identity through her "female cunning", but as the story goes, she had so many troubles with sexual advances from both women and men that in the end she could see no other solution but to reveal her identity to the king himself before she was discovered in some other way. According to the legend, she stepped forward and fell down before the king one day when he passed a row of soldiers, of which she was one.

When she did so, the king, Gustav III of Sweden, was highly amused by her story. He allowed her to marry a librarian at the royal court, Erik Johan Paulin, a man with priest-education. The king then gave them Kungsbacka parish, and they were both described as very happy about this.

Sadly however, Carin died in childbirth as soon as they moved in to their new home, and her husband and child quickly followed her to the grave.

Other cases Edit

She was far from the only example of women personating and living as men; the 18th May 1780 an incident was reported in the newspaper as a warning example;

"As a great benefit to the maids of the city, death newly discovered a terrible fraud, which, if it becomes an example, would alarm the fair sex, humiliate the clothing of males and make medical examinations necessary for both engagements and weddings."
One of the coachmen of the city of Linköping, Petter Cederlöf, had suddenly taken ill and died within ten hours. The woman taking care of the body then discovered that the man was in fact a woman. It was decided to make it public as a warning. Cederlöf had been hired the spring before after having showed all the necessary papers, amused himself with the maids, and finally proposed and engaged himself with a maid from the city. The fiancee was initially devastated over the death of her dear "Petter", but when she was told, it was reported that "All her tears have suddenly ceased".

Many such stories are told, some of them quite famous; Gustafva Juliana Cederström, (1746-1801) was widely known in the country for having served in several professions as a man, and on the opposite side, there was Lasse-Maja, a man dressing himself as a woman.

Sources Edit

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