When you see the splendid palaces standing in the historical city centre of Stockholm, it is easy to think of how great it had to be for the people whose names those palaces carry to live there. As we probably all know, things are often not what they look like, though.
Even for the most influential and richest people who lived in the country during its most prosperous era, it had taken a plenty of work and time to accumulate enough fortune to be able to afford to build a monumental palace like the ones that we can observe in Stockholm today. Moreover, being an important state or military official was a risky profession, which meant that many of these people could not always carry out their plans to the end.
Having said all of this, it is time to have a look at a few of the most impressive palaces in Stockholm whose original owners (almost) did not get to live there since they had passed away before the monumental structures were finished. In chronological order, we begin with the palace built for and named after Lord High Chancellor of Sweden Axel Oxenstierna, the Oxenstierna Palace (Axel Oxenstiernas palats).
Oxenstierna, who is considered one of the most influential men in the history of Sweden, resided at a prominent location right next to the Royal Palace. Nevertheless, the castle-like residence he inherited from his grandfather was not quite modern and remarkable enough for the statesman. First, he, together with his son Johan and the French-born architect Simon de la Vallée, designed a plan for a new palace that was meant to be located on the north-western edge of the Old Town (Gamla stan).
However, after Oxenstierna had sold this land to the House of Nobility, which moved to their new residence at this location in 1668, his desire to build a new home vanished. It was only in the early 1650s that Oxenstierna revisited his plans. This time, the idea was to build on his land west of the Royal Palace.
His change of heart was likely a consequence of Jean de la Vallée’s continental study trip after which he came up with a proposal for a redesign of the streets surrounding the official royal residence. The construction started in 1653 and was moving forward quickly. Although the palace was nearly finished in 1654, Axel Oxenstierna passed away that year after some 42 years in the office of the Lord High Chancellor and therefore, never got to see his new residence, let alone live there.
Around the same time, another important Swedish statesman was planning a prominent residence of his own. Gustav Bonde, the Lord High Treasurer of Sweden, imagined a palace for himself that would be more impressive than any other one could see in the entire empire.
For this purpose, Bonde acquired several properties neighbouring the House of Nobility that was still under construction at the time. To achieve his objective, the treasurer came up with an ingenious strategy. He asked both Jean de la Vallée and Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, the two most notable architects of the era, to draw a proposal for his new residence.
Since the two architects were fierce rivals, Bonde expected them to do their best work trying to beat their competitor’s creation. The plan worked out pretty well and even though de la Vallée was eventually given the assignment, large parts of the Bonde Palace’s exterior were drawn by Tessin.
The construction of the prominent residence began in 1662 and was completed roughly eleven years later. While it is true that Gustav Bonde passed away in 1667, I cannot really say that he did not live in the property carrying his name. He moved in a year before his death even though works on the palace were still ongoing.
Another interesting fact about the Bonde Palace (Bondeska palatset) is that its owner planned to rent out most of the more than 120 rooms to craftsmen and foreign officials. This information illustrates that even a man with the status like Bonde could not afford to occupy such monumental place by himself.
Lastly, I introduce you to the van der Noot Palace (van der Nootska palatset) named after the nobleman with Dutch origins Thomas van der Noot. The military officer who entered Swedish service in the 1650s was introduced to the House of Nobility in the late 1660s. Afterwards, it did not take long for him to crave for a new, more prominent residence worthy of his newly acquired social status.
Consequently, he acquired land in the Maria Parish on the island of Södermalm and began building in 1672. There is a controversy surrounding the authorship of the design of the palace built for van der Noot since no reliable documents regarding the construction have been preserved. However, most experts have agreed that the architect responsible for the largest part of the palace was, once again, Jean de la Vallée.
The reasoning behind this conclusion is the similarities between the designs of the previously mentioned palaces, including the Bonde Palace, House of Nobility, and the Oxenstierna Palace, and the one in question. The Dutchman did not mind spending his fortune on lavish décor and furniture, which meant that the palace was first-class in every aspect.
However, van der Noot had been sent back to his homeland in 1674 on a diplomatic mission and soon after, things were about to get worse for him. Although he was promoted in the military to general major and achieved the Baron status in the Nobility, he did not enjoy himself for too long. He was killed in his forties during the siege of the now Polish city of Szczecin in 1677.
This story is meant to help you understand the historical context of some of the most beautiful historic sites you can find in Stockholm today. Personally, I find it intriguing that while we may logically assume that these prominent historical figures enjoyed their lives in the splendid palaces, it is not quite so. If you would like to discover the whole stories of the mentioned palaces, I encourage you to read our corresponding posts.
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