The Twickenham Museum
People : Diplomats

Baron Sparre
Swedish Ambassador in England
1688 - 1741

The Parish Registers for St Mary’s Church Twickenham record the baptism, on 8 August 1724, of George Frederick, son of Charles Gustav Barron Sparre, Envoy Extraordinary & Minister Plenipotentiary from the King of Sweden at the Court of Great Britain, & Elizabeth, Countess of Gyllenborg, his wife.

The Sparres (sometimes Sparr) were resident in Twickenham at this time, paying rates for the substantial property on the riverside owned by Sir George Bridges Skipwith and later known as “Lord Denbigh’s”. It burnt down in June 1734 while occupied by M Chauvigny the French Ambassador.

Carl Gustaf Jacobsson Sparre was born at Ulvåsa, south-west of Stockholm on 1 June 1688. Descended from the Sparres of Rossvik, an ancient Swedish family, he had been the Swedish Ambassador in Paris before coming to England in 1719 in succession to Charles, Count Gyllenborg. In 1720 he married an English girl, Elizabeth Derith (1692-1766), probably at Settle in Yorkshire. In 1728 they moved to 33 Grosvenor Street in London, remaining there until 1736 before returning to Sweden where he died in 1741. Elizabeth returned to Settle where she died in 1766.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Sarah Derith (c1680-1745), the widowed daughter of John Wright, Attorney General for Jamaica. Sarah married, secondly, Count Gyllenborg in London in 1710 and so Sparre became Gyllenborg’s son-in-law. The connection was reinforced when, in 1720, Elizabeth was made Countess Gyllenborg by Queen Ulrika Leonora, sister of Charles XII (1682-1718) shortly after her accession.

George Frederick, their son died as a child in 1726, and there were two further children, Elizabeth and Carl who also died in childhood. However their daughter, Ulrika Amelia Carlsdotter, born in London in 1734, returned from Sweden with her mother in 1741 and died unmarried at Thirsk in 1778.

An imprudent venture fails

In 1716 Count Gyllenborg, Baron Goertz, then Swedish Envoy at the Hague and Baron Sparre in Paris were involved in planning, on behalf of Charles XII, a sequel to the 1715 Jacobite rising. Charles was angered at the purchase by King George I from the King of Denmark of the duchies of Bremen and Verden recently captured from Sweden. The project was to invade Scotland from Gothenburg, with 16,000 men, and place the Pretender on the throne of England.

There was correspondence with the Earl of Mar, now exiled in Paris for his part in the 1715 uprising. It has been claimed that Mar, as adviser to the Pretender, arranged for 6000 “bolls” (barrels) of Scottish oatmeal to be sent to Charles as encouragement, perhaps to feed the troops. In the event the plot was exposed before the invasion could take place, with or without oatmeal. Habeas Corpus temporarily suspended, and irrespective of his diplomatic status, Gyllenborg was arrested by General Wade in London and held under guard at a country house known as Gulliver's, possibly near Plymouth, for some months. In 1717 he was returned to Sweden in exchange for the British Ambassador, detained there in reprisal, as a hostage.

Gyllenborg's subsequent career in Sweden was distinguished: he became High Chancellor of Sweden, Counsellor of the Swedish Empire, Chancellor of the University of Lund and, in 1739, President of Chancery and Chancellor of the University of Uppsala. He died in 1746.

Baron Goertz did not live long; he fell out of favour when Charles XII was killed in 1718. When Queen Ulrika acceded to the throne she had him arrested. Highly unpopular, he was tried for corruption and other misdeeds and executed in 1719.

It is, perhaps, remarkable that Baron Sparre was now appointed Ambassador to the Court of George I, and intriguing that he first took up residence in Twickenham in the house that the Earl of Mar had occupied 10 years earlier.

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