Emilie Sophie Högquist 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 and Anna Beata Hedvall. Her brother Jean also became a famous Swedish actor.
As her father was the butler of count Carl De Geer, Emilie was soon exposed to men from the upper classes. Her mother was the hostess for the ill-reputed "Balls" held to introduce female students from Dramatens elevskola to rich men. Emilie, like her elder sister Hanna, was placed in Dramatens elevskola by her mother in 1821, and acted as a child actor in the child theatre ofAnders Selinder, the Selinderska Barntheatern. At the age of fourteen, she was "introduced" to a rich old man by her mother.
In 1826-1828 she was a part of a travelling theatre company touring the country, and when she returned, she was accepted as a student at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm, making her debut in the play "Qväkaren" in 1828. she was given a contract there at 1831. 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 impossible for the theatre, and Emilie sent him to America. Jean 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 comic up till then, and when she left, the theatre had to find a replacement for such roles. They were first given to Charlotta Eriksson, but Eriksson, a star with a different repertoire and expression, was not suited for the parts of Torsslow. Emilie Högvist was now given her chance and immediately excelled. She was received with great enthusiasm in these roles and took over the audience for Torsslow as well as gaining great admiration of her own. Her salary can illustrate her rise in career; in 1835, Emilie Högquist had a vagues 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 have 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 comical parts. She was very appreciated in so called French salon comedies, a very popular genre of the time. An initial critic to her ability was her weak voice; she herself admitted that she had the "voice of a chicken", but she made the most of it. 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" was 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" and had 125 roles in her repertoire. She also toured in Finland.
After having a daughter with British diplomat John Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield, Emilie made the acquaintance of Oscar, who was at that time heir to the throne. He rented a luxury apartment for her and in time set up a second family with her, close to the royal castle where his queen and legitimate children lived. It is said that the king spent every other night at the castle and every other night with Emilie. With Oscar, Emilie had two sons, Hjalmar and Max. Max was named after Maximilian de Beauharnais, Oscar's brother-in-law (and consequently the queen's brother). The two boys were jokingly referred to as "the princes of Laponia" (Lappland). Max grew up to become a merchant in China, where he died in 1872. Hjalmar died in 1874 inLondon.
Emilies apartment was known for its "Asian luxury". She was a celebrated hostess and held a salon that were 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 ease 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.
The love between Emilie Högquist and Oscar I of was Sweden portrayed in the film Filmen om Emilie Högqvist ("The movie about Emilie Högquist") starring Signe Hasso and Georg Rydeberg (1939), one of the most expensive made in Sweden during the 1930s.