Sigrid Eskilsdotter (Banér) was one of the most significant women within the Swedish upper nobility from the mid-1400s to the early 1500s. She and her family circle found themselves in the middle of the political and military unrest of that period, and she came to play an important role in Swedish history due to her family connections.
Sigrid Eskilsdotter’s exact birth date is unknown, although it is very likely that she was born sometime during the mid-1400s, possibly at Lindholmen farm in Orkesta parish in Uppland. Her father, Eskil Isaksson, belonged to the family which later came to be called Banér. He was a privy councillor, a knight, and a chief district judge. Her mother, Cecilia Haraldsdotter, who received Venngarn castle as a morning gift in conjunction with her marriage in July 1441, belonged to the Gren family. She was the niece of privy councillor Magnus Gren, who was one of the most prominent noblemen of Sweden in the 1400s and often found himself at odds with King Karl Knutsson (Bonde) and his supporters. It is known that Cecilia Haraldsdotter was still alive in 1465, but the date of her death is a mystery. Eskil remarried after she had died and he was still living in 1481; Sigrid and her brother Knut gained their inheritance from Eskil in 1488.
As a consequence of her ancestry Sigrid Eskilsdotter was subjected to the type of marriage planning which was the norm amongst the nobility in late-medieval Sweden. She married the privy councillor and chief district judge Måns Karlsson (Eka) on 15 January 1475. Two of their children survived into adulthood, namely Cecilia and Trotte. Måns died sometime between 1484 and 1487. Sigrid Eskilsdotter then remarried in 1487 to Nils Eriksson (Gyllenstierna), with whom she had a daughter named Kristina. It was through her children that Sigrid Eskilsdotter would become directly linked to the political power elite in Sweden at a time when it was undergoing its greatest period of unrest.
Sigrid’s son, Trotte, was one of the Swedish lords who, in the period after 1501, most vehemently opposed the union monarch King Hans and was thus considered to be one of the king’s greatest enemies. Trotte became a knight and a privy councillor, and was appointed lord of Stegeborg castle and county in 1506, at the latest, and led a raid on Scania in 1508. He died in 1512, thereby avoiding the death sentence which King Hans had already imposed on him for treason in 1505. Trotte’s sister Cecilia Månsdotter married Erik Johansson (Vasa), also a privy councillor who similarly was condemned to death by King Hans in 1505. Trotte’s and Cecilia’s half-sister Kristina Nilsdotter Gyllenstierna married the soon-to-be regent Sten Sture the younger in 1511. Kristina Gyllenstierna’s greatest contribution came through her brave defence of Stockholm castle in 1520 after her husband’s deah from battle wounds.
Sigrid Eskilsdotter was widowed a second time in 1595 and this time she did not remarry. During the ensuing decades she largely lived at Lindholmen. Her life took a violent turn in November 1520 while she was attending the Swedish coronation of King Kristian II in Stockholm. During the so-called ‘Stockholm bloodbath’ – in which her son-in-law Erik Johansson and other noblemen had their throats slit – she was taken prisoner. This development reveals that Sigrid Eskilsdotter was viewed as a significant contemporary political pawn. She was condemned to death, just as her daughter had been, but the sentence was never carried out. Instead Sigrid Eskilsdotter had her property confiscated. She and her daughters, Cecilia and Kristina, were taken to Copenhagen where, in 1521, they and several of their relatives were placed in custody in Blåtårn, a prison tower that was part of Copenhagen castle. Cecilia died from the plague a year later, but both Sigrid and Kristina were eventually released: Sigrid in 1523 and Kristina in 1524.
Upon their return to Sweden Cecilia’s son – who was Sigrid Eskilsdotter’s grandson – Gustav Eriksson had conquered Sweden, become regent in 1521, and then been crowned the first king of the Vasa dynasty two years later. It seems that Sigrid Eskilsdotter played no further political role. She died in 1527, either at Venngarn castle in Uppland, or at Gäddeholm (now Tureholm) in Södermanland. Accounts related that she was buried at what is now Trosa church.