|Elvira Madigan (December 4, 1867 – July 20, 1889) was Danish tightrope walker and trick rider, whose illicit affair and dramatic death at the hands of her lover were the subject of a famous Swedish film from 1967.|
She was born Hedvig Antoinette Isabella Eleonore Jensen in Flensburg in northern Germany. Her mother was a Norwegian circus performer and her father a Danish stablemaster. Her mother later lived with the American circus manager John Madigan.
While performing in Sweden with her stepfather's circus she met a Swedish cavalry officer, Lieutenant Count Bengt Edvard Sixten Sparre (born September 27, 1854). Sparre and Madigan fell in love, but their love was impossible partly due to the fact that Sparre was married and the father of two children. After exchanging love letters for one year they ran away together to Denmark in June 1889, where they spent about one month. When they ran out of money, they packed a picnic basket, went out to the Nørreskov ("North forest") NE of the vilage Landet, Denmark, and had a last meal, after which Sparre shot Madigan and himself with his service revolver. Madigan was 21 years old and Sparre 35 years old. It was 20 July, 1889.
Madigan's and Sparre's grave is situated on the cemetery of Landet on Tåsinge and is still today visited by tourists and lovers from all over the world. Their tragic love story has some resemblance to the Austrian Mayerling drama, where Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover took their lives in January 1889.
The story of Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre was the subject of three films. The most famous is the Swedish film of 1967 directed by Bo Widerberg. The soundtrack features the Andante from Piano Concerto No. 21 in C by Mozart, which is now popularly known as "Theme from Elvira Madigan".