February holds the title of Black History month as well LGBT Month and even Women's History Month too, I believe. Why they had to cram all these great things to celebrate into the shortest month, I will always wonder. But before this month is over I feel it necessary to celebrate Black History Month with an appropriate post.
Of the many people of color we see portrayed in our European history books, there is one with quite a different background and therefore a different story and perspective. Somewhere around 1750 a black boy was born far away from the cobbles of Europe. History has lost Couschi's true origins but it is thought that after his hut burnt down (which is all he recalled from his beginnings) an East Indies ship picked him up from Africa or Saint Croix. Couschi was then sold to a statesman as a slave who decided to bestow him as a gift, to the queen of Sweden.
Queen Louisa considered herself a modern, Enlightened woman. When the scared little boy landed in front of her she decided not to dress him up fashionably to carry around her train. Thinking upon the new Enlightenment philosphies of the 'Noble Savage' Louisa decided to go against the common thought and see if a black person could be raised to be "civil." Just imagine! The concept at the time was like a five-year-old reciting Shakespeare's sonnets. But luckily, there were people like Queen Louisa in the world and the Enlightenment only aided in furthering people's primeval thinking.
Couschi was baptized, Gustave Badin (badin, meaning trickster) and raised with the rest of the princes and princesses. He was treated more as an adoptive child than a slave. He spoke freely to the royal family, not using their proper titles and was known to tease the children which the public considered quite scandalous. Growing up with the royal children he was given the best education and raised to be a good Christian, even though he would later go on to openly mock the religion. Gustav, being raised within the royal family became a confidante to his foster-family and even knew all the secret passages in the various palaces.
Despite being raised among princes, Gustav seemed to be accepting of his destiny of servitude upon entering adulthood. Although he wasn't a slave, society was not ready to have a black noble. Gustav was a now a servant to the queen, but I use the term loosely. He was more of a trusted companion, a position Gustav seemed to happily accept. He also had the freedom to pursue other interests and was also a ballet dancer. He was given many titles which he always refused, not wanting excuses for his position with one of the most powerful families of Europe. When Queen Louisa lay on her deathbed in 1782, it was Gustav whom she trusted with the key to her personal files, with the instructions to "burn them." When King Gustav found out that his former playmate burnt his mother's personal papers he is reported to have furiously proclaim, "Do you not know, you black person, that I can make you pay with your head?" To which Gustav replied, "My head is in the power of your Majesty, but I could not act in a different way."
After the queen's death, Gustav would serve Princess Sophia Albertine, another royal child he grew up with. There were rumors that the two had more than a professional relationship but this is probably without foundation. As for Gustav's love life, he did marry twice but never had any children. He died in his 70s in 1822 was was dearly missed by his foster family.