Louisa Ulrika of Prussia

Louisa Ulrika of Prussia

Infobox Swedish Royalty|majesty|consort
name =Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
title =Queen consort of Sweden

caption =Louisa Ulrika, Queen of Sweden painting by Antoine Pesne, c. 1744
reign =1751 - 1771
coronation =
spouse =Adolf Frederick
issue =Gustav III
Charles XIII
Frederick Frederick Adolf
Princess Sophia Albertine
full name =
othertitles ="HM" Queen Louisa Ulrika
"HM" The Queen
"HRH" Princess Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp
"HRH" Princess Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
royal house =House of Holstein-Gottorp
House of Hohenzollern
father =Frederick William I of Prussia
mother =Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
date of birth =1720
place of birth =
date of christening =
place of christening =
date of death =1782
place of death =
date of burial =
place of burial =|

Louisa Ulrika of Prussia (Swedish: "Lovisa Ulrika"; German: "Luise Ulrike") (1720—1782) was a Swedish Queen, Queen consort of Sweden between 1751 and 1771 as wife of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden, and mother of King Gustav III of Sweden and King Charles XIII of Sweden.


Louisa Ulrika was the daughter of Frederick William I of Prussia and his wife Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, and was thus a younger sister of both Wilhelmine of Bayreuth and Frederick the Great. She was given the Swedish name Ulrika because Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden had been her god mother; she exchanged letters with her godmother, and it was thought that she would marry a future son by Ulrika Eleonora, as Ulrika Eleonora herself had once been considered as a consort for her father. However, Ulrika Eleonora remained childless. Other matches were considered, such as the Prince of Wales. Upon the accession of her brother to the throne in 1740, she was appointed koadjutris of Quedlinburg Abbey with the prospect of being Princess-Abbess.

Crown Princess

In 1744, Ulrika married Adolf Friedrich von Holstein-Gottorp, who had been elected crown prince of Sweden in 1743 and after his succession to the throne in 1751 reigned as King Adolf Frederick of Sweden. She was recommended as a bride by Russia, just as her husband was recommended as an heir to the throne by Russia. At first, however, it was her sister Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia who was considered, as her brother warned that Louisa Ulrika was perhaps to ambitious to be a good queen in a monarchy without power, as Sweden then was during the Age of Liberty. Her brother king Frederick said that Louisa Ulrika was "arrogant, temperamental and an intriguer", and that they should not let themselves be fooled by her friendliness towards them, while Amalia was mild and "more suitable"; it has been considered, that Fredrick's judgment was given because he believed Amalia would be easier to control as a Prussian agent than the more dominant Louisa Ulrika. But the Swedish representatives preferred Louisa Ulrika.

Louisa Ulrika was received with great enthusiasm in Sweden when she arrived in 1744 as a hope of solving the country's succession problems, and gained popularity with her beauty and by the birth of her children; no children had been born in the Swedish royal house in over fifty years at the birth of her first child.

At her arrival, she was given Drottningholm Palace as a gift, where she resided with her young court. She was described as beautiful, cultivated - entirely according to the French tradition - and interested in science and culture. Count Carl Gustaf Tessin called her: "A mind of a god in the Image of an angel", but also as extremely proud and arrogant, which made her less and less liked outside of the aristocracy over the years.

The court of the crown prince couple, called "The young court", amused themselwes with picnics, masquerades and French amateur theatre. Her first favorite among her ladies-in-waiting was Henrika Juliana von Liewen, who was an eager follower of the Hat's Party. The young court was also strongly affected by count Tessin. Count Carl Tessin had escorted Louisa Ulrika to Sweden, and he and his wife had a strong influence on her the first years. Prince Adolf Frederick never cared much for Tessin, but in 1745, Count Tessin was appointed royal court marshal and later governor of their son, and Countess Ulla Tessin as first lady-in-waiting. Tessin was behind many happy surprises and arrangements for amusements in the young court; some said he was only too eager to please her in any way possible.

During her time as a crown princess, there were rumors that she had an affair with count Tessin, but this was with all certainty not true: her son Gustav III later replied to these rumors, that although Count Tessin had been in love with her, this was against the "natural contempt" that Louisa Ulrika herself felt for every subject, noble or not.

Already as a crown princess, she was politically active. In the Christmas of 1744, she visited Tessin and gave him a lantern in the guise of the goddess Diana with the inscription: "Made only to shed light on the political system of the day". "Her political ideal was absolute monarchy, and she disliked the Swedish constitution from the moment it was explained for her. She also disliked the legal system; when she at one point thought herself exposed to a plot, she wrote: "The laws are so strange, and one does not dare to arrest someone on mere suspicion without proof, which benefit the individual more than the kingdom." At her own court, she was surrounded by nobles loyal to the Hats (party), and initially she allied herself with them in her ambition to restore the power of the royal throne, but over the years she soon begun to gather followers from all parties to establish a "royal court party". After the birth of her son in 1746 she and the crown prince gathered followers also from the Caps (party). She learned Swedish and visited several of the Cap's most prominent members. At the visit of the Cap's parliamentary Kalsenius, she wrote that he was: "The biggest villain in the world, but I will not leave until I have bribed him. That is the only means by which one can reach the goal one has in mind." She disliked the alliance between Sweden and Russia, and in 1747, she affected the votes in the parliament by bribing. Whether it was because of this or not, the parliament voted for an alliance between Sweden, Prussia and France that year.


In 1751, she became queen. When she became queen, Louisa Ulrika revitalized the royal court, which had been neglected during the reign of King Frederick I, and founded a theater at Drottningholm Palace. Her interest for theater was, however, entirely French-influenced, and she interrupted the development of a native Swedish national theatre at Bollhuset by replacing it with a French Theatre, which was only a benefit for those who could speak French.

In Sweden, she is mainly remembered for the founding of the Witterhetsakademin (in 1753), an academy which counted Carl von Linné among its members. She was a great patron of science and art, a protector of the work of scientists such as Carl von Linné and artists such as the painter Ulrika Pasch and the poet Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht. Nordenflycht was given a pension of 600§ until she was given the same pension from the state in 1752. Her "adoption" of Gustav Badin in 1757 was intended as a form of scientific experiment.

1754 was the year of the alienation of Count Tessin. In 1751, he seemed to have fallen from grace and Tessin wrote that she no longer discussed politics with him and "claimed that she took no part in politics". The year before, he had convinced her to agree on the engagement between her eldest son and a Danish princess, when she herself had preferred another bride. At this point, count Tessin was reported to no longer be in control of his infatuation of her, and it was noted in court that the king had "taken against" Tessin. Crown prince Gustav wrote in 1769, that Tessin had made Louisa Ulrika "suggestions far from the reverence one is expected towards a sovereign"; Louisa Ulrika had told the king, who had surprised Tessin on his knees before the queen, and the count and the countess Tessin had lost their positions- the queen only remarked that she missed countess Tessin. Her favourite was her lady-in-waiting Ulrika von Düben, who replaced Henrika von Liewen in 1748 and was appointed first lady-in-waiting in 1756 after Ulrika Strömfelt. Düben was the niece of Emerentia von Düben, who had been the favorite lady-in-waiting of queen Ulrika Eleonora, and her critics in the court described her as a typical representative of an ingratiating court-noble.

As soon as she became queen in 1751, she made preparations to overthrow the parliament. The vow to respect the constitution which her husband made upon his accession to the throne was a great sorrow for her. Her attempt of a royalistic revolution was prevented in 1756. The same year, Sweden went to war against her brother, which she opposed. Nevertheless, she remained a dominant figure, with numerous quarrels with the government over the years. In 1763, the government asked her to write to her brother, the King of Prussia, in order to prevent the Swedish province of Pommerania in Germany from being annexed by Prussia after the Seven Years War, which she did after great persuasion. She succeeded in the negotiations, which for her was a form of triumph over the parliament. As a sign of gratitude for this act, the government paid her debts, which made it possible for her to use her money to affect the voting in the parliament through bribes; her plan was now to change the constitution through this method.

After 1766, her attempts had failed, and her political activity was now over; in 1766-1771, the anti-parliamentaristic opposition looked to her son Crown Prince Gustav instead of her. Her relationship with her son became tense after this. She had wanted Gustav to marry her niece Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt, the daughter of her favorite brother, and had to agree to the engagement to Sophia Magdalena of Denmark against her will. She was much displeased when Gustav himself agreed to go through with the marriage in 1766. During the affair of 1768, when the king threatened to abdicate if he was not granted more power, and the country was on the verge of a coup, the royalists, for the first time, turned to her son instead of her.

Her arrogance, her political views and her conflicts with the parliament made her less and less liked during her husband's reign. Tessin once said about her, that: "Our queen would have been the most staunch republican if she had been born a subject", but she was born within a class which fought to keep their privileges and power.

The Failed Royal Revolution of 1756

Queen Louisa Ulrika strongly dominated her husband and the court, and she would also had been the real ruler during her husband's reign if the Swedish monarchy had not been stripped of its power in 1718 and 1720; at this point, the king was a mere decoration and Sweden was a monarchy only in name. This greatly displeased the queen, herself born in an absolute monarchy. She could not understand nor condone the parliament; for her, it was not acceptable for a royal person to have to receive peasants in the royal salons, as she was forced to do with the peasant's representatives from the parliament. She was further enraged when the parliament forced the king to give up his claims on the throne of Holstein, and arranged the marriage between her son Gustav to Sofia Magdalena of Denmark, when she herself had preferred a German princess. She was enraged when the parliamentaristic C.F.Scheffer was appointed her son's educator. In 1755, the parliament decided that, if the king refused to sign the laws issued by the government, a stamp would be used instead.

To display her contempt, she humiliated the parliament's representatives by the etiquette of the royal court; she stopped their carriages at the Palace gates, let forced them to wait for hours, while she let those who arived before them be received and let them sit on small little, low stools before her to make them lose their dignity.

In the three months following her coronation, Louisa Ulrika removed the diamonds from the crown and replaced them with glass. She gathered followers among the aristocracy to plan a coup d'état to overthrow the government, dissolve the parliament, and reinstate absolute monarchy in Sweden. Her followers where called the hov-partiet (The royal court party), and they were men form the nobility in opposition to the parliament for personal reasons, wanting rewards from the queen after a successful coup. In the court theatre, the French and Italian troupes performed plays hinting that the king should taken control over his kingdom.

To finance the coup, the Queen pawned the jewelry she had been given as a wedding gift by the state, as well as some of the crown jewels belonging to the state, among them 44 diamonds she had placed in the Queen's Crown, which she pawned in Berlin to borrow money. The lady-in-waiting of the Queen, Ulrika Strömfelt, informed the government that parts of the crown jewels were missing. For this act, she was later to receive the honorary title "Ständernas dotter" ("Daughter of the Parliament") and a pension of §2000. The government demanded to inspect the crown jewels, as it was the property of the state. The Queen refused, as she did not recognise any right of the government to inspect anything. At the same time, the king was taken ill, and the government retreated to allow him to recover, giving the queen time the get the diamonds back to the inspection. At the same time, weapons and bullets were being made. The plan was to hire criminals to cause chaos on the streets; the royalistic officers would then block the streets, the royalists would be armed and the King would enter the square to "resume control", after which the public would "celebrate him as the saviour from the parliament".

The plans were often discussed at the pub of the royalistic Ernst Angel. Angel was the illegitimate son of Maximilian of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), the brother of king Frederick I of Sweden, which he often pointed out. The 21 June 1756, the police heard Angel talk about the plans of a royal revolution while he was drunk. He was arrested and interrogated, and the next day, the arrests of the noblemen begun. When the royal couple entered Stockholm after a stay at from Drottninghom Palace that night the streets where filled with the military. The whole conspiracy against the parliament was discovered. The parliament voted for a death sentence for four of the involved noblemen, who were decapitated on Riddarholmstorget in Stockholm in front of thousands of specators, outside the royal palace, and three days later, Ernst Angel and three more was decapitated. Several others where sentenced to prison, whipping, exile, pilloring and by being banned from seats in the parliament.

The Queen, who was the instigator behind all this, received a strong note from the parliament communicated by the archbishop, who forced her to write a letter of confession and regret. He afterwards said, that he thought he had seen "tears of rage and sorrow" in her eyes: she herself wrote that she had tried to display: "all the coldness, all the contempt possible to make in a demonstration": she regretted nothing but that her revolution had failed. The king had a statement read to him saying that he would be deposed if she ever attempted something similar again.

Queen Dowager

In 1771, the king died and she became a Dowager Queen. Louisa Ulrika was at the death of the king immensely unpopular in Sweden: when the news of the king's death reached her son, the new king, who was then in Paris, he wrote that the Queen Dowager be protected, as "I know how little loved my mother is".

In 1772, her son the new king succeeded where she had failed in 1756 by overthrowing the democracy and reinstating absolute monarchy, which was a great satisfaction to her. At the time of the coup, she was in Berlin with her daughter. She was present in Swedish Pomerania when the Province gave their allegiance to the new constitution. When her brother told her that the neighboring countries would now attack Sweden, she wrote to him that she would defend the province of Pomerania against him with her own blood.

However, she could never settle with the position of dowager queen, and her last years were spent in bitterness. She had expected to be the real ruler behind the throne, and when her son made it clear that he would rule independently from her, their relationship worsened. In 1772, he prevented her plans to marry of her second son Charles to Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt; in 1774, Charles was married to Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp instead, and Gustav paid her debts with the condition that she established her own separate court at Fredrikshof. In 1777, she was forced to sell Drottningholm Palace to her son Gustav. She did not get along with either of her daughter-in-law's, calling Sophia Magdalena of Denmark "cold and shy" and Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp "flirtatious." In 1777-78, the conflict with her ruling son erupted and she was a central figure in the great succession scandal regarding the legitimacy of the crown prince. In 1777, her two younger sons visited her. They claimed all women at court had lovers, and that except their mother, they could not think of even one who did not. Louisa Ulrika suggested that they make another exception; surely the queen must also be an exception? Her sons then laughed and asked her if she had not heard the rumors that Sophia Magdalena had an affair with Fredrik Munck. She became very upset and ordered prince Charles to investigate if this where true, as his inheritance to the throne would be endangered by "the common offspred of a common nobleman". Charles talked to Munck, Munck talked to king Gustav, Gustav talked to Charles who claimed the whole thing was the fault of the queen dowager, and mother and son had a huge argument. When the son of the king was born in 1778, everyone thought he was the son of Munck. Louisa Ulrika accused the king of having another man father his child. A great scandal erupted, during which the king even threathened to exile her to Pomerania. In the following conflict, her youngest children, Sofia Albertina and Frederick, who had always been her favourites, were on her side. She was forced to make a formal statement during which she withdrew her accusation, a repetition of the humiliation of 1756. The statement was signed by the entire adult royal family except the royal couple; two princes, the princess, the Duchess, and six members of parliament. The relationship with Gustav was not repaired until her death bed.


"She had the following children:"
#(Stillborn) (1745)
#Gustav III of Sweden (1746-1792)
#Charles XIII of Sweden (1748-1818)
#Frederick Adolf (1750-1803)
#Sophia Albertine (1753-1829)

"Louisa Ulrika was also a maternal grandchild of the King George I of Great Britain."


* "Her Royal Highness" Princess Louisa Ulrika of Prussia
* "Her Royal Highness" Princess Friedrich von Holstein-Gottorp
* "Her Majesty" The Queen of Sweden
* "Her Majesty" Queen Dowager Louisa Ulrika of Sweden


* Herman Lindqvist (2006). Historien om alla Sveriges drottningar (in Swedish). Norstedts Förlag. ISBN 9113015249.
* Anna Ivarsdotter Johnsson och Leif Jonsson, "Musiken i Sverige, Frihetstiden och Gustaviansk tid 1720-1810."
* Herman Lindqvist, "Historien om Sverige. Från Istid till Framtid"
* Stig Hadenius, "Vad varje svensk bör veta. Sveriges historia"
* Herman Lindqvist, "Historien om Sverige. Gustavs dagar"
* Olof Jägerskiöld, "Lovisa Ulrika"
* Valborg Lindgårde, Elisabeth Mansén, "Ljuva möten och ömma samtal" (1999)


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