Sophia of Nassau

Sophia of Nassau
Queen Sophia of Sweden
Queen consort of Sweden
Tenure 18 September 1872 – 8 December 1907
Queen consort of Norway
Tenure 18 September 1872 – 26 October 1905
Spouse Oscar II of Sweden-Norway
Gustav V of Sweden
Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotlandia
Prince Carl, Duke of Westrogothia
Prince Eugén, Duke of Nericia
House House of Bernadotte
House of Nassau-Weilburg
Father Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau
Mother Pauline of Württemberg
Born 9 July 1836(1836-07-09)
Flagge Großherzogtum Hessen ohne Wappen.svg Biebrich Palace
Died 30 December 1913(1913-12-30) (aged 77)
Sweden Stockholm Palace
Burial Riddarholmen Church
Religion Lutheranism

Sofia of Nassau as Queen, ca 1873.
Queen Sofia in royal robes, ca 1900.
Sophia of Nassau as Queen Dowager by Anders Zorn (1909).

Sophia of Nassau (full name: Sophia Wilhelmine Marianne Henriette zu Nassau-Weilburg/zu Nassau; Sofia; Wiesbaden-Biebrich, 9 July 1836 – Stockholm, 30 December 1913) was Queen consort of Sweden and Norway. Sophia was Queen of Sweden for 35 years, longer than any other Swedish queen before her.


Sophia was the youngest daughter of Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau, by his second wife Princess Pauline Friederica Marie of Württemberg.

Her maternal grandfather was Prince Paul of Württemberg, a son of King Frederick I of Württemberg and his ill-fated consort Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1764–88). Augusta was a daughter of Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, an older sister of George III of the United Kingdom.


Sophia's marriage to Prince Oscar of Sweden, second son of the reigning king, was considered to be the first in the Royal House that was not completely arranged. Though the match was considered very suitable, the couple was allowed to make their own decision on the basis of their feelings, and generally, their marriage was considered happy. She married Prince Oscar (later King Oscar II of Sweden) on 6 June 1857 at the Castle in Wiesbaden-Biebrich. Sophia was received with enormous enthusiasm when she arrived in Sweden in 1857 because the then-Crown Prince Charles XV of Sweden and his consort were not expected to produce a male heir.

Following the death of her father-in-law in 1859, Sophia and Oscar were first in line to the Swedish throne after his brother the King.

The couple lived a quiet life in Arvfurstens palats. Sophia was said to dislike the frivolity of her brother-in-law's court and the French-influenced culture and Catholic tendencies she reportedly saw there. She was described as learned, calm and sensible but boring and regarded as a respected and dignified a center of the Royal Family life and someone from whom to seek advice. She exercised stern discipline over both her sons and her husband and shocked people by letting her sons attend a public boys' school. Her family life represented the Victorian ideal but involved the usual double-standards. Oscar was sometimes unfaithful, but much more discreet than his brother Charles.

Upon the death of her brother-in-law on 12 May 1873, Sophia became Queen consort of Sweden.


As queen, Sophia was liberal and almost democratic in her views, in contrast to her daughter-in-law Victoria of Baden, whose militant aggression she disliked. She had a moderating effect on her husband's more conservative and pro-German ideas. It was noticed that she had a stabilising effect on him. After 1866, when her home (Nassau) was annexed by Prussia, she became an Anglophile. Acting as her husband's advisor, she is known to have used her political influence on several occasions. She was popular in Norway, where she spent all her summers between 1892 and 1904. In 1895, a dispute broke out with Norway, which wished to have its own embassies abroad. The royal family gathered by the Queen's sickbed to discuss what to do, accompanied by the German Emperor William II. William recommended military intervention, but Sophia forbade anything of the sort and told the Emperor that he did not understand the situation. In 1898, the Prime Minister (Boström) threatened to resign, and the King to abdicate, after the Norwegians began using their own flag. Sophia calmed the situation, called the minister and convinced him to stay. She is often credited with using her influence to prevent war between Sweden and Norway when their union dissolved in 1905.

She supported her son Eugén, who wanted to study art in Paris (1886), and her son Oscar when he wanted to marry the noble lady-in-waiting Ebba Munck af Fulkila (1888).

Queen Sophia was deeply religious and very active in charity work, especially health care and medicine. During her first years as queen, her husband had several affairs, notably with Magda von Dolcke and Marie Friberg. The adultery of Oscar humiliated Sophia, who was noted to leave Stockholm for the countryside during his affairs. The humiliation she felt over the adultery of Oscar caused her to have a greater interest in religion. She attended various religious groups and services, often in the company of her sister-in-law Eugenie, and in 1878, she became a follower of the English preacher Lord Radstock, whom she had listened to when he visited Stockholm. Radstock's teachings, that suffering ennobled the soul, appealed to her. Despite her religious interests, however, she did not mix her religion with her social work, and she was respected for this: it was said of her, that pious as she was, she still valued human dignity and justice more than religion.

In 1884, Sophia established the first school for the education of nurses after a visit to London, where she was inspired by Florence Nightingale. In 1887, she founded the hospital Sophiahemmet. She was always very interested in increasing respect for the nursing profession among doctors and had many conflicts with authorities over this. She wanted the profession of nursing to be seen as a holy task, not a profession, that the nurses be well educated in medicine, and encouraged women from the upper-classes to be nurses, all because she wanted nurses to be respected. In her nursing school, even students from the aristocracy were expected to scrub the floors.

Queen Sophia suffered from poor health and in 1887, she had an ovariotomy operation. The surgery was considered a success, but afterwards she had difficulty walking and often used a wheelchair. Despite this she continued riding. Although she was very much active as a Queen in regards to her social projects and in politics, she was hardly ever seen at mere social occasions, such as balls and similar events: when she attended the Amaranter Ball in 1885, the occasion was so rare that it caused general amazement. She often visited the country, as well as spas in Norway, Germany and Bournemouth in Great Britain. During her visit to Paris, she caused great attention while dining at a public restaurant: this was unusual for a royal woman at this time, and it was also her only occasion to do so. She was interested in literature, and her library also included English detective stories. As Queen dowager, she took to making trips abroad by car: in 1909, for example, she visited Germany by car.

Queen Sophia was a respected symbolic figure who represented the traditional Victorian virtues. She enjoyed a status similar to that of Britain's Queen Victoria. When she died in 1913, her grandson remarked : "The old time died with Grandma."


Her children were:

Sofia was the half-sister of Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (and formerly the last Duke of Nassau), who created the title Count of Wisborg in the Luxembourg nobility for Sofia's son Oscar, who lost his succession rights and titles by marrying without the King's consent.

Her great-grandsons are King Harald V of Norway and King Albert II of Belgium; her great-great-grandsons are King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg; her great-great-granddaughter is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Titles and styles


Sophia of Nassau
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: 9 July 1836 Died: 30 December 1913
Swedish royalty
Title last held by
Louise of the Netherlands
Queen consort of Sweden
Succeeded by
Victoria of Baden
Norwegian royalty
Title last held by
Louise of the Netherlands
Queen consort of Norway
Succeeded by
Maud of Wales

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