Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark

Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark
Queen consort of Sweden
Tenure 1680–1693
Spouse Charles XI of Sweden
Issue
Hedvig Sophia, Duchess of Holstein-Gottorp
Charles XII of Sweden
Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden
Father Frederick III of Denmark
Mother Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Born 11 September 1656(1656-09-11)
Copenhagen
Died 26 July 1693(1693-07-26) (aged 36)
Karlberg Palace

Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark (11 September 1656 – 26 July 1693) was the Queen consort of Sweden as the spouse of King Charles XI of Sweden.

The name Ulrike is a Danish version of the name; in Swedish she is called Ulrika Eleonora den äldre, which in English means Ulrica Eleanor the Elder), to distinguish her from her daughter, the future queen regnant. An older English exonym for Ulrica is Wulfrica.

Early life and family

Ulrika as princess of Denmark portrayed by Pierre Signac

Ulrika was the daughter of King Frederick III of Denmark and his wife Queen Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In 1675 she was bethrothed to King Charles XI of Sweden. During the Scanian War between Denmark and Sweden 1675–1679 she was encouraged to break the engagement, and was considered as a possible bride by the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, but she refused to break the engagement. She gained a reputation of loyalty to her future home country by exhibiting kindness to Swedish prisoners during the war of 1675-79: she pawned her jewelry, even her engagement ring, to care for the Swedish prisoners of war.

She married Charles on 6 May 1680. They had seven children, of whom only three survived to adulthood;

Life as queen

Ulrike Eleonora by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl.
Ulrica Eleanor's coffin in Riddarholm Chrúrch.

Ulrika Eleonora was described as beautiful and kind and was received with enthusiasm among the public in Stockholm and Sweden, mainly because she was seen upon like a hope for peace between the two countries. According to legend, her spouse was never unfaithful to her, which was unusual for a king during this era; when he died, he told his mother he had not been happy since his wife died. However, he was also said to have been by nature cold and unable to show her the love he felt for her, and above all, he was forever under the strong influence of his mother, Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp, who never surrendered the position of queen to her daughter-in-law. While the suspiciousness between Denmark and Sweden caused by the Scanian War still remained, Hedwig Eleonora (and also the Government) was never fond of the son's idea to marry a Danish princess. Possibly to please them and show that she had no influence over him, the king always simply referred to Ulrika Eleonora as "My wife" and called his mother "The Queen". Aware of this, the foreign ambassadors, when paying their respects to the members of the Royal family, always visited Hedwig Eleonora first, and then Ulrika Eleonora.

Under the shadow of her mother-in-law, she was never happy or at ease with her life at court. Her private family life with the king and her children is on the other said to be very happy. Her most enjoyable moments where when her brother-in-law and sister the duke and duchess of Holstein-Gottorp came to visit, and the days when she and her husband and children visited the simpler, more modern and rural palace Karlberg that her husband used as a relaxation place. At Karlberg, she enjoyed a simple life away from the court, and developed an interest in painting. She was also interested in theatre and dance, and performed plays with the ladies at court. Among the nobles participating in her amateur-performances were the famous Aurora Königsmarck with her sister Amalia Wilhelmina Königsmarck. Among her noted ladies-in-waitings were the sister-couple De la Gardie; the singer Ebba Maria and the poet Johanna Eleonora.

She once tried to get some political influence over her spouse. During 'The Great Reversion' to the Crown of counties, baronies and large lordships from the nobility (most of them richly given away by Queen Christina), she tried to speak on the behalf of the people whose property was confiscated by the government, but the king simply told her that the reason he had married her was not that he wanted her political advice. She then quietly helped the most poor people whose property had been confiscated by secretly compensating them economically from her own budget. She was most known for her great activity within charity; she founded a large number of orphanages, poor-houses, work-houses, widow-houses, schools to teach poor people professions and other such institutions, and in that aspect, she had some political influence in society. Her most well known projects was Drottninghuset (English: The Queenhouse) a home for poor widows in Stockholm (1686), and the tapestry school at Karlberg, were poor girls were educated to tapestry manufacturing by three unmarried Finnish noblewomen. She supported a large amount of people from her personal budget, such as invalid soldiers and their spouses, converts to Protestantism from Judaism, Islam and Catholicism (especially female converts).

Death

In 1690, her spouse named her as possible regent if he should die during his son's minority. Her health, however, declined due to frequent childbirth, and she died three years later, after having spent the winter of 1692-93 in bed. Only after her death, her spouse referred to her as queen.

There is an old legend about her death. The legend states that while the Queen lay dying at Karlberg Palace, her favourite lady-in-waiting, Countess Maria Elisabeth Stenbock, lay sick in Stockholm. On the night the Queen had died, Countess Stenbock visited Karlberg and was admitted alone to the room containing the remains of the Queen. The officer in charge looked into the key hole, and saw the Countess and the Queen speaking at the window of the room. He was so shocked by the sight that he started coughing blood. The Countess, as well as the carriage she had arrived with, was gone the next moment. When the matter was investigated, it was made clear that the Countess had been in bed, gravely ill that day and not left town. The officer died of the shock he received from the sight, and the Countess died weeks later. The King gave the order that the affair was not to be mentioned further.

Ancestors

Succession

Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark
Born: 11 September 1656 Died: 26 July 1693
Swedish royalty
Preceded by
Hedvig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp
Queen consort of Sweden
1680–1693
Succeeded by
Frederick of Hesse-Kassel
as Prince consort
Royal titles
Preceded by
Hedvig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp
Grand Duchess of Finland
1680–1693
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Alexeievna (Louise of Baden)

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