Louise of Hesse-Kassel

Luise of Hesse
Luise of Hesse

Louise of Hesse-Kassel (born 7 September 1817 at Kassel, died 29 September 1898 at Bernstorff ) was a German noblewoman and (from November 15, 1863) the Queen Consort to King Christian IX of Denmark.

Early Life and Heritage

Louise of Hesse-Kassel was a daughter of ancient German princely family, the Landgraves of Hesse. She was born Luise Wilhelmine Friederike Caroline Auguste Julie von Hessen-Kassel (in Danish: Louise Wilhelmine Frederikke Caroline Auguste Julie).

Luise was from a German family, but lived in Denmark from the age of three and had Danish ancestry, which made her Danish for all practical purposes. In the political and dynastic conflicts during her lifetime she found herself, mainly because of her own hereditary position, in opposition to German nationalism and protective of Danish interests.

She was daughter of Prince William of Hesse-Kassel and Princess Charlotte of Denmark (1789-1864). Her mother, a Princess of Denmark, saw her become Hereditary Princess of Denmark and then Queen of Denmark.

Louise's paternal grandparents were Prince Friedrich of Hesse-Kassel, youngest brother of William I, Elector of Hesse, and Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen; and her maternal grandparents Sophie Frederikke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway, sometime Regent of Denmark and Norway, youngest son of Frederick V of Denmark.

She was a niece of Christian VIII, who ruled Denmark 1839-48 and was briefly King of Norway. As such, she was very close to succession after several individuals of the Royal House of Denmark who were elderly and childless. As children, her brother Friedrich Wilhelm, sisters and she were the king's Christian VIII closest relatives who were likely to produce further generations. It was easy to see that the agnatic succession from Frederik III of Denmark would probably become extinct within a generation. Luise was one of the females descended from Frederik III of Denmark and enjoyed the remainder provisions of the succession (=Semi-Salic Law) in case of his male line going extinct.

However, she and her siblings were not agnatic descendants of the House of Oldenburg/ the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein, and thus ineligible to inherit the twin duchies, since there existed a number of agnatic lines eligible to inherit those.

Royal Marriage to Her Cousin

She married in Amalienborg on 26 May 1842, to her second cousin Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg (1818-1906) (who was soon selected as a hereditary prince of Denmark and who later ascended the throne of Denmark as King Christian IX of Denmark).

Through his father, Christian was member of a junior male branch of the royal Danish clan of Oldenburg and was (albeit a junior) agnatic descendant of Hedwig of Schauenburg (countess of Oldenburg), mother of the first king Christian of Denmark, whose sons were the "Semi-Salic" heiress of her childless brother Adolf VIII, d 1459, last Schauenburg Duke of Schleswig and Count of Holstein. As such, Christian was eligible to succeed in the twin duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, but was not first in the line.

Christian was also a great-grandson of King Frederik V of Denmark, through his mother Louise Caroline, Duchess of Lyksborg, whose mother Luise (Landgravine of Hesse) was King Frederik's third daughter. Christian, orphaned young, grew up in the Danish Royal Household, under the tutelage of his maternal aunt Queen Marie Sophie Frederikke, wife of Frederik VI of Denmark.

Opportunities opening in the Danish succession

The Crown of Denmark was very much in interests of Louise from her early childhood. At the time of the accession of Christian VIII, 1839, the line of succession and chief cognatic heirs was as follows:

  • Crown Prince Frederik, later Frederik VII of Denmark, only son of the king, born 1808, already once divorced and yet childless. He died 1863.
  • Hereditary Prince Frederik Ferdinand of Denmark, youngest brother of the king, born 1792, married over 10 years and childless. He died also 1863, some months before his nephew the king.

The Crown Prince and the Hereditary Prince were the only surviving agnatic heirs. After them, provisions of the succession order promulgated by Frederik III allowed succession through female line, but the law did not specify in what sort of order.

The female lines following are arranged according to the degree of proximity to the reigning monarch, King Christian VIII:

  • king's elder surviving sister, Juliane of Denmark, Dowager Landgravine of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld, born 1788, widow and childless. She died childless in 1850.
  • king's youngest sister, Charlotte of Denmark, Landgravine Wilhelm of Hesse, born 1789 (Luise's own mother). She had several children, of whom below.
  • King's first cousin once removed, the elder daughter of the late king Frederik VI, Caroline of Denmark, born 1793, wife of Ferdinand of Denmark (see above), married over 10 years and childless. She died 1881, childless.
  • King's first cousin once removed, the youngest daughter of the late king Frederik VI, Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark, born 1808, divorced wife of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark (above), and married to Duke Charles of Lyksborg. She was childless, but at the age of 40, was not past child-bearing years, though believed to be barren. In 1840's, it became totally evident that she would never have children. She died 1891, childless.
  • King's first cousin, legally the daughter of late King Christian VII and in any case, sister of late King Frederik VI, Louise Auguste of Denmark, Duchess of Augustenborg. born 1771, died 1843. She had several children, of whom below.

All other cognatic heirs were descendants of deceased Princesses of Denmark, themselves members of other dynasties, and rather alien to Denmark. Ancestresses of many of them had renounced their rights when marrying "abroad". Some of closest of those lines:

  • Prince Gustavus Vasa, former Crown Prince of Sweden, grandson of Princess Sofia Magdalena of Denmark, who was eldest daughter of Frederik V and wife of King Gustav III of Sweden, mother of King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden. His sister: Grand Duchess Sophia of Baden, the eldest daughter of Gustav IV Adolf. She was born Princess of Sweden and married Grand Duke Leopold I of Baden and had produced children. Gustavus Vasa and Sophia were followed by their sisters.
  • Wilhelm II, Elector of Hesse, 1777-1847, son of Princess Caroline of Denmark, second daughter of Frederik V. He had numerous children and siblings.
  • Friedrich, Prince of Hesse, born 1771 in Gottorp, eldest son of Princess Louise of Denmark, third and youngest daughter of Frederik V. A widower, he died childless 1845.
  • Marie Sophie Frederikke, Queen Dowager of Denmark, born 1767, née Princess of Hesse, eldest daughter of Princess Louise of Denmark, third and youngest daughter of Frederik V. She died 1852. Her children are listed above, as they both are Princesses of Denmark.
  • Juliane Luise Amalie, Princess of Hesse, born 1773, daughter of Princess Louise of Denmark, third and youngest daughter of Frederick V. She was unmarried and died in 1860.
  • Louise Karoline, Princess of Hesse, born 1789 in Gottorp. Dowager Duchess of Lyksborg, and widow of Duke William of Lyksborg, she was the youngest daughter of Princess Louise of Denmark, herself the third and youngest daughter of Frederik V. She had several children, of whom below.

After them, next cognatic heirs would have been descendants of younger children of forefathers of Frederik V.

There were three thriving families with chief potential to inherit the throne and who had descendents to continue the line of succession. These three families were, in order of proximity with the reigning monarch, the Hesse, Augustenborg, and then Lyksborg families. Only two of the families (Augustenborg, Hesse) had mothers who were Princesses of Denmark, but descendants bore non-Danish titles. Two of these, however, i.e Augustenborg and Lyksborg, were agnatic descendants of ancient Kings of Denmark.


The Augustenborg family was the next senior agnatic branch of Schleswig-Holstein and of the Royal House of Oldenburg, immediately after the male line of the then King of Denmark. There was issue of Louise Auguste, sister of Frederik VI:

1. Christian (aka Christian August), Duke of Augustenborg, born 1798 in Copenhagen (Christian Carl Frederik August). Had married 1820 Countess Lovisa-Sophie Danneskjold-Samsøe (1797-1867) who was a Danish noblewoman and relative of kings of Denmark, belonging to a bastard branch of House of Oldenburg. Duke Christian sold his rights to the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark in aftermath of Treaty of London, but later renounced his rights to the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein in favor of his son Frederik August. He was the brother-in-law of the present King (Christian VIII). And nephew of late Frederik VI. Duke Christian August died 1869. Several children:

  • Frederik August (Friedrich Christian August), Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, born 1829 in Augustenborg. He was nephew of Caroline Amalie, the incumbent Queen Consort of Denmark, and "nephew-in-law" of the king himself. As well as a great-nephew of Frederick VI. In 1863 claimed to succeed King Frederik VII of Denmark as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. Died 1880. He became father of one surviving son and a number of daughters.
  • Frederik Christian Carl August (1831-1917), later (1866) married a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, and settled in England.
  • Louise Auguste (1823-1872)
  • Caroline Amelie (1826-1901)
  • Caroline Christiane Auguste Emilie Henriette Elisabeth (1833-1917)

2. Friedrich Emil August, born 1800 in Kiel. Had married 1829 Countess Henriette Danneskjold-Samsøe (1806-58) who was a Danish noblewoman and relative of kings of Denmark, belonging to a bastard branch of House of Oldenburg. Later he was created Prinz von Noer (1864) and died 1865. Children:

  • Friedrich Christian Karl August (Gottorp 1830-Noer 1881)
  • Luise Karoline Henriette Auguste Gfn von Noer (Schleswig 1836-1866)

3. Caroline Amalie, born 1796 in Copenhagen. had married 1815 King Christian VIII of Denmark, the present monarch, who died 1848. She died childless 1881, as HM The Queen Dowager of Denmark.


The Glucksburg family was a younger agnatic branch of Schleswig-Holstein and of the Royal House of Oldenburg. There were children of Louise Caroline of Hesse, granddaughter of Frederick V of Denmark:

1. Charles (Karl, Carl), Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, born 1813 in Gottorp 1813; had 1838 married in Copenhagen Princess Wilhelmine of Denmark (see above). He died childless in 1878 in Luisenlund.

2. Frederick (Friedrich), Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (Schleswig 1814-Schleswig 1885), then married Princess of Schaumburg-Lippe, later got plenty of descendants.

3. William (Wilhelm), (Gottorp 1816-Fredensborg 1893)

4. Christian (1818-1906), who in 1840's became Hereditary Prince of Denmark (though his brothers did not become such) and 1863 became King Christian IX of Denmark. He married 1842 Louise herself.

5. Julius (Gottorp 1824-Itzehoe 1903)

6. Johann (Hans) (Gottorp 1825-Copenhagen 1911)

7. Nikolaus (Gottorp 1828-Berlin 1849)

8. Louise Marie Frederikke (Gottorp 1810-1869), had 1837 married a Mr von Lasperg.

9. Frederikke Caroline Juliane (Gottorp 1811-1902), had 1834 married Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg.

10. Luise (Gottorp 1820-Itzehoe 1894)


There was the issue of Charlotte of Denmark, sister of Christian VIII, siblings of Louise herself:

1. an only son Frederik (Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Adolf), Landgrave of Hesse, who was born 1820 in Kassel. In 1840's, he renounced his claims of Denmark in favor of Louise. He later married, twice, and with his second wife Anna of Prussia produced several children, beginning in 1850's. He died 1884.

2. Marie Louise Charlotte, born 1814 in Copenhagen. Had 1832 married a Prince of Anhalt-Dessau. She died 1895 and left children and grandchildren. She is said to have renounced her rights of Denmark to Louise.

3. Louise Wilhelmine Frederikke Caroline Auguste Julie, i.e Louise herself.

4. Auguste Sophie Friederike Marie Caroline Julie, who was born 1823 in Copenhagen. She later married a Scandinavian nobleman, Baron Blixen-Fineke. She died 1873.

Louise's brother Frederik of Hesse renounced in 1851 his rights to Danish succession in favor of Louise, (as put by Danish historians:) "after lengthy negotiantions where their father Wilhelm took active part". Frederik succeeded in 1875 as the Head of House of Hesse, when the main branch of Hesse-Kassel went extinct by the death of former Elector Frederick William of Hesse - they assumed the historical name "of Hesse and Brabant". Landgrave Frederik's third son Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse was in 1918 elected as King of Finland.

Converging the succession rights

As Louise and Christian had married, Louise's mother and brother and elder sister, princes and princesses of Hesse, renounced their rights in favor of Louise and her husband. Prince Christian's wife was now the closest female heiress of Christian VIII and then of Frederick VII.

Landgrave Frederick, a Danish military officer, had been one (and perhaps the foremost) of candidates of Christian VIII of Denmark in 1840's to succeed on the Danish throne if the latter's male line dies out. Landgrave Frederick was of practically Danish upbringing, having lived all his life in Denmark.

In 1847, Prince Christian was, under the blessing from the great powers of Europe, chosen to be a future successor to the Danish throne by Christian VIII, as Christian VIII did not expect his only surviving son, the future Frederik VII to have any sons. A justification for this choice of heir, was through Christian's wife Louise of Hesse-Kassel. (She was, as a niece of Christian VIII closer heir to the throne than her husband.)

Because of Salic Law, which also operated differently in Denmark and in Schlesweig-Holstein, the succession after childless Frederick VII was a question very thorny to arrange, and it did not go smoothly, but caused a war (Second war of Schleswig).

Denmark was also under Salic Law, but only among descendants of Frederick III of Denmark (who was the first hereditary monarch of Denmark - before him the kingdom was officially elective). Agnatic descendance of Frederick III went extinct when Frederick VII died, and at that point, the succession law promulgated by Frederick III provided a Semi-Salic succession. There were however several alternative ways to interpret to whom the crown passes then, since the provision was not entirely clear on whether it be the closest female relative or what and who to inherit. The question was solved by an election and a separate law to confirm the new successor.

Some rights belonged also to the line of Glucksburg, a more junior branch of the royal clan. They were also heirs of Frederick III, through their one ancestress who was daughter of King Frederick V of Denmark, and they were a more junior agnatic heirs eligible to succeed in Schleswig- Holstein. There were Christian himself and his brothers, eldest of whom was childless, but the second eldest had produced children, also male children.

Prince Christian had been a foster "grandson" of the sonless royal couple Frederick VI and his queen consort Marie (Marie Sophie Frederikke of Hesse), thus familiar with the royal court and the traditions of the recent monarchs. Their young ward, prince Christian was great-nephew of queen Marie, and descendant of a first cousin of Frederick VI. He was brought up as Danish, having lived in Danish-speaking lands of the royal dynasty, and was not attached to German nationalism. Although these did not mean anything legally, they made him a relatively good candidate from the Danish viewpoint. As junior agnatic descendant, he was eligible to inherit Schleswig-Holstein, but not the first in line. As descendant of Frederick III, he was eligible to succeed in Denmark, but not first in line, however that line was not very clear.

When Christian married Louise, eldest daughter of the closest female relative of Frederick VII, this combined two potential claimants.

When Frederick died in 1863, Christian took the throne as Christian IX

Children and Louise becoming "Grandmother of Europe"

Louise gave birth to six, remarkable successful children of hers and Christian:

The great dynastical success of the six children, was to a great extent not the accomplishment of Christian IX himself, but due to Louise's dynastical ambitions. Some have compared her dynastical capabilities with the ones of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom

On her passing in 1898, she was interred in Roskilde Cathedral near Copenhagen.

Her nephew Frederick Charles of Hesse, married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and of German emperor Wilhelm I, became 1918 elected as King Väinö I of Finland.


Louise of Hesse-Cassel is a direct matrilineal ancestor of Nicholas II of Russia. This implies that she and all her descendants are of mitochondrial haplogroup T.

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