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Louise of Hesse

For other people called Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, see Princess Louise of Schleswig-Holstein.

Louise of Hesse-Kassel
Queen consort of Denmark
Tenure 15 November 1863 – 29 September 1898
Spouse Christian IX of Denmark
Frederick VIII of Denmark
Alexandra, Queen of the United Kingdom
George I of Greece
Dagmar, Empress of Russia
Thyra, Crown Princess of Hanover
Prince Valdemar
House House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
House of Hesse
Father Prince William of Hesse
Mother Charlotte of Denmark
Born (1817-09-07)7 September 1817
Died 29 September 1898(1898-09-29) (aged 81)
Bernstorff Palace, Gentofte, Denmark
Burial Roskilde Cathedral

Louise of Hesse (German: Luise Wilhelmine Friederike Caroline Auguste Julie von Hessen-Kassel, Danish: Louise Wilhelmine Frederikke Caroline Auguste Julie) (7 September 1817 – 29 September 1898) was a German Princess and (from 15 November 1863) the queen consort to King Christian IX of Denmark.[1]

Early Life and Ancestry

Louise of Hesse was a descendant of an ancient German princely family, the Landgraves of Hesse, but lived in Denmark from the age of three and had Danish ancestry. In the political and dynastic conflicts that raged in Denmark during her lifetime she consistently found herself in opposition to German nationalism and protective of Danish interests mainly due to her upbringing and rank within the kingdom of Denmark.

She was a daughter of Prince William of Hesse and 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 Frederick of Hesse, youngest brother of William I, Elector of Hesse, and Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen; her maternal grandparents were Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway, sometime Regent of Denmark and Norway and youngest son of King Frederick V of Denmark.

As a niece of King Christian VIII, who ruled Denmark between 1839 and 1848, Louise was very close to the succession after several individuals of the royal house of Denmark who were elderly and childless. As children, her brother Frederik Wilhelm, her sisters and she were the closest relatives of King Christian VIII who were likely to produce heirs. It was easy to see that the agnatic succession from King Frederick III of Denmark would probably become extinct within a generation. Louise was one of the females descended from Frederick III of Denmark, and she enjoyed the remainder provisions of the succession (according to the Semi-Salic Law) in the event that his male line became extinct. She and her siblings were not agnatic descendants of the House of Oldenburg and the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein, thus ineligible to inherit the twin duchies, since there existed a number of agnatic lines eligible to inherit those territories.

Marriage to Her Cousin

Louise was married at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen on 26 May 1842 to her second cousin Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. He was soon selected as hereditary prince of Denmark and later ascended the throne of Denmark as King Christian IX). The marriage greatly strengthed Christian's efforts to secure the Danish throne, since it joined two competing claimants whose children would have an enhanced connection to the ancient bloodlines of the Danish monarchy.

Through his father, Christian was member of a junior male branch of the House of Oldenburg (he was a direct male-line descendant of Christian III of Denmark). He was also an agnatic descendant of Hedwig of Schauenburg (countess of Oldenburg), mother of the first King Christian I of Denmark, whose sons were the "Semi-Salic" heirs of her childless brother Count Adolf VIII of Holstein, who died in 1459, the 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 Frederick 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 Frederick VI of Denmark.

Opportunities opening in the Danish succession

Louise was very much pre-occupied with the succession of the Crown of Denmark from 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 Frederick VII of Denmark, only son of the king, born 1808, already once divorced and yet childless, who died in 1863.
  • Hereditary Prince Frederik Ferdinand of Denmark, youngest brother of the king, born 1792, married over 10 years and childless. He also died in 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 (Lex Regia of 1655) promulgated by Frederick III allowed succession through female line, and the law presumably specified in favor of closest relative of the last monarch.

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

  • the King's elder surviving sister, Juliane Sophie of Denmark, Dowager Landgravine of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld, born 1788, widowed and childless, who died in 1850. Soon after her death, Louise's family arranged the succession line in Louise's favor by means of renunciations and cedings.
  • The King's youngest sister, Charlotte of Denmark, Landgravine Wilhelm of Hesse, born 1789 (Louise's own mother). She had several children, who are listed below.
  • The King's first cousin once removed, the elder daughter of the deceased king Frederick VI, Caroline of Denmark, born 1793, wife of Ferdinand of Denmark (see above), married over 10 years and childless, who died in 1881.
  • The King's first cousin once removed, the youngest daughter of the late King Frederick VI, Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark, born 1808, divorced wife of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark (above), and married to Duke Charles of Lyksborg. She was childless, but at the age of 40, was not past childbearing years, though believed to be barren. In 1850s, it became clear that she would never have children. She died in 1891.
  • The King's first cousin Louise Auguste of Denmark, Duchess of Augustenborg, legally the daughter of the late King Christian VII and sister of late King Frederick VI, born in 1771, died in 1843. She had several children, who are listed 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 were the following:

  • William II, Elector of Hesse, 1777–1847, son of Princess Caroline of Denmark, second daughter of Frederick V. He had numerous children and siblings.
  • Prince Frederick of Hesse, born in 1771 in Gottorp, eldest son of Princess Louise of Denmark, third and youngest daughter of Frederick V. A widower of a morganatic wife, he died in 1845 without legitimate children of sufficiently high rank to claim the throne of Denmark.
  • 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 in 1852. Her children are listed above, as they were both 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 Caroline of Hesse, born in 1789 in Gottorp. Dowager Duchess of Lyksborg as widow of Duke William of Lyksborg, she was the youngest daughter of Princess Louise of Denmark, herself the third and youngest daughter of Frederick V. She had several children, who are listed below.

After them, the next cognatic heirs would have been descendants of daughters and younger sons of predecessors of Frederick V.

There were three thriving young families with chief potential to inherit the throne of Denmark and had children to continue the line of succession. These three families were, in order of proximity with the reigning monarch, the Hesse, the Augustenborg, and then the Lyksborg families. Only two of the families (Augustenborg and Hesse) had mothers who were Princesses of Denmark. 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. They were the issue of Louise Auguste of Denmark, sister of Frederick VI:

1. Christian (aka Christian August), Duke of Augustenborg, born in 1798 in Copenhagen. In 1820 he married Countess Lovisa-Sophie Danneskjold-Samsøe (1797–1867), a Danish noblewoman and relative of the kings of Denmark who belonged to a bastard branch of House of Oldenburg. Duke Christian, who in 1848 became a rebel, later sold his rights to the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark in aftermath of the Treaty of London (1851), but later renounced his rights to the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein in favor of his son Frederick August. He was the brother-in-law of King Christian VIII and a nephew of King Frederick VI. Duke Christian August died in 1869. He produced several children:

  • Frederick VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, born in 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. He had a claim in 1863 to succeed King Frederick VII of Denmark as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. He became father of one surviving son and a number of daughters and died in 1880.
  • Christian (1831–1917), who later (1866) married Princess Helena of the United Kingdom, a daughter of Queen Victoria. He settled in England.
  • Louise Auguste (1823–1872)
  • Caroline Amelie (1826–1901)
  • Caroline Christiane Auguste Emilie Henriette Elisabeth (1833–1917)

2. Friedrich Emil August, born in 1800 in Kiel. In 1829 he married Countess Henriette Danneskjold-Samsøe (1806–1858), a Danish noblewoman and relative of Kings of Denmark who belonged to a bastard branch of House of Oldenburg. Later, he was created Prinz von Noer (1864) and died 1865. He had two children:

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

3. Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, born in 1796 in Copenhagen. She married King Christian VIII of Denmark in 1815, the monarch, who died in 1848. She died childless in 1881 as the Queen Dowager of Denmark.


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

1. (Karl, Carl) Charles, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, born in Gottorp in 1813. In 1838 he married 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), who married Princess Adelheid of Schaumburg-Lippe. The current Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein descend from him.

3. William (Wilhelm) (1816–1893)

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

5. Julius (1824–1903)

6. Johann (Hans) (1825–1911)

7. Nikolaus (1828–1849)

8. Louise Marie Frederikke (1810–1869), married a Mr von Lasperg in 1837.

9. Frederikke Caroline Juliane (1811–1902), married the Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg in 1834.

10. Luise (1820–1894)


They were 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 in 1820 in Kassel. In 1851, he renounced his rights to Denmark in favor of Louise. He later married twice, and with his second wife Anna of Prussia produced several children, beginning in the 1850s. He died in 1884. His one son was Frederick Charles, Elected King of Finland

2. Marie Louise Charlotte, born in 1814 in Copenhagen. In 1832 she married a Prince of Anhalt-Dessau. She died in 1895 leaving children and grandchildren. She is said to have renounced her rights to Denmark to Louise in 1851 at the latest.

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

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

Louise's brother Frederik of Hesse renounced his rights to the Danish succession in 1851 in favor of Louise, as put by Danish historians: "after lengthy negotiations where their father William took active part". Frederik succeeded in 1875 as the head of House of Hesse, when the senior branch of Hesse-Kassel went extinct with the death of the former monarch Frederick William, Elector 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

Denmark's crown was hereditary, according to the Lex Regia, among the descendants of Frederick III of Denmark (who was the first hereditary monarch of Denmark – before him the kingdom was officially elective). The agnatic descendants of Frederick III became extinct when Frederick VII died, and at that point, the succession law promulgated by Frederick III provided for succession by male-preference primogeniture. Different camps, within and without Denmark, supported different candidates for the throne. 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 cadet branch of the royal Oldenburg dynasty. They were also heirs of Frederick III through an ancestress who was a daughter of King Frederick V of Denmark. Moreover they were eligible to succeed to the Duchy of Holstein, which meant the twin duchies of Schleswig-Holstein. Prince Christian was of this lineage, but not the eldest son, nor did the claim of this branch to either Denmark or Holstein place them first in line for any throne.

Still, Prince Christian had been a foster "grandson" of the sonless royal couple Frederick VI and his queen, Marie (Marie Sophie Frederikke of Hesse), thus he was known to the royal court and familiar with the traditions of recent monarchs. Christian was a great-nephew of Queen Marie and a 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 Germany. Although these factors meant nothing legally, they made Christian an attractive potential candidate for the throne from the Danish viewpoint.

Louise's father, Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel, a non-reiging German prince, had chosen to become a Danish military officer. He had been one (and perhaps the foremost) of the candidates considered by Christian VIII of Denmark to succeed to the Danish throne if the latter's male line died out. Landgrave Frederick was of nearly Danish upbringing, having lived all his life in Denmark.

When Christian wed Louise, daughter of one of the closest female relatives of Frederick VII, the marriage combined two potential claims to Denmark's throne and strengthened both. As a niece of King Christian VIII, Louise was not the rightful heir to his crown, but had a stronger claim to it than either Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg or the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. As Louise and Christian had married, Louise's mother, brother, and elder sister, all princes and princesses of Hesse, renounced their Danish succession rights in favour of Louise and her husband. Prince Christian's wife thus became the closest female heiress of Christian VIII, and later of Frederick VII.

In 1847, Prince Christian was, with the approval of Europe's Great Powers, chosen as successor to the Danish throne by Christian VIII (who did not expect his only surviving son, the future Frederik VII, to father dynastic sons). This choice of heir was made more dynastically palatable by the fact that, thanks to the mass renunciations of the Hesses, Christian's wife Louise became the heiress eventual to the crown, meaning that the couple's children would be heirs to the throne both by right of international treaty and by compliance with the Lex Regia. This resolved the succession to the Danish crown, but not Denmark's claim on the twin duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. German Holstein's historic law of succession was Salic and could not so easily be reconciled with Christian's claim so long as the Augustenborgs survived and Prussia offered itself as the international champion of German nationalism. The result of this conflict was the (Second War of Schleswig).

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


Louise rescinded her succession rights to her spouse in 1851. She became Crown Princess in 1853 and Queen consort in 1863. Louise had a tense relationship with King Frederick VII, whose marriage to the low-born and disreputable Louise Rasmussen she did not approve of. Her own marriage is believed to have been happy, and the couple became strongly attached to each other during the years of succession struggle. Louise was devoutedly loyal to her spouse, and he is said to have relied on her intelligence, judgment and psychological strength, all of which were considered to be superior to his own.

The couple continued the simple and intimate family life they had grown accustomed to after they became king and queen. When Louise's daughter Thyra gave birth to an illegitimate child after her relationship with a military officer in 1871, Queen Louise arranged for the whole affair to be kept a secret from the public. Queen Louise lived a life isolated from the people and did not seek recognition from, or a relationship with, the public, but rather focused on energetic family politics, and made much effort in arranging dynastic marriages for her children. The brilliant matches arranged for her children gave the Danish dynasty international status. Her annual family gatherings at Bernstorff or Fredensborg drew more attention every year and made her a popular symbol of family life.

Louise was active as a patronnes of a large number of charitable organisations already as a crown princess: in 1862, she founded Louisestiftelsen, where orphan girls were brought up to a life as servants, something which illustrated her conservative ideas. She was interested in music and painting and financed many artists. Some of her own paintings were exhibited and given as gifts to members of other dynasties. During her last years she became deaf, and two nurses from a nursing school she had founded saw to her needs. Louise was Queen of Denmark for 35 years, longer than any other Danish queen consort before her.

Children and Louise becoming "Grandmother of Europe"

Louise had the following six children with Christian. Eventually, they had thirty-nine grandchildren.

Name Birth Death Spouse Children
Frederick VIII of Denmark 3 June 1843 14 May 1912 Princess Lovisa of Sweden Christian X of Denmark
Haakon VII of Norway
Louise, Princess Frederick of Schaumburg-Lippe
Prince Harald of Denmark
Princess Ingeborg, Duchess of Västergötland
Princess Thyra of Denmark
Prince Gustav of Denmark
Princess Dagmar, Mrs. Jørgen Castenskiold
Alexandra of Denmark 1 December 1844 20 November 1925 Edward VII of the United Kingdom Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale
George V of the United Kingdom
Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife
Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom
Maud, Queen of Norway
Prince Alexander John of Wales
George I of Greece 24 December 1845 18 March 1913 Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia Constantine I of Greece
Prince George of Greece and Denmark
Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna of Russia
Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark
Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna of Russia
Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark
Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark
Dagmar of Denmark 26 November 1847 13 October 1928 Tsar Alexander III of Russia Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia
Thyra of Denmark 29 September 1853 26 February 1933 Ernst August of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland Marie Louise, Princess Maximilian of Baden
Prince George William of Hanover and Cumberland
Alexandra, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Scherwin
Princess Olga of Hanover and Cumberland
Prince Christian of Hanover and Cumberland
Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick
Prince Valdemar of Denmark 27 October 1858 14 January 1939 Princess Marie of Orléans Aage, Count of Rosenborg
Prince Axel of Denmark
Erik, Count of Rosenborg
Viggo, Count of Rosenborg
Margaret, Princess René of Bourbon-Parma

The great dynastic success of Louise's six children was to a great extent not the accomplishment of Christian IX himself, but a result of her own ambitions. Some have compared her dynastic capabilities with the those of Queen Victoria.

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

Louise's nephew Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and of German Emperor Wilhelm I, was elected King Charles of Finland in 1918. He never took up the position.



  • (in Danish)

External links

  • How Christian IX received the succession to the throne of Denmark
Louise of Hesse-Kassel
Cadet branch of the House of Hesse
Born: 7 September 1817 Died: 29 September 1898
Danish royalty
Title last held by
Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
Queen consort of Denmark
Title next held by
Louise of Sweden
Duchess consort of Saxe-Lauenburg
Succeeded by
Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

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