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Marie of Hesse-Kassel

Marie of Hesse-Kassel
Detail of portrait by Jens Juel, c. 1790
Queen consort of Denmark
Tenure 13 March 1808–3 December 1839
Coronation 31 July 1815
Frederiksborg Palace Chapel
Queen consort of Norway
Tenure 13 March 1808–14 January 1814
Born (1767-10-28)28 October 1767
Died 22 March 1852(1852-03-22) (aged 84)
Frederiksberg Palace
Burial Roskilde Cathedral
Spouse Frederick VI
among others...
Caroline, Hereditary Princess of Denmark
Vilhelmine, Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
House House of Hesse
Father Landgrave Charles of Hesse-Kassel
Mother Princess Louise of Denmark
Religion Lutheranism

Marie Sophie Frederikke of Hesse-Kassel ( 28 October 1767 – 21/22 March 1852) was queen consort of Denmark and Norway. She also served as regent of Denmark in 1814–1815.

Early life

Marie Sophie supposedly holding a portrait of her fiancée by Cornelius Høyer

Marie was the eldest child of Hesse-Kassel, and as such, had no principality of his own. Thus he acted in such positions as were offered to cadet members of royal houses by their reigning relatives. Denmark offered more and better positions than the small Hesse-Kassel.

Marie Sophie grew up largely in Denmark, where her father held notable positions, such as the governorships of provinces. Her mother was the third and youngest daughter of King Frederick V of Denmark and his consort, Louise of Great Britain. As such, she was the niece of King Christian VII and the Prince Regent Frederick, as well as their first cousin. She spent her childhood at Gottorp Castle, were her father resided as governor, and at her mother's Danish country estate Louisenlund. She was given a German education, and German was her first language. She was affected by her father's interest in mysticism, and was also fascinated by dreams.


On 31 July 1790 in Gottorp, she married her first cousin Frederick, then crown prince and regent of Denmark, who would in 1808 ascend as King Frederick VI. In the aftermath of the defeat of Denmark's ally, Emperor Napoleon I of the French, Denmark-Norway fell apart and the king and queen of Denmark ceased being king and queen of Norway in 1814.

Marie was selected by her cousin as his spouse mainly as a way for him to demonstrate his independence from his Court, who wanted a more political match. The marriage was greeted with great enthusiasm by the public, as she was regarded as completely Danish and not as a foreigner, and she was referred to as a daughter of the nation. Her official entrance into Copenhagen 14 September 1790 was described as a triumph. While her first language was, in fact, German, she soon learned to speak Danish.

At the royal court, however, she was overshadowed by the sister of her spouse, her sister-in-law, who was a popular and celebrated beauty and the real First Lady of the court. She also endured great pressure by the demand to produce a son, which occupied her during her time as crown princess. When her last childbirth in 1808 resulted in an injury which prevented further intercourse, she was forced to accept her spouse's adultery with Frederikke Dannemand. The relationship between Marie and Frederick VI was described as a respectful friendship, and the political turmoil of the time reportedly created a trusting relationship between them.

Marie followed her spouse to Holstein in 1805, were she lived with him until he became King in 1808. On 31 October 1809, she made her second official entry to Copenhagen, this time as queen, an occasion which has been described as a moment when her personal popularity among the public was demonstrated.

Queen Marie was regent of Denmark from 5 September 1814 to 1 June 1815, during the absence of her spouse in the Vienna Congress in Austria. She managed the affairs of state very well, according to critics. In 1807-14, she wrote the Exposé de la situation politique du Danemarc, an analysis of the political condition of Denmark, which she read aloud for the council as regent on her opening speech. She excused Frederick VI in regard to the Norwegian question, and strongly criticized the behavior of Prince Christian, though she did send him a ship to evacuate him from Norway and bring him back to Denmark.

From the end of her regency until the death of Frederick VI, her life as queen was a quite one and she participated in social life only when necessary to fulfill her representational duties. One of the reason of her reclusive life style was reportedly the injury from her last childbirth, which evidently made it necessary for her to move about carefully. From 1815, protected the women's charity organisation Det Kvindelige Velgørende Selskab. She was interested in politics, genealogy and history. In 1822–24 she published the genealogy Supplement-Tafeln zu Joh, which inspired her spouse to take the later Christian IX of Denmark into his family in 1832.

Marie was widowed in 1839. As a widow, she withdrew from public life, respected as a symbol of the old dynasty. She divided her time between Fredericksborg and Amalienborg. Reportedly, she was a stranger to the political life during her later life, but the strife between the branches of the family during the succession crisis and the rebellion in Holstein pained her.

Marie died at Amalienborg in 1852.


Frederik VI and Queen Marie with Princesses Caroline and Vilhelmine. Painted by C.W. Eckersberg, 1821.

Marie and Frederick VI had eight children. None of Frederick VI's sons survived infancy, however, and when he died in 1839, he was succeeded by his cousin, Christian VIII of Denmark. The only surviving children of King Frederick VI and Queen Marie were their two daughters:

Queen Marie lamented her lack of sons and grandchildren.

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