Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt

Last updated

Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt
Friederike Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt.jpg
Queen consort of Prussia
Tenure17 August 1786 – 16 November 1797
Born16 October 1751
Died25 February 1805(1805-02-25) (aged 53)
Schloss Montbijou, Berlin, Prussia
(m. 1769;died 1797)
Issue Frederick William III
Prince Louis
Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands
Augusta, Electress of Hesse
Prince Henry
Prince Wilhelm
House Hesse-Darmstadt
Father Louis IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt
Mother Countess Palatine Caroline of Zweibrücken

Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt (German : Friederike Luise; 16 October 1751 25 February 1805) was Queen of Prussia as the second spouse of King Frederick William II.



Frederica Louisa was the daughter of Louis IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Countess Palatine Caroline of Zweibrücken. She was born in Prenzlau. She was the sister of Grand Duchess Louise of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, as well as Grand Duke Louis I of Hesse.


Frederica Louisa was selected to marry Frederick William immediately after his divorce from Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg, after Margravine Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt and Sophia Albertina of Sweden had been suggested. Her mother was highly admired by Frederick the Great. The wedding was performed on 14 July 1769 at the Charlottenburg Palace.

Frederick William with his family by Anna Dorothea Lisiewska, ca. 1777, National Museum in Warsaw. Lisiewska Portrait of a Princely family.jpg
Frederick William with his family by Anna Dorothea Lisiewska, ca. 1777, National Museum in Warsaw.

Frederica Louisa was described as solid and sensible and with an agreeable conversation, though lacking of beauty and any particular intellectual abilities. [1] Wraxall said of her: "She is an amiable, virtuous, and pleasing woman, possessing neither the personal attractions, nor the graces of her predecessor, but exempt from her errors and defects. She is of the middle size, her countenance agreeable, though not handsome, her manners easy and engaging, her character estimable and formed to excite universal respect." [1] Frederick William called her his "Hessische Lieschen", or "Hessian Lizzie", but did not show her much appreciation or attention and neglected her to indulge in his own pleasures. [1] The marriage was not happy, and Fredrick had numerous lovers, most notably Wilhelmine von Lichtenau, with whom he had a relationship from the same year he married Frederica Louisa until his death.

Her position was somewhat difficult because of the demise of the first wife of her spouse, and king Frederick the Great never showed her much favor and did in fact make a point of refusing her the favors and privileges he had formerly given her predecessor. [1] She mainly resided in Potsdam, "in the most monotonous and wearisome seclusion, neglected by her husband, slighted by the King, and seldom allowed even the diversion of a visit to Berlin". [1]

Reportedly, she did not give much attention to her children and was blamed for having a part in their lack of education: "Frederic William III. received the very worst of educations; so beyond all measure bad as only that of a crown Prince can be. His father troubled himself more about his illegitimate than his legitimate children. They were left to their mother. She, constantly embroiled with her finances, often did not see them for days together; they were therefore left to the care of their attendants and of their misanthropic Hofmeister Benisch." [1]

Friederike Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt (Therbusch) Friederike Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt (Therbusch).jpg
Friederike Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt (Therbusch)


Frederica Louisa became queen of Prussia upon the accession of Frederick William to the throne in 1786, and she left Potsdam for Berlin, where she was to perform the ceremonial role of queen and regularly host drawing room-receptions for the royal court, the nobility and foreign envoys. She unintentionally provoked a diplomatic incident on her first court reception: unaware of the custom that the queen should only play with her subjects, she asked the Austrian and Russian ministers to join her at her gambling table, which caused the French minister to take offence on behalf of his nation for his exclusion. [1]

The court of Frederick William was described as disorganized and ill-managed, and this was regarded to be the case of the household of Frederica Louisa as well. She was given an allowance of fifty-one thousand crowns per annum as queen, which was not sufficient to cover her expenses as she was "generous in her tastes and somewhat profuse in her habits", and Mirabeau relates how she was at one occasion unable to pay for the wood to supply the fires in her apartments, while her husband spent thirty thousand Thalers annually on his mistress. [1]

While the favorites and lovers of the king often participated in the affairs of state, she was allowed no political influence whatsoever, and Mirabeau said that "no Queen of Prussia of all Queens the least influential was ever so uninfluential" as the consort of Frederic William II. [1] Wraxall remarks however, that although the queen "had not captivated the affections, or secured the constancy of her husband, she possessed at least his esteem, and received from him every proof of respect." [1]

In 1787, she was asked to consent to the bigamy of her husband the king to her lady-in-waiting Julie von Voß. Her brother-in-law the Duke of Saxe Weimar was appointed ambassador in the negotiations between the king and queen, and Frederica Louisa was eventually obliged to agree. Reportedly, she laughed and exclaimed: "Oh, yes! I will give my consent, but it shall be dearly paid for!" [1] She finally consented to the king's bigamy on condition that he pay her debts, which amounted to one hundred thousand crowns. [1] During this affair, the German theatre gave the play "Inez de Castro" several nights in a row, it attracted great attention that the queen always retired during the performance of the fourth act, where the Prince makes vows of passionate love to the maid of honour, and it was speculated whether this was a demonstration or not. [1] Mirabeau commented: "It is difficult to determine, on account of the turbulent and versatile, but not particularly weak, character of this Princess, whether she acted thus intentionally or not." [1] In 1790, she was obliged to consent to a second bigamy of her husband to another one of her ladies-in-waiting, Sophie von Dönhoff, who reportedly insulted the queen by demanding a queen's precedence at court. [1] When Wilhelmine, Gräfin von Lichtenau was finally given the title of countess, Frederica Louisa was obliged to receive her officially at court and present her with her portrait set in brilliants upon the advice of her own favorites, her Oberhofmeister Wittgenstein and her gentlewoman of the chamber. [1]

Frederica Louisa Friederike Luise of Prussia 03.jpg
Frederica Louisa

When the king fell ill in 1796, he was tended by von Lichtenau, who after his temporary recovery in the spring of 1797 hosted the opera La Morte di Cleopatra by Nasolini in her garded, to which the queen was commanded to attend, an occasion which attracted a lot of attention and was described by Dampmartin:

"that the Queen, the crown Prince and his consort, as well as the other royal Princes and Princesses, trembled with indignation at the humiliating constraint which made them the guests of a woman, whose very neighbourhood they felt to be an insult. The King bore upon his pallid countenance the tokens of mortal disease. The kindhearted Queen writhed her lips into a sickly smile. The crown Prince could not conceal his violent agitation; he cast stolen glances alternately at his tenderly-loved mother, and his adored wife, as if he could not take in the possibility of beholding them in the apartments of the mistress of his father [...] At some strophes of the opera, in which Octavia laments the infidelity of Mark Antony, all eyes involuntarily turned upon the Queen, and she concealed her face in her handkerchief." [1] During the following public celebrations of the king's recovery, the queen avoided to attend by claiming to be sick while Lichtenau presided at the king's side. [1]

On his deathbed, the king was attended by Wilhelmine Lichtenau in Potsdam, while the queen stayed in Berlin and visited him once a week. [1] When he died, he asked her to conduct his wife and son to the ante-chamber, and asked her to tell them his farewell. Frederica Louisa was touched and embraced Lichtenau and thanked her for her devoted care of her husband, but the crown prince was judgmental. [1] When the king asked Lichtenau "What did my son say to you?", and was answered "Not a word", he replied: "Not a word of thanks? Then I will see no one else," which the royal family blamed Lichtenau for, thinking it was her decision rather than his. [1]

Queen Dowager

Frederica Louisa had a good relationship with her son Frederick William III of Prussia, who had resented his mother being put aside by his father and made a point of placing her in a high position of honour and respect, but there is almost no information of her during her years as a widow. Reportedly, she lived a quiet and peaceful life enjoying the harmony of her son's family life and the presence of her grandchildren. Frederica Louisa has been described as eccentric, especially during her widowhood. It was claimed that she saw ghosts and apparitions, and for this reason she kept reversed hours, sleeping by day and waking by night.

Ever since 1788, she had spent her summers in Bad Freienwalde, where she was often visited by her children and grandchildren. This greatly contributed to the economic and cultural development of the city. Especially as a Queen Dowager, several buildings were constructed in the city to house her and her court during their stays. In 1799, a summer palace was built for her there by David Gilly.

The Swedish Princess Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte described her at the time of her visit in 1798:

The Queen Dowager had invited us at déjeuner, and we left for Montbijou, a very simple manor slightly outside of Berlin, where she resides all year. It is sweet and well tendered but terribly small. She had it built herself, as well as the park and the garden. She is a small, very fat, middle aged lady, who walks so crooked that she looks like an old woman. You could mistake her for one of these fairies from an ancient tale. She is very polite and talkative and shines of a goodness which gives the witness of a kind heart and a noble character. [2]

She died in Berlin in 1805 having suffered a stroke.



Related Research Articles

Frederick William II of Prussia King of Prussia

Frederick William II was King of Prussia from 1786 until his death. He was in personal union the Prince-elector of Brandenburg and sovereign prince of the Canton of Neuchâtel. Pleasure-loving and indolent, he is seen as the antithesis to his predecessor, Frederick the Great.. Under his reign, Prussia was weakened internally and externally, and he failed to deal adequately with the challenges to the existing order posed by the French Revolution. His religious policies were directed against the Enlightenment and aimed at restoring a traditional Protestantism. However, he was a patron of the arts and responsible for the construction of some notable buildings, among them the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Princess Louis Charles of Prussia

Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a German princess who became, by marriage, princess of Prussia, princess of Solms-Braunfels, Duchess of Cumberland in Britain and Queen of Hanover as the consort of Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover.

Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Queen consort of Prussia

Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was Queen of Prussia and the wife of King Frederick William III. The couple's happy, though short-lived, marriage produced nine children, including the future monarchs Frederick William IV of Prussia and Wilhelm I, German Emperor.

Frederica of Baden Queen consort of Sweden

Frederica Dorothea Wilhelmina of Baden was Queen of Sweden from 1797 to 1809 as the consort of King Gustav IV Adolf.

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover Queen consort of Prussia

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover was a Queen consort of Prussia as spouse of Frederick William I. She was the sister of George II, King of Great Britain, and the mother of Frederick II, King of Prussia.

Prince Augustus William of Prussia

Augustus William of Prussia was Prince of Prussia and a younger brother and general of Frederick II.

Duchess Luise of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel Princess August Wilhelm of Prussia

Luise of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was daughter of Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and his wife Duchess Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark Princess Christoph of Hesse

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark was the fourth child and youngest daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was her younger brother. Sophie was born at the villa Mon Repos on the island of Corfu in Greece.

Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt Hereditary Princess of Baden

Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt was a Hereditary Princess of Baden by marriage to Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden. She was the daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Henriette Karoline of Palatine-Zweibrücken.

Prince Frederick Adolf, Duke of Östergötland Duke of Östergötland

Prince Frederick Adolf, Duke of Östergötland was a Swedish Prince, youngest son of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, a sister of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. He was given the title Duke of Östergötland.

Princess Wilhelmina Caroline of Denmark Landgravine consort of Hesse-Kassel

Princess Wilhelmina Caroline of Denmark and Norway, was the Landgravine consort of Hesse-Kassel and later the Electress of Hesse-Kassel by marriage to William I, Elector of Hesse.

Prince Louis Charles of Prussia

Prince Frederick Louis Charles of Prussia was the second son and third child of Frederick William II of Prussia and Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt.

Princess Friederike Luise of Prussia Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach

Princess Friederike Luise of Prussia was a daughter of Frederick William I of Prussia and Sophia Dorothea of Hanover and Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach.

Charlotta Aurora De Geer

Charlotta Aurora De Geer later Gyldenstolpe and Wetterstedt (1779–1834), was a politically influential Swedish countess, salonist and courtier.

Princess Anna Elisabeth Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt Princess Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia

Princess and Margravine Anna Elisabeth Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt was a Prussian princess. She was a daughter of Margrave Frederick William of Brandenburg-Schwedt and his wife, Princess Sophia Dorothea of Prussia.

Princess Louise of Prussia (1770–1836) Princess Radziwiłł

Princess Frederica Dorothea Louise Philippine of Prussia was a member of the House of Hohenzollern. She was a niece of Frederick the Great, being the second daughter and third child of Prince Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia by his wife Margravine Elisabeth Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt.

Wilhelmine, Gräfin von Lichtenau Countess von Lichtenau

Wilhelmine, Gräfin von Lichtenau, born as Wilhelmine Enke, also spelled Encke, was the official mistress of King Frederick William II of Prussia from 1769 until 1797 and was elevated by him into the nobility. She is regarded as politically active and influential in the policy of Prussia during his reign.

Sophie von Dönhoff

Countess Sophie Friederike Juliane von Dönhoff was a German lady-in-waiting and a morganatic spouse by bigamy to King Frederick William II of Prussia.

Princess Wilhelmina of Hesse-Kassel Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia

Princess Wilhelmina of Hesse-Kassel was a Prussian princess, married to Prince Henry of Prussia.

Princess Marie of Baden (1782–1808) Duchess consort of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

Marie of Baden was a Duchess consort of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Brunswick-Oels. She was married to Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and was the daughter of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden, and Landgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Atkinson, Emma Willsher: Memoirs of the queens of Prussia , London : W. Kent
  2. Charlottas, Hedvig Elisabeth (1927) [1797–99]. af Klercker, Cecilia (ed.). Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas dagbok [The diary of Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte] (in Swedish). VI 1797–1799. Translated by Cecilia af Klercker. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söners förlag. p. 122. OCLC   14111333. (search for all versions on WorldCat)
  3. Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 69.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt at Wikimedia Commons

Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt
Born: 16 October 1751 Died: 25 February 1805
German royalty
Preceded by
Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern
Queen consort of Prussia
17 August 1786 – 16 November 1797
Succeeded by
Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz