Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow

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Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Portrait by Hans Knieper, c.1572
Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen
Queen consort of Denmark and Norway
Born4 September 1557
Died14 October 1631(1631-10-14) (aged 74)
Nykøbing Castle, Falster
Spouse Frederick II of Denmark
Issue Elizabeth, Duchess of Brunswick
Anne, Queen of England and Scotland
Christian IV of Denmark
Ulrich II, Prince-Bishop of Schwerin
Augusta, Duchess Holstein-Gottorp
Hedwig, Electress of Saxony
John, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein
House Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Father Ulrich III of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Mother Elizabeth of Denmark
Religion Lutheranism

Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow (4 September 1557 – 14 October 1631) was Queen of Denmark and Norway by marriage to Frederick II of Denmark. She was the mother of King Christian IV of Denmark. She was Regent of Schleswig-Holstein 1590–1594. [1]


Early life

Born in Wismar, she was the daughter of Duke Ulrich III of Mecklenburg-Güstrow and Princess Elizabeth of Denmark (a daughter of Frederick I and Sophie of Pomerania). Through her father, a grandson of Elizabeth of Oldenburg, she descended from King John of Denmark. Like Ulrich, she had a great love of knowledge. Later, she would be known as one of the most learned Queens of the time.


At the age of fourteen Sophie, on 20 July 1572, married Frederick II of Denmark in Copenhagen; he was thirty-eight. They were first half-cousins, through their grandfather, Frederick I, King of Denmark and Norway. They met at Nykøbing Castle, when it had been arranged for the king to meet with Margaret of Pomerania. She was brought to Denmark by Sophie's parents, who decided to also bring their own daughter. [2] Sophie found favour with the king, who betrothed himself to her, and married her six months later. [3] King Frederick had been in love with the noblewoman Anne Corfitzdatter Hardenberg for many years, but was unable to marry her due to her being a noblewoman, not a princess, the opposition of the Danish Privy Council as well as eventually Anne herself. [2]

Despite the age difference between Sophie and Frederick, the marriage was described as harmonious. Queen Sophie was a loving mother, nursing her children personally during their illnesses. When Frederick was sick with malaria in 1575, she personally nursed him and wrote many worried letters to her father about his progress. [4] [2] King Frederick was well known for being fond of drinking and hunting, [2] but he was a loving spouse to Sophie, writing of her with great fondness in his personal diary (where he kept careful track of where she and their children were in the country [5] ) and there is no evidence of extramarital affairs on the part of either spouse. [1] Their marriage is described as having been harmonious. [1] [2] All of their children were sent to live with her parents in Mecklenburg for the first years of their lives, with the possible exception of the last son, Hans, as it was the belief at the time that the parents would indulge their children too much. [2] [1] She showed a keen interest in science and visited the astronomer Tycho Brahe. [1] She was also interested in the old songs of folklore. [1]

She proved a diligent matchmaker. Her daughter, Anne of Denmark, married James VI of Scotland and become queen consort in 1589. She arranged the marriage against the will of the council. When James VI came to Denmark she gave him a present of 10,000 dalers. [6]


Queen Sophie had no political power during the lifetime of her spouse. [1] When her underage son Christian IV became king in 1588, she was given no place in the regency council in Denmark itself. [1] From 1590, however, she acted as regent for the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein for her son. [1]

She organised a grand funeral for her spouse, arranged for the dowries for her daughters and for her own allowance, all independently and against the will of the council. [1] She engaged in a power struggle with the regents of Denmark and with the Council of State, which had Christian declared of age in 1593. [1] She wished the duchies to be divided between her younger sons, which caused a conflict. [1] Sophie only gave up her position the following year, 1594. As such, she came into conflict with the government, which exiled her to the Palace of Nyköbing Slot on the island of Falster. [1] She spent her time there in the study of chemistry, astronomy and other sciences. [1] She also renovated Nykøbing Slot.

Later life

The Dowager Queen Sophie managed her estates in Lolland-Falster so well that her son could borrow money from her on several occasions for his wars. [1] She also engaged in large-scale trade and in money-lending. [1] She often visited Mecklenburg, and attended her daughter's wedding in Dresden in 1602. In 1603 she became involved in an inheritance dispute with her uncle, which remained unsolved at his death in 1610. [1] In 1608, she managed to soften the punishment of Rigborg Brockenhuus, and in 1628, she was one of the influential people who prevented her son from having her grandson's lover, Anne Lykke, accused of witchcraft. [1] Sophie died in Nykøbing Falster at the age of seventy-four as the richest woman in Northern Europe.


  1. Elizabeth (25 August 1573 – 19 June 1626), married in 1590 to Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
  2. Anne (12 December 1574 – 2 March 1619), married on 23 November 1589 to King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) [2]
  3. Christian IV of Denmark and Norway (12 April 1577 – 28 February 1648)
  4. Ulrik (30 December 1578 – 27 March 1624 in Rühn), last Bishop of the old Schleswig see (1602–1624), and as Ulrich II Lutheran Administrator of the Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin (1603–1624), married with Lady Catherine Hahn-Hinrichshagen
  5. Augusta (8 April 1580 – 5 February 1639), married on 30 August 1596 to Duke Johann Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp
  6. Hedwig (5 August 1581 – 26 November 1641), married on 12 September 1602 to Christian II, Elector of Saxony
  7. John, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein (9 July 1583 – 28 October 1602)


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Grinder-Hansen, Poul (2013). Frederik II - Danmarks Renæssancekonge. Gyldendal. pp. See Chapter 12, Kærlighed, chapter 24, Private notater. ISBN   978-87-02-13569-5.
  3. Skaarup, Bi (1994). "Soffye". Skalk - NYT Fra Fortiden. 5 via
  4. Frederica, J.A. (1892). "Nogle Breve fra Frederik IIs Dronning Sofie til hendes Fader, hertug Ulrich af Meklenborg". Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift. Tredie Række: 1–8.
  5. Otto, Carøe (1873-01-01). "Kong Frederik II's Kalenderoptegnelser for Aarene 1583, 1584 og 1587". Historisk Tidsskrift. 4 række, 3 bind.
  6. Miles Kerr-Peterson & Michael Pearce, 'James VI's English Subsidy and Danish Dowry Accounts, 1588-1596', Scottish History Society Miscellany XVI (Woodbridge, 2020), p. 35.
Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Cadet branch of the House of Mecklenburg
Born: 4 September 1557 Died: 14 October 1631
Danish royalty
Preceded by
Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg
Queen consort of Denmark and Norway
Succeeded by
Anne Catherine of Brandenburg