Thursday 28 November 2013

The Joyless Court of Sophie Magdalene of Brandenburg-Kulmbach

Sophie Magdalene of Brandenburg-Kulmbach (Lauf an der Pegnitz, Germany, 28th November 1700 - Copenhagen, Denmark, 27th May 1770)

Sophie Magdalene von Brandenburg-Kulmbach

As a some-time visitor to Denmark it is a pleasure to once again bring you a story from that beautiful country. Today we add another queen to our collection, this one a lady with a certain eye for jewellery and no patience for mothers-in-law.

Sophie Magdalene entered the world in style, born to Christian Heinrich of Brandenburg-Bayreuth-Kulmbach and  Countess Sophie Christiane of Wolfstein at Castle Schonberg. Educated in the ways of a young lady, Sophie Magdalene was dispatched to Poland to serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. She was serving in this role when Christian, Crown Prince of Denmark and future Christian VI of Denmark and Norway, arrived at the court to continue his search for a suitable bride. The highly religious, prudent and discrete Sophie Magdalene attracted the eye of the Crown Prince despite her lower rank and the couple were married on 7th August 1721, eventually having two children.

Christian VI of Denmark by Johann Salomon Wahl
Christian VI of Denmark by Johann Salomon Wahl 

The couple lived in quiet seclusion, having little interest in matters of society even as they surrounded themselves with opulence. However, they were deeply opposed to the remarriage of Christian's father, Frederick IV, to his second wife, Anne Sophie. Frederick had originally committed bigamy by marrying Anne Sophie whilst his first wife was still living, eventually marrying her a second time once he was widowed. When the king died in 1730, the newly crowned Christian and Sophia Magdalene took immediate action to remove Anne Sophie from any influence. The late king's will was contested and reversed, leaving the new widow with little money and she was removed from Copenhagen and send back to the Klausholm, the country retreat of her birth. Here she would spend the rest of her days as a virtual recluse.

Sophie Magdalene never learned to speak Danish even as queen of the nation and exerted a great influence over her husband. Both king and queen practised pietism and their court was insular yet luxurious and dominated by pomp and ceremony, with Sophie Magdalene serving as her husband's adviser and confidante. However, the new queen flatly refused to wear the crown that her step mother-in-law had once sported and instead commissioned a new crown, adding items from her private belongings to create a collection of crown jewels. The couple also commissioned luxurious new palaces, ruling as absolute monarchs in a court that could be joyless and cold.

Sophie Magdalene von Brandenburg-Kulmbach

Sophie Magdalene believed that both men and women should live respectable lives and in 1732 founded the order Ordre de l'Union Parfaite, an honour to be bestowed on  couples who enjoyed happy and fruitful marriages. For those noblewomen who were single she established a convent wher they could live out their days in piece and piety.

Christian died in 1746 just one day before his 25th wedding anniversary and his son, Frederick V, succeeded him on the throne. The Queen Dowager moved into Hirschholm Palace and continued to influence policy and court. As her health declined she withdrew somewhat from public life and eventually died in Christiansborg Palace, to be interred in Roskilde Cathedral beside her late husband.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


anne stenhouse said...

Another fascinating snippet. thank you. anne stenhouse

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you for visiting, Anne!

Christopher said...

She looks like someone it would be unwise to cross. I had a teacher that sported an expression like hers and she was a tartar.

Catherine Curzon said...

We've all met them!

Mari Christian said...

Sophie Magdalene had definite opinions and the power to enforce them.

Catherine Curzon said...

Ooh yes!