Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden was born on 23 January 1688 as the youngest child of Charles XI of Sweden and Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark. She had an older sister and an older brother. Her mother died in 1693, and she and her siblings were raised by their grandmother Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp. Her grandmother thought she was stubborn and preferred her elder sister, Hedvig Sophia.
Her brother succeeded as Charles XII in 1697, and she became an attractive prospect on the marriage market. Several suitors were considered. Her sister Hedvig Sophia married their cousin Frederick IV, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp in 1698 and they had a single son in 1700, Charles Frederick and she died of smallpox in 1708. Her brother never married. Ulrika Eleonora herself married Prince Frederick of Hesse on 24 March 1715. Her grandmother believed it would increase the chance of Ulrika Eleonora having to leave Sweden for Hesse, thus increasing the chance of Hedvig Sophia’s son succeeding to the throne. Even her brother remarked that she was ‘dancing her crown away’. Her husband too saw an opportunity for a crown, and soon the Hessian Party stood opposite the Holstein party.
Ulrika Eleonora was made regent in the King’s absence in 1713, and this was greeted with great enthusiasm. On 5 December 1718, the news arrived that her brother had died. She immediately declared herself monarch and the surprised council did not contest this. Ulrika Eleonora was forced to agree to abolish absolutism, and the council agreed to accept her as an elected monarch. On 19 February 1719, the Instrument of Government was signed, and she was crowned Queen regnant in Uppsala Cathedral on 17 March 1719. She ennobled 181 people during her short reign, to secure support for her rule. She had wished for her husband to be made co-monarch, but this was opposed by the Riksdag. The Riksdag was also afraid of the influence of Emerentia von Düben and her siblings on the Queen and this attributed to them consenting to replace her with her husband as sole monarch. She abdicated in favour of her husband on 29 February 1720 on the condition that she should succeed him if he should die before her. She considered it to be the greatest sacrifice of her life.
Her reign as Queen regnant was over, but she would remain Queen as consort to her husband, now Frederick I of Sweden. Their marriage was described as a happy one, though it would remain childless. Ulrika Eleonora had two miscarriages. Her husband suggested placing his brother in the line of succession, but this was not successful. She was quite popular during her husband’s reign. Her husband has the dubious honour of being the first king in Swedish history to have an official mistress. Ulrika Eleonora complained to Emerentia von Düben, but never showed any signs of displeasure in public.
She acted as regent twice, first in 1731 and second between 1738 and 1739. Ulrika Eleonora, once a Queen Regnant, died of smallpox in 1741. She was 53 years old, and her husband survived her for ten years. Her husband was succeeded by Adolf Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, who was elected as King. He was a descendant of Christina Magdalena of the Palatinate-Zweibrücken, Charles X of Sweden’s sister.
Ulrika Eleonora was buried in Riddarholm Church in Stockholm. She was Sweden’s third and so far last Queen regnant, though the current heir apparent is Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
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