Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark

Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark and Norway (Danish: Vilhelmine af Danmark; German: Wilhelmine von Dänemark) (18 January 1808 – 30 May 1891) was a Princess of Denmark by birth, as daughter of King Frederick VI. In 1828, she married her agnatic second cousin, the future King Frederick VII of Denmark, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1837. The following year, she married another cousin, Karl, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, who was eldest brother of the future Christian IX of Denmark. Both her marriages were childless.

Wilhelmine Marie
Princess Frederick of Denmark
Portrait by Christian Albrecht Jensen, 1825
Duchess consort of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Tenure19 May 1838 – 24 October 1878
Born(1808-01-18)18 January 1808
Kiel, Duchy of Holstein
Died30 May 1891(1891-05-30) (aged 83)
Glücksburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia, Germany
Prince Frederick of Denmark
(later Frederick VII)
(m. 1828; div. 1837)
FatherFrederick VI of Denmark
MotherMarie Sophie of Hesse-Kassel

Early life

Queen Marie and King Frederick VI strolling with their daughters in the gardens of Frederiksberg Palace in the 1810's.
King Frederick VI and Queen Marie with their daughters Princess Caroline and Princess Vilhelmine Marie. Portrait by Eckersberg, 1821.

Princess Wilhelmine Marie was born on (1808-01-18)January 18, 1808 as the sixth daughter and youngest child of the then Crown Prince Frederick by his wife and first cousin Princess Marie Sophie of Hesse-Kassel.[1] Her father Frederick was the only son of King Christian VII of Denmark, and had assumed the role as regent at the age of 16 in 1784 because his father, King Christian VII, had major psychological problems and was mentally incapable of functioning as king. She was born at Kiel Castle in the then Danish ruled Duchy of Holstein where her parents had lived since 1805, in order to be close to the border because of the threatening proximity of Napoleon in Germany during the Napoleonic Wars.[1]

Frederick VI and Queen Marie had eight children, of which only two survived infancy: Wilhelmine Marie and her elder sister, Princess Caroline. Within two months of Wilhelmine Marie's birth, her grandfather died of a cerebral aneurysm and her father became king. At the time of her death, she was the last surviving grandchild of Christian VII.

Portrait of a young Princess Wilhelmine Marie, by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, 1826.

Princess Wilhelmine Marie was confirmed on 16 May 1824 in the chapel of Frederiksberg Palace outside Copenhagen.[1]

First marriage

Portrait of Vilhelmine Marie by Louis Aumont, 1831.

Since her father had no surviving legitimate sons, Wilhelmine Marie was a very desirable bride. Among her suitors was the future Oscar I of Sweden of the then newly established Bernadotte dynasty. On 28 May 1826, she was engaged to her second cousin, Prince Frederick of Denmark, the future King Frederick VII.[1] Prince Frederick was a direct male-line descendant of King Frederick V by his second wife, Queen Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and the engagement was very popular as it united the two lines of the Royal House, which had been in a strained relationship since 1814.

The couple were married on 1 November 1828 by the royal confessor Jacob Peter Mynster at the chapel of Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen.[2] The public celebrations were unusually vivid, with illuminations, poems, public festivities and a foundation, Vilhelmine-Stiftelsen, for the benefit of providing brides with a suitable equipment. The Danish national play Elves' Hill (Danish: Elverhøj), was commissioned by the king for the wedding and premiered on 6 November 1828, 5 days after the wedding.[3]

However, the marriage soon turned out to be an unhappy one. That was not least because of Frederick's debauched lifestyle with infidelity and heavy drinking. It was said that Wilhelmine, although good hearted and mild, lacked character and was unable to gain any influence on Frederick, and that Frederick deeply hurt her "female feelings". Her unhappy marriage was also a cause of concern for her parents, who felt sorry for her. The couple were separated in 1834, and divorced in 1837.

Second marriage

Photograph of Princess Wilhelmine Marie, c. 1870-90

In Amalienborg Palace on 19 May 1838 she married second Karl, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, eldest brother of the future King Christian IX of Denmark, and took residence in Kiel. Her second marriage was said to have been very happy. Both her marriages were childless. Many believe that she was barren as there are no records of her having any miscarriages or stillbirths.

During the First Schleswig War (1848–1851), her spouse actively sided against Denmark. That caused Wilhelmine's relations with the Danish Royal family to be severed for some time. During the war, she resided in Dresden. In 1852 there was a reconciliation and she again enjoyed a close relationship with her family in Copenhagen, returning to Denmark with Karl, often living at Louisenlund Castle. Her status as the daughter of a well-loved King helped her to regain her popularity among the Danish people. Her consort never did. In 1870, she took residence in Glücksburg Castle, where she lived the rest of her life. Karl died in 1878. Wilhelmine spent her old age isolated, as she had difficulty communicating in social life after she lost her hearing, but she spent a lot of time on charity and became popular in Glücksburg because of this. She was reportedly sorry for Denmark's loss of the duchies in 1864 and happy over the new royal dynasty in Denmark.






  1. ^ a b c d Thorsøe 1904, p. 593.
  2. ^ Thorsøe 1904, p. 594.
  3. ^ Shore, Dan (2008). The Emergence of Danish National Opera, 1779–1846 (preview) (PhD dissertation). CUNY – via ProQuest.


Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark
Born: 18 January 1808 Died: 30 May 1891
German nobility
Preceded by Duchess consort of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
19 May 1838 – 24 October 1878
Succeeded by