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From the Emperor’s Desk: I have been posting on the life of King Carl XIII of Sweden and, who was born on October 7. Today I will be posting about his sister who was born October 8, five years later.

Princess Sophia Albertina of Sweden (October 8, 1753 – March 17, 1829) was the last Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg Abbey, and as such reigned as vassal monarch of the Holy Roman Empire.

Sophia Albertina was the daughter of King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia. She was thus a princess of Sweden, a princess of Holstein-Gottorp and a sister to Gustaf III of Sweden and Carl XIII of Sweden and Norway. She was a member of the Accademia di San Luca. When her brother Carl XIII of Sweden and the rest of the royal family also became Norwegian royalty in 1814, that did not include Sophia Albertina who then officially was called Royal Princess (of no country).

She was given her two names as namesake of her two grandmothers:

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (March 26, 1687 – June 28, 1757) was a Queen consort in Prussia as spouse of King Friedrich Wilhelm I. She was the sister of George II, King of Great Britain, and the mother of Friedrich II, King of Prussia.

Princess and Margravine Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach (July 3, 1682 – December 22, 1755) was a German princess. She was the daughter of Friedrich VII, Margrave of Baden-Durlach and his wife Duchess Augusta Marie of Holstein-Gottorp. She married Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin.

Living at the court of her mother, Sophia Albertina was somewhat isolated after 1771, when her mother and her reigning brother became more and more at odds with each other.

Sophia Albertina and her youngest brother, Prince Fredrik Adolf of Sweden, were the favourites of their mother, and also very close themselves. Sophia Albertina lived at her mother’s court and under her strict control until the latter’s death in 1782.

During the conflict of 1778, when her mother, the Queen Dowager, supported the rumour that her brother King Gustaf III had given the task to father his heir to Count Fredrik Adolf Munck, Sophia Albertina and her brother Fredrik sided with their mother. In 1780, when the carriage of the Queen Dowager and Sophia Albertina met the carriages of the King and the Queen, Sophia Albertina avoided a confrontation by waving at the royal couple, thereby hiding her mother from view.

At her mother’s death in 1782, she and her brother Fredrik burned some of their mother’s papers before they could be seen by the King. In Stockholm, a palace was built as her residence, known today as Arvfurstens Palats. Unlike her brothers, she was not given a residence in the countryside because she was expected always to accompany her brothers’ court.

Sophia Albertina was not described as beautiful or intelligent, but she enjoyed parties and participated enthusiastically in the festivities of the court of Gustaf III. According to her sister-in-law, Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte, she was good hearted but very temperamental and hard to handle, and she is described as generous and caring but easily provoked into conflicts.

Sophia Albertina did not like to see women be treated badly, and often intervened when she considered a woman at court to have been insulted or in any way badly treated, such as when Gustaf III in her eyes treated the ladies-in-waiting participating in his amateur theatre too hard, and when her sister-in-law was given a bad seat in the theatre, which caused Sophia Albertina to accuse her of not attending to her rights

Sophia Albertina was interested in theatre and dance, though according to Axel von Fersen the Elder she lacked talent for it, and she also participated in the amateur theatre at court. She was interested in riding and hunting and had at least thirteen named dogs as pets.

She painted in pastel and made profile portraits and caricatures. During a visit to Rome in 1793, she was inducted into the Accademia di San Luca. Like her sister-in-law, she enjoyed hunting. She also had several small dogs: Bellman once wrote a poem about her 13 dogs.

Private life

Early on, there were plans for a possible marriage for Sophia Albertina. In 1772 her brother, King Gustaf III, who lived in a childless and unconsummated marriage, had the idea of letting his younger siblings provide an heir to the throne, and both Sophia Albertina and her brother Prince Charles was considered for this task.

Among the marriage partners considered for Sophia Albertina were her cousin Prince Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, Grand Duke of Oldenburg and Prince-Bishop of Lübeck, but these plans were abandoned in 1780.

A marriage to King Stanisław August Poniatowski of Poland was also suggested, despite the religious differences, but the match was opposed by the king’s sisters Ludwika Maria Poniatowska and Izabella Poniatowska, and nothing came of it.

Sophia Albertina was sometimes called The Princess with the ice heart. However, it was common knowledge in Stockholm that she was not exempt from having a love life. There were well-known and persistent rumours that Sophia Albertina gave birth to a child sometime in 1785/86.

The child has sometime been said to be a son, named Peter Niklas, or a daughter, named Sophia after herself. The place for the birth has been suggested as Allmänna Barnbördshuset, a public hospital, where women were allowed to give birth with their faces covered by a mask to preserve their anonymity.

The purported daughter was allegedly brought up by foster parents and it was arranged that she be married off to a wealthy merchant as an adult. This rumour is unconfirmed and the truth of it is unknown. The father was often identified as Count Fredrik Vilhelm von Hessenstein, son of King Fredrik I of Sweden and his mistress Hedvig Taube. Another suggested father was Gustav Badin, her African butler, but there is no mention that the child was of mixed race.

Fredrik Vilhelm von Hessenstein is often pointed out as the love of Sophia Albertina, and she is said to have wished to marry him, but Gustaf III refused to grant his permission because the mother of Hessenstein had been a royal mistress.