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Frederick I (April 28, 1676 – April 5, 1751) was Prince Consort of Sweden from 1718 to 1720, and King of Sweden from 1720 until his death and also Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel from 1730.

He was the son of Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and Princess Maria Amalia of Courland. In 1692 the young prince made his Grand Tour to the Dutch Republic, in 1695 to the Italian Peninsula and later he studied in Geneva.

After this he had a military career, leading the Hessian troops as Lieutenant General in the War of the Spanish Succession on the side of the Dutch. He was defeated in 1703 in the Battle of Speyerbach, but participated the next year in the great victory in the Battle of Blenheim. In 1706 he was again defeated by the French in the Battle of Castiglione. In 1716 and 1718 he joined the campaign of King Carl XII of Sweden against Norway, and was appointed Swedish Generalissimus.

Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden

On May 31, 1700 Frederick married Luise Dorothea of Prussia the daughter of Friedrich I, the first king in Prussia, by his first wife Elisabeth Henriette of Hesse-Cassel. They were married in Berlin in a grand ceremony which took place for several weeks at great costs. Conrad Mel wrote Font Legatio orientalis at the occasion. During her five years of marriage, Luise Dorothea suffered from poor health. She died in childbirth.

Prince Consort of Sweden

Frederick married his second wife, Princess Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, in 1715. She was the youngest child of King Carl XI and Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark and named after her mother. Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark was the daughter of King Frederik III of Denmark-Norway and his spouse, Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg.

After the death of her brother King Carl XII in 1718, she claimed the throne. Her deceased older sister, Hedvig Sophia, had left a son, Charles Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp, who had the better claim by primogeniture. Ulrika Eleonora asserted that she was the closest surviving relative of the late king (the idea of proximity of blood) and cited the precedent of Queen Christina. She was recognized as a successor by the Riksdag after she had agreed to renounce the powers of absolute monarchy established by her father.

Upon his marriage to Princess Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, Frederick was then granted the title Prince of Sweden, with the style Royal Highness, by the estates, and was prince consort there during Ulrika Eleonora’s rule as queen regnant from 1718 until her abdication in 1720. He is the only Swedish prince consort there has been to date. Frederick I had much influence during the reign of his spouse.

King Frederick I of Sweden

Some historians have suggested that the bullet which killed his brother-in-law Carl XII of Sweden in 1718 was actually fired by Frederick’s aide André Sicre. Carl XII had been an authoritarian and demanding ruler.

Frederick succeeded Ulrika Eleonora on the throne upon her abdication in his favor on February 29, 1720, and was elected King of Sweden on March 24 by the Swedish Estates. One reason the Swedish Estates elected Frederick was because he was taken to be fairly weak, which indeed he turned out to be.

The defeats suffered by Carl XII in the Great Northern War ended Sweden’s position as a first-rank European power. Under Frederick, this had to be accepted. Sweden also had to cede Estonia, Ingria and Livonia to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad, in 1721.

Frederick I was a very active and dynamic king at the beginning of his 31-year reign. But after the aristocracy had regained power during the wars with Russia, he became uninterested in affairs of state. In 1723, he tried to strengthen royal authority, but after he failed, he never had much to do with politics. He did not even sign official documents; instead a stamp of his signature was used. He devoted most of his time to hunting and love affairs. His marriage to Queen Ulrika Eleonora was childless, but he had several children by his mistress, Hedvig Taube.

As a king, he was not very respected. When he was crowned, it was said of him: “King Carl XII we recently buried, King Frederick we crown – suddenly the clock has now passed from twelve to one”. It is said about him, that although a lot of great achievements in the country’s development happened during his reign, he never had anything to do with them himself.

His powerless reign and lack of legitimate heirs of his own saw his family’s elimination from the line of succession after the parliamentary government dominated by pro-revanchist Hat Party politicians ventured into a war with Russia, which ended in defeat and the Russian Empress Elizabeth getting Adolf Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp instated following the death of the king. Whilst being the only Swedish monarch to be named Frederick, he is known as Frederick I despite other Swedish monarchs with non-repeating names (such as Birger, Sigismund and his successor: Adolph Frederick) not being given numerals.

King Frederick I of Sweden

Frederick became Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel only in 1730, ten years after becoming King of Sweden. He immediately appointed his younger brother Wilhelm governor of Hesse.

As Landgrave, Frederick is generally not seen as a success. Indeed, he did concentrate more on Sweden, and due to his negotiated, compromise-like ascension to the throne there, he and his court had a very low income. The money for that very expensive court, then, since the 1730s came from wealthy Hesse, and this means that Frederick essentially behaved like an absentee landlord and drained Hessian resources to finance life in Sweden.

Upon his death Frederick was succeeded in Sweden by Adolph Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp; (1710 – 1771). He was the son of Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin, and Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach. He was an uncle of Empress Catherine II the Great of Russia.

In Hesse-Cassel, he was succeeded by his younger brother as Landgrave Wilhelm VIII, a famous general.