Gustaf IV Adolf (November 1, 1778 – February 7, 1837) was King of Sweden from March 29, 1792 until March 29, 1809 when he was deposed in a coup. He was also the last Swedish monarch to be the ruler of Finland.
Gustaf Adolf was born in Stockholm. He was the son of Gustaf III of Sweden by his wife queen Sophia Magdalena. His mother, Sophia Magdalena, was eldest daughter of Frederick V of Denmark and his first wife Louise of Great Britain, the youngest surviving daughter of King George II of Great Britain and Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach.
Gustaf IV Adolf married Frederica of Baden the daughter of Karl Ludwig of Baden and Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. She was the younger sister of Empress Elisabeth Alexeievna (formerly Princess Louise of Baden), spouse of Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
The marriage had been arranged by Gustav IV Adolf himself, after he had refused to marry first Duchess Louise Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Louise Charlotte was born Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, her father being Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Her mother was Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg; her sister Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1784–1840) married King Christian VIII of Denmark.
He initially desired to marry Ebba Modée but she refused him.
Gustaf Adolf’s second choice for a Royal bride was the Russian Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, eldest daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia and his second wife Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg (renamed Maria Feodorovna after her wedding). The sex of the child disappointed her paternal grandmother, Empress Catherine II.
Gustaf Adolf rejected this choice because her proposed marriage contract would have allowed Alexandra to keep her Russian Orthodox faith.
Frederica of Baden was seen as a suitable choice: Russia could not officially disapprove a new bride after the Russian Grand Duchess had been refused if the bride was the sister-in-law of Grand Duke Alexander of Russia which indirectly preserved an alliance between Sweden and Russia.
Additionally, Gustaf IV Adolf wanted a beautiful spouse and expected her to be so after having had a good impression of her sister during his visit to Russia the year prior. The king visited Erfurt to see her and her family himself in August 1797, the engagement was declared immediately after, and the first marriage ceremony conducted in October.
Frederica found it difficult to adapt to court etiquette and protocol and isolated herself with her courtiers. With the exception of her chief lady in waiting, countess Piper, the king had appointed girls in about the same age as herself to be her courtiers, such as Aurora Wilhelmina Koskull, Fredrika von Kaulbars and Emilie De Geer, with whom she reportedly played children’s games.
She was treated with kindness by her mother-in-law, Sophia Magdalena of Denmark, who remembered how ill she herself had been treated by her own mother-in-law.
The relationship between Frederica and Gustav IV Adolf was initially not good. Both being inexperienced, they reportedly had difficulty in connecting sexually, which frustrated the king and caused him to behave with impatient displeasure and suspicion toward her, which worsened the problems because of the shyness of the introvert Frederica.
This attracted attention when the king had the queen’s favorite maid of honor, Anna Charlotta von Friesendorff, exiled from court for impertinence, which also worsened the conflict. The problems was however solved through the mediation of duchess Charlotte, and for the rest of her marriage, she was almost constantly pregnant.
This did not benefit the marriage from her point of view, as they were not sexually compatible: the king, who had a strong sexual nature but disliked extramarital sex, was sometime delayed for hours after “having entered the queen’s bed chamber” in the morning, so much that the members of the royal council saw themselves obliged to interrupt and ask the king to “spare the queen’s health”, while Frederica complained in letters to her mother how it tired and exhausted her without giving fulfillment.
Frederica was shocked and intrigued by the sexually liberal Swedish court, and wrote to her mother that she was likely the only woman there who did not have at least three or four lovers, and that the royal duchess Charlotte were said to have both male and female lovers.
The relationship between the king and the queen improved after the birth of their first child in 1799, after which they lived an intimate and harmonious family life, in which they grew close through their mutual interest in their children. The king was reportedly protective toward her and guarded her sexual innocence.