ABSTRACT

On 16 July 1782, in the early morning, Louisa Ulrika (1720–1782), queen dowager of Sweden, died in her small castle of Svartsjö. Surrounded by her children, a handful of friends, and courtiers, she presumably succumbed to the flu. Vergennes, the foreign minister of France, who had rubbed elbows with her for a few years in Stockholm when he was an ambassador there, received the news of her death within a few days. In response, he bitterly replied:

This princess, who had received enough talents and mind from heaven to occupy the throne, has led a troublesome life and is dead in abandonment because she never knew how to position herself and she never properly used the means at her disposal to make herself and the Swedish nation happy. 1

Many contemporary observers shared Vergennes’s scathing statement. After thirty-eight years in Sweden, including twenty on the throne, Louisa Ulrika left behind her a bad reputation and contested political legacy. Despite the renown and the grandeur of her cultural contribution, this Prussian-born princess was never able to bring about unanimous support for her political aspirations and actions in her country of adoption. Over the years, she involved herself deeply in Swedish politics, took part in many projects, and initiated political action herself. Yet, her political agenda and her political goals constantly gave rise to frictions and clashes with the Swedish political elite.