Anne Sophie Reventlow and the Bigamy of Frederick IV, King of Denmark and Norway

Anne Sophie Reventlow c. 1721 (source)

Anne Sophie Reventlow c. 1721 (source)

Anne Sophie Reventlow, born April 16, 1693, became Queen of Denmark and Norway after Frederick IV’s wife Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow died in 1721. This might not seem unusual except that he had been married to Anne Sophie since 1712. Frederick married her in a morganatic marriage while he was still married to Queen Louise. But, this wasn’t the first time he had committed bigamy.

Louise married Frederick in 1695 and became Queen consort in 1699 when Frederick ascended to the throne. That same year, Frederick met Elisabeth Helene von Vieregg and she became his mistress. Four years later, in 1703 they were married and Frederick gave her an estate and the title Countess of Antvorskov. However, Elisabeth died the next year during childbirth and was replaced as royal mistress by her lady-in-waiting, Charlotte Helene von Schindel. The church had not forbidden the king’s marriage to Elisabeth because of doctrines based on biblical polygamy.

Anne Sophie’s father, Conrad, Count Reventlow of Clausholm, served as Grand Chancellor for Frederick, and in 1711, Anne Sophie met Frederick at a masquerade ball at Koldinghus castle. He wanted her to become his mistress, but her mother wouldn’t allow it, so the next year in June, he abducted her with the support of her half-sister and her husband. I have no idea if Anne Sophie was agreeable, but they were married later that year at Skanderborg castle. Frederick made her Duchess of Schleswig and gave her Vallø Castle.

When Queen Louise died in 1721, Frederick and Anne Sophie were married again in a formal wedding and Frederick had her crowned queen. Although this marriage was not declared morganatic, it was not well received. Anne Sophie was the country’s first non-royal queen since  Ulvhild Håkansdotter married King Niels of Denmark in the 12th century, and many of the Danish nobility considered it scandalous. Crown Prince Christian hated Anne Sophie, and Frederick’s brother, Prince Charles, and his wife left court in Copenhagen in protest.

Many of Anne Sophie’s relatives were given high positions and her sister Countess Christine Sophie Holstein is known to have had some influence over affairs of state. It isn’t known, however, whether Anne Sophie really had any influence or if Frederick just wanted to ensure her position at court. She was very generous in donations to widows and the poor and was sometimes called “The Protector of the Poor.”

Frederick IV tried to ensure Anne Sophie’s rights in his will, but after his death in 1730, Christian VI had her sent to Clausholm Castle where she grew up. She spent the rest of her life there, unable to leave without the king’s permission. When she died on January 7, 1743, he did allow a public funeral and arranged for her burial in Roskilde Cathedral, although not with Frederick. Her three children, who had all died within a year of their birth, were buried with her.

Find out what else happened on April 16 in Women’s History.

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