Sofia Magdalena: Silks and Scandals

January 8, 2013

Sofia Magdalena Queen of Sweden, Wedding Gown, circa 1766

Bodice of Sofia Magdalena’s Wedding Gown, circa 1766

Sofia Magdalena’s Wedding Gown Train, circa 1766

This amazing construct is Sofia Magdalena‘s wedding gown (a robe de cour, which is a super-fancy court gown) worn at the wedding in the Royal Chapel November 4, 1766. Sofia Magdalena was the queen of Sweden February 1771 – March 1792. She had fabulous, rich taste in clothing! Not only did she wear this magnificent wedding gown, her portraits portray her as ever flamboyant and trendy.

“Queen Sofia Magdalena” by Lorentz Pasch the Younger, 1765

Sofia was actually a very private person and found constant court visits and public appearances wearisome. She was introverted and polite, preferring to stay at home out of the limelight. Imagine her horror when it was rumored that her firstborn Heir Apparent was supposedly illegitimate!

“King Gustav III and Queen Sofia with Their Son” by Cornelius Høyer, 1784-1785

Neither she nor her husband King Gustav II were sexually experienced or even very interested in any activity of that sort (It took nine years for them to consummate their marriage), so they employed the much more experienced Count Adolf Fredrik Munck af Fulkila to be a “bedchamber coach” of sorts.  The scandal rocked the Swedish court (and produced some very crude and risque caricatures in the process). It did not help that the royal family paid Munck handsomely and promoted him, enforcing the rumor that Munck had been hired to directly impregnate the queen. Even the King’s mother believed the rumor and Sofia was so offended that she refused to talk to her mother-in-law ever again.


“Sofia Magdalena” by Alexander Roslin

Sofia’s trials didn’t end there. Her husband was murdered in 1792. After his death, Sofia withdrew from society and made a few small waves once again by only wearing mourning clothes for formal visits and appearances, but not wearing mourning clothes in private. Having never really desired public attention, Sofia isolated herself from the court, focusing her energy on family and charity. She died in August of 1813 at the age of 67.

“Portrait of Queen Sophia Magdalene of Sweden” by Niclas Lafrensen, Jr., 1792

Being queen is never a simple task, but judging by the lives of Sofia Magdalena and her contemporary, Marie Antoinette, being a Queen Consort in the mid-18th century was a grueling, tragic task. The clothes may be beautiful, but with distant husbands, judgmental relatives, and rumor mills, it hardly seems worth it!

I would never want to be an 18th century queen. Not for all the golden coaches in the world…

4 Responses to “Sofia Magdalena: Silks and Scandals”

  1. Cynthia Broderson Says:

    Liz, I ADORE your blog and this posting in particular! Are you in New York by chance? I’d like o invite you to my studio. (I’m a portrait stylist with a passion for history.)

    Best regards and using you a grand 2013.

    Cynthia Altoriso

  2. Really enjoyed reading this and as for that wedding gown …OMG!

  3. The Choll Says:

    Dear God! I would LOVE to hear the dialogue from a session with that bedchamber coach.

    “No, no, NO! That’s all wrong! YOU wear the purple cape and YOU wave the feathered fan suggestively! Oh, for the… do you call that SUGGESTIVE??? Give me that fan and STEP BACK.”

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