Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What to see: Princess Charlotte Frederikke's tomb, the Vatican

While many know that the former Queen Christina of Sweden found her last resting place in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, few are aware that a princess who might have been queen of both Denmark and Norway rests in the Camposanto Teutonico next to St Peter’s.
Princess Charlotte Frederikke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1784-1840) was the first wife of the man who in 1814 briefly reigned as King Christian Frederik of Norway and later as King Christian VIII of Denmark in the years 1839-1848. Unlike many royal marriages of the time, theirs was obviously a love match. They married in 1805, had their only surviving child (the future Frederik VII) in 1808 and divorced in 1810 after it had been discovered that the Princess had an affair with her music teacher, Edouard du Pouy. That Prince Christian Frederik himself had a roving eye did not matter much at that time, when moral standards were very different for men and women. Apparently the couple only wanted a temporary separation, but a divorce was pushed through by King Frederik VI.
The Princess was banished to the small town of Horsens at a safe distance from Copenhagen. She met her ex-husband again when he returned from Norway in 1814, but no reconciliation was achieved.
In 1829 Princess Charlotte Frederikke moved to Rome, where she converted to Catholicism. She died in Rome on 13 July 1840, shortly after her ex-husband had ascended the throne of Denmark, and was laid to rest in the Germanic cemetery in the Vatican.
After her divorce she never again saw her son, who it would turn out had inherited perhaps too much from her both in looks and personality. When he became king in 1848, Frederik VII made sure that a suitable memorial was erected on his mother’s grave in the Vatican - it was executed by the sculptor Jens Adolf Jerichau in 1848-1849. 170 years after her death its upkeep remains the responsibility of the Danish Embassy in Rome.
The pictures show Princess Charlotte Frederikke’s tomb and a portrait of the young princess by F. C. Grøger, which hangs at Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen.

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