The young queen of Sweden, Hedvig Eleonora – whose beauty had enticed the king to marry her – needed a jaw-dropping palace.
Drottningholm Palace, to be exact…
The first queen of Stockholm’s Drottningholm Palace
Hedvig Eleonora’s husband, the king, had recently died, and she would rule as regent of the country until their young son was old enough to become the next king. Sweden was one of the most powerful states in Europe, and the palace she would commission had to dazzle visiting royalty and dignitaries with its grandeur.
And so, in 1662, Drottningholm Palace (or “Drottningholm slott” in Swedish) was built in grand Baroque style.
As it turned out, Eleonora – like the Chinese Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang – ended up reigning for much of her life.
Even when her son assumed power, he still deferred to her and called her “the Queen.”
Later, when her grandson left to fight the Great Northern War between Russia and the Swedish empire, she assumed control of Sweden once again.
Drottningholm Palace – Hedwig Eleonora’s bedchamber
One highlight of the palace is Hedvig Eleonora’s peacock-blue bedchamber.
You’ll gaze in amazement at the lavish décor – the gilded furniture, silk wallpaper and porcelain vases.
Eleonora never actually slept in this state bedchamber though. She used it for official purposes, to greet visitors. No doubt she succeeded in impressing many prominent guests here during her long reign!
Louisa Ulrika’s artistic influence
After Eleonora’s passing, the palace remained the residence for the royal ladies. Then in 1744, it was given as a wedding present to Princess Louisa Ulrika of Prussia when she married the Swedish crown prince.
A lover of the arts, Louisa thrust Drottningholm into its golden age, redecorating the interiors in the latest French Rococo style on display at the Palace of Versailles.
Louisa also added a splendid library.
Dripping with crystal chandeliers, the gilt-adorned library simply oozes luxury.
A friend of Voltaire, Louisa loved to read – she founded Sweden’s Academy of Letters (which promotes the study of humanities and social sciences). What must it have been like to pick up one of her precious history or botany books, and read in that room?
The lovely kina slott
On her 33rd birthday, Louisa received a surprise gift from her husband – a “Chinese pleasure palace.”
In a letter to her mother, she wrote of her delight: “He led me to one side of the garden and suddenly to my surprise, I found myself gazing upon a real fairytale creation, for the King had built a Chinese palace, the loveliest imaginable.”
Chinoiserie was in fashion at the time, and this pretty pink palace displays the exquisite Chinese porcelain statues, lacquered panels, china and vases that so fascinated Louisa and her friends.
Indeed, as you wander through the red, green and yellow rooms, you can easily imagine them reading or laughing, gossiping and having fun as they played cards here.
Confidence dining room
The “confidence” dining room, in a separate building beside the Chinese palace, is also intriguing.
Its dining table could be lowered underground, so servants could set the meal on it then raise it back up into the dining room. This way, the royals could eat in private without servants overhearing their conversations.
The room is the sparest in the palace. Nature reigns supreme here – Louisa must have found pleasure enough in the leafy views through the glass windows encircling the one-room building and in the secrets shared here.
Stockholm day trip to the “Queen’s Island”
Drottningholm is Swedish for “Queen’s Island.”
It’s a tribute to the vision and creativity of Eleonora and Louisa – both beautiful, strong-willed, intelligent women – that the golden-hued yellow palace today is one of the finest and best-preserved palaces in Northern Europe, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s also still full of life; the current Swedish king and queen make their home here.
A large part of the palace is open to the public, however.
And one of the best day trips from Stockholm is to take a century-old steamer across Lake Malaren to visit the “Queen’s Island.”
Map showing Drottningholm’s location
You can zoom in or out here…
How we visited Drottningholm Palace, Stockholm
We toured Drottningholm Slott while visiting Stockholm before a 14-night Baltic cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises; their “Viking Homelands” itineraries start or end in Stockholm.
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Our magazine article on Drottningholm Slott
A version of this story was recently published in Taste of Life magazine as “Stockholm’s Drottningholm Palace: The regal vision of two Swedish queens.” Click on the image below or see here for the PDF of this travel article.