January 24, 2024 | Alicia B.

Scandalous Facts About Hedvig Taube, The Unwilling Royal Mistress

Royal side pieces were dime-a-dozen, but Hedvig Taube was the first and one of only two official mistresses in Swedish history. It’s a shame she wanted nothing to do with it. But Hedvig was right: It destroyed her life. 

1. She Was Cursed With Beauty

Hedvig Taube was too beautiful for her own good. When her family fell into crisis and she caught the eye of a king 38 years her senior, she landed in the royal court. Right in the center of its scandals, gossip, and conspiracies. History remembers Hedvig as a mistress—but she turned out to be more of a royal victim than a royal mistress. 

Portrait Painting of Hedwig Taube von Hessenstein mistress of King Frederick of SwedenLorens Pasch the Elder, Wikimedia Commons

2. She Went From Riches to Rags

In 1714, Count Edvard Didrik Taube and Christina Marina Falkenberg welcomed Hedvig, one of eight children, into their noble family. High society doesn’t even begin to cover it: Frederick I, the future king, even became godfather to one of their kids. But young Hedvig experienced little of this as Edvard’s gambling and bad business decisions plunged the family into debt and financial ruin.

Portrait Engraving of Edvard Didrik TaubeEngraving by Johan Fredrik Martin (1755-1816), Wikimedia Commons

3. She Was Too Beautiful

Edvard realized that he still had a priceless asset that no creditor could take away: Hedvig. She was always stunning—and it wasn’t just her biased parents claiming this. When the 16-year-old crossed paths with 54-year-old King Frederick I, it was lust at first sight…for him. And only him.

 Portrait Painting of Hedvig Ulrika Taube wearing black and white outfitLorens Pasch the Elder, Wikimedia Commons

4. She Was Courted By A King

King Frederick I was as powerful, rich, determined, and married as he was creepy. It didn’t take long for him to send extravagant fruit baskets and floral arrangements to the Taube home. Frederick made his not-so-innocent intentions clear: He was courting Hedvig. And just in case it wasn’t obvious enough, he threw in some secret gifts.

Portrait Painting of Frederick I of SwedenGeorg Engelhard Schröder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


5. She Received Secret Gifts

As if the flowers and fruits weren’t enough, Frederick hid jewels and other valuables beneath them. These priceless items would’ve impressed anyone, but especially the debt-ridden and struggling Taube family. Hedvig wasn’t the only Taube that he was courting. Edvard in particular, fell for his seduction hook, line and sinker.

Portrait Painting of Frederick I of Sweden in a kings outfitGeorg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

6. She Enchanted A King

Still, Frederick wasn’t satisfied with courting Hedvig from afar. He even asked another nobleman if Hedvig could stay with him so he could court her in person. This nobleman not only refused, but warned the monarch that many powerful people didn’t approve. Hedvig was too young, too unmarried—oh, and too engaged.

Portrait Painting of Frederick I of Sweden.Martin van Meytens, Wikimedia Commons

7. She Was With Another Guy

Turns out, Hedvig was already betrothed to Erik Sparre. Erik wasn’t a king, but he also wasn’t 38 years her senior. It’s no wonder that Hedvig’s mom preferred this count over the king. But Christine knew an engagement wouldn’t deter Frederick, who pushed pushiness to new heights. She realized that protecting Hedvig called for drastic measures.

Portrait Painting of Erik count SparreJohan David Swartz, Wikimedia Commons

8. She Wanted To Hide

Out of sight, out of mind? Christine sure hoped so. She planned to whisk Hedvig away to their country estate with the hope that Frederick would move on. But Christine learned the hard way that her husband and the king had other plans. Turns out, Christine and Edvard weren’t on the same page. In fact, they weren’t even on the same book.

Portrait of Frederick I of Sweden (1676-1751), husband of Ulrika Eleonora I of Sweden (1688-1741)Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

9. She Was Isolated

Edvard was many things, but sentimental wasn’t one of them. He probably didn’t react well to Christine’s plans. He did send her away to live in their country house… alone. Meanwhile, Edvard insisted that Hedvig stayed with him in the capital. This left the teenager alone with her dad and his schemes. And boy did he have a lot of them.

Portrait Painting of Hedvig Ulrika Taube, Countess von Hessenstein.Gustaf Lundberg, Wikimedia Commons


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10. She Was Sold

Christine had Hedvig’s best interests at heart, but Edvard couldn’t care less. Erland Broman, one of the king’s henchmen, agreed. He convinced Edvard into green-lighting Frederick and Hedvig’s not-so-innocent relationship. Erland was persuasive, speaking not only Swedish, but the universal language of money. Hedvig didn’t stand a chance.

Portrait Painting of Baron Erland BromanJakob Björck, Wikimedia Commons


11. She Was Betrayed

The Taube family were drowning in debt, and Frederick threw them a life line. He offered to pay Edvard’s debts and promote the men in his family. This deal would leave them richer and more titled. But of course, there were strings attached. In exchange, Frederick wanted Hedvig. In every way. After making a deal with the devil, Edvard just had to get Hedvig on board.

Portrait Painting of King Frederick of Sweden (1676-1751) circa 1725Georg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

12. She Was Manipulated

Turns out, this was easier said than done. Countless people, including family members, implored Hedvig to accept Frederick's proposition. They promised her future would be more beautiful than anything she could imagine. Hedvig didn’t budge. The sweet talkers finally pulled out their ace: the family duty card. It didn’t just sway Hedvig, it toppled her resolve.

Portrait of Hedvig Taube (1714-1744)Martin van Meytens, Wikimedia Commons

13. She Became The Cash Cow

Hedvig was too young to be feeling this old. The teenager knew that only she could save her entire family. But when Hedvig finally gave in, she didn’t just become his mistress. She became a cash cow to countless people after Frederick rewarded everyone involved in turning his fantasy into reality. 

However, this exploitation only worsened after Hedvig stepped foot into the royal court.

Portrait Painting of Frederick I of SwedenMartin Mijtens, Wikimedia Commons

14. She Felt The Pressure

Hedvig knew the sweet talkers were lying: Ferderick's fantasy was her nightmare. On the way to the court, she mourned, “My fate is harder than I could imagine. I am being forced to expose my virtue to save a family ruined by gambling”. But Hedvig learned the hard way that she’d have to give up so much more than her virtue.

 Judge gavel on tableBrAt82, Shutterstock

15. She Fooled Everyone

At the royal court, Hedvig lived a double life. During the day, she was Queen Ulrika Eleonora’s maid of honor. At night, she was the king’s favorite mistress. But Frederick still treated her like a dirty secret. The inner circle conspired to hide Hedvig’s real identity from his wife. This was a horrifying betrayal to Ulrika for a shocking reason.

Ulrika Eleonora (1688-1741), Queen of Sweden, by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl (1628-1698).Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg), CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

16. She Was A Secret

Turns out, Ulrika was Sweden’s real monarch. She became queen after her brother King Charles XII died. But she was submissive to Frederick and agreed to transfer her power over. Though she demanded two things. First, Ulrika could take the throne back if she outlived Frederick, who was 12 years older. Second, he vowed to always respect Ulrika. Well, that didn’t last long.

Portrait Photo of Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718)Workshop of Hyacinthe Rigaud, Wikimedia Commons


17. She Tricked The Queen

Despite their best efforts, salacious rumors of Frederick and Hedvig’s affair still circulated. Ulrika couldn’t ignore them. At public events, she smothered Hedvig with affection. Ulrika’s message was clear: She adored her maid of honor and rejected these rumors. Ulrika just didn’t see the then 18-year-old as a threat, a sentiment that most shared.

Portrait Painting of Ulrika Eleonora, Queen of Sweden (1688-1741)Georg Desmarées, Wikimedia Commons

18. She Wasn’t Taken Seriously

There’s being wrong, and there’s Sweden’s royal court. The majority didn’t take Hedvig seriously. This even included those who believed the affair rumors. The court thought the teenager was a goner. Even though Frederick called her “the beautiful dove”. Even though he gave Hedvig lavish gifts. But she soon proved them wrong.

Grayscale Photo of Jury box in courtroom at small courthouse with wooden chairsehrlif, Shutterstock

19. She Hid A Huge Secret

When Hedvig was 19, she pulled a vanishing act. She disappeared from not only the public eye, but even the royal court. Hedvig retreated to her room and cited sickness. She claimed to suffer from a mystery illness that left her bedridden. Turns out, she technically did have a health problem. But there was no mystery as to what it was.

Royal room from the 17th century with a luxurious bedDguendel, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

20. She Had A Secret Pregnancy

While Frederick's marriage failed to produce children, his affair had no trouble. However Frederick and Hedvig weren’t married, which doomed all of their kids to illegitimacy. Not to mention, their affair remained a secret. Now they had to hide not only their relationship, but Hedvig’s pregnancy. Unless something major changed, Ulrika would catch them.

Pregnant woman embracing belly while standing in forestHelena Lopes, Pexels

21. She Had A Secret Birth

When Frederick and Hedvig hid her pregnancy, they already walked a fine line. They would cross it if they tried to conceal a live birth. Since Ulrika lived in the same palace, she’d finally discover the truth. So Frederick convinced his wife to move her court to another palace. To make it convincing, he went with them. 

But this left the 19-year-old to have her first child alone. It gets even worse.

Portrait Painting of Ulrika Eleonora 1688-1741 queen of Sweden.Martin van Meytens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

22. She Had A Secret Daughter

Just like her innocence, Hedvig’s motherhood didn’t last long. Tragically, it was short-lived in more ways than once. Since Hedvig couldn’t hide a baby after Ulrika and the court returned, she had no choice but to give up Mamsell Elrich to a foster mother. But sadly, her daughter didn't even make it out of infancy. 

After all this secrecy, rumors to exploded anyway.

Purple Crocus in Bloom during Daytime in a graveyardPixabay, Pexels


23. She Hid Another Pregnancy

Hedvig just couldn’t catch a break. That same year, she became pregnant again. But this time, they learned their lesson. Hedvig didn’t remain in the palace during her pregnancy and birth. Instead, Frederick set her up in a nearby home. After frequent visits from the king, the 21-year-old gave birth to a son. But the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Portrait Painting of Fredrik I, King of SwedenGeorg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

24. She Gave Up Her Son

Different child, same fate: Hedvig still had to surrender her newborn. William of Hesse, Frederick's brother, became the boy’s godfather and pseudo father. If it was any consolation, she got three things out of this. First, her son received a title. Second, Hedvig received a generous allowance from the state. 

Third, the king began calling her la Comtesse Taube. But these changes caused a catastrophe.

Portrait Painting of Wilhelm IX. Landgraf von Hessel-KasselWilhelm Böttner, Wikimedia Commons

25. She Was Exposed

The cat was out of the bag: everyone viewed these moves as confirmation of a long rumored affair. Rumor turned into reality. Hedvig used to be just another royal mistress. But Frederick’s recognition made her Sweden’s first publicly acknowledged one. No one took this well. This triggered a national scandal—but no one exploded more than Ulrika.

Portrait Painting of Ulrika Eleonora, Queen of SwedenGeorg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

26. She Infuriated The Queen

Ulrika was fuming—not that most people could tell. Like any wife, she found the ordeal humiliating. And on top of that, Ulrika realized that she sacrificed the throne for this man. As much as Ulrika ranted in private, she refused to publicly comment. But when the opportunity arose, Ulrika couldn’t resist insulting her maid turned traitor.

Portrait Painting of  Ulrika Eleonora - Queen of SwedenDavid von Krafft, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

27. She Was Snubbed

When Hedvig made her first public appearance at court, Ulrika made her fury known. The queen claimed that she was sick and refused to leave her room. Everyone knew this, like many other Hedvig related claims, was a lie. Afterwards, the maid turned mistress never appeared in court again. The world beyond the palace wasn’t any kinder to their new public enemy number one.

Portrait Painting ofQueen Ulrika Eleonora the younger (1688-1741)David von Krafft, Wikimedia Commons

28. She Became Widely Hated

Hedvig found out the hard way just how beloved Ulrika was. So this scandal made her not only widely known, but widely hated. Hedvig may have been Sweden’s first official royal mistress, but she was no better than a social outcast. Hedvig was surrounded by people, but still felt alone. Everything changed when a group of noblewomen threw her a lifeline—with a catch.

Portrait Paining of Ulrika Eleonora the queen of SwedenPierre Signac, Wikimedia Commons

29. She Received A Life Line

These women paid Hedvig an official visit, which was huge for a pariah. But they didn’t just come for tea: They wanted Frederick to advance the careers of their husbands. Hedvig agreed to speak with him. Once news got out, her ostracism ended. Now, everyone knew to go through Hedvig to get to the king. 

Once again, Hedvig was used. And yet again, this wouldn’t end well for her.

Engraving Portrait of Frederick I of SwedenRijksmuseum, Wikimedia Commons

30. She Held A Unique Status

As if Hedvig’s place in society wasn’t already weird enough, there was yet another twist. After her redemption, she became a unique figure. She even hosted events at her own residence. Sometimes Frederick even joined her. She also became a patron of the arts. None of this was even remotely mistress-appropriate behavior. Hedvig was accumulating power—and powerful people noticed.

Photo from the Drottningholm PalaceRichard Mortel, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

31. She Had Too Much Power

Just as Hedvig enjoyed her increased popularity, she blew it. The more she interfered with the government, public resentment grew. The worst part was Hedvig didn’t even care about politics. She just did what her family and politicians instructed her to. Hedvig, still in her early 20s, already had enough drama for several lifetimes—but there was more on the horizon.

Photo of the Stockholm Royal Palace InteriorRainer Halama, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

32. She Got Into Another Scandal

No matter what Hedvig did, she couldn’t win. She angered some people when she meddled with politics. She angered other people when she didn’t get involved. When Hedvig refused to become one party’s pawn, they didn’t just get angry. They got even. The group spread plays, papers, and propaganda that condemned Frederick and Hedvig’s adultery. Then, they took it too far.

Stockholm Royal Palace InteriorRainer Halama, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

33. She Was In Crisis

After a secret conversation with Ulrika, the archbishop mobilized his clergy estate. The queen lamented with grief over her husband’s adultery and the disappointments of his mistress’s family. Hedvig’s father lost his position during this crisis. In the legislature, the clergy reminded Frederick that he made an oath to step down if he disrespected the queen. Somehow, it was about to get even messier.

Portrait of Queen Regnant Ulrica Eleanor of Sweden (1688-1741)Georg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

34. She Was Exposed

The clergy were like scent hounds on the hunt. They sent a delegation to interrogate Stiernman, a high ranking member of the royal court. They demanded every piece of dirt on Hedvig, from secret marriages to secret children. Stiernman refused to budge. Disappointed—but just as thirsty—the delegation showed up on the king’s doorstep the next day.

Portrait Engraving of Anders Anton Von StiernmanJ. v. Teutschländer,Wikimedia Commons

35. She Had Someone On Her Side

When the clergy confronted Frederick, he couldn’t resist being messy. He called out specific members on their own scandals and illegitimate children. The king declared he’d defend Hedvig against anyone. This wasn’t just out of affection: Frederick asserted that his “sin” was only between him and God. 

So any oaths made as king didn’t cover his personal life… not that any of this stopped conspiracies from spreading like wildfire.

Portrait Painting of King Fredrik I of Sweden (1676-1751), ruled 1720-1751Georg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

36. She Faced Conspiracies

Countless rumors circulated around the capital, but none were as scandalous as this. The word on the street was Frederick and Hedvig planned to flee to Germany. Afterwards, Ulrika would reclaim the throne. This would’ve been a dream come true for Ulrika’s many supporters and the couple’s many haters. While it didn’t happen, something even crazier did.

Portrait Painting of Ulrika Eleonora of SwedenGeorg Engelhard Schröder, Wikimedia Commons

37. She Was Dangerous

Hedvig never loved politics, but it sure loved her. When a political party wanted Hedvig banished, William—the king’s brother and godfather of her son—joined in. William finally realized Hedvig’s power: Her sons could inherit if she and Frederic married. He had to protect his power. With so many voices pressuring Frederick, he caved.

 Portrait Painting of William VIII of Hesse-Kassel with the Order of the White EagleHerman Hendrik de Quiter the Younger, Wikimedia Commons

38. She Was Exiled 

The Frederick who swore to always defend Hedvig was nowhere to be found. He started by exiling their children. Then, he went after his favorite mistress. At only 26, she ended up exiled. Far from home, Hedvig’s future looked as uncertain as it did when she first arrived. Ulrika witnessed everything—and showed zero mercy.

Portrait Painting of Ulrika Eleonora of SwedenDavid von Krafft, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

39. She Didn’t Receive Sympathy

Ulrika couldn’t forgive or forget—the jealousy and humiliation were still too raw. The queen began by snubbing the Taube family and their supporters. But Ulrika wasn’t content with social snubs. When she “reminded” the clergy estate that the king’s betrayal and sin remained unsettled, they pounced. Their delegation prepared for a showdown.

Portrait Painting of Ulrika Eleonora of SwedenUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

40. She Was Confronted

When the delegation arrived, Hedvig pretended she was too bedridden and ill. It didn’t work: The priests barged into her bedroom. She had to face them in bed. Hedvig maintained that the legislature shouldn’t care about her, since she never cared about politics. The clergy didn’t care and shamed her. Finally, Hedvig broke down.

Photo of Stockholm Palace InteriorØyvind Holmstad, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

41. She Broke Down

Hedvig cried, drew a sheet over her face, and wailed, "It would have been well, if this had been prevented twelve years ago, when I was too young to protect myself". The unfairness of the situation didn’t escape her. After all, Hedvig hadn’t even wanted to be a mistress in the first place. But like Ulrika, the clergy couldn’t care less.

Portrait of Ulrika Eleonora I of Sweden (1688-1741)Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

42. She Was Pressured

In the wake of Hedvig’s sobs, the priests didn’t budge. While they acknowledged that Frederick led her to sin, they didn’t think it was an excuse. Since Hedvig knew better now, she had to do better. The delegation guilt-tripped her with descriptions of the queen’s suffering. They implored her to leave the capital and the king. Forever. 

Photo of the Stockholm Royal Palace InteriorRainer Halama, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

43. She Was Defiant

After the legislature that forced her out dissolved, Hedvig faced the decision of a lifetime. Hedvig knew how many powerful people she’d anger, but she still chose to return to her position and residence as soon as possible. Hedvig’s return was the last straw for Ulrika: The queen retreated to her room and refused to come out for a long time. 

Like the queen, this royal mistress was a changed woman.

Portrait Of Ulrika Eleonora The Younger (Johan Starbus)Johan Starbus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

44. She Had Ambitions

If you can’t beat them, join them. The theories of her political meddling just wouldn’t go away. So Hedvig gave them something real to talk about. Since the king and queen failed to produce an heir, she saw her opportunity. Hedvig wanted to marry Frederick so her sons could take that place. 

Hedvig failed, but she and her sons still received Count and Countess titles. Not too shabby for a mistress and her illegitimate kids.

Portrait of Frederick William von Hessenstein (1735-1808)Georg David Matthieu, Wikimedia Commons

45. She Became Pregnant Again

When she ended up pregnant again, it was during chaos in the capital. She had to confront her failure to make her sons heirs when Adolf Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp was chosen instead. If it’s any consolation, both she and Ulrika failed to secure this part of their legacy. And one night, she received an invitation for a secret first meeting with this crown prince.

Portrait Painting of Adolf Frederick of SwedenLorens Pasch the Younger, Wikimedia Commons

46. She Charmed Another King

No matter how you look at it, this clandestine meeting was bizarre in every way. At this meeting, she was joined by the king, a courtier, and Erland. They met in Hedvig’s bedroom. On top of that, the heavily pregnant Hedvig met everyone in bed. From there, she asked for a massive favor: Adolf’s protection of her and her children. 

Portrait Painting of Erland Carlsson BromanCarl Fredrich Brander, Wikimedia Commons

47. She Was Scared

Hedvig wasn’t just being dramatic—it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. Hedvig, along with everyone, figured that she’d outlive the much older Frederick. But she’d made an enemy or two. It didn’t help that Hedvig had already fled the capital recently in fear of her life. Adolf’s reaction to Hedvig and her request was unexpected.

Portrait Painting of Adolf Frederick of SwedenGustaf Lundberg, Wikimedia Commons

48. She Was Enthralling

Even heavily pregnant, men still had over the top responses to Hedvig. Before the meeting, the crown prince didn’t believe the hype around Hedvig’s charm and beauty. After the meeting, Adolf confessed that he finally understood the hype and Frederick’s obsession. But it turns out Hedvig didn’t need Adolf’s protection after all—for the worst reason.

Portrait of Adolf Frederick of Sweden (1710-1771),Gustaf Lundberg, Wikimedia Commons

49. She Had A Difficult Pregnancy

Shortly after, Hedvig gave birth for the last time. She became the victim—sorry, “mistress”—of a middle-aged king to save her family, only to find herself plagued by scandals, politics, and exile. But the saddest part of all was that Hedvig passed during chilbirth at the young age of 30.

However, during this ill-fated pregnancy, she raged at the injustice of it all.

Grave of Imperial Countess Hedwig Taube von Hessenstein (official mistress of King Frederick) in Strängnäs CathedralJacob Truedson Demitz, Wikimedia Commons

50. She Said Scathing Last Words

Hedvig was at the end of her rope—and cursed her father and Erland. She threw Frederick's gifts around. She declared it was the king’s fault if she didn’t make it to heaven. She insisted Frederick would join her if he didn’t change. Tragically, Frederick had reportedly waited for Ulrika to pass so he could marry Hedvig. But it was too little too late.

Ulrika Eleonora's coronation on March 17, 1719, in Uppsala CathedralJohan Henrik Schildte, Wikimedia Commons

51. She Was Replaced

Frederick outlived the much younger Hedvig by seven years. During this time, he continued to sin with women and drinks. Alarmed, the court found him a replacement mistress, Catharina Ebba Horn. Thanks to her predecessor’s precedents, Catharina realized that she could demand more. 

Recognition, titles, power, and money: Hedvig proved they were within the reach of a royal mistress. 

Portrait Painting of Katarina Ebba HornJakob Björck, Wikimedia Commons

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