Marrying Cultures: Queens Consort and European Identities, 1500-1800

In this research project, we will examine the role of consorts in early modern Europe with special reference to cultural transfer, influence and integration. Dynastic marriage constitutes a major vehicle for cultural encounters between European territories down the centuries. A foreign princess travels to her new court, frequently speaking a different language and professing a different religion. She brings with her ladies-in-waiting, a chaplain, artists, craftspeople, musicians and actors, ideas, books, art objects, clothes, jewellery, furniture, musical and theatrical genres. Her input creates synergies that lead to cultural innovations; which are visible today in every European country and capital city, in art collections and libraries, sacred and secular architecture, customs and social practices.

The project aims to uncover transnational networks of cultural transfer and reciprocal influence; to show how consorts contributed to these under often difficult circumstances; to examine modes of communication among dynastic women. The project will peel back our modern map of Europe to reveal an earlier one in which linguistic, cultural and political borders were far more flexible than they are today.

In this research project, I will focus specifically on Lovisa Ulrika´s European network with special reference to her French connections. The queen brought many French artists and philosophers at court contributing to convey Enlightenment ideas and culture. When Luise Ulrika became engaged to Adolf Fredrik, Voltaire already envisaged a cultural mission for her in Sweden, writing to her: ”Vous ferez en Suède ce que Le Roi votre frère fait à Berlin; Vous ferez naître les beaux-arts.” How did Lovisa Ulrike -a German born princess- influence culture and arts at court and in privileged circles in Sweden? And how did her influence take shape and was implemented in practice? What were the lasting effects of her cultural role in Sweden?

Beyond her role as cultural catalyst, she also played a key role in the political sphere and in parallel and informal diplomacy. Sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia and related to many of the great houses in Europe- thanks notably to her numerous siblings-, Lovisa Ulrika was not only foreseen as a trustworthy political agent able to advance Prussian ideas and influence in Sweden, but also corresponded with other reigning princes, queen consorts, and powerful nobles from all over Europe. I am particularly interested in this underground and informal parallel diplomacy. Did her transnational connections in different parts of Europe influence her new country and did her experiences in Sweden influence her connections? Letters exchanged with other European consorts, princesses and princes, as well as observations made by foreign ambassadors and delegates regarding the queen consort role and influence are particularly relevant.

The project Marrying Cultures. Queens Consort and European Identities 1500-1800 is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme ( which is co-funded by AHRC, AKA, BMBF via PT-DLR, DASTI, ETAG, FCT, FNR, FNRS, FWF, FWO, HAZU, IRC, LMT, MHEST, NWO, NCN, RANNÍS, RCN, VR and The European Community FP7 2007-2013, under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 291827.