Ulriksdal Palace: A history
It is from Ulriksdal that Queen Kristina's coronation procession began. It has also been a military hospital and a home for war veterans. 200 people are buried at the invalids' cemetery in the southeast part of the grounds.
Queen Kristina dressed as the goddess Diana, a coronation procession, skittles, magnificent banquets, masquerades, singing and music. Ever since it was built, Ulriksdal Palace has been associated with festivities, but has also seen times of great seriousness. Its time as an institution for wounded war veterans was a reminder of a very different, harsh reality.
The history of Ulriksdal Palace began in 1638 when Jakob De la Gardie, a Field Marshal and one of the country's most powerful men, received land from the crown and – here on desolate, rocky ground next to the Edsviken inlet – had a palace built that was intended to be one of the most magnificent buildings Sweden had ever seen. The architect and master builder was Hans Jacob Kristler, who worked at the same time on De la Gardie's Makalös Palace in Stockholm. The palace, built in the Late Renaissance style, was completed in 1645 and named Jakobsdal after its builder.
Queen Kristina: a frequent visitor
The palace quickly became a popular destination for the nobility and royalty. Queen Kristina was one frequent visitor. She is said to have made a highly successful appearance at a masquerade, dressed as the goddess Diana. It is not surprising that Queen Kristina chose the palace as the starting point for her coronation procession on 17 October 1650. The procession was so long that by the time the first carriage had reached the Royal Palace of Stockholm, the last carriage had not yet left Jakobsdal.
Sweden's most magnificent park
Following the death of Jakob De la Gardie in 1652, the property changed hands a number of times in quick succession. It first became the jointure of De la Gardie's wife Ebba Brahe, but after just a few months she transferred it to her eldest son Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, who in turn sold it to Queen Kristina. When Queen Kristina abdicated and left Sweden in 1654, the property reverted to Magnus Gabriel. One of the leading builders of his time, he renovated the palace and the pleasure gardens were transformed into one of the most beautiful gardens in Sweden.
The palace is renamed after Prince Ulrik
The palace returned to royal ownership in 1669, when it was sold to the Queen Dowager Hedvig Eleonora. Grand plans were drawn up, but a lack of funds meant that they were never realised. In 1684, the queen dowager gave the palace as a christening gift to her grandson, Prince Ulrik, and the palace was renamed Ulriksdal. However, Prince Ulrik died before he reached his first birthday, and the palace passed back to Queen Dowager Hedvig Eleonora. When she died in 1715, it became state property but was eventually put at the disposal of King Fredrik I and Queen Ulrika Eleonora. It was during this period that the exterior of the palace took on its current appearance.
The Holstein-Gottorp era
After the death of King Fredrik I, King Adolf Fredrik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika took over the palace and, together with Drottningholm, Ulriksdal became one of the royal family's main residences outside Stockholm. Here, dazzling parties were held and theatrical productions were staged. King Gustav III also enjoyed visiting during the early years of his reign. Princess Hedvig Elisabet Charlotta describes a visit to Ulriksdal in June 1776 as follows:
"Our stay has otherwise been fairly tolerable. The queen only leaves her room for dinner and supper, and for her walks at 7 o'clock. Since she always wants to be alone, everyone visits me and we can talk and laugh freely."
Following the death of King Gustav III, Ulriksdal was placed at the disposal of Queen Dowager Sofia Magdalena (among others), who also died here in 1813.
From a summer palace to a military hospital
New life was breathed into Ulriksdal in 1822, when King Karl XIV Johan followed the French model and opened a combined military hospital and home for elderly veterans at the palace – an Hôtel des Invalides. The rooms of the palace were emptied of their furnishings, which were sold or moved to other palaces. The military hospital remained in use until 1849, and was home to as many as 82 war veterans at a time. In the southeast part of the grounds, 200 people are buried at the invalids' cemetery, which still bears witness to this period in the palace's history.
A new time of greatness
After its time as a military hospital, the interior of the palace had become very tired. When Crown Prince Karl (XV) took over the palace in 1856, much of it was redecorated in the historical-romantic style with the help of architect Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander. The rooms became an appropriate setting for King Karl XV's large collection of art, furniture and porcelain, which he left to the state and was transferred after his death in 1872 to the National Museum. Ulriksdal now enjoyed a new time of greatness. Here, the king could enjoy more privacy and numerous parties, masquerades and hunts were held. It was also here that the illustrious society founded by the king, Enkan Bloms Bekanta, met to sing, play skittles and – so it is said – drink punch by the bucketload into the early hours of the morning, all in the company of good friends.
Midsummer at Ulriksdal
Lord in Waiting Fritz von Dardel describes the 1861 midsummer celebrations at Ulriksdal in his diary:
"On Midsummer's Eve, the entire court set off early to Kaninholmen to decorate the maypole, around which we were to dance in the evening. The queen made a wreath, and mistresses Sparre and Meijerhelm made another. The princess and I cut suns and lions out of gold paper. We ate dinner on the island, where lively dancing then took place accompanied by military music until late into the night."
From slumbers to new life
After the death of King Karl XV, Ulriksdal fell into a time of slumber. Queen Sofia received Ulriksdal as her jointure, and often stayed here during the winter until she died in 1913, but the high society of the time of King Karl XV was over. Following the death of the queen dowager, plans were drawn up to refurbish Ulriksdal for Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, Crown Princess Margareta and their children, and some changes were made to the interiors. However, this work was discontinued when the Crown Princess passed away suddenly in 1920, and was not resumed until 1923 when Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf married Lady Louise Mountbatten. Under the direction of architect Sigge Cronstedt, the palace was now transformed into a modern home. The harmonious living room dates from this time. Decorated by Carl Malmsten, this is one of the finest rooms to have been created during the 20th century.
A royal residence
From 1950, the king and queen lived at Ulriksdal during the spring and autumn. Since the death of King Gustaf VI Adolf in 1973, the palace has not been used as a royal residence. In 1983, the Swedish secretariat of the WWF moved into the south wing.
Copperplate engraving of Ulriksdal Palace by the draftsman Erik Dahlbergh, from the folio Suecia antiqua et hodierna. Photo: The Royal Library