The wife of the King Gustav IV Adolph of Sweden who was deposed after a 17-year reign, Princess Friederike (Frederica) Dorothea Wilhelmina of Baden, was born on March 12, 1781, at Karlsruhe Palace in Karlsruhe, Duchy of Baden, now in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Frederica was the fourth of the six daughters and the fourth of the eight children of Karl Ludwig, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her father predeceased his father so he never became Grand Duke of Baden.
Frederica, herself a queen, had seven siblings which included an empress, a queen, a grand duchess, a duchess, and a grand duke. Collectively, Frederica and her siblings are ancestors of a number of royal families.
The princesses of Baden were renowned for their beauty. The marriage of Frederica’s 14-year-old sister Louise to the future Alexander I, Emperor of Russia opened the door to prized marriages for her sisters. After having issues with some prospective brides, 19-year-old King Gustav IV Adolph of Sweden, son of King Gustav III of Sweden and Sophia Magdalena of Denmark, decided to arrange his own marriage. During a 1796 visit to Russia, he had met the former Louise of Baden who was married to the future Alexander I, Emperor of Russia. Gustav Adolf thought Louise was beautiful and he expected the same of her sister Frederica. He visited 16-year-old Frederica and her parents in August 1797 and immediately Gustav Adolf and Frederica became engaged. On October 6, 1797, Frederica of Baden was married by proxy to King Gustav IV Adolf in Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania with Swedish Baron Evert Taube standing in for the king. Baron Taube accompanied Frederica to Sweden where a second wedding ceremony was held on October 31, 1797, in the Royal Chapel at the Royal Palace of Stockholm.
Coming from a small, strict, Protestant German court, Frederica found it difficult to adapt to the pleasure-loving Swedish court. By nature, she was shy and isolated herself with her courtiers, who were girls the same age as her. Her mother-in-law, born Sophia Magdalena of Denmark, treated her with kindness because she remembered all too well how poorly her own mother-in-law had treated her. After the birth of her son in 1799, Frederica became more comfortable in her position as queen.
The king and queen preferred a quiet family life with a small entourage at Haga Palace or Gripsholm Castle. Frederica was a skillful clavichord player, enjoyed the company of her small circle of friends, and devoted herself to the upbringing of her children. She kept in close correspondence with her family. In 1801, her parents visited Sweden after having been in Russia to see her sister. However, the visit ended unhappily as her father died due to a coach accident during the visit.
In 1805, Gustav Adolf joined the Third Coalition against Napoleon. His campaign went poorly and the French occupied Swedish Pomerania. In 1807, Russia made peace with France. A year later, Russia invaded Finland, which was ruled by Sweden, attempting to force Gustav Adolf to join Napoleon’s Continental System. In just a few months, almost all of Finland was lost to Russia. In 1809, Sweden surrendered the eastern third of Sweden to Russia and the autonomous Grand Principality of Finland within the Russian Empire was established.
Provoked by the disaster in Finland, a group of noblemen started a coup d’état that deposed King Gustav IV Adolf. On March 13, 1809, a group of conspirators led by Carl Johan Adlercreutz broke into the royal apartments at Gripsholm Castle and imprisoned Gustav Adolf and his family. Prince Karl, Gustav Adolf’s uncle, agreed to form a provisional government, and the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag, gave their approval for the coup. Gustav Adolf abdicated on March 29, 1809, thinking if he did so, his son would become king. However, on May 10, 1809, the Riksdag proclaimed that all members of Gustav Adolf’s family had forfeited their rights to the throne. After accepting a new liberal constitution, Prince Karl was proclaimed King Karl XIII of Sweden on June 6, 1809. In December 1809, Gustav Adolf and his family were sent to the Grand Duchy of Baden.
Gustav Adolf and Frederica settled in Frederica’s home country, the Grand Duchy of Baden. However, the couple became incompatible and divorced in 1812. In the divorce settlement, Gustav Adolf renounced all his assets in favor of his mother and his children. He also renounced the custody and guardianship of his children. Two years later, Frederica placed her children under the guardianship of her brother-in-law, Alexander I, Emperor of Russia.
Frederica settled in Bruchsal Castle in Baden. She acquired several other residences in Baden and a country villa, Villamont, near Lausanne, Switzerland. Frederica spent most of her time at her brother’s court in Karlsruhe, but she also traveled around Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, using the name Countess Itterburg after a ruin in Hesse she had acquired. Apparently, Frederica turned down two proposals of marriage, one from the widower of her sister, Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and the other from King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia.
During her final years, Frederica was often ill. She died in Lausanne, Switzerland of heart disease on September 25, 1826, at the age of only 45. Frederica was buried at her family’s burial site, Schlosskirche St. Michael in Pforzheim, then in the Duchy of Baden, now in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.