It was on this day 288 years ago, 12 October 1730, that Frederick IV, King of Denmark and Norway, died in Odense. He was one of history’s most notable bigamists.
Born in 1671 to Christian V and his consort Charlotte Amalie of Hessen-Kassel, Frederick succeeded to the throne on his father’s death in 1699. Two-thirds of his reign was dominated by the Great Northern War (1700-1721), in which he took Russia’s side against Sweden, hoping to win back the formerly Danish territories in southern Sweden. That was not to be, but he did reassert Danish rule over the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
Frederick IV was an energetic king. He traveled more than was usual for a crowned head in those days, visiting Italy twice. On his second visit, he spent nine weeks during the winter of 1708-1709 in Venice, where he was entertained lavishly.
He took 3 wives. In itself, that would not be unusual, but he married the second and third while he was still married to the first. The first wife, Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, disobliged him by living until 1721. The day after her death, he remarried his third wife, whom he had married bigamously after the death of the second wife, whom he also bigamously married. This third wife, Anne Sophia von Reventlow, now the King’s legal spouse, was declared Queen. The courts of Europe were shocked at this elevation of a commoner to such an exalted status.
It was of course the first wife’s son who succeeded Frederick as Christian VI. Anne Sophie survived Frederick, dying exiled on a country estate in 1743.