Hvidøre, the Danish Villa of Queen Alexandra and Empress Maria Feodorovna

Hvidøre, the Danish summer house of Queen Alexandra and Empress Maria Feodorovna. 
Image: Wikimedia

Hvidøre is not as grand as any Russian palace or as quaint as an English castle, but to Queen Alexandra of Great Britain and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, this Danish villa was their sanctuary when the world around them grew sad and they needed time to collect themselves once more.

An old photograph of Hvidøre. Notice the Neo-Grecian caryatids. Image: Wikimedia

Alexandra and her younger sister Dagmar, were daughters of King Christian IX of Denmark. He succeeded as King of Denmark in 1863. A few years before, European powers elected him to succeed the childless Frederick VII as King. The once-relatively unknown House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sondenburg-Glucksberg was thrown in the center stage. Shortly before Christian became king, Alexandra married Albert, Prince of Wales, the eldest son and heir of Queen Victoria. Some time later, Dagmar was married to the future Czar Alexander III of Russia and she changed her name to the Russian Maria Feodorovna. Despite their distance from each other, two sisters forged a lasting bond and they would always exchange letters and find time to visit each other or travel together.

Despite being respectively married to two of the world’s most powerful sovereigns, Alexandra and Maria Feodorovna never forgot their homeland and they would always spend time there. In February 1906, they found the Hvidøre villa and purchased the building for DKK 280,000 as their summer home.

Hvidøre is located in Klampenborg, a suburb of Copenhagen. Despite its early 20th century look, Hvidøre’s history dates back at the start of the 16th century when King John of Denmark built a residence at the property where the villa now stands.  It was here where King Christian II housed his mistress and her mother after his marriage to Princess Elisabeth of Habsburg in 1515. The castle eventually fell into oblivion until Counsellor Frederik Bruun purchased the property in the 1870s. He demolished the old structure and commissioned architect Johan Schrøder to design a summer house for himself and for his family. After his death, the widow kept Hvidøre until 1906, when it was sold to the royal sisters.

Empress Maria Feodorovna and Queen Alexandra at Hvidøre in 1910. Image: Wikimedia

Hvidøre’s Historicist design combines Italian and Victorian Renaissance features. Five Neo-Grecian caryatids by sculptor Otto Evens form part of the upper balcony.

After the royal sisters acquired the property, they also commissioned the aging Johan Schrøder to modernize the villa. Central heating was installed and the British firm Waring & Gillow was hired to do the interior decoration. A tunnel was also dug to make the beach more accessible.

With Hvidøre now a very comfortable villa fit for its royal residents, the sisters would make their annual trip to Hvidøre from September until November. The sisters would find themselves cruising the seas aboard Maria Feodrovona’s luxurious yacht, the Polar Star. However, their idyllic life came to an end when World War I broke in 1914.

Tragedy struck Maria Feodorovna after the overthrow of the Romanovs in the 1917 Revolution and the subsequent murder of several of her family members, including his son Czar Nicholas II. After fleeing Russia, she spent most of her time Hvidøre until her death in 1928, together with her daughter and son-in-law, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Nikolai Kulikovsky, and their two children.

A few years after her death, Grand Duchess Olga and her sister Grand Duchess Xenia sold Hvidøre. In the 1930s, ownership of the property changed hands twice. In 1932, it was purchased by Musse Scheel before it was sold to the Novo Industry in 1937. Today, Novo Group uses the property for internal conferences and trainings.

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