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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Sophia of Mechlenberg

b. 1557, Germany; d. 1631, Falster, Denmark

Born into a noble German family, Sophia became queen of Denmark and Norway upon her marriage to King Frederick II (ruled 1559–88). Sophia and her husband shared a passionate interest in the sciences, concretely manifested in their patronage of the astronomer Tycho Brahe (the son of Sophia’s mistress of the wardrobe). The royal couple granted Brahe the island of Hven, near Copenhagen, where he built an observatory—Uranienborg—which Sophia visited in 1586; his observational data laid the groundwork for Newton’s law of gravitation. When Frederick died in 1588, Sophia expected to become regent for their son, Christian, but the Council of State preempted Frederick’s original wishes and appointed a four-member regency to govern the country. Sophia was eventually isolated at her own court on the island of Falster, where she continued her pursuit of knowledge.