Who Was Charlotte Amalie?

Aerial view of the city of Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Aerial view of the city of Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Who was Charlotte Amalie?

Charlotte Amalie is the name of the capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, named after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel. It ranks as the biggest city in the Virgin Islands Archipelago, and it is notable for its Danish colonial architecture. The city, in addition to the Islands, was bought by the US from the Danish in 1917.

Early Life

Charlotte Amalie was born in Kassel on April 27, 1650. She belonged to the House of Hesse-Kassel with her father William VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and her mother Hedwig Sophia of Brandenburg. Charlotte Amalie received an excellent education in the disciplines of geography, philosophy, French, and Italian. She was raised in a Reformist family, and her mother was politically inclined towards Brandenburg.


Queen Sophie Amalie of Denmark singled out Charlotte Amalie as the future wife of the crown prince Christian. The Queen wanted a daughter-in-law she could easily control. The crown prince met her in 1665 when he arrived in Hesse to get to know her. Negotiations soon began primarily due to religious issues. On June 25, 1667, Charlotte Amalie was married to the prince who ascended to the throne in 1670 becoming Christian V, and she became the Queen of Denmark. She had eight children, among them Fredrick IV who reigned as King of Denmark and Norway from 1699 to 1730.


As Queen, Charlotte Amalie is notable for several things. Her refusal to convert to the Lutheran Church, for which her husband was the head, was met with some resistance. The Queen did not adhere to the stipulations of the Lutheran Church, but rather, she continued to observe the Reformed faith. She financed the construction of a Reformed Church in Copenhagen, and she acquired some rights for her fellow believers in Denmark. The Lutheran clergy objected to her coronation as Queen due to her faith. Charlotte Amalie did not have a cordial relationship with her mother-in-law, and their conflicts were mainly due to matters of etiquette.


When King Charles XII of Sweden staged an invasion in Zealand in 1700, Queen Amalie was at the forefront of defending Copenhagen. She spoke to the citizens of the city, effectively strengthening their resolve and negotiating for their access to the canons. The Queen organized the city’s defense, and she was consequently praised as a heroine. Queen Charlotte Amalie was a skilled administrator of her estates, and she settled in the Charlottenborg Palace, which she had purchased, after her husband’s death. The mansion was converted to the Royal Danish Academy of Art from 1754.

The City

Before the Danish West Indies, the city now known as Charlotte Amalie was called Taphus, which is Danish for beer houses or beer hall since the city was home to many beer halls. The city was renamed Amalienborg in 1691 which translates to Charlotte Amalie in English in honor of the Queen of Denmark and Norway. The city was known as St. Thomas from 1921 to 1936 after which it was renamed as Charlotte Amalie. The city is home to an estimated 18,481 inhabitants, and it enjoys a thriving tourism industry.


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