Else Hansen

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Painting of Madam Hansen by Jens Thrane

Else Hansen (Cathrine Marie Mahs Hansen) also called de Hansen (1720 – 4 September 1784), was the royal mistress of king Frederick V of Denmark. She is his most famous mistress and known in history as Madam Hansen, and was, alongside Charlotte Amalie Winge, one of only two women known to have been long term lovers of the king.


The background of Else Hansen does not appear to be known. Tradition claims her to be the sister of Frederick's chamber servant Henrik Vilhelm Tillisch, who in 1743 reportedly smuggled in his sister to the king at night, but modern research does not support them to be the same person.[1]

Royal mistress[edit]

It is not known exactly when and how Hansen became the lover of the king. Frederick V was known for his debauched life style. According to Dorothea Biehl, the king was known to participate in orgies or 'Bacchus parties', in which he drank alcohol with his male friends while watching female prostitutes stripped naked and danced, after which the king would sometime beat them with his stick and whip them after having been intoxicated by alcohol.[1] These women where economically compensated, but none of them seem to have had any status of a long term mistress, nor did any of the noblewomen and maids-of-honors, which according to rumors where offered to the king by their families in hope of advantages but simply married of as soon as they became pregnant without any potential relationship having been anything but a secret.[1] The relationship between the king and Else Hansen was therefore uncommon.

Else Hansen gave birth to five children with the king between 1746 and 1751, which is why the affair is presumed to have started in 1746 at the latest and ended in 1751 at the earliest. At least her three younger children where all born at the manor Ulriksholm on Funen, a manor owned by Ulrik Frederik von Heinen, brother-in-law of the de facto ruler of Denmark, the kings favorite Adam Gottlob Moltke, who likely arranged the matter. The manor was named after the royal Ulrik Christian Gyldenlove, illegitimate son of a previous king. The king's children with Hansen where baptized in the local parish church near the manor, where they were officially listed as the legitimate children of the wife of a non existent man called "Frederick Hansen, ship writer from Gothenburg to China".[1] The frequent trips to Ulriksholm by Hansen as soon as her pregnancies with the king became evident was publicly noted. Neither Else Hansen nor any other of the king's mistresses where ever any official mistress introduced at the royal court, nor did they have any influence upon state affairs whatever, as politics where entrusted by the king to his favorite Moltke.[1]

In 1752, the relationship between the king and Hansen may have ended - in any case, it was not mentioned more or resulted in any more children. She settled in the property Kejrup near Ulriksholm with her children, officially with the status of "widow of the late sea captain de Hansen".[1]

Later life[edit]

After the death of Frederick in 1766, she acquired the estate Klarskov on Funen. She sold Klarskov and moved to Odense in 1768. In 1771, however, she bought Klarskov a second time and continued to live there until her death.

Her children were not officially recognized, but unofficially they were taken care of by the royal court: her daughters were given a dowry and married to royal officials and the sons careers where protected, and her grandchildren where also provided with an allowance from the royal house.[1]

After Hansen, the king did not have any long term mistress until Charlotte Amalie Winge (1762-66).[1]


At Frederiksborgmuseet, there are three paintings of Hansen by Jens Thrane the younger from 1764. Hansen is known by Dorothea Biehl's depiction of the decadent court life of Frederick V.


Her children were officially listed with the father "Frederick Hansen, sea captain".

  • Frederikke Margarethe de Hansen (1747–1802)
  • Frederikke Catherine de Hansen (1748–1822)
  • Anna Marie de Hansen (1749–1812)
  • Sophie Charlotte de Hansen (1750–1779)
  • Ulrik Frederik de Hansen (1751–1752)


  • Charlotte Dorothea Biehl, Interiører fra Frederik V's Hof, udgivet af Louis Bobé.
  • Aage Christens, Slægten de Hansen, 1968.