Ulriksdal Palace. Photo: Lars Nyberg
De la Gardies Ulriksdal
Ulriksdal is the oldest remaining royal building in the park, but also that which has gone through most change. Ulriksdal’s history began in 1638, when Count Jakob de la Gardie obtained the villages of Upper and Lower Järva from the crown. Six years later, ‘Jacobsdal’ was erected on the strand of Edsviken. The building was designed by Hans Jacob Kristler in German-Dutch Renaissance style with ornamental gables and a steep saddle roof. Several small gardens were arranged around the house.
The Baroque site
In the 1660s Jakob’s son, Magnus de la Gardie, transformed the gardens into a magnificent Baroque park – a character that it was to retain for almost two hundred years. The garden was arranged in quarters around a clear central axis, with a circular pond surrounded by planking in the centre. A backdrop was created in the so-called Grotto, a two-storied building with a dining room on the upper floor and three artificial grottoes below. The grotto walls were covered in shells, corals and mother of pearl and various water arrangements were installed to heighten the exotic atmosphere. A contemporary description relates:‘…when one wishes to unleash all watercourses, water cascades from the floor, walls and roof, through the shells and a great globe that sits in the roof.’
A temple-like summerhouse was placed on the hill ‘Mons Mariae’ northwest of the palace, and a view was cleared through the terrain towards the palace grottoes and a newly built birdhouse. An orangery was also erected. A high terrace was constructed on the eastern lake parterre at Edsviken, and to the south the park terminated in two small summerhouses and a pond for swans.
In 1669 the queen dowager Hedvig Eleonora purchased Jacobsdal which thereby became royal property. The palace was renamed Uriksdal after her grandson Ulrik to whom she gave it as a christening gift. However, Ulrik died at only one year old, and the property returned to Hedvig Eleonora. Between 1720–50 the palace and park were greatly altered following designs by the architect Carl Hårleman. The palace was extended and the roof received its present characteristic shape. The park was given greater symmetry and a more formal Baroque form. Hedvig Eleonora’s riding stables were turned into a theatre – Confidencen.
A new park ideal
Gustav III spent much of his childhood around the mid-18th century at Ulriksdal. After his death in 1792 it became the home of the queen dowager Sofia Magdalena. At the turn of the 18th century the gardens were remodelled to suit the new Romantic park ideal. The Borggården was lowered and the strict parterre was successively livened up by the planting of solitary trees followed by a less formal walking park with 2,000 newly planted wild trees and bushes.
Rehabilitation hotel and summer residence
Between 1822–49, Karl XIV Johan used the palace as a rehabilitation hotel for veterans from the Finnish War. All valuable furnishings were removed. In the decades after the mid-19th century Ulriksdal flowered once more, as Karl XV’s summer residence. Considerable amounts of 16th and 17th century furniture were brought in. The king built accommodation for his actor and artist friends. Many of these summer residences still remain southeast of the main palace building.
20th century Ulriksdal
After Karl XV’s death, the palace furnishings and possessions became dispersed once again. In the early 1920s the palace was renovated internally to become Gustaf VI Adolf’s abode. It received a bright and modern interior and decor. The park was also remodelled and received the modern Classical form that it has today. Since so few of the older garden details remained, the landscape designer Gösta Reuterswärd created a new park but retained some of the strict lines of the Baroque garden. Since 1986, Ulriksdal has been open to the public.