Monday, August 30, 2010

Pretender Profile: Christina of Denmark

Probably not many have heard of Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, but she was certainly a celebrity-royal in her own time. She was born in Nyborg, Denmark in 1522 to Christian II of Denmark and Norway and Isabella of Austria. Through her mother she was the niece of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Only the following year after she was born her father Christian II was deposed after trying to implement expansive reforms and Christine spent her childhood in the Low Countries. When she was only fourteen she was married to Francesco II Sforza, Duke of Milan but he died shortly thereafter in 1535. After this setback she returned to her childhood home in Belgium where her aunt the Dowager Queen Mary of Hungary, Governor of the Netherlands, held court. There she waited for the next marriage opportunity to come along and enjoyed the active social life of the area.

During this time King Henry VIII of England was looking for another victim, er, wife and the teenage widow was suggested as a possibility. The Duchess of Milan was renowned across Europe for her beauty and Henry sent Holbein to Brussels to paint her portrait which he was much impressed with. However, the Duchess had no desire to marry the King, famously saying that she would be willing if she had to heads to put one at his disposal, nor was Emperor Charles V too impressed with the suggestion given Henry’s treatment of his aunt, Queen Catherine. Instead, in 1541 she married Duke Francis of Bar who, in 1544, became Duke of Lorraine. It was then, as Duchess of Lorraine, that Christine began to be known as more than just a pretty face. She largely dominated her husband until his death only a year later which left Christine as regent, a position she held until the King Henri II of France invaded in 1552, removed her from power and took her son hostage.

Once again, Duchess Christina returned to Belgium where she hoped to succeed her aunt as regent of the Hapsburg Netherlands. However, the position went to Margaret of Parma and Christina returned to Lorraine where she advised her released son and acted as regent during his absences. However, her native homeland of Denmark was never far from her thoughts either. After the death of her deposed father Christina claimed the title of monarch of the Kalmar Union; Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. This was neither a nominal claim as Duchess Christina gathered an assortment of exiles and mercenaries around her to plan to restore herself to the Scandinavian thrones, then being held by her cousin King Frederick II of Denmark. Military adventures were discussed as were less warlike strategies such as arranging a marriage between Christina’s daughter, Princess Renata first to her cousin Frederick II and later to King Eric XIV of Sweden. However, one circumstance or another prevented any of these plans from being carried out.

Christina, Duchess of Milan, Duchess of Lorraine and claimant to the thrones of Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed away in 1590 in Tortona, Italy a possession left to her by her first husband and where she had lived since 1578 with a great deal of sadness after the failure to restore the throne of her father. However, in a way, her cause was finally successful since her daughter Renata was eventually married to Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria and from whom the royal families of Denmark, Norway and Sweden descend.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for that.

    I have come across Christina of Denmark in several costume books and nearly every Henry VIII picture book, but never knew what happened to her after she refused the honor of becoming the 4th wife.


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