Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monarch Profile: King Christian IX of Denmark

King Christian IX of Denmark is the common ancestor of most of the crowned heads of Europe today, a fact which accounts for the King being known, even in his own time, as the "father-in-law of Europe". He was born in Gottorp on April 8, 1818 and was not heir to anything being the fourth son of Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg and Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse. He grew up in Denmark and attended the Copenhagen Military Academy and once courted the future British Queen Victoria. In the end he married a niece of King Christian VIII; Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel. Denmark faced a succession crisis when the senior branch of the royal family was set to die out with King Frederick VII, a hard-drinking and somewhat odd but jovial monarch who had no legitimate offspring. The matter was made worse by infighting within the family and the Germans anxious to take advantage of the situation to expand. Fighting even broke out between Denmark, Schleswig-Holstein and Prussia and the threat was real that it could revive and even spread.

To avoid this the great powers of Europe got together and it was decided to make Christian heir-to-the-throne of Denmark in 1847, mostly by virtue of his wife's family ties. In 1863 King Frederick VII died and Christian IX became King of Denmark. That same year Frederick of Augustenburg claimed Schleswig and Holstein and soon Denmark was at war with Prussia and Austria in 1864. Denmark was swiftly defeated, losing her southernmost provinces to Prussia and sparking a wave of quite unjustified unpopularity against Christian IX. He took his role as Danish monarch very seriously and had done everything in his power to save the situation but opposed by the masterful military machine of Prussia there was scant reasons to expect success.

King Christian IX was also a monarch who took monarchy seriously and looked with disgust at the wave of liberalism sweeping Europe which did not leave Denmark untouched as calls came for greater democracy and a more constitutional monarchy. In an effort to stave off this eventuality he supported the authoritarian prime minister Jacob Estrup who held power from 1875 to 1894. In his homelife his marriage to Queen Louise was certainly successful as they produced six children between 1843 and 1858. His eldest, Crown Prince Frederick, would become King Frederick VIII of Denmark after him; Princess Alexandra who married King Edward VII of Great Britain; Prince Wilhelm who became King George I of Greece, Princess Dagmar who married Czar Alexander III of Russia, Princess Thyra who married the Duke of Cumberland and Prince Waldemar who married a Bourbon-Orleans princess.

Domestic politics were a constant problem for King Christian as his government tried to suppress the spread of liberalism through press restrictions, firearm restrictions and increased powers for the police. However, he also tried to be reasonable such as by giving Iceland a constitution but keeping the island under Danish control. Toward the end of his reign there was no stopping the emergence of a parliamentary monarchy under the opposition party though the King did see to it that the upper house held the most power. He also gained some popular prestige by the introduction of old age pensions, unemployment assistance and tax breaks for families. Christian IX died at the royal palace in Copenhagen on January 29, 1906 at the age of 87 when he was succeeded by his son. His more liberal son would lift most of his father's restrictions and put Denmark on a different course of development.


  1. How times have changed. Today it seems Denmark is one of the most liberal/socialist countries of all.

  2. Very true, but that's one reason why I like Queen Margrethe II as much as I do. She smokes, wears fur and thinks people who move to a new country should adjust to that country's culture and not the other way around. Of course, if Christian IX had his way she would be able to do more than comment on such issues, she could actually do something about it.

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  4. Why did they call him mad? I may be a descendant.


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