Frederick VI of Denmark

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Frederick VI
Portrait by Hans Hansen, 1824
King of Denmark
Reign13 March 1808 – 3 December 1839
Coronation 31 July 1815
Frederiksborg Palace Chapel
Predecessor Christian VII
Successor Christian VIII
King of Norway
Reign13 March 1808 – 17 May 1814
Predecessor Christian VII
Successor Christian Frederick
Born(1768-01-28)28 January 1768
Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen
Died3 December 1839(1839-12-03) (aged 71)
Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen
Consort Marie of Hesse-Kassel
Issue Caroline, Hereditary Princess of Denmark
Vilhelmine, Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
House Oldenburg
Father Christian VII of Denmark
Mother Caroline Matilda of Great Britain
Religion Lutheran

Frederick VI (Danish and Norwegian: Frederik; 28 January 1768 3 December 1839) was King of Denmark from 13 March 1808 to 3 December 1839 and King of Norway from 13 March 1808 to 7 February 1814, making him the last king of Denmark–Norway. From 1784 until his accession, he served as regent during his father's mental illness and was referred to as the "Crown Prince Regent" (kronprinsregent). For his motto he chose God and the just cause (Danish : Gud og den retfærdige sag) and since the time of his reign, succeeding Danish monarchs have also chosen mottos in the Danish language rather than the formerly customary Latin. [1] [2]

Danish language North Germanic language spoken in Denmark

Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it has minority language status. Also, minor Danish-speaking communities are found in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shift in urban areas, around 15–20% of the population of Greenland speak Danish as their first language.

Norwegian language North Germanic language spoken in Norway

Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties, and some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.

Denmark–Norway personal union in Northern Europe between 1524-1814

Denmark–Norway, also known as the Dano–Norwegian Realm, the Oldenburg Monarchy or the Oldenburg realms, was an early modern multi-national and multi-lingual real union consisting of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Norway, the Duchy of Schleswig, and the Duchy of Holstein. The state also claimed sovereignty over two historical peoples: Wends and Goths. Denmark–Norway had several colonies, namely the Danish Gold Coast, the Nicobar Islands, Serampore, Tharangambadi, and the Danish West Indies.


Early life

The newborn prince with his mother Queen Caroline Matilda Frederik 6s fodsel.jpg
The newborn prince with his mother Queen Caroline Matilda

Frederick was born at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. Frederick belonged to the House of Oldenburg. His parents were King Christian VII and Caroline Matilda of Great Britain. He was born after 15 months of marriage, a day before his father's 19th birthday, when his mother was just 16. As the eldest son of the ruling king, he automatically became crown prince at birth. On 30 January of the same year, he was baptised at Christiansborg Palace by Ludvig Harboe, Bishop of Zealand. His godparents were King Christian VII (his father), the dowager queen Juliana Maria (his step-grandmother) and his half-uncle, Hereditary Prince Frederick (Arveprins Frederik). [3] [4]

Christiansborg Palace castle in Copenhagen, seat of the Danish Parliament

Christiansborg Palace is a palace and government building on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, Denmark. It is the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister's Office, and the Supreme Court of Denmark. Also, several parts of the palace are used by the Danish monarch, including the Royal Reception Rooms, the Palace Chapel and the Royal Stables.

Copenhagen Capital of Denmark

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of July 2018, the city has a population of 777,218. It forms the core of the wider urban area of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Copenhagen is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand; another small portion of the city is located on Amager, and it is separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund. The Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road.

House of Oldenburg dynasty

The House of Oldenburg is a European dynasty of North German origin. It is one of Europe's most influential royal houses, with branches that rule or have ruled in Denmark, Iceland, Greece, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Schleswig, Holstein, and Oldenburg. The current Queen of Denmark and King of Norway, the former King of Greece, the consort of the monarch of the United Kingdom, as well as the first fourteen persons in the line of succession to the British throne, are all patrilineal members of the Glücksburg branch of this house.

His father suffered from serious psychological problems, including suspected schizophrenia expressed by catatonic periods which resulted in the king ceding power to his doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee. From 1770 to 1772, Struensee was de facto regent and lover of Caroline Matilda, Frederick's mother. Both were ideologically influenced by Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau. While Struensee was in power, young Frederick was raised at Hirschholm Palace following the educational approach advocated by Rousseau in his famous work Émile . Instead of receiving direct instruction, Frederick was expected to learn everything through his own efforts through playing with two commoner boys as per Struensee's instructions. [5]

Schizophrenia Mental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior and misinterpretation of reality

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior, strange speech, and a decreased ability to understand reality. Other symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices that do not exist, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and lack of motivation. People with schizophrenia often have additional mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or substance-use disorders. Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and, in many cases, never resolve.

Johann Friedrich Struensee De facto regent of Denmark

Johann Friedrich, Greve Struensee was a German doctor. He became royal physician to the mentally ill King Christian VII of Denmark and a minister in the Danish government. He rose in power to a position of "de facto" regent of the country, where he tried to carry out widespread reforms. His affair with Queen Caroline Matilda caused a scandal, especially after the birth of a daughter, Princess Louise Augusta, and was the catalyst for the intrigues and power play that caused his downfall and dramatic death.

Voltaire French writer, historian, and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.

On 8 January 1772, after the revolt against Struensee, Frederick's 18-year-old half-uncle Hereditary Prince Frederick was made regent. The real power, however, was held by Hereditary Prince Frederick's mother (Crown Prince Frederick's step-grandmother), Queen Dowager Juliana Maria, aided by Ove Høegh-Guldberg. Frederick was raised under the supervision of Margrethe Marie Thomasine Numsen. Finally, on 14 April 1784, the crown prince Frederick was declared of legal majority; he proceeded to seize and exercise the full powers of the regency, dismissing the ministers loyal to the Queen Dowager. It is said that during the coup, he engaged in a fistfight with his half-uncle over the regency. He continued as regent of Denmark under his father's name until the latter's death in 1808. [6]

Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Denmark Hereditary Prince of Denmark and Norway

Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Denmark was heir presumptive to the thrones of Denmark and Norway. He was the surviving son of King Frederick V by his second wife, Juliana Maria of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel.

Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel Queen consort of Denmark and Norway

Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern was queen of Denmark and Norway between 1752 and 1766, second consort of king Frederick V of Denmark and Norway, mother of the prince-regent Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway and herself de facto regent 1772–1784. King Christian VIII of Denmark descends from her.

Ove Høegh-Guldberg Danish politician

Ove Høegh-Guldberg was a Danish statesman, historian, and de facto prime minister of Denmark from 1772 to 1784.

19-year-old Crown Prince Frederick, surrounded by his staff. In the background Frederiksberg Palace. Painted by Christian August Lorentzen. Frederik6danmarkfrederiksberg.jpg
19-year-old Crown Prince Frederick, surrounded by his staff. In the background Frederiksberg Palace. Painted by Christian August Lorentzen.

Crown prince's regency

During the regency, Frederick instituted widespread liberal reforms with the assistance of Chief Minister Andreas Peter Bernstorff, including the abolition of serfdom in 1788. Crises encountered during his reign include disagreement with the British over neutral shipping. This resulted in two British attacks on Copenhagen, the Battle of Copenhagen of 1801 and the Battle of Copenhagen of 1807. The conflict continued in the Gunboat War between Denmark-Norway and the United Kingdom, which lasted until the Treaty of Kiel in 1814. [7]

Andreas Peter Bernstorff Danish politician

Andreas Peter Bernstorff, also known as Andreas Peter Graf von Bernstorff, was a Danish diplomat and Foreign Minister. He was a guardian of civil and political liberty.

Serfdom status of peasants under feudalism

Serfdom is the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage, which developed during the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

There was speculation that he was to marry a Prussian princess, a choice supported by his step-grandmother Juliana Maria and her brother-in-law Frederick the Great. To show his independence from advisors, he personally selected his first-cousin Marie Sophie of Hesse-Kassel, a member of a German family with close marriage links with the royal families of both Denmark and Great Britain. They married in Gottorp on 31 July 1790 and had eight children. Their eldest daughter, Princess Caroline married her father’s first cousin, Ferdinand, Hereditary Prince of Denmark. The youngest, Princess Wilhelmine, became the wife of the future Frederick VII of Denmark. None of Frederick VI's sons survived infancy and when he died, he was succeeded by his half-cousin Christian VIII of Denmark, the son of his half-uncle Prince Frederick. [8]

Frederick the Great king of Prussia

Frederick II ruled the Kingdom of Prussia from 1740 until 1786, the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king, at 46 years. His most significant accomplishments during his reign included his military victories, his reorganization of Prussian armies, his patronage of the arts and the Enlightenment and his final success against great odds in the Seven Years' War. Frederick was the last Hohenzollern monarch titled King in Prussia and declared himself King of Prussia after achieving sovereignty over most historically Prussian lands in 1772. Prussia had greatly increased its territories and became a leading military power in Europe under his rule. He became known as Frederick the Great and was nicknamed Der Alte Fritz by the Prussian people and eventually the rest of Germany.

Princess Caroline of Denmark Hereditary Princess consort of Denmark

Princess Caroline of Denmark, was the eldest surviving daughter of King Frederick VI. She was unofficially known as "Kronprinsesse Caroline" prior to her marriage, and later as "Arveprinsesse Caroline". She married her father’s first cousin, Hereditary Prince Ferdinand, who was heir presumptive to the throne from 1848 to 1863.

Ferdinand, Hereditary Prince of Denmark Hereditary Prince of Denmark

Frederick Ferdinand, Hereditary Prince of Denmark was grandson of King Frederick V and heir presumptive to the throne from 1848 until his death. Had he lived five months longer, he would have outlived his nephew, King Frederick VII, and become King of Denmark.

The anointment of King Frederick VI at Frederiksborg Palace on 31 July 1815. The ceremony was postponed due to the Napoleonic Wars. Anointment of Frederick VI of Denmark.jpg
The anointment of King Frederick VI at Frederiksborg Palace on 31 July 1815. The ceremony was postponed due to the Napoleonic Wars.
Frederik VI by Christoph Wilhelm Wohlien, after a portrait by
Friedrich Carl Groger Christoph Wilhelm Wohlien - Portraet af Frederik VI.jpg
Frederik VI by Christoph Wilhelm Wohlien, after a portrait by
Friedrich Carl Gröger

King of Denmark and loss of Norway

Frederick became King of Denmark-Norway on 13 March 1808. When the throne of Sweden seemed likely to become vacant in 1809, Frederick was interested in being elected there as well. Frederick actually was the first monarch of Denmark and Norway to descend from Gustav I of Sweden, who had secured Sweden's independence in 1520s after the period of the Kalmar Union with other Scandinavian countries. However, Frederick's brother-in-law, Prince Christian Augustus of Augustenborg, was first elected to the throne of Sweden, followed by the French Marshal Bernadotte. [9]

During the Napoleonic Wars, he tried to maintain neutrality; however, after the British bombardment of Copenhagen, he was forced to ally Denmark-Norway with Napoleon. [10] After the French defeat in Russia in 1812, the Allies again asked him to change sides but he refused. Many Danish historians portray the king as stubborn, incompetent, and motivated by a misconceived loyalty towards Napoleon. However, some historians in recent years have provided a different interpretation that sheds a better light on the king. He stayed with Napoleon in order to protect the exposed situation of Norway, which was dependent on grain imports and had become the target of Swedish territorial ambitions. He expected the wars would end with a great international conference in which Napoleon would have a major voice, and would help protect Denmark's interests, especially in Norway. [11] [12]

After the French defeat in the Napoleonic Wars in 1814 and the loss of the Norwegian crown, Frederick VI carried through an authoritarian and reactionary course, giving up the liberal ideas of his years as a prince regent.[ citation needed ] Censorship and suppression of all opposition together with the poor state of the country's economy made this period of his reign somewhat gloomy, though the king himself in general maintained his position of a well-meaning autocrat. From the 1830s the economic depression was eased a bit and from 1834 the king reluctantly accepted a small democratic innovation by the creation of the Assemblies of the Estate (purely consultative regional assemblies); this had the unintended result of later exacerbating relations between Danes and Germans in Schleswig, whose regional assembly became a forum for constant bickering between the two national groups. [13]

Bust of Frederick VI, modelled by Bertel Thorvaldsen Thorvaldsens Fr VI.jpg
Bust of Frederick VI, modelled by Bertel Thorvaldsen

Later life and succession

Frederick VI was known as a patron of astronomy and in 1832 offered gold medal prizes to anyone who discovered a comet using a telescope. His successors continued this until 1850. The prize was terminated in the aftermath of the First War of Schleswig. After the discovery of the Haraldskær Woman in a peat bog in Jutland in the year 1835, Frederick VI ordered a royal interment in an elaborately carved sarcophagus for the Iron Age mummy, decreeing it to be the body of Queen Gunnhild. Later this identification proved incorrect, but the action suited his political agenda at the time. [14]

Frederick VI died at the age of 71 at Amalienborg Palace and was buried in Frederick V's chapel in Roskilde Cathedral. Frederick reigned over Denmark for a total of 55 years; 24 years as crown prince regent and 31 years as king. He was the 894th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain and the 654th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1822. The Royal Frederick University (now University of Oslo) in Oslo was named in his honour.

As Frederick VI had no surviving sons to succeed him (only two daughters), he was succeeded on the throne of Denmark by his half-first cousin Christian, who was his father's half-brother's son.


King Frederick VI and Queen Marie with Princesses Caroline and Vilhelmine Frederik VI and family.jpg
King Frederick VI and Queen Marie with Princesses Caroline and Vilhelmine

Frederick VI and his wife Marie of Hesse-Kassel were the parents of eight children, but six of them died in infancy. Only two daughters grew to adulthood, and incidentally, both of them remained childless, meaning that Frederick VI and his wife had no grandchildren at all. Their children were:

By his mistress Frederikke Dannemand (Bente Mortensdatter Andersen (Rafsted)), [15] King Frederick VI had the following children: [16]

As the Prince Regent, Frederick is a leading character in the comic opera " His Excellency " by Gilbert and Sullivan.



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  2. "kronprinsregent". Store norske leksikon . Retrieved 4 November 2012.
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  4. Magne Njåstad. "Arveprins Frederik". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  5. Magne Njåstad. "Johann Friedrich Struensee". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  6. Magne Njåstad. "Ove Høegh-Guldberg". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  7. Magne Njåstad. "Flåteranet i 1807". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  8. "Frederick VI of Denmark". European Royal History. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  9. Knut Dørum. "Frederik 6". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  10. A. N. Ryan, "The Causes of the British Attack upon Copenhagen in 1807." English Historical Review (1953): 37-55. in JSTOR
  11. Michael Bregnsbo, "The motives behind the foreign political decisions of Frederick VI during the Napoleonic Wars," Scandinavian Journal of History (2014) 39#3 pp 335-352
  12. Magne Njåstad. "Norge under Napoleonskrigene". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  13. Jon Gunnar Arntzen. "Frederik 6". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
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  15. "Kong Frederik VI" . Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  16. "Frederick VI, King of Denmark" . Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  17. T.F. BoettgerChevaliers de la Toison d'Or. Knights of the Golden Fleece.
  18. Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 56.
Frederick VI
Born: January 28 1768 Died: December 3 1839
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Christian VII
King of Norway
Succeeded by
Christian VIII
King of Denmark
Duke of Holstein and Schleswig

Vacant Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg