How has Danish developed over the years?

From the Vikings to the modern monarchy

Status: November 16, 2020 4:25 p.m.

Close to the people and uncomplicated, the Danish royal family can look back on a long history. It is related to many other European royal families through a clever marriage policy.

by Matthias Stelte

The roots of the Danish monarchy go back to the Vikings. Harald I. Blauzahn Gormsen is considered to be the founder of today's Denmark. He ascended the Danish throne in 935 and the Norwegian throne in 970. With his baptism in 960 the Christianization of the country began. The Danish kingdom experienced its first heyday at the time of the Hanseatic League in the High Middle Ages: the Danish kings controlled almost all of the Baltic Sea trade. In 1389 they succeed in uniting Norway, Sweden and Denmark under their leadership to form the Kalmar Union. In 1523 Sweden breaks away from the Union. Denmark remained connected with Norway until 1814.

Christian IX .: The "father-in-law of Europe"

Influential thanks to a clever marriage policy: Christian IX. and his wife Luise.

After the death of the childless King Christoph III. Count Christian von Glücksburg becomes King of Denmark in 1448. This line ruled until the death of Frederik VIII in 1863. His successor was Christian IX. from the noble house of Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a branch of the Danish royal family. The king is nicknamed "Europe's father-in-law". Due to its marriage policy, the Danish royal family is gaining influence in almost all ruling houses in Europe: his daughter Alexandra is married to the British King Edward VII, his son Georg I. Wilhelm is king of Greece and Maria Dagmar, the fourth of his six children, is married Tsar Alexander III from Russia. Princess Thyra is married to Ernst August, Crown Prince of Hanover, and his youngest child, Prince Waldemar, marries the French Princess Marie of Bourbon-Orleans. Christian IX ruled from 1863 to 1906.

Anonymous death of Frederik VIII in Hamburg

King Frederik VIII (left) and Kaiser Wilhelm II meet in Berlin in 1906.

His son Frederik VIII succeeds him to the throne, but he only ruled the Scandinavian kingdom for six years. His reign caused a stir rather than his death: After a stay in Nice, the king made a stopover in Hamburg. There he is said to have visited a prostitute in the city center. On the way back to the hotel, he suffers a heart attack at the Gänsemarkt and collapses dead. At first nobody knows who the dead person is, so the body is taken to a city morgue. The king's servants find him there and arrange for the solemn transfer to Denmark.

Easter crisis endangers the monarchy

King Christian X does not initially want to limit himself to a representative role in the state.

Frederik VIII is succeeded by his son Christian X on the Danish throne. In the first years of his reign, the king did not want to be content with the representative role as head of state, which the king has been playing since a constitutional amendment in 1901. Instead, he actively interferes in politics and thus acts against the will of the Danish government. The climax of the conflict is the so-called Easter Crisis of 1920: The king dismissed the entire government and installed a new one. This leads to protests and demonstrations, for a few days the existence of the monarchy is in question. Christian X finally gives in and from now on is limited to his representative role as head of state. The king finally wins the sympathy of his compatriots during the German occupation in World War II: Christian X rides through Copenhagen every day. The king, sitting upright on his horse in the streets of the capital, with his reserved attitude towards the German occupiers, becomes a symbol of the unity of people and crown. Christian X. dies in 1947.

Change to the "normal" Danish family

Under the reign of his successor Frederik IX. the country is going through a breathtaking change: Denmark is developing from an agricultural state to a social welfare state. Frederik IX, an avid piano player, is very popular with the Danes: The royal family attaches great importance to portraying themselves as a perfectly normal Danish family.

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Because Frederik and his wife Ingrid do not have a son, parliament changes the rule of succession so that Frederik's daughter, now Queen Margrethe, can inherit the throne. The king dies after a brief illness in 1972. On January 14, 1972, Margrethe II ascends the throne.

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Documentation & report | 10/24/2020 | 8:15 pm