Christian IX of Denmark

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Christian IX
Christian IX af Henrik Olrik.jpg
King of Denmark
Reign 15 November 1863 – 29 January 1906
Predecessor Frederick VII
Successor Frederick VIII
Spouse Louise of Hesse-Kassel
Frederick VIII of Denmark
Alexandra, Queen consort of the United Kingdom and Empress consort of India
George I of Greece
Dagmar, Empress consort of Russia
Thyra, Crown Princess of Hanover
Prince Valdemar
House House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Father Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Mother Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Cassel
Born (1818-04-08)8 April 1818
Gottorp Castle, Schleswig, Duchy of Schleswig
Died 29 January 1906(1906-01-29) (aged 87)
Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen
Burial 15 February 1906
Roskilde Cathedral
Religion Lutheranism
Danish Royalty
House of Oldenburg
(Glücksburg branch)
Royal Coat of Arms of Denmark (1903-1948).svg

Christian IX
   Frederick VIII
   Alexandra, Queen of the United Kingdom
   George I of Greece (formerly William)
   Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia (formerly Dagmar)
   Thyra, Duchess of Cumberland and Teviotdale
   Prince Valdemar
Frederick VIII
   Christian X
   Haakon VII of Norway (formerly Charles)
   Princess Louise
   Prince Harald
   Ingeborg, Duchess of Västergötland
   Princess Thyra
   Prince Gustav
   Princess Dagmar
Christian X
   Frederick IX
   Hereditary Prince Knud
    Princess Elisabeth
Frederick IX
   Margrethe II
   Princess Benedikte
   Anne-Marie, Queen of Greece
Margrethe II
(paternally Laborde of Monpezat)
   Crown Prince Frederik
   Prince Joachim
   Prince Christian
   Princess Isabella
   Prince Nikolai
   Prince Felix

Christian IX (8 April 1818 – 29 January 1906) was King of Denmark from 15 November 1863 to 29 January 1906.

Growing up as a prince of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a junior branch of the House of Oldenburg which had ruled Denmark since 1448, Christian was originally not in the immediate line of succession to the Danish throne. However, in 1852, Christian was chosen as heir to the Danish monarchy in light of the expected extinction of the senior line of the House of Oldenburg. Upon the death of King Frederick VII of Denmark in 1863, Christian acceded to the throne as the first Danish monarch of the House of Glücksburg.

Christian became known as "the father-in-law of Europe", as his six children married into other royal houses. Most current European monarchs are descended from him, including Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Philippe of Belgium, King Harald V of Norway, and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg. The consorts Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Sofía of Spain are also agnatic descendants of Christian IX, as is Constantine II of Greece (the former and last King of the Hellenes).

Early life[edit]

Christian was born on 8 April 1812 at Gottorp Castle as Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck, the fourth son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck, and Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse. He was named after Prince Christian of Denmark, the later King Christian VIII, who was also his godfather.

Christian's father was the head of the ducal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck, a junior male branch of the House of Oldenburg. Through his father, Christian was thus a direct male-line descendant of King Christian III of Denmark and an (albeit junior) agnatic descendant of Helvig of Schauenburg (countess of Oldenburg), mother of King Christian I of Denmark, who was the "Semi-Salic" heiress of her brother Adolf of Schauenburg, last Schauenburg duke of Schleswig and count of Holstein. As such, Christian was eligible to succeed in the twin duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, but not first in line.

Christian's mother was a daughter of Landgrave Charles of Hesse, a Danish Field Marshal and Royal Governor of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, and his wife Princess Louise of Denmark, a daughter of Frederick V of Denmark. Through his mother, Christian was thus a great-grandson of Frederick V, great-great-grandson of George II of Great Britain and a descendant of several other monarchs, but had no direct claim to any European throne.

On 6 June 1825, Duke Friedrich Wilhelm was appointed Duke of Glücksburg by his brother-in-law Frederick VI of Denmark, as the elder Glücksburg line had become extinct in 1779. He subsequently changed his title to Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and founded the younger Glücksburg line.

From an early age, Christian grew up in Denmark and was educated in the Military Academy of Copenhagen.


Christian's wife Louise of Hesse-Kassel.

As a young man, Christian unsuccessfully sought the hand of his third cousin, Queen Victoria, in marriage.

At the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen on 26 May 1842, he married his second cousin, Louise of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), a niece of Christian VIII.

Heir to the throne[edit]

In 1847, with the approval of the great powers of Europe, Christian was chosen by King Christian VIII to be heir presumptive after the extinction of the most senior line to the Danish throne, as the future Frederick VII seemed incapable of fathering children. A justification for this choice was his marriage to Louise of Hesse-Kassel, who—as a great-niece of Christian VII—was a closer heir to the throne than her husband.

How Christian became the heir[edit]

Christian IX

Frederick VII's childlessness had presented a thorny dilemma and the question of succession to the Danish throne proved problematic. Denmark's adherence to the Salic Law and a burgeoning nationalism within the German-speaking parts of Schleswig-Holstein hindered all hopes of a peaceful solution. Proposed resolutions to keep the two Duchies together and part of Denmark proved unsatisfactory to both Danish and German interests. While Denmark had adopted the Salic Law, this only affected the descendants of Frederick III of Denmark, who was the first hereditary monarch of Denmark (before him, the kingdom was officially elective). Agnatic descent from Frederick III would end with the death of the childless King Frederick VII and his equally childless uncle, Prince Ferdinand. At that point, the law of succession promulgated by Frederick III provided for a Semi-Salic succession. There were, however, several ways to interpret to whom the crown could pass, since the provision was not entirely clear as to whether a claimant to the throne could be the closest female relative or not.

As the nations of Europe looked on, the numerous descendants of Helvig of Schauenburg began to vie for the Danish throne. Frederick VII belonged to the senior branch of Helvig's descendants. In 1863, Frederick, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1829–1880) (the future father-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany), proclaimed himself Frederick VIII of Schleswig-Holstein. Frederick of Augustenburg became the symbol of the nationalist German independence movement in Schleswig-Holstein after his father (in exchange for money) renounced his claims as first-in-line to inherit the twin-duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Following the London protocol of 8 May 1852, which concluded the First War of Schleswig, and given his father's renunciation, Frederick was deemed ineligible to inherit.

The closest female relatives of Frederick VII were his paternal aunt, Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark, who had married a scion of the cadet branch of the House of Hesse, and her daughters. However, they were not agnatic descendants of the royal family, thus not eligible to succeed in Schleswig-Holstein.

The dynastic female heiress reckoned most eligible according to the original law of primogeniture of Frederick III was Caroline of Denmark (1793–1881), the childless eldest daughter of the late king Frederick VI. Along with another childless daughter, Wilhelmine of Denmark (1808–1891), Duchess of Glücksburg, and sister-in-law of Christian IX, the next heir was Louise, sister of Frederick VI, who had married the Duke of Augustenburg. The chief heir to that line was the selfsame Frederick of Augustenburg, but his turn would have come only after the death of two childless princesses who were very much alive in 1863.

The House of Glücksburg also held a significant interest in the succession to the throne. A more junior branch of the royal clan, they were also descendants of Frederick III through the daughter of King Frederick V of Denmark. Lastly, there was yet a more junior agnatic branch that was eligible to succeed in Schleswig-Holstein. There was Christian himself and his three older brothers, the eldest of whom, Karl, was childless, but the others had produced children, and male children at that.

Prince Christian had been a foster "grandson" of the "grandchildless" royal couple Frederick VI and his Queen consort Marie (Marie Sophie Friederike of Hesse). Familiar with the royal court and the traditions of the recent monarchs, their young ward Prince Christian was great-nephew of Queen Marie and descendant of a first cousin of Frederick VI. He was brought up as Danish, having lived in Danish-speaking lands of the royal dynasty and had not become a German nationalist, which made him a relatively good candidate from the Danish point of view. As junior agnatic descendant, he was eligible to inherit Schleswig-Holstein, but was not the first in line. As a descendant of Frederick III, he was eligible to succeed in Denmark, although here too, he was not first-in-line.

Christian III of Denmark
Frederick II of Denmark
John II,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg
Christian IV of Denmark
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg
Frederick III of Denmark
Ernest Günther,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
August Philipp,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
Christian V of Denmark
Frederick William,
of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
Frederick Louis,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
Frederick IV of Denmark
Christian August,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
Peter August,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
Christian VI of Denmark
Frederick Christian I,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
Karl Anton August,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
Frederick V of Denmark
Frederick Christian II,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
m. Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark
Friedrich Karl Ludwig,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
Christian VII of Denmark
Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Denmark
Christian August II*
son of Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark
Friedrich Wilhelm,
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Frederick VI of Denmark
Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark
Christian VIII of Denmark
Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark
Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Princess Caroline of Denmark
Christian August II*
Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
Frederick VII of Denmark
Louise of Hesse-Kassel
House of Oldenburg, 1863

In 1842, Christian married Princess Louise of Hesse, daughter of the closest female relative of Frederick VII. Louise's mother and brother, and elder sister too, renounced their rights in favor of Louise and her husband. Prince Christian's wife was now the closest female heiress of Frederick VII.

In 1852, the thorny question of Denmark's succession was resolved by the London Protocol of 8 May 1852, through which Christian was chosen as next-in-line for the throne after Frederick VII and his uncle. The decision was implemented by the Danish Law of Succession of 31 July 1853—more precisely, the Royal Ordinance settling the Succession to the Crown on Prince Christian of Glücksburg[1]—which designated him as heir to the entire Danish monarchy following the extinction of the male line of Frederick III and granted him the title Prince of Denmark.

Succession and Second Schleswig War[edit]

Upon the death of Frederick VII on 15 November 1863, Christian succeeded to the throne as Christian IX. Denmark was immediately plunged into a crisis over the possession and status of Schleswig and Holstein, two provinces to Denmark's south. In November 1863 Frederick of Augustenburg claimed the twin-duchies in succession after King Frederick. Under pressure, Christian signed the November Constitution, a treaty that made Schleswig part of Denmark. This resulted in the Second Schleswig War between Denmark and a Prussian/Austrian alliance in 1864. The Peace Conference broke up without having arrived at any conclusion; the outcome of the war was unfavorable to Denmark and led to the incorporation of Schleswig into Prussia in 1865. Holstein was likewise incorporated into in 1865, following further conflict between Austria and Prussia.


Christian IX on a gold 20 Franc coin of the Danish West Indies, 1905.

The defeat of 1864 cast a shadow over Christian IX's rule for many years and his attitude to the Danish case—probably without reason—was claimed to be half-hearted. This unpopularity was worsened as he sought unsuccessfully to prevent the spread of democracy throughout Denmark by supporting the authoritarian and conservative prime minister Estrup, whose rule 1875–94 was by many seen as a semi-dictatorship. However, he signed a treaty in 1874 which allowed Iceland, then a Danish possession, to have its own constitution, albeit one that still had Denmark ruling Iceland. In 1901, he reluctantly asked Johan Henrik Deuntzer to form a government and this resulted in the formation of the Cabinet of Deuntzer. The cabinet consisted of members of the Venstre Reform Party and was the first Danish government not to include the conservative party Højre, even though Højre never had a majority of the seats in the Folketing. This was the beginning of the Danish tradition of parliamentarism and clearly bettered his reputation for his last years.

Another reform occurred in 1866, when the Danish constitution was revised so that Denmark's upper chamber would have more power than the lower. Social security also took a few steps forward during his reign. Old age pensions were introduced in 1891 and unemployment and family benefits were introduced in 1892.


Christian IX with family gathered in the Garden Hall of Fredensborg Palace in 1883 by Laurits Tuxen

Christian and Louise had six children:

Name Birth Death Spouse Children
Frederick VIII of Denmark 3 June 1843 14 May 1912 Princess Lovisa of Sweden Christian X of Denmark
Haakon VII of Norway
Louise, Princess Frederick of Schaumburg-Lippe
Prince Harald of Denmark
Princess Ingeborg, Duchess of Västergötland
Princess Thyra of Denmark
Prince Gustav of Denmark
Princess Dagmar, Mrs. Jørgen Castenskiold
Alexandra of Denmark 1 December 1844 20 November 1925 Edward VII of the United Kingdom Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale
George V of the United Kingdom
Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife
Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom
Maud, Queen of Norway
Prince Alexander John of Wales
George I of Greece 24 December 1845 18 March 1913 Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia Constantine I of Greece
Prince George of Greece and Denmark
Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna of Russia
Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark
Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna of Russia
Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark
Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark
Dagmar of Denmark 26 November 1847 13 October 1928 Tsar Alexander III of Russia Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia
Thyra of Denmark 29 September 1853 26 February 1933 Ernst August of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland Marie Louise, Princess Maximilian of Baden
Prince George William of Hanover and Cumberland
Alexandra, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Princess Olga of Hanover and Cumberland
Prince Christian of Hanover and Cumberland
Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick
Prince Valdemar of Denmark 27 October 1858 14 January 1939 Princess Marie of Orléans Aage, Count of Rosenborg
Prince Axel of Denmark
Erik, Count of Rosenborg
Viggo, Count of Rosenborg
Margaret, Princess René of Bourbon-Parma

Europe's "Father-in-Law"[edit]

The six children of Christian IX and Queen Louise, photographed in 1882 at the occasion of their parents' Golden Jubilee(?would have been in 1892). From the left: King George I of Greece, Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, Queen Alexandra of England, Crown Prince Frederik (VIII) of Denmark, Princess Thyra and Prince Valdemar.

Four of Christian's children sat on the thrones (either as monarchs or as consorts) of Denmark, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Greece. His daughter Thyra would have become Queen of Hanover had her husband's throne not been abolished before his reign began.[citation needed] His youngest son, Valdemar, was offered the crowns of Bulgaria and Norway, but had to decline both under international pressure.[citation needed] His grandson later accepted the crown of Norway. The great dynastic success of the six children was to a great extent not attributable to Christian himself, but the result of the ambitions of his wife Louise of Hesse-Kassel. Some have compared her dynastical capabilities to those of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.[citation needed] An additional factor was that Denmark was not one of the Great Powers, so the other powers did not fear that the balance of power in Europe would be upset by a marriage of one of its royalty to another royal house.

Christian's grandsons included Nicholas II of Russia, Constantine I of Greece, George V of the United Kingdom, Christian X of Denmark and Haakon VII of Norway. He was, in the last years of his life, often referred to as Europe's "father-in-law". Today, most of Europe's reigning and ex-reigning royal families are direct descendants of Christian IX.

Death and succession[edit]

Tomb of Christian IX and Queen Louise in Roskilde Cathedral.

Queen Louise died on 29 September 1898 at Bernstorff Palace near Copenhagen. Christian himself died peacefully of old age at 87 at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen and was buried in Christian IX's Chapel in Roskilde Cathedral.

He was succeeded as king by his eldest son, Frederick VIII.

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Monarchical styles of
King Christian IX of Denmark
Royal Monogram of King Christian IX of Denmark.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire

Official full title[edit]

Christian IX, By the Grace of God, King of Denmark, of the Wends and of the Goths; Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Stormarn, the Ditmarsh, Lauenburg and Oldenburg

Titles and styles from birth to death[edit]

  • 8 April 1818 – 6 June 1825: His Serene Highness Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
  • 6 June 1825 – 31 July 1853: His Serene Highness[dubious ] Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
  • 31 July 1853 – 21 December 1858: His Highness Prince Christian of Denmark
  • 21 December 1858 – 15 November 1863: His Royal Highness Prince Christian of Denmark
  • 15 November 1863 – 29 January 1906: His Majesty The King of Denmark


Christian IX was the 1,007th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain in 1864 and the 744th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1865.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Christian IX
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 8 April 1818 Died: 29 January 1906
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick VII
King of the Kingdom of Denmark
Succeeded by
Frederick VIII
Duke of Schleswig and
of Holstein

Titles mediatised
Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg
Succeeded by
William I