Christian VIII of Denmark

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Christian VIII
Christianviiidenmark.jpg
King of Denmark
Reign 3 December 1839 – 20 January 1848
Coronation 28 June 1840
Frederiksborg Palace Chapel
Predecessor Frederick VI
Successor Frederick VII
King of Norway
Reign 17 May – 10 October 1814
Predecessor Frederick VI
Successor Charles II
Spouse Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderborg-Augustenburg
Issue
Frederick VII of Denmark
Full name
Christian Frederick
House Oldenburg
Father Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Denmark
Mother Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Born (1786-09-18)18 September 1786
Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen
Died 20 January 1848(1848-01-20) (aged 61)
Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen
Burial Roskilde Cathedral
Religion Lutheranism
Danish Royalty
House of Oldenburg
Main Line
Royal Coat of Arms of Denmark (1819-1903).svg
Christian VIII
Children
   Prince Christian Frederick
   Frederick VII

Christian VIII (Christian Frederik) (18 September 1786 – 20 January 1848) was the King of the Kingdom of Denmark from 1839 to 1848 and, as Christian Frederick, King of Norway in 1814. He was the eldest son of Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway and Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, born in 1786 at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. His paternal grandparents were King Frederick V of Denmark and his second wife, Duchess Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.

Christian inherited the talents of his highly gifted mother, and his amiability and handsome features are said to have made him very popular in Copenhagen.

First marriage[edit]

Christian first married his cousin Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin at Ludwigslust on 21 June 1806. Charlotte Frederica was a daughter of Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. His first-born son was Christian Frederik, who was born and died at Schloss Plön on 8 April 1807. His second son became Frederick VII of Denmark. The marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1810 after Charlotte Frederica was accused of adultery.

King of Norway[edit]

Christian Frederick in 1813, aged 27 years

In May 1813, as the heir presumptive of the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, Christian was sent as stattholder (the Danish king's highest representative in overseas territories) to Norway to promote the loyalty of the Norwegians to the House of Oldenburg, which had been very badly shaken by the disastrous results of Frederick VI's adhesion to the falling fortunes of Napoleon I of France. Christian did all he could personally to strengthen the bonds between the Norwegians and the royal house of Denmark. Though his endeavours were opposed by the so-called Swedish party, which desired a dynastic union with Sweden, he placed himself at the head of the Norwegian party of independence after the Treaty of Kiel had forced the king to cede Norway to the king of Sweden. He was elected Regent of Norway by an assembly of notables on 16 February 1814.

This election was confirmed by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly convoked at Eidsvoll on 10 April, and on 17 May the constitution was signed and Christian was unanimously elected king of Norway under the name Christian Frederick.

Christian next attempted to interest the great powers in Norway's cause, but without success. On being pressed by the commissioners of the allied powers to bring about a union between Norway and Sweden in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Kiel, and then return to Denmark, he replied that, as a constitutional king, he could do nothing without the consent of the parliament (Storting), which would not be convoked until there was a suspension of hostilities on the part of Sweden.

Sweden refused Christian's conditions and a short military campaign ensued in which the Norwegian army was defeated by the forces of the Swedish crown prince Charles John. The brief war concluded with the Convention of Moss on 14 August 1814. By the terms of this treaty, King Christian Frederick transferred executive power to the Storting, then abdicated and returned to Denmark. The Storting in its turn adopted the constitutional amendments necessary to allow for a personal union with Sweden and on 4 November elected Charles XIII of Sweden as the new king of Norway.

Back in Denmark[edit]

Upon his return to Denmark, Christian married his second wife, Princess Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (daughter of Louise Augusta of Denmark, the only sister of Frederick VI) at Augustenborg Palace on 22 May 1815.

The couple was childless and lived in comparative retirement as leaders of the literary and scientific society of Copenhagen until Christian ascended the throne of Denmark. Christian's suspected democratic principles made him persona ingratissima at all the reactionary European courts, the court of Denmark included. It was not until 1831 that King Frederick gave Christian a seat on the council of state.

King of Denmark[edit]

Christian VIII and his consort Caroline Amalie of Augustenborg during his anointing on 28 June 1840 in Frederiksborg Palace Chapel.

On 13 December 1839 he ascended the Danish throne as Christian VIII. The Liberal party had high hopes of “the giver of constitutions,” but he disappointed his admirers by steadily rejecting every Liberal project. Administrative reform was the only reform he would promise. In his attitude to the growing national unrest in the twin duchies of Schleswig and Holstein he often seemed hesitated and half-hearted, which damaged his position there. It was not until 1846 that he clearly supported the idea of Schleswig being a Danish area.

Some historians and biographers believe, however, that king Christian would have given Denmark a free constitution had he lived long enough, and his last words are sometimes (rather tragically) recorded as "I didn't make it". ("Jeg nåede det ikke.")

King Christian VIII continued his predecessor's patronage of astronomy, awarding gold medals for the discovery of comets by telescope and financially supporting Heinrich Christian Schumacher with his publication of the scientific journal Astronomische Nachrichten.

Seeing that his only legitimate son, the future Frederick VII, was apparently unable to beget heirs, he commenced arrangements to secure the succession in Denmark. The result was the selection of the future Christian IX as hereditary prince, the choice made official by a new law enacted on 31 July 1853 after an international treaty made in London.

He died of blood poisoning in Amalienborg Palace in 1848 and was interred in Roskilde Cathedral.

Christian had ten extramarital children, for whom he carefully provided.

Honours[edit]

Christian was the 960th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain in 1840.

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

Obituary (astronomy)[edit]

Christian VIII of Denmark
Born: 18 September 1786 Died: 20 January 1848
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick VI
King of Denmark
Duke of Schleswig, Holstein
& Saxe-Lauenburg

3 December 1839 – 20 January 1848
Succeeded by
Frederick VII
King of Norway
17 May – 10 October 1814
Succeeded by
Charles II
Government offices
Preceded by
Frederik of Hesse
Governor-General of Norway
1 May 1813 – 16 February 1814
Succeeded by
Hans Henric von Essen