Christina of Denmark

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For other people named Christina of Denmark, see Christina of Denmark (disambiguation).
Christina of Denmark
Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan.jpg
Duchess consort of Milan
Tenure 4 May 1534 – 24 October 1535
Duchess consort of Upper Lorraine
Tenure 14 June 1544 – 12 June 1545
Regent of Lorraine
Regency 12 June 1545 – 15 April 1552
Spouse Francesco II Sforza, Duke of Milan
Francis I, Duke of Lorraine
Issue Charles III, Duke of Lorraine
Renata, Duchess of Bavaria
Dorothea, Duchess of Brunswick-Calenberg
House House of Oldenburg
Father Christian II of Denmark
Mother Isabella of Austria
Born November 1521
Nyborg, Denmark
Died 10 December 1590(1590-12-10) (aged 69)
Tortona, Alessandria, Duchy of Milan
Burial Cordeliers Convent, Nancy, Lorraine
Religion Roman Catholicism

Christina of Denmark (November 1521 – 10 December 1590) was a Danish princess who became Duchess-consort of Milan, then Duchess-consort of Lorraine. She was also the Regent of Lorraine in the years 1545–1552 during the minority of her son and a claimant to the thrones of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.


Christina was the younger surviving daughter of King Christian II of Denmark and Norway and Isabella of Austria, sister of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. She was born in Nyborg in central Denmark in 1521. She left Denmark at her father's deposition in 1523 and was raised in the Low Countries.

On 4 May 1534[citation needed] Christina was married by proxy to Francesco II Sforza, Duke of Milan, who died in October 1535 leaving her widowed when she was thirteen. She and Francesco had no children.

After the death of her first husband Francesco Sforza, Christina went to live at the court of her aunt, the Governor of the Low Countries, Dowager Queen Mary of Hungary. Christina was a favorite of Mary.

Marriage proposal[edit]

Christina of Denmark

After Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII, died in 1537, Christina was considered as a possible bride for the English king. The German painter Hans Holbein was commissioned to paint portraits of noblewomen eligible to become the English queen. On 10 March 1538, Holbein arrived in Brussels with the diplomat Philip Hoby to meet Christina. Hoby arranged with Benedict, the Master of Christina's household, for a sitting the next day. Christina sat for the portrait for three hours wearing mourning dress. Her rooms in Brussels were hung with black velvet, black damask and a black cloth-of-estate.[1] Christina, then only sixteen years old, made no secret of her opposition to marrying the English king, who by this time had a reputation around Europe for his mistreatment of wives. She supposedly said, "If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England's disposal."[citation needed] It was also obvious that Mary of Hungary was less than enthused with the match, being no admirer of Henry VIII.[citation needed] Henry pursued the marriage until January 1539, when the attitude of Mary made it obvious that the match would never take place.[citation needed] Thomas Wriothesley, the English diplomat in Brussels, advised Thomas Cromwell that Henry should; "fyxe his most noble stomacke in some such other place."[2]

Duchess and Regent of Lorraine[edit]

On 10 July 1541, Christina married Francis, Duke of Bar. Francis had been betrothed to Anne of Cleves, who became the fourth wife of Henry VIII. Francis succeeded his father as Duke of Lorraine in 1544. He valued her political advice greatly,[3] which was noted at the Council of Speyer (1544). Francis died in 1545, leaving Christina as Regent of Lorraine and the guardian of her minor son. In 1552, France invaded Lorraine and she was forced to resign as regent and give up her son to be raised at the French court as a hostage.[4] Christina fled to the Netherlands.

In March 1557, she and Margaret of Parma visited the court of Mary I of England. The rumored reason for their visit was that they planned to take the Princess Elizabeth with them to give her in marriage to the Duke of Savoy. This marriage plan was blocked by the Queen.

When her aunt died in 1558, she worked to be appointed the new Governor and Regent of the Netherlands. This did not succeed, and when Margaret of Parma was appointed regent, she returned to Lorraine.

Titular queen and claimant[edit]

In Lorraine, Christina served as advisor to her son and acted as his regent whenever he was absent. At the same time, she styled herself the rightful "Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden". In late 1550s and 1560s, the adventurer Wilhelm von Grumbach and his allies, who occasionally included Peder Oxe, attempted to dethrone her second cousin king Frederick II of Denmark in Christina's favor. Christina also conspired to marry her daughter Renata to Frederick II of Denmark in about 1560, and then to Eric XIV of Sweden in an alliance against Denmark during the war between Denmark and Sweden in 1563-1570. All of these efforts came to nothing.

In 1578, she left for Tortona in Italy, a fief given to her by her first husband, where she lived to her death styled as "Madame of Tortona".

Her son was Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, namesake of her uncle, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The current Belgian and Spanish royal families and the Luxembourgish grand ducal family descends from him, as do the former reigning families of Austria, Bavaria, Brazil, France, Naples, Parma, Portugal, Sardinia (Italy), and Saxony. Her daughter, Renata of Lorraine, married William V, Duke of Bavaria, and it is through her that the current Danish, Norwegian and Swedish royal families and the former Greek royal and Russian imperial family are descended. The Belgian royal family and the Luxembourgish grand ducal family also descends from her through her daughter.


By Francis I of Lorraine

Name Birth Death Notes
Charles 15 February 1543 14 May 1608 married 19 January 1559 Claude of Valois and had issue.
Renata 20 April 1544 22 May 1602 married 22 February 1568 William V, Duke of Bavaria and had issue.
Dorothea 20 August 1545 2 June 1621 married 1575 Eric II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Calenberg and had no issue.

Depictions In Popular Culture[edit]

External video
Hans Holbein d. J. - Christina of Denmark, Ducchess of Milan (detail) - WGA11572.jpg
Holbein's Christina of Denmark, Smarthistory[5]
Humphrey Ocean on Holbein's 'Christina of Denmark', National Gallery (UK)[6]


She was portrayed by Sonya Cassidy in an episode of The Tudors.


  • Helle Stangerup, In the Courts of Power, 1987.
  • Marianne Malone, The Sixty-Eight Rooms, 2010.



  1. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 8, London, (1849), 17-21, 142.
  2. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 8, London, (1849), 126-129, 21 January 1539
  3. ^ Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon.
  4. ^ Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon.
  5. ^ "Holbein's Christina of Denmark". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved March 11, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Humphrey Ocean on Holbein's 'Christina of Denmark'". National Gallery (UK). Retrieved March 11, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Claude of France
Duchess consort of Milan
Succeeded by
Maria Manuela, Princess of Portugal
Preceded by
Renée de Bourbon-Montpensier
Duchess consort of Lorraine
Succeeded by
Claude of Valois