The lyrics were written in 1819 by Adam Oehlenschläger and bore the motto in Latin: Ille terrarum mihi praeter omnes angulus ridet (Horace: "This corner of the earth smiles for me more than any other"). The music was composed in 1835 by Hans Ernst Krøyer. Later, Thomas Laub and Carl Nielsen each composed alternative melodies, but neither of them has gained widespread adoption, and today they are mostly unknown to the general population.
When first published, the national anthem had 12 verses, but this was shortened to the first, third, fifth, and last verse in later editions. In common use, only the first verse (or stanza) and the last three lines of the fourth verse are sung. The first half of the last verse is rarely heard and the last line of each verse is repeated once.
Denmark is one of only two countries in the world—the other being New Zealand—with two official national anthems. Officially, Kong Christian stod ved højen mast is both a national and a royal anthem; it has equal status with Der er et yndigt land, which is treated as the civil national anthem. On royal and military occasions, Kong Christian is performed alone, or the two national anthems are played together.