One Family, Two Houses

Coat of Arms ca. 1767

There are some who claim that the Danish monarchy is the oldest in the world. I’m not entirely sure this is true, especially if you consider the entire world and not just the Western, but I want to clarify why people might claim that this is so.

The first Danish king to have ever been recorded, who could lay claim to a sizeable portion of the current Danish land, was called Gorm the Old. He was married to Thyra and raised the runestones at Jelling (pronounced Yelling) that are called the Denmark’s birthcertificate.

The Danish royal family are related to this Gorm, but it took some twists and turns to get here. We’ve had our fair share of kings being pushed out by their relatives, or dying without heirs so some obscure German cousin was produced to take the throne.

The current royal Coat of Arms

The most drastic disruption of the royal bloodline took place after the death of Frederick VII. Frederick was married to a commoner, the daughter of a washerwoman and former balletdancer, Louise. They had no children, and even if they had, they would not have been allowed to take the throne. Frederick the VII was the last of the Oldenburgs.

To be precise, the first of the Oldenburgs was not Gorm the Old. As the name suggests the Oldenburgs came from Germany, but when the nobility had to find a replacement for Christian II, they looked to Germany where his uncle, Frederick, duke of Oldenburg lived. Frederick I was the first of the Oldenburgs to sit on the Danish throne, and it is with him the grand tradition of naming the Danish king Christian or Frederick began. Confusing, I know.

Frederick I

There were 7 Fredericks and 8 Christians until the Oldenburgs stopped with Frederick VII.

Traditionally, the German duchies have been the suppliers of royal brides to the Danish kings. When a new king needed to be found, the nobility, once again, looked to Germany for a third cousin or an uncle of some sort.

Christian IX

They came up with this fellow. Christian IX was a younger son of the duke of Wilhelm of Holstein-Beck. He was married to Louise of Hessen-Kassel who supplied the blood relation to the Danish throne by being a niece of Christian VIII and a cousin of Frederick VII.

Louise of Denmark

And this was how the current Glücksburgian dynasty (dynasty seems a bit grand, but it is what it is) began. Of the Glücksburg family we’ve had one Frederick, two Christians and one Margrethe, the queen who’s been on the throne these past forty years.

In my opinion, the arrival of the Glücksburgs was a sign of modern times. Frederick VII ended the supreme rule that had been in place for nearly 400 years. The first kings and queens to be photographed instead of painted were Glücksburgs. The first kings and queens to truly engage with their public were Glücksburgs.

I have in my heart a very special place for the Oldenburg kings. Honestly, older history fascinates me more. But I hope this post gives my readers a clearer overview of the state of affairs in Danish royal history.


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