The Crown Regalia: The King’s Crowns

Christian IV's crown. 1595-96.

For this series, I am going to look at the various Danish crown regalia. This first post will look at the king’s crowns (of which there are two). Then I’ll take a look at the queen’s crown, the sceptre and apple and other articles that once were used in coronations here.

There are two male crowns in the Danish collection. The first one, above, is from 1595 or 96 and was created to be worn by Christian IV at his coronation. It’s spiky and mostly made up of gold filigree, and reminds me of Scandinavian bridal crowns. It doesn’t look like the typical royal crown, and this is because it hearkens back to the late beginning of the Northern Renaissance still heavily influenced by Medieval style and outlook.

The Coronation of Christian IV in 1596 by Otto Bache. 1887.

This is an imagining of what Christian’s coronation process might have looked like. It’s from the late 19th century and there are a couple mistakes in it. Note especially the child in the foreground grabbing for coins wearing a decidedly non-Renaissance hat.

It is important to remark that this crown is from a time before supreme rule. Christian IV fathered Frederick III who looked to France, saw that supreme rule was good for the monarch, and decided to implement it to a country where the nobility traditionally had a high stake in who became the next king.

Prior to 1660-61 Danish kings were “chosen” by a body of noblemen. This came down to the firstborn son to be presented on a tour around the country and the noblement voting to “choose” him for their next king. Things really only got interestin when it came to this son’s ascendency to the throne. Then the noblemen would sit him down, write out a document of things he had to fulfill to keep in their good graces and giving them the power to force him to abdicate should he not. If he refused to sign, which I think hardly ever happened, it was on to the next son. The king ruled on the basis of this document which Frederick III felt was not in keeping with a modern world and a modern monarchy.

The crown of Christian V. In the background the queen's crown.


Now this crown is the crown of a supreme monarch and the sort of thing you think of when you think “crown.” The crown was ordered in secret by Christian V’s father, Frederick III, who didn’t feel that his father’s crown was an appropriate symbol for a supreme monarch. It was intended for his son, not himself, and was used for the first time at his coronation.

The crown was made 1670-71 by royal goldsmith, Paul Kurtz, in Copenhagen. It was made closed to distinguish it from Christian IV’s crown, the symbol of an elected king and to resemble Louis XIV of France’s crown. Two large sapphires sit in the circlet of the crown. The large blue one seen in the picture is supposed to sit over the forehead of the wearer.

Christian V by Abraham Wuchters.

Frederick III by Wolfgang Holmbach. 1880.


Next part in the series on the crown regalia is the queen’s crown and why there is only one.


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.

“Had I but two heads, I would gladly put one at his disposal.”

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan

The story goes that when Henry VIII of England went a-searching for a new wife, he was told of a beautiful widow, the daughter of a Danish king and a relation of the Holy Roman Emperors. He asked for her hand. Christina, who had been widowed while virtually still a child in 1534, was at sixteen years old in no rush to be re-married and told the English ambassador that if only she had two heads at her disposal, Henry could have the other.

As history attests they were not married. The portrait above, painted by Hans Holbein. had been sent to the English court and to this day hangs in National Portrait Gallery in London, as yet another reminder of the links between the Danish and the English thrones.

Christina, or Christine as we Danes know her, is a fascinating example of the Renaissance princess.

Christina was born in 1521 to Elizabeth of Austria (sometimes called Isabella in English sources) and Christian II of Denmark and Norway. Elizabeth, Christina’s mother,  was born an Archduchess of Austria and an Infanta of Castile and Aragonia, the daughter of Philip I and Joanna of Castile. When she was fourteen Elizabeth travelled to the still Medieval North, to marry Christian, 20 years her elder, and the lover of a common girl, Dyveke Sigbritsdaughter. With Christian Elizabeth had 3 children, Hans, Dorothea and Christina.

Christian II of Denmark


In the 1510s and 20s Denmark was very much still a Medieval realm with a strong nobility and a culture of chivalry. Christian II was disliked by his noblemen and the nobility actively fought against his reforms. When Dyveke, Christian’s mistress suddenly died of what some suspected was poison either supplied by Elizabeth’s Dutch family or the Danish nobility trying to break the king. After Dyveke’s death, Elizabeth had three children in about as many years.

Meanwhile, Christian lost power and favour both with his noblemen and with his wife’s powerful family. Among other things he was responsible for the Bloodbath in Stockholm, where he executed noblemen and clergy after having promised them general amnesty.

Finally, on the 13th of April 1523  the king, the queen and their children fled to the Netherlands.  Elizabeth was promised that she could peacefully return, without the king, mind, by the new king, Christian’s German uncle Frederick I.  Elizabeth beautifully declared that “ubi rex meus, ibi regna mea” or “where my king is, there is my kingdom.” In 1524 Elizabeth died, 24 years old. Her 3 children was sent to their aunt, Queen Mary of Hungary, Governess of the Netherlands to be raised. Christian II failed in every attempt to regain his throne and lived out his life under house arrest in Sønderborg Castle.

Elizabeth of Austria

On the 4th of May, Christina was married to the much older Italian duke Frans 2. Sforza of Milan. Christina was only 14 years old when she was widowed in 1435.  With no children to keep her in Milan, and probably without much support from Sforza’s relatives to govern Milan, Christina returned to live with her aunt. By all accounts Christina was quite the favourite of her aunt.

In 1532, Christina’s older brother died leaving Dorothea, Christina’s older sister, the heir to the Danish throne. The Habsburgian family married Dorothea to Frederick II, Elector of Palatine, in the belief that he would suceed in claiming the throne. He tried, but did not suceed and he and Dorothea died without heirs.

Dorothea, Electress of Palatine by Michael Coxcie


Dorothea’s marriage left Christina alone in the Netherlands. While widows generally held more freedom than the average married woman in Renaissance times, Christina had been so young at the time of her husband’s death and having returned to her powerful relatives meant that she could not remain unmarried forever. Finally, in 1541, she married Francis I of Lorraine. In a twist of fate, Francis had previously been engaged to Anne of Cleves who married Henry VIII when Christina declined to.

The couple had 3 children, Charles, Renata and Dorothea who, when Christina’s sister Dorothea had no children, became the next claimants to the Danish throne. Francis valued Christina’s political advice greatly. It is probably no coincidence that a girl growing up at a female regent’s court should learn a thing or two about politics.

Sadly, Francis died only 4 years after Christina married him with Dorothea, their youngest child, still an infant. This time Christina stayed in Lorraine as regent until her son Charles would be old enough to reign on his own.

When France invaded Lorraine in 1552, Christina either didn’t have an army or the time to assemble one, and she was forced to pack up her things and her children and flee back to Mary’s court. Here she stayed through to her aunt’s death in 1558, and having worked to be appointed the next regent and governor, she was so angry with the appointment of Margaret of Parma, that mobilised an army and returned to take back Lorraine.

Mary, Queen of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands

Margaret, Duchess consort of Florence, Duchess consort of Parma, Governor of Habsburg Netherlands


Until her son, Charles came of age, Christina served as his regent, and when he did come of age, she continued as his advisor and acted as regent when he was absent. It was also at this time she began styling herself the rightful Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In the 1550s and 60s she began working towards actually gaining the throne, nevermind that her sister was not yet dead, she would have it for her son.

At this time, her father’s uncle Frederick I had been replaced by first his son, and then his grandson, Frederick II of Denmark and Norway. These three kings were the first Oldenburg kings of Denmark, the dynasty that would continue to reign Denmark until the late 19th century. In theory, Christina did have a claim to the Danish throne, especially as Frederick II resisted marriage for much, much longer than normal at the time. Should he die without heirs, her son would be a contestor for the throne, even if her branch of the family had been beaten back by the new rulers time and time again. And if that wouldn’t work, she had a daughter perfectly suitable for the post of Queen.

Both Christina’s plans to put her son on the throne, and do away with Frederick II, and her plans to marry Renata to him came to nothing. Frederick II would have nothing to do with marriage, and did in fact manage to put it off until he was 38 in 1574, when he married Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, but what changed his mind and how that came about will be the subject of another post.

The news of Frederick’s marriage to a, in all likelihood, fertile and strong young queen who would hardly fail to provide him with an heir, was said to send Christina into a day-long rage. In 1578 she left her son to his duchy, and went to Tortona in Italy, which had been given to her by her first husband. Here she styled herself Madame of Tortona and lived out the rest of her days.

Christina of Denmark, Milan and Lorraine died in 1580, at the age of 59. In a peculiar twist of fate the current Danish, Swedish and Norwegian royalty are descended from her daughter, Renata and her husband William V of Bavaria, so in  a way Christina’s wish to see her family back on the Scandinavian thrones has been fulfilled.


Christina of Denmark, 1533.

Renata of Lorraine with her husband William of Bavaria

Charles III the Great of Lorraine



Six Tudor Ladies

Henry VIII's wives

The photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto took pictures of the wax figues made of  Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleeves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

I love how life-like they look, quite different from the, quite brilliant, portraits that were made of them in their time.

Anne of Denmark

Anne of Denmark

Today, 436 years ago, Anne was born at Skanderborg Castle. She was the second child, and second girl, of Frederik the Second and his queen, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. After her christening she was sent to be raised by her maternal grandparents in Wismar, capital of what is now Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She had a quiet childhood there and it wasn’t until three years later she returned to Denmark, to greet the birth of her brother, Christian who later became Christian the Fourth of Denmark (the most famous of all the Danish kings), and once he had been christened in Copenhagen, away to Germany they went. She stayed there with her older sister, Elisabeth and Christian, for around a year. It was their father, Frederik, who wrote for the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg, in a letter brimming with paternal love. He wanted his children back. When Christian was old enough he was sent to school, while Elisabeth and Anne stayed with their mother and father.

Anne of Denmark

All Frederik and Sophie’s children were raised in the Lutheran faith that their grandfather had brough to Denmark. They were given educations and travelled the Danish kingdom, which at this time included Norway, certain parts of Northern Germany and Southern Sweden, with their mother and father.

In 1588 Frederik died of a lung infection. The plans for a princess of Denmark to marry the king of Scotland, James the First, were already underway. At first Elisabeth had been the chosen candidate but while Frederik was still alive he betrothed her to the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. As he did so he promised to the Scottish delegation “for the second daughter, Anne, if the king did like her, he should have her”. Anne was fourteen when she travelled to Norway, to be met by her husband.

Possibly Anne of Denmark, by Paul Somer

After the final agreement was signed in July, Anne was married by proxy at Kronborg, the most modern castle in Denmark, to James. Ten days later she set out for Scotland with her was her recently widowed mother and older sister. Her eleven-year old brother, who now was king, was at school back home. The fleet was beset by trouble and the ship carrying the princess and her family was forced to land in Norway, for fear of the sea. It was a lord Dingwall who brought news of the misfortune to king James in Scotland, and James immediately ordered public prayers and national fasting.

In October he was again informed that the Danes were staying in Norway for the winter, afraid of the autumn seas. James must have thought “weather be damned” because he himself, along with three-hundred men, set out for Norway. Upon arrival he had to travel some distance over land to meet his bride but upon reaching her dwelling-place presented himself to her “in boots and all” and kissed her, in the Scottish fashion. It must have been a great shock to her, such showings of affection were, at the Danish court, passed in private and only after the wedding. Although, other sources do claim that she was wildly in love with him, having herself embroidered shirts for him back home, so maybe the kiss wasn’t quite so unwelcome, though it shocked her mother and sister, and the rest of the Danish delegation.

They were formally married the 23rd of November, at the Old Bishop’s Palace in Oslo. “With all the splendour possible at the time and place” probably means that the wedding party was slightly subdued. It is unclear whether it was before or after the wedding ceremony, but as a precaution against future storms James ordered the burning of up to ten witches that he believed had caused the storms that made it impossible for Anne to meet her husband in Norway.

The newlyweds celebrated their wedding in Oslo for a full month, before travelling to Denmark on the 22nd of December with only fifty of James’ men. There they met the young king and his council, celebrated Christmas with the family at Kronborg and in March travelled to Copenhagen to attend the wedding of Anne’s older sister, Elisabeth to Julius of Braunswick-Lüneburg. Two days later they finally made for Leith, Scotland. Five days after their arrival Anne made her official entry into Edinburgh, riding in a silver coach with her husband on horseback besides her.

On the 17th of May she was crowned queen of Scotland. The ceremony lasted seven hours and during the anointing in holy oil, Anne’s dress was opened so that oil could be poured upon her breast and arm. It was chancellor Maitland who crowned Anne, and her oath indluded a pledge to defend the true faith against “papistical superstitions and whatsoever ceremonies and rites contrary to the word of God.”

Anne's coat of arms, combining those of her husband with her father's.

Anne, 1617.

by Paul van Somer