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Frederik 2.  ·  King of Denmark · Norway 1559-88

Frederik II

King Frederik 2.
Hans Knieper · 1581
Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød, Denmark

Frederik 2. was born at Haderslevhus manor house in southern Jutland in 1534 and died 1588. He was the son of the man who would later become King Christian 3. and his wife Dorothea of Sachsen-Lauenburg. After Christian 3.s victory in the Grevens Fejde (The Count's Feud), Frederik was chosen as the crown prince with the title Prince of Denmark, and when his father died in 1559, Frederik could sign the coronation charter and take his seat on the throne.

Frederik grew up in Haderslevhus, and was from 1554 granted permission to hold court in Malmøhus in what today is Sweden. It was during those years that the prince fell in love with the Court Master's niece, Anne Hardenberg, and not until 1572 did he get married to his 15-year-old cousin, Sophie Amalie of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. In spite of an age difference of 23 years, Frederik's marriage was apparently a happy one.

In 1559 Frederik 2. conquered the Ditmarshes (now in Germany) together with his father's brother, Duke Adolf of Gottorp. By contrast, he was less successful when he failed to realize his military plans during the Nordic Seven-year-war 1563-70. The reason for the war was the battle for the control of the Baltic Sea.

Frederik had thought that he with the help of German mercenaries could win the imminent war with the Swedes. Lead by the King, the army in 1563 advanced up through Halland towards the fortress Älvsborg, which fell after only six hours of being under attack. After that, the plan was to advance towards Stockholm, but because of a poorly organized supply service, the army had to stop and set up camp for the winter in Scania (southern Sweden). This meant that the King's plans fell apart, because a mercenary army was way too expensive for a drawn out war.

At the beginning of 1564, the Swedes had the initiative. They forced their way into Norway in several places and raided both Halland and Blekinge provinces. Not until the summer did Frederik 2. raise some money in the form of a loan, which went to finance the Danish army's plan of a major attack on Sweden with the capital, Stockholm, as the goal. The attack was a complete fiasco. Because of difficulties with the provisioning, the army had to return to Halland after a few weeks. When, in October, another attempt suffered the same fate, the Privy Council began to lose its patience.

The following year, Daniel Rantzau took over the leadership of the army, but he too had to fight against lack of money and supplies, and furthermore, the army was hit by the plague. A Danish victory was finally achiEved by Axtorna, but the winter prevented further advances. The navy didn't do much better. In 1566, a new blockage of Øresund was a failure, and in late July, most of the navy went down during a storm near the island of Gotland.

To make up for the military and economical misery, Frederik 2. found it necessary to call home his old foe, Peder Oxe. As head of the Court, Peder Oxe succeeded in bringing the economy under control, after this, it was in reality noblemen like himself, Johan Friis and Niels Kaas who ruled the country.

Peder Oxe persuaded the nobility to carry a larger part of the financial burdens, and in addition, he restructured the Øresund Toll so that the income from it tripled. By taking such measures he succeded in bringing Denmark somewhat unscathed out of the war, and the contry still stood as the most powerful Nordic country after the peace accord of Stettin in 1570. Peder Oxe, though, will have to share the honors for the success with the military leaders Daniel Rantzau and Frants Brockenhuus, and it should also be mentioned that Sweden in the last year of the war was weakened by internal feuding after the dethronemen of Erik 14. in 1568.

After the war, the King found passion in, among other things, construction of castles. Among the new buildings, especially the renaissance castle Kronborg stands out. It was built 1574-84 for the income brought in by the increased Øresund Toll.

Frederik 2. apparently had a self confidence that exceeded his abilities, and during adverse times he was often unjust and unreasonable towards his surroundings, but another side of him was his love of life. He loved hunting and partying and he liked having happy people around him.

Frederik 2. died, only 54 years of age, at Antvorskov Castle on April 4 , 1588, an he was buried at Roskilde Cathedral. His son, Christian 4., succeeded him.

Translation: Hannes Hofer
June 24, 1998.