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Frederik 7.  ·  King of Denmark 1848-1863

Frederik VII

King Frederik 7. onboard Slesvig
Johan Vilhelm Gertner
Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød, Denmark

Frederik 7. was born in 1808 and died in 1863. He was the son of Christian 8. and Charlotte Frederikke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

The parents were divorced about a year after the son’s birth because of Charlotte Frederikke's affair with composer Edouard Du Puy. She was banished to Horsens and had to promise never again to see her son. Because of this, Prince Frederik lived under changing circumstances with members of the royal family and others who took care of his upbringing.

When he was 20, he married Frederik 6.s youngest daughter, Vilhelmine. Over time the marriage was marked by Frederik's infidelities and ruthlessness towards his wife. One evening when he had threatened Vilhelmine and gotten drunk in her bedroom, it got to be too much for Frederik 6., who in 1834 banished him to Jægerspris Castle and demanded a divorce for the daughter.

A subsequent stay in the Jutland town of Fredericia became the start of the acquaintance with the woman who would have the greatest influence on him: Dancer, and later Fashion Merchant Louise Rasmussen.

Christian 8. died on January 20 1848, and he was then succeeded by his inexperienced 39-year-old son, Frederik 7. There was much doubt about Frederik 7.s skills as a ruler, and he was received by the public with great misgivings. He had only been the member of the Privy Council since 1841 and was not very interested in politics. When, in spite of this, he still became one of the most popular kings in the history of Denmark, it was first and foremost because he gave up the Absolute Monarchy and gave Denmark a free constitution by signing Junigrundloven (the June Constitution).

In his Farewell letter, Christian 8. had advised Frederik 7. to keep his old cabinet and ordered him to issue a shared constitution for Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein. Soon after, the waves from the French February Revolution rolled over Germany and towards Denmark. On March 18, 1848, the Duchies demanded that Schleswig be part of the German Union, the Duchies combined, and a free constitution.

These events led to a national liberal citizens’ meeting at the Casino Theater in Copenhagen where it was demanded that the King’s cabinet be fired and a free, shared constitution for Denmark and Schleswig be created. Under the slogan Denmark to the Ejder (a river south of Schleswig,) a big protest demonstration, led by the Citizen’s representatives, was held at the castle courtyard. The cabinet had resigned hours earlier, and the king met the protest demonstration with the words: I am happy to be able to tell you that what you are asking for has already happened. The old cabinet has been dissolved. With great difficulty, a new cabinet was named two days later. It had participation of both liberals and conservatives. The King declared to the new cabinet that he regarded the Absolute Rule as finished and himself as a constitutional King. Furthermore, Frederik 7. would come to the Privy Council meetings only when invited.

Grevinde Danner

Countess Danner
David Monies · 1850
Jægerspris Castle, Denmark

After a number of eventful days, it was a very tired King who laconically commented his new situation this way: Well, now I can sleep in as much as I feel like. In Schleswig-Holstein, the change of government was used as an opportunity to break with the shared constitution. The Danish government established that Schleswig under all circumstances would remain Danish, while Holstein was welcome to join the German Union.

The result of these disagreements in 1848 was the Three Year War where the Danish Army at first succeeded in occupying Schleswig down to the Ejder. Prussia intervened in the war and after the Danes lost battle at the city of Schleswig, Jutland was occupied all the way up to the city of Aarhus. In August, the great powers of Europe dictated a ceasefire – but during the ensuing peace negotiations, Frederik 7. denied the Danish negotiators permission to negotiate an English proposal to split up Schleswig. As a result, the war continued, and after a Danish victory at Fredericia, Prussia withdrew from the war, and declared a truce with the Danes. The Schleswig-Holstein rebels continued the war alone until July 25, 1850 when they suffered a definitive defeat in the greatest battle in Danish history. In the battle at Isted Moor 40,000 Danish soldiers fought against 34,000 Schleswig-Holsteiners, and when the battle ended 12 hours later, there we 5,500 dead and wounded.

As such, the war ended with a Danish military victory. On the other hand, the Danes had to give up on Denmark to the Ejder program and they had to go along with the installation of whole-state constitution – a new shared constitution for Denmark, Schleswig, and Holstein.

The shared constitution from 1855 was short lived. – Already three years later, the Holsteins declared it invalid. While Prussia supported the idea of Schleswig-Holstein joining the German Union, the Danish government worked towards a new constitution which would make Schleswig a part of Denmark. Frederik VII supported the Ejder-Danish proposal, but he never signed the constitution because he died two days before it was finished.

Already during the war, an assembly was selected, whose purpose it was to draft a proposal to a free constitution, a fundamental law.

Frederik VII & grevinde Danner

King Frederik 7. & Countess Danner

Frederik 7. was uneasy about several decrees in the proposal, and said a few days before the constitution was signed that he found that: it contained decrees that he feared would not be of advantage to the Danish Kingdom – but as was almost always the case, the King yielded to the majority of his cabinet, and when the Privy Council anonymously advised him to sign it, he declared that: Since he had promised it, he would stand by it. June 5, 1849 became the official end to 187 years of absolute monarchy, Frederik 7. signed the constitution and Denmark got its democratic rule.

Shortly after the Three Year War, Frederik married for the third time – this time with his acquaintance from Fredericia in the 1830s, Louise Rasmussen. It was through printer Carl Berling that Frederik 7. had gotten to know Louise and as Chamberlain and private secretary he was one of the King's close confidants.

After the wedding, Louise Rasmussen was appointed Countess with the name Danner. The new title didn't help the many years of indignation and lack of recognition that the Countess suffered under. Not only had the King married below his rank, but Louise had had a relationship with Berling, with whom she even had a son. The ill will towards the Countess by the aristocracy and the citizenry came to light in strange ways; At a banquet in Holstein, all the guests showed up without spouses, to which the furious Frederik reacted by having the full orchestra play The brave Soldier (A patriotic Danish war song) as dinner music.

It was among the lower classes of the citizenry that the King had his popularity, so in time, the smear campaigns against Countess Danner drove the couple away from Copenhagen. In 1854, they purchased Jægerspris Castle from the state. He castle became a cherished residence for Frederik 7. and Countess Danner, and today it still contains many remembrances of them. After the King’s death the Countess led a quiet withdrawn life. For most of her fortune she founded Frederik 7.s Foundation for Charity in 1873. She died a year later and she lies buried in the garden of Jægerspris Castle.

Frederik 7. was the last King of the Oldenborg Line. He died in 1863, only 55 years old. He was buried at Roskilde Cathedral.

Translation: Hannes Hofer
Oktober 2, 1998.