Christian VI of Denmark

Christian VI

Portrait by Johann Salomon Wahl, c. 1740.
King of Denmark and Norway (more...)
Reign 12 October 1730 – 6 August 1746
Coronation 6 June 1731
Frederiksborg Palace Chapel
Predecessor Frederick IV
Successor Frederick V
Born (1699-11-30)30 November 1699
Copenhagen Castle
Died 6 August 1746(1746-08-06) (aged 46)
Hirschholm Palace
Burial Roskilde Cathedral
Spouse Sophia Magdalene of Brandenburg-Kulmbach
Issue Frederick V of Denmark
Louise, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen
House House of Oldenburg
Father Frederick IV of Denmark
Mother Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Religion Lutheranism

Christian VI (30 November 1699 – 6 August 1746) was the King of Denmark and Norway from 1730 to 1746. The eldest surviving son of King Frederick IV and Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, he is considered one of Denmark's more anonymous kings, but he was a skilled politician, best known for his authoritarian regime. He was the first king of the Oldenburg dynasty to refrain from entering in any war. He was married to Sophia Magdalene of Brandenburg-Kulmbach and was the father of Frederick V. His chosen motto was "deo et populo" (for God and the people).[1][2]

Early years

From 1706, Christian had the Mecklenburgish J.G. Holstein and the also German J.W. Schroder as his tutors. He came to understand Danish but used German for everyday speaking and writing. He got a better education and acquired more knowledge than his father and grandfather. As Crown Prince he was allowed by his father to find a wife by himself. During a trip through Europe accompanied by Chancellor Ulrik Adolf Holstein, the Crown Prince decided on Margravine Sophia Magdalene, one of the ladies-in-waiting at the court of the Saxon-Polish queen Christiane Eberhardine in the Castle Pretzsch. Sophia Magdalene came from a minor margraviate (not greater than Lolland-Falster) of the Hohenzollern dynasty where able consciousness was inversely proportional to the funds; half of the land was mortgaged, and her father died young. She had 13 siblings and was considered an unequal match for the Danish prince, but the king gave his permission. In Christian's letters, he describes his feelings for the princess's intense religiosity, which reminded him of his own. They were married on 7 August 1721, while Christian was crown prince. The wedding was held at Pretzsch in Saxony.[3]


The Coronation of Christian VI, 1731.

The king was shy and introverted by nature, and stayed away from the public. The new royal couple lived a secluded life and, although pietist, were surrounded by luxuriant splendour. Behind the curtains of their enclosed carriages lay one of Denmark's most tyrannical, repressive, and puritanical eras. His court was frozen in time, and was said to be one of "tedious monotony". The music at the court was religious and no one danced. The king, both for health and religious reasons, rarely organized or participated in hunts.

Christian's indignation at his father's bigamy and general promiscuity - the reason for the great sorrow of his late mother - led him to one of his first government actions: reversing his father's will and depriving widow Queen Anna Sophie, Frederick IV's second wife, of a large part of the wealth she had inherited before exiling her to the Clausholm estate, her childhood home.[4]

Christian VI placing his hand on the crown, accompanied by a Moorish servant.

For the first ten years of his government he consulted often with his cousin Count Christian Ernst of Stolberg-Wernigerode, who took part in almost everything, from the dismissal of cooks in the Queen's kitchen to his alliance policy. He encouraged the king as long as possible to maintain the English alliance, which led to the marriage between George II of Great Britain's daughter with the king's elder son, until finally - circa 1740 - Count Christian Ernst's preference swung towards France and he ceased his influence. This coincided with the military-political situation in Germany no longer allowing him - as a vassal German prince - to be an advisor outside the empire. In 1733, the royal couple travelled to Norway. A poem/speech by Peter Höyer was performed in his honor when he visited the city of Trondheim on 18 July.[5]

Engraving of poem/speech by Peter Höyer held on Christian VI's and his queen arrival to the city of Trondheim.

Christian's central domestic act was the introduction of the so-called adscription of 1733 (in Danish, stavnsbånd), a law that forced peasants to remain in their home regions, and by which the peasantry was subject to both the local nobility and the army. Though the idea behind this law was probably to secure a constant number of peasant soldiers, it later was widely regarded as the ultimate subjugation of the Danish peasantry. Therefore, this act damaged Christian VI's reputation. The act was later abolished in 1788.[6]

The Royal Palace of Christiansborg, named after him

The Pietist views of King Christian influenced much of his ecclesiastical polity. On the surface the king was victorious, but both nobility and many common people secretly resisted the king's influence. This did not mean that it was without effect. It influenced much of the poetry of the age, among others, that of the great hymn writer Hans Adolph Brorson. Another lasting result of the king’s efforts was the introduction of mandatory confirmation in 1736. This resulted in a need for a common school system, which was created by decree in 1739 and 1741.

There were numerous building activities connected to Christian VI, and he was probably the greatest Danish builder of the 18th century. His queen also made a notable effort. Among their works are Christiansborg Palace (built 1732–42, burned 1794, rebuilt), Hirschholm Palace a summer country retreat in North Zealand in current day Hørsholm municipality (built 1737–39, demolished 1812) and the Eremitage (built 1734–36, still standing). For Crown Prince Frederik (V) was built the Prince's palace in Kalveboderne ( 1743–44 still standing as the National Museum). These expensive buildings were erected financed by Øresundstolden with the purpose of representing the power and wealth of the Danish realm, but they also became an economic burden on the subjects.[7]

Christian's foreign policy was a peaceful one and Denmark kept strictly neutral. In both trade and commerce, it was an age of advancement; some new companies and banks were founded. However, his plans to make their only daughter, Princess Louise, Queen of Sweden never came to fruition. During the election of the heir to the Swedish throne, both the Prince of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld or the prince of Mecklenburg had been considered candidate as heir to the childless King Frederick I of Sweden. In 1743, Adolf Frederik of Holstein-Gottorp was elected Swedish heir. [8]

"The Family of Christian VI of Denmark-Norway 1744, painted by Carl Marcus Tuscher"; (L-R) Crown-Prince Frederick; King Christian VI; Queen Sophie Magdalene; and Crown-Princess Louise in the background is the summer residence of Hirschholm

The Treaty of San Ildefonso

The Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1742, signed between Spain and Denmark, was a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation by setting out the conditions that would govern commercial relations between the two countries. José del Campillo y Cossio on behalf of Philip V of Spain and Frederik Ludvig, Baron Dehn, by Christian VI, adjusted the agreement at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso on July 18, 1742. The treaty was never made effective: Spanish authorities considered that the exemption clause on half of the taxes for the import of Danish fish conflicted with other treaties with third countries, in which they were guaranteed preference in trade with Spain. In 1753 the agreement would be nullified.[9]


Christian VI's silver coin dating from 1736.

To posterity Christian VI is known foremost as a religious ruler. He was deeply devoted to Pietism, and during his entire reign he tried to impart its teachings to his subjects. The religious pressure he imposed, along with his lack of personal charm, made him one of the most unpopular of Denmark's absolutist kings. Later historians have tried to rehabilitate his reputation. They have stressed that he was not quite so intolerant as had been said and that he was an industrious and scrupulous bureaucrat. The negative impression, however, has lasted over the years. [10]


Christian VI's sarcophagus.

From his youth, Christian VI was sickly and chronically ill. On 6 August 1746 – the day before his silver marriage anniversary – the king died on Hirschholm Palace. Christian VI was interred in Roskilde Cathedral. The neoclassical memorial designed and produced by sculptor Johannes Wiedewelt was commissioned by the king's widow who upon his death.[11] The marble monument was completed in 1768, but not installed at Roskilde Cathedral until 1777. The monument includes a sarcophagus and two female figures, "Sorgen" ("Sorrow") and "Berømmelsen" ("Fame"). This was the first neoclassical sarcophagus in Denmark and is considered to mark the start of neoclassicism in that country.[12][13][14]


Titles, styles and arms


  1. "Christian 6.s familie". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  2. "Christian 6. ( 1699- 1746) konge af Danmark og Norge". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  3. Tyge Krogh, "Rationalismens syndebuk. Christian 6. og pietismen i dansk historieskrivning.
  4. "The estate of Clausholm". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  5. Finn Erhard Johannessen. "Christian 6". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  6. "Denmark: Adscription of 1733 (Stavnsbåndet)". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  7. Magne Njåstad. "Christian 6". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  8. "Adolf Fredrik". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  9. Tratados, Convenios Y Declaraciones De Paz Y De Comercio
  10. "Christian VI, 1699-1746, Konge". Dansk biografisk Lexikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  11. | Dansk Biografisk Leksikon
  12. Koch, L. Kong Christian den Siettes Historie (Copenhagen: 1886).
  13. Edvard Holm. Danmark-Norges historie under Kristian VI (1730–1746).
  14. "Christian 6". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Christian VI of Denmark.
Christian VI
Born: 30 November 1699 Died: 6 August 1746
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick IV
King of Denmark and Norway
Duke of Schleswig
Count of Oldenburg

Succeeded by
Frederick V
Preceded by
Frederick IV and
Charles Frederick
Duke of Holstein
with Charles Frederick (1730–1739)
Charles Peter Ulrich (1739–1746)
Succeeded by
Frederick V and
Charles Peter Ulrich
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