Christian IX of Denmark Biography

Christian IX, also known as the King of Denmark, reigned from 1863 until his death in 1906. Initially not in line for the throne, he became the heir in 1852 due to the potential extinction of the senior line of the royal house. Despite facing initial unpopularity, Christian’s long reign and admirable qualities restored his popularity. His son, Frederick VIII, succeeded him as the ruler of Denmark.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck
  • Died At Age: 87
  • Family:
    • Father: Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
    • Mother: Friedrich Wilhelm, Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Kassel
  • Born Country: Germany
  • Emperors & Kings
  • Danish Men
  • Died on: January 29, 1906
  • Place of death: Amalienborg, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Notable Alumni: Royal Danish Military Academy
  • Education: University Of Bonn, Royal Danish Military Academy

Childhood & Early Life

Born Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck on April 8, 1818, in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig, Duchy of Schleswig, the future Christian IX of Denmark was the fourth son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck, and Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Kassel. Christian spent the early years of his life at Gottorf Castle with his family. On June 6, 1825, his father was made the Duke of Glücksburg by his brother-in-law Frederick VI of Denmark, because the elder Glücksburg line had ended in the previous century. He then adopted a new title, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and established the younger Glücksburg line. Christian was subsequently brought up at Glücksburg Castle along with his siblings. After his father’s passing in 1831, Christian moved to Denmark and attended the Military Academy of Copenhagen.

Assuming the Position of Heir-Presumptive to the Danish Throne

In 1852, after the great powers of Europe approved it, King Frederick VII appointed Christian the heir-presumptive, as Frederick did not have a child of his own. Frederick’s apparent inability to have a child meant the most senior line to the Danish throne would cease to exist after him. Christian’s marriage to Louise of Hesse-Kassel, a niece of Christian VIII, was used to justify this decision. On May 8, 1852, Christian was selected to be Frederick’s successor during the London Protocol. The implementation of this decision was carried out through the Danish Law of Succession of July 31, 1853, the Royal Ordinance settling the Succession to the Crown on Prince Christian of Glücksburg, to be precise. This made him the heir to the entire Danish monarchy and bestowed upon him the title the Prince of Denmark.

Accession & Reign

Frederick VII passed away on November 15, 1863, and Christian subsequently ascended the Danish throne as Christian IX. Not long after, Denmark became involved in a crisis over the control of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. In November 1863, Frederick of Augustenburg proclaimed himself as Frederick VII’s successor to the twin duchies. This put pressure on Christian, who approved the November Constitution, a treaty allowing Denmark to annex Schleswig. This ultimately led to the Second Schleswig War between Denmark and a Prussian/Austrian alliance in 1864. The London Peace Conference of 1864 between the two warring parties ended without a resolution. The war proved to be catastrophic for the Danish side. Schleswig became a part of Prussia in 1865, and Holstein became a part of Austria. In 1866, after a further dispute between Austria and Prussia, Holstein was incorporated into Prussia. After the defeat, Christian IX reached out to the Prussians without informing the Danish government, hoping to negotiate the whole of Denmark becoming part of the German confederation in exchange for Denmark to be allowed to remain united with Schleswig and Holstein. Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, declined the offer, as he was afraid that the ethnic conflict in Schleswig between Danes and Germans would then continue. Christian’s proposal had remained largely unknown until the publication of the 2010 book ‘Dommedag Als’ by Tom Buk-Swientys. Officially, Christian’s full title was the following: Christian IX, By the Grace of God, King of Denmark, of the Wends and of the Goths; Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Stormarn, the Ditmarsh, Lauenburg and Oldenburg. The defeat of 1864 had a negative impact on his reign that lasted several years. It was believed, likely without any cause, that his outlook towards the Danish case was half-hearted.

Marriage & Issue

In his youth, Christian was interested in marrying his third cousin, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He eventually exchanged wedding vows with his half-second cousin, Louise of Hesse-Kassel, on May 26, 1842, at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. They had six children: Frederick VIII of Denmark’ (1843-1912), Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925), George I of Greece (1845-1913), Princess Dagmar of Denmark (1847-1928), Princess Thyra of Denmark (1853-1933), and Prince Valdemar of Denmark (1858-1939).


On June 22, 1843, Christian was appointed a Knight of the Elephant. He became the Grand Commander, Order of the Dannebrog, on the day of his accession.

Death & Interment

On January 29, 1906, Christian passed away quietly at the age of 87 at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. He had ruled over Denmark for over 42 years and left behind an astounding legacy. He was laid to rest beside his wife in Christian IX’s Chapel in Roskilde Cathedral, which has been used as a burial site for Danish monarchs since the 15th century.


Due to his relationships with several members of various royal families in Europe, he was widely known by the sobriquet “the father-in-law of Europe”. Four of his children occupied various thrones, either as rulers or as consorts, of Denmark, Greece, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Frederick was his successor, while George claimed the Greek throne. Alexandra married King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, Dagmar married Alexander III of Russia, and Thyra married Ernest Augustus, Crown Prince of Hanover and Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale. At present, most of Europe’s ruling and former ruling royal houses have descended from Christian IX. European monarchs like Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Philippe of Belgium, King Harald V of Norway, King Felipe VI of Spain, and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg are all his progenies.

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