Frederick II of Denmark

Frederick II

Portrait by Hans Knieper or Melchior Lorck, 1581
King of Denmark and Norway (more...)
Reign 1 January 1559 – 4 April 1588
Coronation 20 August 1559
Copenhagen Cathedral
Predecessor Christian III
Successor Christian IV
Born (1534-07-01)1 July 1534
Haderslevhus Castle, Haderslev, Denmark
Died 4 April 1588(1588-04-04) (aged 53)
Antvorskov Castle, Antvorskov, Denmark
Burial Roskilde Cathedral
Spouse Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Issue Christian IV of Denmark
Anne, Queen of England and Scotland
Elizabeth, Duchess of Brunswick
Augusta, Duchess of Holstein-Gottorp
Hedwig, Electress of Saxony
John, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein
House Oldenburg
Father Christian III of Denmark
Mother Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg
Religion Lutheranism

Frederick II (1 July 1534 – 4 April 1588) was King of Denmark and Norway and duke of Schleswig from 1559 until his death.[1]

King of Denmark

King Frederik II

Frederick II was the son of King Christian III of Denmark and Norway and Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg. He was hailed as successor to the Throne of Denmark in 1542 and of Norway in 1548. As king, he visited Norway in 1585, when he came to Båhus. Unlike his father, he was strongly affected by military ideals. Already as a young man he made friendship with German war princes. Shortly after his succession he won his first victory with the conquest of Dithmarschen in Schleswig-Holstein by Johan Rantzau during the summer of 1559.[2]

From his predecessor, he inherited the Livonian War. In 1560, he installed his younger brother Magnus of Holstein (1540–1583) in the Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek. Frederick largely tried to avoid conflict in Livonia and consolidated amicable relations to Ivan IV in the 1562 Treaty of Mozhaysk. As a vassal of Ivan IV of Russia, Magnus was the titular King of Livonia from 1570 to 1578. [3]

His competition with Sweden for supremacy in the Baltic broke out into open warfare in 1563, the start of the Seven Years' War, the dominating conflict of his rule. He tried in vain to conquer Sweden, which was ruled by his cousin, King Eric XIV. It developed into an extremely expensive war of attrition in which the areas of Scania were ravaged by the Swedes and Norway was almost lost. During this war the king led his army personally on the battlefield but without much result. The conflict damaged his relationship to his noble councillors, however the Sture Murders of 24 May 1567 by the insane King Eric XIV in Sweden helped stabilize the situation in Denmark. After Erik's successor John III of Sweden refused to accept a peace favoring Denmark in the Treaties of Roskilde (1568), the war dragged on until it was ended by a status quo peace in the Treaty of Stettin (1570) that let Denmark save face but also showed the limits of Danish military power. [4]

After the war Frederick kept the peace without giving up his attempt of trying to expand his prestige as a naval ruler. His foreign politics were marked by a moral support of the Protestant powers  – but at the same time by a strict neutrality. [5]

Frederik II Builds Kronborg Castle at Elsinore

In 1552, Steward of the Realm Peder Oxe (1520–1575) had been raised to Councillor of State (Rigsraad). During the spring of 1557, Oxe and the King had quarreled over a mutual property exchange. Failing to compromise matters with the king, Oxe had fled to Germany in 1558. However, financial difficulties arose during the stress of the Northern Seven Years' War. After state finances collapsed during the years 1566 to 1567, Frederik called Peder Oxe home to address the kingdom's economy. The taking over of Danish administration and finances by the able councillor, provided a marked improvement for the national treasury. Councillors of experience including Niels Kaas, Arild Huitfeldt and Christoffer Valkendorff took care of the domestic administration. Subsequently government finances were put in order and Denmark's economy improved. One of the chief expedients of the improved state of affairs was the raising of the Sound Dues. Oxe, as lord treasurer, reduced the national debt considerably and redeemed portions of crown lands. [6][7][8]

This was a period of affluence and growth in Danish history. Frederick II rebuilt Kronborg castle in Elsinore between 1574 and 1585. In 1567 he founded Fredrikstad in Norway. Frederik II upper secondary school in Fredrikstad, one of the largest schools of its kind in Norway, is named after Frederick.[9] Frederick was also a major patron and close personal friend of the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe (whose step-father Jørgen Thygesen Brahe had rescued Frederick from drowning, catching pneumonia and dying as a result). [10] [11][12]

Frederick II stands as the typical renaissance ruler of Denmark. He was a lover of hunting, wine, women and feasts. As a person Frederick was often described as hot-headed, vain, courageous and ambitious.

Family and children

As a young man, he had desired to marry his mistress, Anne of Hardenberg, who had served as a lady-in-waiting to the Dowager Queen Dorothea of Denmark. [13]He had also wooed Queen Elizabeth I of England, an initiative which made him Knight of the Garter. On 20 July 1572 he was married to Sophia of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, a descendant of King John of Denmark, and also his own first half-cousin, through their grandfather, Frederick I, King of Denmark and Norway. They had eight children:

  1. Elizabeth (25 August 1573 – 19 June 1626), married in 1590 to Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
  2. Anne (12 December 1574 – 2 March 1619), married on 23 November 1589 to James VI and I
  3. Christian IV of Denmark and Norway (12 April 1577 – 28 February 1648)
  4. Ulrik (30 December 1578 – 27 March 1624 in Rühn), last Bishop of the old Schleswig see (1602–1624), and as Ulrich II Administrator of the Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin (1603–1624), married Lady Catherine Hahn-Hinrichshagen
  5. John August (1579–1579), died in infancy
  6. Augusta (8 April 1580 – 5 February 1639), married on 30 August 1596 to Duke Johann Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp
  7. Hedwig (5 August 1581 – 26 November 1641), married on 12 September 1602 to Christian II, Elector of Saxony
  8. John, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein (9 July 1583 – 28 October 1602)



  1. Frederik 2 (Dansk Konge)
  2. "Johan Rantzau". Den Store Danske. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  3. "Magnus, Konge af Lifland, 1540-83". Dansk biografisk Lexikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  4. "Frederik 2". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  5. "Frederik 2". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  6. "Christian III, Peder Oxe and the 1557 Meeting of the Great Council: Royal Purges and Succession". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  7. "Oxe, Peder, 1520-75, Rigshofmester". Dansk biografisk Lexikon. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  8. Frederik 2 (Danish Kings and their History)
  9. Fredrikstad museum
  10. "Life and Times of Tycho Brahe". Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  11. Frederik II (1559–1588) (Familien Sørensens Hjemmeside – og Rejseholdet)
  12. "Jørgen (Thygesen) Brahe". Den Store Danske. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  13. Anne Corfitzdatter Hardenberg of Helsingborg (Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership)

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Frederick II of Denmark.
Frederick II
Born: 1 July 1534 Died: 4 April 1588
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Christian III
King of Denmark and Norway
Succeeded by
Christian IV
Preceded by
Christian III
John II the Elder and Adolf
(in condominial rule)
Duke of Holstein and Schleswig
with John II (1559–1580)
Adolf (1559–1586)
Frederick II (1586–1587)
Philip (1587–1588)
Succeeded by
Christian IV
and Philip
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