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The story of Christian IX of Denmark is an interesting tale of his rise as an obscure member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a collateral branch of the House of Oldenburg which had ruled Denmark and Norway for centuries, to becoming King of Denmark in his own right. Today he is called the father-in-law of Europe and a majority of the royals sitting on the thrones of Europe are a descendants of his.

He was born in Gottorp on April 8, 1818. His Serene Highness Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck was the fourth son of Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck and Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Cassel. In 1825 Duke Friedrich Wilhelm inherited the Duchy of Glücksburg and changed his title accordingly. At the time of his birth the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg line did not have any rights to the Danish throne despite being male line descendants of King Christian III of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. At the time of his birth only the lines descended from King Frederik III of Denmark had succession rights.

The twin duchies of Schelswig and Holstein, the line of Christian’s family, have a very complex history. At times they were claimed by both Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire. During the life of Prince Christian the claims to the throne of the twin duchies would become an issue for not just him but all of Europe. I will go further into the history of the succession of the twin duchies next week.

Christian was also a descendant of the Danish kings through his mother, Louise Caroline of Hesse-Cassel. Her father was Landgraf Karl of Hesse-Cassel and her mother was Princess Louise of Denmark the daughter of King Frederik V of Denmark and Norway and his first wife, Princess Louise of Great Britain and Hanover (a daughter of King George II of Great Britain and Hanover). In his youth Prince Christian was an unsuccessful suitor for the hand of the young Queen Victoria of Great Britain. He was rejected and ended up marrying his first cousin, Princess Louise of Hesse-Cassel, the daughter of Hereditary Prince Frederik of Denmark and Norway (son of King Frederik V of Denmark and his second wife Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel) and Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Because of the laws governing succession to the Danish throne, Prince Christian’s wife had a better hereditary claim to the Danish throne that he himself had.

Christian and Louise married at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen on May 26, 1842. They had 6 children: Frederik (1843), Alexandra (1844), Wilhelm (1845), Dagmar (1847), Thyra (1853) and Waldemar (1858).

This is my introduction to King Christian IX. I included some necessary genealogical background and next week I will discuss his succession to the throne and his reign and the extended family he had.