Alexander III of Russia, Christian IX of Denmark, Dagmar of Demark, Ernst August of Hanover, Father in law of Europe, King Albert II of Belgium, King Harald V of Norway, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Thyra of Denmark, Waldemar of Denmark
This is the last of the three part series on King Christian IX of Denmark. In this section I will examine his reign and the vast family connections that lead to the sobriquet “the Father-in-law-of-Europe.”
Immediately after he succeeded to the throne the question of the Schleswig-Holsein duchies came to a head. The issue lead to a short war with Prussia resulting in a loss of the duchies from Denmark. I will not relate the long complex history of the war here for in many ways it is more for the story on the unification of Germany than that of the reign of King Christian IX. The initial defeat tainted the early days of Christian’s reign and for a while made him unpopular. Increasing his unpopularity was his support of the authoritarian Prime Minister Estrup who ruled Denmark as a virtual dictator between 1875 and 1894. This occurred in an era when Parliamentary democracies were on the rise throughout Europe. His first step toward constitutionalism was when in 1874 he granted Iceland, a Danish possession at the time, its own constitution. It wasn’t however, given its independence.
It wasn’t until 1901 when the king began allowing these types of transformations in Denmark. He begrudgingly asked Johan Henrik Deuntzer to form a government which resulted in the creation of the Cabinet of Deuntzer that included members of the Venstre Reform Party and was the first Danish government not to include the conservative party. This began the tradition of a Parliamentary style government and from then on until his death a few years later the poularity of Christian IX grew. Højre, even though Højre never had a majority of the seats in the Folketing. This was the beginning of the Danish tradition of parliamentarian democracy and this improved his reputation for his last years.
Similarly to Queen Victoria, the Children and grand-children of King Christian IX and Queen Louise linked the Danish Royal Family to many other royal families of Europe. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Albert II of Belgium, King Harald V of Norway, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg. The consorts Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Sofía of Spain are also agnatic descendants of Christian IX, as is Constantine II of Greece (the former and last King of the Hellenes).
The eldest son, future King Frederik VIII of Denmark, was married to Princess Louise of Sweden & Norway the daughter of King Carl XV of Sweden & Norway and his wife Princess Louise of the Netherlands. They had eight children and the first two became kings in their own right. The eldest, Prince Christian, became King Christian X of Denmark in 1912 and the second son, Prince Carl was elected to the throne of Norway when that country won its independence from Sweden in 1905. Prince Carl of Denmark married his paternal first cousin, Princess Maud of Wales, and upon accepting the throne of Norway he changed his name to Haakon and became King Haakon VII of Norway. Haakon & Maud are the grandparents of Norway’s current king, Harald V.
Christian IX’s eldest daughter, the lovely Princess Alexandra, married Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales on 10 March 1863 married at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. With Queen Victoria still in official mourning for the Prince Consort the wedding was more like a funeral than a wedding. They had six children. The eldest son, Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, died from pneumonia in 1892. The second eldest son became King George V of the United Kingdom and is the grandfather of the present queen, Elizabeth II. Their daughter Maud, married, as we have seen, her cousin, King Haakon VII of Norway.
The next son, Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, entered the Danish Navy at the age of 17 and soon found himself elected to the throne of Greece. The unpopular King Otto of Greece was deposed in 1862 but Greece wanted to remain a monarchy. One of the first choices was Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Britain’s queen Victoria, but this offer was declined. The choice then fell to Prince Wilhelm of Denmark who ascended the Greek throne as King George I of the Hellenes. Christian IX’s son became a king a few months before Christian himself inherited the Danish throne! King George I married Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, the daughter of Grand Duke f Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaievich and his wife Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg. George and Olga were the paternal grandparents of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
The next child was Princess Dagmar. Initially she was betrothed Czarevich Nicolas Alexandrovich of Russia eldest son of Czar Alexander II of Russia. He did before the wedding and upon Nicholas’ wishes she married his younger brother in 1866 who became Czar Alexander III of Russia in 1881. She converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and was renamed Maria Feodorovna. They were also the parents of the ill-fatted and tragic Czar Nicholas II of Russia. At the start of the Russian Revolution she was able to leave Russia and return to Denmark where she died there in 1828. On September, 28 2006 the remains of Empress Maria Feodorovna were returned to Russia and after a service at Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, she was interred next to her husband Alexander III in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, 140 years after her first arrival to Russia.
The last two children of Christian IX and Louise, Thyra and Waldemar, did not make as notable of marriages as their older siblings. Thyra married, Ernst August II, Duke of Cumberland, Prince of Hanover and the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Ernst August was heir to the defunct throne of Hanover which lost its throne in the war against Prussia during the time of German Unification. Thyra’s and Ernst’s son, Ernst August III, married Victoria-Louise of Prussia, the only daughter of German Emperor Wilhelm II, as a means of mending fences. Their descendents did marry into both the Greek and Spanish thrones. Waldemar married Princess Marie d’Orleans in 1885. Princess Marie d’Orleans was the daughter of Prince Philippe VII, Comte d’Paris, pretender to the French throne.
King Christian IX died on February 15, 1906 at the age of 87 and after a reign of 43 years. An interesting King who lived through very interesting times and whose descendants still occupy the thrones of Europe.