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King Frederik VII of Denmark (1848-1863) King of Denmark from 1848 to 1863 was the last Danish monarch of the main House of Oldenburg that had ruled since 1350. Frederik VII was also the last king of Denmark to rule as an absolute monarch. In 1849 Frederik VII signed a constitution that established a Danish parliament and made the country a constitutional monarchy. When he came to the throne the revolutions that swept Europe that year also had its impact in Denmark. In places such as France and Germany its subjects were clamoring for a government that was defined by laws and a constitution.

The days of absolutism were drawing to a close. One of the interesting facts about both the beginning of absolutism and the end of absolutism in Denmark is that each came rather easily. In 1660 the king desired more power and it was given to him without a fight. In 1849 the people wanted a constitution and the king granted that desire without a fight. I think wisdom prevailed at this point with the king recognizing that absolutism was out of date and did not fit into the modern way of governing.

At home I have a book on the History of Denmark. It is by Palle Lauring and in one paragraph the author explains rather well why the absolute monarchy survived for 190 years and why the transition to a constitutional and democratic monarchy went smoothly. Here is the relevant portion that paragraph…

On June 5, 1849, the new Constitution was agreed upon and signed by the king. From now on Denmark was ruled by a governmental assembly consisting of two chambers to be known as the Folketing or Lower House, and the Landsting or Upper House. The King’s position was also spelled out within the constitution.

Thus Denmark’s absolute monarchy, having been in force for 190 years, was finally overthrown . It was already out-of-date when it fell but the reason why it fell as late as it did and why it was retained for so long, was that it was never abused to the point of being intolerable. During the 190-year period non of the kings became tyrants. All the absolute monarchs had been upright men within the limits of their abilities. Most of the autocratic monarchs worked energetically and conscientiously in the interest of their twin kingdoms, and it had thus been difficult to to work up a sufficiently powerful opposition when everything appeared to be proceeding peacefully and reasonably well.”

Lauring also mentions that one of the reasons why absolutism lasted so long was the fact that many rural areas of Denmark had local autonomy and power that the monarchy did not affect. This independent streak in the Danish people has been, for a large part, the reason the monarchy has survived as long as it has.

Although we reached the point where Denmark has transitioned back to a limited monarchy, I will have one more segment on Denmark to discuss how the monarchy went from one with limited powers to the figurehead monarchy it is today.