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Anne of Denmark (December 12, 1574 – March 2, 1619) was Queen consort of Scotland, England, and Ireland by marriage to King James VI-I.

Anne of Denmark

Early life

Anne was born on December 12, 1574 at the castle of Skanderborg on the Jutland Peninsula in the Kingdom of Denmark to King Frederik II of Denmark and Norway (1534-1588) and Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow (1557-1631)was the daughter of Duke Ulrich III of Mecklenburg-Güstrow and Princess Elizabeth of Denmark (a daughter of Frederik I of Denmark and Norway and Sophie of Pomerania). Through her father, a grandson of Elizabeth of Oldenburg, she descended from King Hans of Denmark.

Frederik II, King of Denmark and Norway, Duke of Schleswig.

At Princess Anne’s birth King Frederik II needed of a male heir and had been hoping for a son. Queen Sofie did give birth to a son, Christian IV of Denmark, three years later.

Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow

With her older sister, Elizabeth, Anne was sent to be raised at Güstrow in the Holy Roman Empire by her maternal grandparents, Duke Ulrich III of Mecklenburg-Güstrow (1527-1603) and Duchess Elizabeth of Mecklenburg-Güstrow. Crown Prince Christian was also sent to be brought up at Güstrow but two years later, in 1579, his father the King wrote to his parents-in-law, to request the return of his sons, Christian and Ulrich, (probably, at the urging of the Rigsråd, the Danish Privy Council), and Anne and Elizabeth returned with him.

Elizabeth of Denmark, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg

Anne enjoyed a close, happy family upbringing in Denmark, thanks largely to Queen Sophie, who nursed the children through their illnesses herself. Suitors from all over Europe sought the hands of Anne and Elizabeth in marriage, including King James VI of Scotland, who favoured Denmark as a kingdom reformed in religion and a profitable trading partner.

33DE879B-C87D-4EC9-AD95-DF389740B116King James VI in 1586, aged twenty, three years before his marriage to Anne. Falkland Palace, Fife.

James VI’s other serious marriage possibility, though eight years his senior, was Princess Catherine de Bourbon (1559-1604) daughter of Queen Jeanne III d’Albret (1528-1572) and Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme, (1518-1562). Princess Catherine de Bourbon was the sister of the Huguenot King Henri III of Navarre (1553-1610), future Henri IV of France. A match between Catherine and James VI was favoured by Elizabeth I of England.

Catherine de Bourbon of Navarre

Scottish ambassadors in Denmark first concentrated their suit on the oldest daughter, Elizabeth (1573-1625), but Frederik II had betrothed her to Heinrich-Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg promising the Scots instead that “for the second [daughter] Anne, if the King did like her, he should have her.”

Betrothal and proxy marriage

The constitutional position of Sophie, Anne’s mother, became difficult after Frederik II’s death in 1588, when she found herself in a power struggle with the Rigsraad for control of her son King Christian IV. As a matchmaker, however, Sophie proved more diligent than Frederik II and, overcoming sticking points on the amount of the dowry and the status of Orkney, she sealed the agreement by July 1589.

Anne herself seems to have been thrilled with the match. On July 28, 1589, the English spy Thomas Fowler reported that Anne was “so far in love with the King’s Majesty as it were death to her to have it broken off and hath made good proof divers ways of her affection which his Majestie is apt enough to requite.” Fowler’s insinuation, that James VI preferred men to women, would have been hidden from the fourteen-year-old Anne, who devotedly embroidered shirts for her fiancé while 300 tailors worked on her wedding dress.

Anne of Denmark

Whatever the truth of the rumours, James VI required a royal match to preserve the Stuart line. “God is my witness”, he explained, “I could have abstained longer than the weal of my country could have permitted, [had not] my long delay bred in the breasts of many a great jealousy of my inability, as if I were a barren stock.” On August 20, 1589, Anne was married by proxy to James at Kronborg Castle, the ceremony ending with James’ representative, George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal, sitting next to Anne on the bridal bed.


Anne set sail for Scotland within 10 days, but her fleet under the command of Admiral Peder Munk was beset by a series of misadventures, finally being forced back to the coast of Norway, from where she travelled by land to Oslo for refuge, accompanied by the Earl Marischal and others of the Scottish and Danish embassies.

On September 12, Lord Dingwall had landed at Leith, reporting that “he had come in company with the Queen’s fleet three hundred miles, and was separated from them by a great storm: it was feared that the Queen was in danger upon the seas.” Alarmed, James called for national fasting and public prayers, and kept watch on the Firth of Forth for Anne’s arrival from Seton Palace, the home of his friend Lord Seton.

Informed by Anne’s own letters in October that she had abandoned the crossing for the winter, in what Willson calls “the one romantic episode of his life”, James sailed from Leith with a three-hundred-strong retinue to fetch his wife personally. He arrived in Oslo on November 19 after travelling by land from Flekkefjord via Tønsberg.

Anne of Denmark

Anne and James were formally married at the Old Bishop’s Palace in Oslo on November 23, 1589, “with all the splendour possible at that time and place.” So that both bride and groom could understand, Leith minister David Lindsay conducted the ceremony in French, describing Anne as “a Princess both godly and beautiful … she giveth great contentment to his Majesty.”

A month of celebrations followed; and on December 22, cutting his entourage to 50, James visited his new relations at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, where the newlyweds were greeted by Queen Sophie, 12 year-old King Christian IV, and Christian’s four regents.

The couple moved on to Copenhagen on March 7, and attended the wedding of Anne’s older sister Elizabeth to Heinrich-Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg April 19, sailing two days later for Scotland in a patched up “Gideon”. They arrived in the Water of Leith on May 17, After a welcoming speech in French by James Elphinstone, Anne stayed in the King’s Wark and James went alone to hear a sermon by Patrick Galloway in the Parish Church. Five days later, Anne made her state entry into Edinburgh in a solid silver coach brought over from Denmark, James riding alongside on horseback.

Anne of Denmark

Anne was crowned on May 17, 1590 in the Abbey Church at Holyrood, the first Protestant coronation in Scotland. During the seven-hour ceremony, her gown was opened by the Countess of Mar for presiding minister Robert Bruce to pour “a bonny quantity of oil” on “parts of her breast and arm”, so anointing her as queen. (Kirk ministers had objected vehemently to this element of the ceremony as a pagan and Jewish ritual, but James insisted that it dated from the Old Testament.)

The king handed the crown to Chancellor Maitland, who placed it on Anne’s head. She then affirmed an oath to defend the true religion and worship of God and to “withstand and despise all papistical superstitions, and whatsoever ceremonies and rites contrary to the word of God”.