Absolute Monarch, Elected Monarchy, Georg of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Hereditary Monarchy, King Frederik III of Denmark and Norway, Princess Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Queen of Denmark and Norway
Frederik III (March 18, 1609 – February 9, 1670) was King of Denmark and Norway from 1648 until his death in 1670.
Frederik was born at Haderslev in Slesvig, the son of King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway and the Hohenzollern Princess Anne Catherine of Brandenburg, daughter of Joachim Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg and his first wife Princess Catherine of Brandenburg-Küstrin.
King Christian IV met his future Queen while on a journey through the Holy Roman Empire in 1595 and decided to marry her. In 1596, Princess Anne Catherine and her parents were present at his coronation, and the next year, the marriage was arranged.
In Frederik’s youth and early manhood, there was no prospect of his ascending the Danish throne, as his older brother Christian was elected heir apparent in 1608.
During his early childhood, he was raised under the supervision of Beate Huitfeldt. Frederik was educated at Sorø Academy and studied in the Netherlands and France. As a young man, he demonstrated an interest in theology, natural sciences, and Scandinavian history.
On October 1, 1643 Frederik wed his cousin Princess Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the daughter of Georg Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and Anne Eleonore of Hesse-Darmstadt, a daughter of Ludwig V, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Magdalene of Brandenburg, the daughter of Johann Georg, Elector of Brandenburg and his third wife Princess Elisabeth of Anhalt-Zerbst.
Princess Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, father, Georg was the sixth son of Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and his wife Princess Dorothea of Denmark a daughter to King Christian III of Denmark and Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg.
King Christian III of Denmark was the great-great grandfather of King Frederik III of Denmark.
Prince Georg’s youngest brother, Ernst August, Elector of Hanover, was the father of King George I of Great Britain.
Frederik had an energetic, passionate, and ambitious character. He was an enthusiastic collector of books and his collection became the foundation for the Copenhagen Royal Library.
In his youth, Frederik became the instrument of his father’s political schemes in the Holy Roman Empire. He was granted administration of the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen (1635–45), the Prince-Bishopric of Verden (1623–29 and again 1634–44), and named coadjutor of the Bishopric of Halberstadt.
Thus, from an early age, he had considerable experience as an administrator.
In 1633, Frederik’s elder brother Prince-Elect Christian of Denmark and Norway was engaged to Princess Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony, the daughter of Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony and Princess Magdalene Sibylle of Prussia.
Magdalene Sibylle of Prussia was a daughter of Albrecht Friedrich, Duke of Prussia and Princess Marie Eleonore of Cleves. Magdalene Sibylle of Prussia was a great-granddaughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor. She is also in three ways an ancestor of Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, mother of George III of the United Kingdom.
The marriage between Prince-Elect Christian and Princess Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony had been discussed as early as 1630. The wedding took place on October 5, 1634 in Copenhagen among great festivities.
The marriage was childless, and they resided at Nykøbing Castle in Falster. Prince-Elect
Christian gained a reputation as lazy and as a drinker. He was heavily indebted; despite his father’s attempts to pay some of Christian’s debts, he still owed more than 215,000 rigsdaler in 1647.
He left Nykøbing for Bohemia on May 8, 1647. He reached Dresden on May 28 and continued on until June 1. Not long after leaving he was struck by a fit of illness. He was brought to a castle in Gorbitz near Dresden, where he died on the next day. He was buried on November 8, 1647 in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen. In 1655, his remains were moved to the tombs at Roskilde Cathedral.
The death of his elder brother Christian in June 1647 opened the possibility for Frederik to be elected heir apparent to the Danish throne. However, this issue was still unsettled when Christian IV died on February 28, 1648.
After long deliberation among the Danish Estates and in Rigsraadet (royal council), he was finally accepted as his father’s successor. On July 6, King Frederik III received the homage of his subjects, and he was crowned on November 23.
However, due to misgivings about the rule of Christian IV, as well as Frederik III’s previous confrontational administrations in Bremen and Verden and his quarrels with Anders Bille, he was only elected after he had signed a Haandfæstning charter. The Haandfæstning included provisions curtailing the already diminished royal prerogative in favour of increased influence for the Rigsraadet.
As king, he fought two wars against Sweden. He was defeated in the Dano-Swedish War of 1657–1658, but attained great popularity when he weathered the 1659 Assault on Copenhagen and won the Dano-Swedish War of 1658–1660.
King Frederik III profited by his spirited defense of the common interests of the country and the dynasty. The traditional loyalty of the Danish middle classes was transformed into enthusiasm for the king personally, and for a brief period Frederik found himself the most popular man in his kingdom.
Denmark was an elective monarchy, where elective power was held by the Council of the Realm. However, the King would usually choose an heir and have him hailed as such, thus limiting the Council’s freedom of choice.
King Frederik III made use of his popularity by converting the elective monarchy into an absolute monarchy by the Revolution of 1660. To ensure this conversion he instituted the 1660 state of emergency in Denmark.
At the September 1660 gathering of the Estates, intended to solve the financial problems faced after the wars, Frederik III played the different Estates against each other. He succeeded in gaining support for the hereditary monarchy, the annulment of the Haandfæstning, and the institution of absolute monarchical rule by decree.
During the last ten years of his reign, the king again took a relative obscure position while the new monarchy was built up and the country tried to recover after the wars.
New men came into government, which was marked by a rivalry between the ministers and councillors like Hannibal Sehested and Kristoffer Gabel. Frederik III concentrated on changing the administrative structure from chancellery to resort colleges and replaced the administrative divisions of fiefs with amt counties.
In 1665, the Kongeloven (Lex Regia) was introduced: the “constitution” of Danish absolute monarchy, and the first assertion of divine right underpinned by a written constitution in Europe.
It decreed that the Monarch “shall from this day forth be revered and considered the most perfect and supreme person on the Earth by all his subjects, standing above all human laws and having no judge above his person, neither in spiritual nor temporal matters, except God alone.” This law consequently authorized the king to abolish all other centers of power. Most important was the abolition of the Council of the Realm.
King Frederik III died at Copenhagen Castle and is interred in Roskilde Cathedral. He was succeeded by his eldest son, who succeeded by hereditary succession, as King Christian V of Denmark of Norway.
Another son, Prince George of Denmark and Norway, married Queen Anne of Great Britain. They were second cousins once removed, they were both descended from King Frederik II of Denmark. In 1689 King William III of England created Prince George, Duke of Cumberland.