Frederick II of Denmark

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Frederick II (1 July 1534 – 4 April 1588), King of Denmark-Norway and duke of Schleswig from 1559 until his death. [1]


King of Denmark

Frederick II was the son of King Christian III of Denmark and Norway and Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg. Frederick II stands as the typical renaissance ruler of Denmark. Unlike his father, he was strongly affected by military ideals. Already as a young man he made friendship with German war princes. He had desired to marry his mistress, Anne of Hardenberg, but was finally persuaded not to. Shortly after his succession he won his first victory by the conquest of Dithmarschen in the summer of 1559.

The dominating conflict of his rule was the Scandinavian Seven Years' War form 1563 to 1570 in which he tried in vain to conquer Sweden, which was ruled by his cousin, the insane King Eric XIV. It developed into an extremely expensive war of attrition in which the areas of Scania were ravaged by the Swedes and Norway was almost lost. During this war the king led his army personally on the battlefield but without much result and the conflict damaged his relationship to his noble councillors. However, internal unrest in Sweden and the taking over of Danish administration by the able Steward of the Realm Peder Oxe stabilised the situation. The war ended by a status quo peace that let Denmark save face but also showed the limits of Danish military power.

After the war Frederick kept the peace without giving up his attempt of trying to expand his prestige as a naval ruler. His foreign politics were marked by a moral support of the Protestant powers – in his time as a bachelor he wooed Queen Elizabeth I of England, an initiative which made him Knight of the Garter - but at the same time by a strict neutrality. Councillors of experience like Peder Oxe, Niels Kaas, Arild Huitfeldt and Christoffer Valkendorff took care of the domestic administration.[2]

As a person Frederick was described as hot-headed, vain, courageous and ambitious. He was a lover of hunting, wine and feasts and at his death it was a common opinion that he had drunk himself to death. He rebuilt Kronborg castle in Elsinore between 1574 and 1585. In 1567[3] he founded Fredrikstad in Norway. Frederik II upper secondary school in Fredrikstad, one of the largest schools of its kind in Norway, is named after Frederick.

This was a period of affluence and growth in Danish history. Frederick was also a major patron of the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. On 4 April 1588 he died and was succeeded by his eldest son Christian IV. He was interred in Roskilde Cathedral.[4]

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