Frederick II of Denmark

Frederick II of Denmark
Frederick II
Frederick II in a painting attributed to Melchior Lorck
King of Denmark and Norway
Reign 1559–1588
Predecessor Christian III
Successor Christian IV
Spouse Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Christian IV of Denmark
Anne, Queen of England and Scotland
Elizabeth, Duchess of Brunswick
Augusta, Duchess of Holstein-Gottorp
Hedwig, Electress of Saxony
John, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein
House House of Oldenburg
Father Christian III of Denmark
Mother Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg
Born 1 July 1534(1534-07-01)
Haderslevhus Castle, Haderslev, Denmark
Died 4 April 1588(1588-04-04) (aged 53)
Antvorskov Castle, Antvorskov, Denmark
Burial Roskilde Cathedral
Religion Lutheranism

Frederick II (1 July 1534 – 4 April 1588) was King of Denmark and 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.

From his predecessor, he inherited the Livonian War, where he implemented his younger brother Magnus of Holstein, whom he considered troublesome, in the Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek. Else, he largely tried to avoid conflict in Livonia and consolidated amicable relations to Ivan IV of Russia in the 1562 Treaty of Mozhaysk. The dominating conflict of his rule was the Scandinavian Seven Years' War from 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. After Erik's successor John III of Sweden refused to accept a peace favoring Denmark in the Treaties of Roskilde (1568), the war dragged on until it was ended by a status quo peace in the Treaty of Stettin (1570) 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 and close personal friend 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]

Family and children

On 20 July 1572 he was married to Sophia of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, a descendant of King Hans of Denmark, and also his own first half-cousin, through their Grandfather, Frederick I, King of Denmark and Norway. They had eight children:

  1. Elisabeth (25 August 1573 – 19 June 1626), married in 1590 to Duke Henry Julius of Braunschweig.
  2. Anna (12 December 1574 – 2 March 1619), married on 23 November 1589 to James VI, King of Scots, and later 1st of England
  3. Christian IV of Denmark and Norway (12 April 1577 – 28 February 1648)
  4. Ulrik (30 December 1578 – 27 March 1624 in Rühn), last Bishop of the old Schleswig see (1602–1624), and as Ulrich II Administrator of the Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin (1603–1624), married Lady Catherine Hahn-Hinrichshagen
  5. John August (1579–1579), died in infancy
  6. Augusta (8 April 1580 – 5 February 1639), married on 30 August 1596 to Duke Johann Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp
  7. Hedwig (5 August 1581 – 26 November 1641), married on 12 September 1602 to Christian II, Elector of Saxony
  8. Johan of Schleswig-Holstein (9 July 1583 – 28 October 1602)



Frederick II
Born: 1 July 1534 Died: 4 April 1588
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Christian III
King of Denmark and Norway
Succeeded by
Christian IV
Preceded by
Christian III
John II the Elder and Adolf
(in condominial rule)
Duke of Holstein and Schleswig
with John II (1559-1580)
Adolf (1559-1586)
Frederick II (1586-1587)
Philip (1587-1588)
Succeeded by
Christian IV
and Philip

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