Christian X of Denmark

Christian X of Denmark
Christian X
King of Denmark
Reign 14 May 1912 – 20 April 1947
Predecessor Frederick VIII
Successor Frederick IX
King of Iceland
Reign 1 December 1918 – 17 June 1944
Consort Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Frederick IX of Denmark
Knud, Hereditary Prince of Denmark
House House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Father Frederick VIII of Denmark
Mother Louise of Sweden
Born 26 September 1870(1870-09-26)
Charlottenlund Palace
Died 20 April 1947(1947-04-20) (aged 76)
Amalienborg Palace
Burial Roskilde Cathedral
Religion Lutheranism

Christian X (Christian Carl Frederik Albert Alexander Vilhelm) (26 September 1870 – 20 April 1947) was King of Denmark from 1912 to 1947 and the only King of Iceland between 1918 and 1944.

He was the third Danish monarch of the House of Glücksburg and the first member of his family since the 16th century to have actually been born into the Danish royal family; both his father and his grandfather were born as princes of a minor German ducal family. Among his siblings were King Haakon VII of Norway.

Being something of an authoritarian and a ruler who strongly stressed the importance of royal dignity and power in an age of growing democracy, Christian X did not seem fit for popularity. However, a reign spanning two world wars and the role he was believed to have played under Nazi rule made him one of the most popular Danish monarchs of modern times.


Early life

Christian was born on 26 September 1870 at Charlottenlund Palace in Gentofte Municipality near Copenhagen as the oldest son and child of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark and his wife, Louise of Sweden, only surviving child of King Charles XV of Sweden. He was baptised in the Chapel of Christiansborg Palace on 31 October 1870 by the Bishop of Zealand, Hans Lassen Martensen.


Prince Christian and Princess Alexandrine with their son Frederick in 1900.

Christian married Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Cannes on 26 April 1898; she was a daughter of Frederick Francis III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia. She eventually became his queen consort. They had two children:

The couple were given Christian VIII's Palace at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen as their residence and Sorgenfri Palace north of Copenhagen as a summer residence. Furthermore, the couple received Marselisborg Palace in Aarhus as a wedding present from the people of Denmark in 1898. In 1914, the King also built the villa Klitgården in Skagen.


On 14 May 1912, King Frederick VIII died, and Christian became king.


Easter Crisis of 1920

Royal Monogram

In April 1915 to 1920 Christian instigated the Easter Crisis, perhaps the most decisive event in the evolution of the Danish monarchy in the 20th century. The immediate cause was a conflict between the king and the cabinet over the reunification with Denmark of Schleswig, a former Danish fiefdom, which had been lost to Prussia during the Second War of Schleswig. Danish claims to the region persisted to the end of World War I, at which time the defeat of the Germans made it possible to resolve the dispute. According to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the disposition of Schleswig was to be determined by two plebiscites: one in Northern Schleswig (today Denmark's South Jutland County), the other in Central Schleswig (today part of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein). No plebiscite was planned for Southern Schleswig, as it was dominated by an ethnic German majority and, in accordance with prevailing sentiment of the times, remained part of the post-war German state.

In Northern Schleswig, 75% voted for reunification with Denmark and 25% for remaining with Germany. In this vote, the entire region was considered to be an indivisible unit, and the entire region was awarded to Denmark. In Central Schleswig, the situation was reversed with 80% voting for Germany and 20% for Denmark. In this vote, each municipality decided its own future, and German majorities prevailed everywhere. In light of these results, the government of Prime Minister Carl Theodor Zahle determined that reunification with Northern Schleswig could go forward, while Central Schleswig would remain under German control.

Many Danish nationalists felt that at least the city of Flensburg should be returned to Denmark regardless of the plebiscite's results, due to the sizeable Danish minority there and a general desire to see Germany permanently weakened in the future. Christian agreed with these sentiments, and ordered Prime Minister Zahle to include Flensburg in the re-unification process. As Denmark had been operating as a parliamentary democracy since the Cabinet of Deuntzer in 1901, Zahle felt he was under no obligation to comply. He refused the order and resigned several days later after a heated exchange with the king.

Subsequently, Christian dismissed the rest of the cabinet and replaced it with a de facto conservative care-taker cabinet. The dismissal caused demonstrations and an almost revolutionary atmosphere in Denmark, and for several days the future of the monarchy seemed very much in doubt. In light of this, negotiations were opened between the king and members of the Social Democrats. Faced with the potential overthrow of the Danish crown, Christian stood down and dismissed his own government, installing a compromise cabinet until elections could be held later that year.

To this day, this was the last time when a sitting Danish monarch attempted to take political action without the full support of parliament; following the crisis, Christian accepted his drastically reduced role as symbolic head of state.

Reign during World War II

Two versions of the King's Emblem Pin (Kongemærket) showing Christian's CX cypher. A popular symbol of patriotism during the war.

In contrast to his brother, King Haakon VII of Norway, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who went into exile during the Nazi occupation of their countries, Christian X remained in his capital throughout the occupation of Denmark, being to the Danish people a visible symbol of the national cause (although it is important to note that Norway's King Haakon VII was forced to escape the invading Germans after refusing to accept a Nazi-friendly puppet regime). Even though until the German putsch in August 1943, Christian's official speeches reflected the government's official policy of cooperation with the occupying forces, this did not prevent him from being seen as a man of "mental resistance". And during the first two years of the German occupation, in spite of his age and the precarious situation, he nonetheless took a daily ride on his horse, "Jubilee", through Copenhagen, unaccompanied by a groom, let alone by a guard. A majority of Danes saw this image of their king riding in the streets of the capital as heroic and a symbol of national independence and resistance.

In 1942, Adolf Hitler sent the king a long telegram congratulating him on his 72nd birthday. The king's reply telegram was a mere, Spreche Meinen besten Dank aus. Chr. Rex (English: Giving my best thanks, King Chr.). This perceived slight, known as the Telegram Crisis, greatly outraged Hitler and he immediately recalled his ambassador from Copenhagen and expelled the Danish ambassador from Germany. German pressure then resulted in the dismissal of the government led by Vilhelm Buhl and its replacement with a new cabinet led by non-party member and veteran diplomat Erik Scavenius, who the Germans expected would be more cooperative. But today it is a well known fact, that Scavenius also had the full confidence of the king, who recognized the increasing German threat to Denmark. (In any event, whatever independence Denmark had been able to maintain during the first years of the occupation ended abruptly with the German putsch in August 1943)

After a fall with his horse on 19 October 1942,[1] he was more or less an invalid for the rest of his reign. The role he had played in creating the Easter Crisis of 1920, had greatly reduced his popularity, but his daily rides, the Telegram Crisis and the propaganda rumours spread by Danish-American circles had once again made him popular to the point of being a beloved national symbol.

Legend and trivia

During the German occupation of Denmark, the King's daily ride through Copenhagen became a symbol of Danish sovereignty. This picture was taken on his birthday in 1940. Note that he is not accompanied by a guard.

On November 22, 1942 The Washington Post published a photograph of Christian X; calling him, ironically, a victim of Hitler. The idea was to show that Denmark was not opposing Nazism. It became then important for Danish Americans to prove the contrary, and a number of stories were invented in the turmoil of the war. The most successful of these were the legend of the king wearing the yellow star in order to support the Jews. .[2] The story became extremely well-known through its retelling in Leon Uris's 1958 novel of the founding of Israel, Exodus and the film. Many people still believe it, but it is not a true story. The facts are, that the yellow badge was never introduced in Denmark, and when the Jews were finally arrested there is no record of a protest from the king. The "Yellow Star" story has many, more or less reliable, sources, one being a conversation between the king and his minister of finance, Vilhelm Buhl, during which Christian remarked that if the German administration tried to introduce the symbol of the Star of David in Denmark, "perhaps then we should all wear it."[3][4]

King Christian used to ride daily through the streets of Copenhagen unaccompanied while the people stood and waved to him. One apocryphal story relates that one day, a German soldier remarked to a young boy that he found it odd that the king would ride with no bodyguard. The boy reportedly replied, "All of Denmark is his bodyguard." This story was recounted in Nathaniel Benchley's bestselling book "Bright Candles" as well as in Lois Lowry's book Number the Stars. The contemporary patriotic song "Der rider en Konge" (There Rides a King) centres on the king's rides. In this song, the narrator replies to a foreigner's inquiry about the king's lack of a guard that "he is our freest man" and that the king is not shielded by physical force but that "hearts guard the king of Denmark".[5]

Another popular, but apocryphal, legend carried by the American press concerned the supposed flying of the German flag over the Hotel Angleterre (then being used as the Germany military headquarters in Copenhagen). The king riding by and seeing the flag, tells a German sentry that this is a violation of the armistice agreement and that the flag must be taken down. The sentry replies that this will not be done. The king then says if the flag is not taken down, he will send a Danish soldier to take it down. The sentry responds, "The soldier will be shot." The king then says, "the Danish soldier will be me". And, according to the story, the flag was taken down. (Another version has the Germans remove the Danish flag from above Amalienborg royal palace; however, throughout the war the Danish flag flew at Amalienborg.)

A popular way for Danes to display patriotism and silent resistance to the German occupation was wearing a small square button with the Danish flag and the crowned insignia of the king. This symbol was called the Kongemærket (King's Emblem pin).

King Christian was also known for his impressive height, standing 6' 6" (199 cm) tall.[citation needed]


On his death in Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, in 1947, Christian X was interred along other members of the Danish royal family in Roskilde Cathedral near Copenhagen. Although he had been behind the politics of Erik Scavenius,[6] a cloth armband of the type worn by members of the Danish resistance movement was placed on his coffin at castrum doloris.[7]

Titles, styles and honours

Titles and styles

  • 26 September 1870 – 29 January 1906: His Royal Highness Prince Christian of Denmark
  • 29 January 1906 – 14 May 1912: His Royal Highness The Crown Prince
  • 14 May 1912 - 20 April 1947: His Majesty The King


Christian X was the 1,100th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain, the 849th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1914 and the 265th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.



Name Birth Death Spouse Children
Frederick IX, King of Denmark 11 March 1899 14 January 1972 Princess Ingrid of Sweden Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark
Princess Benedikte of Denmark
Queen Anne-Marie of Greece
Knud, Hereditary Prince of Denmark 27 July 1900 14 June 1976 Princess Caroline-Mathilde of Denmark Princess Elisabeth of Denmark
Count Ingolf of Rosenborg
Count Christian of Rosenborg


  1. ^ FaktaLink - 2005 - Besættelsen - Kilder
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lidegaard, Bo (2003), Dansk Udenrigspolitiks Historie, IV, Copenhagen: Gyldendal, pp. 540–549, 614–615 (Danish)
  4. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Frequently asked questions
  5. ^ "Der rider en Konge". Lyrics by Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pedersen. Published e.g. in Emilius Bangert et al., "Dansk Alsang-Bog", Copenhagen: Egmont H. Peterens Forlag, 1941.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Official website of the Danish Monarchy - Biography of King Christian X
Christian X
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 26 September 1870 Died: 20 April 1947
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick VIII
King of Denmark
Succeeded by
Frederick IX
New title
Iceland in a personal
union with Denmark
King of Iceland
Monarchy abolished

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