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Frederick I of Denmark

Frederick I of Denmark

King of Denmark and Norway
The basics
Quick Facts
Gender male
Birth October 7, 1471 (Haderslev)
Death April 10, 1533 (Gottorf Castle)
Mother: Dorothea of Brandenburg
Father: Christian I of Denmark
Spouse: Anna of BrandenburgSophie of Pomerania
Children: Christian III of DenmarkDorothea of DenmarkDuchess of PrussiaJohn IIDuke of Schleswig-Holstein-HaderslevElizabeth of DenmarkDuchess of MecklenburgAdolfDuke of Holstein-GottorpDorothea of DenmarkDuchess of MecklenburgFrederick of Denmark
The details

Frederick I (7 October 1471 – 10 April 1533) was the King of Denmark and Norway. His name is also spelled Friedrich in German, Frederik in Danish and Norwegian and Fredrik in Swedish. He was the penultimate Roman Catholic monarch to reign over Denmark, when subsequent monarchs embraced Lutheranism after the Protestant Reformation. As King of Norway, Frederick is most remarkable in never having visited the country and was never being crowned King of Norway. Therefore he was styled King of Denmark, the Vends and the Goths, elected King of Norway.


Frederick was the younger son of the first Oldenburg King Christian I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (1426–81) and of Dorothea of Brandenburg (1430–95). Soon after the death of his father, the underage Frederick was elected co-Duke of Schleswig and Holstein in 1482, the other co-duke being his elder brother, King John of Denmark. In 1490 at Frederick's majority, both duchies were divided between the brothers.

In 1500 he had convinced his brother King John to conquer Dithmarschen. A great army was called from not only the duchies, but with additions from all of the Kalmar Union for which his brother briefly was king. In addition, numerous German mercenaries took part. The expedition failed miserably, however, in the Battle of Hemmingstedt, where one third of all knights of Schleswig and Holstein lost their lives.


When his brother, King John died, a group of Jutish nobles had offered Frederick the throne as early as 1513, but he had declined, rightly believing that the majority of the Danish nobility would be loyal to his nephew prince Christian. In 1523 Christian II, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, was forced by disloyal nobles to abdicate, and Frederick took the throne as King Frederick I. It is not certain that Frederick ever learned to speak Danish. After becoming king, he continued spending most of his time at Gottorp, a castle and estate in the city of Schleswig.

In 1524 and 1525 Frederick had to suppress revolts among the peasants in Jutland and Scania who demanded the restoration of Christian II. The high point of the rebellion came in 1525 when Søren Norby, the governor (statholder) of Gotland, invaded Blekinge in an attempt to restore Christian II to power. He raised 8000 men who besieged Kärnan (Helsingborgs slott), a castle in Helsingborg. Frederick's general, Johann Rantzau, moved his army to Scania and defeated the peasants soundly in April and May 1525.

Gold coin or medal of Frederick I. Shows him together with Sophia on the obverse, and coat of arms on the reverse.

Frederick played a central role in the spread of Lutheran teaching throughout Denmark. In his coronation charter, he was made the solemn protector (værner) of Roman Catholicism in Denmark. In that role, he asserted his right to select bishops for the Roman Catholic dioceses in the country. Christian II had been intolerant of Protestant teaching, but Frederick took a more opportunist approach. For example, he ordered that Lutherans and Roman Catholics share the same churches and encouraged the first publication of the Holy Bible in the Danish language. In 1526, when Lutheran Reformer Hans Tausen was threatened with arrest and trial for heresy, Frederick appointed him his personal chaplain to give him immunity.

Starting in 1527, Frederick authorized the closure of Franciscan houses and monasteries in 28 Danish cities. He used the popular anti-establishment feelings that ran against some persons of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and nobility of Denmark as well as keen propaganda to decrease the power of bishops and Roman Catholic nobles.

During his reign, Frederick was skillful enough to prevent all-out warfare between Protestants and Roman Catholics. In 1532 he succeeded in capturing Christian II who had tried to make a political come-back in Norway. Frederick died on 10 April 1533 in Gottorp, at the age of 61, and was buried in Schleswig Cathedral. Upon Frederick's death, tensions between Roman Catholics and Protestants rose to a fever pitch which would result in the Count's Feud (Grevens Fejde).

Family and children

On 10 April 1502 he married Anna of Brandenburg (1487–1514). The couple had two children:

  1. Christian III of Denmark (12 August 1503 – 1 January 1559)
  2. Dorothea (1 August 1504 – 11 April 1547), married 1 July 1526 to Duke Albert of Prussia.

Frederick's wife Anna died on 5 May 1514, 26 years old. Four years later on 9 October 1518 at Kiel, Frederick married Sophie of Pomerania (20 years old; 1498–1568), a daughter of Duke Bogislaw "the Great" of Pomerania. Sophie and Frederick had six children:

  1. Duke Hans the Elder of Schleswig-Holstein-Haderslev (28 June 1521 – 2 October 1580)
  2. Elizabeth (14 October 1524 – 15 October 1586), married:
    1. on 26 August 1543 to Duke Magnus III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
    2. on 14 February 1556 to Duke Ulrich III of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
  3. Duke Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp (25 January 1526 – 1 October 1586)
  4. Anna (1527 – 4 June 1535)
  5. Dorothea (1528 – 11 November 1575), married on 27 October 1573 to Duke Christof of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
  6. Prince-Bishop Frederick of Hildesheim and Bishop of Schleswig (13 April 1532 – 27 October 1556).


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