The royal house of Denmark was established in the 10th century by a Viking king called Gorm the Old. His son Harald I (Harald Bluetooth), unified Denmark; their successors also came to rule England, Norway, and part of Sweden. This empire split up after the death of King Canute in 1035, but descendants of Gorm the Old continued to reign in Denmark. Today's Danish royal family is descended from the Viking kings.
In 1397, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden formed the Kalmar Union under Margaret I. Born a Danish princess, Margaret had married King Haakon VI of Norway. Although her young relative Eric of Pomerania was the union's official king, it was Margaret who ruled until her death in 1412.
Sweden elected its own king in 1523, but Norway remained united with Denmark until 1814, when Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden. After Norway became independent from Sweden in 1905, its new government offered the crown to Prince Carl, second son of Denmark's future King Frederik VIII. After being approved in a popular vote by the Norwegian people, the prince ascended Norway's throne as King Haakon VII.
Iceland, Greenland, and other islands were also part of the Kalmar Union. Iceland did not end its connection with the Danish monarchy until 1944, when it became a republic. Greenland is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark.
A Danish prince even became the king of Greece. The Greeks deposed their first modern king, Otto of Wittelsbach, in 1862, and chose Prince William of Denmark -- second son of Danish king Christian IX -- as their new king. In October 1863 he took the Greek throne as King George I.
Denmark was neutral in World War I, but the Germans occupied the country during World War II (1940). The popular King Christian X remained in Denmark during the occupation but remained aloof from the Nazis. According to legend, when Nazis ordered all Jews to wear armbands with yellow stars, Christian X defied them by wearing the armband himself. In fact, most Jews in Denmark were never forced to wear armbands; but as the story shows, King Christian's dislike of the Nazis and support for the Jews was well known.
Christian X died in 1947 and was succeeded by his son Frederik IX. After Frederik's death in 1972, the crown passed to his daughter Queen Margrethe II. She still reigns today.
Margrethe married French diplomat Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, now known as Prince Henrik, the Prince Consort, in 1967. They have two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim.
The crown prince, who was born in 1968, married an Australian woman, Mary Donaldson, in May 2004. Their first child, Prince Christian, was born in October 2005. Their second child, a daughter named Isabella, was born in April 2007. In January of 2011, Princess Mary gave birth to twins, Vincent and Josephine.
Crown Prince Frederik's younger brother, Joachim, married Alexandra Manley, a Hong Kong-born British citizen, in 1995. They have two children, Prince Nikolai and Prince Felix. The couple divorced in 2005. Alexandra, who has remarried, is now known as Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg.
Prince Joachim married a French woman, Marie Cavallier, in May of 2008. She is now known as Her Royal Highness Princess Marie. Their first child together, a son, was born in May 2009.
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Modern Danish Royals
Queen in Denmark: Margrethe II Talks About Her Life by Anne Wolden-Raethinge. Written in monologue form, based on many long interviews, this book captures the direct manner in which Queen Margrethe addresses her people. Illustrated with black and white photos. Published in 1988. Out of print, but sometimes available from Abebooks.
1015 Copenhagen K: Mary's Dysfunctional In-Laws by Trine Villemann. Controversial book on Denmark's Crown Princess Mary and her royal in-laws. This English version contains never-before-published information about Crown Prince Frederik's troubled childhood. Note: Only available through Amazon.com as a Kindle e-book.
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark by Karin Palshoj, Gitte Redder. Biography of the young Australian commoner who has risen to the formidable challenge of being the Crown Princess of Denmark with grace and style.
Something About Mary: From Good Time Girl to Crown Princess by Emma Tom. A biography of Mary Donaldson, the Australian who became the wife of Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik. Available from AbeBooks.
Historical Dictionary of Denmark by Alastair H. Thomas and Stewart P. Oakley. Covers the country's history from prehistoric times through the 20th century.
The Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus. Written by a 12th century historian. Includes accounts of legendary Danish kings.
Denmark, 1513-1660: The Rise and Decline of a Renaissance Monarchy by Paul Douglas Lockhart. Embracing Norway, Iceland, portions of southern Sweden and northern Germany, the Danish monarchy was the major power of northern Europe. This book explores how the Oldenburg kings sought to establish their authority.
History of Denmark by Knud J. V. Jespersen. From the Reformation to present day, this book guides the reader through 500 years of wars, territorial losses, domestic upheavals, and changes.
Splendour in Defeat: The Treasury Collection at Rosenborg in 1696 and 1718 by Jorgen Hein. Rosenborg Castle was a Danish royal residence in the 17th century and early 18th century. This (expensive) three-volume set offers a history of the castle's royal collection and a catalogue raisonné.
The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki translated by Jesse L. Byock. Written in Iceland in the 14th century, this saga tells the story of King Hrolf, a warrior chieftain who ruled in 6th century Denmark.
Frederik II and the Protestant Cause by Paul Douglas Lockhart. Denmark's role in the wars of religion, 1559-1596.
Lonely Planet Denmark by Glenda Bendure, Ned Friary. Travel guide that covers ancient kingdoms, museums and castles, and more.
A History of Denmark by Palle Lauring. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
A Conspiracy of Decency by Emmy E. Werner. About the rescue of the Danish Jews during World War II.
Queen Margrethe I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the Nordic Union by Vivian Etting. The fascinating story of Queen Margrete I's rise to power in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which culminated in the founding of the Nordic Union in 1397. Gives a vivid picture of medieval society in Scandinavia. Well illustrated.
Swein Forkbeard's Invasions and the Danish Conquest of England, 991-1017 by Ian Howard. King Swein of Denmark was more than a marauding Viking: He was a sophisticated politician who laid the foundations for a great empire.
Kings of the North by Cecelia Holland. During the Dark Ages, Raef Corbanson is thrown into the struggle between Denmark's King Sweyn Forkbeard, England's King Ethelred II, and Ethelred's son Edward.
The Empire of Cnut the Great by Timothy Bolton. Conquest and the consolidation of power in Northern Europe in the early eleventh century.
Cnut: The Danes in England in the Early Eleventh Century by M. K. Lawson. Summarizes knowledge on the Danish and English monarchy during Cnut's time and offers new interpretations on his reign.
The Reign of Cnut edited by Alexander R. Rumble. About Knut II (better known as Canute) the great 11th century king of Denmark, England and Norway. Out of print, but sometimes available from Alibris.
Queen Emma and the Vikings: Power, Love, and Greed in 11th Century England by Harriet O'Brien. Biography of one of England's most remarkable queens. From child-bride and international pawn, she became an unscrupulous political player, co-regent of the nation, and a Machiavellian mother.
Emma, the Twice-Crowned Queen by Isabella Strachan. Biography of Emma, sister of a Duke of Normandy, who became the wife of two kings, Ethelred the Unready and Canute, and mother of two more, Edward the Confessor and Hardecanute. From Alibris.
Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women's Power in Eleventh-Century England by Pauline Stafford. The first full-scale biography of two early English queens: Emma, queen to Aethelread and Cnut, and Edith, queen to Edward the Confessor. From Alibris.
Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark: A Tale of Adultery, Murder and High Treason by Hester Chapman. The sister of Britain's "Mad King" George III, Caroline Matilda married Denmark's King Christian VII, who was also insane. Her affair with a royal physician led to the doctor's execution. Available from Alibris.
A Queen of Tears by W. Wilkins. Biography of Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark and Norway, and princess of Great Britain. Sometimes available from Alibris.
The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist, translated by Tiina Nunnally. Novel about Johann Friedrich Struensee, an 18th century royal physician who for a time ran the country for the insane King Christian VII. The doctor's downfall came when he was accused of adultery with Queen Caroline Matilda.
The Lost Queen by Norah Lofts. Novel about Caroline Matilda. From Alibris.
Music & Silence by Rose Tremain. Set in the royal court of Denmark in 1629, this is a novel about a musician who falls in love with the wife of King Christian IV.
The Blood Axe: Story of Viking Kings Knut & Olav by Eileene Harrison Beer. Fiction based on history.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Classic 16th century play about a Danish prince. This edition includes essays about the play and its historical origin.
The Prince of Denmark by Graham Holderness. A novel based on the story of Hamlet.
The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Henri Sorensen. A picture book for children between the ages of 9 and 12.
Darkness Over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews by Ellen Levine. Of the 8,000 Jews living in Denmark at the time of German occupation, almost all survived. This nonfiction book explains how the Danes resisted the Nazis. For ages 10 and up.
These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.
Hamlet directed by and starring Lawrence Olivier. This 1948 movie won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Hamlet starring Richard Burton, directed by John Gielgud. Acted in rehearsal clothes, stripped of all extraneous trappings. Filmed during an actual Broadway performance in 1964. The prints were contractually ordered destroyed, but Burton kept one, located by his widow in 1988.
Hamlet starring Mel Gibson. This 1991 movie was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Glenn Close and Helena Bonham Carter also star.
Kongehuset (official site)