Portrait of Christian VIII (1786-1848), King of Denmark, Duke of Schleswig, Duke Holstein and Saxe-Lauenburg (1839-1848), Governor-General of Norway (1813-1814), King of Norway (1814)
Christian VIII (18 September 1786 – 20 January 1848) was the King of Denmark from 1839 to 1848 and, as Christian Frederick, King of Norway in 1814. Christian was born at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. He was the eldest son of Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway and Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. His paternal grandparents were King Frederick V of Denmark-Norway and his second wife, Duchess Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Christian's mother died in 1794 when he was eight years old, and his father died in 1805 when Christian was nineteen. His upbringing was marked by a thorough and broad-spectrum education with exposure to artists and scientists who were linked to his father's court. Christian inherited the talents of his highly gifted mother, and his amiability and handsome features are said to have made him very popular in Copenhagen. In May 1813, as the heir presumptive of the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, Christian was sent as stattholder (the king's highest representative in Norway) to Norway to promote the loyalty of the Norwegians to the House of Oldenburg, which had been very badly shaken by the disastrous results of Frederick VI's adhesion to the falling fortunes of Napoleon I of France. Christian did all he could personally to strengthen the bonds between the Norwegians and the royal house of Denmark. Though his endeavours were opposed by the so-called Swedish party, which desired a dynastic union with Sweden, he placed himself at the head of the Norwegian party of independence after the Treaty of Kiel had forced the king to cede Norway to the king of Sweden. He was elected Regent of Norway by an assembly of notables on 16 February 1814. This election was confirmed by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly convoked at Eidsvoll on 10 April, and on 17 May the constitution was signed and Christian was unanimously elected king of Norway under the name Christian Frederick (Kristian Frederik in Norwegian). Sweden refused Christian's conditions and a short military campaign ensued in which the Norwegian army was defeated by the forces of the Swedish crown prince Charles John. The brief war concluded with the Convention of Moss on 14 August 1814. By the terms of this treaty, King Christian Frederick transferred executive power to the Storting, then abdicated and returned to Denmark. The Storting in its turn adopted the constitutional amendments necessary to allow for a personal union with Sweden and on 4 November elected Charles XIII of Sweden as the new king of Norway. On 3 December 1839 he ascended the Danish throne as Christian VIII. The Liberal party had high hopes of “the giver of constitutions,” but he disappointed his admirers by steadily rejecting every Liberal project. Administrative reform was the only reform he would promise. In his attitude to the growing national unrest in the twin duchies of Schleswig and Holstein he often seemed hesitated and half-hearted, which damaged his position there. It was not until 1846 that he clearly supported the idea of Schleswig being a Danish area.
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