Historie-online reminded me that today was a very important day in Danish political history – 8 October 1660, that is.
So, what happened? Well, 8 October was an important stepping-stone in the process which led from a government dominated by the traditional nobility to an absolute monarchy as representatives for the bourgeoisie and clergy in Copenhagen nominated Frederik 3 as a hereditary absolute monarch. The final confirmation of the hereditary, absolute monarchy was made ten days later with a big procession in Copenhagen.
King Frederik’s career was a remarkable roller-coster – Frederik was the third son of King Christian 4 and only became heir to the Danish and Norwegian thrones after the oldest son (also named Frederik) had died as an infant and the heir presumptive Prince Christian died in 1647 after a life of heavy drinking.
When Frederik 3 ascended the throne, the Danish monarchy was at an absolute nadir following the disastrous later years of Christian 4 (which also ruined the state’s economy and led to the popular reinterpretation of Christian 4’s motto “Regna Firmat Pietas” – “Piety strengthens the realms” – to “Riget Fattes Penge” – “The state is short of cash”) and the nobility forced a charter on Frederik which severly limited royal powers.
It was only after two further rounds of disastrous wars against Sweden that Frederik – generally described as one of the most intelligent Danish rulers – was able to seize the initiative and relegate the traditional nobility to political significance. In fact, the introduction of absolute rule by the sovereign in Denmark predated Louis XIV’s taking over of the reigns of office in France by a couple of months.
Just as Louis XIV’s rule, the last period of Frederik 3’s rule saw the introduction of a number of administrative reforms which in Denmark’s case led to the development a modern public bureaucracy. One strange aspect of Frederik 3’s rule was that even though he was an absolute monarch, he and his successors until 1848 were in fact also constitutional monarchs as he had his assistant Peder Schumacher Griffenfeld write the Lex Regia which codified the role of the monarch.