by Scott Mehl
Fredensborg Palace, located in North Zealand on the shore of Lake Esrum, is the spring and autumn residence of the Danish Royal Family. It was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Frederik IV between 1719-1722 on the site of a farm that he owned. The initial structure was a square palace block with an octagonal courtyard, formed by single-story wings which served as servants quarters. A riding arena was later created to the east of the courtyard, flanked on the north by a wing of the palace which included the Palace Chapel and the original orangery; a stable block to the east; and The Chancellery House to the south.
The palace was inaugurated in 1722, in honor of the King’s birthday, and was named Fredensborg – ‘Peace Castle’ – in recognition of the recent end of the Great Northern War. Over the next forty years, during the reigns of Kings Christian VI and Frederik V, the palace underwent several expansions and renovations. The roof was raised to allow for more floors, and four pavilions were built on the corners of the original palace block. In addition, the original Orangery was also converted into living quarters for the ladies-in-waiting.
Following Frederik V’s death, Fredensborg became the dower home of his widow, Queen Juliane Marie, until her own death in 1796. The palace was not used as a royal residence for nearly 60 years until King Christian IX came to the throne in 1863. The King, and his wife Queen Louise, were the parents of the future King Frederik VIII, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, the Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna, King George I of Greece and the Crown Princess of Hanover, and often held large family gatherings at the palace, bringing together some of the most prominent royal families of Europe.
While his two successors, King Frederik VIII and King Christian X, did not use the palace as often, it again became a popular residence during the reign of King Frederik IX and remains so to this day. Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik spend nearly half the year in residence – three months in the spring and three months in the fall – and continue the tradition of gathering their extended family at the palace every year. Many family events take place here, including the wedding banquets for Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik in 1967, and Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary in 2004.
The palace is also the site of many State visits and official functions. The Queen often receives foreign ambassadors here, and Fredensborg is frequently the site of State visits. There is a tradition associated with State visits at Fredensborg. All visiting heads-of-state are asked to etch their names into a window pane using a diamond.
Another fun tradition is the greeting of the Sovereign on her birthday each year. The grounds close to the palace are opened to the public, who come to cheer the Queen early in the morning of her birthday. The Queen then appears at her bedroom window to wave to the crowds gathered below.
In the wing which branches off the eastern side of the palace is the Palace Church (‘B’ in the photo below), connected to the main palace by the original Orangery. The palace church has been the site of weddings, christenings, and confirmations for members of the Danish Royal Family, beginning with the 1761 confirmation of Princess Sophia Magdalena (daughter of King Christian V, later Queen Consort of Sweden). Most recently christenings and confirmations of Queen Margrethe’s grandchildren have been held there. The church faces out onto the riding arena, which flanked on the east by a long building originally housing the stables.
At the southern end of the riding arena is The Chancellery House (‘A’ in the photo above). Built in 1731, it was originally built as accommodations for ministers and government officials who had to travel to Fredensborg to attend the sovereign. It was later used as a summer residence for some court officials, and then as grace-and-favor residences for retired staff. After the death of King Frederik IX, his widow, Queen Ingrid had the building renovated and it became her summer residence until her death in 2000. Since 2004, it has been the summer residence of Crown Prince Frederik and his family.
Learn more about the other Danish Royal Residences here!