Monday, 22 March 2010
What to see: Frederik VIII’s Mansion, Amalienborg, Copenhagen
The recent renovation of Frederik VIII’s Mansion at Amalienborg has returned the mansion to past glory and its rightful place as a major example of Nordic neoclassicism, while the incorporation of contemporary works of art has brought new life to the building.
Frederik VIII’s Mansion, previously known as Brockdorff’s Mansion, was the last of the four Amalienborg mansions to become a royal residence. The complex of four mansions situated around an octagonal square was drawn up by Nicolai Eigtved as the centrepiece of his grand project Frederiksstaden (Frederik’s Town), celebrating the tercentenary of the Oldenburg dynasty in 1748.
Eigtved’s beautiful rococo mansions, which from the outside are almost identical, provided the noble families of Moltke, Schack, Levetzau and Brockdorff with residences fit for a king. And that was what they would soon become.
The foundation stone for Brockdorff’s Mansion was laid in 1751 and it is believed that the building was completed by 1758, as the last of the four Amalienborg mansions. Joachim von Brockdorff himself never lived there, but rented it out, and after his death it was bought by the neighbour across the square, Adam Gottlob Moltke, in 1763. Two years later Moltke sold it to King Frederik V.
In 1767-1768 the architect Christian Carl Pflueg rebuilt Brockdorff’s Mansion to house a school for army cadets, which was succeeded by the naval cadet academy in 1788. The use of the mansion as a school explains why its façade, unlike the other Amalienborg mansions, is fitted with a clock.
In 1794 Christiansborg Palace burned down and King Christian VII moved into Moltke’s Mansion, while Crown Prince Frederik (VI) took up residence at Schack’s Mansion and Hereditary Prince Frederik settled in Levetzau’s Mansion. Only Brockdorff’s Mansion did not yet become a royal residence.
Amalienborg was meant to be only a temporary residence while Christiansborg was being rebuilt, but when the second Christiansborg was finally completed in 1828, Frederik VI chose to remain at Amalienborg. So have all his successors, with the sole exception of Frederik VII, who took up residence at Christiansborg when he became king in 1848.
Amalienborg might have held uncomfortable memories for Frederik VII. It was for his sake that Brockdorff’s Mansion was eventually turned into a royal residence, when he married Frederik VI’s daughter, Princess Vilhelmine, in 1828. The marriage was unhappy and ended in divorce in 1838.
Frederik VI entrusted the task of refurbishing Brockdorff’s Mansion as a residence for his daughter and son-in-law to the architect Jørgen Hansen Koch. Koch’s rebuilding meant that much of the original rococo interior was lost, but the empire-style interiors created by Koch count among the most prominent empire interiors in Scandinavia and it is mostly these that the restoration which is now being completed has sought to bring back.
Princess Vilhelmine left the mansion following her remarriage to Duke Carl of Glücksburg in 1839. The mansion then became the home of Landgrave Wilhelm and Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Cassel, the latter a sister of the new king, Christian VIII. It thus became known as “the Landgrave’s Mansion”. It was here that their daughter Louise in 1842 married Prince Christian of Glücksburg, who became King Christian IX when the male line of the Oldenburg dynasty became extinct in 1863.
The Landgravine died in 1864, followed by the Landgrave three years later. Two years on, their grandson Crown Prince Frederik married Princess Lovisa of Sweden and Norway and the newlyweds took up residence in the mansion. It was only when they succeeded to the throne as King Frederik VIII and Queen Louise in 1906 that this mansion at last became the residence of a reigning monarch.
At about the same time the four mansions were renamed, each receiving the names of the first monarch to reside there. Thus Moltke’s Mansion became Christian VII’s Mansion, Levetzau’s became Christian VIII’s and Brockdorff Frederik VIII’s. The only exception was Schack’s Mansion, which had first been inhabited by Frederik VI, but which was named Christian IX’s Mansion, something Queen Margrethe believes was probably due to veneration felt for the recently deceased king.
Following Frederik VIII’s sudden death in 1912, Dowager Queen Louise remained in the mansion until her death in 1926. It was then left empty until her grandson Crown Prince Frederik married Princess Ingrid of Denmark in 1935. The next year they moved into the mansion, but for financial reasons only 1/3 of it was refurbished for them.
When Crown Princess Ingrid gave birth to her third daughter in 1946, the family had clearly outgrown their modest premises and they were then allowed the use of the mezzanine. But the following year they succeeded to the throne and could thus take possession of the entire building. Further refurbishments were thereafter carried out by the architect Thomas Havning between 1947 and 1950. Sadly the refurbishments carried out in the days of King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid caused much damage to the mansion.
As the widowed Queen Ingrid grew old, the great proportions of this mansion became too much for her and in 1997 she moved permanently to her summer residence, the Chancellery House at Fredensborg. Except for the guest apartments made available to her younger daughters in the side wings, Frederik VIII’s Mansion remained empty for the remainder of Queen Ingrid’s life and continued to be so after her death in 2000.
A major restoration process began when Crown Prince Frederik married Mary Donaldson in 2004 and Frederik VIII’s Mansion was assigned them as their official residence. The process is now about to be completed and the Crown Prince and his family may move into the mansion in the autumn. They will however continue to have their main home in the Chancellery House at Fredensborg.
While previous royal residents have lived in the entire building, the current occupants will have their private quarters on the mezzanine and in the two side wings, while the two main floors are given over to office space and state rooms. This is a significant departure from earlier times, but a development which has also been seen elsewhere, such as at the Royal Palace in Oslo, where King Harald and Queen Sonja now have a large apartment on the second floor, while state rooms and offices take up the rest of the building.
Back in 1828 Princess Vilhelmine was given the use of the first floor, while Prince Frederik stayed on the ground floor. This tradition has survived in the way that Crown Prince Frederik will have his office on the ground floor, like Frederik IX had, while Crown Princess Mary’s will be on the first floor, just like Queen Ingrid’s office was.
The main room of the first floor is the Great Hall, seen in the second photo, which Queen Ingrid used as her living room following the death of King Frederik (no wonder the old Queen thought the distances were too big in this building). On the same floor is also the former Throne Room (third photo), which has the perhaps most beautiful doors in Scandinavia (fourth picture). That room served as Queen Ingrid’s bedroom, but will now be the reading and music room.
The fifth photo shows the Garden Hall, which is just above the ground floor’s Garden Room (sixth picture) with its tapestries. In front of it one finds the vestibule, which Jørgen Hansen Koch divided into two rooms, but which has now been “reunited” and which offers a wonderful view towards the Amalienborg Square (seventh photo). Also on the ground floor is the Formal Dining Room (eighth photo), which was one of the best preserved of Koch’s interiors, but which has been painted ox-blood red rather than the previous yellow and has received new mirrors by the artist Erik A. Frandsen.
The mirrors are part of a wedding gift from the Realdania foundation, a project whereby works by leading Danish contemporary artists will decorate Frederik VIII’s Mansion. These works of art are however removable, unlike the permanent alterations which caused much damage to the mansion in the days of King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid.
Frederik VIII’s Mansion is open to visitors until the end of May.