Tuesday, 22 February 2011

What to see: The Throne of Denmark

There are several royal thrones preserved in Denmark, but The Throne is the one which can be found in the Throne Room at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. This room is where Queen Margrethe receives foreign ambassadors presenting their credentials, but these days the monarch does not actually sit on the throne.
The throne, which dates from 1822, is held by Katia Johansen of the Danish Royal Collection to have been designed by Christian Frederik Hansen, often considered the greatest architect in Danish history and one of the leading neoclassical architects in Europe. It was made for the King’s Throne Room at the second Christiansborg Palace, which was among Hansen’s many great projects in Copenhagen in the early nineteenth century.
However, Hansen, unlike many other architects, did not generally design furniture for his buildings and at Christiansborg it seems he mostly left that part of the job to his assistant (and son-in-law twice over), Gustav Friedrich Hetsch. And the art historian Mirjam Gelfer-Jørgensen insists that it was Hetsch rather than Hansen who designed the throne. The actual work was carried out by the woodcarver Christian Thielemann.
Before coming to Denmark Hetsch had worked in the Paris studio of Charles Percier, Napoléon I’s court architect, and the throne is at least to a certain extent inspired by Napoléon’s own throne in the Tuileries (rescued from the fire in 1871 and now in the Louvre).
The throne, which is made up by two winged lions, was originally covered in red velvet carrying the monogram of King Frederik VI and can be seen in that condition in some paintings where the King is shown standing in front of it. It formed part of a magnificent throne arrangement which was held up by two marble caryatides by the famous sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, originally meant to be part of a monument to Napoléon in Warsaw.
The throne itself was rescued when the second Christiansborg Palace burnt down in October 1884 and returned to the third Christiansborg Palace in 1924, where it found its place in the Velvet Room, the temporary throne room, until the actual Throne Room was completed in 1933. Whereas the second Christiansborg had had separate throne rooms for the King and Queen, the third palace has only one such room and the Queen’s throne (also rescued from the second palace) has been placed next to the King’s, an arrangement which may look somewhat odd as the Queen’s throne is slightly taller than the King’s.
It is not quite clear where the throne had been in the meantime. Following Christiansborg’s fire a throne room was created for Christian IX in Christian VII’s Mansion at Amalienborg and photos show another and (at the time) more modern throne. This throne room was too small for the ceremony on 20 November 1905, when King Christian IX received a deputation from the Norwegian Parliament and gave his formal consent to his grandson’s acceptance of the Norwegian throne.
A temporary throne room was thus set up in the Great Hall of Christian VII’s Mansion and we know that the throne from Christiansborg was used for this occasion. The newspapers commented that it was probably the first time that Christian IX, despite his 42-year reign, did actually sit on the throne.


  1. Very interesting article. Thank you. May I ask you to write a corresponding article about the throne of Norway? I meant to ask you this some time ago when you used the wonderful notion "accession to the thrones" about some Bernadotte king, probably the first. I do not remember. I have been trying to google information about the throne of Norway but could not find anything about the piece of furniture only about the abstract concept.
    Martin Rahm

  2. Actually I have already (in 2009) written a blogpost about the Norwegian throne. You may find it here:



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