…is the Frederiksborg Castle – a majestic palatial building located in a quiet town called Hillerød, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. Little did I know, that in the history of this small country of less than 6 million, the Danish Empire was, in the 16th century, an impressive, ultra-wealthy and unrivalled power whose colonies spanned four continents. It was the apex of the empire, a period of time that the Danish sat atop of fearsome status, matchless military strength and received superior respect from many countries in the world.
This castle was the royal residence of Christian IV – probably the best known and most popular king in the Danish history. He was said to be a zealous and intelligent sovereign that lifted the name of Denmark to a glorious and enviable position and had left with a trail of remarkable legacies and spectacular buildings, like this castle and Copenhagen’s Old Stock Exchange, just to name a few.
Nevertheless, the Frederiksborg Castle was acquired by Christian IV’s father – Frederik II – and used it as a hunting lodge during his reign. It wasn’t until Christian took over the throne that this castle was transformed into an opulent Dutch-Renaissance royal residence, planned and sculpted by an imported Flemish architect.
From afar, this castle seemed like a fairy-tale palace floating on a lake. But upon entering its regal entry ringed by a moat, its grandeur instantly perforated and it felt like the King’s supremacy never left. Every corner of the room caught my eyes, it was almost unfair for some press to call this the ‘Danish Versailles’. The clever use of colours, the one-of-a-kind furniture, the crazy amount of rooms, the life-size portraits, the golden frames and the exquisitely hand-painted ceilings one after another… it was unbelievable how people used to live in such excessiveness, such vastly elaborated environment.
The Frederiksborg Castle is also house of the Museum of National History since 1878. On the walls, you can see portraits of kings and queens, catch glimpses of their lavish lives and their children, the nobles and the bourgeois, moments of the events once held in this beautiful era and dimension – all of which contributed, if not shaped, the history and development of Denmark today.
This year the Queen of Denmark, Queen Margrethe II, turns 75. And her birthday celebration opened with an exhibition of the dresses Her Majesty has worn during her reign at the Great Hall of Frederiksborg Castle. I was so lucky to have seen this extravaganza of style in many forms. It’s royal fashion span across three quarters of a century!
For me, the highlight of all wasn’t this exhibition, wasn’t the Great Hall where chandeliers once shone and people danced and feasted on polished marble, surrounded by magnificent mirrors and tapestries; wasn’t the royal four-poster bed adorned with expensive velvet and embroideries; wasn’t the King’s trunk, the war helmet or heavy armour, not even the historical paintings nor the extensive baroque garden behind the castle…
The highlight was the Chapel.
Not the “small building or room used for Christian worship” that Oxford Dictionary theoretically taught us, but the grandest and most stunning chapel in Europe, where Danish royalties were crowned in the past two centuries. It also has an ornate décor and a collection of wood work that have grown more marvellous with time. Not a space for the faint-hearted.
This castle is no longer just a historical landmark, let alone a tourist attraction, it is a treasure chest where a myriad of stories unfold and where the old and new personalities of Denmark meet and make themselves known.
With love x