The Royal Palace of Christiansborg is located in the centre of Copenhagen on Slotsholmen (Castle Island) and is the working palace for the Queen, as well as being the centre from which the Danish Parliament and the offices of the Danish prime minister govern. From this palace, Queen Margrethe II carries out her official duties as head of state, holding audiences and receiving visiting dignitaries. The rooms at Christiansborg form the setting for state functions and receptions, while the Danish Royal Family live instead at Amalienborg, a set of four palaces grouped around a square dominated by the equestrian statue of King Frederick V.
At Amalienborg, the Christian VII Palace is used for guests, Christian VIII’s Palace houses the official museum of the Danish Monarchy, while Frederick VIII’s Palace is occupied by Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary, leaving Christian IX’s Palace as the official residence of the Queen and the Prince Consort. The Danish Royal Family came to Amalienborg when the old Christiansborg Palace burned down in the 18th-century.
Christiansborg Palace is, however, the third of its kind. It was built upon 800-year-old ruins dating back to the 12th-century; these original ruins may still be visited at lower level via the inner palace courtyard and include the foundations of the legendary Blue Tower, where state prisoners were incarcerated, the most famous of which was arguably the daughter of Christian IV, Leonora Christina, who wrote of her experiences in her acclaimed memoir, Jammers Minde. The old Copenhagen Castle was demolished on the orders of Christian VI, who built the first splendid baroque Christiansborg Palace; although this sadly burned down in the same century – in 1794 – after having only stood for some 54 years. The second palace burned down in 1884. Today’s Christiansborg dates from 1928. The Royal Kitchens have now been restored, and their appearance today shows them as they would have looked in the 1930’s, during the reign of Christian X.
The most historic room in the palace is perhaps the Throne Room – not least because it contains the thrones of the King and Queen – although these thrones are not used today by the Queen and the Prince Consort, remaining instead rather as a representation of the monarchy’s past heritage, as well as being a symbol of when royal power in Denmark also meant personal rule. Most importantly, the balcony of the Throne Room at Christiansborg is the place from which all Denmark’s new rulers have been proclaimed; the last time this happened was in 1972, when the Danish prime minister, Jens Otto Krag proclaimed Margrethe as Queen of Denmark, the day after the death of her father, Frederick IX.
The Royal Reception Rooms are accessed via Prince Jorgen’s Courtyard (The Queen’s Gate) and also include the Velvet Room – modelled on the bedroom of Louis XIV at Versailles – where official guests are welcomed and the Great Hall – the ceremonial heart of the palace complex – which is where the Queen’s royal gala dinners take place. The Great Hall is decorated with strikingly colourful tapestries which commemorate episodes in Danish history by the artist Bjorn Norgaard for the Queen’s 50th birthday; although the tapestries were not hung in the Great Hall until ten years later when the Hall itself was renovated.
The Queen’s Library is a white and gilded room which today forms a magnificent background for official lunches and gatherings. It contains one-tenth of the Royal Family’s library with the rest of the books being housed at Amalienborg. The Fredensborg Room is dominated by the immense painting of the family of Christian IX (known at the time under the popular sobriquet of “The Father-in-Law of Europe”) and Queen Louise by the artist Laurits Tuxen and is aptly named after Fredensborg, the Danish spring and autumn royal residence, which was much used by Christian IX and his family during the summer and which provided the setting for numerous royal gatherings during his reign.
An equestrian statue of Christian IX stands on the site of Christiansborg’s Riding Ground complex. The Court Theatre is housed above the Royal Stables, and the two stable wings and stables themselves are all that survive of the first baroque Christiansborg Palace of Christian VI. Among the royal carriages in the stable collections is the beautiful Golden State Coach with the oldest royal coach housed here dating back to the late 1770’s, belonging to Dowager Queen Juliana Marie, the stepmother of Christian VII and stepmother-in-law to King George III’s sister, the English-born Queen of Denmark, Caroline Mathilde.
The Palace Chapel dates from 1826 and is used for important state celebrations and events such as baptisms, weddings and anniversaries. The Queen’s mother, Denmark’s beloved Queen Ingrid, lay in state here in the year 2000. The chapel has been ravaged by fire on more than one occasion, the present appearance is the result of a rebuilding programme.
Christiansborg Palace may today be visited using a guided tour in either Danish or English. There are guided tours of the Royal Reception Rooms, Ruins and the Royal Stables. The Royal Kitchens are also open to the public, with English tours taking place on Saturdays.