He was born in Gottorp the fourth son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and Luise Caroline, Princess of Hesse-Kassel. Through his mother, Christian was a great-grandson of Frederik V of Denmark, great-great-grandson of George II of Great Britain and descendant of several other monarchs, but had no strong claim to any European throne.
He grew up in Denmark and was educated in the Military Academy of Copenhagen.
He succeeded Frederik VII to the throne in November 15, 1863. He was immediately plunged into a crisis over the possession and status of Schleswig and Holstein, two territories to Denmark's south when , under pressure, he signed the November Constitution, a treaty that made Schleswig part of Denmark. This resulted in a brief war between Denmark and a Prussian/Austrian alliance in 1864. The war ended with the incorporation of Schleswig into Prussia in 1865. Holstein was likewise incorporated into Prussia in 1865, following further battle between Austria and Prussia.
Christian's 43-year reign was otherwise peaceful.
He did seek, unsuccessfully, to prevent the spread of democracy throughout Denmark. However, he signed a treaty in 1874 which allowed Iceland, then a Danish possession, to have its own constitution, albeit one that still had Denmark ruling Iceland. In 1900, he approved the establishment of a Danish parliament which would have power over absolutism.
Another reform occurred in 1866, when the Danish constitution was revised so that Denmark's upper chamber would have more power than the lower.
Social security also took a few steps forward during his reign. Old age pensions were introduced in 1891 and unemployment and family benefits were introduced in 1892.
Christian died of old age at 88 at Copenhagen and was buried at Roskilde, Denmark.
He remains noteworthy for the number of immediate descendants that have become monarchs in their own right. His sons included Frederik VIII of Denmark and George I of Greece. His grandsons include Nicholas II of Russia, Constantine I of Greece, George V of the United Kingdom, Christian X of Denmark and Haakon VII of Norway.
Details of his children are as follows:
|List of Danish monarchs||