Frederick VI., king of Denmark, son of Christian VII. and the princess Caroline Matilda, born Jan. 28, 1768, died Dec. 3, 1839. He was declared regent at the age of 16. His education had been much neglected, but he had great natural intelligence, firmness, and a capacity for observation. With the help of his minister Count Bernstorff he applied himself to the abolition of feudal serfdom in Denmark (which in 1804 he also effected in Schleswig-Holstein), the reformation of the criminal code, the breaking up of monopolies, the establishment of a better financial system, the removal of the disabilities of the Jews, and the earliest prohibition of the slave trade. March 10, 1792, was the date of the edict against the slave trade, providing for its enforcement on and after Jan. 1, 1804. Bernstorff, who died in 1797, had recommended to the regent to observe a strict neutrality in the wars of the epoch, but this soon became impossible. In 1800 the regent concluded a convention with England, whose claim of right to search Danish merchantmen for goods contraband of war had led to much recrimination, and even some acts of open hostility.

But in December, 1800, Denmark having signed the maritime confederacy with Russia, Sweden, and Prussia, on terms similar to the armed neutrality of 1780, war broke out afresh. Every Danish vessel in English ports was seized on Jan. 14, 1801. On March 20 Sir Hyde Parker, with Nelson second in command, entered the Cattegat with a fleet of 47 vessels, 18 of which were line-of-battle ships. The regent was summoned to withdraw from the neutral convention, and to open his ports to the English. The demand was rejected, and a furious engagement followed, in which the Danish fleet was almost annihilated (April 2). An armistice was now concluded for 14 weeks, and this was soon followed by a peace, the confederacy having been broken up in consequence of the assassination of the czar Paul. Frederick, however, persisted in the policy of neutrality, and on Aug. 8, 1807, a British fleet appeared off Copenhagen. The prince was summoned to an alliance with England, and to surrender his fleet, his capital, and his castle at Elsinore. On his refusal, the capital was bombarded for three days (Sept. 2-5). A capitulation was then made, the fleet was transferred to a British admiral, the arsenal and docks were destroyed, and every ship and boat, as well as every available piece of timber, rope, or shipwright's tool, was carried to England. Denmark threw herself at once into the arms of France, and sent forth a fleet of privateers which preyed incessantly upon British commerce.

The father of the Danish regent, the unhappy Christian VII., died March 13, 1808, and Frederick ascended the throne. He had married in 1790 the daughter of the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. On Dec. 10, 1809, Sweden signed away Finland to Russia; and in the course of the following month a treaty was concluded by Denmark with Sweden which was designed to reestablish the good relations of the two countries. Both were exhausted by the wars of their great neighbors, and both soon became subject to the will of Napoleon. Denmark remained his faithful ally, and suffered accordingly. In 1814 she was robbed of Norway, in exchange for which she received Pomerania, which she afterward ceded to Prussia. Frederick was at last compelled to send 10,000 men to the allied army against the French emperor. The kingdom had become bankrupt in 1813. The peace brought with it an immense fall in the price of provisions; and real estate remained at a great depreciation of value as late as 1826. The wisdom and devotion of the king gradually brought about improvement in general affairs. A national bank was reestablished. The farmers were allowed to pay their taxes in kind. Order was restored to the finances, and confidence returned.

The last part of Frederick's reign is remarkable for the establishment of a representative council as a popular branch of the government (May 28, 1831), which was received by his subjects with every demonstration of joy.