Christian II Decides to Run

“Humiliation and distress are conditions that the royal family must learn to bear with dignity and grace” Prince Joachim, Elector of Brandenburg turned to face his wife with a ghost of a smile playing across his lips.

“Where will Christian meet you?”

Elizabeth’s own face was a composed mask of neutrality as she surveyed her husband. “In Berlin,” she said quietly.

“Yes well, the matter cannot be helped. It is deeply humiliating to be deposed by one’s own subjects and left to run about the countryside like some homeless mongrel”

Elizabeth nodded. It was humiliating but she also knew her brother had come to this state of affairs as a result of his own provocative behavior. “It was not without cause my Lord,” she said with a tiny sigh.

“Still the matter is most unfortunate” Joachim narrowed his eyes “I would not like to be in such a position as a ruler, that is certain”

“And I hope to never see you in such a position my Lord” Elizabeth said dutifully.

Joachim smirked, “Dutifully spoken wife. But I fear that such an instance may come upon us sooner than we think”

“How so my Lord?” Elizabeth asked as she watched her husband begin to pace restlessly across the room.

“That confounded monk may be the undoing of us all” Joachim exclaimed pounding his fist on the large ornate table he had paused in front of.

“Which monk my Lord?” Elizabeth asked feigning ignorance. She knew who he was speaking about. In fact, she was a secret disciple of the said monk but as things stood, with the Edict of Worms hanging over Brandenburg, she valued her neck too much to make her faith public.

At this particular juncture in time at least.

Martin Luther” Joachim spat the name out like venom “he seeks to reform the church and yet he goes about it in such a reckless way that I fear he will soon bring about a revolutionary uprising among the peasants” the Elector shook his head “I told the Emperor that he should have disregarded the safe conduct and had the heretic set alight the moment he entered Worms in that little wagon of his”

“His Majesty was loathed to do it?” Elizabeth queried.

She knew the Emperor well, his sister Isabella was married to her recently deposed brother Christian II of Denmark.

“Charles has such…” Joachim paused to compose himself “strong views on honor and propriety and besides” he waved his hand towards his wife “Your uncle had his ear and he values that political alliance too much to risk losing it.”

Elizabeth was quiet for a moment as she digested the information. Her uncle was Frederick, Elector of Saxony, the silent and powerful champion of the monk from Wittenberg. She knew that while Martin Luther had a friend in Frederick not even Charles V would dare to touch him directly.

“And then to hear that your brother, Christian II of Denmark, of all the monarchs of Europe, that he would stoop so low as to send for scholars from Wittenberg to hear more about this foolish business of Luther’s…did you know about his intentions?”

Elizabeth was careful to keep a straight face “I did not my Lord” she hesitated “the news came to me as a surprise.”

Her brother’s actions really had taken her by surprise. Christian was a cruel and tyrannical monarch. For him to show interest in the gospel at all, let alone to such an extent that he took the trouble to send for theologians was completely out of character.

“Just as well the people wanted to have nothing to do with it. Can you imagine what we would have had to deal with if Denmark as a whole accepted this heretical rubbish?” Joachim shook his head, “This foolish little monk, drunk with his own self-importance is a scourge upon us all!”

“Do you really think the new doctrine would cause such upheaval?” Elizabeth asked cautiously. 

“My lady” Joachim turned to look at her, capturing her eyes with his gaze and holding them “Martin Luther could be the end of us all”

Elizabeth eyed him coolly. He had a slight flair for the dramatic but who knew? As she stared him down Elizabeth realized that her days of being a closet disciple of Martin Luther were numbered. It was only a matter of time before Joachim found out and made her pay.

But it did not matter. She was ready to pay.

She had come across the writings of Luther at a time when she desperately needed comfort. She had just found out that Joachim was cheating on her and her entire world had been falling apart. Martin Luther’s works had directed her to the Bible and there she had found a friend in Jesus. The promises of scripture had offered her much needed solace and encouragement that had helped her to weather the terrible storm she had had to endure. Jesus meant everything to her. She could not and would not give him up.

“But enough of this Luther. Will you go alone to meet Christian and Isabella?”

Elizabeth’s mind snapped back to the present and she shook her head. “No my Lord. I was hoping to take the children with me”

Joachim nodded “Yes. I suppose having them there will provide some measure of ease in the midst of all this turmoil. Very well. You may leave as soon as you are ready” he turned his back to her and strode towards his desk.

The meeting was over. She had been dismissed.

Learning to Walk the Talk

The royal family of Brandenburg made their way to Berlin accompanied by the usual fanfare. For Elizabeth, it was a time of quiet reflection. Her brother, Christian II of Denmark, had driven the people to despair as a result of his cruel and oppressive reign. It was a miracle they hadn’t hanged him in a public square. But then there was the added complication of Christian’s religious beliefs. As soon as he had heard about Martin Luther and his bold new teachings, Christian had sent to Wittenberg summoning the theologians there to come to Denmark and explain the new beliefs to him.

Needless to say, he had been converted and had wanted to champion the cause of reform throughout Denmark. But the people would not have it. How could they be expected to abandon the Roman Church because of its tyranny and abuse of power only to embrace a new religion that was advocated by a man who was equally tyrannical and abusive?

Christian had a problem with walking the talk and no one wanted to hear anything he had to say. The people had deposed him and now he was on his way to Brandenburg seeking asylum.

Elizabeth sighed. What she really wanted was for the gospel to touch him as it had touched her. Who knows she mused as she spotted her brother and his royal procession just ahead, maybe God can use this opportunity to reach him.

From Brandenburg, Christian II of Denmark and his wife Isabella of Austria made their way into Saxony where Christian was offered asylum under his uncle Frederick III. Christian was elated to be in the heart of Luther country and while at the Castle of Schweinitz asked for Luther to come and preach to him. Luther agreed and delivered a sermon that deeply moved Christian leading him to profess that he would gladly endure whatever befell him by the grace of God.

Was it a turning point? It looked like one though eight years later in 1531 Christian tried to regain control of Denmark but was shamefully defeated and imprisoned. Sixteen years after that he died a prisoner. The quiet irony of the conversion of Christian II to Protestantism was that he sought to embrace the gospel while demonstrating the heart and soul of the tyranny that the gospel was seeking to divest the church of. No one was willing to have anything to do with him or his new found faith simply because his newfound faith didn’t translate into a change in his life.

Talk can sometimes be cheap but actions can speak louder than the most eloquent words.

Further Reading and Citations

  • White, E.G. (1888) – The Great Controversy
  • Anderson, J (1855) – Ladies of The Reformation
  • Wylie, J.A. (1878) – The History of Protestantism

Suki Goonatilleke lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two daughters. She is passionate about winning people for Jesus and has served in full-time ministry at Gateway Adventist Center. Her current ministry endeavors include being a stay-at-home mom by day and writer by night.