When Frederick VI was 16 year old, he participated in a coup that ousted
Guldberg as secretary of the royal council and put an end to the power
of Dowager Queen Juliane Marie and Crown Prince Frederick. Following the
coup, he governed the country on behalf of his father, Christian
VII, who was mentally ill. The period of this administration lasting
until the end of the 1790s has been referred to as “the government of great
reforms in the spirit of enlightened autocracy”. The penal code was modified
and made more compassionate, a public health administration was established
and freedom of the press was restored. Cultural pursuits flourished in
this period with a flowering of literature and science. Frederick lent
his full support to the important land reforms that were implemented by
the brothers Reventlow, A.P. Bernstorff and C. Colbjørnsen, a Norwegian.
After Bernstorff died in 1797, Frederick took over the responsibility
for foreign policy. In 1800 he signed a neutrality pact with Sweden and
Russia, but was compelled to renege on the treaty when defeated by a British
fleet in the Battle of the Roadstead at Copenhagen in 1801. The British
bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807 forced Frederick to surrender the Danish-Norwegian
Embittered, Frederick allied himself with Napoleon. This alliance (1807-1814)
resulted in the loss of Norway to Sweden in the Treaty of Kiel.
In 1814, Frederick abandoned his strict autocracy and reinstated the
ministers and cabinet ministers in the positions they had previously held.
He remained king of Denmark until his death in 1839.