II was 25 years old when his father, Christian III,
died. His education had emphasised the sports of knights rather than the
study of books. As a result, Frederick had little knowledge of the world
in which he was to play an important role.
From the time he became king, Frederick was planning to conquer Sweden and re-establish a Nordic union. In the summer of 1559 he joined his relatives in Schleswig-Holstein in a military campaign against Dithmarschen. He did this without consulting with the National Council. Dithmarschen was conquered and incorporated in the duchies. The next year, Gustav Vasa died and his son, Erik XIV, took the Swedish throne. Frederick and Erik abandoned their forefathers' policy of peace and initiated a struggle in which no holds were barred. Both rulers had been looking for a pretext for starting a war against the other. The war started in 1563 and lasted until 1570. The unjustifiable cost of the war led to discontent among the nobility, and the Danish National Council, headed by Johan Friis, opposed the Seven-Year War from the very start. The financial crisis forced Frederick to reconcile with Peder Oxe, a financial genius he had exiled from the country. Peder Oxe and Johan Friis managed to guide the country through the financial crisis and the work on negotiating a peace was resumed. Although Frederick was critical of the peace negotiations, a peace treaty with Sweden was nonetheless signed.
From this time onwards, the real power in Denmark-Norway
lay in the hands of the rich nobility. Denmark's economy, business and
culture blossomed during these years. Frederick devoted most of his attention
to building the two Renaissance palaces, Kronborg and Fredriksborg, as
well as to hunting and drinking with friends. Because of the fortunate
developments in society, Frederick was a popular monarch during the last
years of his reign. He died in 1588, 54 years old. His son, Christian
IV, was only 11 years at the time.