Bernstorff Palace is one of the first neoclassical buildings in history
The palace represents quite an architectural icon from a historical point of view, both in Denmark and the whole of Europe.
The architect, Nicolas-Henri Jardin, had learnt about the theoretical principles of neoclassical art at the French Academy of Arts in Paris and he transferred the style to physical form when designing Bernstorff’s summer residence in Denmark.
Its the simple styling and the symmetric constructions that are typical for this style. The semi oval part towards the garden marks the line which divides the building into two identical sections. Each section is decorated with only few decorative elements, which all emphasize the simplicity of the building.
This simplicity corresponds very much with the informal way of life, which J.H.E. Bernstorff searched for when he ordered the building. Over the main entrance he required an inscription saying:
”Honesto inter labores otio sacrum”
“Devoted to well deserved rest between working (hours)”
From Summer Residence to Conference Hotel
Bernstorff Palace was built over 6 years from 1759 to 1765 by Johan Hartwig Ernst von Bernstorff, the Foreign Minister to the Danish king Frederik V.
J. H. E. Bernstorff ordered it as a socalled “maison de plaisance”, surrounded by beautiful nature. The rooms and salons were tastefully decorated by leading artists and artisans.
In 1770 however, Bernstorff was dismissed by J.F. Struensee, the royal physician and advisor to the mentally ill King Christian VII. Bernstorff consequently returned to Hannover, his birth town where he died in February 1772.
J. F. Struensee himself was arrested, beheaded and his body was drawn and quartered in april 1772. He had been condemned as being guilty of lèse majesté and usurpation of the royal authority, and his affair with the queen Caroline Mathilde was the catalyst for his downfall.
‘As Bernstorff did not have any children, his nephew Andreas Peter Bernstorff inherited the summer residence, where he spent every summer until his death in 1797. His son, Magnus Bernstorff, sold the building in 1812.
For the next thirty years the building changed owners several times. It decayed considerably and was only saved in 1842 when the dauphin Christian VIII bought it. His plan was to restore it and to use it as his summer residence.
When he died in 1854, Bernstorff Palace was inherited by the dauphin Prince Christian IX. He and his family spent many summers at the palace, which then had its “golden years”.
From Europe’s Father in Law to DIY Superstore
Prince Christian (IX) was crowned King of Denmark in 1863. During the following decades, large family gatherings took place at Bernstorff Palace. Through marriages the royal family had branches in many courts all over Europe, and even the Russian Tsar, Alexander III was a son-in-law.
In one of the chambers on the ground floor, the “Kings Room”, there is a preserved door post, where the king measured how tall were his children and grandchildren, and its fun to identify how much they actually grew from year to year.
When Christian IX died in 1906, the palace was made available for his youngest son Prince Valdemar as a permanent residence. He lived here until his death in 1939.
As none of Valdemars children wished to live at Bernstorff Palace, it was taken over by the state and a section of the army, who used it as an educational institution.
The recent chapter of Bernstorff Palace was written in 2009, when the Castle & Culture Protection Agency decided to set it for lease.
Today the palace is a hotel and conference center, managed by CEO Kirsten Daell. The lessee and operating company Bernstorff Slot is a subsidiary of the huge Danish DIY-chain Harald Nyborg A/S. The palace even has a “little sister” in Austria, the Hotel Dienstl Gut in Carinthia.
Historical Introduction and Guided Tour
We keep the palace open several sundays during the year for guided tours. Professional guides, who have substantial knowledge of the history will tell you the story of Mr. Bernstorff, his palace and the royal family. However these public guided tours are always in Danish. They will be announced on our website and probably facebook, too.
It is possible to book separate, individual introductions in English (or Danish) in connection with private or company events. Send us an e-mail to email@example.com
We shall be more than happy to hook you up with one of our professional guides, depending on your agenda, time of day, number of participants and your expectations. We cannot definitely promise you a tour of the palace, but you will always be able to get an oral introduction by an expert. This is due to the fact, that Bernstorff Palace is NOT a museum but an ongoing business where our guests expect the service of a professional venue.
Christian Claudio Apostoli
Art Historian, Copenhagen University
Guide at Fredensborg Palace since 2008
Guide at Bernstorff Palace since 2009
Special interests: historical art and architecture
Teacher. Studied classical architecture and art history at Copenhagen University
Guide at Christiansborg Palace, Amalienborg Palace, Eremitage Palace and the National Museum
Speciale interest: King Christian IX and his family, the history of the Royal Court, Dutch Renaissance, Impressionism, Art Nouveau and Greek Archealogy
Art Historian, Guide at Fredensborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace, Kronborg Castle and expert in French