Koldinghus Castle started its existence as a fortress with a moat at the end of the 13th century, a time when the border between Germany and Denmark began moving South and North between what today is the Hamburg Suburb Altona in the South and Kolding in the North. Koldinghus was with Riberhus further West the two major power points on the German-Dukedom of Schleswig border with Denmark.
In the 1530'ies King Christian III changed the shape of Koldinghus considerably. All the fortifications were removed and the Castle became the residence of the Danish king until his death in 1559. By then the new king Frederik II moved to the new power center Kronborg Castle in Elsinore and Koldinghus became the dower house of Queen Dorothea, King Christian III's widow.
Although the fortifications were removed, the Koldinghus castle retained its strong outer walls which are considerably thicker than the walls into the courtyard. The outer walls can be seen at the South side of Koldinghus today where the wooden wall replacement has been added during the renovation of Koldinghus.
When you walk around Koldinghus you'll notice that the renovation of Koldinghus was not a reconstruction of the entire castle but rather a protection of what still exists with its scars and blemishes from the passing centuries.
Koldinghus' location on the border to Schleswig and later Germany has made it the obvious meeting point for discussions between the two sides. Queen Margrethe I met with the dukes of Schleswig in the late 14th century, as did King Erik Of Pomerania after her. The Banquetting Hall hosted the many negotiations at the time, although its size has been diminshed since to create more rooms.
During the Napoleonic time at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century Denmark tried to stay neutral, but the British attacks on Copenhagen in 1801 and again in 1807 forced Denmark on Napoleon's side, and Denmark was sent 30.000 men, primarily Spanish forces, to help protect the country. The troops were partly garrisoned in Koldinghus, and on March 29 1808 they were trying so hard to fight the damp coldness inside Koldinghus that they ended up setting the castle on fire. Koldinghus burned down in a violent fire, leaving only some outer walls standing. The stables at the East side of the castle ruin were still in use and reached their final form during that time.
In 1830 it was first suggested that Koldinghus should be preserved, and small sums of money enabled it to be kept from crumbling completely. In 1890 the Koldinghus Museum was finally established. Since then the renovation and partial reconstruction of Koldinghus has been ongoing to the point where Koldinghus is now a very worthwhile place to visit. From the view up on top of the Giants' Tower down to the dungeons and prison cells, Koldinghus is a great experience.