Royal Copenhagen is a company steeped in tradition, dating back to 1770s and Queen Juliane Marie. She was the widow of King Frederik V and after his death, his son, Christian VII ascended the throne. Shortly into his reign, he became mentally ill and was unable to govern. Thus Queen Juliane Marie became the head of Denmark (and Norway, which at that time was a part of the Danish Kingdom). She sought to improve Denmark’s economy, and supported research in mineralogy and natural science, including porcelain production.
Royal Copenhagen (at that time Danish Porcelain Factory) was founded in 1775 by chemist, Frantz Heinrich Müller, under the protection of Queen Juliane Marie (and her son, King Christian VII). Frantz Heinrich Müller was given a 50-year monopoly to create porcelain, and the first pieces were dining services for the royal family.
The Queen was the creator of the famous hallmark of Royal Copenhagen, and was adaman,t that each piece of porcelain would carry an unique factory mark – a royal crown to show the royal association, and the three hand-painted waves symbolizing the three major waterways of Denmark; the ‘Oresund’ or Sound, the Great Belt and the Little Belt.
Inspired by Chinese porcelain, Frantz Heinrich Müller created in the late 1770s, dinnerware and vases with blue motifs on white porcelain and elegant fluting along the edge – the Blue Fluted porcelain, that Royal Copenhagen is famous for today.
Unfortunately, the factory had financial problems, and the King had to step in and take over in 1779. At the same time, he changed the name to “Den Kongelige Porcelænsfabrik” (Royal Porcelain Factory). In 1780, the first shop opened in Købmagergade, Copenhagen, which was intended from the beginning.
In 1790, the extensive work of creating the famous and extremely expensive dinner service, Flora Danica begins, allegedly commissioned by the Danish King, Christian VII, as a gift to Empress Catherine II of Russia – 1802 pieces with gilded edges and free-hand painted Danish floral motifs. Flora Danica marked the first golden age for Royal Copenhagen, and was international recognized. Flora Danica is today made to order.
By 1868, the factory got a private owner and in 1882, it was purchased by the faience factory, Aluminia. Shortly after, the production moved to the modern factory building, Aluminia had at Frederiksberg, Copenhagen – which today houses the famous factory, outlet store.
Architect Arnold Krog was hired as creative director of the porcelain factory in 1884, and he catapulted the factory onto the international market. Krog was determined to straighten up the Blue Fluted pattern, and designed the pattern used today. The following year, he created Blue Fluted Full Lace (1885) and Blue Fluted Half Lace (1885). At The Universal Exposition of 1889 (Exposition Universelle de 1889), in Paris, Royal Copenhagen won the Grand Prix in the field of porcelain, with pieces designed by Krog.
Royal Copenhagen opened a store in Paris, in 1890, and 7 years later in the fashionable “Old Bond Street” in London. At the turn of the century, Royal Copenhagen was one of most innovative leaders in the field of porcelain, and their products were sold worldwide.
The leading position on the international market remained up through the 20th century, as new designers and artists were engaged to renew, and develop the product line continuously. In the 1950s and 1960s, Royal Copenhagen produced a range of now famous table lamps; Københavner-lampe (Copenhagen lamp) and Tidsel-lampen (thistle-lamp), both produced in collaboration with Fog & Mørup, and designed by Kai Lange (mainly known for his Christmas plates and vases with naturalistic motifs).
In recent years, Royal Copenhagen acquired Georg Jensen in 1972, merged with Holmegaard Glassworks in 1985, and two years later with Bing & Grøndahl. In the late 1990s, the company acquired the Swedish Orrefors-Kosta Boda, and formed Royal Scandinavia, a group of Scandinavian companies. The Danish private equity fund, Axcel, purchased Royal Scandinavia in 2001, and Holmegaard was sold off as well as the majority shares in Orrefors-Kosta Boda. In December 2012, Royal Copenhagen was sold to the Finnish company Fiskars, founded in 1649.