Hans Schack was born in 1609 into a North German noble family, and he began his military career at the young age of 13. Over the course of his career, he earned great respect and a reputation as a skilled field marshal and, notably, an expert in fortress construction. Hans Schack employed his military strategic abilities in the service of Sweden, Germany, and France. He held a prominent position in the Danish army and, in return, became a loyal supporter of the Danish king, who rewarded him with important offices, orders, and, most importantly, several landholdings, including the Møgeltønder fief. Schack was appointed a field marshal and became extremely popular throughout the country, rising to become one of the most powerful men in the realm. In 1663, Hans Schack received Denmark’s highest order, the Order of the Elephant, and in 1671, he was elevated to the title of count, thus joining the Danish nobility.
After the Swedish wars, Møgeltønderhus was nearly in ruins, prompting Schack to demolish most of the old buildings and begin the construction of a castle on the foundation of the old fortress. One of the buildings allowed to stand was the Ladies’ House, which is now the southern wing of Schackenborg. Hans Schack also chose to keep the gatehouse and, notably, the moat, likely reflecting his extensive knowledge of fortifications. Hans Schack built Schackenborg as a three-winged baroque castle, reflecting the dominant style of the time. Originally, the castle was constructed with red bricks, and it wasn’t until the 1750s that Schackenborg took on its current appearance with plastered, white walls.
Hans Schack and his wife, Anna Blome, moved into the castle in 1668, and in 1671, when Hans Schack was elevated to the title of count, Schackenborg received its new name. The couple had seven children but experienced the great sorrow of losing five of them.
Schackenborg’s lands were scattered, so Hans Schack consolidated all the land through new acquisitions. In 1661, for example, he purchased the old episcopal estate near Ballum, and in 1664, he acquired Gram Castle, in addition to owning estates and lands in several other locations in Denmark.