The first Danish East India Company was chartered in 1616 under King Christian IV and focused on trade with India. The first expedition, under Admiral Gjedde, took two years to reach Ceylon, in the process losing more than half its personnel. The island had been claimed by Portugal by the time they arrived, but on 10 May 1620 a treaty was concluded with the Kingdom of Kandy and the foundation laid of a settlement at Trincomalee on the island's east coast.
In 1670, a second Danish East India Company was established, before it too was dissolved in 1729. In 1730, it was refounded as the Asiatic Company and opened trade with Qing China at Canton. The first expedition went badly, with Den gyldne Løve lost with its cargo of silver off Ballyheigue, Ireland, on the outbound journey. The local landowners held the silver at their estate and pursued a salvage claim, but a gang of locals overpowered the Danish guard and made off with the hoard, causing a diplomatic row between Denmark-Norway and Britain.
During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1801 and again in 1807, the British Navy attacked Copenhagen. As a consequence of the last attack, Denmark (one of few West European countries not occupied by Bonaparte) lost its entire fleet and the island of Helgoland (part of the duchy of Holstein-Gottorp) to Britain. Denmark finally sold its remaining settlements in mainland India in 1845 and the Danish Gold Coast on March 30, 1850, both to the British.