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Danish history (the s.c.nordic FAQ)
nordic flags
The home pages for the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nordic
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Danish history


Subject: 3.3 



3.3.1 A chronology of important dates

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Norsemen attacking
masculine virtue
(circa) Saxo Grammaticus, in Gesta Danorum, says that the Danish King Frode raised a huge united army from many conquered lands and defeated a king of the Huns.

As Western Europe was threatened by the Huns (A.D. 406~436 - their most famous king was called Attila) and the Roman Empire wasn't capable of holding its position on the British islands any more, the Angles were (according to The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) asked to come and participate in the war against the Picts. The Angles are believed to have lived somewhere in the area of Southern Jutland and the estuary of river Elbe, or maybe further north on Jutland.
The Jutes, the Saxons and more Angles participate in the war on Britain. Soon the Britons are fought by the new-comers.

The first Danish king known from contemporary sources is killed during a military attack against the Frankish Empire. Name: Huglik [or Chocillaicus in Gregor of Tours' annals].

(circa) Danevirke is founded.

Charlemagne begins the Frankish expansion to the North. The deep woods of Holstein do however protect the Danes for several decades yet.

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Longships approaching
Viking longships were superior in battles
787-1066 (circa)
Viking Age
Danes raid e.g England, France and Spain. The beginning of the Viking era is by convention dated to the raid at Northumbria A.D. 793 (referred to in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that too, although the same source says that the first ships of the Danish men that sought the land of the English nation came A.D. 787).

(circa) The Danes defeat Slavic tribes.

During the war the market at Haithabu is abandoned to the Slavic Vends. Haithabu /Hedeby/ is situated at the very same bay as the later town Schleswig /Slesvig, on the narrowest part of south Jutland, the short-cut between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

As Charlemagne extended his realm in the late 8th century he came to meet a united Danish army which successfully defended Danevirke. A Danish-Frankish border was established at the River Eider A.D. 811. Haithabu is regained.

Frankish sources, for instance Annales regni Francorum against the year 811, gives a rather good picture of the Danish realm. Godfred, or perhaps a predecessor, seems to have brought the lands of the South- and North Danes together shortly before 800. And to end the war between the Franks and the Danes a hostage was sent to Charlemagne in Aachen. That Danish hostages came from Southern Jutland, Zealand and Scania ("Osfrid de Sconaowe"). Probably also southern Norway was held by the kings of Denmark of that time.

Hamburg is raided and burned by Danish Vikings. As a consequence Arch-bishop Ansgar moves the Cathedral to Bremen.

The Danes get control of northern and eastern England.

890-935 (circa)
A separate kingdom of Haithabu was established by the Viking chieftain Olaf from Svealand. Olaf's son Gnupa was however killed in battle (against the Danish King Hardeknud?), and his kingdom vanished. King Gorm is said to have regained Haithabu A.D. 935.

(circa) Rollo, a Danish Viking chieftain, is granted Normandy as a Duchy by the Frankish king Charles the Simple.

A bishopric is established in Slesvig.

Harald Gormsson (a.k.a. "Black-tooth") unites Denmark and Norway as a single kingdom. Scania, Jutland and the islands in-between had been ruled by the same king now and then, for instance under King Godfred in the early 800s, but first with the Christianization of kings and magnates the kingdom of Denmark seems to have become a stabile entity. [ See also the web-site at the Royal Danish Embassy, Washington D.C. <http://www.denmarkemb.org/viking94.htm> ]
Lars Hemmingsen writes:
Harald boasts at the rune stone in Jellinge that he has won "all of Denmark" - but what this really means is unclear: There are some circumstantial evidence that Gorm lost Scania and Norway, as well as his life, in 958 and that what Harald accomplished was merely a re-conquest. But the standard explanation is that Harald held the lands from the beginning and that what he won of Denmark was merely the area around Haithabu, A.D. 983, which he had first lost to Emperor Otto II.

Harald Gormsson (a.k.a. "Blåtand" - Black-Tooth) baptized.

Southern Jutland (Sønderjylland) is an integrated part of the Danish realm.

The King Svend Tveskæg ("Double-beard" or "Fork-beard") conquers England, which remains in Danish control until the year 1042.

Knud den Store (Canute the Great) ruled over a vast kingdom that included present-day Denmark, England, Norway and southern Sweden, and during his reign Christianity became widespread. After his death, the empire disintegrated.

Bishopric in Roskilde

King Svend Estridsen lets build a stone church for the bishop Egino in Dalby, close to Lund. (This church is the oldest remaining stone church on the Scandinavian peninsula.)

This year the Church was re-organized with new bishoprics also in: Lund, Aarhus, Borglum, Ribe and Odense.

After King Svend Estridsen's death Denmark is from time to time split between his sons. The Thing in Scania supports Knud ("the Holy") against whom the Jutes revolt in 1086 and King Knud is murdered.

The Bishop in Bremen and the Bishop in Canterbury have fought over dominance of Denmark, and as a move in this complicated struggle, rich funds are donated by the king for a cathedral in Lund. The cathedral school is opened in 1086. The school has been in function ever since.

With the first arch-bishop of Lund, Scandinavia was made a separate church province, no longer belonging to Hamburg.

Denmark seems to divide itself in pieces. Scania, Zealand and Jutland can't agree on choosing the same king and Civil War follows, in which King Valdemar the Great comes out on top in 1157.

The Lund cathedral is opened. (The church in Dalby had lost the competition for cathedral status.)

Copenhagen (Havn) is founded.

The Vendic castle Arkona on the island Rügen is captured by King Valdemar the Great.

Saxo writes the history of Scandinavia.

King Valdemar II Sejr conquers Holstein with the town of Hamburg,which soon enough is re-captured by a united German army. He also conquers Pomerania, and Mecklenburg, and reestablishes the nation as a great power in northern Europe. Soon, however, a civil war between the nobles and the king vying for control of the country erupted.

The Scanian Law is written down. 50 years later it's also transcribed to runes.
King Valdemar II Sejr conquers northern Estonia. According to the legend, the Danish flag "Dannebrogen" fell down from the sky during this mission. [ The Dannebrog is the oldest flag in the world still in use. All Nordic flags except the Greenland flag are variations of the Dannebrog. ]

Denmark's southern border had since long been guarded by troops under command of an Earl (Jarl), later Duke, in Schleswig /Slesvig in Sønderjylland. The Duchy had become also a means of providing for the expenses of younger royal princes. As the Hansa and the German Empire expanded, the Counts of Holstein, the Duke of Slesvig and the Hansa found a common enemy in the king of Denmark. The result was a long row of wars where the Dukes strived for independence from the Danish Crown.

At the same time also the Arch-bishop in Lund strived for supremacy over the secular king, or at least for independence, and the nobility demanded the realm to be governed by a Senate (Danehof).

King Christoffer II was forced to make major concessions to the nobles and clergy at the expense of royal power, which was also diminished by the influence of the German Hanseatic League. 1326-30 King Christoffer is replaced by an under-age king with Count Gerhard of Holstein as regent.

The Scanian nobility (alternatively the Thing in Lund) had in the beginning of the 1330s chosen the young Magnus Eriksson to be king also for the Scanian provinces, after his regents had promised to pay Count Johan of Holstein to whom Scania was pawned. At that time Magnus Eriksson was the under-age king of both Norway and Sweden.

Due to the expensive but failed wars almost all rights to taxes and custom fees are given in pawn to the creditors of the realm (mainly the Counts of Holstein). The Danish Crown has no incomes to speak of, and no king is appointed.

King Valdemar IV Atterdag succeeded in restoring royal authority.

After an Estonian uprising, Denmark sells its possessions in Northern Estonia to the Order of Teutonic Knights.

Valdemar IV Atterdag re-conquers Scania.

Valdemar IV Atterdag conquers Gotland.

The five years old Crown Prince Olof of Norway is elected King of Denmark, with his mother Queen Margrete of Norway as regent. In 1380 he becomes King of Norway too. The union between Denmark and Norway will remain until 1814.

To avoid a war on the southern border, and to regain the rich Slesvig region, Queen Margrete I (the daughter of Valdemar IV) unites the Danish Duchy of Slesvig with the German County of Holstein by giving Slesvig as a fief to the Counts of Holstein. The unity between Slesvig and Holstein has remained ever since, although the northern part of Slesvig was split of in 1920.

Until 1440 the dukes of Slesvig fails to agree with their kings over the Duchy's duties in the realm.

Margrete, Queen-widow and mother of the late King Oluf, who had died in 1387, is acclaimed as "plenipotentiary lady and rightful warden" for Norway and Sweden.

Queen Margrete of Norway and Denmark unites all the Nordic countries as a single kingdom, the Kalmar Union, under the under-age Eric of Pomerania, who is crowned in Kalmar 1397.

Duty on goods through Öresund is introduced by King Erik of Pomerania. This becomes an important income for the Danish Crown, and creates heaps of enemies to the State of Denmark.

The house of Oldenburg (one of the branches of Counts of Holstein) was established on the throne in the person of Christian I and has continued to rule Denmark up to the present day.

King Christian I becomes Duke of the duchies of Slesvig (1460) and Holstein (1474). Holstein and Slesvig become twin duchies with peculiar rules for succession. In 1490-1721 both of the duchies are split in two or more parts, one of which is held by the king of Denmark.

15th ct
During the late 15th century male serfdom (vornedskab) was introduced on the islands.

The Kalmar Union is dissolved as the Swedes revolt after the "Stockholm bloodbath" performed by King Christian II of Denmark. Denmark and Norway remain united, however.

After the death of King Frederik I, the Civil "War of the Counts" (Grevefejden) between the rivals to throne follows. The parties struggled mainly over two issues: for or against Hanseatic influence and for or against a national Lutheran State Church. After 1536 the Hansa's dominance in Denmark's domestic politics was broken. Frederik's Lutheran son becomes King Christian III.

Reformation. Denmark becomes Lutheran.

Denmark-Norway has to cede Gotland, Jämtland, Ösel and Härjedal to Sweden in the Brömsebro peace after King Christian IV had intervened in the Thirty Years' War. Halland is ceded for 30 years.

In the peace treaty of Roskilde, Denmark-Norway cedes Skåne, Halland, Blekinge, Bohuslän, and Trøndelag (i.e. the district of Trondheim) to Sweden after a failed war against Sweden declared by King Frederik III the year before.

After the peace treaty Sweden continues the war and besieges Copenhagen for two years. However, this results in Trøndelag being returned to Norway and Bornholm (after an uprising) to Denmark.

A consequence of the disastrous war was that the monarchy was made hereditary in 1660, and royal Autocracy was introduced in 1661. The Autocracy came to last until 1848. The high aristocracy had lost its influence over the government.

Religious tolerance
Catholics (1671), Jews (1684) and Calvinists (1685) were granted rights to perform their own worship.

1675-79, 1700-21
In the "war of Scania" and later in the "Great Northern War", Denmark tries to conquer back the territory lost in 1658 but without success, due to pressure from the great powers of Europe. Sweden's collapse after the Great Northern War does, however, return Denmark some of its earlier position as a northern power.

The serfdom (vornedskab) is first abolished in 1702 (it was in use only on the islands), then re-invented for all of Denmark in 1733 under the name of stavnsbåndet - male peasants below the age of 36 were disallowed to move from the manor without consent of the landowner. (Less than 5% of the land was owned by peasants.)

All of the Duchy of Slesvig is ruled by the King of Denmark. In 1773 Denmark formally obtains the whole of Slesvig in exchange for Oldenburg. The Danish king also becomes Duke of Holstein (under the German Emperor), initially only with half of the Duchy, but from 1773 on, Holstein is united.

Grand reform of farming decided. Villages were split into separate farms, so farmers came to live closer to their land, more distant from their neighbors.

Serfdom (stavnsbåndet) is again abolished. As a consequence land-rent is fixed and paid in money, not in work, and then most farms are sold to the peasants. In 1815 60% of the farmers owned their own land, however heavily in debt. The difference between farm workers and farmers increased. (The farm workers constituted approximately the half of Denmark's population in 1801.)

April 1801
The battle of the Roadstead of Copenhagen (Slaget på Reden). The British force Denmark to retreat from the Armed Neutral Alliance with Sweden and Russia. Admiral Nelson was in charge of the part of the British fleet which partook in the battle.

September 1807
The British under Wellington bombard Copenhagen, to make Denmark cede its navy. Denmark becomes a French ally.

The alliance with Napoleon becomes a disaster for Denmark: the country goes bankrupt. In the peace treaty of Kiel, Denmark has to cede Norway to Sweden. Denmark also gets Swedish Pomerania which is traded with Prussia for Lauenburg. Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands remain with Denmark.

After a Prussian-inspired revolt in Schleswig-Holstein, the first war of Slesvig ends with status quo. Denmark still controls the duchies of Slesvig, Holstein, and Lauenburg.

King Fredrik VII authorized a new constitution instituting a representative form of government. In addition, wide ranging social and educational reforms took place.

Religious freedom was enacted and the Church was declared independent of the State, although this independence never has been realized - mainly due to internal conflicts in the Church - The King (the Queen) has remained the head of Church who appoints priests, confirms hymnals, etcetera.

Denmark adopts the "November Constitution" which aims to unite Slesvig (but not Holstein) with the Danish Kingdom and therefore is a violation of the peace treaty of 1851 in which Denmark had promised not to separate the two duchies. Due to this, Prussia and Austria declare war and conquer Slesvig, Holstein, and Lauenburg in the second war of Slesvig.

Parliamentarism is introduced in Denmark: No government can rule against the majority of the parliament.

Denmark remains neutral during World War I.

Denmark sells her three Caribbean islands to the USA for 25 million dollars (the present-day US Virgin Islands).

The northern part of /Sønderjylland (the former duchy of Slesvig) is rejoined with Denmark after a referendum.

Great social reforms were instituted, in effect founding Denmark's modern welfare state.

On April 9th, Germany occupies Denmark despite Denmark having declared itself neutral; the Danish government gives up military resistance. However, the Danes retain control of their government and parliament, which initially remain remarkably intact regardless of the Nazi occupation.

The relations between the Danish Government and the occupying German forces worsen rapidly. Most of the Danish Jews are evacuated to Sweden. Local resistance groups perform a number of sabotage actions during the war, and the Nazis retaliate with counter-terror.

Iceland breaks away from union with Denmark and declares independence.

4-5th of May: The German forces in Denmark surrender to Britain. The end of World War II ends the German occupation of Denmark. The German forces on Bornholm refuse to surrender to the Red Army, and Bornholm has to suffer Soviet bombardment before the Germans finally surrender a few days later.

The Faroe Islands are granted autonomy within the Danish Kingdom.

Denmark joins NATO as one of the founding members.

A new constitution alters the status of Greenland from colony to a "county" (amt) of Denmark. Parliament changes from a two-chamber system to a single-chamber system. By the same constitutional changes, Princess Margrethe becomes heir to the throne.

The Nordic Council founded.

Denmark joins the European Community (EC) after a referendum.

Greenland is granted home rule and starts taking over some of its internal affairs.

In a referendum Denmark votes "NO" to the Maastricht treaty (which designs a more federalized European Union). The "NO" vote shakes the whole European Community.

A new referendum on the Maastricht treaty - allowing Denmark to opt out on issues such as a common European currency, citizenship, defense policy, and police - is arranged and Denmark votes "YES" to that.

Present-day (i.e., Swedish or German) spellings for the former Danish/Norwegian landscapes and Danish controlled duchies have been used.


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3.3.2 The list of Danish monarchs

Denmark is probably the only country in the world that can produce an uninterrupted list of monarchs for more than thousand years. So here goes:
Chochilaichus (Hugleik?)  mentioned 515
(Angantyr? or Yngvin?)    mentioned in the beginning of the 8th century 
Sigfred                   mentioned in the end of the 8th century
Gudfred                   died around 810, mentioned 804
Hemming                   810-812
Harald Klak               812-813
Sons of Gudfred           mentioned 813-817
Hårik I (Horik)           died 854, mentioned from 827
Hårik II (Horik)          854-around 870
Olav                      mentioned in the 890's
Gnupa (Chnob) and Gurd    mentioned 909-919
Hardeknud (Hardegon) 
Gorm den Gamle            died around 940
Harald I Blåtand          around 940-around 986
Svend I Tveskæg           around 986-1014
Harald II                 1014-1018
Knud I den Store          1018-1035
Hardeknud                 1035-1042
Magnus den Gode           1042-1047
Svend II Estridsen        1047-1074
Harald III Hen            1074-1080
Knud II den Hellige       1080-1086
Oluf I Hunger             1086-1095
Erik I Ejegod             1095-1103
Niels                     1104-1134
Erik II Emune             1134-1137
Erik III Lam              1137-1146
Oluf II Haraldsen         1140-1143
Svend III Grathe          1146-1157
Knud III                  1146-1151 and 1154-1157
Valdemar I den Store      1154-1182
Knud IV (VI)              1182-1202
Valdemar II Sejr          1202-1241
Erik IV Plovpenning       1241-1250
Abel                      1250-1252
Christoffer I             1252-1259
Erik V Klipping           1259-1286
Erik VI Menved            1286-1319
Christoffer II            1320-1326 and 1330-1332
Valdemar III              1326-1330
Valdemar IV Atterdag      1340-1375
Oluf III                  1376-1387
Margrethe I               1375-1412
Erik VII af Pommern       1396-1439
Christoffer III af Bayern 1440-1448
Christian (Christiern) I  1448-1481
Hans                      1481-1513
Christian (Christiern) II 1513-1523
Frederik  I               1523-1533
Christian III             1534-1559
Frederik  II              1559-1588
Christian IV              1588-1648
Frederik  III             1648-1670
Christian V               1670-1699
Frederik  IV              1699-1730
Christian VI              1730-1746
Frederik  V               1746-1766
Christian VII             1766-1808
Frederik  VI              1808-1839
Christian VIII            1839-1848
Frederik  VII             1848-1863
Christian IX              1863-1906
Frederik  VIII            1906-1912
Christian X               1912-1947
Frederik  IX              1947-1972
Margrethe II              1972-


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3.3.3 Denmark during world war II

This section will probably get more material. Actually, this is one of the regular topics of discussion in the group. But few have yet had energy enough to write and propose a text for the faq.

From: Stan Brown <stbrown@nacs.net>
Subject: Yellow Stars (was Re: Denmark during WW2)
Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 12:03:02 -0400

> I also thought that Jews were required to wear stars, but that 
> the King himself put on a star, as did many others, and therefore 
> that the star identification system of the Nazis failed? 
On page 14 of Queen in Denmark by Anne Wolden-Ræthinge (Gyldendal, 1989, ISBN 87-01-08622-7 and 87-01-08623-5), HM Queen Margrethe II says:

"One of the stories one often hears about the Occupation, and which I persist in denying each time I hear it, is the story about Christian X wearing the yellow star of David as a demonstration during the Occupation. It is a beautiful and symbolic story, but it is not true. I do not mind it existing or being told, but I will not support a myth, even a good one, when I know it isn't true, it would be dishonest. But the moral behind the story is a far better one for Denmark than if the King had worn the star. The fact of the matter is that the Germans never did dare insist that Danish Jews wear the yellow star. This is a credit to Denmark which our country has cause to be proud of: I think this is an important fact to remember. The myth about the King wearing the star of David, well, I can imagine that this could have originated from a typical remark by a Copenhagen errand boy on his bicycle: 'If they try to enforce the yellow star here, the King will be the first to wear it!' -- I don't know whether this was the actual remark, but I imagine it could have been how the myth started. It is certainly a possible explanation I offer whenever I am asked. To me, the truth is an even greater honor for our country than the myth."

From: Henrik Ernoe <erno@wotan.ens.fr> 
Subject: Re: Denmark during WW2
Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 11:14:42 +0100

> If the Germans were mere occupiers, why did
> they sanction the destruction of the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen? 

First of all, the bombing of tivoli was a "Schalburgtage" committed by Danish Nazies not but the Germans, and it happenened after august 43, were the Danish government demissioned and the "peaceful" occupation and collaboration ended.

> But they did they effectively steal all of the Danish gold 
> reserves to finance their own war effort and bankrupt the 
> Danish treasury? 
The Germans did not steal the Danish gold reserves. The base for this story is the system with "clearing-accounts" in the National bank. The system worked as follows: When the German wanted to "buy" butter, bacon, guns, or whatever in Denmark, they paid with vouchers which the sellers would take to national bank to get their money. The Danish National bank then paid from the "clearing-account", which was then supposed to be repaid by the Germans, this however never happened (the account still amounts to several milliards in 1996).

That the Germans plundered Denmark this way is true, that they stole the gold reserves is not!

A lot of the stories are inaccurate or untrue and tend to polish the Danish image, which in view of the Governments acts from April 9th 1940 to 29 August 1943 is deeply tarnished by a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany.

There are things to proud of in Danish WWII history but the policy of the government and political establishment until 43 is not one of them.

It should never be forgotten that until 29 August 1943 the Danish government did all it could to hinder sabotage and other acts of resistance. And the greatest danger to the resistance was the Danish police not the Gestapo! When agents (Danes) from from the British SOE were parachuted into Denmark, it was the Danish police that hunted them down and murdered Rottböll and his comrades!

What saved our honor as a nation was the acts of a few people defying not only the Germans but also the Danish King, government and all the lawful authorities.

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- Is the text above really reliable?
- See the discussion in section 1.2.2!
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© Copyright 1994-2001 by Antti Lahelma and Johan Olofsson.
You are free to quote this page as long as you mention the URL.
The line of flags is modified after a picture at det Åländska skoldatanätet.
This page was last updated October the 27th in the year of 1998.

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