Wednesday, 18 August 2010

“Christian IX suggested Danish membership of German Confederation”

Politiken today (external link) tells about a coming book by Tom Buk-Swienty, titled Dommedag Als, which, based on research in the Danish Royal Archives, reveals that King Christian IX in July 1864 contacted King Wilhelm I of Prussia to suggest that Denmark join the German Confederation.
According to the article it was a desperate attempt from the King at avoiding losing Schleswig and Holstein following the defeat by Prussia and Austria in the war of 1864. The King at first made the proposal without consulting his government, which the article describes as bordering on treason, but with the government’s agreement he later repeated the proposal twice during the peace negotiations in Vienna.
The response of the Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, was however lukewarm. The Chancellor pointed out that such an arrangement would not solve the disagreements between Danish speakers and German speakers in Schleswig and that the Confederation thus might be obliged to support the King against the German Schleswigers. Access to the Danish fleet was what Bismarck considered spoke most strongly in favour of King Christian’s idea, but the Chancellor feared an aggressive response from France if the German fleet were significantly strengthened.
The author Tom Buk-Swienty says to Politiken: “I have often thought: Holy shit, does it really say that one tried to make Denmark part of Germany?” The answer to that question is in my opinion really no, as joining the German Confederation in 1864 did not mean becoming part of Germany. The Confederation was not a country in itself and consisted mostly of what was then the Habsburg empire and the territories which came to make up the German Empire, but these countries were by 1864 still 43 independent states. Two of them, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, remain independent states outside Germany and Austria to this day.
It could be added that this is another example of a welcome recent policy of Queen Margrethe’s to give researchers access to the papers in the Royal Archives. A decade ago the archive of the Glücksburg dynasty was entirely inaccessible, but since then several researchers have been given access: Birgitta Eimer for her political biography of Queen Sophia of Norway and Sweden, Tor Bomann-Larsen for his multi-volume biography of King Haakon and Queen Maud, I for my dissertation on the Swedish candidacy to the Norwegian throne in 1905, Roy Andersen for his book on the dissolution of the Swedish-Norwegian union in 1905 and Knud J. V. Jespersen for his biography of King Christian X.
The photo above shows Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen’s equestrian statue of King Christian IX outside Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen.

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