Monday, 14 May 2012

On this date: A centenary and a golden wedding

Today is the centenary of the death of King Frederik VIII of Denmark on 14 May 1912, an unfortunate monarch who is mostly remembered for little but the manner of his death. The King was staying overnight in Hamburg on his way back to Denmark from a private journey abroad, when he collapsed and died during an incognito evening stroll through Hamburg’s red light district, sparking many rumours about the circumstances of his death and final hours.
His death was only the last of the misfortunes which had come to put their mark on the life and legacy of Frederik VIII. His father, the arch-conservative antidemocrat Christian IX, lived to ripe old age and staunchly refused his liberal son, known as “the eternal crown prince”, any say in the affairs of state.
Following the bitter political struggles of Christian IX’s reign, the introduction of parliamentarianism was supposed to be the great reform of Frederik VIII’s reign. That this change of political system eventually occurred in 1901, before Frederik’s accession, meant that he was deprived of what seemed certain to be his great political legacy.
Among the unfortunate episodes of Frederik VIII’s brief reign were also the grand reception accorded to what turned out to be a faux “conqueror of the North Pole” and the so-called Alberti scandal, when a leading cabinet minister turned himself in to the police, having embezzled enormous sums from the state coffers.
Upon his death after only six years on the throne, Frederik VIII was succeeded by his eldest son, who was proclaimed King Christian X from the balcony of his mansion at Amalienborg the following day (the third Christiansborg Palace being, at that time, still unfinished after the fire of 1884 which left the second Christiansborg in ruins).
King Frederik VIII died on the same day as the great Swedish author August Strindberg, whose centenary is commemorated in many ways throughout this year.

Today is also the golden wedding anniversary of the King and Queen of Spain. However, the royal court made it clear well in advance that there would be no celebrations of the anniversary (because Queen Sofía has a memory like an elephant, Politiken joked…). Princess Sofia of Greece, the eldest child of King Pavlós I and Queen Frederika of the Hellenes, married Prince Juan Carlos of Spain in Athens on 14 May 1962. At the time the Spanish royal family was dispossessed, while the Greek royal family was still on the throne; a situation which before long would be turned around.

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