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Some Danish History of Interest

Denmark enters world history at a rather late stage, when the Egyptians were building pyramids, the early Danes were hunting with primitive stone implements; and when the Roman Empire was at its peak, the Danes were only beginning to discover the use of iron and bronze.

But when the Scandinavians finally asserted themselves on the European scene, it happened with a vengeance. In 765 a Viking fleet from Norway attacked Lindisfarne in England, and that event is usually seen as heralding the Viking Age.

During the following three hundred years or so Scandinavia played a prominent part in many important and dramatic events in Europe. Sweden, Norway and Denmark had each their own sphere of interest to suit their location. For the Swedes it was easy to cross the Baltic Sea and settle on the Baltic shore, from where they proceeded down the Russian rivers to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The Norwegians dominated the Atlantic Isles, Scotland and Ireland; they also settled in Iceland and Greenland and visited "Vinland" in North America. The Danes sailed along the coast of western Europe and to the eastern coast of England. Often men from more than one of these three countries would join together on these voyages.

Recent findings have revealed that the Vikings weren't the bloodthirsty hoodlums that historians have branded them as over the centuries. Rather, they were first and foremost tradespeople and farmers, albeit with piracy as a lucrative sideline. Archaeologists have found the in northern parto of Jylland the remains of a Christian church presumably from around 800 CE, and in other places there are traces of missionary work by Irish monks already around 700 CE.

The three Viking centuries changed Denmark fundamentally from being an almost unknown heathen area into a well-defined kingdom belonging to the European Christian societies. Around the year 1000 CE Denmark emerged as an independent state with one ruler, King Harald I Blaatand, and the Viking raids, being mostly individual profiteering enterprises, gradually died out. Previously, it was accepted that King Harald introduced Christianity to Denmark; however, it now appears that he was king at a time when the majority of Danish population was ready to accept the change to Christianity. It is, on the other hand, doubtful if ordinary Danes could be Christians unless the king was also a Christian. This happened when Harald was baptised in 965 CE. Archaeological finds seem to show that the christianisation of the people was a long and complicated process that began long before Harald could proclaim that the old Nordic gods were dismissed.

King Svend Tveskæg (aka Swegn/Swein Forkbeard) was in control of England for a two-year period in 1013-1014. He is the father of Knud den Store (aka Canute the Great), the first to truly unit England as one kingdom. Vikings had large areas of eastern England under their control, gaining and losing territory in various skirmishes, until Knud managed to gain full control in 1016. King Hardicanute's death in 1042 marked the termination of the epoch during which Danish kings occupied the English throne.

During the late 1100's and early 1200's, Denmark established enclaves along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea; even, in 1219, briefly conquering Estonia. But a long period of civil wars and struggles with north German cities, beginning in the 1240's, greatly weakened the country. Denmark still remained a power to be reckoned with on the European scene, but as the constituent elements of Europe gradually changed from small dukedoms to larger, stronger centralized powers, Denmark's political and military importance waned.

The older Danish nobility had established their estates during the late middle ages (the 12th to 14th centuries). This was a violent time, filled with many uncertainties, and made worse by a relatively weak monarchy. As a result many peasants saw an advantage in selling their farm to a strong estate-owner and then renting it from him, under the condition that they would also get protection. A second group of estate-owners was established much later, in the 16th to 18th centuries, as a result of the Reformation. During the Reformation the king became the head of the church; which also meant he took over the property of the church. During the following centuries the king sold this land, or gave it as presents, to reward people who had done something for him (often this included lending money to the crown, which was always in need of it). This resulted in the second group of nobility becoming established - many of these people originated from the Germanic states.

In the medieval period the peasants had been declared vornedskabe (bound). This meant that the descendants of tenured peasants could be forced to stay on the vornedegaard they were working; and it gave the owner of the farms the right to recall a dead peasant's heir to take over working the land. By the 1500s those tenured peasants who lived on estate-owned farms worked off a portion of their taxes by service in the manor's fields. A tithe (10% of their harvest) was paid to the church, and another portion to either the king or the owner of the estate upon which their farm was located.

As an institution the Danish Landsting (a provincial congress or diet) probably stems from the old Germanic tradition of the folkeforsamling (gathering of the people), wherein all the arms bearing warriors met to talk over their common concerns and make necessary decisions. Later, during the Middle Ages, the High Court was the meeting place only for Frie Mænd, which constituted the kingdoms upper-class of frimænd (freemen) and selvejerbønderne (freehold farm-owners); the fæstebønder (copyhold peasants) and trælle (slaves), which constituted the vast majority of the Danish populace, were not allowed to participate. Needles to say, the king had the ultimate say on any given issue.

However, during the 1200s things changed: the king probably became too busy and therefore he appointed a substitute to oversee each county's gathering. By the 1300s the man chosen by the king to represent him in each of the counties was known as a Landsdommer (Chief Justice); further, the king now also appointed a group of 8 to 12 men from each county to sit alongside that county's judge on 4 stokke (benches); they were known as the Tingmændene (or Stokkemændene). Under each county's Landsting (congress or diet) were a number of lower courts, the Herredsting (district congress). The judgement of a provincial congress could only be overruled during a Herredag (Herre: Gentleman, Master, or Lord; and dag: day), wherein the king himself presided alongside the country's noblemen. Each county's congress also functioned as a local Herreting, for a freeman could not be judged by his local district congress, but rather only by his county's chief justice, who - as another freeman - was his social equal.

In 1320 Christopher II became king of Denmark, but few trusted him as he had been involved in an uprising against his brother, King Erik Menved, and had proven himself to be treacherous. The country's finances were on the verge of collapse, and the country itself seemed to be facing dissolution. The nobles therefore started negotiations with Count Gert of Holstein, who was widely regarded as being talented and efficient. Count Gert took immediate action and had his nephew, Duke Valdemar, elected King of Denmark. In a desperate attempt to keep his thrown, King Christopher pledged the island of Fyn and most of northern Jylland to a German, Count Gert, as security for large sums of money, and Skåne and the island of Sjælland to Gert's cousin, Count John. Christopher managed to officially regain his crown; however, he did not have the remotest prospect of being able to repay the loans, and so not one single bit of land remained in his possession.

As a result Denmark was effectively without a king for eight years. Count Gert and Count John controlled all the Danish territories with the exception of North Schleswig, which was still ruled by Duke Valdemar. King Christopher died in 1332, a deserted and impoverished man. In complete disregard of the customs and privileges of the peasants, Denmark's new German masters imposed crippling taxes. As a result the eastern provinces of Skåne, Halland and Bohus backed out of the union, and turned to the Swedish king, Magnus Smek, who agreed to rule as both the king of Sweden and of the provinces.

In 1340 the situation came to a head with the murder of Count Gert. King Christopher's youngest son, Valdemar Atterdag, was acknowledged King of Denmark. He proved himself to be a determined and talented politician, and he set about the task of reconstructing the country. To finance this he sold Estonia to the German nobles, redeemed land here, conquered land there, and bit-by-bit he consolidated the country. Finally, he invaded the eastern provinces of Skåne, Halland and Bohus and incorporated them once more under Danish rule.

Denmark gained further power and influence under Queen Margrethe I. Margrethe's 5 year old son, Oluf, became the ruler of Denmark in 1375; however, after renouncing her claim to the Danish thrown, his 22 year old mother ruled on his behalf, becoming Denmark's uncrowned Queen. Margrethe was the youngest daughter of Denmark's previous ruler, Valdemar Atterdag (reigned 1340-1375), and was married to the King of Norway, Hakon VI; and after his death in 1380 Margrethe became the ruler of Norway. In 1387 her young son Oluf died, after which the Danes and Norwegians proclaimed her "Dame of our Kingdoms, Master of our House, Mighty Guardian". In 1388, during political confusion in Sweden her army defeated their king, Albrecht of Mecklenburg. Eventually the Swedish nobles elected her ruler of Sweden as well. Margrethe adopted her elder sister's grandson, who was from Pomerania, and diplomatically renamed him with a Scandinavian name: Eric. The Union of Kalmar, in 1397, united Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and duly crowned Eric as the King of Scandinavia; from now on the three kingdoms were to be united under one King, to be elected jointly. This lasted 126 years, until Sweden broke away from the union in 1523. In 1536 King Christian III made Norway a province of Denmark. Denmark and Norway were united for 434 years, until the end of the Napeleonic Wars in 1814, wherein the Treaty of Kiel forced Denmark to cede Norway to Sweden. However, under the terms of the treaty Denmark managed to retain the Norwegian territories of Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands.

The next 200 years encompassed significant and complex changes in the political landscape of the Baltic region. This included the final decline of the Hanseatic League, the virtual elimination of Poland, the dwindling of Denmark - both in terms of its borders and influence, conterpointed by the dramatic rise in influence and power of Sweden, and the advance of Russia and Brandenburg-Prussia. All of this against a backdrop of religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

The Reformation penetrated the Scandinavian countries in the early 1500s; supported by its merchants and peasants, and by devout priests who had become followers of Martin Luther. King Frederik I (reigned 1523-1533), who became quite religious in his later years, strongly promoted the establishment of the Lutheran Church. He allowed the leading Danish religious reformer, Hans Tavsen, to preach in the church at Viborg and ordered many Catholic churches in the region destroyed, despite violent protests. It was King Christian III (reigned 1534-1559), son of Frederik I, who established the state Lutheran Church in Denmark. With the support of the Rigsrad - his advising council of lay members - the king ordered all Catholic property turned over to the crown, and declared the Lutheran Church the national church of Denmark with the king as its head. Shortly before King Frederik IV died in 1730, a law was passed enforcing attendance at the Sunday church service. In the towns absence was punished with fines, while in country the penalty was the pillory. From 1660 to 1849, a period of absolute monarchy in Denmark, all Danes were compelled to profess the Lutheran faith. Today, a majority of Danes have stopped being religious of their own volition: only about 25 percent of Danes believe in a personal deity and belief in life after death hovers in the low 30 percent range. Around 80 percent of Danes believe the theory of evolution, while roughly 10 percent believe in Hell. Their rate of weekly church attendance is among the lowest on Earth. Scandinavians rank near the top in charitable giving to poor nations, their murder rate is among the lowest in the world and they have a comprehensive social safety net for their poorest citizens. The Nordic worldview has been described variously as "gentle agnosticism" ("No, I don't believe in God ... but I do believe in something") or "benign indifference".

The law in Denmark, from 1523 onward, stated that as long as a peasant kept up his part of the lease agreement on his farm - such as paying the taxes, improving the land, and working on the estate - the landowner could not take the lease away from him. This meant that a farmer could keep his land until his death. When a man got too old to work the farm, he would usually sign over the lease to his oldest son (on Bornholm it was the youngest son). The legal document signing over the lease would include a section guaranteeing that the farmer and his wife receive undentag - meaning that they received room and board for the rest of their lives.

In 1624 the Danish Postal Service was established. The Danish currency system established in 1625 consisted of: 12 pfennig = 1 skilling, 16 skilling = 1 mark, 6 mark = 1 rigsdaler and 8 mark = 1 krone. In 1618 a religious war began in Europe between the Protestants and the Catholics, it lasted for 30 years; by 1625 Denmark had joined the war on the side of the Protestants. Soon the Danes began to loose, possibly because their allies didn't provide assistance. By 1627 the enemy occupied the entire Jylland peninsula. On January 6th 1629 peace negotiations began in the Hanseatic Free City of Lübeck. Amazingly, Denmark was not forced to give up any of its territory, nor did it have to pay indemnity against enemy losses.

The early to mid-1600s visited great losses on the Danish populace. In 1601, 1618-19, 1625-26, 1629, 1636-37, 1645-46, 1651 and 1654-55 the Bubonic plague struck the populace, killing many thousands of people. According to a physician, named Ole Worm, in the 1645-46 plague killed about 5,000 people in the København region alone. The Bubonic plague struck again in 1651, and then, as if this was not enough, another wave of plague struck again 1653-1654, this time killing another 8,551 people - one-third of København's population! On Bornholm the "Great Plague" of 1653-1654 killed a total of 4,895 people, probably at least a quarter of the population died.

By tradition, once a couple's betrothal was officially announced in church, they could begin living together as man and wife. For many marriages were formed as the result of necessity: a widowed man or woman quickly needed a new wife/husband to look after his/her children/farm. The practice of living together once betrothed allowed them to put off the more involved wedding ceremony, and celebration, to a more convenient time - usually 2 or 3 months later. As a result it is not uncommon to see children being born 9 months after the betrothal, rather than after the wedding.

A widow usually had to hurry and find a new husband to take over the obligations connected with the lease. If the widow had children, then the new husband took over the management of the as an opsidder - which is a very old Danish word used to describe a man who marries a widow who has a child who is heir to the farm. (On Bornholm this was always the youngest son, and if no sons - then the oldest daughter.) When the heir reached the age of maturity, his mother and her new husband would hand over the farm to the heir; after which they would either retire or find another farm for themselves.

By the 1700s, serfdom was prevalent: 3/4 of the land belonged to only a few hundred estate-owners, and most of the rest belonged to either the crown or the church; there were very few peasant class freehold landowners. One exception to this was the island county of Bornholm, where the percentage of freeholders was much higher, similar to that of Sweden. On October 20th 1728 a fire began in København, it lasted for 3 days and destroyed over 40% of the city.

During the reign of Christian VI (reigned 1730-1746) the peasants were declared stavsbaand (adscript). This new law, introduced in 1733, stated that males between 14 and 36 needed permission to leave the estate where they were born. It was created to both assure the existence of a permanent, stable labour force, and to facilitate military conscription. In 1742 the age-limit was extended to between 9 and 40 years of age. This meant that all men living in rural areas, who were descendants of tenured peasants, were forced to remain living on the same estate for the entire period of time during which they were liable for military service. There was no freedom of movement: a man could only move to another estate if his estate-landowner gave permission. Those who ran away were tortured if they were caught.

In 1784 Crown Prince Frederik took over as ruler of Denmark by coup d'etat; first ruling as Crown Prince, later ascending to the throne in 1808 as King Frederik VI; he ruled the country for 55 years. Very early in his regency he instigated many major reforms, such as freeing the peasants in 1788 by abolishing the Stavsbaand Law - which had tied the peasants to the landed estates (i.e. the common farming people were allowed to live wherever they liked); and promoting trade and education. School attendance became compulsory in 1814, elementary schools were established and children between the ages of seven and fourteen were required to attend.

Most peasants became tenured copyholders, in other words, a farmer often held a copyhold on the farm he rented so that his son could take it over from him at his death. Under certain circumstances a landowner might transfer a farmer from a good farm to one that had been neglected in order that he might re-develop it. A freehold landowner was known as a Selvejer - literally meaning: self-owner; an upper class property-owner was a Proprietær, or further up the social ladder a Godsejer (Squire). After the abolishment of serfdom the farming descendants of the Fæste Bonde (adscript peasant) were known simply as farmers (in Danish: Gårdmand, later as an Avler, Avlsmand or Avlsbruger). A man who owned his farm was known as a Gårdejer. A tenant farmer was known as an Udbygger. A small landholder was a Husmand, and a landless smallholder was a Jordløs Husmand, and later as a Bolsmand.

Prior to the 19th century cities in Denmark had quite a different purpose and orientation than do cities today. Today we distinguish the difference between a city or township and a village to be one of size. The bigger the town, the more likely we would consider it to be a city. This was not the case in Denmark in the 1700s and before, when many of the rural parishes had more inhabitants than some of the townships. A city or township (a købstad) during this time period was considered as such, not because of the size of its population, but because of the nature of the enterprise taking place within its boundaries. The city was made up of tradesmen and merchants, not farmers. There were tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, merchants, shoemakers, tanners, etc. Townships were licensed and designated by the crown as places for selling wares and services. Rural farmers could come to sell their goods, which could then be sold or shipped to other markets.

In Denmark, a person did not become a citizen of a city or township (a Borger = Burgher) simply by virtue of being born there. Burgher citizenship was a valuable privilege that included the right to engage in business, rights and protections under the law, permission to reside in a community without being expelled. Burgher citizenship was extended by individual communities to some of their inhabitants, primarily those who were engaged in business and trade, and did not pertain to citizenship in the country as a whole. Until the twentieth century, only males of the middle and upper classes, mostly merchants and tradesmen, were granted the status of burgher citizenship.

The way rural settlements were organized had not really altered since the Middle Ages. Peasants lived closely side-by-side in small villages and had "co-operated" ever since ancient times. All land belonging to the village was cultivated by the community as a whole and in accordance with decisions made by the peasants themselves at their village Thing meetings. Part of the rent, known as "manorial dues", was to be worked off by a peasant on the land belonging to a manor or to the state; this often meant neglecting his own harvest. Although the local Squire was not interested in the farmers being obliged to neglect his own land to such an extent that he ended up being unable to meet his rent, this privilege was often abused; as a result the productivity of the Danish farmer was rather low. King Frederik VI's reforms allowed each peasant the opportunity of consolidating his various fields into one whole. Many farmers abandoned village life to live on their own land, whereby the entire Danish landscape began to alter in appearance. At this same time agricultural methods were being revolutionized - resulting in a period of greater productivity and prosperity for Danish farmers.

The industrial revolution reached Denmark some 50 to 75 years after it had hit England, but once the ball started rolling things picked up remarkably fast. In 1800 Denmark was still an industrial backwater and yet a mere 100 years later industry had achieved a dominant position. These changes in turn also affected agriculture. The fast growing population in the cities here and abroad created a marked rise in the demand for agricultural produce and as a consequence Denmark shed some of the remaining vestiges of the feudal system to adapt itself to new modes of production.

The world famous writer of children's fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen, was born in Odense in 1805. His parents were Hans Andersen (Træs) and Anne Marie Andersdatter. His father was a poor independent shoemaker who died not long after Hans Christian's 11th birthday. Two years later, on July 8, 1818 (in St. Knud's Church), his mother remarried, to Niels Jørgensen Gunderse (1787-1822), the son of my own ancestors Jørgen Nielsen Gunderse (born 1742 in Gundersøe, Ubberud parish) and Anne Laursdatter (born c.1750 in Skalbjerg, Vissenbjerg parish) of Odense, and brother to my ancestor Lars Christian Jørgensen (1783-1851) of Odense. (Note: his marriage and burial record gives his name as: Niels Jørgensen Gundersen!) In other words, my great- great- great- great- granduncle was Hans Christian Andersen's stepfather! Hans Christian Andersen's autobiography tells us the following: "My mother married again, and her second husband was also a young shoemaker. His family, too, were artisans, but they thought he had married below himself and neither my mother nor myself were permitted to visit them. My stepfather was a quiet young man with lively, brown eyes, and was good-tempered as a rule. He said he would not interfere in my education, and he did indeed allow me to follow my own inclinations." Hans Christian Andersen left Odense in 1819, at age 14, moving to København to seek his fortune in the theater. His first work of fiction was published in 1829. He died in København in 1875.

In August of 1843 the now world famous amusement park Tivoli opened in København. In 1844 the first railroad line in the Danish kingdom opened for business, it ran between Kiel and Altna (near Hamburg). The second line opened in 1845, connecting København to Roskilde, a distance of 31 kilometers (19 miles).

The Hanseatic League and Denmark

The Hanseatic League played an important roll in the history of Denmark. The Hansa was an association of medieval Germanic cities and merchant groups, which became a powerful economic and political force in northern Europe. With a centre for meetings in the Free City of Lübeck, the members established an important trading network in the Baltic. Which consisted of a string of commercial bases stretching from Novgorod to London and from Bergen to Bruges. Its earliest union dates to 1241, when Lübeck and Hamburg made agreements for mutual defence in trading; the first meeting of the Diet in 1256 included: Lübeck, Hamburg, Lünenburg, Wismar, Rostock, and Stralsund; later other towns joined the league.

Lübeck is located on two small streams connecting with Lübeck Bay. It has five 13-14th century Gothic churches, a Gothic town hall, and a 13th century hospital. Founded in 1143 by the Count of Holstein; it was taken by Henry the Lion in 1158. Lübeck secured final privileges of an Imperial "free-city" in 1226, and became leading centre for medieval German trade in Baltic region and the "Queen of Hansa". It began its decline from power in the 16th century.

The league reached the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries when it contributed to the defeat of Valdemar IV of Denmark in 1367-68, and secured control of Baltic trade by Peace of Stralsund in 1370. Including such widely separated places as Novgorod, Reval, Riga, Danzig (Gdánsk), Magdeburg, Cologne, Bruges, and London; and gave trading privileges to merchants of many other towns. In its heyday during the 14th century the Hansa included well over 100 towns; its influence gradually faded with the emergence of powerful competitor states. The last meeting of the Diet was held in Lübeck in 1669. Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen retained the term “Hanseatic town” as long as they were imperial free-cities.

The Danish king, Erik VII, built a stronghold at Elsinore, over-looking the only seagoing access to the Baltic Sea, and in 1426 began to levy duties on all passing ships. The Baltic cities allied themselves with Duke Henry III of Holstein and declared war on Denmark. They did not strike at once, but delayed until 1427, when they sent out a fleet under several commanders, who quarrelled among themselves. They plundered and ravaged the unprotected islands of Ærø, Møn, Falster, and Bornholm; and then attacked Flensburg, where during a night attack Henry III lost his life, which caused the Hanseatic fleet to abandon the siege and sail away.

In 1509 Denmark and Lübeck were engaged in another one of their numerous skirmishes. The Danes had a famous battleship called the "Svane" (English: Swan) - which was reputed to be the largest and most powerful in the world; but the Lübeck'ers in several small vessels surprised, attacked and destroyed it. After this victory a fleet of 14 Lübeck ships ravaged the Danish islands and did much damage to Danish shipping. Nine Swedish ships joined them, and the combined fleet almost ruined Lolland and Bornholm.

Later, in the summer of 1509, a great naval battle took place between 16 Lübeck men-of-war and 17 Danish ships of about equal size and strength. One of the latter was a new vessel, the Engel (English: Angel), larger than the unlucky Svane had been. The Lübeck'ers had landed some of their guns and men to attack the fortress of Hammershus, on the northern tip of Bornholm, when the Danish fleet appeared, quite unexpectedly, and attacked at once. The battle lasted all day, and at night both sides claimed the victory. Some days later the fight was resumed, when, after several hours of fierce contest, the Engel had her rudder shot away and was taken in tow by her companions, and the whole Danish fleet fled.

King Christian II made himself so unpopular with his Danish subjects that they rebelled, and the nobles offered his brother Frederik, Duke of Holstein, the crown. He accepted and agreed to confirm all of Lübeck's ancient privileges if they would assist him gain the thrown. In 1523 they sent an army of merchantmen and besieged København, forcing Christian II to flee.

A Concise History of Danish Territorial Losses

Under King Valdemar II, reigned 1202-1241, the kingdom reached its greatest size. He conquered Pomerania, Estonia, and parts of Mecklenburg; was sovereign over all of Denmark, the south-western coast of the Swedish peninsula, and had dominion over the entire Baltic coast-line. The Union of Kalmar, in 1397, united the kingdoms of "Danmark, Sverige, og Norge" for 126 years.

The Swedes declared war on Denmark in 1643, invaded Jylland and Skåne and on June 29, 1644 defeated the Danish fleet. In the resulting Peace of Brömsebro of 1645, Denmark ceded to Sweden the islands Ösel and Gotland, the provinces Jämtland, Härjedal and Halland - the latter for thirty years (however, it was never returned). Later Skåne, Blekinge, and Bohus, all Danish provinces for 500 years, were lost to Sweden as a result of the Peace of Roskilde, signed in 1658. The territory of Skåne now comprises the counties (läns) of Malmöhus and Kristianstad.

Sweden, along with their Dutch allies, began a war against Denmark in 1643. The Swedish Commander, Lennart Torstensson, crossed the Danish southern frontier in December of 1643 and quickly occupied Jylland peninsula, while Louis DeGeer's army, based in Stockholm, seized the province of Skåne. This two-pronged attack took the Danes by surprise, but the elderly King Christian IV rouse up to the challenge. The 67 year old king was tireless in organizing his navy and in raising forces, and the next April the Danish fleet met and defeated the Dutch navy, which was preparing to carry Torstensson's troops from the peninsula to the islands of Fyn and Sjælland. The defeated Dutch sailed back to Holland, but in June a Swedish fleet of forty ships appeared in the western Baltic. King Christian engaged the enemy in a ten-hour long battle in which he lost an eye and was wounded in thirteen places. The Swedish fleet was forced to flee to Kiel where it combined with the Dutch to attack the Danes near the island of Lolland. In this battle the Danish, who were outnumbered by two to one, lost fifteen of their seventeen ships by sinking or capture, and King Christian was forced to sue for peace.

In 1657 King Frederik III declared war on Sweden. Through out the autumn of 1657 the fighting went back and forth between Ängelholm and Halmstad. When the alarming news came that the Swedish King, Karl Gustav X, had halted his campaign against the northern German states and had turned his entire army toward the Danish southern-border, the Danish military-command recalled the cavalry stationed in Skåne. That winter turned out to be unusually cold, already in January 1658 the sea-ice was spreading rapidly.

The Swedish forces, under General Wrangel, invaded Jylland from the south. They took Frederiksodde fortress and from there they marched across the ice (an unprecedented feat, possible only because of the unusual cold) to the island of Fyn, and hence onward to Lolland and then Sjælland. This meant that København was open to attack, forcing the Danish government to sue for peace, and in the resulting Peace of Roskilde (February 1658) Denmark lost its provinces Skåne (Scania) and Blekinge, the district of Bohus, Trondheim (in Norway), and the island county of Bornholm.

The Swedish king renewed the war - in spite of the recently signed treaty - in August of 1658 by landing at Korsør and shortly afterwards surrounding København, this time firmly intent on "erasing" Denmark. This meant the situation had been radically altered for both Printzensköld and the Bornholmers. Printzensköld was stranded, and felt himself isolated on an island with a hostile populace whom he was forced to rob for money and young soldiers for the Swedish Army. While the Bornholmers felt ill at ease over the occupying forces being at war with their motherland, hoping that liberation would soon be the outcome. The prospects of Denmark did not look too promising that fall: København was the only remaining stronghold, and King Frederik III had declared that he "would die in his nest."

Luckily for Denmark a Dutch armada appeared in the Øresund and came to their rescue. For the Dutch had taken over the Hanseatic League role as protectors of free-trade in the region, and they considered that the Swedes would become too dominating a force if they managed to amalgamate Denmark.

A Concise History of Bornholm

The island of Bornholm was formed about 1,700 million years ago. The first humans arrived on the island about 10,000 years ago; this was at the end of the last Ice Age via a peninsula which at that time connected the island to the continent. These early dwellers lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Around 4000 BCE a shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculture took place in Northern Europe. Settlements can be found spread out over the whole island, although they are concentrated near brooks, lakes and meadows. Flint was imported for use as tools; the flint can be traced to the region around Øresund and to the Baltic coast to the south-west of Bornholm. There still exist many ancient graves and dolmens from the Neolithic Age.

Around the year 1800 BCE bronze was brought to Bornholm. While agriculture dominates during this time, the bones of domesticated cattle, pigs and sheep have been found. Cremation was the custom during the later part of the Bronze Age. At least 800 barrows have been found, however it is likely many more have been demolished by farmers over the years, and rock carvings (some of which depict sailing ships) can be dated to the Bronze Age. The archealogical remnants tell of a closer connection to Skåne, Øland, Gotland, and to the Baltic coast to the south of Bornholm (northern Germany and Poland).

The Iron Age began on Bornholm around 500 BCE and lasted until about 800 CE. Many more archeological finds from this period have been unearthed on Bornholm than in the rest of Denmark. Up to about 400 CE the main character of the island was village settlement; thereafter individual farmsteads began to dominate, and this remained the predominant manner of living through the Middle Ages and on up into the modern period. Around 400 CE the burial custom changed from cremation to burial of the body beneath low earth heaps. In contrast to the poorly equipped graves of the Bronze Age, the graves of the Iron Age gradually increase in wealth. In the Paradisbakkerne hills, in the southeastern part of the island, there is an ancient refuge, from around the year 500 CE, when the people of Bornholm fought against wandering tribes. Gamleborg fortress, situated in the Paradisbakkerne hills, was also used as a defence against Viking marauders. A treasure of Roman gold coins from this period was unearthed near Svaneke.

It is around 800 CE that Denmark first begins to be mentioned in the written records from abroad, and this can be reckoned as the dividing line between the Iron Age and the Viking Age. The graves from the Viking Age were marked by small peaks on hill sides and their dead were buried in wood or stone coffins. The buried treasures on Bornholm from this era contain many more German coins than are found in the rest of Denmark.

The earliest documented mention of Bornholm dates from circa 890 CE, as recorded by an English king, Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. An Anglo-Saxon trader by the name of Wulfstan related to King Alfred his journey of seven days and nights eastward from Hedeby (in Schleswig) into the Baltic Sea to the town of Truso, at the mouth of the Vistula river (in Poland). According to Wulfstan, at that time Burgendaland (as he named Bornholm) was a sovereign state with its own king. Bornholm very likely became part of the Danish kingdom circa 975-985 CE, when Harald Blaatand, as he proclaimed on the famous Jelling rune stone, “conquered all of Denmark.” The 40 rune stones on Bornholm are younger than those found in the rest of Denmark and show influences from Sweden; many bear a Christian stamp and can obviously be dated to after the advent of Christianity in Denmark: early to mid-1000 CE.

The Middle Ages began with the end of the Viking Age, around the 1060s. This period marks to advent of a new power on Bornholm, namely the Catholic Church, whose representative was the Archbishop of Lund. It is known that very early on the Danish crown sent a Høvding (Chieftain) to govern the island, and that the island was divided up into four (4) counties, each incorporating 120 farmsteads. Around the year 1200 Schleswig town council records tell us that several Bornholmer merchants resided in their town – proof of an extensive trade network between the two regions.

Sometime around 1060 the Archbishop of Lund, Egin, brought Christianity to Bornholm for the very first time. By the early 1100s the building of all of the 15 parish churches had begun. Two of the stone churches were named after the Virgin Mary: (Vestermarie and Østermarie parish). One was dedicated to the Archangel Michael (Rutsker parish). Five churches were dedicated to Apostles: John (Åker parish), Andrew (Rø parish), Jacob (Ibsker parish), Paul (Poulsker parish), and Peter (Pedersker parish). Three were dedicated to the Nordic saints: Knud (Knudsker parish), Olaf (Olsker parish), and Botulf (Bodilsker parish). Three were dedicated to other saints: Clemens, aka Pope Clement I, (Klemensker parish), Laurentius (Østerlars parish), and Nicholas (Nylars parish). And one church was dedicated to All Saints (Nyker parish).

In 1149 the Danish king gave Eskild, the Archbishop of Lund, the control of three (3) of Bornholm's four districts: Haslæ (aka Hasle, modern: Nordre/Nørre), Hænnings (aka Henning's, modern: Øster), and Michlinga (modern: Sønder). This meant that the archbishop had the same right to demand taxes as the crown with just a few exceptions. At about the same time the king had Lilleborg castle built in the Almindingen Forest (at the center of the island, it is the oldest royal castle in the Nordic region) to oversee the management of his one remaining district on the island: Rothnæ (aka Rønne, modern: Vester) district. This division of control over the island set the scene for many disputes during the coming centuries between the Danish king and the archbishop in Lund. In 1259 Archbishop Jacob Erlandsen's forces captured Lilleborg and burned it down; he then took control of Hammershus fortress on the northern tip of the island. Hammershus was nearly impregnable, and is the largest fortress in the Nordic region.

In spite of this, King Erik Klippinge managed to recapture Hammershus in 1265, and as a result he controlled all of Bornholm for the next 11 years. However, by 1266 he had to mortgage Rønne district to Duke Jaromar's son because of poor fiscal management. In 1276 he was forced to give in to the powerful archbishop and hand back control of the 3 captured districts. In 1277 Jaromar's son sold the mortgage on Rønne district to the Uffe Nielsen Neb; his son later inherited the mortgage over the district.

The friction between the Danish crown and the archbishop in Lund was continued by the next generation. Denmark's next king, Erik Menved, was forced to hand over the control of the crown's district on Bornholm to the new archbishop, Jens Grand, in the late 1290s. However, since Uffe Nielsen Neb's son now held the mortgage on Rønne (Vester) district, and the king was unable to buy out the mortgage, he had to give the archbishop another district in Skåne province.

The next archbishop, Esger Juul, ratcheted up the conflict when he took over Hammershus fortress and gathered outlaws and mercenaries around himself. Next, he banned the Danish king and asked Sweden for support!  However, this was too much for the canons attached to Lund Cathedral; they provided the king with a letter of support, which he used in an appeal to the Pope. As a result the archbishop was forced to flee to Pomerania.

In 1310 King Erik Menved sent his marshal, Ludvig Albertsen Eberstein, to recapture Hammershus for the crown. But the king died before the end of that year, and the new king, Christopher II, made an agreement with Esger Juul, who had won over the Pope to his cause. A compromise ended with the king agreeing to give over control of all of Bornholm to Archbishop Esger Juul, provided that his marshal, Ludvig Albertsen Eberstein, was installed at Hammershus as the archbishop's representative on the island. This compromise lasted for about 5 years, until the king sent his new marshal, Peder Pedersen Vendelbo, to capture Hammershus. After a 16 month long siege the fortress was forced to open its gates to the king's troops in 1325. However this turn of events didn't last long, as already by 1326 King Christopher II was forced into exile: he was widely regarded as being incompetent and untrustworthy. Although the young Duke Valdemar was then elected as king, for all practical purposes the kingdom was without a king for the next eight years. Due to his weak hold on power Valdemar was forced to hand back control of Bornholm to the archbishop. In 1327 the archbishop bought the mortgage for Rønne district from Uffe Nielsen Neb's son. For almost all of the next 200 years the archbishop in Lund ruled over Bornholm; only briefly did King Valdemar Atterdag retake the island in 1361-62.

It was also in 1327 that the fishing community of Rønne was granted the status of købstad (mercantile township). This meant that the town was now large enough to require a mayor and council, a law court, and the granting of crown licensed borgerskab burgher status (middleclass citizenship) to the town's merchants and tradesmen. Very little is known about Rønne's early history, but it is probable that by the year 1000 CE there were as many as a few dozen houses built close to the harbour and present church site. It is not until the 1200s that archaeological evidence for the town exists. At the end of the 1200s a small chapel (consecrated to the seafarer's saint: Nicholas) was built on the site where Rønne's current church stands. Hanseatic League merchants from the north German city of Greifswald quickly established trade relations with Rønne, and by 1400 they had formed a guild to protect their interests during their summer trade fairs. In 1360 the church was enlarged and within 20 years it received independent parish status, freed from its connection to its parent church in Knudsker parish. The church received an addition in the 1500s and later a steeple with a spire was added.

That the Hanseatic League had a strong influence over Bornholm can be seen in a fable dating back to the late 1300s. Lübeck had long had an aggressive history of attacking Danish territory, once even sacking København and stealing off with the city's bells!  In 1362 the Burgomester (Mayor) of Lübeck, Johann Wittenborg, was in charge of a Hansa fleet that disastrously lost a battle with Denmark. This entirely unauthenticated fable relates that Wittenborg had betrayed his trust in return for a dance with the Queen of Denmark, promising to her as a reward the island of Bornholm. That the fable has some basis in truth is supported however by the fact that for a long while there survived in Lübeck the expression, "He is dancing away Bornholm," when some one light-heartedly did an unjustifiable deed. The Lübeck'ers exacted revenge against Wittenborg for their humiliation: they executed him in the town's square!

Bornholm's favourable placement within the international trade routes of the Baltic Sea was of great importance to the growth of the industry and economy of the island during the Middle Ages. Because of Rønne's growing importance as a stop over for the Baltic trade routes all the trading ports in the Baltic became interested in gaining a foothold on Bornholm. During peace time this resulted in a flourishing economy, but in times of war it brought plundering and heavy taxes. In the early 1500s Bornholm was attacked several times by the Lübeck'ers. There was a huge demand for herring, an important food during Catholic Lent, and thus many Bornholmers became fishermen and merchants, and many of the islands townships began to appear as a result of the flourishing economy. However, by the mid-1500s there was both a decline in the herring fishery and a westward movement of the trade routes, and this resulted in agriculture becoming the main industry.

Finally, in 1522, the archbishop had to cede Bornholm to King Christian II. He was himself, however, forced into exile in 1523. The next king, Frederik I, had to hand Bornholm back to the archbishop! Because of King Frederik I's subsequent inability to pay debts owed to the "Lybækkerne" (a total of 158,000 Lübeck marks), he was forced to forfeit the control of Bornholm to Lübeck for 50 years, starting circa 1525. The natives of Bornholm are recorded to have groaned under the Hansa's rule, and declared: "they would rather be under the Turks, than under the German, Christian, imperial free-city." King Frederik took pity on them and declared the inhabitants to be under his protection - this was to little avail though.

During those long years the island had been considered the Queen-city-of-the-Hansa's special possession; they had made much profit from the enforced payment of dues, and the export of such valuable commodities as limestone. In 1543 a group of Lübeck and Danish commissionaries were appointed to settle a dispute regarding money owing to Lübeck by some Bornholmers. Various meetings were held around the island to settle the matter. The farmers from Østermarie and Ibsker parishes that were involved met at the farm of my 11x great-grandfather Poul Kofoed (-1543-1553-, died before 1584) in Østermarie parish to discuss the matter with the Lübeck Governor, Sveder Ketting.

Lübeck's waning powers are evident in the actions of King Frederik II concerning Bornholm. First, the government in København formally ejected the Lübeck governor, and then the inhabitants of Bornholm - encouraged in insubordination by seeing how the authorities in København dealt with their Hansa masters - refused to pay their dues. Finally, one of the towns even forcibly ejected some Lübeck traders. An ominous sign of things to come were reflected in Frederik's opposition to any mention of Bornholm during peace treaties.

On September 7, 1575, Frederik II informed Lübeck, "that the fifty years' possession, accorded to them by his grandfather, would have expired on the 19th of the month, and he intended to retake possession of the island."  The city replied that the Peace of Hamburg extended their rights of possession, which they held for unpaid Danish debts. Frederik replied the treaty was invalid since his father, who had made it, was not crowned at the time, and he himself had not been consulted in the matter. Complain as they might the Lübeck'ers had neither the power nor the ability to stop the take-over.

The island of Bornholm found out to its detriment the extent of the Swedes rule over the Baltic Sea during the war of 1643-45. The Swedish troops landed on June 9, 1645 just to the south of the Bornholm township of Svaneke; the town suffered 4 hours of plundering after its surrender to the Swedish Commandant Wrangel. My 10x great-grandfather Mads Kofoed (c.1582-1646), and the other elderly men in command, were unable to properly lead the Bornholmer troops. He was blamed for the surrender of Hammershus to the Swedes on the 17th of June; and as a result Mads Kofoed had the misfortune of being partly responsible for the total collapse of Bornholm's defences and the Swedish General Wrangel's conquering of the entire island, even though at first Wrangel had only threatened to burn down all of Nexø as a personal revenge against a couple of skipper's from Nexø who had stolen one of his ships!

In the resulting Peace of Brömsebro negotiated in August of 1645 obliged Denmark to surrender Jämtland and Härjedal, Gotland and the island of Ösel. It was agreed that the captured island of Bornholm was to be returned to Danish rule. As a guarantee for the exemption of Swedish shipping from Danish shipping tolls, Sweden took possession of the province of Halland for a period of thirty years - however it was never returned.

The officers in the Bornholm militia who were judged to have betrayed their country were sentenced to death, but the king benevolently conveyed the sentence to one of exile. Mads Kofoed, and his brothers Peder Kofoed (1598-1648) – my 9x and 10x great-grandfather – and Jacob Kofoed (c.1590-1646), were among those judged traitors and banished; all 3 brothers died within a year of their sentence. After Peder Kofoed's death in 1646 his widow was given a royal pardon for her husband's crime, the letter is dated June 15, 1649.

In 1657 King Frederik III declared war on Sweden. The Swedish forces, under General Wrangel, invaded Jylland from the south. They took Frederiksodde fortress and from there they marched across the ice (an unprecedented feat, possible only because of the unusual cold) to the island of Fyn, and hence onward to Lolland and then Sjælland. This meant that København was open to attack, forcing the Danish government to sue for peace, and in the resulting Peace of Roskilde (February 1658) Denmark lost its provinces Skåne (Scania) and Blekinge, the district of Bohus, Trondheim (in Norway), and the island county of Bornholm.

As the sea-ice prevented any communication with Bornholm, no one there knew of this incredible turn of events. Not until the 16th of April, when the ice broke and a fishing-boat from Skåne brought the news did the Bornholmers realise that they, without being asked, had been made Swedish by the stroke of a feather-quill!  It wasn't until April 29th that the new Swedish governor, Johan Printzenskjöld, was able to land in Sandvig with 120 men and take possession of the island for the Swedish king, Karl Gustav. The Swedes wasted no time in instituting a harsh regime of export prohibitions, increased tariffs, conscription of men, and seizure of property and money all over Bornholm. Many men from Bornholm's approximate population of 8,000 were conscripted into the Swedish army; around 450 men were sent to Stettin, Riga and Helsingborg.

By May 18, 1658, delegates had been chosen to make a journey to Malmö and stand before Corfits Ulfeld and swear allegiance to the Swedish king. The delegates included Mads Kofoed Madsen (c.1615-c.1660) of Eskildsgård, my 8x great-grandfather Hans Kofoed Olufsen (c.1625-1694) of Blykobbegård, and Peder Kofoed Madsen (c.1622-1687) of Svaneke, and my 8x and 9x great-grandfather Hans Kofoed Pedersen (c.1627-c.1675) of Rønne.

The heavy taxes and forced conscription by the Swedes angered the Bornholmers, and a conspiracy began to form: its purpose to overwhelm the Swedish occupying force, recapture Hammershus fortress, and deliver Bornholm back to Denmark. After King Karl Gustav violated the treaty and attacked København the following autumn, my 8x great-grandfather Poul Hansen Ancher (c.1630-1697), the clergyman for Hasle-Rutsker, was incited to join other Bornholmers in plans for a rebellion. A highly dangerous enterprise to be sure. However, the core group of conspirators from Hasle were determined and effective. His fellow conspirators in Hasle included the town's mayor, Peder Olsen, its bailiff, Captain Niels Gummeløs (c.1620-1664) and merchant Jens Kofoed Pedersen (1628-1691) - another 8x great-grandfather; the group also included Jens Lauridsen Risom - the Ridefoged (Steward) of Hammershus and Captain Claus Kames (c.1615-1677) of Rønne. Jens Kofoed Pedersen was the only one who had fought against the Swedes - it is thought that his hatred towards the enemy, and his violent temper, aided in the quick and decisive outcome of the uprising. The leaders divided the tasks: Pastor Poul Hansen Ancher would mobilize the citizens; Peder Olsen was to take care of communications with the Danish government in København; and Jens Kofoed Pedersen was to organize and lead the armed attack.

On December 8, 1658 Johan Printzensköld rode out from Hammershus fortress through Hasle and then onto Rønne, where a ship was to set sail with a request for reinforcements for the Swedish garrison, which only numbered around 100 men. Printzensköld was extremely worried about a possible landing of Danish or Dutch troops, being conscious of the fact that he could not rely on "these Danes," as he ironically named the Bornholmers.

That generation of Kofoeds was strongly represented in the early hours of the uprising: besides the leader Jens Kofoed Pedersen, there were: his brother Mads Kofoed Pedersen; his cousins from Blykobbegård: Hans Kofoed Olufsen (c.1625-1694) and Claus Kofoed Olufsen (c.1635-c.1660); and his sister's husband Willum Clausen Kelou (c.1630-1679). The location of these events was Rønne's main street: Storegade; along which were located the homes of the Kofoed families, side-by-side with Mayor Peder Laursen Møller's house.

The conspirators wasted no time: as soon as Printzenskjöld had left Hasle, Poul Ancher drove his sleigh, together with Jens Kofoed Pedersen, to consult with Jacob Tresløv, the clergyman for Nyker parish. What they decided is not known, only that Hans Ancher went to the Rutsker parsonage, probably in order to prepare for the plans to keep the garrison at Hammershus isolated. Jens Kofoed Pedersen rode on to Rønne to help Claus Kames take Printzenskjöld prisoner. On his way he met up with the rest of the conspirators. In Rønne they encountered Printzenskjöld in the house of the mayor, Peder Lauridsen Møller, and only just barely did some of the more levelheaded men prevent his immediate murder. They took him prisoner and led him down Storegade; but as they neared the prison entrance a shot was fired from Willum Clausen Kelou's pistol and Printzenskjöld fell over dead on the cobblestones. Jens Kofoed Pedersen and Niels Gummeløs each fired a shot into the corpse in order to show solidarity with the Willum Clausen Kelou. Claus Kames managed to take five Swedish officers prisoner, and took them to his home - possibly in order to save them from being murdered.

Rønne was still very small at that time; the current large town-square was then only a green area with trails leading out to the surrounding farmsteads. Further down the street, across from the present Latin-school, was the old town hall – before which are placed memorial stones to commemorate the spot where Printzensköld was shot dead. The dramatic shots fired by Jens Kofoed Pedersen and Niels Gummeløs into the already dead enemy were significant: this legitimized Willum Clausen Kelou's questionable murder of Printzensköld as part of the uprising, now everyone was equally responsible - there was no going back!

Immediately after the killing Jens Kofoed Pedersen and Niels Gummeløs rode to Rutsker parsonage and reported what had taken place in Rønne, and following a short conference with Parson Ancher it was decided to gather together the willing farmers from Klemensker, Nyker and Vestermarie parishes by ringing those parishes church bells: a sign for them to meet, fully armed, during the night at Rutsker Church. The bell of Rutsker Church was not rung as it was too close to Hammershus, and would have been heard there. Jens Kofoed Pedersen then rode to the home of the reeve for Rutsker parish, Mads Ibsen Høg (c.1622-1705) of Højegård - my 9x great-grandfather, where he captured a Swedish artillery lieutenant. He brought the lieutenant back to Rutsker's parsonage before riding on to Allinge where a Swedish quartermaster had to be killed because he refused to surrender.

From Allinge, and nearby Sandvig, Jens Kofoed Pedersen gathered together a group of young men, and after having fortified themselves with a keg of beer, they rode out into the night to Hammershus Watermill, where a Swedish soldier was slain. The men continued on to Hammershus, where they settled themselves behind a hill just east of the bridge to the fortress. The next day, December 9th, in the early dawn "man havde kun tre dage til vintersolhverv" (with just 3 days until the winter-solstice), the band of farmers led by Poul Hansen Ancher started moving down from Rutsker Church's snow covered hill. They were joined by the citizens of Hasle led by Captain Gummeløs and Mayor Peder Olsen, and then by the group from Rønne under Captain Claus Kames. Many eyes were spying both towards and from the walls of Hammershus fortress - not knowing what would be the outcome of that short winter day. Ultimately, only an act of clever cunning made the Swedes surrender the fortress: Captain Kames donned Printzenskjöld's uniform and rode the slain commander's horse to the bridge, while the rebels threatened to kill him if the Swedes refused to surrender. Towards the evening they indeed did surrender. The Swedes, about 100 men, were imprisoned in the tower, and following war custom the Bornholmers began plundering the fortress. They carried on so wildly that the leaders had to protect Printzenskjöld's widow, Anne Haard, and her 3 small sons from being harmed. Later he and his men captured Swedish re-enforcement troops as they landed at Sandvig.

On December 21, 1658 a deputation was sent to København to inform King Frederik III that Bornholm was once again Danish property. They were granted and audience with king on the 29thof December, and presented him with an ornate gavebrev (gift letter) announcing that Bornholm would forever belong to the king and his heirs. They also brought a list of the names of 22 Bornholmers who had played a prominent role in the liberation of the island: first on the list was "Hr. Poffuel Ancker Sougnepræst til Rydskier och Hasle Sougner haffer Værit baade i Raad och Daad til all denne Hans Kongl. May:tts tienneste med Toug, Vagt Reystning, och endnu flittig besøger land Vagterne." (Mr. Poul Ancher, Parish-clergyman for Rutsker and Hasle Parishes, having Done both in Counsel and Deed all in the His Royal Majesty's interest with this Campaign, Guard Duty, and continuing diligent Defence of the land.)  For his role in the rebellion Claus Kames was selected to be the interim lensmand (vassal) of Hammershus. Jens Kofoed Pedersen was promoted to Captain in Bornholm's militia.

The first half of the 1600s was good for Bornholm; its agriculture industry and trade flourished: cattle were exported and the sea trade with Lübeck brough good returns.  Unfortunately, as described above, the end of that century brought the hardship of two wars, and drought only added to these problems.  It was not until the mid-1700s that cattle export began to bring prosperity to the island once again. In the towns a thriving clock making industry was begun, and pottery businesses began to thrive. Also, two of the islands natural resources, sandstone and coal, began to be exported. All this resulted in a growth in the export industry up until the 1800s. However, the state bankruptcy of 1813 crippled the economy for many years – it was not until 1830 that the economy began to grow again.

A new law passed in 1860 meant that a significant amount of agricultural land became available as small land holdings in the old heath in the middle of the island. This resulted in grain growing taking the lead over the cattle industry as the island's main economic engine. It was not until the end of the century that this trend was reversed with the start of a dairy co-op put together by the island's cattle ranchers. The fishing industry began to flourish once again with the construction of new harbours and many herring smokehouses. And the island's new granite quarries began to provide work for many stone masons.

Shortly after 1900 a brand new industry, tourism, began to be developed. It was to become the island's most important industry. In the period up until 1914 many hotels and pensions were built, often in styles that were very unlike the traditional Bornholmer architecture: mainly in a German style, as that was the country of origin of most of the island's tourists!

Just before World War II began in 1939 Hitler had signed a non-aggression pact with Denmark, but already by that time any treaty bearing Hitler's name had come to be regarded as worthless. Several years into the war Hitler turned his eyes towards the Nordic countries, and on April 9, 1940 the German forces marched north. The tiny, poorly armed Danish forces were overwhelmed: there was no hope of defeating Hitler's army. Negotiations took place that morning, and the government gave in; the business of occupying Denmark was completed in one day.

The war in Europe ended in 1945 with the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the capitulation of the German forces. Denmark was free! With the exception of one place: just as Denmark was being liberated, Russian women pilots swept over the island of Bornholm and ordered the German commandant to capitulate to the Russian forces. Fearing the rough justice of the Russian troups he refused, whereupon the Russians heavily bombed the towns of Rønne and Nexø. Bornholm was then occupied by Russian troops. At the time there was no knowing if the Russians intended to occupy Bornholm for an indefinite period. However, after negotiations they withdrew from the island after about a year. After the bombings Rønne and Nexø were extensively rebuilt. A gift from the Swedish state enabled 300 wooden houses to be constructed in the two towns.

The Russian bombing and occupation of the island has shaped the recent history of Bornholm. The will of Bornholm to defend itself is reflected in a Home Guard that, in proportion to the size of the island, is unequalled in Denmark. The three armed forces are all represented on the island, which is of major strategic importance to NATO. This is the eastern listening post of the Atlantic Alliance that, particularly during the Cold War and the turmoil in Eastern Europe, played a vital role in supplying information to the rest of the world. Despite the great distance of the island from the Danish capital, and the rest of the country, a large majority of the people of Bornholm wish to retain the link with Denmark. There has, however, been a constant Bornholm independence movement, which desires autonomy. Thus, in many places, the special Bornholm flag can be seen; similar to the Danish flag, however it sports a green cross against a red background.

Today, Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Denmark has been a member of the European Union (formerly European Economic Community) since 1973, although has not joined the Eurozone. Denmark, with a free market capitalist economy, and a large welfare state, ranks among the world's highest with regard to the level of income equality. In 1989 Denmark enacted a registered partnership law, becoming the first country in the world to grant same-sex couples nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. From 2006 to 2008, surveys ranked Denmark as "the happiest place in the world," based on standards of health, welfare, and education. The 2008 Global Peace Index survey ranks Denmark as the second most peaceful country in the world, after Iceland. Denmark is routinely ranked among the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International in their Corruption Perceptions Index.

Denmark and the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein

Until sometime under King Valdemar II (reigned 1202-41), the Kingdom of Denmark bordered onto the Germanic states just south of the Slien (Schlei) inlet. Valdemar II awarded his second son the southern part of Jylland as a duchy. The new duchy's southern border extended along the Slien in the south - in between the towns of Schleswig and Kiel. Its northern border mostly ran along the river Konge-Aa, however it followed the Konge-Aa only until just east of Ribe, then it drops south, and then west towards the coast. While Schleswig (or Slesvig) was given the status of a duchy, its Duke ultimately owed fealty to the Danish king.

The Duchy of Schleswig has traditionally reached from the rivers Eider and the Slien, in the south, to Konge-Aa, in the north. The Duchy of Holstein encompasses the region from the river Eider, in the north, to the river Elbe, in the south. Gradually, bit by bit, the Danish crown lost control over small portions of the duchies. Eventually whole areas came under the control of Prussia. While other sections were ruled by the Duke of Gottorp, and some areas were ruled in common. In the Duchy of Schleswig some cities attained independent status - known as imperial free-cities. Later, inheritance rights for Schleswig became a matter of contention. This situation was untenable to the rulers involved, and eventually led to fighting.

In 1658 the Duke of Gottorp-Holstein became sovereign over the "Duke's part" of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, however it never was a territorial entity and it was a constant reason for quarrels and wars. Very simplistically the Duchy of Schleswig became totally "royal" (Danish) in 1721, and the Duke of Gottorp was restricted to the Holstein areas.

In 1806, as a result of the Napoleonic Reorganization, Schleswig and Holstein came under the control of the Danish king (with an independent administration). At first the Danes tried to remain neutral in the war between Napoleon and England. However, Denmark ended up sided with Napoleon against England after refusing an ultimatum made by the English to hand over its naval fleet to England. On September 2, 1807 the English navy blockaded, and then bombarded København for 5 days, which practically destroyed the city, killing over 1,500 of its civilian citizens and burning down or damaging over 300 buildings. On September 7th the Danes surrendered. The English demanded the whole Danish navy, and on October 21st they sailed away with 69 Danish vessels; but first they destroyed those ships they chose not to take with them. By 1813 the country had gone bankrupt.

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna ruled the Duchy of Holstein (south of the Eider) to be a part of the German Bund (i.e. all the Germanic states and Austria). In 1846 the Danish king ruled Schleswig to be part of his kingdom, and that the heritage rights of the Duke of Schleswig - Holstein - Sonderburg - Augustenburg were restricted to Holstein.

In 1848 the pressure of public opinion forced King Frederik VII to accept a democratic constitution for Denmark; the constitution was adopted in 1849, and it granted the highest power of government to an elected, two-house parliament. In that same year, 1848, revolt broke out in Schleswig and Holstein: for although the Danish crown ruled this region, it had never officially become part of Denmark. The rebels set up a revolutionary government for Schleswig-Holstein; its stated aim was to end Danish control and join the German Confederation, of which Holstein was already a member. Danish troops defeated the rebels in 1850 and took over Schleswig and Holstein.

The death of King Frederick VII, in 1863, ended the heritage rights of the Danish kings to the duchies; and the Duke of Schleswig - Holstein - Sonderburg - Augustenburg tried to regain power. The German Bund raised war against Denmark, which on October 30, 1864 was forced to hand the duchies over to the Bund. From 1864-66 the duchies were ruled by Austria-Prussia; after the Prussian/Austrian war in 1866 they were made a Prussian province.

For hundreds of years the Danish crown had done nothing to make the people in the duchies feel like they were Danes. As the years went by more and more of the people spoke only German, and the resulting exposure to German culture made them feel more German than Danish. In the early part of the 1800s the government began to try to make the duchies more Danish. However it was too late, especially in the Duchy of Holstein where the populace had irreversibly come to identify themselves as Germans.

The 1864 border at Konge-Aa held until 1920, after which a referendum was held: the people in the northern half of Schleswig voted to become part of Denmark; in the southern half to join with Germany.

Contact me at: Norman Lee Madsen, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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