Denmark, Brief History

The Danes, a homogenous Gothic-Germanic people, have inhabited Denmark since prehistoric times. Danish is the principal language. A small German-speaking minority lives in southern Jutland; a mostly Inuit population inhabits Greenland; and the Faroe Islands have a Nordic population with its own language. Education is compulsory from ages seven to 16 and is free through the university level.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is state supported and accounts for about 97% of Denmark’s religious affiliation. Denmark has religious freedom, however, and several other Protestant denominations and other religions exist.

During the Viking period (9th-11th centuries), Denmark was a great power based on the Jutland Peninsula, the Island of Zealand, and the southern part of what is now Sweden. In the early 11th century, King Canute united Denmark and England for almost 30 years.

kingdoms of Cnut

Viking raids brought Denmark into contact with Christianity, and in the 12th century, crown and church influence increased. By the late 13th century, royal power had waned, and the nobility forced the king to grant a charter, considered Denmark’s first constitution. Although the struggle between crown and nobility continued into the 14th century, Queen Margrethe I succeeded in uniting Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland under the Danish crown. Sweden and Finland left the union in 1520; however, Norway remained until 1814. Iceland, in a “personal union” under the king of Denmark after 1918, became independent in 1944.

The Reformation was introduced in Denmark in 1536. Denmark’s provinces in today’s southwestern Sweden were lost in 1658, and Norway was transferred from the Danish to the Swedish crown in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon, with whom Denmark was allied.

The Danish liberal movement gained momentum in the 1830s, and in 1849 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy. After the war with Prussia and Austria in 1864, Denmark was forced to cede Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia and adopt a policy of neutrality. Toward the end of the 19th century, Denmark inaugurated important social and labor market reforms, laying the basis for the present welfare state.

Denmark remained neutral during World War I. Despite its declaration of neutrality at the beginning of World War II, it was invaded by the Germans in 1940 and occupied until it was liberated by the Allied forces in May 1945. Denmark became a charter member of the United Nations and was one of the original signers of the North Atlantic Treaty.

old-dannebrogThe oldest known picture of ‘Dannebrog’ (the Danish flag) appeared in the coat of arms of the kings of Denmark in the late fourteenth century.

According to the chroniclers, Dannebrog fell from the heavens during the battle at Lyndanise near Reval in Estonia in 1219, and it brought victory to the Danes under king Valdemar II (‘the Victorious’). The story goes that Anders Suneson, the fighting bishop in the king’s army, stood with his arms lifted towards heaven during the entire battle. Whenever he tired, and his arms came down, the Danes did not do well, and eventually two helpers held up his arms. That was when the Maltese cross banner descended from above and the victory was ensured.

Four years later, Valdemar and his son Valdemar the Young were taken prisoners by Count Heinrich of Schwerin and as a condition for the release of the royal hostages Denmark had to give up all its Baltic possessions save Ruegen and Estonia. Valdemar tried once more to win back the lost possessions, but for the first time ever he tasted defeat, at Bornhoeved on 22 July 1227.

Estonia remained a part of Denmark until 1346 when the territory was sold by King Valdemar ‘Atterdag’ to the German Order of Knights, a confederation of German pilgrims and merchants with headquarters in Kønigsberg.

Denmark, Timeline

12000-9300 BC Late Ice Age. Immigration of the first hunters.
9300-3900 BC Mesolithic Period. Hunting and fishing.
3900-1700 BC Neolithic Period. Farming and animal husbandry. Dolmens and passage graves are built.
1700-500 BC Bronze Age.
500 BC-750 AD Iron Age. Rudimentary conurbations in the 8th century.
866-67 The Vikings capture York.
C. 965 Harald I (Blue Tooth) introduces Christianity in Denmark.
1157-1241 The Age of the Valdemars. Denmark gains supremacy over large parts of the southern Baltic areas.
1241 Jyske Lov (The Jutlandic Law).
1282 Erik V (Klipping) is the first Danish king to seal a coronation charter.
1286 Erik V (Klipping) is murdered in Finderup Barn.
C. 1350-1400 Plague, the Black Death; many farms are deserted.
1397-1523 The Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden; Sweden breaks away for long periods.
1479 The foundation of the University of Copenhagen.
1520 The Massacre of Stockholm; Christian II executes more than 80 Swedish opponents.
1534-36 The Count’s Feud, civil war in Denmark.
1536 The Reformation. Norway is formally incorporated into Denmark.
1563-70 The Scandinavian Seven Years’ War.
1611-13 The Kalmar War between Denmark and Sweden.
1625-29 Denmark’s participation in the Thirty Years’ War (the Kaiser War).
1643-45 The Torstensson Feud. Parts of Denmark and Norway are ceded to Sweden.
1657-60 The Karl Gustav Wars. Denmark cedes all provinces east of ¯resund (the Sound), with the exception of Bornholm, to Sweden.
1660-61 Absolutism is introduced.
1675-79 The Scania War between Denmark and Sweden.
1683 Christian V’s Danske Lov (Danish Law).
1709-20 The Great Nordic War.
1733 The introduction of adscription.
1755-1807 The Palmy Days, Danish shipping and trade flourish.
1788 The abolition of adscription.
1801 The Battle of Copenhagen.
1807-14 At war with England. Denmark cedes Norway to Sweden at the Peace of Kiel in 1814.
1844 The first folk high school is established in R¿dding.
1848 The abolition of absolutism.
1848-51 The First Schleswig War. The Three Years’ War.
1849 The June Constitution, Denmark’s first liberal constitution.
1864 The Second Schleswig War; Denmark has to cede Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg.
1870-1901 Constitutional struggle between conservatives and liberals.
1871 A socialist movement is founded.
1901 Change of political system; introduction of Cabinet responsibility.
1914-18 Denmark is neutral during World War I.
1915 Constitutional reform, women and servants are enfranchised.
1920 Reunion with South Jutland after a plebiscite.
1940-45 Denmark occupied by Germany.
1943 The August Uprising. Government by Civil Service Heads; Danmarks Frihedsråd (the Danish Freedom Council) is formed.
1944 Iceland becomes an independent republic.
1945 Denmark is a founder member of the UN.
1949 Denmark joins NATO.
1953 A new Constitution and a new Act of Succession, the Landsting (second chamber) is abolished and female succession is rendered possible.
1973 Denmark is admitted to the EC and after a landslide election three new parties enter the Folketing (Parliament).
1979 Greenland obtains Home Rule.
1993 Denmark joins the EU.
1996 Great Belt Bridge is done – second largest susp.bridge ever.
2000 Øresundsconnection is done – Sweden and Denmark are connected – Highway and railway.


Danish Monarchs

before 714, Angantyr (Angandeo)
mentioned 777-798 Sigfred
before 812 Harald
mentioned 804
d. 810 Gudfred (Godfrey)
810-12 Hemming
812-13 Harald Klak and Reginfred
813-27 several sons of Gudfred together (Godfrey)
827-54 Horik I
854-64/73 Horik II
mentioned 873 Sigfred and Halvdan
after 891 Helge
Olaf “from Sweden”
mentioned 909/916 Hardeknud Svendsen (Hardecanute Svendsen)
mentioned 936, d. 958 Gorm the Old
d. 987 at the latest Harald I Bluetooth
d.1014 Svend I Tveskæg (Svend Forkbeard)
1014-18 Harald II
1018-35 Knud I den store (Canute I The Great)
1035-42 Knud II Hardeknud (Canute II Hardecanute)
1042-47 Magnus (I) den gode (Magnus The Good)
1047-76 Svend II Estridsen
1076-80 Harald III Hen
1080-86 Knud III St. Knud (St. Canute III)
1086-95 Oluf I Hunger
1095-1103 Erik I Ejegod (Erik I The Kind-Hearted)
1104-34 Niels
1134-37 Erik II Emune
1137-46 Erik III Lam
1146-57 Svend Grathe, Knud IV and Valdemar I the Great
1157-82 Valdemar I den store (Valdemar I The Great)
1182-1202 Knud V (Canute V)
1202-41 Valdemar II Sejr (Valdemar II The Victorious)
1241-50 Erik IV Plovpenning (Erik IV Ploughpenny)
1250-52 Abel
1252-59 Christoffer I
1259-86 Erik V Glipping
1286-1320 Erik VI Menved
1320-26 Christoffer II
1326-29 Valdemar III
1329-32 Christoffer II
1332-40 (interregnum)
1340-75 Valdemar IV Atterdag
1375-87 Oluf III Håkonsson
1387-1412 Margrete I
1412-39 Erik VII af Pommern (Erik VII of Pomerania)
1440-48 Christoffer III af Bayern (Christoffer III of Bavaria)

The House of Oldenborg
1448-81 Christian I
1481-1513 Hans
1513-23 Christian II
1523-33 Frederik I
1533-34 (interregnum)
1534-59 Christian III
1559-88 Frederik II
1588-1648 Christian IV
1648-70 Frederik III
1670-99 Christian V
1699-1730 Frederik IV
1730-46 Christian VI
1746-66 Frederik V
1766-1808 Christian VII
1808-39 Frederik VI
1839-48 Christian VIII
1848-63 Frederik VII


The House of Glücksborg
1863-1906 Christian IX
1906-12 Frederik VIII
1912-47 Christian X
1947-72 Frederik IX
1972- Margrethe II