The Age of Enlightenment and Napoleonic Wars

History of Denmark between 1771 - 1814

New propriety and Enlightenment ideas became popular among the middle classes of Denmark, arousing increased interest in personal liberty. In the last 15 years of the 18th century the authorities relaxed the censorship which had existed since the beginning of the 17th century. At the same time, a sense of Danish nationalism began to develop. Hostility increased against Germans and Norwegians present at the royal court. Pride in the Danish language and culture increased, and eventually a law banned "foreigners" from holding posts in the government. Antagonism between Germans and Danes increased from the mid-18th century on.

In the 1770s, during the reign of the mentally unstable Christian VII (1766–1808), the queen's lover, a German doctor named Johann Friedrich Struensee, became the real ruler of the country. Filled with the ideas of the Enlightenment, he attempted a number of radical reforms including freedom of the press and religion. But it was short-lived. The landlords feared that the reforms were a threat to their power, while the commoners believed that religious freedom was an invitation to atheism. In 1772, Struensee was arrested, tried, and convicted of crimes against the majesty. Struensee was beheaded his remains were quartered and put on display on top of spikes on the commons west of Copenhagen. The next 12 years were a period of unmitigated reaction until a group of reformers gained power in 1784.

Denmark became the model of enlightened despotism, partially influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. Denmark thus adopted liberalizing reforms in line with those of the French Revolution, with no direct contact. Danes were aware of French ideas and agreed with them, as it moved from Danish absolutism to a liberal constitutional system between 1750-1850. The change of government in 1784 was caused by a power vacuum created when King Christian VII took ill, and influence shifted to the crown prince (who later became King Frederick VI) and reform-oriented landowners. Between 1784 and 1815, the abolition of serfdom made the majority of the peasants into landowners. The government also introduced free trade and universal education. In contrast to France under the ancien regime, agricultural reform was intensified in Denmark, civil rights were extended to the peasants, the finances of the Danish state were healthy, and there were no external or internal crises. That is, reform was gradual and the regime itself carried out agrarian reforms that had the effect of weakening absolutism by creating a class of independent peasant freeholders. Much of the initiative came from well-organized liberals who directed political change in the first half of the 19th century.

Napoleonic Wars

Slaget på reden
The Battle of Copenhagen, 1801.

The long decades of peace came to an abrupt end during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain felt threatened by the Armed Neutrality Treaty of 1794, which originally involved Denmark and Sweden. The British fleet attacked Copenhagen in 1801, destroying much of Denmark's navy. Denmark nonetheless managed to remain largely uninvolved in the Napoleonic Wars until 1807. The British fleet bombarded Copenhagen again that year, causing considerable destruction to the city. They then captured the entire Danish fleet so that it could not be used by France to invade Britain (as the French had lost their own fleet at Trafalgar in 1805), leading to the Gunboat War (1807–1814). The confiscation of the Danish navy was widely criticised in Britain.

In 1809 Danish forces fighting on the French side participated in defeating the anti-Bonapartist German rebellion led by Ferdinand von Schill, at the Battle of Stralsund. By 1813, Denmark could no longer bear the war costs, and the state was bankrupt. When in the same year the Sixth Coalition isolated Denmark by clearing Northern Germany of French forces, Frederick VI had to make peace. Accordingly, the unfavourable Treaty of Kiel was concluded in January 1814 with Sweden and Great Britain, and another peace was signed with Russia in February.

The post-Napoleonic Congress of Vienna demanded the dissolution of the Dano-Norwegian union, and this was confirmed by the Treaty of Kiel in 1814. The treaty transferred Heligoland to Great Britain and Norway from the Danish to the Swedish crown, Denmark was to be satisfied with Swedish Pomerania.

Interestingly, this period also counts as "the Golden Age" of Danish intellectual history. A sign of renewed intellectual vigor was the introduction of compulsory schooling in 1814. Literature, painting, sculpture, and philosophy all experienced an unusually vibrant period. The stories of Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) became popular not only in Denmark, but all over Europe and in the United States. The ideas of the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) spread far beyond Denmark, influencing not only his own era, but proving instrumental in the development of new philosophical systems after him. The sculptures of Thorvaldsen (1770–1834) grace public buildings all over Denmark and other artists appreciated and copied his style. Grundtvig (1783–1872) tried to reinvigorate the Danish National Church and contributed to the hymns used by the church in Denmark.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1771 and 1814 in Denmark

Christiansfeld

Christiansfeld town was founded in 1773 by the Moravian Church and named after the Danish king Christian VII. Most of Christiansfeld was constructed in the years 1773-1800, following a strict city plan. To encourage construction, king Christian VII promised a ten-year tax holiday for the city and paid 10% of the construction costs of new houses. It was one of many towns in Schleswig officially designated a small market to ...
Founded: 1773 | Location: Christiansfeld, Denmark

Gammel Køgegård

Originally, Køge was located in the grounds of present day Gammel Køgegård. Remains of a church have been found in the orchard of the estate. When sedimentation made the beach and marshlands along the coast suitable for building, the settlement relocated to the bay and Old Køge shrank to a few scattered houses. Little is known about the earliest history of Gammel Køgegård. It was a ...
Founded: 1791 | Location: Køge, Denmark

Hindsgavl Castle

The history of Hindsgavl Castle dates back to the 12th century, and the name Hindsgavl was mentioned for the first time in the Danish register of manors and estates by King Valdemar II in 1231. Valdemar IV of Denmark besieged the castle with no luck in 1358. The current castle was built in the late 18th century. Today Hindsgavl is a conference center.
Founded: 18th century | Location: Middelfart, Denmark

Trekroner Fortress

Trekroner Søfort (Three Crowns Sea Fortress) is a sea fortress at the entrance to the Copenhagen harbour. From 1713 until after World War I, Trekroner Fort was part of the fortifications of Copenhagen. The original location of Trekroner Fort was a few hundred meters north of the current one. In 1713, three old line ships were sunk to form the basis for a battery. One of the ships was called Trekroner, and she gave her n ...
Founded: 1787 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Hald Manor

The first known reference to Hald is from 1328 when it was owned by Rigsmarsk Ludvig Albertsen Eberstein. Then known as Brattingsborg, was located to the east of the current main building. Niels Bugge acquired Hald in 1346 and built a new main building where he took up residence. He was active in the uprising against King Valdemar IV and was later killed on the way back from failed peace negotiations at Slagelse. Bugge&qu ...
Founded: 1798 | Location: Viborg, Denmark

Sandbjerg Manor

The history of the Sandbjerg Estate goes back to the beginning of the 16th century. In 1564 the estate became the property of Duke Hans the Younger (1545-1622), when his brother Frederik II transferred ownership of a third of the royal duchies to him - an area which included Ærø, Als, and Sundeved in the Duchy of Schleswig. The Duke left his mark on the landscape, commissioning the building of a dam -which e ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Sønderborg, Denmark

Corselitze Manor

Corselitze, or Korselitse, derives from Wendish and means "settlement of Chotel"s heirs". The estate shares much of its early history with the island of Falster. Like most of the island, it belonged to the Crown in the 13th century and is mentioned in King Valdemar II"s Danish Census Book which dates from about 1231. In 1354 Corselitze was acquired by Jens Falster, a member of the local nobility, and i ...
Founded: 1775-1777 | Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark

Jomfruens Egede Manor

Jomfruens Egede manor house owes its current appearance to Sophie Amalie Moth who in the late 18th century altered it with the assistance of Caspar Frederik Harsdorff and Joseph Christian Lillie. The National Museum of Denmark has described it as possibly the finest example from the period. Jomfruens Egede traces its history back to 1346 when it was owned by Uffe Pedersen Neb, a loyal supporter of King Valdemar IV, and k ...
Founded: 1790s | Location: Faxe, Denmark

Arresødal

Arresødal was created as a manor in 1773 by Major General Johan Frederik Classen. He ordered the building of the main house in 1786-1788. Upon his death, Classen bequeathed Arresødal to Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, who owned the property until Crown Prince Frederik (later King Frederick VI of Denmark) bought the property in 1804. The main building was rebuilt in 1908-1909 and partly in 2004. Two other bui ...
Founded: 1786-1788 | Location: Frederiksværk, Denmark

Næsseslottet Manor

Næsseslottet is an 18th-century country house and previously a royal farm known as Dronningegård. Dronninggård was built in 1661 to manage the Crown"s extensive holdings of farm land in the area. The farm belonged to the powerful Queen Sophie Amalie until her death in 1714, hence the name which translates as Queen"s House. After that, the property was sold and changed hands several times but ev ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Holte, Denmark

Søholt Manor

Søholt estate was first time mentioned in 1389. The current main building dates from 1804 and it was restored in 1853. The pavilion from 1822 has been survived.
Founded: 1804 | Location: Maribo, Denmark

Aldershvile Palace Ruins

Aldershvile Palace was a castle palace built in 1782 by Johan Theodor Holm de Holmskiold. Soon after it was confiscated due debts and given to Count Ribbing, who was escaped from Sweden after the murder of King Gustaf III. In 1909 the palace burnt down and it was not rebuilt again.
Founded: 1782 | Location: Bagsværd, Denmark

Eriksholm Castle

The history of the Eriksholm estate dates back to 1400 but today"s house was built in 1788. It was designed by Caspar Frederik Harsdorff, the leading Danish architect of the time. In the 1400s it was owned by Peder Jensen and known as Vinderup. It was crown land from 1536 to 1556 and again from 1573 to 1585. In the year 1600 Eriksholm was acquired by Erik Madsen Vasspyd who constructed a new main building and named ...
Founded: 1788 | Location: Vipperød, Denmark

Hagenskov Castle

Hagenskov Castle lies in the countryside a few kilometres to the east of Assens. It is a grade A listed building protected by law from substantial alteration. It was built in 1775 in a classical style by the design of architect G. E. Rosenborg. There had been a castle on this site for many centuries and remains of the medieval castle’s dungeons. In the 13th century a dispute with the King led to an archbishop being ...
Founded: 1775 | Location: Ebberup, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.

The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.

The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.