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.
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.
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.