Heroes from History. King Christian X of Denmark and his resistance to the Nazis.

Contents.

King Christian X of Denmark. An example to all leaders.

King Christian versus the Nazis.

Rest in Peace. King Christian X. Hero King.

King Christian X leads his people.

The Hero King.

King Christian X of Denmark.
King Christian X of Denmark.
The King riding through Copenhagen during the german occupation.
The King riding through Copenhagen during the german occupation.
The "austrian corporal" was livid.
The "austrian corporal" was livid.

King Christian X of Denmark. An example to all leaders.

King Christian X of Denmark was not universally popular in the early part of his reign. He had a tendency to be autocratic, and his unwillingness to accept, at first, the limitations of his constitutional position precipitated a crisis in the relationship between King and people that almost caused a revolution in Denmark. The problems arose over the status of Schleswig, a territory that had been the cause of dispute between Denmark and Germany for many years.

The settlement that had been reached between the German and the Danish governments did not sit well with some Danish nationalists, and King Christian shared these views. In what became known to history as The Easter Crisis, the king ordered his prime minister to reject the arrangement.

The minister refused the order, as he believed that King Christian, as a constitutional monarch, was obliged to accept the decisions of the government. After a heated exchange between King Christian X and his prime minister, the government resigned. There were demonstrations on the streets of Copenhagen, and there was even talk of abolishing the ancient Danish monarchy. Faced with the possible loss of his crown, King Christian backed down, and installed a caretaker government until elections could be held.

This was the last time in history that a King or Queen of Denmark would take political action against the wishes of their government, and it marked an important step in the evolution of the modern Danish state.

But I am not writing this article to delight the "constitutional history nerds". All this is fascinating, but it is not the subject that I wish to address today.

King Christian X of Denmark is the hero of this piece, but it is to a later period of his reign that I wish to take you now. We all have our failings, and the unwillingness to accept modern democracy, at first, was a mistake by the king. It cost him a lot of popularity. But his actions during the Nazi occupation of Denmark during the nineteen forties, made him a hero for our time, and one of the most popular kings that the ancient Kingdom of Denmark has ever had.


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King Christian versus the Nazis.

There had never been any love lost between the Danes and their more powerful neighbours, the Germans. The hostility had been fuelled since the nineteenth century by The Schleswig Holstein problem. A war then had resulted in the defeat of Denmark, and the incorporation of part of the disputed duchy into Prussia, (later to become Germany).

When the Nazis invaded the country, they were not exactly welcomed with open arms. But Denmark, being only a small country, had to put up with the situation. They did manage to secure a measure of autonomy for themselves, although they had to allow German military occupation.

Another thing about the Danes was that they refused to pass any anti-Jewish legislation, and when the Nazis tried to round up the Danish Jews, the people hid them, and the vast majority managed to escape to neutral Sweden.

King Christian was at the forefront of this effort. To him there were no Jews, just Danes. On the day in 1933 that Hitler came to power in Germany, King Christian X made a very public visit to the main synagogue in Copenhagen. This gave a message to everyone of what attitude he had. There is a legend that he wore a Star of David, when his Jewish subjects were being forced to wear it. But that badge was never introduced in Denmark. He did say that if it were brought in that it might be a good idea for everyone to wear one.

There is another story about the king that may or may not be true. If it is, it shows just what sort of man he was.

The Germans wanted to replace the Danish flag on the palace with a Nazi rag. They sent a high ranking officer to tell the king. King Christian said that if they did so, he would send a Danish soldier to replace the Danish flag.

The Nazi said that the Germans would shoot the Danish soldier. The Kings answer is justly famous.

"That Danish soldier is me".

The Danish flag stayed in place throughout the war.

The row over King Christian's seventy second birthday really enraged Hitler. The Austrian corporal, who had hijacked a continent, and murdered millions, had the gall to send a really long effusive telegram of congratulations to The King, whose country he was occupying.

He got back four and a bit words.

"My best thanks, King Chr”.

That’s the right way for a king to address a piece of scum.

"Old one Ball" was livid. He expelled the Danish ambassador from Germany, and recalled the German ambassador from Denmark. The Germans also forced the dismissal of the Danish government, and its replacement with one that they hoped would be "more respectful".

But what King Christian X of Denmark is principally famous for are his rides through the streets of Copenhagen during the occupation.

Every morning, until a stroke in 1942 incapacitated him; he would mount his horse called "Jubilee" and ride alone, without any guards, through the streets of his capital. The Danes would wave at their king, or doff their hats, and he would salute back. If a German soldier saluted, he would be conspicuously ignored. This knowledge, that their king was with them, gave great comfort and hope to the Danish people. They used to wear little King Christian badges as a sign of resistance.

Once a German soldier asked someone why the king rode without a guard. The reply is very telling.

"All Denmark is his bodyguard".


King Christian X leads his people.

Rest in Peace. King Christian X. Hero King.

On his death in Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, in 1947, Christian X was interred along other members of the Danish royal family in Roskilde Cathedral near Copenhagen. In recognition of his symbolic significance during World War II, a cloth armband of the type worn by members of the Danish resistance movement was placed on his coffin.

Over seventy million people were killed during World War II. There are many stories of heroism told from that era as well. But when the final tally of the brave is added up, there is one man who should be up near the top of the count. He didn’t go out and shoot Nazis, nor did he run from them. But he did inspire a people to have hope during a dreadful time.

When historians want to point out, to future ages, examples of courage and rectitude from our age, they could do a lot worse than to retell the story of King Christian X and his rides through the streets of Copenhagen during the dark days of the Second World War.

Truly a great leader and a great man.


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