If one wants an example of where the principles of Dynastic Legitimacy and Nationalism clashed in the nineteenth century (the last post referred to them), Schleswig-Holstein is the obvious one.
Lord Palmerston allegedly said that the Schleswig-Holstein Question was so complicated that only three men had known the answer to it: Prince Albert, who was dead; a German professor, who had become insane; and Palmerston, who had forgotten it.
Did he say this in the House of Lords? Hansard isn’t comprehensively online, so it is difficult to check. Jasper Ridley’s Lord Palmerston, Constable, 1970 does not offer the quotation. I’ll try to make the Question simple, at the risk of over-simplifying.
From 1773, the Duchies of Schleswig and of Holstein were both in personal union with, but not a part of, Denmark. This position was not changed by the Congress of Vienna. Schleswig was a personal appanage of the Danish kings, but Holstein was held by the Danish kings as notional princes of the Holy Roman Empire and of its successor, the German Confederation.
Northern Schleswig was predominantly Danish-speaking, but Southern Schleswig and Holstein were German-speaking.
The ruler of the personal appanage Schleswig succeeded by the Salic Law, which forbade inheritance in high office by females, or in the female line; but the ruler of Holstein, who was traditionally the same person, succeeded by a less restrictive law.
In 1846 Christian VIII (ruled 1839-48) announced that succession by females was to apply not only to the Danish throne but to Schleswig also. German nationalists feared the complete incorporation of Schleswig into Denmark.
His successor, Frederick VII (ruled 1848-63), was childless and without any male heir, raising the possibility that the Crown would lose Schleswig. Under pressure from Danish nationalists, Frederick, in 1848, declared the complete union of Schleswig with Denmark.
Revolution broke out in both duchies. The German Confederation came to the aid of the rebels. Peace was made in 1850 between Prussia (which had been commissioned by the Confederation to conduct the war) and Denmark; both sides reserved their rights. In 1852 a treaty was signed in London agreeing succession in the female (Glücksburg) line, but preserving the duchies’ original status in other respects.
In 1855, Danish nationalists forced Frederick VII to proclaim the Danish constitution as valid for both duchies. The German Confederation protested, and the measure was withdrawn in 1858. In November 1863, just before Frederick’s death, a common constitution for Denmark and Schleswig was drawn up. Frederick’s successor in the female line, Christian IX (ruled 1863-1906), signed the constitution, which the German Diet declared to be in violation of the treaty. In January 1864, Prussia and Austria declared war on Denmark, which was defeated.
The Treaty of Gastein in the following year placed the problematic Schleswig under Prussian administration and Holstein under Austrian administration. This dual administration led, as Bismarck had hoped, to such tension that Austria could easily be manoeuvred into a decisive war with Prussia. The Austro-Prussian War of 1866, decisive in the history of central Europe, ended with a swift Prussian victory; and both Schleswig and Holstein, incidentally, were annexed to Prussia, and became the province of Schleswig-Holstein.
My family’s history is connected with the Question. My great-great grandfather, Jürgen Johnsen Clausen, was born in Nordborg on July 5 1821 on the island of Als, east of Jutland, at the entrance to the Baltic. Als (capital Sønderborg) belonged to Danish Northern Schleswig. So Jürgen and his family would have been in a linguistic minority. Jürgen spoke German. The English equivalent of Jürgen is George. Jürgen’s mother was Anna Börnsen Johnsen. She had been born on January 6 1799, I am not sure where, and died on November 14 1864 in Flensburg, in Southern Holstein. I know nothing about her, and I do not even know the name of her husband, but perhaps she was Danish-speaking and her husband, a Clausen, German-speaking.
Jürgen left Denmark in 1843 to work in Germany as a decorative artist. In 1844 he migrated to England, via Rotterdam. If Jürgen had returned home after 1866 (he returned c 1851 and for the last time in September 1856), he would have gone to Prussia, no longer to territories of the kings of Denmark. Here are some of his notes. Not all the references are clear. I’m looking at a transcript of a translation, and may need to return to the original translation or original German. The square brackets are mine.
“On March 7, 1843, I left Flensburg. On [the 16th] I went to work in Ludwigslust. There I worked until February 18, 1844. On February 20 I walked from Ludwigslust by way of Loityenburg [?], Lauenburg, Hamburg, Altona, and across the frozen river Elbe, to Harburg; from there by way of Rothenburg to Bremen; from there by way of Berden, Neunburg, Neustadt, to Hannover. From Hannover I went by train to Braunschweig. Then I went from Braunschweig to Gosler. From there onwards I followed the Harz mountains. On March 15 I went from Gosler across the Harz, where we had to walk through tremendous snowstorms. We had to climb uphill continuously for three hours; and when we reached the summit, and the two mountain-towns of Sellefeld and Klausthal, we saw the Blocksberg in the far distance, although it was almost lost in the clouds. Then the route was by way of Osterode, Nordheim, Göttingen, Minden, Kassel, Marburg, Giessen, Burtzbach, Friedberg, to Frankfurt-am-Main. After I had seen this beautiful city I went to Wiesbaden, where the Herzog von Nassau was just taking up his residence, amid scenes of tremendous splendour. Then I went through Bieberich (sic) to Mainz, Darmstadt, Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg. Heidelberg lies surrounded by tremendous mountains and beautiful vineyards, and immediately above the town lies the tremendous old castle, where there is the famous Heidelberg Barrel, which I saw for myself. From there I went to Karlsruhe. There I took up work on April 4, and I worked there until April 24. Then I went back to Frankfurt-am-Main, where I worked until May 16. On May 20 I left Frankfurt for London on a steamer, through Mainz, Bingen, Coblenz, Bonn, Neuwied, Köln, Düsseldorf, to Rotterdam, where we arrived on May 21 in the afternoon. We stayed there until the following afternoon, and looked round the town as much as we could. It is a very big sea-port, of 90,000 inhabitants. While we were still in the streets we were called names: ‘Deutsche Muff’.”
Jürgen’s winter journey over the Harz reminds one of Goethe’s Harzreise im Winter (1777), of which, a quarter of a century after the journey described here, Brahms made a shuddering setting in his Alto Rhapsody (1869).
When Jürgen arrived in London, he began to work on the ceiling of the Royal Exchange, which Queen Victoria opened on October 28 1844.
In England, he married a Scotswoman, and one of their children was my great-grandfather, George Clausen, who became an impressionist painter. In 1920 the Danish-speaking majority of Northern Schleswig determined by plebiscite the return of Northern Schleswig, including Als, to Denmark. The other territories, including Flensburg, voted to remained German. So if George Clausen had visited his father’s birthplace after 1920 (which he did not), he would have been in Danish territory again.
Here is a description from the web of the loss of Als in 1864. I can no longer find the source.
“On the 26th of May the Prussian guns began to shell the Danish positions on Als. On the night of the 29th of June, 2,500 Prussian soldiers began crossing the sound in small boats. The armoured ship Rolf Krake attempted to stop the crossing and for a while the enemy were in dire straits and the crossing was stopped, but due to a misunderstanding the ship suddenly turned around and steamed away and the Prussians continued the crossing. The Danish regiments were unable to stop the attack and after some days the last Danish soldiers were evacuated by ship from Als. Once again the Danish losses had been heavy. The battle for the island had cost the Danish Army nearly 3,000 men in dead, wounded and captured.”