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Chapter VIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


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But we have been anticipating a little the course of the narrative. In the wars which arose out of the restless ambition of Charles XII., the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp sided with Sweden, while Denmark and Holstein-Glückstadt took part with the Czar Peter. After many turns of fortune, the cause which Denmark had espoused triumphed, and, in 1713, the King of Denmark took possession of the whole of the Gottorp duchy. Peace was made in 1720, and the Holstein portion of the duchy was restored to the vanquished Duke; but the Schleswig portion (ducal Schleswig) was retained by the King and incorporated with his own - the royal - portion. In his letters-patent of August 22nd, 1721, the King described ducal Schleswig as " an in difficult times in irregular wise from the crown of Denmark severed appurtenance." By a treaty, signed July 23rd, 1720, England and France guaranteed to the King of Denmark and his heirs the continual and peaceable possession of ducal Schleswig. Bunsen urges that the object of this guarantee was to secure Denmark! against any attempt which might be made by the Gottorp I line to recover the lost portion of Schleswig; and that I when that line renounced all its claims both to Schleswig I and Holstein, the guarantee fell to the ground. But,! although the apprehension of claims from the side of Gottorp was doubtless the occasion of the treaty, yet the terms in which it is expressed are sweeping and unconditional. England undertakes "to guarantee and maintain the King of Denmark and his heirs in the continual and peaceable possession" of the annexed territory.

Duke Charles Frederic, whom we have seen to be despoiled of his share of Schleswig, married the daughter of the Czar Peter the Great, and his son succeeded to the Russian throne as Peter III. From the union of this Peter with the too notorious Catherine of Anhalt-Zerbst there was born a son, the Grand Duke Paul, for whom, while still a minor, his mother arranged, in 1773, a renunciation of the Holstein portion of the Gottorp duchy (which his grandfather, as we have seen, had been allowed to retain in 1720), and of all dormant claims and rights whatsoever over the Schleswig portion of the duchy, " in favour of the King of Denmark and of his heirs and successors to the royal throne." In exchange for this renunciation, Paul received from the King of Denmark the duchy of Oldenburg. Holstein, as a German state, could only go to male heirs; but the succession in Schleswig was a different matter; and Grüner, the celebrated German publicist, admits that this renunciation lets in the female line of Denmark in ducal Schleswig.

After 1773, there is nothing in the relations between Denmark and Schleswig that need detain us until we come down to our own times. The old Estates having long before come to an end by desuetude, Frederic VI., in 1831 and 1834, granted separate constitutional chambers to Schleswig and Holstein, by which they were accepted and worked till February, 1848. After 1835, the probability of the extinction of the male line of the house of Oldenburg, through the eventual death without issue of Frederic, only surviving son of Christian VIII., became stronger with each succeeding year. To keep the Danish monarchy together became, therefore, the one paramount object of Danish statesmanship. At first the Danish court thought of persuading or bribing the Duke of Sonderburg - Augustenburg, representing the younger branch of the elder or royal line of the house of Oldenburg, to whom, if females were excluded, both Schleswig and Holstein would descend at the failure of male heirs in the royal line, to resign his right to the succession. This plan was abandoned by Christian YIIL, who appointed a special commission to examine the ancient laws, treaties, and other historic documents in the Danish archives. The result of the commission appeared in the King's letters-patent of 8th July, 1846, in which Christian YIIL stated it as his firm conviction that, so far as Schleswig was concerned, in consequence of the letters-patent of 1721, and the homage then done, the succession in Schleswig was now the same as in Denmark, and that he should exercise and maintain his right accordingly; while, in regard to Holstein, or certain parts of it, there existed certain facts militating against an equally positive opinion.

2. The relations of Holstein to the Danish monarchy are simple, and will not detain us long. The county of Holstein was from the first a German province, and came to be united with Schleswig through marriages between the ruling families. This union, as we have seen, was first effected in 1375. After the election by the people of the duchy and county of King Christian of the house of Oldenburg to be their lord, in 1460, Holstein remained united with Schleswig until the partitions among the princes of that house already described, and afterwards so far as those partitions did not disunite them. In 1474, Holstein was raised to the rank of a duchy. Between 1720 and 1773, it was divided into two states - one of which, having Kiel for its capital, and now absolutely disunited from Schleswig, remained in the hands of the Gottorp princes; the other, with Glückstadt for its capital, was attached to Schleswig, and belonged to the King of Denmark. In 1773, the Grand Duke Paul made the renunciation which has already been described; and since that time Holstein has formed one state, united to Schleswig, and ruled by the King of Denmark, but still a member of the Bund or confederation of German states, and as such represented by the King's ambassador in the German Diet. As the prospects of the extinction of the male line of Oldenburg drew nearer, the Danish court had little hope of preserving its hold over Holstein, which, as a German duchy, could only go to a male heir. That heir was ready at hand, in the person of the Duke of Augustenburg, who was lineally descended from the ancestor of the Sonderburg, or younger branch of the royal line of the house of Oldenburg. In 1846, Christian VIII. in his letters-patent hinted, as we have seen, that the case as regarded the succession in Holstein was obscure. But an outcry was raised at this, and the King hastened to make reassuring declarations, both in the Diet and to the people of Holstein.

3. We are now in a position to form an opinion upon the validity of the claim advanced in Germany, and in the German portion of the duchies, that Schleswig and Holstein should remain for ever indissoluble. If by this claim it be merely meant that there always has been, and always ought to be, some kind of connection between Schleswig and Holstein, that may readily be admitted. Ever since the charter of 1460 the two duchies have undoubtedly held much in common - their public law, for instance, several valuable privileges and immunities as against the Danish Kings, and various social institutions. But thus much, or more, they might easily retain in common, even though Schleswig were politically incorporated with Denmark, and Holstein had a separate constitution, or were even annexed to another state. For the purposes of the German argument, it must be shown that a true political union has generally subsisted, and ought of right to subsist, between Schleswig and Holstein. In order to prove this, the Germans point to the original charter of 1460, conceding, as they say, the indivisibility of the two lands, and to the numerous confirmations of that charter given by Danish Kings, down to the last confirmation by Frederic VII. in 1848. On the other hand, it may be urged - 1. That (as already explained) the original charter does not promise, on the part of the King of Denmark, that the lands shall be undivided for ever, but only that he will "maintain them in peace, that they may remain " - or, so that they remain - " undivided for ever." If the first rendering were the true one, any King of Denmark consenting to the separation of Schleswig and Holstein would break the charter. But, according to the true meaning of the actual words, if circumstances beyond his control compelled a King of Denmark to promote the separation, though his wish would have been frustrated, his -word would not have been broken. 2. The charter being so understood, the various confirmations of it must be understood in the same way, and no argument in favour of the indivisibility of the lands can be founded on them. 3. Actual political separation, as regards large portions of the duchies, was the rule rather than the exception during more than three centuries, say, from about 1470 to 1773: and during the latter portion of that time eastern Holstein was, in a political sense, wholly disconnected from Schleswig. 4. Holstein being a member of the German Bund, while Schleswig was not, whatever path the exigencies of German politics might force the former to enter, it does not follow that the latter should be forced to enter the same; on the contrary, its close connection with Denmark since 1027 would suggest that in case of an incompatibility, Schleswig should go with Denmark rather than with Holstein.

On the other side, it must be fully conceded that a strong community of interests and sympathies had subsisted for centuries between the German speaking populations of the two duchies, and that their desire to remain in union was deserving of every respect and consideration. Chevalier Bunsen alleges that, before 1848, even the Danish population of Schleswig leaned rather to Holstein than to Denmark; but this point seems doubtful. If public and general manifestations of sorrow are to count for anything, the grief of the Schleswig Danes at being severed from the little kingdom, in 1864, was deep-seated and sincere.

The sum of our analysis of the whole question may be thus expressed. Chevalier Bunsen, following the King of Prussia in his letter of the 24th March, 1848, to the Duke of Augustenburg, enunciates the German view in the following articles: -

  1. That the duchies are independent states.
  2. That these states are indivisibly united.
  3. That male succession is alone permissible in either.
Of these articles, the first is admitted by all parties.

With regard to the second, the résumé of the facts that we bave attempted shows that it is either untrue or highly doubtful. On the third article, we have shown that the Danish view, that female succession is admissible in Schleswig, has, to say the least, a great deal in its favour. And the practical conclusion to be drawn is this - that England, when she guaranteed to Denmark, in 1720, the peaceable possession of ducal Schleswig, was justified in doing so, and that she would not have abetted illegality or oppression had she maintained that guarantee with all her strength as a nation when Schleswig was invaded and violently separated from Denmark in 1864.

To resume the narrative of events. In the ferment which arose in every capital of Europe after the Revolution in Paris of February, 1848, a violent Danish national feeling manifested itself at Copenhagen, and forced the King, Frederic YIL, to issue a proclamation declaring that Denmark and Schleswig were thenceforth to form an inseparable union under a common free constitution. The duchies, incited by a strong democratic and national feeling that had arisen in Germany, regarded this proclamation as a breach of their constitution, and broke out into rebellion. They were aided, but in a hesitating irresolute way, by the King of Prussia, and carried on the war with Denmark with various success to the end of the summer of 1850. By the end of 1849, Austria had subdued both Hungary and Sardinia, and had now leisure to look after her interests in Germany. She disapproved of the advances which Frederic William had made to the German democracy, and of his making war on Denmark, and convened a meeting of the Diet at Frankfort with the view of counteracting Prussian schemes, The weak King immediately yielded, especially as Russia was giving urgent and imperious advice the same way; abandoned the duchies, made peace with Denmark (July 2, 1850), and actually assisted her in the task of subjugation. The duchies resolved to continue the war, but they were defeated in a great battle, and soon after compelled to submit. In this battle of Idsted (July 25, 1850), the forces of Schleswig-Holstein, nearly 30,000 in number, were commanded by General Willisen; the Danes were in rather stronger force, and were led by Generals Krogh and Schlepegroll. Schlepegroll fell in the heat of the battle, and the Danish line wavered, but Colonel De Meza assumed the command, led on his troops with the greatest bravery, and won the battle. The loss on both sides amounted to about 7,000 men. Schleswig was thus recovered; but the Danish troops halted on the frontier of Holstein, in obedience to an article in the Treaty of the 2nd July, 1850, requiring Denmark to apply for the intervention of the Bund before resorting to hostilities against Holstein. This application was made; and, in reply to it, an Austro-Prussian army, acting in the name of the Bund, marched into Holstein, and required the de facto Government to lay down its arms. Thus was the whole of Schleswig-Holstein pacified (January 11,1851); but military occupation of Holstein was still retained by the German Powers, pending the attainment of a definitive arrangement for the affairs of the duchies. Negotiations were at once opened between the King of Denmark, on the one part, and Austria and Prussia, representing the Bund, on the other part, and were protracted through the whole of the year 1851. It would detain us too long to dwell with any fulness of detail on this part of the history. But two points require to be carefully stated: - (1) The nature of the engagements taken by the King of Denmark with respect to the future government of the duchies; (2) the principal terms of the treaty which wound up the negotiations, and was presumed to have finally disposed of the question of succession.

    Denmark, in and by a diplomatic correspondence with Austria and Prussia, dated in December, 1851, and January, 1852, formally pledged herself, along with other clauses of less importance, to the following articles: -
    1. That she would not incorporate, nor take steps towards incorporating, the duchy of Schleswig with the kingdom.
    2. That the separate Diets of Schleswig and Holstein should, as to the matters falling within their competence, have bond fide legislative powers, instead of the mere right of advising, which was all they had before possessed; and that the constitutions under which these fuller privileges should be exercised should be framed after consultation with the provincial Estates. The matters falling within their competence were defined to be all such as were connected with taxation, and with the rights of persons and property.
    3. That a common constitution should be devised for the monarchy, in which its four constituent parts should maintain a position of equality, none being subordinated to the other; and that, in framing this constitution, the four local Diets should be consulted.
    4. That the German and Danish nationalities in Schleswig should meet with equal protection.
    5. That all ties of a non-political kind between Holstein and Schleswig should remain intact. Denmark having taken these engagements, Austria and Prussia, on the part of the Bund, gave up what had been the Federal policy during the war, namely, to insist on a real political union between the duchies, withdrew their troops from Holstein, and also undertook, on their own part, to accede to the Protocol of London (August 2, 1850), regulating the Danish succession. The project foreshadowed in that protocol was ultimately embodied in the Treaty of London (May 8, 1852); its origin and general purport were as follows: -
  1. Of all the Princes of the Sonderburg line of the house of Oldenburg, the only one who sided with Denmark during the war was Prince Christian of Sonderburg-Glücksburg. (The Glücksburg is the younger branch of the Sonderburg line, the Augustenburg being the elder.) Many of the Sonderburg Princes stood nearer to the succession than Prince Christian, but what gave him an advantage (besides the favour with which his conduct during the war caused him to be regarded by the Danish court) was the fact of his marriage with the Princess Louise of Hesse, the daughter of a sister of Christian VIII., who, after her mother, brother, and an elder sister, stood the nearest in succession to the Danish throne under the Lex Regia. The following plan, therefore, was devised and executed. The mother, brother, and elder sister of the Princess Louise renounced their rights to the succession in her favour, and she then renounced her own rights in favour of her husband. Russia, by the Protocol of Warsaw (June 5, 1851), had already renounced in favour of Prince Christian her eventual rights, whatever they were, arising on the extinction of the male line in Denmark, expressly reserving those rights, however, should the arrangement not be carried out. This reservation was a master-stroke of policy on the part of the Danish court, for the bare prospect of an " eventuality" which should seat the gigantic power of Russia in Copenhagen and in Kiel was enough to drive all the diplomatists of Europe into any arrangement calculated to defeat it. The Treaty of London, therefore, signed by Austria, France, England, Prussia, and Sweden, engaged the high contracting parties - not to guarantee - but to recognise in Prince Christian and his heirs male the right of succeeding to all the states actually united under the Danish sceptre, upon the death without issue of the reigning King. In the same year, the Duke of Augusten- burg, representing the male line of the house of Oldenburg, on receiving from the King of Denmark a large sum of money in payment for his estates in Schleswig and the islands, which had been confiscated during the war, gave a written engagement that neither he nor any of his family would do anything to disturb the new order of succession, as regulated by the Treaty of London» The matter thus seemed to be settled, but it really was not. For, in the first place, all that the Princess Louise could surrender to any one was her right to the succession in Denmark (and possibly in Schleswig); she had no right whatever to the succession in Holstein, because that could only pass to male heirs. Secondly, it was highly questionable in law whether the Princess could execute a valid renunciation of her rights in favour of one who did not stand next in the order of succession to herself, without the consent of those whose right intervened between her and him; but no such consent was ever obtained. Thirdly, the Duke of Augustenburg might with some reason allege that his abandonment of his rights was not made freely, but under compulsion, or else one of his sons (as actually happened) might declare that his father's act did not bind him. Fourthly, even supposing the renunciation of the Duke of Augusten- burg and his family to be persevered in, there were other Princes of the Sonderburg line whose rights, at any rate to the Holstein succession, were prior to that of Prince Christian, and who had not renounced those rights. Fifthly, and chiefly, the German Confederation was not a party to the Treaty of London; it was therefore free to resist the arrangement it contained, if it considered the interests of Holstein and the Bund to require it.

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