Show of defiance

This photo looks unremarkable at first glance, and when I first saw it, I almost dismissed it. A small and blurry photo of a rider in a city? It almost ended up in my “sell” pile. Then I took a magnifying glass and looked closer at it. One of the signs in the background says “Frisør“, which indicates a Danish or Norwegian setting. Looking at the horseman, I thought I recognized something. Checking a couple of references, I could confirm that my hunch was correct: the rider was King Christian X of Denmark!

Christian X (1870 – 1947) was King of Denmark from 1912 to 1947. His father and his grandfather were born as princes of a German ducal family, but his ancestry wasn’t to influence his attitude during the war. His brother King Haakon VII of Norway became ruler in exile after the German occupation of Norway. When Denmark and Norway were invaded on 9 April, 1940, Denmark with its small army had no prospect of being able to hold out for any length of time. Faced with the explicit threat of the Luftwaffe bombing Copenhagen, Christian X and the entire Danish government capitulated at about 6 AM, in exchange for retaining political independence in domestic matters, beginning the occupation of Denmark, which lasted until 5 May 1945.

Before the war, the King wasn’t that popular, being described as authoritarian and strongly stressing the importance of royal dignity and power. His reluctance to embrace democracy resulted in the Easter Crisis of 1920. During the German occupation of Denmark he nonetheless become a popular symbol of resistance to the occupation, particularly because of the symbolic value of his daily ride through the streets of Copenhagen, unaccompanied by guards. This was to show that he still considered Denmark its own country. After a fall with his horse on 19 October 1942, he was more or less an invalid for the rest of his reign, and couldn’t take his rides anymore . When he passed away in 1947, Denmark mourned its defiant King.

The snapshot of the rider, taken by some German soldier who was a member of the army occupying Denmark, thus became a little piece of history. This is one of the things that makes collecting these photos so interesting.

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