Schleswig and Holstein - and Holstein and Schleswig...and all that


Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
Las Vegas, NV USA
The Danes should really have tried to negotiate a division of the territory along the language boundary at the London conference, but they seem to have been incapable of coherent action.
I think they tried. Schleswig was mostly Danish although there was a significant German population in the south. Holstein was mostly German and more valuable to Prussia. However Bismarck wanted more room around the proposed Kiel Canal that would allow a more direct marine connection with the Baltic Sea from the west.

Palmerston bowed to public pressure and declared that Denmark would "not be alone" if attacked by Prussia and Austria.The Prince of Wales was recently married to the very popular Princess Alexandria of Denmark. Ironically the Queen, as well as much of the Cabinet, was opposed to any British intervention and Palmerston folded telling his supporters "The Queen wouldn't let me." She told the angry Princess that her country was England now. The Royal Navy wasn't keen either citing ice on the surrounding seas.

Queen Victoria and Her Ministers in the Schleswig-Holstein Crisis 1863-1864 on JSTOR
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Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
Welsh Marches
Thanks for the link. Sentiment in England was certainly very much on the side of the Danes. In the end the Germans took more than was justified, but the situation was rectified after the First World War, when people in the Danish-speaking areas were allowed to make their own choice by referendum.

This is an interesting example of how language became a crucial factor in national identity in the 19th Century. While Holstein was under the Danish crown, the Danes had made no effort whatever to encourage or impose use of the Danish language, even for official purposes; just as in Alsace, under the French crown, everyone was quite happy that German, whether High German or the local dialect, should be the local language both officially and in everyday use. This later came back to bite them in both cases, although in rather different ways.