History of the nobility in Denmark – Article in English written by Count Henrik Holstein and Monsieur Marc Bruun de Neergaard.

History of the nobility in Denmark

Written by Count Henrik Holstein

Numerous excavations of gold finds from the Bronze Age reveal the existence of a wealthy class of chieftains. Poetry from the Iron Age indicates a strong genetic and class-minded awareness: ”Jarlar”, ”karlar”, and ”trallar” were nobles, free men, and slaves. In the Germanic culture not only one man, but whole his family was considered well-born, which lead to the Nordic and German concept of untitled nobility.

Presumably, some of the oldest of the Danish noble families descend from the Iron Age magnate families. The Bille family probably descends from the powerful Hvide’s, who were foster brethren with the Danish kings and sometime earls of Zealand and Rügen. The Danish kings were elected at the things by free men, but this was monopolised by the nobility and the Church by around 1280, through the ‘Council of the Realm’ (Rigsraadet), a kind of upper house without a lower house. After the Reformation in 1536 only the nobility – still entirely without any inheritable titles – was represented in the Council of the Realm. Likewise, the manors and the highest offices of the state were reserved for the nobles. They elected the kings while imposing terms and conditions; for instance, the Council forbade King Christian the 4th to join the 30-Years War. He did, none-the-less, but as the Duke of Holstein, and ruined the kingdom. Hence, his son, King Frederik the 3rd (1609- 1670), was given very short reins, and now one spoke of a ‘republic of nobles’. Frederik, however, with the help of the Copenhagen burghers, made a coup d’état in 1660 and seized absolute power. Since then, the Danish nobility has not enjoyed any political or other particular privileges (not to mistake with the landowners, still often nobles), although it maintained considerable political and economic influence. In order to create a loyal upper nobility Frederik’s son, Christian the 5th, began creating a small number of counties and baronies. These were a sort of entailed estates with numerous economic and administrative privileges, along with the primogeniture titles of ‘count of fief’ (lensgreve) and ‘baron of fief’ (lensbaron). Their children became counts and countesses or barons and baronesses. Nobles frequently headed governments, also after the introduction of democracy in 1849. The last noble prime minister in Denmark, so far, was Count J. L. Holstein of the County of Ledreborg, in 1909. The fiefs, less than 40, were abolished in the 1920’s. Today the Danish nobility, though without any privileges, remains an official body recognised by the state.

History of the Danish Nobility Association (DAF)

Written by Count Henrik Holstein

No corporation or body exists, or ever existed, to formally represent the nobility in Denmark. Although the ‘Council of the Realm’ (Rigsraadet) was reserved for nobles in the period from the Reformation in 1536 until its dissolution in 1660, it consisted only of a few selected nobles, whose objective was the governance of the Danish realm. However, in the 1880’s an association was founded, which still exists: The ‘Association of the Danish Nobility’. This association only represents its members, who are Danish nobles, who have signed up and paid for their membership. However, since no equivalent corporation exists, the ‘Association of the Danish Nobility’ is the only organisation, which exclusively deals with matters of the Danish nobility. Every third year the association publishes the authoritative nobility calendar, which comprises the personal details of all members of the Danish nobility, and which is edited by scholars from University of South Denmark. On the board of the association are several people with high offices at the royal Danish court. The association is a member of CILANE.

History of the Danish Youth Association (DAU)

Written by Marc Bruun de Neergaard

The Danish Youth Association (DAU) is a subsection of The Danish Nobility Association (DAF) and is therefore ruled by the articles of DAF and is subject to the board of association of DAF. All members of DAU are members of DAF and therefore meet the requirements set forth by the Nobility association.

DAU was officially founded November 22nd, 2007 at a founding meeting in what is known as the H.C. Andersen Castle in Copenhagen. DAU has a board consisting of six members who report to the board of DAF.

Since being founded DAU has had a range of activities ranging from dinner parties and museum visits to a monthly After work drinks arrangement and Christmas lunch.

The Danish Youth Association (DAU) today

Written by Marc Bruun de Neergaard

Being a young association DAU is still in the process of recruiting members. At present DAU has approximately 80 members. Other than the monthly After work drink arrangement DAU is hosting a national spring ball in April 2009 and an IWE in September 2009. This will be DAU’s first IWE.

DAU’s board consists of the chairman: Marc Bruun de Neergaard, Vice-chairman and social organizer: Jacob de Neergaard, CILANE representative: Leanne Louise Q. Iermiin, Webmaster: Count Emil Brockenhuus-Schack, Treasurer: Baron Nicolas de Bertouch-Lehn and Secretary, Protocol and Editorial: Henrietta Schack von Brockdorff.

DAU does not have premises to it’s disposition and is therefore reliant on hiring locations for the arrangements held. For the spring ball in April 2009 a member of DAF has kindly let DAU use a private home for the ball. It is our hope that other members of DAF will be as kind and let us borrow their historical homes for our arrangements.