Queen Margrethe of Denmark is currently on a four-day-long visit to the northern parts of Germany. The Danish monarch is touring the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and the Danish minority in South Schleswig. She is travelling on the Royal yacht Dannebrog which sailed into Flensburg Harbour on Tuesday.
Queen Margrethe told the Danish press upon her arrival in Germany: “That so many born in Germany feel Danish at heart, touches me.” Queen Margrethe could not hide how moved and happy she was to see so many Danes during the first day of her visit to Flensburg.
Queen Margrethe had a busy schedule during her first day and was welcomed at Flensburg City Hall where she signed the city’s golden guest-book. The Danish queen also gave a speech in German, where she spoke of Flensburg’s Danish-German history. Her Majesty said:
“My grandfather, Christian X, would have liked to see Flensburg reunited with Denmark in 1920. New thoughts took root and a democratic process was initiated. Now it was the people of those areas who had to decide where the boundary should be. It was a serious and difficult process, but also a historical process. However, the result proved to be a good and durable solution. For next year in 2020, we can celebrate the centenary of the democratically determined border between Denmark and Germany. On the whole, there has been calm and acceptance about this boundary.”
Queen Margrethe also spoke about the special role that the border country has for her: “It is also here that the Danish minority has their central and largest institutions. Decade after decade, Danes, Germans and minorities on both sides of the border have been approaching each other. There is an important cross-border cooperation between institutions as well as between people. We must appreciate and develop that”.
In 1920, the former German state of Schleswig became a part of the Danish kingdom again. This happened after a referendum on Schleswig’s transition from German to Danish rule in 1920. The referendum was held as a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty that marked the end of the First World War. The 1919 Versailles Peace Treaty decided that a referendum should be held in Schleswig in two rounds, one in northern Schleswig and one in the middle part of Schleswig. While the northern parts voted to become Danish with 74%, middle Schleswig voted to continue as part of Germany with 80%.
Both Denmark and Germany accepted the result. In May 1920, the Danish military took control of northern Schleswig, while the middle part remained in Germany. King Christian X of Denmark rode over the old border on the road by the village of Taps on his white horse, stopping to speak to a young child who he picked up and put on his horse to ride with him. The photograph of this moment became well known throughout Europe and seen by some historians as the very symbol of Christian X’s peaceful reign.
The reunion day June 15, and the voting day February 10, are still celebrated by Danes in Schleswig and the Danes who still live in what is part of Germany today. In 2018, it was estimated that of the 450,000 living in German-controlled Schleswig, 50,000 of them were ethnically Danish. They have their own churches, schools and Danish cities as well as their own flag and political party which still campaigns for this part of Schleswig to become a part of Denmark.