Poems by Jens Baggesen with a dedication to Crown Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke, 1803

Up until the Schleswig wars in the 1800s, the King of Denmark ruled over a number of different peoples. Some of the monarch’s subjects spoke Icelandic or Faroese, some of them Greenlandic, some Tamil, some Creole, until the loss of Norway in 1814 many also spoke Norwegian, and a fairly large percentage, primarily in Schleswig and Holstein, spoke German. German was together with French the leading language of culture at the time, and it was therefore natural that much of Danish cultural life took place in German, and that many of the cultural contacts were German. Furthermore, several of the leading noble families – amongst them the Schimmelmanns, Reventlows, Bernstorffs, and Moltkes – were of German or Holstein nobility, and many members of the royal family through the ages have been of German heritage. This was also the case with regard to the Danish queen during the greater part of the Golden Age, Marie Sophie Frederikke, who was the daughter of Landgrave Charles of Hesse-Kassel and Frederik V’s daughter Louise. From the moment she became Crown Princess in 1790 she was the centre of attention for authors.

In the Queen’s Reference Library there are still many books which belonged to her, many which were dedicated to her by authors, and the vast majority of them are in German. This is also the case with the impressively bound two volume edition of the poems of Jens Baggesen, one of the great poets of the early Golden Age. It is in German, partly because Baggesen mastered the language, and partly because he had a large audience in Germany. During the nationalist literary criticism of the 1800s Baggesen’s German poems, which can be seen as a natural reflection of his extensive network amongst the German cultural elite, where he cultivated friendships with philosophers and poets such as Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Matthias Claudius, Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, were held against him and used to negatively affect the evaluation of his oeuvre.

Jens Baggesen, Gedichte, Hamburg, 1803. The dedication on the flyleaf, which is impressively large in all its simplicity, runs: “An Ihre Königlichen Hoheit MARIA, Kronprinzessin von Dännemark. d. 31 July 1806 – unterthänigst von J. Baggesen.” It is followed by a two page paean to the Crown Princess, the first verse of which runs: “Erste, beste, holdeste der Frauen, / Engelin, des Friedensengels Lust, / Deren Blick von ferne nur zu schauen, / Sänftiget den schmerz in jeder Brust, […]”