The Danish Navy’s History
On the 10th of August 1510, King Hans Henrik Krummedige was appointed as “the supreme captain for all Captains, people and servants on the sea. We, our Kingdom and Country in service against our enemies.” This document, is estimated to be the Royal Danish Navy’s “Birth certificate”
Dominion over the Baltic Sea.
Denmark was during most of the 1500s and early 1600s the most dominate naval force on the Baltic Sea. It was necessary if Denmark were to maintain its extensive kingdom of Norway, large possessions in south Sweden and North Germany. Alongside that Denmark was able to collect the valuable Øresunds toll. King Christian IV claimed, that Denmark had sovereignty over the Baltic Sea - Dominum Maris Baltici. The King however wasn’t really a smart diplomat and in 1643-45 the Danish navy was up against the Swedish navy and the Dutch auxiliary fleet. Which resulted in the Danish navy’s biggest defeat at the Fehmern belt on the 13th of October 1644. Between 1645 and 1658 Denmark had to cede large areas of land to Sweden.
Revenge at sea
In the Scanian war 1675-79 and the great Nordic war in 1709-20 Denmark tried to recapture the lost territories back. The navy did well in these two wars. The naval officer Niels Iuel(1629 - 1697) was an excellent naval leader. He led the navy in the big sea battle 1st of July 1677 between Falsterbro and Stevns, where the Danish navy won a devastating victory against the Swedish. In the following year he helped modernize the fleet that had its base on Holmen in Copenhagen. The great Nordic war did also give birth to a great sea hero hos name was Peter Tordenskiold. It was partly thanks to him that the fleet drew the longest straw in this war against the Swedish
Naval battle between Stevns and Falsterbro 1st of July 1677. It might be Denmarks most
convincing victory ever. Painting by Viggo Fauerholt in 1856.
Only a few equipped ships.
After the great Nordic battle there was a long period with peace time. In this period Denmark had the 5-6th strongest navy. However that didn’t mean that all of their ships were at sea because that would have been too expensive for the state’s finances so most of the ships lay unarmed and unequipped on Holmen. If a war broke out the Navy’s crew would re-equip the fleet’s ships as if they were on an assembly line from Holmen’s many depots. This meant that Denmark had enough money to maintain a very big fleet, however it also meant that the country was vulnerable, if an enemy decided to attack its capitol city (Copenhagen).
The Navy’s open theft
In the early 1800s, Denmark came into conflict with the world's strongest naval power of Great Britain. Britain was annoyed with the fact that neutral Denmark earned tons of money selling goods to Britain’s enemies. A British fleet attacked Copenhagen on the 2 April 1801. It led to the battle of Copenhagen. Denmark lost, but the battle didn’t weaken the Danish fleet significantly. The British however was still a bit insecure about the threat that the Danish navy could be against the very important British Baltic trade. So in 1807 they attacked again but this time on land. After a long bombardment, Copenhagen surrendered and the British took the entire Danish navy as spoils of war – 16 Danish ships of the line, 15 Frigates and corvettes and 14 smaller vessels and that was the end of Denmark’s power on the sea.
Rebuilding the fleet
After the Napoleon wars, where Denmark went bankrupt and lost Norway, the navy had to rebuild it’s fleet. According to the fleet plan in 1815, Denmark was going to have 6 ships of the line, 8 frigates and 8 corvettes or brigs and 80 gun boats. That fleet was strong enough to block the german ports in the Scleswhig wars in 1848-51 and 1864. It also defeated the Prussian-Austrian squadron May 9, 1864 at Helgoland in the Navy's preliminary final naval battle.