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Long weekend in Copenhagen – Danish-British relations

Having spent a long weekend in Copenhagen does not mean this post is going to be about the Danish capitol. You just have to look for links in history and you will find some. This happened in Copenhagen as well: as we were walking down the streets of the city, I was wondering what sort of connections Denmark and Great-Britain (England) have. Before that, let’s see what impressions Copenhagen made.

Copenhagen is a true love.

I was 16 when I first visited the Danish capitol that time by ferry. In 2013 I took the train which runs over the Oresund bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen and this year we flew in. And why is it a love? I can not really explain. You just have to be there and feel the ambience of the town. It is a bit like when you go to Montmartre in Paris. Copenhagen is not a massive city, it is doable by bike or even on foot. Because of this the city is livable and has a very bohemian, artistic ambience. From architecture point of view it is not that homogene like Amsterdam or Paris for example. Here you would equally find timber framed houses, Hansa houses in the harbour, castles in Dutch style and continental town houses. It is more elegant than Amsterdam, you can feel Copenhagen used to be a wealthy town in old days and it is again most probably after the 19th century crisis. The city is clean and organized and even cyclist behave better than in Amsterdam (apologies, dear Amsterdam-fans, I do like Amsterdam as well). Like the British, the Danish are a proud nation as well – at least this is how I see them. Of course, this is my opinion only and I do not wish to compare these nations and consider one to be better than the other. You can surely find a national flag in a Danish garden just like in England/Britain and even the Danish Christmas tree has a Danish flag wreath just like the British use the Union Jack for decorating events.

To me the Danish appear to have a healthy national identity and to be aware of their national heritage, just like the British. The Danish are also very precise (thinking about Scandinavian design) just like the British. Summing up: they appear to have a lot in common, yet the countries are two different worlds.

Copenhagen street
Town houses in “continental style” in Copenhagen

But why the similarities then?


I did some investigation and found a few more similarities which I am sure is not exhaustive. The first relations were intensive. The vikings attacked the British Isles several times since the 8th century. In the middle of the 9th century the Danish settled down in the area of York and ruled the Eastern and Northern parts of the country. This was the so called Danelaw. Although the Saxon king Great Alfred managed to beat the Danish and took back territories belonging to the Danelaw, there was a Danish attack against the country in 980. Ethelred tried to keep the status quo by the tax called danegeld with no success. As he did not have any Saxon heir, after his death the council Witan elected the Danish Knut as king who split the country between the Saxons and the Danish. Knut’s sons died young, so the he was followed by Saxons on the throne again, but due to the Norman conquest the country’s borders changed again.


I could not find any relations in the coming centuries until the 17th century. I find it quite interesting that just like the British, the Danish too had colonies, albeit on a much smaller scale than the British and traded with excise goods and slaves. In 1616 the Danish East-India Company was established and imported more tea from Tranquebar than the English. Funnily the Danish sold 90% of the tea to England with a huge margin. 🙂 (But as many times, life struck back and Tranquebar was sold to Britain in 1715.) Queen Anne who was on the British throne for a short period only (1702-1707) married a Danish prince, George. There are more royal relationships between the British and Danish in the coming centuries: in 1863 son of Queen Victoria, Edward II married the Danish princess, Alexandra.


During the Napoleonic wars, in 1801 the British navy attacked Copenhagen because Britain felt threatened by the Danish and then later in 1807 they attacked the capitol again causing serious damage to the city. I would not deal with the 20th century and the world wars and would finish talking about the historical connections and more on the the cultural relationships.

Rosenborg Castle Copenhagen
The Rosenborg Castle, Dutch influence

I have been thinking a lot where in the British culture the Danish or Denmark appears. Two things spring to mind instantly: danish pastry and danish bacon.


Danish pastry is made of puff pastry just like the French croissant. The method was brought to Denmark by bakers from Vienna. There are several types of Danish pastries but based on my observations for the British, the Danish pastry is the round one with a jam in the middle and icing on top. Danish bacon is used for the Full English (breakfast) and its history is much older than we think. Denmark traded with pigs since the Middle Ages and one of their biggest markets was in Germany. In 1887 the Germans banned the Danish pork and Denmark had to look for new markets. As a result of the industrial revolution, the population in the UK grew rapidly which was unable to supply the food on its own and welcome the Danish imported pork. A worker in those day consumed bacon and eggs two or three times a week which later became the iconic breakfast. The brand Danish bacon appeared in 1902 on the market when the Danish Bacon Agency Limited was established in the London Docks. The logo contained the word Danish with a waving line above and below it and this is how people started to refer to the bacon as Danish.

danish pastry


The other thing which is very similar in the countries culture is the guards. The British guard wears black trousers with a red stripe on the side, a red coat and bearskin. The Danish guard wears blue trousers with white stripes on the side, red or black coat with white crosses and a bearskin. The Danish guard reminds me more of a tin soldier or the Nutcracker. Perhaps recalling a scene from the film, Paddington 1, where Paddington leaves the Browns after having heard what Mr Brown thinks of him. When he stands in front of a guard’s century box and the Guard and lets Paddington to step inside to stay dry in the rain, Paddington is hungry. He pulls out his spare marmalade bread from his head but when dozens of pigeons are staring at him, he decides not to eat it and puts it back to his hat. In this very moment the guard offers a cup of hot tea, and food which he pulls out of his bearskin. This scene is very British. Making a joke out of a guard can only be done by the British themselves. 🙂

danish guard
A Danish guard


If anything, LEGO is deemed to be Danish. Is there any English/British connection? Of course there is…! A Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen started to make wooden toy bricks in 1932 which he started to call LEGO in 1934. They started to make the automatic binding bricks of plastic in 1947 which was based on a British toy’s concept called Kiddicraft. The Kiddikraft was patented in the UK in 1939. LEGO modified the design of the Kiddicraft and the LEGO we know today was born. Maybe it explains better why there is a LEGO land in Windsor…




So, this is what I found regarding Danish-British relationships… What’s on your list?


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