The first episode of Prince Joachim’s new documentary aired last night in Denmark and it focused on faith. It is available online but it doesn’t have English subtitles. Read more below for a detailed summary and the first reviews from Danish journalists about Prince Joachim’s new role!
Note: In order to write a summary as detailed as possible without it being a boring translation, I am going to split the summary by locations, just like the episode does. The translation and summary are mine and I tried to research the context as much as possible to be able to not make historical mistake. However, if you spot any, please let me know so I can correct it. And if you have any question about something that was said/shown in the documentary but was not included here, don’t hesitate to ask!
Episode 1: FAITH
You can watch the episode here and (hopefully) follow along with the summary!
The first stop of this episode is Grenaa Kirke where Prince Joachim surprises children who are studying for their confirmation. He says that there is always something bigger than us in a church and he asks the children if they have given any thoughts about what it means to be Christian today. While driving to the church, Prince Joachim recalls his own confirmation.
I was 13 when I was confirmed. All my friends were confirmed at the same time, but I was alone. That’s how it was. There were gifts and a great party. In the 80s, the gifts were not money. It was a stereo. The one we all dreamed of.
[In the opening credits, Joachim says: “For over 1000 years, the history of Denmark has been closely linked to the history of my family. I feel connected to the people and the events that have created the piece of land called Denmark. Why do we have borders? Who has fought for free elections? Why is it free to attend school? The answers lie in the past. This is my suggestion of how our common history has created Denmark.”]
Bornholm – Sorte Muld
Prince Joachim explains that before Denmark got its name, they used to have several gods such as Odin, Thor and Freja among others. The Sorte Muld is a field dating back from the Iron Age where you can find small figurines engraved in solid gold plates. Prince Joachim met with Klaus Thorsen and a team of amateur archaeologists and spend some time trying to find a figurine. He did manage to find three which earned him cheers from the rest of the team. Prince Joachim said that Sorte Muld “is the tangible testimony that we believed in something before we became Christians.”
While driving to Jelling, Prince Joachim reflects on the shift from believing in multiple gods to believing in God and Jesus only. He says that monks came from Rome with new thinking from the Pope. He also explains the role of the King at the time, Harald Blåtand.
Christianity’s pioneers in Europe are missionaries. They also came up to our area where we were still tribal. In the 900’s they came to Jelling where they whispered something in the King’s ears. And he was interested in that. And the King was Harald Blåtand. Harald Blåtand tells the whole world that the ancient gods are done and that there is now only one true god.
In Jelling, Prince Joachim meets with Morten Teilmann-Jorgensen who works at the Kongernes Jelling, a National museum on Viking Kinds like Harald Blåtand. The aim is to understand what pushed Harald Blåtand to make the decision convert to Christianity. And the answer lies in the stones that are exposed at the museum. The world’s largest stone has been in Jelling for over 1000 years. Morten Teilmann-Jorgensen explains that Harald Blåtand wanted to show that he was a great King and he did that by writing on ten tons of heavy stones how great he was and all he has done for the faith. He also wrote horizontally on the stones which make them even more special as at the time, they would usually write vertically on stones. It is believed that he had seen a Bible (written horizontally in Latin) and wanted to show that he was a man of progress. On the stone, he wrote that he united Denmark and Norway and that he made the Danes Christians. Prince Joachim said that the stone was unique. It is not known if Harald truly believed in God or if did to have allies in the South.
Esrum Kloster, Nordsjaelland
Prince Joachim explains that Christianity as we know it spreads in the country during that time and that many churches are built as well as many monasteries for the monks and nuns who are coming to Denmark. He says that this monastery is a community in a local community and that it is a knowledge center as well as a powerhouse. But in order to learn more about monks and nuns and their Christianity, he will meet a nun in another monastery in Copenhagen.
There, he meets with Sister Anna Mirijam who shows him around the monastery. When Prince Joachim asks her what her mission is, Sister Anna Mirijam says that they are here as a sign that there is more in this world so people will feel the longing in them that there is more than this. The community meets three times a day in the chapel for their joint prayer. She also explains that the work of the monastery is also to be a lodge. In the living room, Sister Anna Mirijam tells Prince Joachim about one funny experience she had. One time she was taking the bus home and a few young drunk men were sitting near her. One of them suddenly asked very loudly if it was fun to be a nun and if it was true that she can’t have sex. The bus was silent and she didn’t know what she should say. So she said that there was a difference between not being able to do something and not wanting to do something. She explained to the young man that it was not important for her as she has found something bigger to live for. Over tea, they talked about Prince Joachim’s youngest children with the Prince saying they are at a very active age right now.
After 500 years of being Christians, the Church split into Catholics and Protestants. It is the Reformation. Prince Joachim says:
We do not have much in writing from the time of the Reformation. But the most important document was written by Poul Helgesen. It is the Skibby Chronicle. The book is a unique piece of Danish history where the Catholics monk wrote down his highly critical thoughts on the Reformation.
At Copenhagen’s University, Prince Joachim had the opportunity to read some of those documents. Prince Joachim said he had goosebumps and that it was very exciting to have this opportunity. The book covers Denmark’s history from 1047 to 1534 and it ends in the middle of a sentence and we don’t know what happened to Poul Helgesen after 1534.
So Denmark became Protestant. At first, it is peaceful but the Protestant priests want to eradicate everyday magic. With the King’s blessing, the witch-fires begin to blaze. Here in Rugaard lived the gentleman Jørgen Arenfeldt , our most fierce witch hunter. Here he could prove if a woman was innocent or if she was possessed by the Devil. In this lake, the infallible water test was to prove if she was a witch. She was undressed and her hands and feet were tied. She got a rope for her life and was thrown out in the middle of the water. And if she quibbled upstairs like a goose, she was a witch and needed to be burned. But if she drowned, Arenfeldt could lift her lifeless body back to shore. She was innocent. Saved. Arenfeldt’s behavior went too far and the King stopped his witch-hunt. Arenfeldt ended up as a poor man who had to sell Rugaard.
Th last witch-hunt in Denmark took place in 1693.
Det Kongelige Frederiks Hospital, Copenhagen
Prince Joachim says that at the time in Europe, some people were questioning life after death and some were even starting to question the existence of God. How can God be almighty when there are natural disasters and war? Prince Joachim says this is the moment science started to look for answers. How do people get sick and cured when the illness cannot be explained as God’s punishment?
Christianborg Slot (Parliament)
Prince Joachim explains that at that time the Constitution still wanted to retain control over the Church. Its first chapter establishes the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the official church of Denmark. It is the state religion in Denmark but the Constitution still guarantees freedom of religion for everyone. In Denmark, there are today 199 religious communities approved by the Ministry of the Church.
Prince Joachim meets with Ali Karimi who is Muslim. Ali said that being Muslim in a Christian country was not a problem as religion is a private matter. When Ali stalks about the number of times he prays and that sometimes he only prays twice instead of three times if he doesn’t have time , Prince Joachim said
I believe in my God, but this is not determined in the numbers of time I go to church. I’ll take it easy. My children need to know that it is our religion and also know that there are other religions in the society.
Prince Joachim ends the episode by saying:
That was my story of how we got one single God. We have the freedom to believe what we want, or we can not believe. But the need to seek answers will always be there. For myself as well. Today in Denmark, 75% of the population is part of the Church of Denmark.
The last footage we see is Prince Joachim surprising the children he met at the beginning of the episode in Grenaa at the end of their confirmation. He congratulates them all and ask when they are planning on going to church again. One of the children says: “It will not be until many years.”
Click on the links to read the full reviews.
Prince Joachim is the history teacher we all should have had. He and his family are Danish history after all, and it makes great sense to let him travel around Denmark and explain why we behave the way we do. […]And yes, it’s nice that people in the program tell you, the prince doesn’t represent the official royal house or Denmark, he is himself.And he deliberately drives around the country in a regular family car, showing almost childish enthusiasm over the subject with selfie at the rune stone in Jelling and committed outbursts. But it is not set up and willed, it is natural.One can feel that the prince is very much about to present himself as anything but arrogant and boring. He has previously tried with little result. But this time it succeeds. He is royal in the cool way.– anna thygesen, communication expert (x)
What a great storyteller Prince Joachim is! I just wish he would tell a lot more about his knowledge instead of telling it in the voice over and then asking the experts, ‘How was it then?’. It seems a little double, because we can actually feel he has a huge amount of knowledge he wants to share, so let it be his knowledge instead of an expert’s knowledge. […]I want to see much, much more with Prince Joachim.– Jim lyngvild, bt (x)
I think he’s doing exceptionally well. He is clear and comfortable. He is himself. He is slightly correct and old-fashioned, but he is not so stiff and insistent. He is not forced in any way. I’m surprised at how good he is.– Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen, royal expert (x)
I think it’s clear that we need to have a different picture of Joachim than what is in people’s minds. It’s a more relaxed prince we see. He brings himself to eye level and he succeeds.– Søren Jakobsen, royal expert (x)