Prince Joachim

Prins Joachim Fortaeller… Episode 2: Democracy – Detailed Summary

The second episode of Prince Joachim’s documentary about Denmark was aired tonight! Read a detailed summary below!

©Princess Marie’s Closet

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. All the big quotes are quotes said by Prince Joachim in the episode. 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!


You can watch the episode here and (hopefully) follow along with the summary!

Christiansborg Slot

Opening of Parliament , October 2nd, 2018

About the Parliament, the Danish Constitution says: “Each business year start the first Tuesday in October, and last until the first Tuesday in October next year. At the first day, they meet and elects a chairman and vice chairmen for the new business year.”

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Prince Joachim and Princess Marie are shown on their way to Christianborg Slot for the annual Opening of Parliament.

The opening of the Parliament is a big day for my wife and me.
At 18, I attended for the first time. This is the 29th time I’ve attended.
For Princess Marie, it is the 11th time.
There is still a lot to keep track of if it is to go as planned. From the pulpit, the prime minister presents his political ideas.
The Queen and her family are present to show our respect for Danish democracy.

At 12:00, the new session of Parliament is officially opened.

© Screenshot DR

Borgring, Lellinge


Democracy is a new way to govern a country. Before the country was called Denmark, it consisted of small kingdoms ruled by a king or a chief. All of that will change significantly with the Viking Age. Gorm den Gamle gathers Denmark and his son, Harald Blatand shows that he has power and he intends to send it in succession to his son. One of the best evidence of this is seen here at Køge.

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Prince Joachim explains that Denmark has five circular ramparts: Aggersborg, Trelleborg, Fyrkat and Nonnebakken. The fifth one in Lellinge has a special history. Nanna Holm – an archeologist- explains that this site was identified in 1970 as a viking castle by a man who was watching aerial photos. His hypothesis was rejected at first until more photos and maps proved it to be true. It turns out that the castle had been built over a very short time by thousands of people. Nanna Holm says that building a castle and remparts here shows the King’s power and his ability to build things as he wants. It also showed that Denmark was a kingdom and that they were protected. Nanna Holm is convinced that there has to be more that hasn’t be discovered yet. The Viking castle at Lellinge burnt down in the late 900s. Possibly in a showdown between Harald Blatand and his son Svend Tveskaeg.

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Nyborg Castle

Around 1200

Prince Joachim explains that at the time, the King or Queen had to negotiate the power and have good relationships with the nobility and the church as they had a lot of land and power.

So the king establishes a danehof (= Danish Court), a kind of parliament where the nobility, church and the King gather and distribute power among themselves. The meeting takes place there in the country where the King was staying with his court.

At Nyborg Castle, Prince Joachim meets with Kim Nyborg. The castle is currently being renovated. Nyborg shows Prince Joachim Christian III’s Knight Hall as well as the Danehof Room which is the oldest room of the current building. Prince Joachim seems to have fun reenacting what a typical meeting would look like with the nobles and clergy members walking in order and bowing to the King. A meeting usually lasted over a week but it could last up to a month if the negotiations were tough. Nyborg shows Prince Joachim below the Danehof Room where the material is the one used at the time. The use of expensive materials was again a show of power by the King. Prince Joachim is then shown the east facade of the castle where the bricks were burned at over 1100 degrees which explains why so much wood was needed at the time and show the huge number of ressources needed and again a show of power by the King. Nyborg says it is “the language of power”.

But the men of power cannot figure it out. Murders of kings and civil wars periodically roll across the country. In 1282, the nobility and the King therefore entered into an agreement at Nyborg Castle. The King signs a charter, a contract of employment so that the nobility can choose the King. In return, the King gains peace in the kingdom.

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While the King, the church and the nobility are fighting for the power of society, a fierce population has begun to move. The peasants have not had much to say. But it changes on a bloody day in the year 1500.

Prince Joachim then explains what happened on that day :

Here comes the King, the nobility, knights in heavy armor, and thousands of mercenaries. It is the strongest military on the way. And here stands the peasants. They have locked the narrow net. They are poorly equipped but well prepared. And they have a surprise up their sleeve.
The army can neither move forward, backwards or on the sides. The peasants swarm and force the knights off their horses. The knights who are not killed will drown in the water. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of knights die. The king only saves his life with distress. Power slips off the hands of the nobility and the peasants are unaware that this battle is the beginning of Danish democracy.

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Roksilde Cathedral

Since the first charter was signed, the king has actually ruled on the mercy of the nobility. The nobility decides what he can do. He must always ask about law. But in the mid-1600s, after Frederick III became king, the nobility displayed his military incompetence. It’s all going wrong, and Frederik III is using it to change the rules of the game.

Prince Joachim then visits Roskilde Cathedral where Frederik III and most of Prince Joachim’s ancestors are buried. The cathedral with the burial chambers is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. King Frederik III started a new rule of absolutism in 1660.

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Christian IV’s Chapel


Absolutism means that the King gathers all power around himself. He decides to decide it all. Frederik III gets no easy start in his reign. The country is deeply indebted after more than 30 years of war. But it’s getting worse. The Swedes run Denmark over. They take Jutland. They go over the ice to Funen and Sjaelland. In the end, Copenhagen is besieged, and there is Frederik 3. It was suggested he should flee, but he will not. “I want to die in my nest,” he says. And that made him popular. Frederik 3. throws out the Swedes. Now everyday life should begin. The everyday life that awaits Frederik 3. is the charter. But Frederik III is an intelligent and also wise king. And by a calm coup, he degrades the nobility. Now he will no longer be drawn to the nobility’s decisions. Now he can control it all. The King is absolute.

Frederik III starts the absolute monarchy on October 16, 1660. Prince Joachim stops at Frederik III’s grave and says: “And here he is, my nine times great grandfather.”

The absolute monarchy ran for the next 189 years with nine kings succeeding each other. Some of them spending the kingdom’s money as their own.

Christian V wants a hunting domain for himself. It is Jaegersborg Dyrehave as we know it today. But there is a village in the way, so he gets rid of it.

Frederik IV already has a wife but may be in love with Anna Sophie Reventlow. So he marries her. Now he has two wives and that’s because he can.

Christian VI built many lavish castles and a modest hunting lodge.

Frederik V will make his capital the most beautiful city in Northern Europe. The center must be Amalienborg with the very unique equestrian statue of himself.

Christian 7’s reign is the Achilles heel of monarchy. After all, the king is mad. It is said that a comfort was fitted without a door handle on the inside. Then he could have his psychiatric hospital. But when the king is mad, who is the one who rules?

For the king, private and national economics are one and the same.
Following the state bankruptcy, Frederik IV. is poor. His gold service has melted down. But in order to maintain his dignity and the reputation of the country in Europe, he must pledge the brunt that will warm the royal castles.

An absolute king can sit in a throne of unicorn horns. Frederik III builds it for himself and the ones who would succeed him. And Christian VIII. is the last one to sit in it. The king no longer decides everything. But Christian VIII commands from his grave his son to give up the absolute monarchy.

Frederick VII becomes the last absolute king. He is not like his father. He has read the writing on the wall. A year after he became king, he gives up his power and paves the way for democracy and gives us Denmark’s Constitution.

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National Archives, Copenhagen


The Constitution is the foundation of our democratic society. The Constitution is in a super modern concrete building in the middle of Copenhagen. Here I was allowed to watch and read the handwritten pages.

Prince Joachim is shown by Julie Avery – an historian- the very first constitution from 1849 and the paragraph that says that the King is no longer absolute and that the monarchy is hereditary. Julie Avery notes that the constitution doesn’t actually say that governance is democratic. In this constitution, only 15% of the population has the right to vote. Prostitutes, servants, poor people, strangers, the people who had gone bankrupt, people who lacked knowledge, and criminals were not allowed to vote. The constitution was signed by Frederik VII on June 5th, 1849. Since then, the Constitution has been revised but never fundamentally changed.

Julie Avery then shows Prince Joachim the 1915 Constitution which was signed by Christian X, his great grandfather, and gave women the right to vote as well as the 1953 Constitution. Julie Avery says that the constitution is the base of the democratic society in Denmark and Prince Joachim says:

We take it for granted. The most important dimension for me is that it is democratic. The Trinity, it is in it. History, democracy, but so is my family. It’s all together there.

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Copenhagen’s Western Enceinte

First World War : 1914-1918

Prince Joachim says that while very few people would question the right for people to vote when they turn 18, it is interesting to look at how women got the right to vote in 1915. Even though Denmark is not belligerent, men are still called for duty in the military to protect the kingdom during the war – most of them staying at the Vestvold- and thus, women must take men’s jobs , as in many European countries at the time.

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Rrøbyhallen, Kalundborg

Present time

Now, all Danes have the right to vote, including Prince Joachim.

I’m on my way to elections. General election. This is the first time I am going to experience how an election takes place at the polling place. I have the right to vote but I could never dream of using it.

Prince Joachim is welcomed by Gunver Jensen who jokingly says that it is exciting that a grown man has never seen anything like this. She then proceeds to show him how it works. They check with witnesses that all the ballot boxes are empty before the start of the election.

Prince Joachim then concludes this week’s episode:

That was the first time I attended an election. The next 12 hours will be full of votes across the country. It is democracy. That is what was a struggle for thousands of years.

What did you think of this episode? Next week’s episode will focus on schools!

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