Prince Joachim

Prins Joachim Fortaeller… Episode 3: Schools – Detailed Summary

The third episode of Prince Joachim’s documentary about Denmark 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!

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Præstegards School, Esbjerg

We live in a country where everyone is entitled to ten years of schooling. You have a duty to be taught. But once upon a time, school and education were only for the king and the nobility and everyone else had to work. Today, it is natural for all children to go to school. We have a modern school where there are new forms of learning. The children are taught using methods that did not exist 40 years ago.

Prince Joachim visits the school to meet children who are learning to play bridge. Morten Bilde – a professional bridge player – explains that although bridge is a card game, it’s also a team game so through teaching how to play bridge to the children, they are trying to teach them how to work together. Prince Joachim then talks with some of the children. When asked if he had played bridge before, Prince Joachim said: “My parents tried to teach me, but I didn’t get so good at it. But I know the rules. My mom plays it, and my dad played it all the time.” The girl he is talking to says she loves playing bridge at school because you do not just sit on a chair and raise your hand but you get something out of it. Prince Joachim says that it is a new way of doing school that is more fun.

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Dannemare, Lolland

In the old days

Schooling is a prerequisite for democracy and prosperity. In the old days, only fine people’s children received a book education. The rest had to work, so there was no need to educate them. Today, when young people have to make a living, it is about living their dreams to create their own identity. Before, no one asked what you wanted to become when you grew up. Back then, one became what one’s father was and what his family had been. Fortunately, it is not the case today. We choose what we want. It may be like our father.

Prince Joachim meets Henrik who is a trained mechanic but took over his father’s land and who hopes his son Anders will one day take over as well. Henrik is the fourth generation running this farm. His father took over from Henrik’s grandparents in 1974. Henrik’s great-grandfather bought the land from the bank. Henrik and Prince Joachim then visit the farm. Prince Joachim also talked abou his experience running Schackenborg Castle:

My father was a wine farmer in France. I understand the joy of doing what my dad did. I was quite small the day I found out I was going to be a farmer. But I had not grown up on a farm. It was a new situation. But in my youth, I knew what to study. This is a time I will not regret. But I must also acknowledge that there was an end date on it. And then you have to come up with something new to do. That’s how I started.

When Prince Joachim asks Henrik how he would react if his son one day tells him that he wants to do another job and not take over the farm, Henrik says he would probably be annoyed but would totally respect his decision. About his children taking over Schackenborg after him, Prince Joachim said:

Until five or six years ago, it was possible that there was a generation after me that should have continued. That changed. Then it’s something new on the drawing board. I feel deep inside my stomach that they have to do and study what they want.

Prince Joachim then meets Henrik’s parents, son and girlfriend. Anders says it’s fun to watch how the crops grow. Prince Joachim says that if Anders chose to be a farmer, it will be his own choice which is different of how things were in the old days since Denmark was a farm land and children were working in the fields.

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Gammel Estrup, Djursland

While most children were in the fields or in the workshop, there is a small proportion of people attending school. In the nobility, the teacher makes sure that the children learn to read and write. The privileged children learn many other skills. Fencing, dance, art, science. Even in the upper strata of society, you follow in Dad’s footsteps.The young nobles were sent on an educational journey in Europe. They must become acquainted with other customs, and they must learn languages. Perhaps today’s trips abroad with school are a relic of that time.

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Gavnø Slot, Nævsted

The young nobles have studied at some of Europe’s finest universities. They bring new thoughts and knowledge home to Denmark. The nobleman Otto Thott orders a portrait collection for his new castle, Gavnø. And here in this hall of fame he can present the greatest statesmen, scientists, artists and thinkers. We have Rousseau. And then we have the superstar over them all: Voltaire. The people do not know about Voltaire but perhaps his thoughts on enlightenment inspire the Danish kings to later educate the Danes.

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Estruplund Kirke, Djursland

Around 1500

Prince Joachim explains that Christianity played a vital role in allowing the poor population to learn more.

In the Middle Ages, only the monks can read and write. The people learn what they need to know in the church. It’s like comics. With the Reformation, people must learn to read the Bible. It’s about Christian thinking. It is the first school in Denmark.

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Rytterskolen, Hvidovre


At the end of the 17th century, we have all absolutism. The king decides everything. Frederick IV decides that all children are to be raised in the Christian faith and are loyal to the King. The new variety is that children born from farmers fathers have the opportunity to go to school if they can get free from work on the farms. The country is divided into equestrian districts. Frederik IV decides that in each equestrian district a school should be set up for all children. Hence the name riding schools. Children can learn to read.For extra payment, they can also learn to write and calculate.But there are still plenty of places where there are no schools.

Only a quarter of Denmark’s children have access to the riding schools at the time.

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Metropolitanskolen, Copenhagen


In the 1800s, a revolution is taking place in the school field. Finally, all the children come to the school bench. Frederik 6. issues a school law that becomes landmark. Born must have access to five years of schooling. He lifts his people out of ignorance. They must learn to read and write and reckon. It is practical. Now it is about subjects such as natural science, history and stories from the fatherland.

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University Library, Copenhagen


In 1903, something crucial happened. A new school law ensures that all citizens can gain access to the high school and the university if they are proficient enough. Centuries of inequality have broken. The farmer’s nephew, the artisan servant and the working boy can now become prosecutors or government officials. It is only after World War II that we begin to see pattern breakers who do not follow slavishly in Dad’s footsteps but choose a different course of life than the one that was carved out for them.

Prince Joachim then meets with Steffen Jacobsen, a doctor and world-famous crime author who grew up with a poor and sick mother while he became a thief but ended up in university.

Joachim: Steffen, you became a student and you started studying medicine. You didn’t stop it. When you had graduated with MSc. you went all the way up and became a doctor. If you rewind time until Steffen was a ten-year-old kid, it wasn’t in the cards.

Steffen: My parents got divorced when I was nine. It was not common then. Mom and I lived like nomads and moved around. I’ve attended eight to nine different schools. I was always the new boy in class. My mother was often hospitalized with long illnesses where I was left to myself. I lived humbly to myself. Then my mother died when I was 15. And then I came over to my dad, who lived in a club room. Then I was sent to a home school in Haslev. I started with petty crime. Steal cars, break into shops.

Joachim: In relation to your start of life, mine is diametrically opposite.

Steffen: Some young men told me about SU. I found that you could go on a real course without the prerequisites. So I tried it. And that made sense. My life changed radically. After all, the strategies you need to adopt to break through and manifest your characteristics or create yourself make you extremely focused and focused. You become diligent and feel you deserve to exist. When you are not sent out into the world of loving parents, you constantly feel that you have to justify your own existence. It was a relief to become a doctor. It is an identity that rewrites much of you. I can’t get any further now!

Joachim: You climbed the academic ladder!

Steffen: Yes! But the past always lies in the pattern breaker. I wasn’t like the others. I didn’t have that many friends. And it has continued. You will always be afraid of the social disaster. No matter how consolidated and wealthy you become, the boy who would have ended up on a bench with a bag of bowers … That opportunity will always lie there. It is one of the more tragic circumstances of pattern breakers. These are the tracks one’s family has laid out in the grass. You can imagine them. Being preprogrammed is unbearable. Especially when you reach the realization that you have the opportunity to step outside. Prince Joachim, there are two sides of the same coin but you are just as preprogrammed as me. Or maybe to an even higher degree. The manuscript was written in advance.

Joachim: And when you don’t question it, you may well end up being a machine. At some point you come into a strange kaleidoscope and you see some mirror images and discover that it is actually you that you are watching. Then you stand there and say: Do I have a comfort zone that I have never questioned?

Steffen: Or do I have a free will?

Joachim: And can I do anything more? Have I become my role? I have been through different races and held on, perhaps for too long, perhaps out of misunderstood duty, and have had to admit defeat, and have probably become wiser by them.

Steffen: How do you relate to your children the privileges that come with it?

Joachim: The pattern break I want, which I have not dared to take or I didn’t take early enough, it should not prevent them from anything. Nothing is forbidden.

Steffen: What I want to say about this with social mobility … It is not necessarily that you should end up as an academic or head of department but to optimize your choices. What is needed is education. It is the only capital you can raise yourself if you are not privileged from the start.

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Præstegards School, Esbjerg

Present Time

In 1967, the right to corporal punishment in schools disappeared, and in the 70s a new school law finally abolished rote learning. The “black school” is dead. The children still have Danish and mathematics but room has been made to learn something in a fun way.

The professional bridge player explains that the games force the children to work together and to communicate. It also helps their concentration when they have to solve problems. Prince Joachim joins a group of children to play the game with them. He then proceeds to hand out the prizes to the children who won each games.

He concludes the episode by saying:

Denmark has one of the world’s best school systems, and it’s free. We can be proud of that.

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