Iceland honors King Christian one last time before the union with Denmark ends

Iceland had a rough time in the later years as a part of Denmark. So it might be natural for Iceland to go it alone, especially when Denmark is not in a place to contest. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp is just not the best. It just shows the then Danish King Christian X and the unfortunately generic to English speakers place name of Island. Sorry but world wide philatelists will need more information to get excited by a stamp. Iceland corrected this in a stamp issue a few years later with a stamp displaying a Viking sacrifice to the Norse God Thor. That is perhaps a little fantastic but at least puts you in a time and place.

Todays stamp is issue A8, a one Eyrir stamp issued by Iceland in 1920. It features Danish and then still Icelandic King Christian X and was part of a 21 stamp issue in various denominations, According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth $1.25 used.

The climate and volcanic activity had been rough on the Danish territory of Iceland in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. There had been a heavy migration out, often to the Canadian province of Manitoba. Danish power was on the decline with the separation of Norway and then the interruption of contact with Denmark in World War I and again in World War II. The Danes had granted ever more self rule and by 1918 only the Danish King was still the ceremonial leader of Iceland. Even this ended during World War II with Denmark falling unopposed to Germany and Britain  invading Iceland also unopposed. Iceland then declared King Christian incapable of fulfilling his duties to Iceland and removed him as King.

King Christian was trying hard to hold together a greater Denmark but not having much luck. The territory of Schleswig had both ethnic Germans and Danes but was in the possession of Germany. Denmark hoped to reclaim most of it after WWI and indeed the northern portion voted to join Denmark, the rest voted to stay German. This was not enough for the King and he ordered the elected Prime Minister to include the city Flensburg in the reunification. The Danish Prime Minister refused and resigned and the King appointed a new cabinet that would follow his wishes. What followed was a constitutional crisis that saw the King back down and call new elections and in future confine himself to ceremonial functions.

World War II saw another crisis for King Christian. Denmark did not resist the 1940 German invasion and the King and government remained in place in cooperation with the Germans. This was not good pr and the King hit on a way to appear to be resisting. He would ride daily through Copenhagen on a horse alone in full Danish Military uniform. The German occupiers allowed it and it got the peoples spirits up to see him. One legend as the King stopping his ride in front of a big hotel flying the Nazi flag as it was being used as a administrative center. The King confronted the German sentry stating that the flag must come down as it violated the armistice agreement. The sentry refused the King. The King then stated that a Danish soldier will come and pull down the Nazi flag if he did not. The German sentry then stated that the Danish soldier would be shot. The King then said that the He was the Danish soldier  and the sentry then took down the flag. Allied wartime propaganda ate this stuff up.

King Christian X during one of his wartime rides

The horse rides did not end well for the now elderly King. He took a spill in late 1942 that left him an invalid for the rest of his life, dying in 1947. His rides had restored his popularity and insulated him from the obvious charge of collaboration with the German invader. Iceland also aquiest to British occupation with Americans following and traditional Iceland neutrality was replaced by NATO membership postwar.

Well my drink is empty and faced with the choice of a horse ride of another drink, you can guess my choice. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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