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Schleswig-Holstein The 1848-1852 events in Schleswig-Holstein were a Danish-German confrontation rather than a revolution. The underlying issues were complex: the kingdom of Denmark and the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were component parts of the Danish Monarchy and were united in the person of the king/duke. Schleswig was a Danish fief, Holstein a member of the German Confederation. A 1665 law introduced succession through the female line in Denmark, with the survival of Salic law in the duchies held in abeyance. Schleswig had a strong Danish element in the north, Holstein was German.

With the extinction of the male royal line in the offing, Christian VIII declared in 1846 that the 1665 law applied to Schleswig and (with some reservation) to Holstein. Protests in the duchies had not been resolved, when in the wake of the February revolution the liberals in Copenhagen took over and moved toward the annexation of Schleswig. In defiance, the estates of Schleswig and Holstein set up a provisional government on March 24. Being composed of liberals and conservatives it obtained popular and official support in Germany, and with Prussian military support gained control of most of the duchies by midsummer. But then Britain and Prussia intervened, pressuring Prussia to make a truce with Denmark (at Malmö, August 26, 1848), a truce which caused a parliamentary crisis in Frankfurt. In a short time Schleswig-Holstein had become the national issue, and by acceding to the Malmö truce the Frankfurt Assembly severely damaged its political credit.

Fighting resumed in 1849 and was ended by a July truce. After losing German military support, the duchies were defeated in the 1850 campaign. The government abdicated on February 1, 1851, and the Danish authorities took over a year later.

In the final settlement the powers restored the Danish monarchy with the succession in the duchies to follow that of the kingdom (Second London Protocol of May 8, 1852). In separate notes the Danish government agreed to preserve the status of Schleswig and to abstain from steps leading to its incorporation. While the agreements restored the balance of power, the relations between Danes and Germans suffered, eroding popular sentiment for the Danish monarchy. Also Schleswig became a matter of outside concern, permitting Prussian intervention in the case of Danish non-compliance.
Arnold Price


Lawrence D. Steefel, Sleswig-Holstein Question. (Cambridge MA, 1932).

Otto Brandt, Geschichte Schleswig-Hosteins. 8th ed. (Kiel, 1981).

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