Denmark: Recovery of Northern Slesvig

One of the fascinating aspects of philately is discovering issues of countries that no longer exist. A little research often unveils an interesting history and a link to a region with its own unique culture. One such region is Slesvig and in this post we’ll visit it’s history and culture through the 1920 Denmark issue of five stamps commemorating the recovery of Northern Slesvig.

Northern Slesvig plebiscite 1920 5m stamp
Northern Slesvig plebiscite 1920 5m

The German version of ‘Schleswig’ is more traditionally known as Scheswig-Holstein which is today the northernmost of Germany’s sixteen consistent states. Indeed, the name originates from the amalgamation of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein following the Second War of Schleswig in 1864 when the region had been stripped from Denmark by the Prussia and the Austrian Empire. Just two years later, Austria was defeated in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and both Schleswig and Holstein were annexed by decree of the King of Prussia.

Northern Slesvig plebiscite 1920 1ø stamp Optd. '1. ZONE'
Northern Slesvig plebiscite 1920 1ø Optd. ‘1. ZONE’

The 1920 Denmark commemorative issue marks the next significant event in the regions history. Following the defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I, the Allied powers created two plebiscites – Northern Slesvig (Zone I) on the 10 February 1920 and Central Schleswig (Zone 2) on 14 March 1920. Between 25 January and 21 May 1920, stamps were issued from the Northern Slesvig plebiscite including some overprinted ‘1. ZONE’. However in subsequent elections, 75% of Northern Slesvig voters opted for reunification with Denmark and so it was that on 15 June 1920, Northern Slesvig was officially reunited with Denmark. Central Schleswig remained part of Schleswig-Holstein, a province of the Free State of Prussia.

Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 10ø Red stamp featuring Kronborg Castle
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 10ø Red
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 10ø Green stamp featuring Kronborg Castle
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 10ø Green

The stamps that were first issued on 5 October 1920 feature scenes of notable historical buildings in the region. The Kronborg Castle features on the 10 øre denominated stamps. These were initially issued in Red and then subsequently reissued in Green from 19 May 1921. The majestic castle is in the town of Helsingør and is widely believed to the be castle that William Shakespeare refers to as Elsinore in the play, Hamlet. Interestingly, the castle is situated on the extreme northeastern tip of the island of Zealand between Denmark and Sweden, some distance from Slesvig.

Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 20ø Slate stamp featuring Sønderborg Castle
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 20ø Slate

The Sønderborg Castle features on the 20 øre denominated stamp which was issued in a Slate colour. The castle is located on the island of Als in the disputed Slesvig region and was used as a camp hospital during the afore-mentioned Slesvig Wars. Following the reunification of the region in 1920, the castle was bought by the Danish state and now houses a museum focusing on the history and culture of the area.

Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 40ø Slate stamp featuring Roskilde Cathedral
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 40ø Brown
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 40ø Indigo stamp featuring Roskilde Cathedral
Denmark 1920 Recovery of Northern Slesvig 40ø Indigo

Finally, Roskilde Cathedral features on the 40 øre denominated stamps. These were initiated issued in Brown and then subsequently reissued in Indigo from 25 November 1921. The cathedral, located on the island of Zealand (again some distance from the Slesvig region) is widely regarded as one of the most important religious sites in Denmark and has been the official royal burial location of the Danish monarchs since the 15th century.

To view postal issues of the Denmark, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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