When the Spaniards Were Here

By Senior Curator Ejnar Stig Askgaard


Ihr, die ihr auftauchen werdet aus der Flut
In der wir untergegangen sind
Gedenkt unserer
Mit Nachsicht

Berthold Brecht, "An die Nachgeborenen", written in exile in Funen , 1939*


When standing at Saint Hans Square in Norregade, Odense admiring the beautiful Saint Hans Church in which H.C. Andersen was christened Easter Monday 1805, only a few know that it used to be a cemetery. For centuries, burials have been taking place there but since the soil could not be expanded in width or length the layer grew higher with each burial. In the end the soil almost blocked the Northern side of the church and severe humidity became inevitable. The reports about this hopeless situation were not unique in terms of Saint Hans Church.  A commission was appointed in 1793 aiming to find a common cemetery for the parishes placed outside the town - a cemetery which could serve and assist the town's churches. The result of these efforts were the Assistens cemetery dating back from 1811. Now part of Central Odense.

Don Augustin Mollon's gravestone at Saint Hans Church. Photograph by Ejnar Stig Askgaard, October 2007.

At Saint Hans Square one may find a reminiscence of the old burial ground. A crumbled stone is present bearing the likeness of a heavy lid on top of a grandiose sarcophagus; it has been arranged but no inscription is to be seen. Yet this is not an unknown grave: it was arranged in July 1808 holding a solemn ceremony, Spanish officer Don Augustin Mollon rests there. He was a victim of Lieutenant Bloch's lifted spirit and inadvertent joke.
On July 9 1808 the young lieutenant was in the room on the left side of the entry to distiller Søren Mortensen courtyard on Albanitorvet, where Industripalæet was later erected and where the present Realkredit Denmark now resides. Don Augustin Mollon and other Spanish officers were present. The young Danish lieutenant had become friends with the Spanish soldiers, acquired their language and tone, and after a meal Bloch flaunted his rifle. Playfully he pointed the weapon at Don Augustin, saying "If we were enemies, I could kill you on the drop of a hat". Being convinced that the rifle was not loaded he pulled the trigger and killed his friend. The charge in the rifle had not been pulled out which lead to the tragic incident.
The by standing officers drew their swords in great despair and surrounded the young lieutenant. But they soon collected themselves realising it was an accident. As a result Bloch was arrested. A military court of law investigated the incident and charged the lieutenant with a fine of forty lot silver. A few says later the Spanish officer was laid in the ground in the evening - a solemn ceremony was held in his honour. And he still rests at Saint Hans Square. Think of him when you see the stone.

Dead scene of Don Augustin Mollon. Scene of crime for the accidental shot was the room on the left side of the entry to distiller Søren Mortensen's court yard on Albanitorv. Photograph by unknown ca. 1880. Odense Bys Museer.

The thirty-year old lieutenant Theodor Carl August Bloch was lucky; his job was appointed by The Royal General Road Commission and included repairing the roads on Fyn, in order to make it easy for Napoleon's auxiliary troops to march. His father, however, Bishop Tønne Bloch never experienced his son's unfortunate accidental shot and the military legal proceedings. The bishop had died five years earlier. The new bishop Peter Hansen was the first who was buried in the consecrated grounds at the new Assistens cemetery May 17 1811. But he was not the first to be buried there - or so the story claims; Bishop Peter Hansen did not wish to be buried next to a Spanish soldier, as an executed Spanish infantryman most certainly was buried at Odense Assistens cemetery in May 1808, but one can only guess whether the bishop is lying next to the soldier - or indeed not. However, the story is different as opposed to that of Don Augustin Mollon's grave on Saint Hans Square as for the Spanish infantryman on The Assistens cemetery who got no stone on his grave.
His final resting place cannot be seen in the same way as his name is almost unknown - and yet H.C. Andersen saw him. The poet was hardly three years old but never forgot the unfortunate fate the Spanish soldier suffered. It was one of Andersen's first memories: "From Christiansdal the road leads to Odense across the stream and over the heath. I still recall, as in a dream, the Spaniards being here and one was executed; I was but two years old ...", he later wrote in Fragments from an Outing, Summer 1829 - Odense and Vicinity, which was published in Kjøbenhavns-Posten September 17 and 18 1829.

Let us make a general view. It seems odd that the last buried man on Saint Hans Cemetery - and the first grave on the Assistens cemetery should hold Spanish soldiers. Why were they here and so far from home? Do we even recall why the Spaniards where here two hundred years ago?


Bishop Peter Hansen's humble grave at the Assistens cemetery. Photograph by Ejnar Stig Askgaard, October 2007.

Historical Scenery

Apart from the short maritime war between Denmark and England, The battle on Reden April 2 in 1801, Denmark has succeeded in preserving its neutrality during the Napoleonic wars. When the war between England and France again erupted in 1803 and spread to the German empire The Danes decided to gather a Danish army in Holsten. Crown prince Frederik (VI) decided to stay in Kiel much to the satisfaction of his wife, the crown princess Marie who then lived with her parents nearby.
Gathering a great part of an army in Holsten was a reasonable strategic point. When Lübeck were assailed by the French in 1806, Holsten became involved when Prussia went across the border and the Danes were forced to stop them at Fackenburg. However, it proved a mistake not to withdraw all the troops back to Sjælland after the Tilsiter 'treaty' in July 1807. Napoleon had proclaimed the barrier, which closed down the entire European continent for British trade and shipping - and the treaty in Tilsit forced Russia to accept the barrier and even support France to stop the neutral countries to do the same.

By August 1807 the Danish envoy in Paris faced an ultimatum: Join the barrier or become an enemy of France. At the same time Denmark refused to let the naval fleet get under British control. As a result it became easy for the English troops to take over the Danish army in Holsten - The British besieged and bombarded Copenhagen. They went straight for the civilians and residential areas in a three day long siege, and forced Copenhagen to surrender and hand over the Danish naval fleet to the Brits. By this action, Denmark was forced to join the Napoleonic wars on the French side. When the Brits have left Sjælland and taken the Danish fleet, the army from Holsten came back and tried to help. From then one the Danes tried to show refusal towards the fourth coalition partner: Sweden.

The Danish did not care for the Swedes. The nabouring countries had been rowing for centuries and when the Swedish King Gustav III was murdered during a masquerade in the opera in Stockholm in 1792, the Danes were pleased. Denmark even offered the assassins asylum, they included Count Horn, who became Swedish envoy, and baron Ehrensvärd, who later became the stepfather of young Ludvig Heiberg.
Although Denmark and Sweden did imitate a cooperation to secure the Nordic trade and shipping to Russia - and thus joined the armed neutrality during the Napoleonic wars, the ill will between the two kingdoms grew. The people in Copenhagen thought the Swedes had hastened to come to their aid when the English fleet called at Øresund in April 1801. They soon realised that Sweden tacitly saw to the ravage Lord Nelson caused, and the fury grew stronger.
Nothing had changed in 1807 when the English fleet sailed into Øresund. It almost seemed like the enemy was greeted welcome from Helsingborg. The destruction of Copenhagen and the hijacking of the Danish naval fleet seemed to fit Swedish King Gustav IV Adolph rather well. He strongly disliked the French Revolution, the republic and Napoleon, his reasons being both from a political point of view and on personal grounds. The bitterness against Sweden the Danes felt soon grew into hatred and war became inevitable. On February 29 1808 King Christian VII declared Sweden war.

Spanske og Franske Tropper paa Fyen Aar 1808 (Spanish and French Troops on Fyen in the Year 1808), coloured drawing by Andreas Ørnstrup, 1808. The Royal Library.

An army consisting of 32,930 was gathered in northern Germany by the French marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, prince of Ponte Corvo. About half of this army - 13,449 men, was Spanish soldiers led by head lieutenant Marquis de la Romana. Napoleon's plan was to threaten Sweden by attacking it from south via Denmark, and from the north indirectly 'helped' by Russian emperor Alexander I and his invasion of Finland.
These plans led to another of Napoleon's schemes. By placing a large Spanish army in the north, with the help from the gifted strategist Marquis de la Romana, Napoleon could easily weaken Spain. "The SoundState" was already weakened by the pathetic King Carlos IV, who - just like the Danish Christian VII and English George III - could hardly be described as an enlightened Renaissance man. Napoleon wished to rule Spain, its army and proud fleet, and in order to succeed he installed his brother, Joseph as ruler of the country. By subjugating Sweden and Spain, Napoleon would gain control over the continent and get a fleet which could challenge the British one. These two conquests were necessary and the Spanish soldiers in northern Germany were the link.

On March 7 1808 Bernadotte's army marched from Hamburg to Holsten, and March 12 the court in Stockholm received Denmark's declaration of war. According to legend King Christian VII was so frightened of these odd auxiliary troops in Rendsborg that he died of a stroke March 13. Frederik VI was announced King of Denmark and Norway.


Like motley, half-forgotten dreams...

Thorough arrangements were carried out to ensure the auxiliary troop's conveyance, food and lodgings. It was hard work fitting it all in. Each soldier had the right to 1½ pounds of bread, ½ pound of fresh meat, a small bottle of schnapps and one pint a day and then there were the daily ration to the 6120 horses of 14 pound of oats, 5 pound hay and 5 pound straw.
Each market town set up military headquarters where each commandant had the duty to assign and regulate the quartering. No consideration was assumed in terms of privilege or post; the main thing was the size and condition of the individual building.
The farmers had to make themselves available to the army offering work labour, horses and carriages. Such a costly willingness was prerequisite since the auxiliary troops were only marching through. Winter and spring of 1807/1808 were not very severe. Storebælt had not frozen, and by March 1808 the English ships could block the crossing from Nyborg to Sjælland. The strait could not be crossed without hindrance and danger. The new large army units were for most parts stranded on Fyn and had to prepare themselves for a much longer exhausting and costly stay.

The first troops, which came to Odense March 14, arrived with 390 hunters on horses and 1648 infantry men from the first French division. The noisy grammar school students hastened to see the army in Bolbro eager to try their French language skills. One of them recalls:
"As long as we could answer their questions with: 'Oui Monsieur!' it went well but it did not go down well when we tried to explain something - much to our sadness. They only laughed and kindly greeted us a good day."1

In the following days a steady flow of army units arrived, and troops were sent to different regions of Fyn, which gradually became fortified around the coastal line. The large troops naturally proved a problem to Odense. In those days it was not unusual for soldiers to bring their wife and children, and soon there were absolutely no more rooms available. The French auxiliary troops demanded full use of Gråbrødre Hospital, believing it to be a camp hospital. The paupers had to move out of Gråbrødre Hospital, the men were placed at Borgerskolen, and the women in the CityTown Hall.
The gaol was arranged as an army prison and the building behind it became camp hospital for the sick Spanish soldiers. A lot of the foreign troops were ill and the mortality rate was high. Many were buried at the Assistens cemetery without any fuss. The corpses were sewn into sheets and placed in a wooden coffin bought to the cemetery in a hearse and then thrown into the grave. The coffin was reused several times.

The interior of Graabrødre Church. Hans Christian Andersen's godfather, Nicolai Gomard, who was a French emigrant and porter at the hospital worked as an interpreter. We get a glimpse of the church room used for quartering and as camp hospital. A few beds can be seen in the background. Watercolour by J.H.T. Hanck, July 1814. Odense Bys Museer.

Quartering took place in every single house: the workhouses, schools, guild houses, the theatre, indeed even the well-to-do had to offer lodgings to the foreign warriors. The sparse present files in the municipal and regional archives tell us how agonizing it was for the town. Host Grube complained that he did not have the means nor could he manage the feeding of 150 men in his public house. The bakeries were overburdened - all civilians were told to do their utmost. Everything was in need; coach houses were used for quartering, the food supply was slow and there was a constant demand for sheets, bedding and clothing in general, even knifes and forks and plates were in short supply.
The foreigners also wished to practise their religion. Saint Hans Church allowed the strangers to perform Catholic masses. But a far more delicate matter was the demand from General Gerard - who "unhesitatingly [demanded] a list of all houses where loose women lived and were regarded as brothels" as an order from April 3 1808 reads.

Naturally all these demands made everything very difficult. When the first French troops left town the Spanish arrived - and the French assured the displeased Danes that the Spanish soldiers were ravenous animals. The Danes felt great anxiety when the 3000 Spanish soldiers arrived March 20.
None of these accusations were true: the Spanish soldiers were very different from the French. They were good-natured, unassuming, helpful and kind and they were liked by the majority. In H.C. Andersen's first memories from 1832 he does not even mention the French soldiers. But the Spaniards left a dramatic, yet positive impression:
"As motley, half-forgotten these memories are to me - thus also the Spaniards' stay in Odense (1808). I recall them driving by with canons, remember one soldier who picked me up, danced around and wept, he surely had children of his own in Spain."
In The Story of my Life from 1855 it reads:

"I was not three years old yet I recall swarthy people making a lot of noise, canons being shot in the square and in front of the Bishop's house, I saw them resting in the streets and on straw in a half broken down Graabrødre Church...The French Soldiers are mentioned as reckless and peremptory, but the Spanish dittos as kind ones, they both hated the other strongly but the poor Spaniards were empathetic people.  A Spanish Soldier held me one day, he pressed a silver locket against my lips; he carried it around his neck. My mother became very angry as this was a Catholic thing to do, she later told me but I rather liked the reminiscence of the strange man, who danced around with me, kissed me and wept; he had children of his own in Spain."

Apparently H.C. Andersen is describing the Mediterranean temperament. But perhaps we shall not view the passage as a description of the Spanish national mind, but see it as a token of the despair the Spaniards felt.
Times were very troubled in Spain at that time. March 19 Carlos IV arrested his own son - the cowardly, pathetic and treacherous Prince Ferdinand, who had turned to Napoleon in order to control the government. Crafty Napoleon abused the situation in double-dealings. A frightened Carlos IV gave up the throne to his son which led to a revolt in Madrid. Pretending to be a mediator in the royal dispute, Napoleon Ferdinand VII lured them to Bayonne letting the royal family know that his wish was his command, and both father and son were to renounce Spain's throne.
On May 2nd a terrible uproar occurred in Madrid. The civilians were butchered and Joseph Napoleon Bonaparte - the French emperor's brother - was made King of Spain, and even though the King implemented a broad-minded constitution, rebellion and guerrilla - a Spanish word - was present everywhere in Spain. The people preferred Spanish tyranny to "French freedom".

Francisco de Goya: "May 3 1808", 1814. Scene from the gruesome defeat of the revolt in Madrid. The original is at Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Napoleon tried to prevent the news from reaching the Spanish troops in Denmark. Letters from Spain to the Spanish soldiers were withheld for three weeks. Trying to keep the Spanish soldiers in the dark was impossible.
"I do recall one Spaniard", the son of a clergyman described, "An old sergeant named Ramus was ill and received lodgings in our house. He took me by the hand one day and said: 'For you to understand!' and by gesticulations and mixed languages he managed to make me understand how bitter he felt about having to leave Spain because of what took place there. His pale suffering face was twisting while he told what was on his mind - it is still vivid to me."3
The Prince of Ponte Corvo instructed Spanish commander-in-chief Marquis de la Romana to make the Spanish soldiers swear the oath of allegiance to the King. Romana agreed. The swearing-in went chaotic as most of the Spanish soldiers refused King Joseph. An example is a ceremony at the present Ansgar Gardens where the Spanish soldiers where summoned. When told to swear the oath they all replied unanimously "No Senor, viva Espana!"
Marquis de la Romana was present and in a letter to the King from commander-in-chief August 4 it reads:
"... Marquis de la Romana is travelling around Fyn to make the Spanish Troops swear the oath of allegiance. It has not been quite so, I have viewed a few of these ceremonies and I have been informed that many in Odense and Middelfart have refused; they only want to swear to the King of Spain."

Marquis de la Romana was actually secretly arranging his fellow-countryman escape from Denmark. The Scotch Catholic priest, James Robertson - who also worked as a British spy, contacted the Marquis in Nyborg. In a perilous and adventurous attempt the spy had succeeded in getting to Nyborg and by pretending to be a travelling businessman in the tobacco and chocolate trade, he gained audience with Romana. Robertson presented his 'business': The English fleet would offer the Spaniards desertion to any country they might choose.
The Spaniard's escape from Denmark was organised in deepest secrecy. The son of tobacco manufacturer Ørnstrup, in whose factory H.C. Andersen later worked for a short while, Andreas Ørnstrup, recalls:

"From August we noticed a great change in our Spanish friends. They became taciturn, reserved and secretive at all times trying to avoid us. When asked about this change, they shrugged their shoulders, shook their heads and gave us a melancholic look. The quarters downstairs were used by both the priest Don Qvadra and Don Pedro Berico. Many Spanish officers spent the entire evening with us; often they stayed until day break. Marquis de la Romana was present twice; his head quarter was in Nyborg. Sometimes my brothers and I helped the waiters Martin, Emmanuel and Francisco to make tobacco smokes but both men were silent during the work. What a change in those cheerful and happy people! They took great care in not allowing us too close to the officers' quartering. I shall never forget the day of departure. The joy of being close to returning to their home country was almost subdued by the fact that they had to leave their Danish friends. Even my father was moved. I still remember the officers embracing us farewell, many wept."4

Could it be from these emotional times H.C. Andersen had his memories about the dancing and crying Spanish soldier?

A sudden departure was brought on with the French close on their heels, and the Spanish troops moved from Jylland5 from the camps on Fyn towards Nyborg and Langeland. August 11 the Spanish troops were embarked in Slipshavn and Nyborg and August 21 from Stengade Strand on Langeland. All in all some 9000 soldiers and 230 women and children were embarked upon ships. The regiments Asturien and Guadalajara suffered defeat and entrapment in the campaign against Russia in 1812. Fate was unkind to those Spaniards who embarked on the English ships. October 9 they arrived in their home country and but a months later half of them had fallen in the terrible battle at Espinosa.

Francisco de Goya: Etching from the horror of war that the returned Spanish troops faced in the battle at Espinosa, November 1808. The etching was not shown to the public until 1863.

Merely five months these dramatic events lasted. Andersen remembers them as half-forgotten dreams. Albeit the Spaniards arrived in the country as friends and left as enemies they were much liked among the Danes. The proud Frenchmen, who liked being masters, caused much dissatisfaction with their endless and often unfair demands. It was unusual for a Dane to encounter soldiers with such high status as in France - Denmark was not used to that at all and this caused many misunderstandings and trouble.
The most feared among the French soldiers were the Belgian hussars notorious for their brutal savagery. The Spanish soldiers were good-natured, modest and even compliant in terms of putting up with small means. Much to the content of the Danes the Spanish ate bread-and-beer - barley, and buckwheat porridge. The Spanish soldiers also introduced dishes from their home country. A hugely popular one was salad made from dandelion leaves marinated in oil, vinegar and spiced with pepper. This was even served as a side-dish when the Prince of Ponte Corvo stayed at Odense castle with his wife Désirée and their young son, Oscar.

The above mentioned Andreas Ørnstrup was among the few Danish people who appreciated foreign food. In Ørnstrup's court yard in Vestergade no. 5, Spanish officer, Don Pedro Berico, had lodgings with his waiter Francisco. Francisco asked the young confirmand if there were any snails about, and the boy replied that there only were small grey ones available. "Des gut for me", Francisco replied in his gibberish - this odd language composed of different words the soldiers had picked up from different countries during wartimes.
The snails were roasted on coal until foaming, garnished with salt and pepper and then added in a sauce made of oil, vinegar, onions and more pepper. Francisco picked up a snail with his fork and gestured to Andreas to open his mouth. "For you", the Spanish cook said, followed by "for me" and on it went; the fork went from mouth to mouth, "for you, for me", and Andreas Ørnstrup experienced an unusual culinary meal for those days and ages. The Spanish soldiers marched into the Danish hearts who only feared their vehement temper, if aroused their rage seemed to have no limits.

Ørnstrup's property in Vestergade 5 viewed from the court yard. This is where Andreas and Francisco gathered snails in 1808. Photograph by unknown, 1936. Odense Bys Museer.

"... My memory was particularly and repeatedly inculcated by the Spaniards' stay at Fyen in 1808", H.C. Andersen later wrote in The Story of My Life, hereby letting us know that his memory of the Spanish was shaped by the always positive tale about these people.
The poet used the Spaniards positive reputation and their sad destiny in his work. It resulted in two works: Departing and Meeting which he started writing in 1831 and When the Spaniards Were Here from 1865. In Departing and Meeting Andersen uses an alter ego as the Spanish soldier Francesco. In that manner he was able to convey the proper psychological symbol of himself as the one having to leave the one he loves, his childhood sweetheart who married someone else. The main characters in this piece of dramatic poetry were Francesco sand Augusta - models of Andersen and Riborg Voigt with whom the poet fell unhappily in love in 1830. The love was allowed to flower in his writing, as Francesco and Augusta meet again twenty-five years later, and so was the love story between the children, Diego and Louise which makes the game of patience come out.
In When the Spaniards Were Here the scene is set to the escape of the Spanish troops which he also witnessed. The lovers - the Spanish soldier and the Danish girl are united in hope as a symbol of faith, hope and love by the Spanish soldier's silver locket, the one pressed to the poet's lips by a real Spanish soldier in 1808. But let us not dwell further at Andersen's Spanish inspirations. One we must, however, not ignore is the poem known as "The Soldier", published in 1830. It is one of H.C. Andersen's first memories: The execution of a Spanish infantry man.


Softened drum rolls

In the parish register for the parishes Tyrsted and Uth one may read on folio 123 - dating from 1793-1823 - about the year 1808:

"The parish and close region has lodged Spanish soldiers thrice; the later headed northbound. From Maundy Thursday Belgian hussars have been lodged for a quarter year. The Spanish were utterly pleased but this cannot be said about the Belgian hussars of which many were lecherous. May 8 seventy Spaniards were lodged along with Belgians which caused mutiny at Farm No 4, where Belgians were shot and wounded when they incited the Spanish soldiers. The French lieutenant general Schasberg also known as count Dysseldorff, a most splendid and cheerful chap was almost shot in an incident."

The Spanish regiment, Guadalajara, placed in Skanderborg, marched towards Fyn May 8 and received lodgings the following evening south of Horsens, some seventy men in Tyrsted, where the Belgian hussars had their quartering. Two Spanish soldiers received quartering at a farm that already housed two hussars on the upper floor. These French men were not present when the Spanish soldiers turned in but later on they returned in a very drunken state and upon hearing about the Spanish soldiers downstairs they broke into their room and loudly declared they could smell Spanish blood. The hussars randomly used their sabres in the Spaniards' beds. The frightened Spanish awoke. One soldier, an elderly man, got hold of his rifle and thrusted the bayonet into one of the hussars. The hussars fled from the room into the court yard but the Spanish soldier aimed at the doorway and shot dead one of the hussars.
Spanish soldiers from the neighbouring farms rushed to help out and so did more Belgian hussars and a fight soon began in which one more hussar was killed. The officers managed to calm the crowd and the Spanish soldier who had fired the last deadly shot was arrested. But the fury was immense and the day after in Torsted, some three kilometres west of Tyrsted, another fight was on the verge of breaking out between the warring French and Spanish troops. The commissioned officer came to an agreement and the strife was closed. The French wanted punishment for the Spanish soldier, which was accepted if the others involved got exemption from punishment.

The Guadalajara regiment headed towards Fyn with the prisoner, who was placed in a dark gaol in Odense. Even the room in front of the cell was to be kept dark allowing no daylight into the cell. The prisoner received visits from Spanish priest and their bishop at all hours, night and day. The court-martial passed the death sentence on the infantry man causing great indignation among his fellow soldiers. By mid May 1808 the prisoner was taken to the place of execution. The Spanish regiment marched wearing full dress. Solemn music was played. At the Assistens cemetery the French command marched provocatively playing a cheerful march, "Cueillons la Rose" (Rejoice in life), the condemned soldier walked in front of the procession holding a crucifix. A priest walked next to him. Behind the condemned someone carried a chair on which the blindfolded soldier was placed.
The executioners consisted of nine men in three ranks. The rank in front placed their rifles on the hips - the bayonets being but an inch from the soldier's face. The second rank placed the rifles by their shoulders while the third rank rested their arms. "To the drum rolls!", the commando demanded, and by the final order the first rank fired their rifles and shot the poor man's head to pieces. The body was placed on a bier and passed around the troops. As common practice and custom prescribed the executed man was buried at the place of execution. The execution was hardly very conducive for the relations between the Spanish and French soldiers.

No wonder such a terrible experience marked a small child. This memory was the first one H.C. Andersen recalled and later on he was inspired by the events in his work. He wrote a poem about the experience which was translated into German and the original one was published in the German soldiers' song books. This poem boosted the cobbler's son's career and led to progress, acknowledgement and honour in the upper circles. Strangely it was the Prince of Ponte Corvo, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, and not King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden, who was the first to give Andersen a medal: The golden Swedish decoration given for meritorious services in 1843 - the year before the Prince died. Let us end this strange tale here and listen to - and reflect upon the poem by Andersen:

Bernadotte's medal to Hans Christian Andersen 1843. The Swedish, golden decoration given for meritorious services. The profile viewed is that of the Swedish King, the Prince of Ponte Corvo. H.C. Andersens Hus.

The Soldier 

The drums softly roll,
- How long before we get there,
To put him to rest?
- My heart shall truly break!

I had, in this world, but one friend,
Now they lead him to his death,
With music through the streets,
And I am in the parade!

For the last time he sees the sun,
- There he is on the Chair of Death;
They tie him to the stake,
- God, take pity on his soul! 

At once all nine aim at him.
Eight shall miss on purpose;
Their hands trembling with pain,
- Only I hit him in the heart!



1) Mumme, H.P.: The events on Fyen during the stay of the French and Spanish troops in 1808, Hempelske Boghandel, 1848, p. 46.

2) Odense Municipal archive 244, regional archives on Fyn

3) Mumme op.cit., p. 52ff.

4) Ibid., p. 64ff.

5) When the Spanish cavalry regiments Rey and Infante in Århus were unable to reach Nyborg, they went back to Århus and got possession of the English merchant ships to escape by sea.

6) Since Belgium did not have independence in 1808 but belonged to the French empire, they were then included under the French.


Literature and sources

Mumme, H.P.: The events on Fyen during the French and Spanish Troops' stay in the country 1808, Hempelske Bookseller, Odense 1848

Vivild, A. Friis: "With Softened Drumrolls" in Hjemmets Almanacs in the year AD 1943, 1942

Andersen, Svend Orhammer: The Spaniards, Thanning & Appel, 1973

Oxenvad, Niels: Odense bys historie. Mod bedre tider (Towards Better Times): Odense 1789-1868, some chapters are by Poul Thestrup and Dorrit Andersen. Published by Odense Kommune. In commission with Odense Universitetsforlag, 1986.

Regional archives for Fyn, Odense municipal archives, part. 242-244


*(You, who have turned up at the river and are witnessing our downfall: Think. Think about our reasons with clemency.)



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