Power Preservation (Abstract) In the 17th century, just as today, coalitions needed ‘lead nations’. This was assumed to be a power with great military and economic potentials, and Denmark endeavoured to act as such a leader in the Thirty Years War from 1626 to 28. The results were not encouraging in the military field and they were disastrous as far as fiscal matters were concerned. Sweden took over the leadership of the protestant side and she took over Denmark’s place amongst the great powers of the Baltic Region. From that time onwards, Danish influence and options on the international stage gradually declined. Thus, Denmark of the 17th century is not to be counted amongst the great powers, but since Christian V’s accession to the throne in 1670 Denmark-Norway has developed into one of Europe’s most highly militarised states. Apart from a permanently combat ready navy, the country maintains a standing army of c. 35,000 personnel, most of whom are regulars although a few conscripted farmhands can be found here and there throughout the organisation as well. Thus, as the King of Denmark has one soldier in every 50 subjects, which exceeds the ratio in both France and the Anglo-Scottish double monarchy, it is fair to assume that his political ambitions are of a far reaching nature. King Christian wants revenge on Sweden and he wishes to preserve the military and naval power generated during the latest war with that country. However, this is certainly not to be achieved cheaply. To maintain a military machine instrumental for his purposes he will have to think creatively. Would it be possible to find somebody else to pay for this commodity? Might it be feasible to hire out some of the forces, which are not immediately needed for the territorial defence of the Realm? In 1689, Christian believes that it is. Thus, he decides to put troop contingents at the disposal of those, who and are willing to pay and whose strategic interests are commensurate with his own ambitions. This cunning plan results in support to the prospective king of England and Scotland, the Stadtholder of the United Provinces since 1672 Willem van Oranje-Nassau, 1650-1702. Hence, Denmark becomes a major contributor to the ‘coalition-of-the-willing’ against what might – anachronistically – be termed ‘the evil axis of Catholics,’ the Franco-Jacobite attempt to reinstate James II (Séamus) as king of Ireland with a view to his comeback in Britain as well. The coalition, which Denmark joins, is affiliated with the Grand Alliance, which is to last more or less uninterruptedly until 1697, and it reflects the major and medium Protestant states’ attempt to contain the Catholic ‘Axis of Evil’ personified by Louis XIV as well as Denmark’s resolve to preserve her military power for utilisation if and when new politico-military opportunities might arise.
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CFP Irish Conference for Historians, Limerick, Republic of Ireland, 2009