Ship ahoy! 90 years Dannebrog

Of all the royal exhibitions this year, “DANNEBROG – Kongeskib i 90 år” (DANNEBROG – A Royal Yacht turns 90) at the M/S Museet for Søfart (Maritime Museum of Denmark) probably got the least publicity. Unfortunately, as it is really worth a visit. And even more so, it is just a few steps away from Kronborg Castle in Helsingør (Elsinore), and thus easy to combine. But you really have to hurry if you want to pay a visit. It was opened already on 9 February 2022, and only on display until 21 August 2022. And all information is both in Danish and English.

Helsingør is less than one hour by train from Copenhagen central station. The museum and the castle are on a short walking distance of the railway station, in the newly renovated Culture Harbour Kronborg. And also the old town with lovely buildings and shops is only a short distance.

The museum

No large building, but a museum that is mainly built underground. It reopened in October 2013 in an old dry dock. Since 1915 the museum had been housed in Kronborg Castle itself. Of course the museum tells about centuries of Danish maritime history in a way that is easy to understand. Models of ships, trade all around the world. I found a reference to the royal tradition of dressing little princes in sailor suits. And did you know that Princess Marie of Denmark (1865-1909) was the protector of Sailors’ Association?

If you’re looking for royal souvenirs: I unfortunately didn’t see any, although I would have loved a few postcards. But there is a shop with a lot of maritime souvenirs and clothing.

The exhibition

The royal connection of the museum is that Queen Margrethe II is its patron. Thus no better place for the exhibition about the Dannebrog than this one. 90 years old this year the Dannebrog is more than a ship. The Royal Yacht is a moving castle, a summer residence, a training ship and even more: a symbol of Denmark. It gives the monarch a chance to see his/her country from the sea. The Dannebrog was built at the Orlogsværftet shipyard and designer by its director N.K. Nielsen. The ship was ready in October 1931, but was only used first in May 1932.

The exhibition starts in a “ship” with lots of photos and videos of the royals at the Dannebrog, surrounded by quotes of the royals about the yacht, that show the very close connection they have. It is special to see the admirals’ uniform of King Frederik IX, the father of Queen Margrethe II. But even more special, as I remember cute photos of them wearing them, are the sailor suits from the early 1970s worn by Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim.

The second part of the exhibition shows a selection of artefacts connected to the Dannebrog and information of traditions on board. Shown are among others the traditional Faroese costume the Queen always wears when visiting the Faroe Islands, a sealskin cushion with the monogram of the Queen, menus and invitations, porcelain, uniforms and accounts of people working on the yacht, souvenirs and again lots of photos. At the end also Danes share their memories of the yacht.

The only thing that is missing is the Dannebrog itself. But from the beach chairs you will find on several spots one can watch videos taken from the Dannebrog during journeys on big screens. If there are not too many visitors you can nearly imagine yourself on board.

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