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Grundloven. Titelblad for Grundloven 1849 (Danish Constitution, 1849). Rigsarkivet - The National Archives of Denmark. Dec. 16, 2009. Used under

FALQs: The Danish Constitution of 1849 – 175th Anniversary

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Today (June 5, 2024), marks the 175th anniversary of the adoption of the Danish Constitution of 1849, known as the Constitutional Act (Danmarks Riges Grundlov). June 5th also marks the Danish “Constitution Day” (Grundlovsdag), the de facto national day of Denmark.

What preceded the Constitution of 1849?

Before the adoption of the Constitution of 1849 Denmark was an absolute monarchy, meaning all the power rested with the king. The king had the power to appoint and dismiss civil servants at will, and his power was only constrained by the Augsburg Confession (Augsburgske Trosbekendelse).

With the Constitution of 1849, also known as the June Constitution, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy, the first national Danish Parliament was established (Rigsdagen), and the power of the state was divided into three between the king, parliament, and the judiciary. (Article 2.)

What makes the 1849 Constitution so special?

The 1849 Constitutional Act ended the absolute monarchy in Denmark. Following public demands for the creation of a national assembly and representation by the people, King Frederik VII signed the Constitutional Act, thereby replacing the Kings Act of 1665 (Kongeloven af 1665), which expressly forbade the king from signing such document. With the act, Denmark’s first parliament (the Rigsdag, a two chamber assembly) was established and power was divided between the king, parliament as a legislator, and the judiciary.  (Arts. 2, 34 Danish Constitution of 1849.)

Who where given the right to vote in the 1849 Constitution?

While the 1849 Constitution ended the absolute monarchy, only about 15% of Denmark’s population had the right to vote. The right to vote and stand as a candidate for the Rigsdag was limited to solvent men, who were at least 30 years old and who had their own households. (Id. art. 35.) Servants and women did not have the right to vote or be a candidate for parliament. All Danish men, provided they were not subject to certain enumerated financial hardships, were eligible to stand for election to the lower chamber of the parliament at age 25. (Id. art. 36.)

How many copies are there of the original constitution?

There is only one original print of the Danish Constitution of 1849. While the Constitutional Act was drawn up both in a Danish and a Latin version, only the Danish one was signed by the king and thus is the only official version. Normally, the constitution is stored in the National Archive of Denmark (Rigsarkivet), but in honor of the 175th anniversary, the constitution will be displayed at the Danish Parliament from June 5, 2024 until December 31, 2024.

How many times has the Constitution been amended?               

Since its adoption in 1849, the constitution has only been updated four times (1866, 1915, 1920, and 1953), each time on June 5th. In 1915, women and servants received the right to vote.

Today, the Constitutional Act of 1953 is  89 articles long and article 29 provides for universal suffrage to the unicameral parliament.

Relationship between Church and State

Prior to 1849, the Danish church was a royal church under the Danish king. Through the Constitution of 1849, it became a church of the people (folkekirke). While the 1849 constitution provided religious freedom (article 67), the Church was (article 3), and still is today (article 4 of the Constitution of 1953), supported by the State. Notably, this means that the church has responsibility for all Danish citizens, not just parish members.

How are the Danes marking the 175 anniversary?

In celebration of the event, the Danish Parliament has published a podcast on its website as well as displaying the original document, as mentioned above.

 Additional resources on the Danish Constitution found in the Library of Congress collection include:

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