I am Queen Mary

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As most other European nations of the 17th and 18th century Denmark did have a few colonies around the world. from ancient times Denmark had its own little north Atlantic empire ruling over all of the north Atlantic thanks to its holdings of the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland – this were in reality colonies but not in the fashion of the later European expansion across the globe.

When it came to the colonial race Denmark entered the stage a bit late compared to other nations – hence the Danish colonies were pretty small compared to what other nations acquired. There were a few settlements around the coast of India and a small group of islands in the Bay of Bengal – these settlements helped secure a steady flow of spices and tropical goods heading to Denmark. The Danish settlements in India were gradually sold off to the British and incorporated into British India during the 19th century.

Statue of labour riot leader Mary Thomas

In Africa there were a small Danish colony at the gold coast – their main function was to secure a steady supply of slaves to work at the Danish West Indies colonies. The slave trade was officially abolished in 1803 when trade in slaves became illegal – though an illegal trade continued for a while after this. With slave trade no longer forming the basis of the Danish colonies on the gold coast the small Danish settlement tried to make a business in farming. They tried to do farm cotton, sugar and cocoa all fairly unsuccessful and the forts along the coast were finally sold off to the British in 1850.

Queen Mary sitting at the harbor of Copenhagen

The most important part of the Danish colonial realm was three small islands in the West Indies know as Dansk Vest Indiske Øer – until they were sold off to the USA in 1917 to become the US Virgin Islands. The islands were the main destination of the Danish slaves coming on ships from the Danish holdings on the gold coast and they produced the white gold – sugar – which were the main source of wealth from the Danish colonies. The profits of the sugar trade help fund a lot of the main mansions you will see in Frederiksstaden in Copenhagen around Amalienborg royal residence.

There are not a lot of memorials around Copenhagen about the colonial history – there are some about Greenland but not much about the former colonies. A few years ago parts of the population of the former Danish West Indies islands decided to make a statue to commemorate the Danish colonial history and the slave trade of the former colonial power. They made a statue of Mary Thomas know as Queen Mary – they did it apparently to shame the Danish government to give an apology for the slavery history of the islands. Which is pretty ridiculous since the slavery was abandon long before the first Danish constitution giving limited democracy in 1849 – hence the Danish people have no responsibility for the slavery history it rest solely on the royal family who ruled as dictators during this time of history.

Mary Thomas rebel leader

Queen Mary wasn’t actually a queen nor was she a slave since she lived from 1848 to 1905. So she wasn’t actually protesting slavery – instead she was protesting the horrible working condition which had replaced slavery. She was one of the leaders of a riot of 1878 which burned down a lot of buildings and plantations around the islands. She got caught along with a couple of other women and was sentenced to life in prison and lived out the rest of her life in prison in Denmark and later back at the West Indies islands.

Broken arm of the statue

The statue is located right down at the harbor a short walk from the royal residence at Amalienborg in front of Den Kongelige Afstøbningssamling which is a museum of a collection of copies of statues. It was made on a fairly low budget and is made of polystyrene and painted black. It is the intention to try to collect money to make it into an actual bronze statue one day. I guess it is important to do it quickly because the statue doesn’t seem very durable – it is moving a lot in the wind and Queen Mary one hand is broken off and I guess it is only a question of time before it will fall down to the ground and disappear.

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