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Thread: Unusual early Danish dagger: could it be also Norwegian or Icelandic?

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    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Unusual early Danish dagger: could it be also Norwegian or Icelandic?

    Hello everybody,

    Recently I have acquired an unusual dagger (see attached picture). While it looks like a typical early 19-th century Danish dagger (it has almost exactly the same shape, style and scabbard as textbook examples), there are two things that strike me as odd.

    First, there are two lion-like heads on the cross-guard, instead of typical dolphins. Second, there are no Danish lions on the shield on the scabbard. While the first factor could be just a matter of design, the second one looks to me as being much more important. The three lions on the shield are a part of the coat of arms of Denmark. Hence, in my opinion, by removing them and having a plain shield the owner wanted to show (if not to underline) his disassociation with Danmark.

    Does anybody know, what is this dagger? While the general style is clearly early 19-th Century Danish, the lack of lions on the shield suggests some other country. Norway comes to mind first. After its breakup with Denmark in 1814 Norwegian naval officers have likely used weapons similar to Danish (at least, for some time), yet with some design differences. That explains the lion heads on the cross-guard (lion is a heraldic symbol of Norway) and the lack of Danish lions on the shield.

    Alternatively I could think of Iceland (until 1918 semi-autonomous province within Danish kingdom) or some former Dano-Norwegian colonies (Tranquebar, Serampore, Nicobar Islands, Danish West Indies and Danish Gold Coast). But, to me, Norway sounds more plausible.

    Also, I have been suggested that this could be a dagger from one of the two provinces (Schleswig and Holstein), which tried to break away from Denmark in 1848. I, however, also find such hypothesis less plausible then Norwegian roots of this dagger. First of all, it is clear that the lions were not scratched or otherwise removed from the shield. On the contrary: it has been made that way from the beginning. The style of this dagger is very similar to early 19-th Century French ones. After Napoleonic wars many Danes returned home from French service and brought similar styled daggers with them. However, it was more than thirty years BEFORE the war of 1848 took place. In other words, at the time this dagger was made the two provinces were solidly incorporated into Denmark. Hence, the lions should have been located on the shield.

    By mid-19th Century the weapon's fashion has changed and Denmark switched mainly to English-styled daggers (whether straight or curved ones). If it were the dagger from that period with no lions I would have definitely associated it with the two rebellious provinces. But then, again, the design of this one is clearly the early 19th Century French "empire style". Of course, some officer could have acquired it earlier and still used it in late 1840-ties. But then the lions would have been there. The fact that they were NOT physically removed proves that the dagger has been made that way ("lionless" so to speak) in the early 19th Century. Which brings us back to 1814 and Norwegian breakup.

    Does anybody know what is it? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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