In 1981, this 172-Year War between Denmark and a Spanish Town Ended

In 1981, this 172-Year War between Denmark and a Spanish Town Ended

Stephanie Schoppert - February 27, 2017

The war between the town of Huéscar, Spain and the country of Denmark not only lasted a long time, but there was a great deal of history that led up to it. The small town is located in the province of Grenada in Spain, and its reason for declaring war is one that stems from Napoleon Bonaparte and his brother. The declaration of war was a brazen one considering that the town only had 8 municipal guards with which to take on the entire Danish army.

In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte and Carlos IV met to sign the Treat of San Ildefonso. The treaty united Spain and France in a common defense against England. It ensured that when Napoleon asked Spain for troops to send to Denmark in order to protect Jutland in 1807, they sent 13,000. In 1808, things got a bit complicated during the Napoleonic War. Spain fought with France against England, as per the treaty. But it was while Spain was involved in the war against England that Napoleon decided to invade Spain. Napoleon’s army began conquering the northern provinces of the country.

On May 5, 1808, Napoleon met with the Charles IV and his son King Ferdinand VII. Napoleon ordered King Ferdinand VII to abdicate his throne and return it to his father. He then ordered Charles IV to abdicate and turn the Spanish throne over to Napoleon. In return for giving up their thrones, Napoleon promised that Spain would be independent and Roman Catholic, but would be ruled by Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The Spanish people were not willing to simply accept French rule and a rebellion was already beginning.

In 1981, this 172-Year War between Denmark and a Spanish Town Ended

The Spanish government and the Council of Castile were accepting of Joseph Bonaparte as King, but he population refused and local governments started setting up their own governmental juntas. This led to plenty of confusion because there was no central authority to bring all the small local juntas together. Thus, the Supreme Central Junta was created in Aranjuez. The Junta called for representatives from the local provinces and overseas lands to meet in an “Extraordinary and General Cortes of the Spanish Nation.” The Supreme Central Junta took over the war effort and signed an alliance with United Kingdom on January 14, 1809. The alliance with the United Kingdom now meant that Spain and Denmark were on different sides of the war, which was bad news for the Spanish troops in Denmark.

The British did help evacuate some of the Spanish troops and others managed to get out of Denmark on foot, but some 5,000 Spanish troops were still left. The Danish imprisoned these troops and placed them in prisons scattered throughout the country as per the orders of Napoleon. This was done to prevent any problems from the captured Spanish troops.

In response to the plight of their comrades in Denmark on November 11, 1809, the Cortes sent couriers throughout the Spanish territory with a message to end all diplomatic relations with Denmark. In response, the Granadian city council decided to take things one step further and declare war on Denmark.

Read on to find out what happened and why it took so long for the two sides to come to peace.

In 1981, this 172-Year War between Denmark and a Spanish Town Ended
The official signing of the peace between Huescar and Denmark.

The people of Huéscar did not really have the means to wage war against an entire country, with only 8 municipal guards. Eventually the Napoleonic War ended with Napoleon losing the war. Ferdinand VII was returned to his throne, and the Spanish people moved on from the war. In 1814, the Treaty of Paris was signed by both Spain and Denmark (as well as the other combatants in the war), and it ceased the hostilities and resumed diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Despite the Treaty of Paris, the town of Huéscar never declared peace with Denmark. The declaration of war had been largely forgotten and remained that way for over 150 years. There was never a single shot fired or injury that occurred due to the war. Vincente Gonzalez Barberan, a cultural officer involved with the regional government in Granada discovered the 172-year-old declaration of war many years later. Barberan published the declaration and the town wrestled with how to proceed with the war they had not realized they were fighting. On July 7, 1981, the town debated their options and then decided unilaterally to end the war.

Danish Ambassador Mogens Wandel-Petersen promised that he would do whatever it took to set things right with the small town. On November 11, 1981, he traveled to Huéscar with the intention of signing the peace treaty between the two parties. But both sides showed that they were willing to have a little fun at the whole affair. Wandel-Petersen arrived with a group of Danes dressed as Vikings with shields that read “Danish Hispanic Friends.” The people of Huéscar put up large posters at the entrance to the town, warning the Danes that they were entering enemy territory.

The people of Huéscar were given the day off and plenty of free wine to celebrate the occasion. The Mayor of Huéscar and the Danish ambassador exchanged gifts as symbols of the peace. Food from both countries was shared. Then in a show of great ceremony, the Mayor of Huéscar, Ossos Jose Pablo Serrano, and Danish ambassador Mogens Wandel-Peterson officially ended the war by signing a mutual agreement of peace.