In 1938 a mysterious meeting took place in which a German prince was offered the Kingdom of Iceland
In his 1952 memoir, the German nobleman Prince Friedrich Christian of Schaumburg-Lippe unveiled the details of a meeting he had with three Icelanders in Berlin during the spring of 1938. The meeting had taken place at the offices of the Reich’s Ministry of Propaganda, headed by the top-ranking Nazi Joseph Goebbels. At the meeting, the three Icelanders asked the prince, a staff member at the ministery, if he would like to be the King of Iceland.
The prince writes: “In the spring of 1939 I submitted for my resignation from the ministry. My intention was to leave the public service and move to the countryside. I wanted to become a provincial administrator. I would probably have submitted for my resignation earlier if we wouldn’t have received a remarkable opportunity the year prior. At that time a group of patriotic and distinguished Icelanders travelled to Berlin. In Iceland the goal was to form a new independent kingdom.
Through the Act of Union with Denmark signed on December 1, 1918, The Kingdom of Iceland was at the time recognised as a fully sovereign state in union with Denmark through a common monarch. As the nation’s full independence seemed a likely outcome in the near future there were Icelanders who thought that the country should remain a monarchy. The most prominent of these monarchists was the composer Jón Leifs, who resided in Germany for years. He thought that a continental king in independent Iceland would bring strength and prosperity to the country. And there was an obvious precedent: Norway had chosen to offer Prince Carl of Denmark the crown after getting independence from Sweden in 1905. He became King Haakon VII of Norway, a popular king. So while the concept of a king of Iceland sounds surreal for modern Icelanders it was a logical step for some in the 1930s.
Prince Schaumburg-Lippe Contemplates The Offer
“My godfather, Christian X of Denmark, was also the king of Iceland,” writes the prince of Schaumburg-Lippe who was apparently a product of the finest European nobility stock.
“Now Icelanders wanted their own king, despite the fact that many were socialists. A new king would have to be in the right age, have a son and be from a reigning monarch family. In this regard the variety was probably the best in Germany. I had no idea about this until one day I was asked if I would be interested in undertaking this task.”
“The longer I thought about it with my wife, the more convinced we became that it was a good idea. In due time I could therefore tell the Icelandic envoy that I would accept their offer. But as a condition I would have to get the consent of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.”
Shortly after meeting with the Icelanders, Prince Schaumburg-Lippe paid a visit to Goebbels’s summerhouse in the outskirts of Berlin. On a quiet night they sat before the fireplace, slowly adding firewood and sipping on Curaçao.
“Not surprisingly he was interested in the offer I had received and therefore I enjoyed his reaction. He was like a happy child, proud that his own staff member had been made such an offer. He was very eager to make it happen,” the prince writes in his memoir before going on to describe how Goebbels started smiling and making fun of the whole affair.
“Prince Schaumburg, have you already written your first speech as king? Don’t you need a Propaganda Minister? Could I offer myself to the post?” Hitler’s Propaganda Minister said, laughing.
After World War II broke out in September 1939, the matter fell by the wayside. According to Prince Schaumburg-Lippe, Nazi Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop did not like the idea.
The Offer Is Swiftly Forgotten, As Is The Prince
Scholars are now almost sure that the three Icelanders who offered the prince the crown of Iceland were Jón Leifs, the aforementioned composer and the writers Guðmundur Kamban and Kristján Albertsson. None of them had any authority to offer a kingship to anybody and their intentions were unclear. They must have thought that if Germany would win the war that Iceland would be secure with a German king.
Iceland gained independence in 1944 and chose to have a president. Since then the idea of a king has never been suggested with any real intention.
Prince Friedrich Christian of Schaumburg-Lippe continued to work for the Nazi regime until its surrender in 1945. He was captured by the Allies but was not convicted of war crimes. Instead, he testified in the Nuremberg trials of 1946. He was part of a German nobility that had lost all real power after World War I and who the Nazis used as puppets in their regime to give it more charm.Like many of these aristocrats, Prince Schaumburg-Lippe had no real influence in the Third Reich.
His bid to become the king of Iceland was swiftly forgotten. He wrote several letters to the Icelandic government asking if the offer still stood and if not that he could be given a title in Iceland, perhaps Graf von Reykjavík, Count of Reykjavík. Nobody seemed to care about him and didn’t even bother to write him back. In 1973, he finally decided to pay a visit to his lost kingdom and sailed to Iceland on a cruiser.
In his book about the prince from 1992, Örn Helgason writes about this visit:
™It seems that he still expected something from Icelanders. His hopes were however totally squashed. The prince was not welcomed in Iceland. Officials, who he tried to turn to, received him coldly and wanted to ignore him. Others said they were sick at home to avoid him. Even the papers, that have nearly always been completely polarised, joined forces to remain silent about his voyage, even though many much smaller things have been considered newsworthy. Few foreigners have shown as much interest in the country or had a bigger agenda as this German nobleman.”
Prince Friedrich Christian of Schaumburg-Lippe died in 1983.
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