The King’s hunting grounds

Dusted off &

 

 shined up

 

On the highest hill of the Deer Gardens, at the outskirts of Copenhagen, the King’s historic hunting castle is brought back to its former splendour.

 

By Camilla Alfthan

 

Visible from afar across the landscape the castle was built as a symbol of the King’s power. All roads in the Deer Gardens lead to the castle better known as the Eremitage  – whether it is the King’s direct route that begins at the Fortune gate or one of the many willowy roads that take you through a changing scenery past old oak trees, lakes, ancient Viking monuments and the large plains with sculptural hawthorns that the story teller, Karen Blixen likened to the African savannah.

 

It was King Christian VI who commissioned the castle from the Court’s architect, Laurids Thura after having demolished the modest Hubertus hunting lodge of his ancestors.

When the Eremitage was completed in 1736 is was literally the jewel on the crown of the royal hunting grounds that he’d expanded by eliminating an entire village to liberate space for la chasse par force – a long and exhausting form of hunting that his father had discovered at the French Courts. On horse back and with hounds  that were selected from the sounds of their barks, the royal hunting party would chase a stag until it succumbed with fatigue making it easy for the King, or one of his distinguished guests, to kill it with a long knife.

The adventure was not without danger. Horses often died of exhaustion and the King’s father was seriously injured during his last hunt when a stag that he’d tried to kill instead gored him twice.

 

The castle has an imposing and magical allure, as it’s guarded by sculptures that are half women, half lions while hunting gods sit far above on the roof. 

 

The rather barbaric form of hunting eventually ended. The last King to hunt par force was Christian VII; an eccentric and erratic personality who was featured in the Emmy nominated movie; A Royal Affair, where the Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen played the King.

As for the Eremitage castle, The King’s successors were less passionate about the place, and towards the end of the century it narrowly escaped being demolished when it was no longer in use and its architecture was considered unfashionable.

 

Fashions, however, change and in 1839 when King Christian VIII came to the throne he reintroduced the lavish hunting parties. Three decades later his son, King Christian IV, built a race course where the finish line was situated right in front of the castle’s door step.

 

Today, the grass covered track relives its past when an annual race on the first Sunday of November determines the winner of the Hubertus Hunt – the culmination of several horse ”hunts” during the summer season. Next to it lies the immaculate greens of a golf club that blend into the rolling landscape as a testimonial of the changing times.

 

The baroque castle has an imposing and magical allure, as it is guarded by sculptures that are half women, half lions while the hunting gods sit far above on the oxidized copper roof. Closed for centuries to the public as a well guarded secret it is now open in the summer months.

 

The Eremitage castle

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