The Postmaster, The Duke, and the Shire - Broken Seals 6

By Sune Christian Pedersen

01. Jan. 2007

Postmaster in Rendsburg, Andreas Zacharias West Løwe, received a visit from a mysterious stranger. The traveller, who took lodgings at the post yard, explained to the postmaster that he was on a secret mission for King Frederik the 6th. For a short while Rendsburg post office became part of a high political game. 

Augustenborg Castle. Litography from about 1800. Belongs to Museum Sønderjylland - Sønderborg Castle. 

High Politics

An outstandingly dramatic power game had taken place the previous summer. Both the Danish King and his subject, Duke Friedrich Christian the 2nd of Augustenburg were suitors to the Swedish throne when a successor for the childless king was to be elected. Instead the crown went to the French general, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte (1763-1844), who became Crown Prince of Sweden and eight years later King under the name of Karl the 14th Johan. The dispute between the Danish king and the Duke of Augustenburg had reached its peak when the Danish King confined the Duke to house arrest to prevent him from travelling to Sweden. That had caused a break between them.

In May 1811, mistrust was still smouldering. Rumours had it that the Duke still cultivated his political connections in Sweden and Norway, and the King had learned about several suspicious correspond-ences about which he had even warned the new Swedish heir to the throne. He lacked, however, firm evidence.

The Traveller

A Danish officer, Major Christian Frederik Glode du Plat (1770-1844), son of a Hanoverian family, had gone to the duchies to meet relatives from the south together with whom he was to rearrange family documents after the partition of Hanover between France and its vassal State of Westphalen in 1806. It became a long stay; du Plat travelled out of Rendsburg several times to look for his relatives.

All of this was part of a cover-up. Actually, du Plat was one of the King's trusted men. At the outbreak of war in August 1807, when he was charge of the army postal service at the head quarters in Kiel, he had been a leading man in the opening of foreign mail. Later on he had among other things been on a spy mission to Sweden on the pretext of negotiating for Danish prisoners of war. Now he was going for the Duke's letters.

In August 1807, Frederik the 6th had introduced heavy censorship of all letters to abroad, but in order to improve his chances of being elected heir to the throne he had abolished all censorship of letters to Sweden. Therefore he now had to resort to other means. Upon his arrival to the duchies du Plat made some discrete inquiries here and there and learned that the north- and southbound correspondence of the Duke was handed in at the post offices in Aabenraa and Flensburg by the Duke's stablemen. Du Plat chose to concentrate on the southbound letters and he chose Rendsburg because the post office was quite remote and nobody noticed when the mail arrived, as he wrote to the King.

The traveller then disclosed his mission to the postmaster who turned out to be a quick-witted man. To avoid arousing suspicion at the neighbouring stations, postmaster Løwe put on an extra relay of post horses with the explanation that the horses were too young to manage the entire ride. In that way he succeeded in making up for the time that was lost when the major clandestinely was opening, scrutinizing, and copying the letters. Not even his own post officers suspected anything.

The letter writers did, however. Six days after the first postal communication a reply came from Leipzig, from the Duke's brother, Prince Emil, who wrote that he was happy to see that all the letters had ar-rived unopened. "But at the upper edge of the letter as at the bottom some characters and figures had been written as if they were referring to some pages and words in a book; some numbers had been crossed out and the entire letter was written in such a bad handwriting that only a trained eye could read it", du Plat writes to the king.

Smuggling of a Trunk

The secretiveness proved to be a good idea because du Plat soon found out that several postmasters were loyal to the Duke. The postmaster in Flensburg put the letters from the Augustenburgers into the mail bag without registering them in the bill, and by the first postal communication letters appeared sent from Augustenburg under the envelope of postal secretary Albrecht in Altona. The first postal communication from the south was accompanied by detailed instructions from Albrecht on how to smuggle a trunk past the French boundary line and the Hamburg customs authorities - in both cases agreements with the guards and a moneybag were the most important ingredients.

The secret trunk was connected with a likewise secret journey to get married which the Duke's family was planning for the foster-daughter of Princess Louise, Charlotte. On the journey she was supposed to bring with her the trunk which was to be smuggled across the border. Perhaps du Plat should have shown the trunk more interest, but at first his attention was probably diverted by other suspicious mat-ters: In letters to Princess Pauline of Lippe-Detmold Princess Louise was complaining that the Danes had conceived a suspicion of the Duke's letters to Sweden. It was mentioned that an unnamed travel-ler from Norway was bringing letters to the Duke. Consequently, du Plat began to take an interest in mail coach passengers and recommended the King to undertake a search for the unknown Norwe-gian. Du Plat even intercepted a number of Swedish newspapers for the Duke which he used to keep abreast of the political development in Sweden. But after a month he had still not found evidence of any illegal correspondence from the Duke himself.

He therefore began to extend his search. He made a trip to Kiel in order to find out if the Duke was sending letters by this branch route across the sea, and at another time when he realized that Swed-ish newspapers had been sent by the Swedish mail (which was not to be opened in Denmark) to the southern border and back, he made a major investigation of the Swedish postal route through Den-mark as he suspected that the Swedish post riders were illegally bringing the secret letters for the Duke along in their pockets.

Promotion of the Postmaster

As mentioned the post spy should perhaps have concentrated on the princess's trunk that contained no less than the Duke's political testament, a file of documents about the constitutional status of the Duchies. The testament was carried into safety with Princess Pauline and, accordingly, out of the country under the nose of the otherwise very experienced spy. Later on the documents would become of importance to the demand of the Augustenburgers for Schleswig-Holstein's independence from the kingdom, but that is a different story.

What concerns postmaster Løwe, the story had a happy end. To the King du Plat spoke highly of his keenness, loyalty, discretion, and ingenuity and recommended him for a position as postmaster in Schleswig; a position he acquired six months later. 

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(no subject) af Ida Hasring
En spændende artikel, men der er i følge mine oplysninger en fejl. Navnet er Hans Zacharias West Løve/Løwe. Han afløste sin far Andreas/Anders Løve/Løwe som postmester ved hans død i 1800. Ganske rigtig blev han postmester i Slesvig i 1811. I 1820 blev han justitsråd. Hans' søn fortsatte i faderens spor. 

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