It`s not easy to photograph a statue on a pedestal when you`re tiny… but this picture kind of fits the story of Tordenskiold. (Statue at Rådhusplassen, Oslo)
Peter Jansen Wessel Tordenskiold (28 October 1690 – 12 November 1720) was a Norwegian nobleman and an eminent naval flag officer in the service of the Royal Dano-Norwegian Navy. He rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral for his services in the Great Northern War.
As the son of a merchant in Trondheim at the time was in national fellowship with Denmark, he could not hope for a career in the navy which was his dream and goal.
Peter was a very persistent young man and when he turned 13 he ran away from home and traveled to Copenhagen, the capitol of the double monarchy. His goal was the navy cadet academy.
Without the right connections and money, he couldn`t apply for a place at school, but he was not out of courage and ambitions. Peter wrote directly to the king himself, not once but three times, refusing to give up. In the meantime, Peter gained seaman`s experience by mustering on a Danish slave ship and in January 1709 the king finally resigned. 9 month later Danmark-Norway went to war against Sweden.
Soon the enemies would know him for his fearlessness and cheekiness. Peter hijacked a considerable amount of ships, among them the Swedish frigate Vita Örn, which he renamed Hvite Ørn. Later that year the Swedish had to endure the humiliation of watching the ship fight against its old homeland.
In 1716 he was crowned with a nobility title and named Tordenskiold (i.e Thunder shield).
Tordenskiold participates in several battles, among others, he prevented an invasion of Norway. He did so by pouncing upon the Swedish transport fleet, laden with ammunition and other military stores, which rode at anchor in the narrow and dangerous Dynekil Fjord. With two frigates and five smaller ships, he conquered or destroyed around 30 Swedish ships, with little damage to himself during the Battle of Dynekilen on 8 July 1716. His luck never seemed to fail him. He was promoted to Commander and given the command of the North sea cadre.
In December 1718, Tordenskiold brought to Frederick IV the welcome news of the death of Charles XII and was, in turn, made Rear-Admiral. Tordenskiold captured the Swedish fortress of Carlsten at Marstrand in 1719. The last feat of arms during the Great Northern War was Tordenskiold’s partial destruction and partial capture of the Gothenburg Squadron which had so long eluded him, on 26 September 1719. He was rewarded with the rank of Vice-Admiral
During a dinner party in Hanover November 9th, 1720, he was presented to the Swedish nobleman Jacob Axel Staël von Holstein, known as a notorious gambler and scam. Tordenskiold scolded Holstein, and then it completely took off. Holstein first responded by calling Tordenskjold “sailor” and was about to pull out the chord when someone separated them. Still, Holstein managed to challenge Tordenskjold to a duel – a challenge the honorable sea hero could not overlook.
They met on the morning of November 12 on a bog south of Hanover. The duel lasted only seconds before a chop from Holstein’s chord drilled into Tordenskjold’s right side. He collapsed while blood flowed. Christian Kold, Tordenskjold’s valet, ran to help him.
“I then got a scarf up and held it for the hole under his arm, but the blood and the breath went out just as firmly, so it was done with him after 3 to 4 minutes,” Kold later said.
Tordenskjold had used up his luck and drew his last sigh on the plain.
Tordenskiold was buried in Holmens Church, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Picture from digitalmuseum.no
Though his victories were not decisive in the course of the war, he eventually attained mythic status, as one of the most successful Dano-Norwegian military commanders. Tordenskiold was revived as both a Danish and Norwegian national symbol. He was portrayed as the little guy outsmarting his far more powerful adversaries, and his exploits were enhanced by mixing in myths and fiction.
Tordenskiold is mentioned by name both in the Danish royal anthem “Kong Christian stod ved højen mast” from 1778 and the Norwegian national anthem “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” from 1864. Statues of him have been erected several places, streets named after him, both in Denmark and Norway. Both the Norwegian Royal Navy and the Danish Royal Navy have named ships after him. In the United States, Tordenskiold Township in the state of Minnesota was settled in 1871 by two Danish brothers. The coat of arms of Holmestrand includes his ship Hvite Ørn and so on.