The accident

In July 1821, while his parents were travelling around Europe on a trip that lasted more than two years, 12-year old Fritz was at Sorgenfrie Castle, in the country north of Copenhagen. He went hunting near a lake with the forest warden. Fritz used a rifle which his father had sent him from Italy, but when he fired the last shot, the rifle exploded. The tip of his left thumb was blown off, and several other fingers badly wounded. The king’s surgeon was called in haste, and he bound the boy’s wounds. It was noted that Fritz was particularly brave and composed, and his biggest concern was that his father would be worried. The King (Frederik 6th) visited the boy the following day, and received daily bulletins of the child’s condition when he got a fever. The surgeon pronounced that “the prince accepted with admirable patience his fate”. He received many visitors from friends and from the court, as his parents were still traveling. One of his friends brought him a monkey for amusement – it was leashed to a pole outside his window, as it wasn’t housebroken, and Fritz fed it gooseberries and nuts from his windowsill.

The rifle was carefully examined after the accident – had the prince held it where it was broken by the explosion he would have lost his whole hand or more. There didn’t seem to be construction problems, and it hadn’t been loaded too full: the cause of the explosion remained a mystery.


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