Elsinore and the Danish Sound Dues

For over 400 years, writes Oliver Warner, the Sovereigns of Denmark exacted dues from all ships using the Sounds at the entrance to the Baltic Sea.

There are few more historic places in Scandinavia than Helsingor, which we call Elsinore, guarding as it does the northerly entrance to the Sound, which is, at this point, less than three miles wide. To the navigator the Great and Little Belts, alternative passages into the Baltic, have the challenge of intricacy, but lack the associations that make Elsinore unique.

Only Gibraltar can claim to be of equal interest as a strategic focus, and of much the same relevance, for until the advent of steam, and the submarine, Gibraltar and Elsinore could effectually control entrance to and exit from inland seas of immense importance to the world at large.

In earlier centuries, the Baltic was a principal source of naval stores, timber above all, but also hemp, pitch, tar, tallow, resin, brimstone, copper, iron-ore and a number of other commodities which no nation with a navy or an extensive mercantile marine would have wished to see available to an enemy but not to itself.

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