Where it all began: Jægersborg Deer Park and Enclosure
In 1670, Christian V established Jægersborg Deer Park, which was the backdrop for the first magnificent par force hunts in Denmark.
In 1669, Frederick III of Denmark enclosed the old Boveskov Forest and gave it to his son Christian so that he could use it for his preferred form of hunting, the par force hunt.
The following year, Christian V ascended the throne. He extended the enclosure of Boveskov so his new deer park encompassed the entire area that is now known as Jægersborg Deer Park and Enclosure. The new hunting area spanned more than 1500 hectares, and the game in Jægersborg Deer Park was supplemented with animals from elsewhere, including stags from Bornholm.
The landscape in the new hunting park was open and fairly flat, so Christian V was able to hunt par force without having to construct purpose-built hunting rides.
The influence from England
In his younger days as Crown Prince, Christian V had experienced the grand par force hunts hosted by the French Sun King, Louis XIV, but, when he established par force hunting in Denmark, he also turned his attention toward England.
For the first year, the Danish king hunted par force in the English manner, as a form of unrestricted mounted chase throughout the hunting terrain.
The English style of hunting was in stark contrast to the highly ritualised French hunt, which was reminiscent of a strategic war game with teams of hounds and hunters who substituted each other as the ”battle” progressed.
A simple system of hunting rides
The simpler English style of the chase was perfectly suited to the landscape in Jægersborg Deer Park and Enclosure, and there was no need to establish a complex system of par force hunting rides like those found in Gribskov Forest and the Great Deer Park.
At Jægersborg, hunting rides were mainly needed in areas that were wet, swampy or in other ways inaccessible.
In the central, open section of the park, three parallel rides ran from north to south. In the forests, there were more rides, which formed a grid in the landscape. The hunting rides that currently form a star shape in front of the Hermitage Hunting Lodge were only constructed in the 1730s.
The King’s Castles
To the south of the Great Deer Park is the Castle of Ibstrup, which was constructed by Christian IV in around 1610. When Christian V established the par force hunt in 1670, the old castle was renovated so it could be the seat of the royal hunt. The King kept his horses and hounds at the castle, and it was also the residence for the hunting staff. For this reason, the castle was renamed Jægersborg (Hunters’ Castle).
In the centre of the Deer Park was Hubertushus, where the King and his guests dined during the hunt. The kitchen of Hubertushus was located on the ground floor, while the dining room was on the floor above. In 1694, a table lift was installed so that food could be hoisted from the kitchen into the dining room. This meant that diners could enjoy their meal without the customary army of servers bustling around them. The table lift was known as the Hermitage machine, and Hubertushus was therefore renamed Hermitage Hunting Lodge.
In 1734-36, the old hunting pavilion was replaced with the current Hermitage Hunting Lodge, which was built by Christian VI. He constructed the Hermitage Hunting Lodge in the centre of Jægersborg Deer Park on a hilltop, which could be seen from all sides, and on a site where the old roads formed a triangle, so that the castle seemed to be situated at the centre of a star of hunting rides. The star acted as a symbol and emphasises how everything points to and radiates from the absolutist monarch.
The King is injured while hunting
Par force hunting was a theatrical demonstration of the King’s divine, absolute power, but the hunt did not always go according to plan. Sometimes the stag escaped only to be located after hours of searching. Such events were a source of humiliation. However, Christian V experienced an even greater humiliation while hunting in the autumn of 1698.
The hunt took place in Jægersborg Deer Park and everything went according to plan until the very end. Once the day’s quarry, a large stag, had been “fixed” and the dogs were holding it at bay, the king was summoned. It is said that King Christian V stabbed the stag through the heart, but as he withdrew his weapon, he was struck by its hind leg and the animal fell on top of him.
Christian V was seriously injured and had to be borne off. The king, a hunting enthusiast, was said to have been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. However, he was still able to participate in several more par force hunts before his death in the summer of 1699.
The rise and fall of par force hunting
The par force hunt was introduced in 1670 as an ostentatious demonstration of the power of the absolutist monarch but it declined in significance throughout the 1700s. It was an incredibly expensive form of hunting. It required large, specially landscaped areas and a considerable number of hunters and expensive horses and hounds.
Furthermore, the 1700s were a time of profound change in society. The pompous grandeur demonstrated by par force hunting was incompatible with Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality. This contributed to par force hunting becoming outmoded, and in 1777 the Royal Danish par force hunt was abolished.
Since then, there have been no par force hunts in Jægersborg Deer Park and Enclosure.