The first recorded Gypsies in Denmark came from
Scotland in 1505 and then moved on to Sweden. They had a letter of recommendation
from King James IV of Scotland to King Hans of Denmark, his uncle. In 1505
other Gypsies came across the border from Germany. Junker Jørgen
of Egypt came to Jutland and got a letter of safe conduct from Duke Frederik.
In 1536, however, Gypsies (tatere) were ordered to leave Denmark in three
months. This order was not obeyed. In 1554 King Christian III circulated
a letter accusing many noblemen and others of supporting the Gypsies, although
they were wandering around and deceiving the people. Anyone who gave them
refuge would be punished, anyone who killed a Gypsy could keep his property,
any local authority official who did not arrest the Gypsies in his area
would have to pay for any damage they did. The main effect of this letter
was that the Gypsies started travelling in smaller groups. A further letter
was issued in 1561 by Frederick II, in a milder form than Christian's.
A certain Peder Oxe was sent to arrest all Gypsies in Jutland and bring
them to Copenhagen to work as smiths or in the galleys.
In 1578 the Bishop of Fyn told his priests not
to marry Gypsies and to have them buried outside the churchyard as if they
were Turks. In 1589 the original edict, ordering Gypsies to leave the realm
inside three months, was re-issued with the addition of capital punishment
for those who remained. With the end of immigration and strong laws the
Gypsies resident in Denmark merged with the indigenous nomadic population
forming a group of Travellers, popularly still called tatere. There was
a small immigration of Sinti and Jenisch families at the beginning of the
nineteenth century. The laws against Gypsies were eased in 1849 and reimposed
in 1875 with the threat of a large-scale immigration of Vlah Romanies.
From 1911 this law was carried out more effectively with the creation of
a national police force. A travelling musical group known as Marietta's
gang were probably the last to be expelled, in 1913, and by 1939 there
were very few families of Gypsies, if any, in Denmark and the Travellers
had all but disappeared.
After 1945 the Government banned anyone who had
not been born in a caravan from nomadizing. Around 1970 there was a camping
site at Islands Brygge near Copenhagen which was used by Scandinavian Travellers
and Gypsies, and from time to time by Dutch Travellers. After the repeal
of anti-Gypsy legislation in 1953 small numbers immigrated from eastern
and central Europe. They are settled in houses and flats in Copenhagen
and Helsingor. The current estimated Gypsy population in Denmark is 1,750.