A comical interlude.
When I officially opened the Glyptotek in 1897, I set the words ‘Dieu protège la France’ in the niche above ‘Quand même’. These beautiful words, which were imprinted on French coinage and sprang from people’s lips, in both song and speech, when I visited France in my youth, I would now inscribe there.
Andreas Weis and Koch, however, were opposed to this – for political reasons, to avoid causing offence to the Germans, and to my regret, they had to be removed.
When President Fallières visited the Glyptotek in 1908, I had prepared a little speech, which I gave in front of ‘Quand même’. I said then that I would have inscribed these beautiful words above the group but had been compelled, for political reasons, to erase them. Now, however, I had laid down a wreath with French ribbons, and on them I had written the words ‘ces belles paroles qui font vibrer mon coeur’, and I called out, in a passionate voice that carried to every corner of the hall, ‘Dieu protège la France’. Fallières appeared slightly tense as he shook my hand, but I was oblivious.
Only afterwards was it explained to me what a comical situation I had created.
To the French atheists, to whom Fallières and his staff belong, these historic words are a thorn in their side, and they had caused much strife in France.
To the indignation of all right-minded people, and the triumph of all blasphemers, they had been stricken from the coinage. The French therefore felt deeply troubled by my speech, believing that it was concern for the French atheist policy that had compelled me to remove the words, however, from the warmth in my voice, they sensed that I had intended no harm.
But now the story spread through all the French papers, all the way to the colonies.
The government papers referred to this ‘incident’ as a misunderstanding – which is really what it was.
A few redskins chastised me, but the clerical papers, which seemed to be in the majority, sang my praises with headlines such as ‘Une leçon bien mérité à M. Fallières’.
‘Un Danois qui parle bien’
Why, a few even extolled my catholic faith!!
This was a feast for the opposition. I had, unwittingly, struck a chord in the hearts of the French, and for a long time following, I enjoyed the dubious honour of being the object of their attention.
Address to me personally, letters of thanks and complimentary notes poured in!!!