Carl Petersen: the Fox, the Prince, and the pension

Carl Petersen was an important figure in the search for the Franklin Expedition, but he fell on hard times in his older age. And when his friends from the Fox expedition found out, they were determined to do something to help him.

Carl Petersen’s sled flag from Francis Leopold McClintock’s 1857-59 Fox expedition – a gift from crewmate Allen Young. “Hold Fast” is the same in Carl’s native Danish and in English.

It would have been a scene of the utmost glamour: a royal visit, to a royal palace. Queen Victoria’s eldest son and heir, the Prince of Wales, was on an official visit to Copenhagen in October 1879. Christian IX, King of Denmark, was holding court with his family. The guests included crown princes and princesses from Sweden and Russia, and other European aristocracy.

And there was another VIP in attendance, although his appearance might not have matched his status – he was an old man, visibly ill, and almost completely blind. But he had three medals pinned to his chest, and he was presented to the Prince of Wales with all due ceremony.

The old man’s name was Johan Carl Christian Petersen, and he had been a pivotal figure in the search for the Franklin Expedition.

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