Gamle Haderslev Kirkegård


A suicide and Four “ill-mannered” children

The headstone of Karen Lund has a somewhat unusual inscription:

Her hviler støvet af Karen Lund, fød Laugesen, fød i Gilbjerg Lindknud Sogn den 1ste Mai 1792, død i Haderslev den 3. november 1842 i en alder af 50 år, 6 måneder og 3 dage. Hun efterlader en sørgende Ægtefælle og 4 uopdragne Børn, der helliger Hende dette Minde. (Here lies the dust of Karen Lund, née Laugesen, born in Gilbjerg Lindknud Parish on 1 May 1792, died  in Haderslev on 3 November 1842 at the age of 50, 6 months and 3 days. She leaves behind a grieving spouse and 4 ill-mannered children who dedicate this memorial to her.)

The story behind this inscription is a sad one, though it starts with something as cheerful and innocent as the purchase of a new lady’s hat.

Karen Lund had been into town where she had been tempted to buy a beautiful new hat. Karen put on her hat and happily made her way towards Storegade, where her husband had a butcher’s shop. On seeing her hat as she stepped through the door, her husband cast her an angry look. He snatched the hat, put it on the chopping block and cut it into pieces with his big meat cleaver. One can only speculate as to why he reacted as he did. Perhaps money was tight, and Karen’s new hat was a luxurious and unnecessary purchase. Whatever the case, Karen’s happiness turned to despair and deep sorrow. So great was Karen’s unhappiness that she decided to take her own life. Not much is known about that part of the story, but one thing is certain, Karen went right upstairs and hanged herself from the family’s ceiling.

The next day, her husband had to go to the town hall to explain to the authorities what had happened. He had not expected that his fit of rage would have such consequences. All that is known about this meeting is that the grieving husband explained that he and Karen had “a slight mishap”, i.e. an unpleasant or unfortunate event.

Four “ill-mannered” children

On Karen’s headstone it says: “Hun efterlader…..4 uopdragne børn” (She leaves…..4 “ill-mannered” children). What does this strange inscription mean? The word “ill-mannered” makes us think of children who have not learned to pay attention and who do as they please. But the meaning back in those days was quite different. What it actually means is that all of Karen’s children were under confirmation age. So, it was not because Karen’s children were ill-mannered, but because they had not yet been confirmed.

This post is also available in: Danish German

  • Gamle Haderslev Kirkegård
    Gamle Haderslev Kirkegård