Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Europe’s longest-reigning monarch, has today signed an act of abdication, passing the throne to her eldest son Crown Prince Frederik after 50 years of rule.
The popular and artistic Queen, now 84, was proclaimed Denmark’s monarch on January 14, 1972 at the age of 31 following the death of her father, King Frederick IX. Half a century later to the day, surrounded by her family at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, the Queen put her name to the historical documents that enable the first change of reign in Denmark since 1513.
Jubilant Crowds Celebrate Their New King
In an elaborately choreographed ceremony at the Christiansborg Castle this afternoon, Frederik was proclaimed as King Frederik X in front of Members of Parliament along with dignitaries.
Huge crowds of well-wishers lined the streets outside to greet their new King and Queen Consort, Frederik’s wife Mary, singing the national anthem and the cry “Long live the King!”.
The couple were greeted with loud cheers from parliamentarians and special guests as Crown Prince Frederik, wearing admiral uniform, firmly shook the hand of the parliamentary speaker. They inspected the Danish Royal Life Guard and listened to three cheers from the Guard of Honour with broad smiles.
Frederik held his wife’s hand tightly throughout the event as the couple waved to the approving crowds.
A Celebration 50 Years In The Making
Sunday’s events have been 50 years in planning. When Margrethe ascended the throne in 1972 at the age of 31 she made known her intention to reign for 50 years before handing over power. She is keeping her promise almost to the day – the date is no coincidence, falling precisely five decades after Margrethe was proclaimed Queen following her father’s death on January 14, 1972.
In a public New Year’s speech the Queen asked for support for Frederik to take over the helm, saying “It is time for me to hand over the main responsibility to the younger generation”.
Frederik, 54 has been heir to the throne since his birth in 1968 and will now reign as King Frederik X alongside his Australian-born wife Queen Mary, tapping into huge public affection for his mother.
Why The Voluntary Abdication?
While extremely rare, abdication is not unknown in modern European monarchies. Queen Margrethe’s decision echoes that of her counterpart Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who voluntarily abdicated in 2013 aged 75 after a 33-year reign.
Margrethe’s move shows both remarkable foresight and humility, giving up power decades before the end of her natural life. It stands in stark contracts to other European monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, who served until her death last September at 96 years old.
As Queen Margrethe II put it in her speech this New Year’s, “Over the years, I have noticed more and more that there exists an expectation that the monarch should retire at a given age. And anyone who is approaching the age of 80 surely must recognise that one’s stamina and strength diminishes over the years”.
The former Queen clearly sees the wisdom in not clinging onto power, but passing responsibilities to a new generation in good time.
New Generation Takes The Throne
As Crown heir, Frederik has effectively already been Denmark’s head of state for many years and enjoys widespread popularity. The athletic former Olympic sailor cuts a youthful figure compared to other European monarchs.
Frederik has given the impression of being exceptionally well-prepared for the task ahead. He has carved out a reputation over the years as a modern forward-thinking Crown Prince alongside his equally popular wife Mary, building on Queen Margrethe’s accomplishments.
As Crown Prince couple they have championed sustainability, promoted Danish businesses abroad and adapted traditions for contemporary society.
Queen Mary: First Aussie-Born Queen
In another break from convention, Frederik’s wife Mary will take the title Her Majesty Queen Mary, the first native-born Australian to become Queen consort of a European nation.
Their marriage has captured the public imagination in both countries. Mary first met Frederik by chance at Sydney pub during the 2000 Olympics. With no royal background the Tasmanian overcome long odds to eventually marry the heir to the Danish throne, giving birth to four children.
The photogenic Mary has wholly embraced her royal duties and role as mother. Her incredible journey has been compared to a real-life fairytale, inspiring huge affection from the Danish people.
As Queen consort alongside King Frederik for what may be decades to come, Mary now holds a uniquely prominent position on the global stage as the first Australian-born Queen.
|Summary Timeline Of Key Dates
January 14, 1972 | Accession of Queen Margrethe II at the age of 31 after the death of her father Frederick IX |
|May 14, 2004| Marriage of Crown Prince Frederik to Mary Donaldson|
| January 1, 2023 | In traditional New Year’s speech, Queen Margrethe announces plan to voluntarily abdicate at age 84 after 50 years on the throne|
|January 14, 2023|Queen Margrethe II signs abdication papers on the exact 50th anniversary of beginning of her reign|
|January 15, 2023| In ceremony at Danish Parliament Frederik formally proclaimed King Frederik X, Mary becomes Queen consort|
What Happens To Queen Margrethe Now?
While she is now Queen emeritus, no longer head of state, Margrethe will keep her title Queen Margrethe. She also retains possession of the royal palaces of Marselisborg and Graasten for parts of the year.
According to tradition, as a Queen dowager she is no longer expected carry out official duties and will stay out limelight occupied by the new King and Queen. However, given her continued vigor we can expect Margrethe to still be active in Danish cultural spheres where her lifelong passion lies.
Known as a chain smoker who admits to enjoying fine wine, the former monarch may well also finally take the chance to relax after a reign lasting over half a century.
Reign Of King Frederik Begins
The reign of King Frederik X now officially starts, although he has already shouldered responsibilities for many years as Crown Prince. The new monarch takes charge at a time of global instability, with war raging in Europe and economies under strain.
However, Frederik lacks none of the political acumen and leadership shown by his mother over five successful decades as Queen. With Queen Mary at his side at the height of their powers, the signs are good King Frederik will steward Denmark ably through the 2020s just as Queen Margrethe II did so effectively through the 1970s to 2020s.
The accession will also no doubt increase interest in the Danish Royal family internationally with such a young, attractive and modern King and Queen consort suddenly under the global spotlight.
After a momentous day celebrating the departure of one Queen and arrival of a new King, one era ends while another starts for the Kingdom of Denmark.
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