Denmark is ushering in a new era today as Queen Margrethe II, who has reigned for 50 years, abdicates and is succeeded by her eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik. Frederik, 54, will now be known as King Frederik X and his Australian-born wife Crown Princess Mary has become Queen Mary.
The historic succession took place today, January 14, 2024, with Queen Margrethe signing an instrument of abdication at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. In an emotional farewell in the Throne Room, she said: “Today, we are turning a page in the history of the Danish monarchy.”
Queen Margrethe signs abdication after 50 years on the throne
Queen Margrethe was proclaimed Denmark’s ruler on January 14, 1972 at the age of 31 following the death of her father, King Frederik IX. She became the first woman to sit on the Danish throne in her own right. Margrethe celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2022 with festivities postponed due to COVID-19.
At 83, she is now the second longest-reigning monarch in Danish history after King Christian IV in the 17th century. She signed the abdication documents formally removing her from the throne at 11:15am local time today.
Her decision to step down was announced in September 2022 in a statement saying she felt the time had come to “put the responsibility of the monarchy into the hands of the next generation.”
The instrument of abdication was countersigned by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the speaker of the Danish parliament Henrik Dam Kristensen, and the Crown Prince couple’s eldest son Prince Christian, confirming the line of succession.
Prince Frederik becomes King Frederik X
In an accession ceremony shortly afterwards, the Crown Prince couple swore allegiance to Denmark’s constitution from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the country’s parliament.
54-year-old Frederik then gave his first speech as King, saying: “I promise to guard Denmark’s integrity and unity.” He will reign as King Frederik X of Denmark.
His wife Crown Princess Mary also gave brief remarks, saying: “I am ready to serve Denmark.” The Australian-born former advertising executive is Denmark’s first foreign-born queen consort for over 600 years.
They were flanked on the balcony by their four children, 23-year-old Prince Christian, 21-year-old Princess Isabella, 17-year-old Prince Vincent and 14-year-old Princess Josephine. Christian is now the heir to the throne.
The Prime Minister led three cheers of “long live the King” as a 21-gun salute rang out over the capital. Similar ceremonies took place across the country.
Public affection between King and Queen surprises crowd
In an unexpected move, King Frederik and Queen Mary kissed intensely in front of the crowds lining the streets before descending into the palace. Royal watchers were taken aback by the break from protocol.
“Well, that’s not something you see every day. The new King and Queen clearly threw the rulebook out the window there,” said ITV News’ royal correspondent Chris Ship during live coverage of the event.
Daily Mail columnist Ephraim Hardcastle called it “remarkably tactless behaviour” and mused they may have gotten “carried away in all the excitement.”
However others saw it as a modernising gesture and a fairytale moment capping off 20 years of an enduring royal romance between the popular couple.
New roles for Denmark’s royal family
As Queen Margrethe enters retirement, she will relinquish all official duties and is expected to spend more time at her private residences including the Marselisborg Palace in Aarhus and her family home Fredensborg Palace north of Copenhagen.
She is likely to continue pursuing her lifelong interest in arts, architecture and design – she is an accomplished painter and has illustrated several books.
Crown Prince Frederik has been heir to the throne since the age of just one after Denmark switched from male-only to equal primogeniture succession in 1953. He has taken on increasing responsibilities from his mother in recent years, serving as a member of the International Olympic Committee and promoting Danish trade abroad.
His wife Crown Princess Mary met Frederik by chance at a Sydney pub during the 2000 Olympics. She moved to Denmark in 2002 after the couple’s fairytale courtship, and has made a name for herself promoting health, gender equality, sustainability and anti-bullying efforts. She also speaks six languages including French, English and Danish.
As Queen consort, she will have an expansive national and global platform to continue her public service work. Mary wowed crowds today wearing a white brocade gown and sweeping velvet cape by Danish designer Cecilie Bahnsen as she became Denmark’s first Australian-born Queen.
Denmark’s monarchy holds strong appeal for Danes
While many European monarchies have been abolished in favour of republics, Scandinavia’s long-reigning royal families continue to enjoy widespread public support. Polls consistently put backing for Denmark’s royalty at over three-quarters of the population.
Political scientists say Danes take pride in their thousand-year-old monarchy as a cherished tradition and symbol of unity and national identity. Queen Margrethe cultivated her role over the decades as a beloved mother figure and livelong public servant.
She led the country through times of prosperity, wars in Europe, decolonisation, and into the modern age. While the monarch no longer has governing power, Margrethe commanded significant soft power and moral authority.
Experts believe King Frederik will now look to cement the crown’s relevance for 21st century Denmark. While tiny leftist parties call for abolition of royalty, there is no mainstream political will for a referendum on the constitutional monarchy.
What comes next?
In the coming years, Frederik and Mary will slowly take over the full portfolio of royal duties from Queen Margrethe. This includes presiding over state visits, annual New Year receptions for top government figures, municipalities and armed forces, conferring royal decorations, and participating in thousands of other official events annually.
Crown Prince Christian, dubbed ‘the next King of Style’ after his fashion-forward looks, will have an increasingly prominent role. As heir apparent travelling overseas, the 23-year-old will help promote Danish trade and innovation on the world stage. With international experience already from schooling in Switzerland, Christian studied business at Copenhagen Business School before embarking on military service training last year as per tradition.
Princess Isabella, 21, is in her third year studying media and social sciences at University of Copenhagen, while 17-year-old Prince Vincent has just completed secondary school and Prince Joachim’s sons Nikolai, 23, and Felix, 20 carry out occasional official duties.
Queen Margrethe began handing over patronages last year, and King Frederik will gradually take over her role as regimental chief of the Royal Guards infantry regiment, the Royal Life Guards cavalry regiment, and the Guard Hussar Regiment Mounted Squadron cavalry, as well as honorary ranks across Denmark’s military branches.
Table: Key moments in Queen Margrethe II’s life and reign
|Born in Copenhagen on 16 April
|Father King Frederik IX ascends the throne
|Constitution changed allowing equal primogeniture succession
|Completed studies in archaeology at Girton College, University of Cambridge
|Married French diplomat Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat
|First child, Prince Frederik, born
|Became Queen at age 31 after the death of her father King Frederik IX
|Second child, Prince Joachim, born
|Prince Joachim marries Alexandra Manley
|Prince Frederik marries Mary Donaldson in Copenhagen
|Celebrated 50 years on the Golden Jubilee throne
|Announced decision to abdicate
|Signs abdication at Amalienborg Palace on 14 January
So in closing, Denmark’s cherished Queen Margrethe II has ceded the throne to popular Crown Prince Frederik after a momentous 50-year reign. While she leaves monumental shoes to fill having guided the country through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the new monarch appears up to the task to evolve the Danish crown for the modern era with his Australian-born wife Queen Mary at his side.
The Kingdom of Denmark enters its first new chapter since 1972 under King Frederik X. Today’s historic celebrations marked a poignant farewell to one queen, and the warm welcoming of a promising new King and Queen consort.
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