That’s how Margrethe remained queen of Danish hearts


Like most Britons, many Danes have only known one queen in their lifetime.

Although she has not enjoyed nearly the level of global attention as her British counterpart the late Queen Elizabeth II, Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II has become hugely popular in her 52 years on the throne thanks to her modern monarchical flair, shamelessness in taking positions on important issues. part and even her creativity as an artist.

On Sunday, she officially hands over the baton to her eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik, and his Australian-born wife, Crown Princess Mary, clearly leaving big, influential shoes to fill.

What can other monarchs, and even politicians, learn from Europe’s most popular and longest-serving queen?

Margrethe plays a conciliatory role for the Danish population

Queen Margrethe II, born Princess Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid on 16 April 1940 in Copenhagen, ascended the throne on 14 January 1972 at the age of 31 after the death of her father, King Frederik IX.

Queen Margrethe married the French-born Henrik de Laborde de Monpezat of Denmark in 1967. The couple have two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim, who were welcomed in 1968 and 1969 respectively.

However, the young queen was not welcomed with open arms as reigning monarch, with 45% of Danes believing in the 1970s that royals had no place in a modern democracy – especially since their duties nowadays, like many other modern monarchies, largely ceremonial and defined by the constitution.

Although political decision-making rests with the cabinet and the parliament, the monarch is still Denmark’s head of state and a symbol of the nation – a role that experts believe should not be underestimated, especially in Margrethe’s case.

According to Jaco Kleynhans, head of international liaison at the Solidarity Movement, through her reign Queen Margrethe II became a moral leader for Denmark who succeeded in bringing people together as a national connecting tool.

“In most Western countries we see a great loss of connection, national pride and tremendous individualisation, which means that people do not always understand the value of collective endeavours.

“However, she conveyed a strong message of patriotism, spoke clearly about important local and international issues and thereby created the image of a true leader.”

The Danish royals are consequently among the most popular in Europe today and enjoy almost 80% of the Danish population’s support, according to a recent YouGov poll.

“Patriotism in Denmark is higher today than a few decades ago. In many other countries, such as Britain, support for the monarchy is declining because the monarch is so cautious about making any statements or appearing overly patriotic,” explains Kleynhans.

“Denmark, unlike many other Western countries, is still largely homogeneous, so with a small immigrant population, and this contributes to the support for a historical institution such as the monarchy.”

Danish royals cost eight times less than King Charles and co

According to Kleynhans, in Denmark, as in other European monarchies, there is great sensitivity to the costs of maintaining royal families.

The queen also apparently downsized the Danish royal family last year by removing her youngest son Prince Joachim’s four children’s titles.

“This is a good thing and confirms an awareness of the point of view of ordinary citizens,” Kleynhans believes.

According to Reuters, the Danish royal family received about 88.9 million Danish kroner (about R240 million) from public funds in 2022, compared to the 86.3 million pounds (R2 billion) awarded to the British royal family in the same year. .

This means that the royalty for each Dane costs around €9 annually, according to AFP.

Even Sunday’s coronation ceremony, during which she will formally sign her abdication at a state council meeting in front of the Danish cabinet at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, is described as “small and intimate”.

At this meeting, her 55-year-old son will become King Frederik X, his wife Mary will become Queen of Denmark and their eldest son, Christian (18), will take over the title of Crown Prince.

Afterwards, the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, will simply announce the new king to the nation on the balcony of this palace.

Abdication Sign of ‘True Leadership’

Although her abdication announcement on New Year’s Eve last year was unexpected, experts believe that the queen’s decision to step down before her death is a sign of true leadership. It even sparked speculation that her decision could influence leaders such as King Charles III.

According to the queen, a serious back operation she underwent in early 2023 led to “thoughts about the future” and prompted her to hand over the baton.

“I have decided that now is the right time,” she said in her speech on December 31.

“This is a good practice and is also followed in some other countries such as the Netherlands. If the monarch wants to make an impact and really fulfill a strong leadership role, he or she cannot continue to do so when their health deteriorates,” says Kleynhans.

Also the British columnist Simon Jenkins from The Guardian calls Margrethe’s abdication “a sign of a sensible constitutional monarchy”.

According to Jenkins, abdication indicates a nation that can keep its institutions “fit for their purpose”.

“He (King Charles) is certainly entitled to a considerable reign after waiting so long, but not until death. Getting old should never be an obstacle to work, but unfortunately age does not negotiate.”

Queen does not escape family challenges

With her ascension to the throne, Queen Margrethe’s husband officially became the prince consort – something about which he openly and unashamedly shared his displeasure.

Like Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, this prince consort had to define his unique support role himself in a time where men traditionally dominated as leaders.

Unlike Prince Philip, who was praised for the right-hand man role he played, Prince Hendrik made a name for himself for his temper tantrums and flamboyant style.

He hit the headlines in 2002 after he fled to the family home in the South of France because of his claims that the Danes “don’t respect him”.

The controversial prince also asked before his death in 2018 not to be buried next to his wife, due to his dissatisfaction that he was “never made equal to her in life”.

Her youngest son, Prince Joachim, also does not hesitate to share matters of the heart with the media – something that may sound familiar to British royal fans.

What do her successors look like?

Crown Prince Frederik, a former rebellious teenager who made a name for himself as a party prince in the 1990s, enjoys the support of more than 80% of the Danes according to a recent poll.

The new king was the first Danish royal to complete a university degree, and he even attempted to do a postgraduate qualification in the US under a pseudonym. The 55-year-old is known for his passion for the environment, love of sport and relaxed, liberal leadership style.

His wife, the new queen of Denmark, met her future husband in 2000 during the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and initially allegedly did not realize that he was a royal.

At the time, she impressed with how quickly she learned the Danish language, and was compared to Princess Catherine of Wales thanks to her dark locks and fashionable style.

The couple married in 2004 and have four children together, Prince Christian (18), Princess Isabella (16) and the twins, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine (13).

According to Kleynhans, the new queen has integrated herself well into Danish society, and the couple’s four children have consistently proven themselves as individuals with a strong connection to Denmark.

“The new king will initially, thanks to his mother’s popularity, start with high levels of support, but in a changing world where people are uncertain about the future, he will have to establish himself as a source of stability for the Danish population. The challenge is to stay relevant and fill the huge gap in moral leadership that so many people yearn for in an increasingly individualistic world.”

Sources: AFP, The Washington PostReuters, Hello!, The Guardian.