Editor's Own / History

50 Years: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark


HER MAJESTY QUEEN MARGRETHE OF DENMARK celebrated her eightieth birthday in 2020. Now, as she celebrates her Golden Jubilee, we look back a at the life of Denmark’s monarch…

Xander Brett


Born just a week after the Nazi invasion, Margrethe grew up in the shadow of German occupation. Her grandfather, King Christian X, refused to leave Denmark and she lived confined to palace walls with, until 1944, no siblings to play with. Her father, King Frederick IX, ascended the throne in 1947 but, as male primogeniture prevailed, her uncle became heir presumptive.


A 1953 change to succession put Margrethe first in line to the throne, and on her eighteenth birthday she was handed a seat in the Council of State, chairing meetings in her father’s absence. Margrethe was educated privately at N. Zahle’s school in Copenhagen and North Foreland Lodge in Hampshire. She went on to study prehistoric archaeology at Girton College, Cambridge, political science at Aarhus University and later studied at the Sorbonne and London School of Economics, where she became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and fluent in English, French and German.


In 1960 the now Crown Princess Margrethe, alongside Princesses Astrid of Norway and Margaretha of Sweden, visited the Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, meeting celebrities that included Elvis Presley and Dean Martin. Margrethe met her future husband, Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, during a visit to the French Embassy in London, where he was working as a secretary. They courted for a year in secret and married in 1967 at Holmens Kirke in Copenhagen, where Henri ‘Danicised’ his name to Henrik. A year later Margrethe gave birth to their first son, the current Crown Prince Frederick, and in 1969 they welcomed a second child, Prince Joachim.


Shortly after delivering his New Year speech, King Frederick IX grew ill. On 3rd January he was rushed to hospital and, after a brief spell of improvement, he died just ten days later on 14th January 1972. Margrethe was proclaimed queen from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace becoming, aged 31, one of Denmark’s youngest monarchs. She took over as head of the Church of Denmark, chair of the Council of State, commander-in-chief of the Danish armed forces and, following a family tradition, colonel-in-chief of the British Army’s Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, a lady of the Order of the Garter and a knight of the Spanish Orden del Toisón de Oro (Order of the Golden Fleece).


Alongside official duties, Margrethe is an accomplished painter. Her illustrations (drawn under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer) have appeared in the Danish version of J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, an edition she also helped translate. She also designs many of her own clothes, and has created costumes for numerous ballets and films.


As Queen of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Margrethe regularly tours her dependencies. She also embarks on state visits around the world and welcomes foreign dignitaries to Denmark. In April 1990, to mark her fiftieth birthday, a 112 x 65km area of Greenland was named ‘Margrethe II Land’ in her honour.


Queen Ingrid, Margrethe’s mother, died in 2000 and in 2004 her eldest son, Crown Prince Frederick, married the Australian advertiser Mary Donaldson. The couple gave birth to Prince Christian in 2005, Princess Isabella in 2007 and twins Vincent and Josephine in 2011. Margrethe’s younger son, Prince Joachim, remarried in 2008. His new wife, Marie Cavallier, became the second French-born member of the royal house, and the family now spend summer at Chateau de Cayx in southwest France, a home Margrethe bought with Prince Henrik in 1974.


In September 2017 it was announced that Prince Henrik had developed dementia, and the following January he was hospitalised with a benign tumour. On 13th February Henrik was moved home to Fredensborg Palace where he wished to spend the remaining days of his life. He died that evening, surrounded by Margrethe and his children. Almost twenty thousand people queued to see his coffin, with his ashes spread across Danish seas and the private gardens at Fredensborg.


Margrethe now divides her time between France and duties in Denmark, recently conducting meetings over the phone and addressing the nation on the coronavirus crisis. 2020 was the first year Danes did’nt watch her wave from the balcony on her birthday, and she asked the flowers traditionally sent to her be forwarded instead to the residents of local care homes.

For the latest Nordic news, follow @FikaOnlineBlog on Twitter.

This article has also been published in Nordic Style Magazine.

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