09 January 2012

Royal Splendor 101: Queen Margrethe's Accession

A young Queen Margrethe
Given the sparkle with which the Danish monarchy approaches their regular celebrations, you might think that marking the beginning of a new reign would top the lot - but you would be quite wrong. The Danish did away with the whole fancy show of anointing their sovereigns back in the 1800s, and the ceremony remaining is one of the most somber and simple ones you'll find. It's not a coronation, it's a proclamation - at the heart of it, really just a monarch in mourning solemnly accepting a new set of duties.

On January 14, 1972, King Frederik IX died and his daughter became Queen Margrethe II. She wasn't born as the next queen; in fact, women were excluded from the line of succession at the time. The king’s brother Prince Knud was the heir until the law was changed in 1953, after King Frederik and Queen Ingrid had three daughters and no sons, and Margrethe was bumped up to heiress presumptive. (The law has since been revised again to give equal succession rights to women.)

On January 15, the new queen and her husband, Prince Henrik, left Amalienborg Palace in an open landau bound for Christiansborg Palace, where she presided over her first State Council meeting. Dressed in full mourning - black from the veil on her head on down - with the riband and star of the Order of the Elephant and her father’s portrait on her shoulder, she stood on the Christiansborg balcony for her proclamation as queen. Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag faced three directions individually and proclaimed each time: “King Frederik IX is dead. Long live Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.” (The fourth direction is skipped, as this would require facing straight into the building.)
The Proclamation
Led by the prime minister, the crowd surrounding the palace then gave a nine hurrah salute. She delivered a short and emotional speech asking for God's help in her new duties before her husband joined her on the balcony. Returning to Amalienborg later, the couple made another balcony appearance with their sons in tow. Queen Margrethe was 31 years old; her sons Frederik and Joachim were just 3 and 2, respectively.

Video of this solemn event is available by clicking here, and then clicking on "Dronning" and then "Proklamation, 1972" on the right.

The last big celebration held to mark Margrethe's years on the throne was for her Silver Jubilee in 1997. It was a particularly poignant occasion as her father had passed away just before celebrating his own Silver Jubilee. Celebrations included a religious service, a gala dinner and a balcony appearance. Foreign royal presence was limited to family and fellow Scandinavian monarchies (though Prince Bertil of Sweden died shortly before the festivities, limiting Sweden's presence).
Group photo from the Silver Jubilee gala dinner
Several events are planned to celebrate her Ruby Jubilee this year, including a concert on the 14th and a gala banquet on the 15th. In addition to family, guests from fellow Scandinavian monarchies are confirmed to attend as of this writing. The official schedule in Norway confirms that the King and Queen will be in Denmark the 13th through the 16th, with the Crown Prince and Princess joining in on the 15th. Sweden's official calendar has the King and Queen attending on the 14th and 15th.
In her years as queen, Margrethe has proved to be a very popular monarch who is open to change and is one of the most accessible sovereigns in the world to both her people and the press. She has modernized the monarchy while still maintaining a sense of grand and regal celebration, something some of her fellow sovereigns have struggled with. A Danish newspaper recently published a poll putting approval for the monarchy at 77%, a very high rate indeed. The future is currently secure with Crown Prince Frederik next in the line and his son Prince Christian after him.

In this fascinating queen's honor, the rest of our features this week will be taking on a distinctively Margrethe flair. And you know I'll be all over the jubilee happenings, so stick around.

Photos: Gammarapho/Getty Images/Kongehuset.dk