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Denmark crowns new king as nation’s longest-running monarch abdicates

‘My hope is to become a unifying king of tomorrow,’ Frederik said after taking the throne

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Sunday 14 January 2024 18:22 GMT
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Denmark's King Frederik appears emotional as he is sworn in as new monarch

Denmark’s prime minister proclaimed Frederik X as King on Sunday after his mother Queen Margrethe II formally signed her abdication.

The country’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Margrethe stunned the nation on New Year’s Eve when she announced her decision to abdicate after 52 years on the throne, becoming the first Danish monarch in nearly 900 years to voluntarily stand down.

Margrethe signed her abdication during a meeting with the government at the Christiansborg Palace, a vast complex in Copenhagen that has been the seat of Danish power for centuries. It now houses the Royal Reception Rooms and Royal Stables as well as the Danish parliament, the prime minister’s office and the Supreme Court.

After the abdication was signed, prime minister Mette Frederiksen proclaimed Frederik king from the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowd of thousands.

Denmark's newly proclaimed King Frederik and Queen Mary wave on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace (Reuters)

Unlike King Charles III’s coronation, the Danish royal household opted for a simple ceremony at Christiansborg Palace.

King Frederik, 55, and his Australian-born wife Mary, left the royal palace at 1235 GMT in a 1958 Rolls-Royce. Margrethe followed by horse carriage a few minutes later to take her final ride as monarch through the streets of the capital.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark leaves for the proclamation of King Frederik X and Queen Mary of Denmark at Amalienborg Palace Square (Getty Images)
Huge crowds gathered before parliament to witness the momentous occasion (Reuters)

Ms Frederiksen read the proclamation three times, which is the tradition, as Frederik stood beside her wearing a ceremonial military uniform adorned with medals.

He was then joined on the balcony by the new Queen Mary and the couple’s four children, and the crowd spontaneously sang the national anthem.

“My hope is to become a unifying king of tomorrow,” Frederik said. “It is a task I have approached all my life.”

Danish PM Mette Frederiksen proclaims King Frederik X as the new king from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen (AP)
After signing the declaration of abdication Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, second right, leaves the seat at the head of the table to her son King Frederik X of Denmark (Getty)

It is the custom for each new sovereign to adopt a royal motto as a guiding principle for their reign, and Frederik’s is: “United, committed, for the kingdom of Denmark.”

“I want to return the trust I meet,” the new king said. “I need trust from my beloved wife, you and that which is greater than us.”

Frederik then kissed Mary, who wore a white dress, and another great cheer rose from the crowd.

Denmark's newly proclaimed King Frederik and Queen Mary kiss on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace (Reuters)
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark signs a declaration of abdication on Sunday (Getty)

The abdication will leave Denmark with two queens: Margrethe will keep her title while Frederik’s wife will become Queen Mary. Their eldest son Christian, 18, will become crown prince and heir to the throne.

Karen Holk Jeppesen, 31, a communications consultant, who arrived in Copenhagen with her sister on Saturday, said she booked a hotel in the capital the day after the queen’s announcement.

“I was in shock and started crying when the queen said on New Year’s Eve she would abdicate,” said Jeppesen, standing in front of parliament.

“It’s very rare to witness a real historical moment that you know will be written about in the history books,” she said.

Soren Kristian Bisgaard, 30, a pilot, said: “We have come here today because this is history being made in front of our eyes. We just had to be here.”

He was drinking champagne with three friends, sitting in camping chairs in front of parliament.

“I’m very fond of the royal family. I have been in the Royal Life Guards myself, standing guard at the royal palace. I’m very proud to have done that and also to be here today,” he said.

People gather in the early morning at Christiansborg Palace Square ahead of the proclamation of the abdication (AFP via Getty Images)

Several shops hung photos of the queen and king, while city buses were adorned with smaller Danish flags as is customary during royal events. Many others across the kingdom of nearly 6 million people followed a live TV broadcast of the historic event.

The royal guards’ music band made their daily parade through Copenhagen but wore red jackets, instead of their usual black, to mark major events.

Margrethe, who in the past had said she would remain on the throne for life, did not give an exact reason for her decision to step down but said that major back surgery she underwent in February last year had made her consider her future.

“It could be that she thinks Prince Frederik is prepared to take over now,” said Lars Hovbakke Sorensen, a historian and associate professor at University College Absalon in Denmark.

“He’s 55, and maybe the queen wanted to avoid a situation where you would have a very, very old king, as you saw with Prince Charles.” Charles was 73 when he ascended the throne after his mother Queen Elizabeth died in September 2022 aged 96.

The former queen, affectionately known as Daisy after the marguerite flower, was congratulated by her cousin Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, who himself celebrated 50 years on the throne in September.

“Your Majesty, dear Cousin Daisy! When you step down today from your high office as Queen of Denmark, I want to say a warm thank you for the good cooperation over the years,” the Swedish king said on Instagram.

The new king and queen take the throne at a time of huge public support and enthusiasm for the monarchy. The most recent survey done after Margrethe announced she would abdicate indicated that 82 per cent of Danes expect Frederik to do well or very well in his new role, while 86 per cent said the same about Mary.

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