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Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II announces shock abdication in New Year’s Eve speech

Queen Margrethe II has been on Denmark’s throne for 52 years and is the current longest-serving monarch in Europe

Alex Ross
Monday 01 January 2024 06:08 GMT
Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II announces shock abdication in New Year’s Eve speech

The queen of Denmark has announced her abdication in her traditional New Year’s Eve speech.

Queen Margrethe II will be succeeded by her son, Crown Prince Frederik, on 14 January – 52 years to the day since she came to the throne following the death of her father King Frederik IX in 1972.

The queen, 83, well-known for her passion for dogs, illustration and fashion, is the longest-serving monarch Europe.

In her televisied speech, she explained that her decision came after back surgery she underwent in February.

Queen Margrethe II gives a New Year's speech and announces her abdication (AP)
Danish Crown Prince Frederik (far right) will succeed Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (centre). They are pictured at a state banquet with Danish Crown Princess Mary, King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain (EPA)

She said: “The surgery naturally gave rise to thinking about the future – whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation.

“I have decided that now is the right time. On 14 January 2024 – 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father – I will step down as queen of Denmark.”

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen paid tribute to the monarch, offering a “heartfelt thank you to Her Majesty the Queen for her lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the Kingdom”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) and his wife Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) are received by Prince Frederik and Queen Margrethe II in August (AFP via Getty)
Queen Margrethe II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece at the celebration of the 50th coronation anniversary of King Carl Gustav of Sweden in September (Getty Images)

Born in 1940, Margrethe has throughout her life enjoyed broad support from her country’s people. She often walked the streets of Copenhagen virtually unescorted and won the admiration of Danes for her warm manners and for her talents as a linguist and designer.

She studied in the UK, spending time at Girton College Cambridge and the London School of Economics.

And she is well-known for her passion for illustration, translation, costume and set design and archaeology and her refusal to quit smoking.

Queen Margrethe II with her husband Prince Consort Henrik, who died in 2018 (SCANPIX/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Margrethe II and Prince Frederik pay their respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

She was praised for wearing a brightly-coloured floral raincoat to a 70th birthday celebration for Queen Sonja of Norway in 2007.

Her husband, Prince Henrik, who she married in 1967, died in 2018, aged 83.

In July 2022, she celebrated her Golden Jubilee with a series of events held across Denmark. A month later she became the longest-serving in Europe following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Beatrix of Holland, Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Margrethe II attend a dinner at Windsor Castle in 2002 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Margrethe’s dress sense often caught the eye. Here she is with Queen Elizabeth II during a three-day official visit to the UK ( )

Royal commentator Alistair Bruce gave his reaction to the announcement to Sky News. He said: “She has not been very well recently. She’s had trouble with back pain. She’s had some surgeries.

“And I think that there’s been a recognition that since her husband, Prince Henrik, died, there’s been a diminution in her energy levels and I think it’s probably something that it is probably something she has been planning for some time.”

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