July 24th, 2024

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe signs her historic abdication. Her son Frederik X becomes king

By Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press on January 14, 2024.

FILE - Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark walks along the High Line on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in New York. Thousands of people will gather in downtown Copenhagen on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 to witness a historic moment in one of the world’s oldest monarchies. Around 2 p.m. Queen Margrethe II will sign her abdication and about an hour later her eldest son will be proclaimed as King Frederik X on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace in the heart of the Danish capital. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II signed her historic abdication on Sunday, a step that made her son Frederik X immediately become king.

Margrethe, 83, is the first Danish monarch to voluntarily relinquish the throne in nearly 900 years. Many thousands of people gathered outside the palace where the royal succession was taking place, the mood jubilant as the Nordic nation experienced in first royal succession in more than a half-century, and one not caused by the death of a monarch.

Wearing a magenta outfit, Margrethe signed her abdication during a meeting with the Danish Cabinet at the Christiansborg Palace, a vast complex in Copenhagen that houses the Royal Reception Rooms and Royal Stables as well as the Danish Parliament, the prime minister’s office and the Supreme Court.

The document was presented to her as she sat at a massive table covered in red cloth around which royals and members of the Danish government were seated.

After signing it, she rose and gestured to her son to take her place, and she said “God save the king” as she left the room.

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

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will next proclaim Frederik king from the balcony of the palace before thousands of people.

Citing health issues, Margrethe announced on New Year’s Eve that she would step down, stunning a nation that had expected her to live out her days on the throne, as is tradition in the Danish monarchy. Margrethe underwent major back surgery last February and didn’t return to work until April.

Even the prime minister was unaware of the queen’s intentions until right before the announcement. Margrethe had informed Frederik and his younger brother Joachim just three days earlier, the Berlingske newspaper wrote, citing the royal palace.

People from across Denmark gathered outside parliament, with many swarming streets decorated with the red and white Danish flags. Several shops hung photos of the queen and king-to-be, 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 television broadcast of the historic event.

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

Copenhagen resident Rene Jensen, wearing a replica of a royal robe and a bejeweled purple crown on his head, said that he expects Frederik to be “a king for the nation, representing us everywhere.”

The last time a Danish monarch voluntarily resigned was in 1146 when King Erik III Lam stepped down to enter a monastery. Margrethe will be abdicating on the same day she ascended the throne following the death of her father, King Frederik IX.

Denmark’s monarchy traces its origins to 10th-century Viking king Gorm the Old, making it the oldest in Europe and one of the oldest in the world. Today the royal family’s duties are largely ceremonial.

Australians also turned out on the streets of Copenhagen to celebrate one of their own becoming queen.

“I think it’s good that she’s not from royalty and has a normal Australian background. We can relate more to that, because she’s from a middle-class background, and we are too,” said Judy Langtree, who made the long journey from Brisbane with her daughter to witness the royal event.

Unlike in the U.K., there is no coronation ceremony in Denmark. The prime minister will formally proclaim Frederik king from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace, which houses government offices, Parliament and the Supreme Court as well as the Royal Stables and Royal Reception Rooms.

Four guns on the Copenhagen harbor will fire a salute to mark the succession. In the late afternoon, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens amusement park plans to celebrate the new king and queen with the biggest fireworks show in the park’s 180-year history.

A survey – commissioned by Denmark’s public broadcaster DR – published Friday showed that 79% of the 1,037 people polled by the Epinion polling institute said that they believed Frederik was prepared to take the reigns and 83% said they thought his wife Mary was ready to become queen. The survey margin of error was 3 percentage points, DR said.

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Aleksandar Furtula contributed to this report.

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