February 22nd, 2024

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe signs historic abdication. Her son Frederik X to become 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, paving the way for her son Frederik X to immediately become king, Danish broadcaster DR reported.

Margrethe, 83, is the first Danish monarch to voluntarily relinquish the throne in nearly 900 years since King Erik III Lam stepped down to enter a monastery in 1146.

She 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.

Frederik, 55, was present in the room. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will next proclaim him king on the balcony of the palace before thousands of people.

Frederik’s 18-year-old son, Christian, who becomes Denmark’s crown prince and heir to the throne, was also in attendance.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Thousands of people gathered Sunday in downtown Copenhagen to witness a royal succession in one of the world’s oldest monarchies.

Around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT), Queen Margrethe II will sign her abdication at a meeting with the Danish Cabinet following over five decades of service. About an hour later, her 55-year-old son and crown prince Frederik will be proclaimed king before the people on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace in the heart of the Danish capital.

Margrethe, 83, will become the first Danish monarch to voluntarily relinquish the throne in nearly 900 years.

As the moment neared, Margrethe left her residence for the Christiansborg Palace in a horse-drawn coach escorted by members of the Hussar Regiment in blue uniforms with red jackets on horses. There she is set to formally sign her abdication.

Her son and his wife, Crown Princess Mary, also left for the palace in a limousine. Later the royal standard will be lowered on Margrethe’s home and raised on the building where Frederik and Mary live.

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 Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen 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.

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.

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 TV 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 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 UK, 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 three times 27 rounds 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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Associated Press journalist Aleksandar Furtula in Copenhagen, contributed to this report.

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