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On this Day: The Danish Queen Margarethe II – 50 Years as Head of State

Queen Margarethe II waves to the crowd. Photo by Flickr user Mifl68, April 16, 2015. Used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0..

Today, January 14, 2022, the Danish Queen Margarethe II (Margrethe Alexandrine Þorhildur Ingrid) celebrates 50 years on the Danish throne. However, she was not born the heir apparent to the throne, but became Crown Princess of Denmark at the age of 13 when the Danish Parliament adopted an act of succession (Tronfølgelov) that allowed daughters to inherit the throne.

The Succession Act of 1953 was, as laws often are, a law written out of necessity. Margarethe was at that time the oldest of three royal siblings, all girls, born to King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid. Queen Ingrid was 43 years old and the royal couple had given up hope of a male heir. However, perhaps the Danish Parliament held on to some hope that the stork would still bless the royal couple with a crown prince, as the law was made male-preference primogeniture, meaning that while daughters now had a place in line to the throne, even an older daughter’s place was still behind any younger brother.

Not until 2009 did an amendment make the succession act gender-neutral, meaning that the first-born of a Head of State would become the first in line to the throne regardless of his or her gender. At that time, Queen Margarethe’s eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik, already had two children: Prince Christian (born in 2005) and Princess Isabella (born in 2007). Their positions in line to the throne were not affected by the succession law as Christian was older than Isabella, but her younger brother Prince Vincent (born in 2011) would have succeeded her in line to the throne had it not been for the legislative change in 2009. Born minutes before his twin-sister Princess Josephine, Vincent holds the third position among the four siblings.

Adoption of the 1953 Succession Act

When adopted in 1953, changing the succession order required a constitutional amendment. The Danish Constitution of 1953 entered into force on the same day as the separate Succession Act. As required by the Constitution, the Danish people were consulted on the future of the country in a national referendum held in 1953.

In 2009, the new succession act did not require a constitutional amendment as the Constitution already allowed for female succession to the throne. (§ 2 Danish Constitution.)

Royal Duties and Requirements

As a queen-to-be, Margarethe assumed many duties when she turned 18, such as assuming a seat at the State Council (Statsråd) on April 16, 1958. The State Council, which includes the Head of State, crown prince or crown princess, and all the government ministers, “negotiates all laws and important government measures.” (§17 stk. 2 Danish constitution.)

Her position as crown princess also meant that her engagement to Comte Henri de Laborde de Monpezat (later Prince Henrik) in 1966 had to be approved by the king and the Danish Parliament.  (§ 5 Succession Act.) The wedding took place in 1967 at the Holmen Church. The newlyweds took up residency at Marselisborg Palace, before Margarethe’s father’s sudden death on January 14, 1972.

Upon the king’s death, Margarethe became queen by a royal public proclamation, without a coronation. Ahead of the proclamation, she had to choose a royal motto, and chose: “God’s help, the love of The People, Denmark’s strength.” Queen Margarethe also chose to be titled Queen Margarethe the second, recognizing the role of Queen Margaret (the first) (Margaret Valdemarsdatter) who presided over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the Kalmar Union between 1397 and 1412.

The Role of the Head of State (Queen or King)

In 1849, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy, when King Frederik VII signed a constitution that defined and limited his powers. The constitution was later amended in 1866 and 1915. Today, the role of the Head of State is to “represent Denmark abroad and to be a figurehead at home,” which includes participating during the formation of government by formally appointing the government, receiving state visitors, conferring “Royal Warrants” and heading and awarding the Royal Orders of Chivalry. In addition, as Head of State it is the Queen’s duty to sign all Danish laws. (§14 Danish Constitution.)

Other duties include giving speeches to the public. The annual New Year’s speech is broadcast live by Danish media and typically viewed by millions of Danes, but the corona speech that she held in March 2020 broke all records, with more than 3.4 million viewers. The Queen’s speeches are available on the royal palace website.

Names Fit for a Queen 

Although the Danish Name Act (Navneloven) does not specify special provisions for royalty, there are some rules that apply solely to royals, including that only royals may have a number designation following their name, thus, no little Johnny III. Margarethe is only the second Queen Margarethe, but her son will be Frederik X and her grandson will one day be Christian XI. In fact, being named Frederik or Christian, is a royal tradition. Ever since Christian II, who reigned from 1513 to 1523, the kings of Denmark have been named either Frederik or Christian. If the tradition is to be continued, Christian will have to name his firstborn son Frederik or his firstborn daughter Margaret.

Unlike most Danes, Queen Margarethe has four given names: Margrethe Alexandrine Þorhildur Ingrid. Þorhildur, an Icelandic name, was chosen in recognition of Iceland, which was part of the Danish kingdom when Margarethe was born in 1940. Formally, the queen does not have a last name but is part of the House of Glücksborg. She is also known to her closest family as Daisy, after the Danish flower and has been called the “World’s coolest queen.”

A Royal Ending and Royal Resting Place

Starting in the 1400s, all Danish regents have been buried in the Roskilde Cathedral, and plans have been made for Queen Margarethe to rest there as well. Her late husband, Prince Henrik, however, refused to be buried with her on the account of his dissatisfaction over his royal title and royal duties, arguing that because he was not an equal to the queen in life, he should not be an equal to her in death. Prince Henrik was instead cremated and some of his ashes were spread over Danish waters while some were buried in an urn in a private garden in the Fredensborg Palace.

Still Going Strong

The queen is currently the second longest-serving regent in Denmark, second only to King Christian IV, who served for 60 years. Some of the programmed celebrations in her honor have been postponed due to the surge of COVID-19 in Denmark, but the queen continues to be very popular among the Danes, celebrated for her artistic talents, and she has publicly communicated that she has no plans on stepping down early. For those interested in reading more about Queen Margarethe, the Royal House of Denmark has published a special site commemorating the queen’s 50-year reign.

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