On January 14, 1972, Queen Margrethe II ascended the throne, the first Queen of Denmark since 1412 and the first Danish monarch not named Frederick or Christian since 1513. Margrethe II (Margrethe 2. in Danish, Margreta 2. in Faroese and Margrethe II in Greenlandic; her full name is Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid) is the Queen of Denmark as well as the supreme authority of the Church of Denmark and Commander-in-Chief of the Danish Defense. Born into the House of Glücksburg, a royal house with origins in Northern Germany, she was the eldest child of Frederick IX of Denmark and Ingrid of Sweden.
She succeeded her father upon his death on January 14, 1972, having become heir presumptive to her father in 1953, when a constitutional amendment allowed women to inherit the throne. On her accession, Margrethe became the first female monarch of Denmark since Margrethe I, ruler of the Scandinavian kingdoms in 1375–1412 during the Kalmar Union. In 1967, she married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, with whom she has two sons: Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim. She has been on the Danish throne for 47 years, becoming the second-longest-reigning Danish monarch after her ancestor Christian IV.
Princess Margrethe was born April 16, 1940, at Amalienborg in Copenhagen as the first child of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess (later King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid). Her father was the eldest son of the then-reigning King Christian X, while her mother was the only daughter of the Crown Prince of Sweden (later King Gustaf VI Adolf). Her birth took place just one week after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Denmark on April 9.
She was baptized on May 14 in the Church of Holmen in Copenhagen. The Princess’s godparents were: King Christian X (paternal grandfather); Hereditary Prince Knud (paternal uncle); Prince Axel (her paternal grandfather’s first cousin); King Gustaf V of Sweden (maternal great-grandfather); Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (maternal grandfather); Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten (her maternal uncle); Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (maternal grandmother’s father).
She was named Margrethe after her late maternal grandmother, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Alexandrine after her paternal grandmother, Queen Alexandrine, and Ingrid after her mother. Since her paternal grandfather was also the King of Iceland, she was given the Icelandic name Þórhildur.
When Margrethe was four years old, in 1944, her first sister, Princess Benedikte, was born. Princess Benedikte later married Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and lives some of the time in Germany. Her second sister Princess Anne Marie was born in 1946. Anne-Marie later married Constantine II of Greece and now lives in Greece.
Margrethe and her sisters grew up in apartments at Frederick VIII’s Palace at Amalienborg in Copenhagen and in Fredensborg Palace in North Zealand. She spent summer holidays with the royal family in her parent’s summer residence at Gråsten Palace in Southern Jutland. On April 20, 1947, King Christian X died and Margrethe’s father ascended the throne as King Frederick IX.
At the time of her birth, only males could ascend the throne of Denmark, owing to the changes in succession laws enacted in the 1850s when the Glücksburg branch was chosen to succeed. As she had no brothers, it was assumed that her uncle Prince Knud would one day assume the throne.
The process of changing the constitution started in 1947, not long after her father ascended the throne and it became clear that Queen Ingrid would have no more children. The popularity of Frederick and his daughters and the more prominent role of women in Danish life started the complicated process of altering the constitution. The law required that the proposal be passed by two successive Parliaments and then by a referendum, which occurred March 27, 1953. The new Act of Succession permitted female succession to the throne of Denmark, according to male-preference cognatic primogeniture, where a female can ascend to the throne only if she does not have a brother. Princess Margrethe therefore became heir presumptive.
On her eighteenth birthday, April 16, 1958, Margrethe was given a seat in the Council of State. She subsequently chaired the meetings of the Council in the absence of the King.
In 1960, together with the princesses of Sweden and Norway, she traveled to the United States, which included a visit to Los Angeles, and to the Paramount Studios, where they were met by several celebrities, including Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley.
Margrethe was educated at the private school N. Zahle’s School in Copenhagen from which she graduated in 1959. She spent a year at North Foreland Lodge, a boarding school for girls in Hampshire, England, and later studied prehistoric archaeology at Girton College, Cambridge, during 1960–1961, political science at Aarhus University between 1961 and 1962, attended the Sorbonne in 1963, and was at the London School of Economics in 1965. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Queen Margrethe is fluent in Danish, French, English, Swedish and German, and has a limited knowledge of Faroese.
Princess Margrethe married a French diplomat, Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, on June 10, 1967, at the Church of Holmen in Copenhagen. Laborde de Monpezat received the style and title of “His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark” because of his new position as the spouse of the heir presumptive to the Danish throne. They were married for over fifty years, until his death on February 13, 2018.
Margrethe gave birth to her first child May 26, 1968. By tradition, Danish kings were alternately named either Frederick or Christian. She chose to maintain this by assuming the position of a Christian, and thus named her eldest son Frederik. A second child, named Joachim, was born June 7, 1969.
Shortly after King Frederick IX delivered his New Year’s Address to the Nation at the 1971/72 turn of the year, he fell ill. At his death 14 days later, January 14, 1972, Margrethe succeeded to the throne at the age of 31, becoming the first female Danish sovereign under the new Act of Succession. She was proclaimed Queen from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace January 15 by Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag. Queen Margrethe II relinquished all the monarch’s former titles except the title to Denmark, hence her style “By the Grace of God, Queen of Denmark” (Margrethe den Anden, af Guds Nåde Danmarks Dronning). The Queen chose the motto: God’s help, the love of The People, Denmark’s strength.
In her first address to the people, Queen Margrethe II said:
My beloved father, our King, is dead. The task that my father had carried for nearly 25 years is now resting on my shoulders. I pray to God to give me help and strength to carry the heavy heritage. May the trust that was given to my father also be granted to me.
The Queen’s main tasks are to represent the Kingdom abroad and to be a unifying figure at home. She receives foreign ambassadors and awards honors and medals. The Queen performs the latter task by accepting invitations to open exhibitions, attending anniversaries, inaugurating bridges, etc.
As an unelected public official, the Queen takes no part in party politics and does not express any political opinions. Although she has the right to vote, she opts not to do so to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.
After an election where the incumbent Prime Minister does not have a majority behind him or her, the Queen holds a Dronningerunde (Queen’s meeting) in which she meets the chairmen of each of the Danish political parties.
Each party has the choice of selecting a Royal Investigator to lead these negotiations or alternatively, give the incumbent Prime Minister the mandate to continue his government as is. In theory each party could choose its own leader as Royal Investigator, the social liberal Det Radikale Venstre did so in 2006, but often only one Royal Investigator is chosen plus the Prime Minister, before each election. The leader who, at that meeting succeeds in securing a majority of the seats in the Folketing, is by royal decree charged with the task of forming a new government.
Once the government has been formed, it is formally appointed by the Queen. Officially, it is the Queen who is the head of government, and she therefore presides over the Council of State (privy council), where the acts of legislation which have been passed by the parliament are signed into law. In practice, however, nearly all of the Queen’s formal powers are exercised by the Cabinet of Denmark.
In addition to her roles in her own country, the Queen is also the Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires), an infantry regiment of the British Army, following a tradition in her family.
Queen Margrethe II celebrated her Ruby Jubilee, the 40th year on the throne, on January 14, 2012. This was marked by a carriage procession, a gala banquet at Christiansborg Palace and numerous TV interviews.
The official residences of the Queen are Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen and Fredensborg Palace. Her summer residence is Gråsten Palace near Sønderborg, the former home of her mother, Queen Ingrid, who died in 2000. Queen Margrethe has two sons and eight grandchildren, all born at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. In 2008, she announced that her male-line descendants would bear the additional title of Count or Countess of Monpezat, in recognition of her husband’s ancestry.
Margrethe is an accomplished painter, and has held many art shows over the years. Her illustrations — under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer — were used for the Danish edition of The Lord of the Rings, which she was encouraged to illustrate in the early 1970s. She sent them to J. R. R. Tolkien who was struck by the similarity of her drawings to his own style. Margrethe’s drawings were redrawn by the British artist Eric Fraser in the translation published in 1977 and re-issued in 2002. In 2000, she illustrated Henrik, the Prince Consort’s poetry collection Cantabile.
She is also an accomplished translator and is said to have participated in the Danish translation of The Lord of the Rings. Another skill she possesses is costume designing, having designed the costumes for the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of A Folk Tale and for the 2009 Peter Flinth film, De vilde svaner (The Wild Swans). She also designs her own clothes and is known for her colorful and sometimes eccentric clothing choices. Margrethe also wears designs by former Pierre Balmain designer Erik Mortensen, Jørgen Bender, and Birgitte Taulow. The Guardian in March 2013 listed her as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s.
Margrethe is a chain smoker, and she is famous for her tobacco habit. However, on November 23, 2006, the Danish newspaper B.T. reported an announcement from the Royal Court stating that in future the Queen would smoke only in private.
Among the many honors bestowed upon her, Queen Margrethe II is the 1,188th knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain, and only the 7th Lady of the Order of the Garter since 1901, when King Edward VII appointed his consort a member. She is also Colonel-in-Chief of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires) in the United Kingdom. In Thailand, she is a Dame of the Order of the Rajamitrabhorn and a Dame of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri.
Queen Margrethe II Land in Northeast Greenland was named in her honor on April 16, 1990, on the occasion of her 50th birthday.
I have a fair number of Danish stamps portraying Queen Margrethe II, mostly definitives received on correspondence with friends in Denmark, a few of which appear throughout this article (digitally cropped from the full covers). I do not (yet) have any stamps from Greenland that picture the Queen in my collection (my sole Greenlandic stamp being Scott #1 issued in 1938 and featuring Margrethe’s grandfather, Christian X). My favorite stamp picturing her was issued by the Faroe Islands (Føroyar in Faroese and Færøerne in Danish) on January 14, 1997, to mark the 25th anniversary of Margrethe II’s reign. Scott #312 is a souvenir sheet with a border depicting Her Danish Majesty’s Yacht Dannebrog (A540) against a view of Tindhólmur — an islet on the southside of Sørvágsfjørður, west of Vágar in the Faroe Islands. The stamp on the sheet is denominated at 450 Faroese oyra and depicts Queen Margrethe II in a traditional costume of the Faroese people. Printed using offset lithography, the sheet is frame perforated in a gauge of 14¾ and is listed by Postverk Føroya as stamp #FR 302.
KDM Dannebrog was launched by Queen Alexandrine at Copenhagen in 1931, and commissioned on May 26, 1932. The yacht now serves as the official and private residence for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and members of the Royal Family when they are on official visits overseas and on summer cruises in Danish waters. When at sea, the Royal Yacht also participates in surveillance and sea-rescue services.
The Dannebrog, named after the flag of Denmark, was built in 1931–1932 at the Naval Dockyard in Copenhagen. She replaced the previous royal vessel, an 1879 paddle steamer, also called Dannebrog. The yacht has dual functions: it is primarily the Royal Yacht during peacetime; it can become a hospital ship during emergency alerts or war.
The ship’s hull is a riveted steel construction on transverse frames. She has a length of 257 feet 4 inches (78.43 meters, a beam of 34 feet 1 inch (10.4 m), and displaces 1,238 tonnes. The royal yacht has a clipper stem and an elliptic stern. Viewed from the side, the ship may be divided into two sections. In front of the funnel there is space for the crew, any cargo, and the engine. At the rear is the Royal Apartment. This could accommodate patients if ever the yacht were used as a hospital. During visits to Danish and foreign ports the covered quarterdeck is used for receptions.
The royal accommodation for the Queen comprises a dining salon, a lounge, bedroom, etc. They have taken a personal interest in fitting out the vessel and the choice of furnishings. The Royal Apartment contains furniture and fittings from the previous 1879 royal yacht.
HDMY Dannebrog is an independent command, administered by the Chief of the Queen’s Naval Household, who is a member of the Royal Household. The crew of the Dannebrog comprises 9 officers, 7 sergeants, 2 enlisted able-seamen and 34 conscripts. The officers are normally seconded for periods of two to four years, whereas the conscripts stay for just one summer.
Since it was commissioned in 1932, the yacht has travelled more than 300,000 nautical miles (600,000 km) and visited most of the ports of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. The yacht has also visited European ports, especially in France and cruised the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Seas. Following Operation Safari, in 1943, Dannebrog was the only ship left untouched by the Germans.
A major overhaul was carried out in 1980/81 to extend the life of the yacht beyond the start of the 21st century. Having now passed that point, the yacht is still in excellent condition, with major improvements including replacement of the yacht’s main engines. She is now powered by two Burmeister & Wain Alpha diesel engines, type 6T23L-KVO, each running at 870 hp (640 kW), plus three Scania diesels, type DI12 62M, each capable of 326 hp (240 kW). These give Dannebrog a top speed of 13.5 knots (15.5 mph or 25.0 km/h) and a range of 3,600 nautical miles (6,700 km).
The islet of Tindhólmur is named from the five peaks, Ytsti, Arni, Lítli, Breiði, Bogdi (Farthest, Eagle, Small, Broad, Bent). It has an area of 0.25 square mile (650,000 square meters) and its highest point is 860 feet (262 m). The islet is uninhabited. Eiriksboði is a rocky formation stretching out from the islet. The islands are of volcanic origin and are made up of three layers of basalt, with the top and bottom layers resembling each other. The age of this rock is between 54 and 58 million years, with the oldest material at the bottom.