Eighty Years of DAISY: The Birthday of the Magnificent Queen Margrethe II of Denmark

Baby Princess Margrethe of Denmark.

On 16 April 1940, Crown Princess Ingrid of Denmark gave birth to her first child. Ingrid and her husband Crown Prince Frederik were delighted with the arrival of their daughter. The newborn princess was given the names Margrethe Alexandrine Thorhildur (Þórhildur) Ingrid at her christening on 14 May. Princess Margrethe’s godparents were King Christian X of Denmark, Hereditary Prince Knud of Denmark, Prince Axel of Denmark, King Gustaf V of Sweden, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten, and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. In her family, Margrethe has become known as Daisy. When the then-Crown Princess Ingrid gave birth to Princess Margrethe in 1940, the jeweller Georg Jensen presented her with a special version of the DAISY jewellery line to commemorate the royal birth.

 
Princess Margaret of Sweden, born Princess of the United Kingdom.
Margaret was Margrethe II’s maternal grandmother.
Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, born Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Alexandrine was Margrethe II’s paternal grandmother.
Queen Ingrid of Denmark, born Princess of Sweden.
Ingrid was Margrethe II’s mother.
 
The future Danish queen was named Margrethe after her late maternal grandmother, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden (née Princess Margaret of Connaught); Alexandrine after her paternal grandmother Queen Alexandrine of Denmark (née Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin), and Ingrid after her mother, who was born a Princess of Sweden. Margrethe, as the grandchild of the King of Iceland, was also given the name Þórhildur.

 
 

In time, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Ingrid welcomed two more daughters: Princess Benedikte (b.1944) and Princess Anne-Marie (b.1946). In the 1980s, Queen Margrethe II recalled: “My sister Benedikte and I are very different. And furthermore, when we were children and teenagers, we were not always very good friends. We often went our separate ways during our summer stays at Gråsten. In fact, ours was probably the classic situation for siblings. I was four when Benedikte was born and until then I had been the centre of attention. When I started school in 46, Benedikte was only two and Anne Marie newborn – to me they were still ‘the little ones.’ … There were more than enough differences. But now our relationship has changed very much, we understand one another, respect one another, tolerate one another, we really like one another. What happened was that one of my sister’s friends – whom I also liked and enjoyed talking to – (I think it was the first time I realised that it was just as easy to talk to someone my sister’s age as my own) – this friend said straight out: ‘It’s simply too bad that you two can’t be good friends – you ought to be ashamed of yourselves!’ And she taught each of us that we must work things out between us, and so we did. She did us a real service. She is still a very close friend of ours. Understandably.

 
 

On 20 April 1947, Margrethe’s grandfather King Christian X of Denmark died at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. Ill from pneumonia, the king was seventy-six years-old. Christian’s granddaughter remembered learning of his passing: “One morning my mother came and woke us and said that my grandfather was dead. We had known all along that my grandfather was very old and ill, but we were children, so it did not make a strong impression, apart from the fact that I found all the attention that suddenly grew up around us rather trying. It was unpleasant, although it was nothing compared to the interest taken in us later. Oh dear: people stared and talked, and too many photographs were taken.” Christian X was succeeded by his eldest son, who became King Frederik IX.

 
 

After a referendum in 1953, the Act of Succession of 27 March 1953 was adopted. It changed the act of succession so that it became possible for a woman to inherit the throne in the event that she has no older or younger brothers. As the King Frederick IX had three daughters and no sons, this meant that Princess Margrethe became the heir presumptive to the throne, instead of her uncle Hereditary Prince Knud. Again, the future Danish queen gave her recollections of this event: “During the winter of 1952-53, talk about an amendment to the Constitution and a new Law of Succession began to reach my ears. My parents had done what they could to leave me in peace for as long as possible. The actual Law was entirely the work of the politicians, my parents had not had anything to do with it, but acceded to the wishes of the public and the government. They then began discussing it with me. I have no recollection of how they began, but I clearly remember them saying: ‘You must remember that it is not for your sake that this law is being passed. Because no-one knows what you are like or what you will become. It is in the hope that your father and mother, as good parents, can prepare you for the position.’ And it was the right way to view it, but I was very worried when anyone walked about it in the period up to 1953.” Not unsurprisingly, the change in the law of succession led to an estrangement between King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid on the one side and Hereditary Prince Knud and Hereditary Princess Caroline-Mathilde on the other side. 

 
Princess Margrethe of Denmark in 1966.
 

Margrethe was educated at the private N. Zahle’s School in Copenhagen, from which she graduated in 1959. The princess then spent a year at North Foreland Lodge, an only-girls boarding school in Hampshire, England. She later studied prehistoric archaeology at Girton College, Cambridge, during 1960–1961, political science at Aarhus University between 1961-1962. Margrethe attended the Sorbonne in 1963, and then went on to study at the London School of Economics in 1965.

 
 
While a student at the London School of Economics, Margrethe of Denmark met a debonair French diplomat. The couple first made their acquaintance at a dinner arranged by mutual friends in 1965. The princess noted that, “apart from the fact that I found him very likeable, I did not really take much notice of Henri de Monpezat. He was just a young man I met occasionally, and in fact I believe it was he who noticed me, and not so much the other way round. We met once again, in April 66, at the wedding of a mutual friend. And then things started happening quickly.” The couple shared English and French as common languages, and chose to communicate in French. In September 1966, King Frederik and Queen Ingrid announced the engagement of Princess Margrethe to Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, the third secretary of the French embassy at London. Henri was a son of André de Laborde de Monpezat (1907 – 1998) and Renée Doursenot (1908 – 2001). 
 
 
 
 
On 10 June 1967, Princess Margrethe of Denmark and Henri de Laborde de Monpezat were married at the Holmen Church in Copenhagen. Among other guests, the wedding was attended by the following members of the European Gotha: King Baudioun and Queen Fabiola of Belgium; Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard of The Netherlands; Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus of The Netherlands; King Olav V of Norway; Crown Prince Harald of Norway; King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden; Princess Sibylla of Sweden with her daughters the Princesses Margrethe, Brigitta, Christina, and Désirée; Prince Bertil of Sweden; Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg; Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent; Prince Louis Ferdinand and Princess Kira of Prussia; and Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sofía of Spain. Two family members who were not able to attend were King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. Owing to the recent coup by a military junta, the Danish government advised King Frederik and Queen Ingrid that it would be best if their youngest daughter and her husband were not present for Margrethe’s happy day. 
 
 
Very swiftly, Princess Margrethe and Prince Henrik (as he became titled) set about founding a family. The pair welcomed their first son, Prince Frederik, on 26 May 1968. One year later, the arrival of Prince Joachim on 7 June 1969 completed the family of four. Margrethe recalls that the brothers have always gotten along very well. She believes this is partly due to Joachim never having feelings of jealousy towards Frederik in regards to Frederik’s future role.

 

On 14 January 1972, King Frederik IX of Denmark died at the Municipal Hospital in Copenhagen. The king had not been ill during the Christmas season of 1971. However, right as 1971 ended 1972 was to begin, the king’s health quickly deteriorated, and he was admitted to hospital. Margrethe remembered how she felt in the year or so before her father’s passing: “I was married. We were a happy couple with two healthy sons, ready to meet whatever the future would bring. The anxiety I had felt as a young girl, about how I would manage when my father was no longer here, had eased. We knew that time was running out. My father was not the type who lives to a very old age.” Frederik IX was seventy-two when he died. Ten days after his death, the king was buried at Roskilde Cathedral. Queen Margrethe mused that although her father had never been a man full of “big words,” he had often calmly and compassionately reminded her younger self that she would able to manage when the time came to take the throne. Although in deep mourning for her father, the new Queen constantly reminded herself: “Pull yourself together and show Father that you can manage.” Queen Ingrid acted as a pillar for her daughter – a source of strength even though Ingrid herself was processing the loss of her husband. Queen Ingrid greatly assisted her daughter in planning King Frederik’s funeral. The new queen recalled: “I have no idea how my mother managed it all, she must have ‘worked on adrenaline’ – I suppose we all did that. I caught a massive cold between my father’s death and the funeral – all my reserves had been used up. But I got over it.

In between her father’s death and funeral, Margrethe succeeded to the throne. On 15 January 1972, the former Princess Margrethe was proclaimed Queen Margrethe II of Denmark from the balcony at Christiansborg Palace. Her Majesty vividly calls to mind the scene: “It was an exceptional moment when I stepped out onto the balcony at Christiansborg. It was bitterly cold, but I only remember this as a minor detail. What has stamped itself on my memory is that so many people were gathered there on such a day in January. Later, when people have said how difficult it must have been to appear in public in the midst of such deep personal sorrow, I can only say that – in fact – it was a great consolation. The 15th of January 1972 had been my purpose in life since the age of thirteen. I could now confirm what I had promised at eighteen. Here I am, I am yours! My task now is in my country, for my country, for the Danes.” The new Danish queen was thirty-one years-old at the time of her succession. Her husband Prince Henrik was thirty-seven; Crown Prince Frederik was three and Prince Joachim was two.

 
 

In family life, Prince Henrik took the lead with regards to teaching their children. The Queen was involved with the process, but she recognised that her husband was more of a “teacher” than she was. Her Majesty remarked that “some women are good with small children and others are not. I am not terribly good with small children, but your relationship with your children has to begin at that end of the scale – we can’t just take them over at twenty-one, can we?” Margrethe felt that Henrik was more strict and consistent than she was with the small princes. As they grew up and became older, the one bit of advice that the Queen did proffer to her sons concerned their private lives. “I have emphasised that they must be absolutely convinced – and I think the boys appreciate my view – that when they marry, it is to be married and stay married. Their marriages must endure. We cannot do what other people do – and I am in no way passing a moral judgement on other people’s private lives. In our lives it is extremely important that we stay together, because we only have one another.” The over fifty years of marriage that the Queen and Prince Consort had together is a testament to this belief: the couple knew that they were unique individuals with their own interests, and, at the same time, they shared a deep love and affection for one another.

 
 

In 1995, Prince Joachim of Denmark married Alexandra Manley. The couple had two sons: Prince Nikolai (b.1999) and Prince Felix (b.2002). After a decade of marriage, Joachim and Alexandra divorced in 2005. In 2008, Prince Joachim married Marie Cavallier. The pair welcomed two children: Prince Henrik (b.2009) and Princess Athena (b.2012).

 
 

In 2004, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark married the Australian-born Mary Donaldson. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess have welcomed four children: Prince Christian (b.2005), Princess Isabella (b.2007), and the twins, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine (b.2011).

 
 
 

On 7 November 2000, Queen Margrethe’s mother Queen Ingrid passed away at the age of ninety. Her Majesty had an acute appreciation of her mother and the life that Ingrid had lived. “My mother did not have a very happy childhood either. She lost her mother when she was only ten years old. She was a very mature little girl, as one can see from photographs taken of her long before her mother died. A serious little lady. A very thoughtful child from an early age, even during her happy years. She could not have been the giggler I was. She soon became an intermediary between her brothers and her father – their relationship was also a problematic one on occasion. So she was used to having to mediate…. I resemble both my parents in an odd mixture. I have inherited so much which I recognise from my mother, and so much from my father. My father was more spontaneous than mother, my mother is far more reflective, and I am both. I am quite capable of analysing something carefully and so is my mother… My mother definitely thinks before she speaks.” Queen Ingrid of Denmark was laid to rest with her husband at Roskilde Cathedral. Ingrid was survived by her three daughters and her ten grandchildren, in addition to her great-grandchildren.

To fast forward a bit, Queen Margrethe II celebrated her Ruby Jubilee in January 2012. Her Majesty had been on the Danish throne for forty-years, and the Danes came out to celebrate their queen in fantastic form. The queen’s jubilee was marked by a carriage procession as well as a gala banquet at Christiansborg Palace. Queen Margrethe II will mark her Golden Jubilee in 2022 in an event which all royal watchers hope will pay tribute to this remarkable royal lady.

 
 

Six years later, on 13 February 2018, Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark died at Fredensborg Palace at the age of eighty-three. During the many decades that the prince served at the side of the queen, he sometimes left a curious impression on the public, both in Denmark and abroad, that might have led one to think that the royal couple’s union was one of constant strain. However, twenty years into their marriage, Margrethe was keen to elaborate on the special bond that the couple shared. “To me, marriage is my fixed point, and my husband is my fixed anchor, the person I trust and who supports me in everything I do. If you feel this, it does not matter whether you are both at home, or one of you is away travelling, whether you spend holidays together, or whether you are both so busy that there is scarcely time to meet for meals. We still feel that we are close to one another. I have always felt that those closest to me are with me constantly…. We are very happy together because we accept each other’s outlook, we can discuss and tease each other. We have probably both changed somewhat, we have bent towards one another, though we are both more independent than when we first met. We have become the individuals we really are. It is very important to allow each other room to grow.” These words of the queen shed some light into how successful the match between the Danish princess and the minor French diplomat was in actuality. They were “two individuals” united in “one marriage.” That union was their fixed place, their safe haven.

Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik, and Prince Christian on 14 April.
Photographer Per Morten Abrahamsen.
Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik, and Prince Christian on 14 April.
Photographer Per Morten Abrahamsen.
Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik, and Prince Christian on 14 April.
Photographer Per Morten Abrahamsen.

Today, 16 April 2020, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark celebrates her eightieth birthday. Grand plans had been made to commemorate this event, but due to the current COVID-19 pandemic all festivities have been cancelled. The Royal House has issued a series of lovely photographs of the Queen with Crown Prince Frederik and his eldest son Prince Christian. In lieu of public celebrations, Queen Margrethe simply requested that in light of her birthday, she would like for Danes to send flowers to the elderly in the country. The communiqué of Her Majesty is as follows:

In light of the serious situation for many Danes with reference to the spread of the coronavirus, Her Majesty The Queen has a special request in connection with the upcoming 80th birthday on 16 April. 

Each year on her birthday, The Queen receives flowers from near and far. This year, The Queen is calling for people to send a bouquet instead to one of the many older fellow citizens having difficulty at this time. 

Another tradition changed this year is the opportunity to show up in person at Det Gule Palæ and write a congratulatory note. Instead, starting 14 April, a congratulations register will be set up on the Royal Danish House’s website www.kongehuset.dk, where it will be possible to send personal good wishes to The Queen.

Queen Margrethe II at Fredensborg Palace on 15 April.
Photographer Per Morten Abrahamsen.

Having attained the age of eighty, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has reigned as monarch for forty-eight years. Her Majesty is many things: a queen, a widow, a sister, an aunt, a mother, and a grandmother. Margrethe is an artist, a writer, and a costume designer. The queen is a polyglot: she speaks Danish, French, English, Swedish, and German – she also speaks a few amount of Faroese. She is fond of dachshunds; she is a chain-smoker; she is talented in the craft of découpage. Margrethe is the first Danish queen-regnant since Margrethe I, who reigned from 1375-1412. Above all, Margrethe II is the Queen of Denmark; the head of a large national family that encompasses all those who live within the Danish nation. She is the only person who could have led her country in such a dignified and able manner since she succeeded her father many, many years ago.

Queen Margrethe II at Fredensborg Palace on 15 April.
Photographer Per Morten Abrahamsen.

We wish Her Majesty The Queen many happy returns of the day!

NOTE: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark’s recollections of her life were taken from the publication Queen in Denmark by Anne Wolden-Ræthinge, which was based on a series of interviews with Her Majesty.

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