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Denmark's Queen Margrethe II Abdicates, Frederik X Takes Throne

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the world’s only queen regnant since the death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, has abdicated the Danish throne at age 83 in favor of her son, who is now King Frederik X. She is the first Danish monarch to abdicate since King Erik III Lam gave up the throne to take monastic vows in 1146. 

The Queen announced her abdication on New Year’s Eve 2023, citing increasing health issues, such as those that prompted a major spinal surgery in February of that year. The abdication marks a significant departure from Queen Margrethe’s previous stance on the matter, as in years past, she had said that abdicating was out of the question for her.

Decades Of Rule

The future Queen Margrethe II was born on April 16, 1940, the eldest daughter of Prince Frederik, later King Frederik IX, and granddaughter of King Christian X. Her birth occurred during a dire time for Denmark: just a week before, the Nazi German Wehrmacht had invaded the country, beginning an occupation that would last until its liberation by British and Soviet forces in 1945. Then-Princess Margrethe’s two sisters, Benedikte and Anne-Marie, were born late in the occupation period; the three girls would be Frederik IX’s only children. His lack of sons would ordinarily have meant that the throne would pass to Frederik’s brother, Prince Knud; however, due to the greater public admiration for Frederik and his family, parliament passed an act in 1953 to change the succession law, allowing women to take the throne in the absence of a son of the previous monarch. 

As heir, Margrethe pursued various personal interests, such as archeology and embroidery. She also participated in Danish politics as a member of her father’s Council of State beginning in 1958. She married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, a French diplomat, in 1967, and in 1968, her first son was born, the future Frederik X. A second son, Joachim, soon followed in 1969. 

Princess Margrethe became Queen Margrethe II at age 31 upon her father’s death on January 14, 1972. Queen Margrethe’s reign was marked by high approval ratings for the monarchy, years of peace, Denmark’s entry to the European Union, and a long rightward shift in Danish politics, partly due to economic issues. As she aged, however, the Queen's health began to decline, and she suffered from illnesses such as arthritis, severe back pain, and even cancer. These issues would ultimately cause her to give up the throne.

A New Era Begins

The Danish people once considered the 55-year-old King Frederik X to be more concerned with partying than matters of the state or the royal family. This perception has since changed, and today, he is better known as an avid sportsman, a former member of the International Olympic Committee, and a trained military man who served in Denmark’s elite Frogman Corps. He also established a charity scholarship sending two students per year to Harvard University, where he studied political science for a year in the 1990s. The King met his wife, Mary Donaldson, now Queen Mary of Denmark, while attending the 2000 Sydney Olympics in her homeland of Australia, and the pair married in 2004. They have four children. 

King Frederik has stated that he hopes to serve as a unifying figure for Denmark during this difficult modern era. His chosen royal motto exemplifies this: “United, connected, for the Kingdom of Denmark.”


Image credits: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via People, Getty Images


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