“Men didn’t want to be ruled by women,” said the prime minister on Friday morning in Christiansborg, the seat of power in Denmark, in the direction of the attentively listening Margrethe II. “But that’s how it happened and that’s how it is.” And the queen smiled broadly at these words and nodded. In January 2022, two women will be at the head of the Danish state: Queen Margrethe II and Mette Frederiksen, the social democratic head of government who honored her on this day. It was exactly 50 years ago this Friday that Margrethe II ascended the throne, on April 14 January 1972. Mette Frederiksen hadn’t even been born then. Margrethe II was the first woman on the throne of the Danish royal family in 600 years, and the rule of succession was specifically changed to make the princess queen. Even then, the monarchy no longer had any power, but its symbolic power was strong. And if anything, it is in an even better position today. There are also republican anti-monarchists in Denmark, but they don’t have much support at the moment: In polls, four out of five Danes say they support the royal family. And that is largely thanks to Margrethe II. The newspaper Berlingske praised her “unifying power in an increasingly fragmented world,” while liberal politics attested to her “style, dignity and personality.”
Between tradition and modernity
In her New Year’s speeches she repeatedly appealed to her people. Most of the time she hit a nerve, sometimes she also groped wrong, like two years ago when she downplayed man-made climate change. The Queen often staged the images of her performances in a traditional way, but at the same time she interpreted being a queen in a modern way. Actually, with her cultivation of the artistic and the intellectual, the queen is “actually a woman of sixty-eight”, wrote Politiken on Friday, “with the generation’s inherent urge to cross borders”. She would not be dissuaded from chain smoking or from living out her artistic passions. Margrethe II would actually have preferred to become an archaeologist as queen. Once on the throne, she worked regularly as a translator, illustrator and costume designer for ballet performances. Just last summer, director and Oscar winner Bille August announced that Queen Margrethe would take over the set design for his new film. Resigning during one’s lifetime has no tradition in the Danish monarchy. Margrethe herself once declared that she would remain queen until she “falls off the stick”. It’s not a job she has there, it’s a life’s work.
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