The kingdom of Denmark hasn’t always looked like it does now. Over the past 1,000 years, the kings and queens of Denmark have ruled over Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Greenland, The Faroe Islands and England.
At the time of Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth, Denmark was made of a patchwork of petty kingdoms and included England (until 1035) and the area between and including Jutland and Skåne in modern-day Sweden. In 1397 it joined with Sweden and Norway in the Kalmar Union; by 1523 that union existed between Denmark and Norway only, and by 1814, it was completely dissolved.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark ruled over the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland, while Norway was absorbed into Sweden. Through the 19th century, the Schleswig wars were fought over the areas of Schleswig, Holstein, and Saxe-Lauenburg, ending in the secession of them to Prussia and Austria. Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944.
Today the constitutional institution and historic office of the Kingdom of Denmark serves the self-governing territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland along with Denmark. Queen Margrethe II is Denmark’s 52nd sovereign.
The Monarchy Today
Denmark’s Royal Family mainly serves a ceremonial purpose. It welcomes heads of state and visits Greenland and the Faroe Islands, promotes Danish products and Danish businesses, and represents Denmark and Danish values at home and abroad.
Officially, Denmark’s monarch has executive authority over the Government of Denmark, but in practice, the Queen appoints the new government after a national election and approves new laws passed by the Danish parliament but does not get involved in affairs of state. She reigns but does not rule.
The seat of the Danish Royal Family is Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, where Queen Margrethe II and Crown Prince Frederik’s family live.
A Who’s Who of the Danish Royal Family
Queen Margrethe II, nicknamed ‘Daisy’, has two sons, Frederik and Joachim. Her husband Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark, passed away in 2018.
Crown Prince Frederik is the eldest son and is married to Crown Princess Mary. Together they have four children: Prince Christian, Princess Isabella, Prince Vincent, and Princess Josephine. Crown Prince Frederik is next in line to the throne and will become King Frederik X when he reigns.
His younger brother Prince Joachim is married to Princess Marie, and they also have four children: Princes Nikolai, Felix and Henrik, and Princess Athena.
The queen also has two sisters. The Dowager Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, Princess Benedikte, often represents the queen at events. Her other sister, The Queen Consort of the Hellenes, Queen Anne-Marie, married King Konstantin II of Greece and was the last queen of Greece.
Women and the Royal Family
Queen Margrethe II is the second female monarch of Denmark. The first was Queen Margrethe I who united and ruled the Scandinavian countries from 1376-1412. A Danish film, Margrete, Queen of the North, was released in 2021 and follows her remarkable story. Costumes from the film are currently on display at Christiansborg Palace.
In 1953 the Act of Succession was changed, allowing females to inherit the Danish throne, but kept a preference for males, meaning a younger brother would succeed his sister. As King Frederik IX had three daughters, Margrethe, the elder, became the heir presumptive.
In 2009, a referendum was passed where Danes decided girls should be equal in the line of succession. The oldest child in the line of succession will now become the next monarch, regardless of their gender - fitting, in this equality-driven country.
A Queen of Many Interests
Queen Margrethe is fluent in six languages and was educated at five different universities, including Cambridge University, where she studied archaeology alongside a core programme of political science, law, sociology, and philosophy. While studying in Aarhus, she stayed in dorms with the other students rather than living elsewhere. She is widely respected for her artistic abilities and is an active participant in Denmark’s art scene as a costume designer, set designer and artist.
In the 1970s, as Crown Princess of Denmark, she sent her illustrations of The Lord of the Rings to J.R.R. Tolkien under a pseudonym. They impressed the English author and were subsequently published in the Danish edition of his works (you can see them here).
Queen Margrethe designed her first set for the Tivoli Pantomime Theatre in 2001 and has continued to contribute set and costume designs to multiple films, stage, and TV productions, including productions with the Royal Ballet at Tivoli Gardens.
In 2021, it was announced that she would create the costumes for an upcoming Netflix adaptation of Ehrengard from a novel by the Danish writer Karen Blixen. The film will be directed by the Danish Oscar-winning director Billie August.
Danes and the Royal Family
The Danish Royal Family is regarded with great affection within Denmark and is highly accessible. Princes and princesses attend ordinary schools, and the Crown Prince and Princess can often be seen dining, shopping, or cycling around Copenhagen’s streets, just like any other Danish family.
Most Danes approve of the monarchy. Every year on the Queen's Birthday, thousands of Danes visit Amalienborg to wave the Danish flag and wish her well. A highlight of the year is The Queen’s New Year Address on New Year’s Eve at 6 pm when she delivers a speech to celebrate the past year and look forward to the coming year.
Crown Prince Frederik celebrated his 50th birthday in 2018 by holding a running race in Denmark’s five largest cities. Notably, he wanted to invite all of Denmark to participate in a healthy celebration rather than celebrating it with a closed group of elite friends and family. It was so popular that it has become an annual event with races for 1, 5 and 10km designed for athletes and casual runners alike. The Royal Run website offers further details. It’s a great example of the support the Royal Family enjoys, and the relevance of their initiatives.