Alexandrine – The Queen who brought the Danish Monarchy into the 20th century

Queen Alexandrine was married to Christian X, and together they reigned from 1912 to 1947. Using her roles as queen consort, Queen Alexandrine understood how to navigate as part of the Danish constitutional monarchy through the turmoil of two world wars and the breakup of many European monarchies after World War I. She understood her emerging role as a “celebrity” and as part of the model for a royal family and that she remained bound by tradition.  She used her charm and informality to reduce the gap between the royal house and the Danish population – making sure that the royal family stayed in their hearts in a time where society was changing. In Danish history research, Queen Alexandrine is mostly seen as a quiet and amiable queen.[1] However, I would argue that she was very aware of her roles as queen consort and she was able to act in ways throughout her reign that altered the way the public saw her and the Danish royal house.

One of Queen Alexandrine’s official responsibilities was to represent the royal house. It was part of the public’s expectations to the queen consort to make appearances, smiling and waving to the crowd. But Queen Alexandrine also understood how to adapt to situations, where her actions could have politic consequences.

In 1937 she went with her husband on an official visit to Germany. The queen travelled with the king to Berlin, but she was not present at the official meeting with the German chancellor Adolf Hitler. The queen knew that it was not proper for her to attend as it was a highly political situation and therefore she chose to go the Cecilienhof Castle to visit the German crown prince and crown princess in Potsdam instead.[2] Queen Alexandrine showed political understanding, and she knew the limits of her representative duties as part of the royal house, and she probably avoided negative mention in the press by removing herself from the political situation. Her German heritage coupled with a visit to the German chancellor could probably have created a lot of debate and many comments in the Danish press, but she acted in ways that met the public’s expectations, and she knew role in the royal representative duties. She saw the invisible boundary for her actions as queen consort and decided not to cross it.

The queen could also choose to travel unofficially to visit different parts of the country. Queen Alexandrine often travelled to Aarhus on unofficial visits to Marselisborg Castle. At first, she did not travel by herself but in the company of her husband Christian X. On their first visit to Aarhus in 1912 just after their coronation, the mayor of Aarhus E. C. L. Drechsel said at their arrival:

”It is the first Time in Time immemorial that the Danish King resides in Jutland. […] Even so that Your Majesties have spent the Summers of the last 10 Years here, we do hope that Marselisborg Castle will be a dear and happy Place for many Years to come.”[3]

The royal couple was able to stage their arrival in Aarhus in a way that met the public’s expectations because they created an affiliation to the city and the citizens of Aarhus. Queen Alexandrine knew that travelling to a new place in Denmark had to be done together with her husband and not by herself because the royal couple’s affiliation with Aarhus had to be created in order for her to go there alone in the following years. She did not possess enough social or cultural capital to travel alone in the beginning due to her new role as queen consort but also due to her role as a woman. She needed the integral support of being part of the royal couple to travel to Aarhus the first time. Afterwards, she was able to travel alone as she did on numerous occasions.[4]

The political engagement was an important part of the way the press talked about queens consort in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it was a field of actions that mattered for the way the public saw the queens and their roles in the Danish constitutional monarchy. Apart from the political engagements, Queen Alexandrine was also expected to participate in cultural engagements as queen consort. This is seen for example in 1912 when they visited a guesthouse called Wesselsminde:

”It was a great Surprise for the Boys, who were digging caves when they suddenly discovered the Heads of the King and Queen over the Hedge. The Royal Couple, sitting on their little Wagon, greeted the Children lovingly and the Children broke out in Hurrahs.”[5]

It was an unofficial, well-orchestrated, and informal appearance by the King and Queen and at the same time, a show of interest in the charitable work of the guesthouse. The royal couple created public attention by visiting the guesthouse and thus getting it mentioned in the press. Queen Alexandrine was able to navigate in the relationship between closeness and distance through the close contact that she and her husband created in relation to the public.

The fact that the royal couple knew about their representative importance and took advantage of this through informal appearances in the public is also seen at an event in Industriforeningen in 1927. The royal couple arrived silently through a side door:

”… an unusually tall Officer, who addressed a very classy Lady in his company, said: Yes, this must be the right Place!”[6]

King Christian and Queen Alexandrine did not make a fuss about their arrival at the cultural event. Instead, they arrived silently, and that was to show that they were not exalted as King and Queen but more like “Mr and Mrs Denmark”. The royal couple represented themselves as normal people in a way that had not been seen before in the Danish monarchy. This was received well by the public, and the royal couple fulfilled their roles together making sure that everyone saw them as husband and wife and not only as the King and Queen. They wanted to show their marriage as a loving and happy one, and this created a closer contact to the Danish population.

Queen Alexandrine knew how to adapt to the public’s expectations and also the to the zeitgeist. So well in fact, that she became a symbol of the nation together with her husband. Her closeness and straightforwardness at representative engagements created a relationship between her and the population. This benefited her roles as queen consort because she was able to act informally and place herself correctly in the spectre of closeness and distance. Through her reign as queen consort, she altered the roles of queens consort and stepped in the foreground as a modern and informal queen – always making sure that everyone knew that she was still the queen of Denmark.[7]

 

[1] Møller, 155.

[2] Politiken 16/3 1937. 2. “Hindenburgs Bil maatte hentes frem til Kongen.”

[3] Politiken 23/6 1912. 1. “Kongeparrets festlige Indtog i Aarhus.”

[4] Se f.eks Berlingske Tidende (Morgen) 23/7 1917. 3. “Hoffet paa Marselisborg.”

[5] Politiken 16/6 1912. 5. “Smaa Telegrammer.”

[6] Politiken 3/4 1927. 14. “Den store Idrætsudstilling.”

[7] For further reading on this subject see: Kristensen, Michelle Jørsing. Skørtepolitik. Gemalindedronningers roller i Danmark i perioden 1863 til 1947. Master thesis, The University of Copenhagen, 2017; Kristensen, Michelle Jørsing. ”De filantropiske dronninger. En undersøgelse af gemalindedronningers filantropiske engagementer og deres samfundsmæssige indflydelse.” i Culture and History, vol. 2, september 2017; Kristensen, Michelle Jørsing. ”The awkwardness of Queen Lovisa of Denmark.” i History of Royal Women, august 2017; Kristensen, Michelle Jørsing. ”Queen Louise of Denmark – the philanthropic Queen.” i History of Royal Women, juli 2017; ”The Politics of Skirts. The roles of queens consort in Denmark in the 19th and 20th centuries.” i History of Royal Women, maj 2017; Bjørn, Claus. Blot til pynt? Monarkiet i Danmark – i går, i dag og i morgen. Fredmad, 2001; Møller, Jes Fabricius. Dynastiet Glücksborg. Gad, 2013; Olden-Jørgensen, Sebastian. Prinsessen og det hele kongerige, Christian IX og det glücksborgske kongehus. 1st edition. Gad, 2003.



1 Comment

  1. The German Crown Princess Cecile was Alexandrine’s younger sister and thus it was more than appropriate to visit her sister and brother-in-law privately. I wonder about the relationship between the sisters and their children post 1918, though.

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