Queen Ingrid, the Queen Mother of Denmark, who has died aged 90, possessed a natural talent for one of the oddest jobs in the world. She helped modernise the royal family of her adopted homeland, the oldest royal house in Europe.
Queen Ingrid was the wife of King Frederik IX, ruler of Denmark from 1947 until 1972; the daughter of Crown Prince Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden – who was that country's monarch from 1950 to 1973 – and Crown Princess Margaret, daughter of Queen Victoria's third son, the Duke of Connaught. The family she joined in the mid-1930s was stiff and unbending; the family she leaves provides Denmark with a monarchy supported by more than 90% of the population.
It was at the end of her husband's reign that a law on accession, approved in 1953 following a referendum, was enacted. It permitted women to take the throne of the king dom. Thus did Queen Ingrid's daughter, Queen Margrethe II, become the first female monarch of Denmark since Queen Margrethe I (1387-1412).
Ingrid herself was born at the royal castle in Stockholm. She grew up, with her four brothers, in a happy and, for the time, an open and relaxed family life. But in 1920, when she was 10, her beautiful, highly respected mother died. Observers suggested that Queen Ingrid's strong self-discipline was shaped by these young, rough years after that bereavement. In 1923, her father remarried, his bride being Britain's Lady Louise Mountbatten. The teenage Ingrid concentrated on her role as a dutiful royal daughter.
On May 24 1935, in Stockholm, she married her distant cousin, Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark. Two days later, they arrived in Copenhagen on the royal yacht Dannebrog.
Frederik was 11 years older than Ingrid. Unlike their Swedish counterparts, the Danish royal family lived at the royal castle as if it was a military barracks, without affection or charm. Everybody was afraid of the then monarch, King Christian X, who induced fear in his entourage; the exception was the new crown princess, whom he adored.
Slowly, Ingrid began to reinvent the Danish monarchy, but it was not easy. She mastered the difficult Danish language very quickly and established a coterie of friends and young relatives around herself and the crown prince. She redecorated the sombre palace and involved herself in charity work outside the castle. In April 1940, she gave birth to her first child, Princess (now Queen) Margrethe. In that month too, with the Danish armed forces facing the prospect of a blitz on the capital, the government accepted the reality of the Nazi occupation.
Ingrid – and indeed the entire royal family – took a remarkable position during the war, maintaining normality in an abnormal world. She rode her bicycle as usual, and pushed her pram around the streets of occupied Copenhagen. Part of an understanding with the Nazis was a hands-off policy towards Danish Jews. In 1943, as resistance mounted, the coalition government resigned and the Nazis began to detain Danish Jews. That October, as the result of a national effort more than 6,000 Danish Jews escaped to safety in Sweden.
In 1944, a second daughter, Princess Benedikte, was born. In 1946, a year before King Frederik's accession, the couple had their last child, Princess Anne-Marie, who, in 1964, married King Constantine of Greece.
It was by then clear that the new king and queen would never get a son. The result was the political initiative to change the law of succession, a move much due to the efforts of Queen Ingrid in her attempts to establish the Danish monarchy as a modern institution.
From her time as crown princess in the 1930s, through the death of her husband, the accession of her daughter – and in the years that followed – Queen Ingrid was the star of Danish royalty. Her daughter, Princess Benedikte, formulated the secret behind her mother's the outstanding success: "My mother finds that the thread to the past should not be cut, but it should neither keep us caught in the past."
It was in that spirit that Queen Ingrid democratised and renewed the court. She showed the Danes that the family in the palace may not have been ordinary, but that they were human. She also strongly supported her eldest daughter as she prepared for the daunting role of monarch. A woman with extraordinary willpower, judgment, flair and discipline, Ingrid kept a distance – yet retained her humour.
With that strong personality, no one could imagine her family getting stuck in the scandals and internal strife that afflicted other cousins and more distant European relatives. In 1997, she broke a hipbone and was confined to a wheelchair; in that year too, during the commemoration of her daughter's first 25 years as queen, she told Margrethe that, with her "two wonderful sons who would do their best for Dennmark", she could "safely close my eyes".
Queen Ingrid is survived by her three daughters, Queen Margrethe II, Princess Bene- dikte, Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Ingrid, Queen Mother of Denmark (Ingrid Victoria Sofia Louise Margareta), born March 28 1910; died November 7 2000
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