When Princess Margrethe of Denmark was born on 16 April 1940, she had no succession rights whatsoever. She was the firstborn child of the future King Frederick IX of Denmark and Ingrid of Sweden, and it was probably expected that brothers would follow. Margrethe was baptised on 14 May in the Holmen Church in Copenhagen. Ingrid gave birth to two more daughters: Princess Benedikte in 1944 and Princess Anne-Marie in 1946. Margrethe’s grandfather King Christian X died in 1947, making her father the new King. Without a son, it was expected that her uncle Prince Knud would one day succeed as King.
King Frederick and his three daughters were quite popular with the people. So they began work on a new Act of Succession that would allow for a woman to succeed in the event that she had no brothers (male-preference primogeniture). This law had to be passed by two successive Parliaments and by a referendum, which finally took place on 27 March 1953. The 12-year-old Margrethe thus became the new heiress presumptive to the throne. On her 18th birthday, she was given a seat in the Council of State.
Margrethe attended the N. Zahle private school in Copenhagen, from which she graduated in 1959. She spent a year at a boarding school for girls in England before going on to study prehistoric archaeology at Girton College and political science at Aarhus University. She is fluent in Danish, English, Swedish, German and French.
On 10 June 1967, Margrethe married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, a French diplomat. He received the style and title of “His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark.” Margrethe’s wedding dress was designed by Jorgen Bender. Margrethe’s first pregnancy was announced on 9 October 1967, and she gave birth to a son named Frederik on 26 May 1968. A second son, named Joachim, was born on 7 June 1969.
The death of Margrethe’s father came rather unexpected. He gave his traditional New Year’s Address to the nation on 31 December 1971 and fell ill shortly after. He suffered a cardiac arrest a few days later and was rushed to the hospital. He died on 14 January 1972 at 7:50 pm surrounded by his family. At 31 years old and with two small children, Margrethe became the second woman to rule Denmark in her own right. She was proclaimed Queen on 15 January by the Prime Minister.
The new Queen addressed the nation with the words, “The task which for almost 25 years was my father’s has now been laid upon my shoulders, and I pray God to help me and give me strength to bear the heavy bequest. The love and faithfulness which the Danish people have shown my father in all these years was the very foundation of his royal calling.1 In just two years time, Margrethe will celebrate 50 years on the throne. In that time, her family has grown with eight grandchildren, but she also suffered the loss of Prince Henrik, who passed away in February 2018. Though they reportedly had a happy marriage, he was unhappy with the lack of a defined role for him and resented being relegated to third when the Crown Prince began to pick up more duties. In 2005, he was officially created Prince Consort of Denmark, but he gave up that title when he effectively retired in 2016.
Margrethe is an avid painter who has also held many art shows over the years. Her work featured in the Danish translations of The Lord of the Rings. She has also designed costumes, for example for the Royal Danish Ballet, and designs her own clothes. She is also known to be a smoker, though she had refrained from smoking in public after criticism.
In 2009, Denmark changed the succession laws once more to allow for absolute primogeniture. This means that the eldest child will succeed regardless of gender. Queen Margrethe will be succeeded by her eldest son Crown Prince Frederik and he, in turn, will be succeeded by his eldest son Prince Christian.