Denmark stunned by queen's surprise abdication

AFP , Monday 1 Jan 2024

Danes were on Monday slowly coming to terms with Queen Margrethe's surprise announcement that she will abdicate on January 14 in favour of her son after 52 years on the throne.

Danish Queen
File photo: This photograph taken on January 3, 2023 shows Denmark s Queen Margrethe II (L) as she attends an event with her son Crown Prince Frederik (C) and his wife, Crown Princess Mary (R), at the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. AFP

 

"Goosebumps, to say the least. It was quite a shock," 30-year-old Stefan Teichert told AFP, adding that he, like many other Danes, had followed the 83-year-old queen's annual New Year's Eve speech live on television.

The hugely popular, chain-smoking monarch had insisted over the years that she would never step down, repeatedly saying she would "stay on the throne until I drop".

"We were all shocked. We were just like: 'What? Cancel New Year's Eve!'" said Maria Jepersen, 39.

"It was like somebody in the family died or something."

Twenty-one year-old Rasmus Eliassen agreed, and chose to see the positive side of the announcement.

"It's nice it's not because of death that she's leaving," he said, adding that Denmark was "in good hands" with the future king, Crown Prince Frederik.

Margrethe II has been instrumental in making the Danish monarchy one of the most popular in the world, enjoying the support of more than 80 percent of Danes, according to a recent poll.

A widow since 2018, she underwent extensive back surgery in February.

In Sunday's announcement, she said the operation "gave cause to thoughts about the future -- whether now would be an appropriate time to pass on the responsibility to the next generation".

Aged 55, Crown Prince Frederik will take over the throne as King Frederik X.

There will be no formal coronation.

Instead, he will be pronounced king during an extraordinary cabinet meeting after his mother formally abdicates, after which Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will present the new monarch from a balcony.

"Her son is ready now," said Jesper Volpius, 55, adding that the queen was "a strong woman" to make the decision to step down.

In December, a poll published by Danish television TV2 indicated the queen was Denmark's most popular royal, followed by Crown Prince Frederik.

Prime Minister Frederiksen on Sunday called Margrethe "the epitome of Denmark".

"Many of us have never known another regent," she said.

"Throughout the years (she) has put words and feelings into who we are as a people and as a nation."

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