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Denmark's Queen Margrethe II to step down on Jan. 14 after 50 years on the throne

Queen Margrethe II announces her abdication from Christian IX's Palace, Amalienborg Castle, in Copenhagen, on Sunday, Dec. 31 2023, during her New Year's address.
Keld Navntoft
Ritzau Scanpix via AP
Queen Margrethe II announces her abdication from Christian IX's Palace, Amalienborg Castle, in Copenhagen, on Sunday, Dec. 31 2023, during her New Year's address.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Denmark's Queen Margrethe II announced Sunday that she plans to leave the throne to make way for her son, Crown Prince Frederik.

The queen announced during her New Year's speech that she would abdicate on Jan. 14th, which is the 52nd anniversary of her own accession to the throne at age 31 following the death of her father, King Frederik IX.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen paid tribute to the 83-year-old monarch, offering a "heartfelt thank you to Her Majesty the Queen for her lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the Kingdom."

Margrethe is the "epitome of Denmark" Frederiksen's statement read, and "throughout the years has put words and feelings into who we are as a people and as a nation."

The 6-foot-tall, chain-smoking Margrethe has been one of the most popular public figures in Denmark, where the monarch's role is largely ceremonial. She often walked the streets of Copenhagen virtually unescorted and won the admiration of Danes for her warm manners and for her talents as a linguist and designer.

A keen skier, she was a member of a Danish women's air force unit as a princess, taking part in judo courses and endurance tests in the snow. Margrethe remained tough even as she grew older. In 2011, at age 70, she visited Danish troops in southern Afghanistan wearing a military jumpsuit.

As monarch, she crisscrossed the country and regularly visited Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, the two semi-independent territories which are part of the Danish Realm, and was met everywhere by cheering crowds.

Denmark has Europe's oldest ruling monarchy, which traces its line back to the Viking king Gorm the Old, who died in 958. Although Magrethe is head of state, the Danish Constitution strictly ruled out her involvement in party politics.

Yet the queen was clearly well-versed in law and knew the contents of the legislation she was called upon to sign.

She received training in French and English from her earliest years, as well as Swedish from her mother. In addition to archaeology, she studied philosophy, political science and economics at universities in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Cambridge along with the London School of Economics and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Ever since his birth on May 26, 1968, Frederik André Henrik Christian has been the heir to the Danish throne.

He is the oldest son of Queen Margrethe and her late French-born husband, Prince Henrik, who died February 2018. Frederik, 55, has a younger brother, Prince Joachim.

Since the age of 18, he has served as regent whenever his mother was outside the kingdom and carried out official duties, shaking hands with thousands and receiving foreign dignitaries.

"In the new year, Crown Prince Frederik will be proclaimed king. Crown Princess Mary will become queen. The kingdom will have a new regent and a new royal couple. We can look forward to all of this in the knowledge that they are ready for the responsibility and the task," the prime minister's statement said.

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The Associated Press
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