King Frederik X takes Danish throne as his mother steps down

More than 100,000 people gather in close-to-freezing temperatures in Copenhagen

King Frederik X and Queen Mary of Denmark wave from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen on Sunday. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Denmark's King Frederik X acceded to the throne on Sunday, ushering in a new era after his mother Queen Margrethe abdicated, with more than 100,000 Danes turning out for the unprecedented event.

After a final procession in a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Copenhagen, Margrethe, 83, signed a declaration of abdication at Christiansborg Palace – a first in 900 years in Denmark – ending her 52-year reign and automatically making her son monarch.

She then left the Council of State, also attended by the government, the new king and queen, and their eldest son, the new Crown Prince Christian, 18.

She left the room with tears in her eyes, saying: “God bless the king.”

In front of a sea of Danes waving red-and-white flags, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen then proclaimed 55-year-old Frederik the new king on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace, the seat of parliament and government.

Wrapped up against the cold, a visibly moved Frederik, clad in his gala admiral's uniform with gold epaulettes, blinked back tears and smiled as he waved to the crowd, estimated at more than 100,000 people by media outlets.

Like his mother, Frederik is hugely popular, enjoying the support of more than 80 per cent of Danes.

“My mother succeeded like few others in becoming one with her country,” he told the crowd.

“My hope is to become a unifying king for the future … It's a responsibility I assume with respect, pride and a lot of happiness,” he said, repeatedly placing his hand on his heart as the crowd cheered.

Frederik was then joined on the balcony by his Australian-born wife Mary, wearing a white dress with her dark hair swept back in a bun, and their four teenage children.

Mary is the first commoner to become queen in Denmark.

The crowd erupted in loud cheers as the new king and queen kissed on the balcony.

It is only the second time a Danish sovereign has stepped down. The last one was Erik III, almost nine centuries ago in 1146.

“Soul of the nation”

Aske Julius, a 27-year-old Copenhagen resident, called Margrethe “the embodiment of Denmark … the soul of the nation.”

“More than half of the Danish population has never known anything else but the queen,” he said.

Portraits and banners around the capital thanked the queen for her years of service, with cheeky signs in the metro declaring: “Thanks for the ride, Margrethe”.

Others read: “Long live the king”.

No foreign dignitaries or royals were invited to Sunday's succession, in line with Danish tradition, and there was no coronation or throne for the new monarch.

Margrethe chose to abdicate exactly 52 years to the day after she took over from her father, Frederik IX.

The queen stunned Danes when she announced her abdication in her annual televised New Year's Eve address, after having repeatedly insisted she would follow tradition and reign until her death.

Even her own family was only informed three days prior.

She attributed her decision to health issues after undergoing major back surgery last year.

Margrethe will retain her title of queen and may represent the royal family on occasion.

Experts say that passing the baton to her son now will give him time to flourish in his role as monarch, after gradually taking on increasing responsibilities.

“She thinks the crown prince is totally ready to take over. And she wants to avoid a situation like in Great Britain where Prince Charles became King Charles after the age of 70,” historian Lars Hovbakke Sorensen told AFP.

He is expected to bring his own style to the monarchy, which dates back to the 10th century Viking era.

“He understood that he could not copy (the queen) and has managed to define his own image, his own ties to the Danish people,” another historian, Bo Lidegaard, said.

While his mother is known for her love of the arts and is an accomplished writer and artist, Frederik is an avid sportsman who champions environmental causes.

In Denmark the monarch's role is largely ceremonial, but he or she does sign legislation, formally presides over the forming of a government and meets with the cabinet regularly.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 6:50 AM