Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II announces surprise abdication on live TV

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II has announced her surprise abdication from her throne after almost 52 years in her New Year’s Eve TV speech.

The monarch, 83, said she will abdicate the throne on 14 January – exactly 52 years since she became queen.

Queen Margrethe said her eldest son Crown Prince Frederik will take the role of king following Margrethe’s departure.

She is the longest serving monarch in Danish history and the current longest serving monarch in Europe following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabaeth II last year.

Queen Margrethe’s said in her speech her decision to step down was influenced by he undergoing successful back surgery in February.

She said: “The surgery naturally gave rise to thinking about the future – whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation,” she said in her speech broadcast live on Danish television.

“I have decided that now is the right time. On 14 January 2024 – 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father – I will step down as queen of Denmark.

“I leave the throne to my son, Crown Prince Frederik.”

Crown Prince Frederik, 55, will automatically take the throne on the day his mother’s steps down as there is no official crowning ceremony for Danish monarchs. He will serve as king alongside his wife, Crown Princess Mary, 51, who grew up in Australia but is of Scottish descent.

Queen Margrethe is popular in Denmark, and many of its population expected her to remain on the throne until her death.

Queen Margrethe took the throne after the death of her father King Frederik IX in 1952.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen confirmed the decision in a statement in which he offered “heartfelt” thanks to her “for her lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the Kingdom”.

In her speech the Queen also discussed wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, and how import it is to tackle climate change.

The six-feet-tall Margrethe has been one of the most popular public figures in Denmark.

Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik, left, and his mother Queen Margrethe II of Denmark stand outside of the Metropolitan Cathedral during the funeral of former king of Greece Constantine II in Athens, on 16 January 2023 (Photo: Petros Giannakouris/ AP)

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.

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.

Queen Margrethe had a close relationship with the late Queen Elizabeth, and they were both great-great grandaughters of British monarch Queen Victoria.

The Danish monarch fought back tears after she saw Queen Elizabeth’s coffin at the funeral last year.

Queen Margrethe said in an interview with ITV News that the pair shared great affection for each other.

She said: “When I was growing up, I hoped I wouldn’t be as young as that when my father died.

“It made an enormous impression on me. The fact that she was dedicating her life. I understood what that meant. This is for life. That is the whole point of my life. And I know she sees that too.”

In February 2022, the then Duchess of Cambridge was the outgoing Danish queen’s guest during a two-day visit to the northern European country.

Kate’s trip was in part to honour the historic ties Britain shares with Denmark and celebrate the countries’ joint jubilees that year – the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Golden Jubilee of Queen Margrethe, both of which fell in 2022.

The late Queen was said to be close to Queen Margrethe and sent her a private message of condolence after her husband Prince Henrik of Denmark died in his sleep at the age of 83 in 2018.

In 2012, Queen Margrethe revealed how she had always “admired” her British counterpart and that she has helped influence herself as a queen after watching how dedicated she was to her nation.

Additonal reporting by Press Association.