Queen Ingrid: Backbone of the Danish Monarchy.

On 1 May 1920, a ten-year-old girl dressed all in white marches through the streets of her native Stockholm behind a coffin draped in a flag accompanied by her four siblings. All around her in the procession are the great and good from among the royalties of Europe. In the coffin were the mortal remains of the child’s mother, Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden (born Princess Margaret of Connaught, the elder child of Britain’s Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught {third son of Queen Victoria} and his wife Princess Louise of Prussia.) The child in question was ten-year-old Princess Ingrid of Sweden. She was the third child and only daughter of Crown Princess Margareta’s marriage to Crown Prince Gustav Adolf, the eldest child of King Gustav V of Sweden. The royal couple had met in Cairo, in early 1905, and it seems to have been something of a coup de foudre. Prince Gustav Adolf (as he then was) proposed to Princess Margaret at a dinner party given by the British Consul-General in Egypt, Lord Cromer, and they were married at St George’s Chapel in Windsor on 15 June 1905, in the presence of Britain’s King Edward VIII, who was pleased by his niece’s union to the Swedish prince, for it was indeed a happy love match. Interestingly, Margaret was not the only English princess to venture to northern Scandinavia that year, as her cousin Maud (a daughter of King Edward VIII) arrived in neighbouring Norway as Queen, being the spouse of Prince Charles of Denmark, who was elected as King of Norway following the recent dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden. He took the title of King Haakon VII.

Ingrid was born in the Royal Palace in central Stockholm on 28 March 1910. A twenty-eight gun salute rang out from the battery at Skeppsholmen to announce the arrival of a princess. She was christened on 10 May in the Royal Chapel. The Crown Prince couple had four other children-all boys: Gustav Adolf (b. 1906), Sigvard (b. 1907), Bertil (b. 1912) and Carl Johan (b. 1916). Being the only daughter, Ingrid and her mother-who unusually for the time breastfed her children-soon formed a close bond, as Margareta preferred to be closely involved in the upbringing of her children, rather than rely heavily on help from a nurse or nanny, as was the case among most European royalties. A visiting Spanish Princess, Eulalia wrote that the Crown Princess gave the Swedish court ‘just a touch of the elegance of the Court of St James’s [in London].’ And here lies the key to Ingrid’s personality: the English influence that was imbued in her from birth by her mother. Soon the young child was immersed in reading English-language nursery books such as ” Kate Greenway’s “Under the Window” or “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens” by Arthur Packham. Margareta was also a keen gardener and photographer. She indulged herself by taking some wonderful rare colour photographs (for this was after all 1912) of her English-style garden at the family’s summer home, Sofiero Palace, near Helsingborg. These later featured in two books which were published in Sweden and accompanied by illustrations and drawings by the English princess, who counted artists such as the English sculptor Clare Frewen Sheridan as a friend. Often by her side in that wonderful garden was young Ingrid, doubtless entranced by the tripod camera which her mother used to capture such clear images. Another English trait was the use of nicknames en famille. Ingrid became known as ‘Sessan’ or ‘San’, abbreviations of the Swedish word for princess, prinsessan. It goes without saying that English was also widely spoken at Sofiero, although Margareta had been able to speak fluent Swedish within two years of her arrival in Sweden. This fluency in English-without the drawback of a heavy foreign accent-would serve Ingrid well in her future role as Queen of Denmark, as the Scandinavian languages are not widely understood in an international context.

During Ingrid’s formative years, Margareta encouraged her children to participate in amateur dramatics. In one play, Ingrid was tasked with playing a princess and was quite insistent that she must have a tiara, ‘otherwise you are not a real princess.’ Ingrid’s brothers were also willing players in these productions, although they were more likely to dress up as sailors. However, all of the children liked nothing better than a game of cowboys and indians in the summer palace garden, with a white conical-shaped tent serving as a tepee. These images were caught for posterity by Margareta on her new cine camera. The camera also captured Ingrid being led on a horse and cart or feeding swans on the boating pond. She was also a bit of a tomboy, happy to indulge in a little football with her brothers or watch a game of curling with her mother and brothers in winter. Yet, Margareta also made sure Ingrid received an education. In old age, Ingrid would recall that ‘I had classes at the [Royal] Palace. My mother …thought [as the only girl] I should have [female] companions’ to study alongside her ‘as she did not think it was a good idea for children to be on their own.’ Some commentators have mentioned that the Princess may have been dyslexic. Like her mother, Ingrid showed an aptitude for art and would later enjoy photography. The family, on occasion, made visits to their grandfather at his home, Bagshot Park, in leafy Berkshire. This further imbued Ingrid with an understanding of English ways and gave her an understanding of her place in the British Royal Family. A particular focus of the day-whether it be at Sofiero, in Stockholm or at Bagshot Park-was afternoon tea. This wonderfully English feast usually consisted of tea, sandwiches, scones and cakes and was served around 4pm-5pm each afternoon.

Nonetheless, there was another side to Crown Princess Margareta which Ingrid must have observed. As a British princess, she always understood (for it had been drilled into her) that with privilege came duty. During World War I, Margareta set up a knitting guild to provide garments for the Red Cross. She also put her name to a scheme to encourage women to work on the land. Margareta was also interested in matters involving the welfare of mothers and their children and set up a charity to promote this. She was also Honorary President of the Association for the Blind in Sweden.

In 1918, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark paid a visit to Sofiero, which was not unusual as the links between the Danish and Swedish royal families were close, both through marriage and descent. At that time Frederik was a mere nineteen and Ingrid but a child of eight. This was also the year that King Gustav V celebrated his 60th birthday and there was a large gathering of the extended royal family, including Ingrid, at Tullgarn Palace. Indeed, images from that time make it clear that there were not many royal family events where Ingrid was not present. Of this period, Ingrid would note that ‘We were children who were happy. Everything was joyful and we were happy in a warm family atmosphere.’ Meanwhile, Ingrid was asked to be a flower girl at the wedding of her mother’s sister, Princess Patricia of Connaught, in 1919. Patsy married the a British naval officer, Captain Alexander Ramsay and relinquished her royal title, being known thereafter as Lady Patricia Ramsay.

In early 1920, 38-year-old Crown Prince Margareta was pregnant with her sixth child when she had endured a bout of measles which aggravated an ear. An operation then took place for the removal of diseased mastoid air cells. There seem to have been complications, as she died of sepsis (blood poisoning) on 1 May of that year. Ingrid’s father was devastated with grief (‘It was so unexpected’ Ingrid remembered) but gathered his children around him for comfort. Thereafter, he never spoke about their mother to them again, which must have been very difficult for all concerned. The joy had suddenly gone from all of their lives. Ingrid summed it up succinctly, ‘It’s a grief you never overcome. Never, never,’  adding ‘I stopped being a child.’ Crown Princess Margareta’s funeral took place in Stockholm’s Storkyrkan and she was buried in the Royal Cemetery, within the Hagaparken, Solna, with Ingrid looking on. Ingrid would later recall, ‘My mother was a lovely person. Very gifted, also artistic. Also a very practical person and full of energy. She achieved much in her very short life.’

The appearance of Lady Louise Mountbatten (born a Princess of Battenberg, although her father, Prince Louis renounced his German title during World War I and Anglicised the family name to Mountbatten) must have been something of a shock to Ingrid, who had become something of a surrogate mother figure to her young brothers, as Prince Sigvard recalled. Louise and Gustav Adolf met in London in 1923 when the Crown Prince came over for London ‘season’ with his two eldest children. They had previously met, in August 1914, when Louise and her mother Alice passed through Stockholm on their return journey to England from St Petersburg (where the duo had been on a visit to Alice’s sisters, Tsarina Alexandra and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia [Ella]) at the outbreak of World War I. The British press commented on the fact that Gustav seemed to be paying special attention to Louise as she and Gustav paid visits to the races and spent time at the home of Louise’s brother George, the Marquess of Milford Haven. Louise was apparently nervous and uncertain as to what she should do if the Crown Prince proposed, although her mother urged her to accept, observing that Gustav could offer her a good home and a ready-made family life in a pleasant country. Even after she accepted the proposal, her doubts lingered. At one stage, Louise told a Greek relation that she was too old (she was thirty-four) and too thin to be a bride. Although Prince Gustav Adolf and Prince Sigvard, being in England, were told in person that their father had decided to remarry, their younger siblings, including Ingrid, who had remained at home in Sweden, were given the news by their paternal grandmother, Queen Victoria of Sweden, to whom they were not particularly close. To say that they were surprised would be a gross underestimation. They were not alone, as so were the majority of the Swedish public who had never heard of Louise, despite the fact that she was a great-granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, as Louise’s maternal grandmother was the late Princess Alice of Great Britain and Ireland, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, the second daughter of the old Queen Empress. The bride-to-be was a thus a first cousin once removed of the late Crown Princess Margareta. Although somewhat set in her ways, Louise had been a nurse during World War I and was deemed a respectable bride for the royal widower due to her royal links and maturity. She also had a democratic outlook which would doubtless appeal to the Swedes. Ingrid is pictured with her father and brother Prince Bertil around this time in England’s “Sphere” magazine of November 1923 and titled “Royal Marriage at St James’s.” This is a reference to the wedding ceremony which took place on 3 November at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace in central London. After a honeymoon in Italy, Louise arrived with her husband by train into Stockholm on a wintry day, 11 December, the guns of Skeppsholmen providing a welcoming salute to Sweden’s new Crown Princess.

The Crown Prince and his new bride spent the first Christmas at Drottningholm Palace, on the outskirts of Stockholm, with Gustav’s children. King Gustav and Queen Victoria did their best to act as good hosts to their son, his new wife and their grandchildren. As in past times, a giant Christmas tree dominated the room where the children’s presents were arranged on small tables. Games of badminton were played in the ballroom. Otherwise, the newlyweds occupied the same apartments in the Royal Palace as those used by Ingrid’s mother and father during their marriage; there was a similar arrangement at Sofiero (which they still used in the summer). However, Louise and Gustav also refurbished and modernised many rooms at Ulriksdal Palace, during which they were able to put their own stamp on the place. The family made use of this residence in the spring and autumn. It was in many ways neutral ground, for it was not so identified with Margareta. Louise was described as ‘gifted and determined and wanted things her own way.’ She was not perceived as ‘motherly’ and certainly did not have the captivating beauty of Margareta. Ingrid’s youngest brother, Prince Carl Johan, described Louise in his memoirs as shy and a little edgy in manner. But the one who was ‘hesitant’ and had the hardest time receiving this new addition to her family was thirteen-year-old Ingrid who, despite being only ten years old when Margareta died, had become accustomed to taking on the role as her father’s dutiful and diligent mainstay. It may have helped that, although born in Germany, Louise had been raised in England and so was accustomed to English traditions. Her introduction into this close-knit family cannot have been easy and was not helped by the trauma of delivering a still-born child in 1925. Yet, by 1930, she was first lady of Sweden following the death of her mother-in-law, the decidedly pro-German Queen Consort, Victoria. Pictures of this period often show Ingrid accompanying her father and step mother at engagements. Tactfully, Ingrid remains somewhat in the background but has invariably been given a bouquet of flowers similar in size to that of her stepmother. Yet Ingrid was also independent, living life in Stockholm as a modern, active woman. She rode, skied and skated, and was an accomplished tennis player. She learned to drive in 1928. Ingrid was also something of a royal style icon, draped in ostrich plumes, rubies and silk lames when for gala dinners.

The late 1920’s and early 1930’s were a further time of royal Swedish marriages. Ingrid’s father’s cousin Astrid married Belgium’s Crown Prince Leopold in November 1926, while Astrid’s sister Märtha married Crown Prince Olav of Norway in March 1929. Ingrid was a bridesmaid at both of these weddings, travelling to Brussels and Oslo for the festivities. She had often been in the company of these sisters prior to their marriage and still often met up with them during their visits home to Sweden, usually at Fridhem, the country home of Astrid and Märtha’s parents, Danish-born Princess Ingeborg and her husband Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland. In 1932, Ingrid’s eldest brother, Prince Gustav Adolf (‘Edmund’), married Princess Sybilla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Sybilla’s father, Charles Edward, was the British-born son of Queen Victoria’s eighth child and youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Although raised in England until the age of fifteen, Charles eventually moved to Germany, where he subsequently inherited the Dukedom of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1900. As the 1930’s progressed the Duke became increasingly admiring of and involved with Hitler’s Third Reich, rising to the rank of SS Obergruppenführer in 1936. He continued to maintain close links with the British Royal Family. His sister was Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, a sister-in-law of Britain’s Queen Mary. Interestingly, Ingrid was to serve as a bridesmaid at the wedding of Princess Alice’s daughter, Lady May Cambridge to Henry Abel-Smith in October 1931. Her future sister-in-law, Sybilla, was also a bridesmaid. Meanwhile, in 1934, Ingrid’s elder brother Sigvard was stripped of his royal rank when he married Erica Maria Patzek, the daughter of a German businessman. The same would apply when Ingrid’s younger brother Carl Johan married journalist Elin Wijkmark in 1946.

But what of Ingrid’s future? She was certainly ideally placed to make an excellent dynastic marriage. When the heir to the British throne, the Prince of Wales (David) and his brother Prince George visited Stockholm in 1932. Ingrid’s name was briefly linked romantically with David. In 1933, Ingrid, who was on a visit to her English family, was pictured at Wimbledon alongside David’s mother, Queen Mary. The latter would certainly have approved of such a marriage, given the close dynastic links between the British and Swedish royal families. Yet it was not to be: The future King Edward VIII, would fall into disgrace when he abdicated his throne, in December 1936, to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Talk of a royal romance was temporarily put on the back burner, when in late 1934, Ingrid undertook a five-month journey to the Middle East by sea and plane, in the company of her father, Crown Princess Louise and her younger brother Bertil, visiting archaeological sites (the Crown Prince was a keen archaeologist throughout his life) and examining priceless artefacts in Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jerusalem (Palestine) and Jordan.

Shortly after Ingrid’s 25th birthday, it was announced, by the Swedish and Danish Royal Courts that she was to marry Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik. Ingrid and Frederik seem to have been involved romantically for around two years, although the press had not picked up on this. Frederik had travelled over to Stockholm for the announcement but eluded the waiting press by leaving his train beforehand at Södertälje, where Ingrid was waiting in her car to drive the Crown Prince to the Royal Palace. Frederik was very much a man of the sea. Unlike most incumbents to the Danish throne, he had joined the Danish navy, as opposed to taking a commission in the armed forces. He underwent an exacting four-year spell at the Naval Cadet School in Copenhagen’s Gernersgade, together with periods spent on board the cadet ships Heimdal and Valkyrien. At his parents’ insistence, he was treated the same as any other naval cadet. Frederik was outgoing and cheerful and at ease with himself and the man in the street. He smoked a pipe and had a deep love of music and tattoos! By the time of his marriage, he had risen to the rank of Captain. It has been said that after her marriage to Frederik, Ingrid-who could be strict with herself and others-softened somewhat under his influence. The wedding in Stockholm saw a gathering of the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian royal families with some Prussian ex-royals, such as Crown Princess Cecilie also present. In addition, many of Ingrid’s British relations attended including her mother’s sister, Lady Patricia Ramsay (‘Patsy’), her mother’s cousin, Princess Helena Victoria (‘Thora’) and her mother’s sister-in-law, Princess Arthur of Connaught. The latter was also Margareta’s first cousin once removed (and thus Ingrid’s second cousin), as she was the eldest daughter of the late Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, the eldest daughter of King Edward VII (and niece of the Duke of Connaught). Stockholm was filled with joy and cheering crowds as Ingrid entered the Storkyrkan, on 24 May, on the arm of her father wearing a wedding veil of Irish lace which had belonged to her mother. Instead of a tiara, she wore a crown of English myrtle grown in Margareta’s garden at Sofiero. The ceremony was broadcast on Swedish radio.

Following the wedding, the plan had been that the newlyweds would travel south through Sweden by rail and then cross over to Copenhagen by sea in a Danish navy vessel. The Danish Royal Yacht, Dannebrog, had brought the Danish King and Queen and Crown Frederik to Stockholm for the wedding (the Danish suite being received with great fanfare and brought ashore in the ornate Vasaorden, the Swedish Royal Barge.) The Dannebrog was normally only used to transport the Danish Sovereign. It had certainly not, up until now, been put at the disposal of the Crown Prince. However, Ingrid thought it would be wonderful if she and her husband could travel to Denmark together aboard the Royal Yacht. Crown Prince Frederik was sceptical, feeling it unlikely that King Christian would grant such a request. However, such was Ingrid’s determination and charm that she won over her father-in-law, who graciously consented to permit this. A gun salute greeted the new bride as the Dannebrog arrived in Copenhagen. Even better, both King Christian and his wife, Queen Alexandrine, were waiting on the quayside to greet the new Crown Princess of Denmark as she landed in her adopted homeland and passed under a bridal arch festooned with flowers. After receiving a large bouquet, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess were taken in an open carriage to the Amalienborg where they appeared on the balcony to the acclaim of the large crowd below. A banquet was held that evening at Christiansborg Palace. Meanwhile, the country’s bakers sold Ingrid cakes and Ingrid confectionery, and many citizens had put pictures of Ingrid on display in the windows as a salutation to their new Crown Princess.

During their summer honeymoon, the couple stayed in Rome for a period of time, and invariably returned to the city almost every autumn when they could move around the streets or eat in backstreet trattoria unrecognised and undisturbed. However, they were returning to a country that was suffering, like others in Europe, from the economic downturn. Ingrid (who quickly mastered Danish and took lessons in Danish history) was soon, as Crown Princess of Denmark, at the forefront of many royal engagements, such as the Silver Jubilee celebrations for King Christian X in 1937. It is fair to say that Ingrid helped improve relations between her husband and his ageing father, who could be irascible. Queen Margrethe remembers that, ‘My mother wasn’t afraid [of the King as many members of the family were], she was used to dealing with older, slightly stiff gentlemen – there were so many old gentlemen in the Swedish family. It didn’t occur to her that she should be afraid of him, and in turn, he actually adored her,’ Ingrid’s charitable patronages at this time focused on those concerned with children and youths. Ingrid was involved too with the Girl Scouts and attended a summer camp. A Lady-in-Waiting Sybille Bruun was appointed to assist her. Sybille’s father had been the Danish envoy to Sweden at the time of her marriage. Meanwhile, for relaxation, Ingrid and Frederik built a small hunting lodge by Bjørnsholm Bay, at Trend in Vesthimmerland municipality using funds donated in 1937 from a ‘folk gift’ as the Crown Prince loved to hunt.

Ingrid and Frederik often travelled outside of Denmark on official business. In 1937, they made an official visit to Paris. Thereafter, in 1939, they undertook a two-month tour of the United States, visiting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and New York, where they attended the World Fair. Ingrid charmed President and Mrs Roosevelt, with whom she and her husband dined, which was fortuitous as one of the main objects of the tour was to foster closer relations with the United States government, as the possibility of war in Europe grew ever nearer. The rise of Hitler and his Third Reich had long cast a long shadow over the continent, particularly after his annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938. En route home from the United States, Ingrid and Frederik stopped off briefly in London to see her eighty-nine year old grandfather, the Duke of Connaught. It was fortuitous that she did as soon international travel would soon become impossible.

When wore broke out in Europe, in the autumn of 1939, Denmark declared itself to be neutral. However, German forces (around 40,000 men) invaded in the early hours of 9 April 1940. Crown Princess Ingrid, heavily pregnant with her first child, was ‘furious’ and apparently let out a rare expletive to give vent to her feelings, as she lay in her bedroom at the Frederick VIII Palace of the Amalienborg, the Crown Princely couple’s residence in Copenhagen. Some of the fiercest fighting took place nearby in the Amaliegade and Bredgade. Many of the royal guards were injured as they bravely sought to hold off the intruders. In the end the King negotiated a cease fire, for he must have realised that otherwise many more of his guards would have been killed, for they were outnumbered. Officially, Germany claimed to be protecting Denmark from a British and French invasion. Danish-language leaflets were dropped from Luftwaffe planes to spread this propaganda to the masses. With the German military now firmly on the ascendant, a coalition government now chose to ‘cooperate’ with the occupying power to protect the country from the consequences of the war. Some would argue that what followed was more a process of ‘negotiation’ than cooperation for, whereas in other occupied countries an independent German administration was established, in Denmark it was still the Danish authorities who had the formal responsibility for governing. Nonetheless, German troops continued to maintain a highly visible presence and Danish citizens’ rights were restricted.

During these dark times of World War 2, Copenhageners became accustomed to Ingrid and Frederik taking walks through the capital with their newly-born daughter, Margrethe, who was born just a week after the German incursion, an event which was seen as a positive symbol of light in the darkness. Danish spirits were also lifted by the sight of Frederik’s father, King Christian X, taking morning rides, in military uniform, through the streets of Copenhagen, cheered on by crowds of well wishers. It is something that Ingrid encouraged him to keep doing. The Crown Prince and his wife also took to using bicycles whenever possible, again as an emblem of solidarity with the man-in-the-street. These were symbols of a determined defiance to the government policy of ‘cooperation’, which officially the King supported. Ingrid, meanwhile, joined the Danish Women’s Preparedness organisation. Of this war period, Ingrid would later tell her daughter, Margrethe, that she and Crown Prince Frederik felt ‘so ashamed.’ The Crown Princess was no fan of the Nazis and would recall that, a few years earlier, she had been required to dine with Hermann Göring, and thought him dreadful. Apparently, King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine (who was born and raised in northern Germany in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) also felt aggrieved by the situation. Yet, no matter what their personal feelings were, the royal family all had to put on a polite public face for the sake of their countrymen and countrywomen. One telling image shows Ingrid and her husband at a animal show in the company of Prime Minister Vilhelm Buhl. The normally kind and outgoing Crown Prince looks decidedly ill-at ease, although Ingrid, who is seated next to Buhl, manages to look politely interested in the proceedings, as she holds on to a bouquet of flowers. Ingrid and her husband also visited areas where there had been bomb damage. In the autumn of 1942, the Danish Prime Minister gave his famous ‘anti-sabotage’ speech, urging the Danes to desist from acts of sabotage (which were on the increase). It is fair to say that his words would not have found favour with the Crown Prince and his wife. After a fall from his horse on 19 October 1942, King Christian X was more or less an invalid throughout the rest of his reign, so an increasing amount of the burden fell on Crown Prince Frederik (who acted as Regent for periods thereafter) and Ingrid. Interestingly, the Danes had now taken princess to their hearts. She was no longer referred to as ‘the Swedish Princess’ but as ‘our Crown Princess.’

It was not until 29 August 1943, when the Germans declared a ‘Military State of Emergency’, that the policy of cooperation between the Danish government and the Germans broke down. This development came about as a result of a change in public sentiment in Denmark which manifested itself in further sabotage activity (for instance the Danish navy sunk many of its own ships at Holmen rather than see them seized by the Germans; while civilian acts of sabotage were directed against companies that supplied or worked with the Germans). Civil unrest (including strikes and riots) was also on the increase in several major cities. Then, on the night of October 2, the occupying forces tried to round up Danish Jews. However, more than 7,000 Danish Jews were helped to escape by the Danish resistance to Sweden, although around 470 were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. It has recently emerged that, in all probability, King Christian gave money to assist with costs involved in the transportation of the Jews to safety, after an appeal was made to him by two nurses sent from a local hospital from where this evacuation effort was coordinated. Meanwhile, under what was effectively martial law, the King and his family were placed under house arrest at Sorgenfri Castle by the German authorities. The Danish parliament ceased to function and the government resigned rather than agree to a German ‘request’ to introduce the death penalty for saboteurs. Queen Margrethe feels that, ‘from that point on, I don’t think father and mother were ashamed of Denmark.’ Jon Bloch Skipper, royal historian and author, who wrote a biography of King Frederik IX, states that Ingrid and her husband were certainly aware of the activities of the Danish resistance at this time and, in all probability, met with some of them at the Amalienborg.

The Crown Princess and her husband had a second child, Benedikte in April 1944. Meanwhile, opposition to the German occupiers continued apace with further strikes in Copenhagen and other towns in Zealand, Lolland-Falster and South Jutland. Then, in September 1944, several thousand Danish police were sent to concentration camps by the increasingly embattled occupiers. In addition, Ingrid faced the same problem as other Danish women in relation to finding suitable clothes for her children to wear. She decided to make use of her wedding dress from which she made baby jackets with hoods for her daughters (a third daughter, Anne-Marie was born in August 1946).

On 5 May 1945, Denmark was officially free of German control. Citizens all over the country took down the black blinds that had been used to cover their windows during bombing raids and made bonfires of them in the streets. Two months later, Ingrid’s father and stepmother came over from Sweden for a stay at Fredensborg. The Swedish Crown Prince was delighted to see his daughter, son-in-law and his granddaughters Margaretha and Benedikte. However, both he and Ingrid were devastated by the death, in an air crash, of Prince Gustav Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten in January 1947. He was only forty years of age and left behind a widow (Sybilla) and five children, the youngest of whom, an only son Prince Carl Gustav, would one day ascend the throne of Sweden. The accident occurred on Danish soil, near Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport, following a stopover there. The prince was flying home to Sweden from a hunting holiday in the Netherlands with Prince Bernhard. The plane stalled almost immediately after take off and ploughed nose first to the ground. The six crew and sixteen passengers were all killed. A heavily-veiled Ingrid attended the funeral in Stockholm on 4 February. 100,000 were said to have lined the streets.

Just as Ingrid was recovering from the trauma of the her brother’s funeral, King Christian X died on 20 April. Ingrid was now Queen Consort of Denmark. Her husband, the new King, Frederik IX, was so proclaimed from the balcony at Christiansborg Palace and gave a brief speech: ‘The two of us will now take over and continue in the same spirit as the former royal couple.’ Then he gave Queen Ingrid a hearty kiss on the cheek. One cannot imagine King Christian and Queen Alexandrine behaving in such a spontaneous manner. It was perhaps apt that one of their first official guests, in 1948, was Danish-born King Haakon VII of Norway (‘Uncle Charles’). Like his nephew Frederik, Haakon had previously served as a naval officer in the Danish navy. Then, in 1952, the royal couple would host Ingrid’s father and his wife Louise on a State Visit to Denmark. Overseas State Visits also abounded, including one by Frederik and Ingrid to London in May 1951 and then to Vienna in 1952.

Although the heir to the throne was now Frederik’s younger brother, Hereditary Prince Knud, discussions were taking place to change the rules of succession. In Denmark, these changes were enacted via The Succession to the Throne Act of 27 March 1953 which introduced conditional female succession in Denmark as of 5 June. This meant that a female descendant of the current reigning sovereign could now inherit the throne, providing that there was no male heir, which, of course, in King Frederik IX’s case, there was not as all his children were daughters. Ingrid and Frederik’s eldest child, Margrethe, was now referred to as Crown Princess Margrethe. This changed occurred just as the role of Danish women were becoming more prevalent in the workplace. Some press sources noted that the (now) Prince Knud referred to his sister-in-law as ‘King Ingrid’ as it was she who really pulled the strings at the Amalienborg. Other commentators say Ingrid was a (or the) motivating force behind the change. However, it is highly unlikely that this change in the succession would have incurred without support from the average Dane in the street.

Queen Ingrid, meanwhile, helped her husband to transform the monarchy from a distant, aloof institution into an outward-looking, accessible institution. In particular, she was aware of the need to promote the monarchy in a fast-changing world, while also adapting it to suit new circumstances. Photographers (such as Britain’s Patrick Lichfield [the mother of whom married Prince Georg of Denmark]) were given access and invariably produced images of a loving family of three daughters watched over by a doting father and loving mother. Nevertheless, in these pictures, the steely side of Queen Ingrid also shines through. A former guard at the Palace once told the writer that while the princesses were relatively relaxed and informal, Ingrid was decidedly more formal. Nevertheless, the King was said to have the ability to make his wife relax; while she contributed greatly to Fredrik appearing more dignified and confident in his role as monarch. In effect, the duo complimented each other perfectly. The Royal Court also allowed the cameras into the palace to film at teatime. In doing this, Ingrid gives a nod to her English mother, Princess Margaret of Connaught, in a wonderful film sequence of her acting as ‘Mother’, in the traditional English way, pouring and distributing afternoon tea to her husband and daughters. Princess Benedikte recalled that the hour between 4pm and 5pm was almost sacrosanct and if, for any reason, the Queen was delayed for reasons of duty, the palace staff ensured that everything was made ready for her to take tea on her return home. Teatime also provided the family with a rare opportunity to indulge in some candid conversation, as no staff were present. Another occupation with English overtones was Ingrid’s love of gardening, particularly at Graasten Palace-her summer home until the end of her long life and of course at Fredensborg.

Queen Ingrid now expanded her official duties. She showed a great interest in matters relating to Greenland, following her visit with the King in the summer of 1952 aboard the Dannebrog. Ingrid was particularly concerned to learn that many of the Greenlanders were affected by tuberculosis. Thereafter, partly thanks to her interest, a new hospital was built and opened in 1954 in Nuuk (then Godthab) bearing her name (originally this dealt with pulmonary diseases but has now expanded into a general hospital). The King and Queen paid several visits together to Greenland (1952, 1960 and 1968) and the Faroe Islands (1959, 1963, 1969). Meanwhile, in Copenhagen there were several high-profile engagements concerned with European and international affairs: In May 1950, Ingrid attended a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen. In February 1953, the King and Queen were present at a meeting of the first Scandinavian Council held at Christiansborg, during which closer political ties in Europe were discussed. Ingrid then assisted her husband in hosting an important lunch at Fredensborg Palace for foreign ministers attending a NATO conference. There continued to be a plethora of incoming State Visits. A particularly poignant one, given the recent history of Denmark, was the visit by the President of West Germany, Gustav Heinemann and his wife Hilda, in 1970. One with a more family feel was an earlier visit by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1957. The Danish royal couple also made many more visits overseas. In 1960 they again visited the United States, followed in 1962 by a visit to Thailand. They travelled to Africa too, visiting Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa in 1970. There was also a visit to Iran, in 1971, in connection with the celebrations at Persepolis to commemorate 2500 years of the founding of the Persian Empire. Ingrid and her husband also paid a visit to the Vatican, in 1959, during which they were received in audience by Pope John XXIII.

On 21 July 1962, Ingrid attended the confirmation service of her nephew Crown Prince Carl Gustav at Borgholms Church on the island of Öland. She liked to visit her homeland and kept in close touch with her father and her late brother’s children, as well as his widow Sybilla. Forays continued also to England. In 1952, Ingrid took her three daughters on a visit to London, said by the press to be the children’s first overseas visit. She was also photographed, in 1957, with Queen Elizabeth II and her family watching a game of polo at Smith’s Lawn in Windsor. Ingrid’s closeness, not to mention loyalty, to her British relatives was emphasised by the fact that she was the sole foreign royal to attend the 1960 wedding of Princess Margaret to the photographer, Anthony (‘Tony’) Armstrong-Jones. Other European royalties stayed clear of this unequal marital union of a king’s daughter to a commoner.

Queen Louise of Sweden died on March 7, 1965 in Stockholm. Ingrid was present during the Swedish Queen’s final illness and kindly kept Louise’s brother, Lord Louis Mountbatten (who was on a trip to Australasia) appraised of the situation. A further development around this time was that Crown Princess Margaretha had met and fallen in love with a French aristocrat and diplomat Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, who at the time was on the staff of the French Embassy in London. The couple married at the Holmens Kirke in Copenhagen on 10 June 1967. Margrethe wore a diamond daisy brooch which was a nod to her English grandmother, Margareta, who had been known by the family nickname of ‘Daisy’. Interestingly, Margrethe was also already known en famille as ‘Daisy’.

On 3 January 1972, King Frederik, who was suffering from a bad attack of flu, had a heart attack. Fortunately his doctor happened to be at the Amalienborg at the time, so he was hospitalised immediately and seemed to improve after a few days, but then his condition deteriorated and he died on the evening of 14 January. Ingrid had visited him faithfully every day at the Kommunehospitalet. Aged only sixty-two, she was a relatively young, fit and healthy widow facing a future without her husband of thirty-six years. Queen Ingrid (as she continued to be known) remained at her home in the Amalienborg complex, but moved out of the main palace at Fredensborg into the Chancellery House, a long, low wing, which is connected to the main palace buildings via the adjoining stable block and royal chapel. She also continued to have the use of Graasten Palace in South Jutland, where she loved nothing better than to do her embroidery or work in the English-style garden she had helped to create ever since she and her husband had first taken over the palace as their summer residence in the 1930’s. Visits from her children and their families were particularly welcome and Ingrid soon started to travel overseas, attending events in Oslo, in August 1972, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late King Haakon VII (who had been born at Denmark’s Charlottenlund Palace in 1872). At home, she attended the opening of the Annual Meeting of the World Bank in Copenhagen in 1973. Queen Ingrid would serve many times as regent during her daughter’s absences abroad. Until then, this function was traditionally reserved for those in line to the throne.

The death of her father, King Gustav VI Adolf, on September 15, 1973, was hardly unexpected given his great age. She had been by his side when he died in Helsingborg Hospital and was pictured leaving afterwards with her nephew, the new King Carl XVI Gustav and her niece Princess Christina. She later walked immediately behind the new King during the funeral procession in Stockholm. This meant that in just over a year Ingrid had lost the two men who had meant the most to her. Yet, she still faced the future with gusto. This included giving the benefit of her experience, if required: When her nephew, the King of Sweden found a future queen in the delightful and talented Silvia Sommerlath (they had met during the summer Olympics in Munich in 1972), Ingrid welcomed Miss Sommerlath to Denmark for three days to discuss her future role as a Queen Consort of Sweden and all that this would entail. Ingrid even drove herself out to the airport at Kastrup in her Jaguar car to greet Silvia off her flight. Some of the press referred to these discussions as ‘Queen Lessons.’ Silvia would later speak of Ingrid’s ‘tremendous wisdom’ noting too that ‘I could always telephone her if I had a question.’ Furthermore, ‘She had a lot of warmth but also a certain distance. She was easy to talk to and awe-inspiring. You weren’t afraid of her, but you had a lot of respect for her.’ Ingrid attended the couple’s wedding in Stockholm in June 1976, seated between King Olav of Norway and her brother Prince Bertil. With his nephew now settled, Bertil now decided to marry his long-time love, a Welsh actress, Lilian Craig. Ingrid attended the wedding in Stockholm on 7 December. Unlike his two surviving brothers, he retained the title of His Royal Highness.

A source of worry during this period was the fate of her youngest daughter, Anne-Marie, who had married King Constantine of the Hellenes in 1964. Greece had always been a politically volatile country and the Greek royal family had been accustomed to spending long periods in exile in the first half of the 20th century. On 21 April 1967, a group of army colonels overthrew the caretaker government a month before scheduled elections in which Georgios Papandreou’s Centre Union was favoured to win. At one stage, tanks surrounded Constantine and Anne-Marie’s home at Tatoi, outside Athens. Following an unsuccessful attempt at a counter-coup, planned over many months by the King and officers loyal to the crown, Anne-Marie and her husband, accompanied by their children, as well as the dowager queen Frederika and Constantine’s sister Irene, had made a sudden dash by air to Rome, in December 1967, with barely any fuel left in the tank of their small plane. The family lived initially at the Greek Embassy, then in a villa on the outskirts of Rome. Ingrid had a chance to have a catch up with Anne-Marie when she arrived in Copenhagen, in January 1968, to attend the wedding, on 3 February, at Fredensborg’s Royal Chapel of her older sister Benedikte to the German Prince Richard Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. King Constantine did not attend this event (neither had he nor Anne-Marie been able to attend Crown Princess Margrethe’s nuptials the previous year, for it had been made clear [‘advised’] by the Danish government that Constantine should stay away. Queen Ingrid had responded to this ‘advice’ by placing pictures of the Greek King and Queen throughout the rooms of Fredensborg Palace where Margrethe’s wedding reception was held). Greece was declared a republic in 1973. Following the restoration of a democratic government in 1974, a referendum was held to decide the future of the Greek monarchy: 69% of Greek citizens were in favour of a republic; only 31% were in favour of the restoration of the monarchy. When the Greek royal family eventually relocated to England in 1974 and settled in a roomy home in Hampstead, Ingrid was able to make regular visits over to London, where she spent much of her time gardening. Queen Ingrid must have reflected back to a warm September day in 1964, when she and King Frederik had sailed into Piraeus, the port for Athens, on board the Dannebrog with Anne-Marie at their side, to be greeted by a flotilla of local ships hooting their horns accompanied by a twenty-one-gun salute to welcome their future queen consort.

In the meantime, Ingrid’s growing band of grandchildren were a source of pleasure. She was particularly close to Crown Prince Frederik, Margrethe and Henrik’s eldest son, who was born in 1968. She also saw a lot of his younger brother, Prince Joachim, who followed in 1969. Anne-Marie and Constantine had a very large family over an extended time scale. Their first-born (and Ingrid’s first grandchild) was a daughter Alexia, born in Corfu in July 1965. The royal couple then went on to have four more children, Pavlos (born in 1967), Nikolaos (1969), Theodora (1983) and Ingrid’s youngest grandchild, Prince Philippos, who was born in London in 1986. In 1973 Ingrid was pictured on a boating lake, during an excursion to Legoland in Jutland. with her daughter Benedikte’s two eldest children Gustav (born in 1969) and Alexandra (born in 1970). Benedikte would go on to have a third child, Nathalie, in 1975.

As the 1980’s dawned, Ingrid could not help but be concerned by the behaviour of her son-in-law, Prince Henrik. The latter had to establish a role for himself at the Danish Court as he was the first male consort in Denmark’s history. Not an easy matter when there are no established boundaries, no dedicated funds, initially, with which to run an office and you are also constantly criticised in the press for speaking indifferent Danish with a foreign accent! Henrik eventually stated, in public, that he wished to have his own dedicated civil list allowance, instead of relying on handouts from the Queen’s allowance. Danes were outraged with the ‘French prince’. Ingrid was concerned enough to send for a copy of an English newspaper which had carried a report on the situation, according to Nigel Dempster, a well-known gossip columnist of the time, based in London.

Ingrid appeared on the balcony alongside her daughter Margrethe to celebrate her 80th birthday in March 1990. The following year, she paid to a visit to Japan, accompanied by Queen Anne-Marie, where she was pictured admiring a collection of orchids in the company of the Japanese royal family. During the 1990s, Ingrid suffered from scoliosis and there was a gradual deterioration in her general health. In her final years, she sometimes made use of a walking frame to move around, and then often one that matched whatever she happened to wearing at the time – her sense of style was still very much intact. Ingrid never forgot her origins or stopped taking an interest in Sweden. Her daughters recalled, for instance, that she persisted in reading Svenska Dagbladet every morning throughout her life.

It was unusual for Ingrid to give public speeches and when she did it was with a written script which she followed to the letter, a no-nonsense pair of glasses all the better to read it with. But on the occasion of Margrethe II’s 25th anniversary as Queen of Denmark, in January 1997, she surprised everyone by making a rare exception at a banquet to celebrate this milestone. The closing words of the speech were: ‘And Daisy [Margrethe’s nickname], you have two wonderful sons, so I think I can now safely close my eyes, because they will do their best for Denmark.’ A realist, Ingrid knew in her heart that her days were numbered. Yet, she was able to travel over to London to attend the wedding of her eldest grandchild, Alexia, in July 1999, even attending the wedding ball in a cerise pink ensemble. For her 90th birthday, she was photographed in a family group at the Chancellery House with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her brother Carl Johan Bernadotte. On November 7, 2000, Ingrid died aged 90 (the same age at which her late father had died) at the Chancellery House, surrounded by her large family (three children and ten grand children), including her beloved Crown Prince Frederik, who arrived in the nick of time from a visit to Australia where he had been attending the Olympic Games.

Ingrid was laid to rest alongside her late husband, King Frederik IX at Roskilde Cathedral on 14 November, having made the final journey by train from Copenhagen. Highly revered, her funeral was attended by the King and Queen of Sweden, the Queen of the Netherlands, the King and Queen of Norway, the King of the Belgians (the younger son of the late Queen Astrid of the Belgians), Britain’s Prince Charles (representing his mother, Queen Elizabeth II), the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg (the latter was the late Queen Astrid of the Belgian’s daughter) and Queen Sofia of Spain.

Robert Prentice is the author of the biography the Greek-born Princess Olga of Yugoslavia: Her Life and Times. Available as an e-book or hardback from Amazon UK, Amazon.com and Amazon Deutschland. Olga was a Princess of Greece and Denmark and was briefly engaged to the future King Frederik IX in 1922.

Queen Margrethe of Denmark: Doyenne of Monarchs.

Princess Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid was born on 16 April, 1940, at Frederik VIII’s Palace in Copenhagen, the eldest child of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark (elder son of the reigning King Christian X) and his Swedish-born wife Ingrid, the only daughter of the Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (later King Gustaf VI Adolf). In addition to the Danish and Swedish royal houses, Margrethe also had strong links to the British Royal Family (her late maternal grandmother, after whom she was named, was Princess Margaret of Connaught, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.) Margrethe was born at a time of great national crisis in her Danish homeland as, only a week earlier, troops of the German Third Reich had occupied Denmark. The princess’s birth would later be referred to as ‘a touch of sunshine.’ in an otherwise bleak landscape. Nevertheless, the new-born did not even feature in the line of succession, despite the fact that Crown Prince Frederik was the current heir, as it was not possible for a woman to ascend the Danish throne.

Margrethe was christened on 14 May at the Holmens Kirke in central Copenhagen by Provost Dr Michael Neiendam. Given the circumstances, it was hardly a time for a large celebration. Indeed, the occupation period was a dramatic time for the Danish royal family, who had to walk a difficult path in relation to the German occupying power. King Christian X seemed to catch the mood of the moment when he set out resolutely, most mornings, to ride through the streets of Copenhagen, to be greeted with great enthusiasm by his subjects. He soon became a national icon among the population for this symbol of opposition. Meanwhile, both the Crown Prince and Crown Princess had difficulty accepting Denmark’s ‘cooperation’ with Germany but soldiered on with their life. Some would argue that it was more a process of ‘negotiation’ for, whereas in other occupied countries an independent German administration was established, in Denmark, it was still the Danish authorities that had the formal responsibility for governing. However, matters changed in late August 1943, when extensive sabotage activity (for instance the Danish navy sunk many of its own ships at Holmen) and unrest (including strikes and protests) in several Danish major cities led to the imposition of martial law by the Germans. The King was placed under house arrest for around six weeks and the Danish parliament ceased to function. The birth of another daughter, Benedikte, in April 1944, provided a welcome addition to the royal family, not to mention a playmate for Margrethe who was now often pictured with her parents. Meanwhile, opposition to the German occupiers continued apace with further strikes in Copenhagen and other towns in Zealand, Lolland-Falster and South Jutland. Then, in September 1944, several thousand Danish police were sent to concentration camps by the increasingly embattled occupiers.

Denmark was finally liberated on 5 May 5, 1945, at 08:00, by British forces led by Field Marshal Montgomery. An exception, however, was Bornholm, which was liberated by Soviet forces. In August 1946, Ingrid gave birth to a third daughter who was named Anne-Marie. She was seen by many Danes as a symbol of a liberated Denmark. The three sisters would form a tight bond which survived marriage and many decades later would provide comfort in widowhood. Ingrid was a relatively strict mother who liked order and routine. For instance, the children had their meals earlier than their parents and went to bed at a reasonable hour. What has recently been revealed, and briefly discussed by Margrethe herself, was the future king had a problem with alcohol. However, his wife was an invaluable support to him in the battle to fight this addiction which he eventually overcame. Margrethe would later reflect that ‘there was something or other’ but it certainly did not seem to impact greatly on the equilibrium of a happy childhood home. One occurrence which did make an impression was a car crash in the summer of 1948, when Margrethe’s mother was at the wheel of her Ford Mercury and hit a tree near Graasten Palace. Anne-Marie and her eldest sister were in the front seat next to their mother. Margrethe recalled, ‘Suddenly there was a loud bang. The next thing I know, I woke up in a hospital bed at Sønderborg Hospital with a bandage around my head.’ This may account for the present-day Queen of Denmark’s preference to be driven rather than to drive herself.

On 20 April, 1947 Margrethe’s grandfather, King Christian X died and her father was proclaimed King Frederik IX. Although the heir to the throne was now Frederik’s younger brother, Hereditary Prince Knud, Margrethe would recall that when she was aged twelve, she was aware of discussions taking place to change the rules of succession in her favour. Interestingly, this period coincided with the ascension of her kinswoman, 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, to the throne of the United Kingdom (and numerous other realms), following the death of her father King George VI in February 1952. In later years, Margrethe would also remember how, some five years earlier, the then Princess Elizabeth had made a speech to the people of the British Empire from Cape Town, on her 21st birthday, dedicating her ‘whole life whether it be long or short’ to ‘your service.’ This broadcast made ‘an enormous impression’ on the young princess. In Denmark, changes were eventually enacted via The Succession to the Throne Act of 27 March 1953 which introduced conditional female succession in Denmark as of 5 June. This meant that a female descendant of the current reigning sovereign could now inherit the throne, providing that there was no male heir, which, of course, in King Frederik IX’s case, there was not as all his children were daughters. The princess was now referred to as Crown Princess Margrethe. Interestingly, in 2009, this Act was amended such that the eldest child, regardless of gender, will inherit the throne.

Margrethe received a good education but it was not that of a typical Danish girl of the period. From 1946-1949, she was tutored privately, along with six other girls, at the Amalienborg. She then spent a spell at the well-known N Zahle’s School for Girls. She found it hard to concentrate at school and admitted to being shy. Subsequently, during the 1955-1956 school year, the (by now) Crown Princess was a pupil at the North Foreland Lodge, a reputable girls-only boarding school in Hampshire, England. She returned to Copenhagen to complete her schooling, again at the Amalienborg, where teachers from several local high schools gave her instruction in their particular subjects. By the age of 17, the Crown Princess had started to smoke cigarettes, after having been offered one by her parents, who were both avid smokers (the King preferred a pipe, while Queen Ingrid used a tortoiseshell cigarette holder) although it has been said that they perhaps hoped that having tried some, she would not care to pursue the habit. When Margrethe graduated in 1959 with excellent grades, the press photographed her wearing the traditional matriculation cap which is worn in Denmark, accompanied by her (only) classmate Birgitte Juel. But even at this time the future queen had led a relatively sheltered life. For instance, at the age of 14, Queen Ingrid arranged for her daughter to participate in dancing classes which were held in private homes. The group was specially selected and composed of twelve girls and twelve boys.

On her 18th birthday, 16 April 1958, Margrethe was admitted to the Council of State, a body mainly composed of government ministers of cabinet rank, which meets around fifteen times a year for the coordination of government policy and the granting of royal assent to bills, the purpose of which are explained by the relevant minster. If required, she was now able, as heir to the throne, to chair meetings of the Council, in the King’s absence. Like her male predecessors, it was felt that the future queen should have a military education and so she enrolled for a period of training in the Danish Air Force.

Given her academic talents and future role, it was decided that the Crown Princess should proceed to university. In 1959, Margrethe studied philosophy at the University of Copenhagen before enrolling, in 1960, at Girton College, Cambridge from where, in 1961, she received a Diploma in Prehistoric Archaeology. She later studied political science at Aarhus University (where she lived on campus, often cooking for herself.) and, in 1963, attended the Sorbonne in Paris. She later moved to England in 1965 to complete her studies at the London School of Economics. However, archaeology would remain her enduring interest and she later admitted in a documentary that had circumstances been different, ‘If you had asked me when I was an 18-19 year old, there was no doubt; Then I would have studied archaeology. I would have spent ten years doing that and hopefully obtained a good job.’

While Margrethe was still undergoing her academic studies, her youngest sister, Princess Anne-Marie, became engaged to her third cousin, Crown Prince Constantine of Greece. He was also a Prince of Denmark, his great-great grandfather being King Christian IX of Denmark. The couple married on 18 September 1964 and, as Constantine had by then ascended the throne as King Constantine II of the Hellenes, following the sudden death of his father on 6 March, Anne-Marie was now known as the Queen of the Hellenes. This event caused the Danish press to speculate on who Margrethe might marry (and when!) They would have to wait a further two years for the answer. During her period at the London School of Economics, Margrethe was introduced at a dinner party to a charming French diplomat (then accredited to the French Embassy in London) of aristocratic lineage, Henri Comte de Laborde de Monpezat. They met again at a wedding of a friend in Scotland, in April 1966, when he invited her out to lunch. The Crown Princess had never been out on a ‘date’ with a member of the opposite sex and found that, although she had little appetite for the meal itself, the sparks were certainly flying between the two lunch partners. On September 2, 1966, Ekstra Bladet’s correspondent Sven Peter Sabroe revealed that an engagement was imminent. On 5 October, the engagement was formally announced and the duo appeared together on the balcony of the Amalienborg. The couple were married on the 10 June 1967 at the Holmens Kirke, with a reception for four hundred guests afterwards at Fredensborg Palace. Henri was now styled as His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark. The newlyweds soon settled into an apartment in the Amalienborg’s Christian IX’s Palace. They were also given the use of Marselisborg Castle, near Aarhus which was renovated using monies received from a ‘folk fund’ raised at the time of their nuptials. Henrik was already a talented linguist (he had lived in French Indochina) and spoke French, English, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese and now focused on learning Danish, although he and Margrethe invariably spoke French together in private.

The following year, on 26 May, the Crown Princess gave birth to a son, Frederik. His arrival was soon followed by another boy, Joachim, on 7 June 1969. These developments in Margrethe’s life galvanised her for the future, she feeling that ‘the home front was ready and there.’ She was fortunate in that the boys enjoyed a good filial relationship, as she acknowledged in a 2022 interview with Billed Bladet, ‘Since the boys were very young, they have been aware that there is a difference in their roles. However, this has not posed any problem in the brothers’ upbringing.’ She added, ‘Frederik and Joachim have always been a great support for each other. I remember thinking how incredibly lucky I was to have two boys who got along so well and who didn’t suffer from any jealousy.’

On 31 December 1971 Margrethe’s father made his New Year speech at 6 pm prompt. He looked tired and unwell. Immediately thereafter he took to his bed at the Amalienborg with suspected influenza. The traditional New Year receptions due to take place on 5 and 6 January were cancelled by the Court Marshall’s office. On 3 January King Frederik was admitted to hospital after suffering a heart attack. Margaretha was appointed Regent the following day, although by 5 January her father’s health had improved somewhat and this change for the better would continue over the next few days. Unfortunately, on 12 January, the King’s condition deteriorated and preparations were in hand for the transition. His Majesty died at 7.50pm on 14 January with Queen Ingrid and all his children and sons-in-law at the bedside. Later that evening the flags of the Royal Guard were moved from the late King’s home, the Frederik VIII Palace to Christian IX’s Palace, the new Queen’s residence, a neat way of signifying the new reign of the latest incumbent of one of the oldest royal houses in the world, stretching back some 1000 years to the times of Gorm the Old.

On 15 January, Queen Margrethe appeared on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace alongside Prime Minister, Jens Otto Krag who proclaimed, as tradition dictated, three times, ‘King Frederik the Ninth is dead. Long live Her Majesty Queen Margrethe the Second.’ The Queen was clearly affected as she made a brief speech to her subjects. Her Majesty was then joined on the balcony by her husband who bowed and kissed her hand. Both waved to the crowds before retreating indoors. The uncertainty she had displayed as a child now seemed to disappear as she had a kingdom to run and she admitted, ‘It was as if everything my father had taught me came into its own.’ His memory and example were of tantamount importance to her, for as she admitted in 2012, ‘He was a wonderful father and I loved him very much.’ There was no time for unnecessary self-reflection, ‘You pull yourself together.’ She also believed firmly that, ‘The least one can do is one’s best.’ There was certainly a hill to climb for at time of her accession, the monarchy had an approval rating of around forty-five per cent. However, Margrethe acknowledged that where the monarchy was concerned, ‘nothing can be taken for granted,’ and she was certainly of the view that ‘you give your life to your country.’

From the beginning of her reign, Margrethe’s year has always been planned well in advance. The Amalienborg Palace (more specifically Christian IX’s Palace) is Her Majesty’s official base in Copenhagen and is used mainly in the winter months, although the Queen usually appears on the balcony on her birthday, 16 April. This is also the setting for the Queen’s New Year televised broadcast to her people. However, in spring and in the autumn, the Queen is in residence at Fredensborg Palace, located some 24 miles north of Copenhagen. This palace is often used for State Banquets and other official occasions. Christmas and Easter is usually celebrated at Marselisborg Castle, as are periods in the summer.

From the outset she was accessible to the public. For instance the Queen holds an audience at Christiansborg Palace on a number of Mondays throughout the year for members of the public who register in advance to attend. This is to give the Queen’s subjects the opportunity to personally thank Margrethe, for example, for the award of a royal order or medal, a royal appointment or for the Queen’s participation at an event or a visit. Throughout the conversation, only the person seeking the audience and the Queen are present. This tradition dates back the reign of Christian V. During these public audiences Margrethe wears a brooch bearing the insignia of the Order of the Elephant. This was a gift from her father on her 18th birthday in 1958.

The Queen also reaches out to her subjects when she makes her traditional New Year speech on Danish television. This is usually viewed by 2.5 million of her people. As a general rule, they are based on a draft speech provided by the Prime Minister’s office. Next, the Queen, with the help of her Private Secretary, personalizes the speech. During the filming of a 2010 Danish TV documentary “The Royal Family from Within” she states, ‘I’ll take it up and work on it and maybe add more from my own side. I’m trying to make it a speech that I can really vouch for myself.’ This process can take some time as she thinks it all through. It has to be the correct balance for as her then Private Secretary, Henning Fode noted, ‘Here the Queen has a political space that she uses and where it is fully acceptable and fully accepted that she uses that space in her New Year’s speech to express some opinions on essential societal problems.’ These can include immigration or climate change. Appropriately, in 31 December 2021, she sent thanks to those who had helped in the fight against the coronavirus. Margrethe delivers the speech ‘live’; it is not pre-recorded.

The Queen makes use of the Royal Yacht Dannebrog for expeditions to various Danish towns and cities in order to carry out an extensive range of official engagements (with dates varying from June right through to September.) The Dannebrog is also used as a base for visits further afield, particularly to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, the Queen having visited both on 10 occasions using this mode of transport. The Crown Princely couple have also used Dannebrog to travel to these destinations. Yet some engagements are more spontaneous such as her visit to Afghanistan in March 2011 to visit the Danish Battle Group of Task Force Helmand at Camp Price, where she was pictured alongside officers in a green jumpsuit and trainers.

Queen Margrethe regularly speaks to the press. This extends to international news organisations such as Britain’s ITV or CNN in the United States. She can be outspoken, certainly more so than say Britain’s late Queen Elizabeth II. In a recent interview with Weekendavisen, she gave a damning assessment of Vladimir Putin (whom she had met in 2011 and 2014) ‘I remember thinking he was not pleasant. I have never seen such cold eyes in my life.’ Yet, royal historian Lars Hovbakke Sørensen acknowledges that in speaking so frankly, Margrethe is being more political than in past times.

Margrethe receives important overseas guests such as heads of state, heads of government or foreign ministers in private audience which usually take place in Christians IX’s Palace at the Amalienborg. The monarch also receives foreign ambassadors to the Kingdom of Denmark either at Fredensborg Palace or Amalienborg who, before they can perform their duties as an official envoy, must hand over their credentials. They are conveyed to the relevant palace in a covered carriage accompanied by a court chamberlain. Often other members of the embassy staff, such as the military attache are included. The Queen also receives outgoing ambassadors in audience before they leave Denmark.

As a constitutional monarch, the Queen’s role is particularly limited. She certainly does not wield political power-at least not overtly-although she doubtless has influence. There is certainly an ample opportunity for dialogue between Margrethe and her Prime Minister (and Foreign Minister) when these politicians meet with Her Majesty to report on the latest political developments. Nevertheless, Margrethe openly admits that she was ‘brought up to be outside [day-to-day] politics.’ Ultimately, she has observed that ‘I should be able to be completely impartial.’ As head of state, she participates in the process to form a government, taking soundings from representatives of the various political parties. According to the website of the Danish Royal House, ‘the monarch [then] calls on the party leader with the most seats in parliament to form a government’. Furthermore, although the monarch signs acts of parliament, such legislation only becomes law when it is countersigned by the government minister of the relevant department responsible for the law.

The Queen, although more than content to undertake her public role to the full, has been keen to emphasise the need for a private life free from media intrusion, especially in these times when there is ‘more pressure’ from the press and social media: ‘We do need to have a home base which is unassailed where we can be at peace and where we can recuperate.’ She has been at pains to emphasise that this had nothing to do with maintaining the mystique of the monarchy; rather it is a case of ‘You can’t work if you aren’t able to relax.’

Prince Henrik, meanwhile, had to establish a role for himself at the Danish Court as he was the first male consort in Denmark’s history. Not an easy matter when there are no established boundaries, no dedicated funds initially with which to run an office and you are also being criticised for speaking indifferent Danish with a foreign accent! Nevertheless, he soon became involved with many organisations including, in 1972, assuming the role of President of the World Wildlife Fund in Denmark. He was also Patron of the Danish Red Cross and Honorary President of the Royal Danish Yacht Club. Furthermore, in 1974, the Queen and the Prince bought the Château de Cayx, located in the Cahors district of France. Although this would become a much-loved holiday home for the family, it had also been acquired for a commercial purpose as the Prince went on to successfully produce and sell wine for a period of more than 40 years. And of course it maintained the Prince’s links with his homeland and could act as a bolt hole if required. Certainly, there were many rumblings over the years about Henrik’s dissatisfaction over his role and place in the royal hierarchy. It certainly did not help that when the Queen was unable to attend the traditional New Year reception in 2002 for ambassadors and diplomats, it was Crown Prince Frederik who was called upon to deputise for his mother rather than Prince Henrik. Perhaps in attempt to make his role more defined, in 2005 he was given the title of Prince Consort. Press reports indicated that this still did not meet with his total approval. Some sources stated he would liked to have been known as King on the basis that if a King’s wife is known as Queen, then why should a Queen’s husband not be known as King? In a recent interview with Weekendavisen’s Editor-in-Chief, Martin Krasnik, the Queen blames herself for not paying more attention to Prince Henrik’s challenges in connection with his role and calls her younger self ‘ hilariously naïve’, for not anticipating these hurdles. Perhaps she is being a trifle hard on herself as, after all, while he was learning to play ‘second fiddle’ (as she puts it), Margrethe was herself adjusting to her new role as Sovereign.

In widowhood, Queen Ingrid remained a strong presence in her eldest daughter’s life. She certainly knew of the aforementioned difficulties with Prince Henrik, even sending, according to the British diarist Nigel Dempster, for a copy of an article which had appeared in the British press on the subject. Although she became increasingly frail, Ingrid’s mind remained sharp to the end. To Margrethe, her mother was, ‘a constant support and joy for me.’ Her death, on 7 November 2000, at her home, the Chancellery, in the grounds of Fredensborg Palace, was a blow, for Ingrid’s advice and wise counsel (always given quietly but firmly behind the scenes) had been a source of comfort to her daughter. Fortunately, all of the family (including Crown Prince Frederik, who had been in Australia for the Olympic Games but rushed home for he and his grandmother had always been very close) were at her bedside. The funeral took place in Roskilde Cathedral and was attended by the Kings and Queens of Sweden, Norway and Belgium, the Queen of the Netherlands, the Queen of Spain, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte of Luxemburg and Britain’s Prince Charles. Also present were many members of the extended Swedish Royal Family including Ingrid’s brothers Carl Johan and Sigvard Bernadotte. In keeping with tradition, Queen Ingrid was laid to rest next to her husband, King Frederik IX.

However, as in all families, new family members were welcomed into the fold. In May 2004, Crown Prince Frederik married an Australian marketing executive, Mary Donaldson in a ceremony held at the Cathedral Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen. The couple had met at the Olympics in Sydney in September 2000. Frederik’s mother formally gave her consent to the marriage at the a State Council meeting on 8 October 2003. The Queen and her daughter-in-law established a good rapport. Margrethe informed CNN in an interview in 2012 that she thought Mary, with whom she had a ‘warm relationship’, was ‘very competent’ and that she was ‘very confident in her.’ It perhaps helped that the new Crown Princess tactfully often asked her mother-in-law for advice on her public role. The couple have four children: Christian (who is second-in-line to the throne), Isabella and twins Vincent and Josephine.

Prince Joachim had actually been the first of the brothers to marry in 1995. His first wife was Alexandra Manley, a marketing executive, who was born and raised in Hong Kong. The couple had two sons, Nikolai and Felix. However, the marriage foundered (some say she preferred city life; while Joachim preferred living in the country). The duo separated in September 2004 and divorced the following year, with Princess Alexandra taking the title of Countess of Frederiksborg on her remarriage in 2007. Prince Joachim also remarried in the same year. His second wife is a Frenchwoman Marie Cavallier who had worked in advertising and finance. They have two children, Henrik and Athena and currently live in Paris where Prince Joachim, a Brigadier-General, is Military Attaché at the Royal Danish Embassy. The Queen’s face was said to light up when any conversation involved a mention of her two daughters-in-law and, during the 2022 interview with Billed Bladet, Margrethe emphasized that she enjoyed a very close relationship with both Crown Princess Mary and Princess Marie.

It has been said that the Scandinavian royalties had a more informal lifestyle than their British counterparts. This was perhaps true, but only to a point. For instance it is hard to imagine Queen Elizabeth II hanging out of a window at Windsor Castle, her hair somewhat unkempt and wearing night attire, to be serenaded by staff and family. Yet this is exactly what Margrethe and Henrik did at Marselisborg Castle on the 25 anniversary of their marriage. However, Margrethe is also a stickler for good manners, not to mention protocol. “I don’t think we went to school together,” she once rebuked a young journalist, who did not address her correctly. Nevertheless, she still has the ability to laugh at herself, as was proved when the Queen made a surprise appearance at a farewell performance by actor Ulf Pilgaard in 2021. For some forty years he had appeared in Denmark’s famous Circus Revue, often parodying Queen Margrethe with a queenly-style dress, tiara atop his head, dangly earrings and cigarette at a jaunty angle in his mouth. Margrethe gamely came on stage and presented Ulf with a small gift-said in the press to have been an ash tray-as a memento of this occasion.

The Queen has for many years been involved designing sets and costumes for television and theatre productions. This she acknowledged, came for ‘a need to express myself.’ Her natural talent was augmented by help and supervision from those with more experience and expertise. For instance, in 1987 she was in charge of costume design for the Danish television production of the Hans Christian Andersen tale “Hyrdinden og skorstensfejeren” [The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep] and as recently as November 2022, at the age of 82, she was at work on a production of the “The Nutcracker” at the Tivoli Theatre (with which she has a long association stretching back some thirty years-this is her fifth production there). The hope was at that time expressed that Margrethe might be involved in the Tivoli’s 2023 production “The Snow Queen.” As videos of her at work reveal, she is literally very hands on in her approach. The Queen is paid for the work she does and this money is given to her charities. She has found this to be ‘hard work’ but ‘great fun.’ In addition, Margrethe has embroidered copes for the clergy, made a decoupage drinks tray (‘pieces of imagination’) for use in a guest room and fashioned a zany floral raincoat out of a waxcloth tablecloth. This is perhaps not surprising from an individual who once admitted that she dreamed in vivid technicolour. Indeed, her talents seem almost without limit: What other Queen Regnant has translated works by Simone de Beauvoir into their native language? She herself acknowledges that one needs ‘a certain amount of confidence and perhaps, madness!’ It has to be said that it must also be a wonderful diversion from her everyday role as sovereign.

In terms of holidays, later in the summer the Queen will spend time at Graasten Palace, often in the company of her sisters, as this palace is filled with memories of their childhood and time spent privately with their parents (King Frederik and Queen Ingrid had adopted this as the family’s summer home as far back as 1935, when they were still Crown Prince and Crown Princess). The Queen usually takes a holiday, in February, at Gausdal in Norway and, in August, she enjoys a break with family members at the Château de Cayx. Her Majesty can also make use of a hunting lodge at Trend near Bjørnsholm Bay, Limfjorden. This was purchased by her parents in 1935 using monies received as a ‘folk gift’ at the time of their marriage.

During her New Year’s Eve speech in 2015, Margrethe indicated that Prince Henrik was to retire from public life. On 14 April 2016, he renounced the title of Prince Consort and was thereafter to be referred to as Prince Henrik. According to the Danish Royal House’s head of communications, this decision had been made on the basis that this title was better suited to the Prince’s new life in retirement. In the summer of 2017, it was revealed in the press that Prince Henrik did not wish to be buried beside the Queen at Roskilde Cathedral as he had never been treated as an equal in life, so he should not be treated as an equal in death. This view which was greeted with a mixture of incredulity and annoyance. Apparently, Margrethe had known of her husband’s decision for some time. There seems little doubt that by this stage the Prince was stricken by dementia. A close friend of Margrethe throughout her long life, Birgitta Hillingsø, states in a recent book by Thomas Larsen, that the diagnosis of Henrik’s dementia came somewhat late, the implication being that it had affected his reasoning over a longer period of time than was perhaps realised. Birgitta added that, ‘it was really a hard few years for her…but she never complained.’ Indeed, she would later praise him for his ‘love and support.’

2022 was a very special year for both of Europe’s reigning Queens. The senior monarch, Queen Elizabeth was celebrating an amazing seventy years on the throne, while Queen Margrethe was celebrating a reign of fifty years. Although the 96-year-old British Queen appeared very frail and was largely confined to ceremonial duties at Windsor Castle, her Berkshire home, Her Majesty managed to make an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, on 5 June, during a weekend of celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee (although her actual day of ascension had been 6 February, 1952). Margrethe was in awe of her sister sovereign, telling Britain’s ITV that, ‘the way she has faced her duties, the way she is dedicated-also she does it with a smile.’ The Danish monarch also commented on Elizabeth II’s ‘clear’ voice and ‘marvellous sense of humour.’ Margrethe also opined that, although Elizabeth had only the previous year lost her husband Prince Philip, ‘She is still bearing up beautifully.’ Indeed, at this time there seemed no reason to think that she might live to attain her centenary, as had her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who lived to be 101. Then suddenly, on the evening of 8 September, a news flash over the BBC and other networks stated that Elizabeth II had died peacefully at her Scottish summer home, Balmoral Castle. Although not many people realised it at the time, this left Margrethe as the sole Queen Regnant in the world. Furthermore, she had also assumed the (admittedly informal) position as the doyenne of the European monarchical scene being the longest-reigning monarch in Europe. In terms of the world-at-large, only the Sultan of Brunei has currently ruled longer.

On 11 September 2022, there was what can only be described as a televised dinner (attended by 1000 guests) with music-some would say ‘a party’ at Christianborg Palace as part of the celebrations for Queen Margrethe’s Golden Jubilee. This was attended by Scandinavian royalties and presidents, as well as distinguished guests from all over Europe. Yet, Margrethe was somewhat pensive when she rose to make her speech to those gathered. She asked that everyone in the Great Hall stand and observe a minutes silence to the memory of her kinswoman, friend, and mentor Queen Elizabeth II whose recent death ‘has made a big impact on us’. However, it was very much Margrethe’s evening and Crown Prince Frederik made an emotional speech concerning ‘generations with the same mission’ taking ‘the helm’ of the Kingdom: ‘I follow you as you followed your father and as Christian will follow me.’ Yet, he also emphasised to his mother that currently, ‘You alone have the helm.’ On 19 September, the Crown Prince accompanied his mother to London to attend Elizabeth II’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. Margrethe was also later part of a select group of royalty who attended Elizabeth’s interment at St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle, led up the steep steps to the West Door by her nephew, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece (Crown Prince Frederik had to leave earlier to fulfil prior engagements overseas).

On 28 September, to the bewilderment of the Danish nation (who had only recently given their sovereign an 80% approval rating) and most members of her own family, Queen Margrethe announced her decision to slim down and modernise the Danish monarchy by stripping her youngest son Prince Joachim’s four children, Nikolai, 23, Felix, 20, Henrik, 13, and Athena, 11, of their titles as princes and princess of Denmark which they had held since birth. Furthermore, they would also no longer be referred to as ‘His (or Her) Highness.’ This was to take effect from 1 January 2023. ‘It is a consideration I have had for quite a long time,’ Margrethe told reporters after the decision was announced. ‘I think it will be good for them in their future.’ The four grandchildren are now styled as His (or Her) Excellency the Count (or Countess) of Monpezat. Prince Joachim publicly criticized his mother for her action relating to his ‘sad’ children asking, ‘Why should their identity be removed? Why should they be punished in such a way?’ Apparently eldest grandchild Nikolai, who spoke of his ‘shock’ at the decision, also now wondered what name would be placed on his passport. The Queen subsequently conceded in a further statement that, ‘I have made my decision as Queen, mother and grandmother, but, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected.’ There has been speculation that the Queen made the decision about the titles to avoid Crown Prince Frederik having to deal with such things when he becomes king, a fact Margrethe recently confirmed in Martin Krasnik’s Weekendavisen interview.

The Queen spent Christmas Eve of 2022 privately in the company of her sister Benedikte and some friends on the Djursland peninsula. Crown Prince Frederik and his family were on a Christmas visit to the Crown Princess’ family in her native Australia; while Prince Joachim and his family (wife Marie and all four children) were also ‘overseas’, doubtless licking their wounds. As usual, on the last evening of the year, 31 December, the Queen was back at the Amalienborg, to make her traditional New Year’s speech at 6pm. Queen Margrethe once again opened up about ongoing drama relating to Prince Joachim’s children losing their royal status, a decision which was due to come into effect in a matter of hours: ‘Difficulties and disagreements can arise in any family, including mine,’ adding ‘That the relationship with Prince Joachim and Princess Marie has run into difficulties causes me hurt.’ Yet, within days she was back at work, attending a diplomatic reception on 3 January.

Nevertheless, regardless of this recent development, both sons joined their rather frail mother and Princess Benedikte in Athens for the funeral, on 16 January 2023, of King Constantine of the Hellenes who had died on 10 January of a stroke (although his health and mobility had been in decline for many years.) At the graveside at the royal burial ground at Tatoi, Margrethe stood stoically behind her mourning sister, Queen Anne-Marie, her hand gently placed on the widow’s arm to provide reassurance, while to the rear, Princess Benedikte kept a careful watch over both her siblings. Margrethe and all of the Danish royal party later lunched with the Greek Royal Family at the Grand Bretagne Hotel. Frederik and Joachim then travelled together out to the airport, where they amicably parted ways-Joachim to fly back to Paris to his job at the Danish Embassy, while Frederik returned to Copenhagen as, the following day, he had official duties to undertake in relation to the UNESCO-UIA World Capital of Architecture 2023 events. Margrethe and Benedikte returned to Denmark next day, giving them a chance to provide comfort to their youngest sister. Yet, the media, Denmark’s TV2, even found a reason to find a link between this sad occasion and the stripping of titles from Prince Joachim’s children with the headline, ‘The Queen has cleaned up the Royal Family, but Constantine’s descendants are still princes and princesses of Denmark.’ TV2 pointed out that, ‘This is despite the fact that they have very little affinity with the country.’ Historically, the link goes back to when a Prince William of Denmark, the younger son of the future King Christian IX of Denmark, was selected in 1863 by the Great Powers to be Greece’s new monarch. He was to be known as King George I of the Hellenes. This decision was ratified by the Greek Parliament at the Danish prince’s insistence. According to historian Emma Paske, the King of Denmark, realising the volatile political situation in Greece, arranged a ‘safety net’ whereby the descendants of George I should bear the titles of princes and princesses of Denmark, so that they always had Denmark to come back to. Whether that will now change remains to be seen but Paske argues that this is a matter for the head of the Greek family, not Queen Margrethe.

On 8 February the Royal House issued a statement indicating that Margrethe was about to undergo surgery on her back (some twenty years ago she had an operation for spinal stenosis.) Then on 16 February, the Queen’s interview with Martin Krasnik received widespread coverage in the Danish press and on social media. Margrethe had been in a reflective mood (perhaps not surprising given that she was about to undergo surgery and had only recently buried her brother-in-law), noting that ‘The crucial thing is that you grow heartily with your country and become deeply connected to it. That has been my ideal.’ She also spoke of Ukraine. While some of her subjects still commented on the royal titles question on Det Danske Kongehuse Instagram page, most praised ‘ our super, cool Queen’ and frequently mentioned her ‘intelligence’ ‘skill’ and ‘wisdom’.

On 22 February Queen Margrethe underwent what was describe as ‘extensive back surgery’ at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. Her condition was described as ‘good and stable under the circumstances.’ Her Majesty now required a longish period of convalescence and rehabilitation. Crown Prince Frederik (and during his absence abroad in India Princess Benedikte) acted as Regent. By the end of February, Margrethe was already out of bed and walking a little. On 3 March the Danish Royal House website indicated that she had been discharged from hospital and was back in residence at the Christian IX Palace. There are certainly tentative plans afoot for the Queen to embark the Dannebrog, in early June, for yet another summer tour in the Bornholm Municipality and Ertholmene archipelago, followed by visits to Nordsjælland and Halsnæs Municipality.

As Queen Margrethe recently explained in the interview with Weekendavisen, ‘The crucial thing is that you grow deeply with your country and become deeply connected to it. That’s been my ideal.’ There is little doubt that she has achieved this and more. Like Queen Elizabeth II there will be no abdication by Margrethe from her duties as sovereign (as has been the case in the Netherlands and Belgium) although doubtless Crown Prince Frederik will, as he is currently doing, take on an increasing amount of the day-to-day work.

We wish Her Majesty a speedy recovery.

Robert Prentice is the author of the biography Princess Olga of Yugoslavia Her Life and Times (link below for e-book) Hard Copy also available from Amazon.

Death of an Iconic Princess.

At 11.40am on 27 August 1968, Princess Marina died peacefully in her sleep at her apartment in Kensington Palace, from an inoperable brain tumour. This had only been discovered by doctors, on 18 July, when she entered the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases for ‘various tests’, as Marina had increasingly found it difficult to put weight on her left leg, which kept giving way, causing her to stumble badly. This devastating news, along with the doctors’ prognosis that the Princess had only six or seven months left to live, was known only to her children, Edward, Alexandra and Michael. Even her beloved older sister, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, was kept in the dark noting, ‘I can’t make it out exactly what is the cause…’ Marina herself thought it was rheumatism. Although, following her discharge from hospital, she needed daily assistance from a nurse, the Princess was still able to pay a visit to her daughter and grandchildren at Alexandra’s home, Thatched House Lodge, in London’s Richmond Park, on 23 August. Furthermore, on 25 August, Alexandra, her husband Angus Ogilvy and their children, James and Marina, lunched with the Princess at Kensington Palace. Marina’s close friend, Zoia Poklewski was also present. At this stage there seemed no immediate cause for alarm. However, in the evening, Marina suffered a brief blackout and, on the morning of 26 August, she said, ‘I feel tired. I think I will go to sleep.’ It was a sleep from which she would never awaken.

Thus, when word was released of her death, people both in Britain and the British Commonwealth (for the Princess had travelled extensively on official duties to Commonwealth countries both in the Far East, as well as-inter alia-to Canada, Australia and Ghana) were shocked by the news, for she was only 61 years of age. Many could still recall Marina’s arrival in Folkstone, in September 1934, as the chic future bride of the handsome and popular Prince George, youngest surviving son of King George V. Others remembered her as an enduring presence (for some 25 years) when, as President of the All England Tennis and Croquet Club (“Wimbledon” in everyday parlance), she presented the trophies to the champions and runners-up at the end of the famous tennis tournament. The Australian Women’s Weekly called her ‘the smartest of the royal women’ in terms of dress sense and, in England, the late Princess even had a colour named after her, Marina Blue.

It was announced on 28 August that the funeral would take place in private at St George’s Chapel Windsor. It was the height of the holiday season and most of the British Royal family travelled down from Balmoral on Royal Deeside for the service. The Princess’ mortal remains were carried into the chapel by eight officers from regiments of which she was Colonel-in-Chief, her personal standard and flowers atop the coffin. The service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ramsey, assisted by Archimandrite Gregory Theodorus of the Greek Orthodox Church. The latter’s participation was particularly apt as Marina had been raised in the Greek Orthodox faith and had remained a regular attendee, during Holy Week, at the Orthodox Easter services at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sofia in London’s Moscow Road. The moving service also included the collect hymn of the Holy Orthodox Church, Give Rest, O Christ, to Thy Servant with Thy Saints. Marina was subsequently laid to rest at the Royal Burial Ground at nearby Frogmore. Interestingly, on the previous evening, the mortal remains of her late husband, Prince George, who died on active service in a flying accident in 1942, had been removed from the Royal Crypt at St George’s Chapel and transferred to Frogmore. Now husband and wife were once again reunited.

In addition to Marina’s three children and other royalties, also present was Marina’s sole surviving sister, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia. The latter had hastened over from her holiday home near Florence, after being told that Marina’s health had suddenly deteriorated, so as to be at her younger sister’s side for the final hours of her life. Olga wore Marina’s own mourning outfit and veil at the funeral for, in the rush, she had no chance to pack her own. The Duke of Windsor also made a rare appearance at Windsor, to salute a royal sister-in-law who was, after all, the widow of his favourite brother, George.

A public memorial service (which was televised to millions) was held in Westminster Abbey on 25 October. Among the two thousand present were representatives of the British, Greek, Danish, Yugoslav and Russian Royal Families. The presence of the latter was particularly prescient as Marina was (through the maternal line) a great-granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. However, in a nod to the Princess’ down-to-earth character, also present were two representatives of a garage in Iver, where she lived for so many years on the Coppins estate. The Dean of Westminster summed up Marina’s salient characteristics succinctly: ‘her grace and beauty, her spirit of spontaneity, her courage in adversity, her unswerving service to this land of her adoption, her faithfulness in friendship…[and] not least do we thank God for the mutual affection which was established between her and our people…’ And that was Marina’s secret-the British people had taken her to their heart almost from the first; yet equally she had reached out to them. In essence, it was a case of ‘mutual admiration’.

As the years have moved on, Marina is still remembered with great affection. This warmth has long been extended towards her children, particularly Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra, the Hon. Lady Ogilvy who, although in their late eighties, continue to carry out a wide range of official engagements, for dedication to duty was at the heart of their late mother’s ethos.

Robert Prentice is a biographer and regular contributor to ‘Majesty’ magazine in the United Kingdom. His biography of the late Princess Marina’s sister, ‘Princess Olga of Yugoslavia: Her Life and Times’ is available to purchase in hardback or as an e-book through Amazon.

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: Trooping the Colour.

The start of a busy four days of Platinum Jubilee events to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Accession to the throne commenced on 2 June with the Trooping of the Colour in London’s Horse Guards Parade, an imposing ceremonial parade ground overlooked by the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, as well as the offices of the Privy Council. The ‘Trooping’ is an annual event (with rare exceptions such as during wartime or a train strike), now customarily held on a Saturday (often the second) in June, to celebrate the Official Birthday of the Sovereign (as opposed to Her Majesty’s actual birthday on 21 April). Thus the Trooping is also often referred to as the Queen’s Birthday Parade. However, given Her Majesty’s ongoing mobility issues, and in deference to her great age, this year Prince Charles deputised for his mother to take the salute, just as when, in 1951, the present Queen-then The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh-presided over proceedings on behalf of her ailing father, King George VI; with the slight difference that, on 2 June, Her Majesty was able to be present on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, to inspect the troops of the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guards (whose turn it was to have the new colour trooped) as they marched past, after having progressed just over half-a-mile up the Mall, from Horse Guards, at the conclusion of the Trooping ceremony.

The event has its origins in the 18th century, when the guards and sentries of the royal palaces and (other important buildings) were mounted daily at the Horse Guards (a Palladian building constructed around 1750, replacing an earlier guard house belonging to the Palace of Whitehall). As part of the ‘mounting’ of the guard, the Regimental Colour (or flag) of the battalion, bearing the battle honours of the battalion (and used historically as rallying points in battle) was carried (‘Trooped’) down the ranks, so as to be seen and memorised by the troops. Queen Victoria twice took the salute at the Trooping at Windsor during her reign, with the future King Edward VII (then still Prince of Wales) taking the salute in London in 1896.

The nucleus of the current form of the Trooping was developed thanks to the intervention of Edward VII’s son, King George V in 1913. Until then, the traditional ceremony involved the customary exercise of several elements carried out in slow and quick march time, with the Escort for the Colour advancing to the centre of the parade ground to receive the new regimental colour from the Colour Party. This was then carried down the ranks, followed by a march past of Foot Guards (and sometimes the Household Cavalry) after which the Monarch or their representative departed with minimum ceremony. However, George V was keen to offer a more impressive public display for his official Birthday Parade, and at the close of the ceremony, George V placed himself at the head of his Guards and rode down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, proceeded by the mass bands. There, the troops who were to provide the new King’s Guard at the Palace (and the nearby St James’ Palace) marched into the forecourt of Buckingham Palace to prepare for the Changing of the Guard ceremony. The Monarch, meanwhile, positioned himself in the central gateway of Buckingham Palace, where he was saluted by the remainder of the troops on parade, as they returned to barracks. The King then moved into the palace between the Old and New Guards, who offered him a salute. Thereafter, the Changing of the Guard continued apace in the Palace forecourt.

King George VI also introduced a further innovation: following the completion of the salute at the gates of the Palace, the Monarch joined other members of the royal family (many of whom had, as was customary, earlier travelled both to and from Horse Guards in a carriage procession) on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to witness a fly-past by the Royal Air Force. It is also worth noting here that the present Queen first appeared on parade in the first post-war Birthday Parade on 12 June 1947 in her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards.

During Elizabeth II’s reign, the Queen rode on horseback down the Mall, preceded by the Sovereign’s Escort . However, from 1987, she instead travelled in Queen Victoria’s 1842 ivory-mounted phaeton. In 2020 and 2021, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, a modified Trooping event took place in the presence of the Queen in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle, but without the attendance of the customary dignitaries, diplomats and members of the public. Normally 1400 to 1500 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians (led by the Massed Bands of the Household Division) take part in the Queen’s Birthday Parade. And, once again in 2022, the crowds returned in force to line the Mall with Union flags and celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Instead of the customary 41-gun salute in Green Park provided by the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, on this special Jubilee year, all witnessed an impressive 82-gun Royal Gun Salute from Hyde Park, as well as a well-executed fly-past of 71 aircraft.

Robert Prentice is the author of the recently-published Princess Olga of Yugoslavia Her Life and Times which is available to buy through Amazon and other on-line and local bookshops.