Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II announces shock abdication in New Year’s Eve speech

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Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II has announced she will abdicate in January after 52 years on the throne.

She revealed the news unexpectedly in her traditional New Year’s speech.

The 83-year-old queen, who is the longest-serving monarch in Europe, will be succeeded on 14 January by her eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik. The date is the anniversary of the death of her father, King Frederik XI, in 1972.

Margrethe II – well-known for her passion for dogs, illustration and fashion – was the first foreign monarch to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, writing a touching letter to King Charles III expressing her condolences.

Her decision to abdicate comes after she underwent back surgery in February.

Queen Margrethe II gives a New Year’s speech and announces her abdication

(AP)

Danish Crown Prince Frederik (far right) will succeed Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (centre). They are pictured at a state banquet with Danish Crown Princess Mary, King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain

(EPA)

In her annual speech, she said: “The surgery naturally gave rise to thinking about the future – whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation.

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

In Denmark, the monarch is expected to stay above partisan politics, representing the nation with traditional duties ranging from state visits to national day celebrations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) and his wife Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) are received by Prince Frederik and Queen Margrethe II in August

(Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima)

Queen Margrethe II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece at the celebration of the 50th coronation anniversary of King Carl Gustav of Sweden in September

(Getty Images)

Born in 1940, Margrethe has throughout her life enjoyed broad support from Danes, who are fond of her tactful and yet creative personality.

As the eldest child of Denmark’s former monarch King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid, she succeeded her father following his death.

She married Prince Henrik five years before being crowned in 1967. He died in 2018, aged 83.

Queen Margrethe II with her husband Prince Consort Henrik, who died in 2018

(SCANPIX/AFP via Getty Images)

Queen Margrethe II and Prince Frederik pay their respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In July 2022, she celebrated her Golden Jubilee with a series of events held across Denmark. A month later she became the longest-serving in Europe following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

She is known for her passion for illustration (JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), translation (Simone de Beauvoir), costume and set design and archaeology and for her endearingly trenchant refusal to quit smoking.

Her taste in clothing has also raised eyebrows, with a brightly-coloured floral raincoat she wore to a 70th birthday celebration for Queen Sonja of Norway in 2007. But her sartorial flourishes have their fans too, with British Vogue hailing her as “an unsung style heroine”.

Royal commentator Alistair Bruce gave his reaction to the announcement to Sky News. He said: “She has not been very well recently. She’s had trouble with back pain. She’s had some surgeries.

“And I think that there’s been a recognition that since her husband, Prince Henrik, died, there’s been a diminution in her energy levels and I think it’s probably something that it is probably something she has been planning for some time.”

This is a breaking news story – more to follow

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