The Real Reason Denmark's Queen Margrethe II Chose To Step Down From The Throne

For the citizens of Denmark, 2024 began with a bang that had nothing to do with fireworks or popping champagne corks. As usual, Queen Margrethe II delivered her traditional New Year's Eve speech, offering advice on global issues along with her holiday well wishes. She addressed AI, climate change, the war in Ukraine, and the Hamas terror attack on Israel that "[has caused] anti-Semitism to spread again." Then, the quirky royal announced: "On 14 January 2024 — 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father — I will step down as Queen of Denmark," (per a translation from the royal website). Margrethe also named her successor: Her oldest son, Crown Prince Frederik. 

It was a surprising statement, but perhaps not entirely unexpected. At 83, the queen holds a place among the world's oldest living royals and is also Denmark's longest-ever reigning monarch. However, she's still a relative youngster compared to 104-year-old Marianne, Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, of Austria. Likewise, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reigned nearly a quarter-century longer, prior to her death in 2022. 

In recent months, there were signs Margrethe was ready to hand over her crown. The queen's health took some bad turns that left Her Majesty less able to carry out her busy schedule. Margrethe also made a drastic family decision that she called "a necessary future-proofing of the monarchy" in an official statement. Stripping her four grandchildren of their royal titles, she explained, would streamline the family's responsibilities.

Queen Margrethe was concerned about her health

Queen Margrethe II's final New Year's Eve speech detailed her reasons for abdicating the throne. After thanking her fellow Danes "for all the warmth and affection that I and my family have received over many, many years," the long-reigning ruler admitted that she was feeling the ravages of age. "In 14 days I will have been Queen of Denmark for 52 years," Margrethe reflected. "Such a long time does not pass without a trace for any human being — not even me! Time wears on, and the 'diseases' increase. You no longer cope with the same things as you once could."

The queen reminded her audience of the major back surgery she underwent in early February 2023. Fortunately, it was successful, and she praised "the skilled healthcare staff" who aided in her recovery. Still, it was a slow healing process, and most notably, the queen didn't appear in public again until almost two months later. She used a walking stick to get around and was frequently seen with it during subsequent state visits and other events. It must have been a difficult adjustment for a woman who once loved skiing and martial arts, but the queen put on a brave face.

Naturally, though, the decline in her mobility left Margrethe wondering "whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation," as she put it. After some reflection, the queen decided her 52nd anniversary on the throne would be a fitting date to step down.

The future King Frederik is ready to take his mother's place

Following Queen Margrethe II's historic speech, Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen offered her gratitude to the monarch and congratulations to the incoming king. "In the new year, Crown Prince Frederik will be proclaimed king. Crown Princess Mary will become queen," she said (via NPR). "[...] We can look forward to all of this in the knowledge that they are ready for the responsibility and the task." Much as King Charles III's coronation was a day for which he had prepared all his life, so Denmark's crown prince (seen here on the left) will ascend ready to rule. 

In a 2012 interview with The Luxembourg Times, the queen expressed her pride in her eldest child: "I have a son in whom I have a lot of confidence. He will be up to the job," she enthused at the time. Margrethe continued, "He has an innate community with people — and they with him." Asked whether Frederik might approach the job differently, she retorted, "Comparisons may be made — but no one expects him to turn up in a red skirt, do they?"

The one bit of cringe surrounding the future king is ongoing speculation about his personal life. As reported by Express and other sources, the long married Frederik was spotted socializing with Mexican actress Genoveva Casanova in early 2023. Casanova has denied any wrongdoing, and the Danish palace has refused to comment. The royal family is reportedly unconcerned about the potential of another Charles-and-Camilla-style drama, though.