Let’s Catch Up With the Danish Royal Family

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Not too long ago there was some furor (which we briefly covered here) when Queen Margrethe II’s husband, Prince Henrik, announced his decision to forgo burial next to his wife in the traditional resting place of the Danish Royal Family. Instead, he made it clear that his decision was directly tied to the fact he had never been made king, which he viewed as unfair given that female consorts are named queen. A few weeks later it was made clear that Henrik is suffering from dementia and perhaps those strongly-worded statements can be attributed to his health.

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In part, maybe, but perhaps not in full since Henrik’s feelings of not being respected as Margrethe’s husband are well-documented. But it’s worth taking a look at what’s going on with the Danish RF because Prince Harry will be making a two-day visit there later this week and I thought it’d be helpful to for some to get a better sense of who’s who.

Queen Margrethe has been on the throne since 1972, succeeding her father, Frederick IX, at the age of 32. She is the first female monarch since Margrethe I, who ruled Denmark, Sweden and Norway from 1375 to 1412. Her mother, Queen Ingrid, was a Swedish princess, daughter of Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, who was himself the son of Crown Princess Margaret, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. This, of course, illustrates the strongest blood link between the Scandinavian monarchies and Britain’s.

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Margrethe in 1966 (Image: Danish Royal Archives, The Hague)
As of when she ascended the throne, Margrethe had been married for five years to Henrik Marie Jean André de Laborde de Monpezat, a Frenchman without aristocratic or royal ties. They had two sons, Frederik (b. 1968) and Joachim (b. 1969).

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Margrethe and Prince Frederik
Margrethe has proven a popular monarch – gifted in languages, a prolific artist in her personal time and, famously, a smoker (the Palace announced in 2006 that the Queen would only smoke privately from then on out). In some ways the most difficult part of her reign has been her husband – at least from a public vantage point. In 2002 Henrik took a three-week leave of absence from Denmark for the family’s home in France. The reason for his departure was that during a New Year’s reception the couple’s son, Frederik, stepped in as host in Margrethe’s absence instead of him. In his own words:

“For many years I have been Denmark’s number two. I’ve been satisfied with that role, but I don’t want to be relegated to number three after so many years.”

Except, you know, that’s how monarchies work.

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Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary
Prince Frederik received a robust education and professional training. He received a degree from the Danish Aarhus University that included a year abroad in the United States at Harvard University. He also spent a year living in Paris while working at the Danish Embassy there (a great practice that should be more a standard for working royals, in my humble opinion). An avid athlete, he met his future wife, Mary Donaldson, while attending the Sydney Olympics (as a spectator) in the summer of 2000.

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Mary Donaldson, an Australian marketing consultant, was 22 when she met Frederik. For about a year they conducted a long-distance relationship until their relationship was outed by the press at the end of 2001. Mary moved to Denmark in December 2001, working as an English tutor, and the two were engaged in October 2003. Their wedding was held at Copenhagen Cathedral on May 14, 2004.

The couple has four children: Prince Christian (b. 2005), Princess Isabella (b. 2007) and twins, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine (b. 2011).

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Crown Princess Mary, as she is now known, is viewed as something of a mentor to the Duchess of Cambridge, though it’s unclear to the extent to which that’s true. The two met in the autumn of 2011 when the Duke and Kate visited Copenhagen for a UNICEF engagement. They have met once or twice subsequently at events like Ascot. She is also the first Australian to marry into any royal family, making Prince Christian the first future monarch to have Australian heritage.

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Prince Joachim had extensive military training and still maintains a career in the defense reserve. In 1995 he married Alexandra Christina Manley, a woman of Chinese, Austrian, British and Czech heritage. They had two sons, Prince Nikolai (b. 1999) and Prince Felix (b. 2002). Unfortunately the couple divorced in 2005 and Alexandra now carries the title Countess of Frederiksborg. She has subsequently remarried and retains joint custody of her children with Joachim.

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Joachim and Alexandra in 1995
In May 2008 Joachim remarried to Marie Cavallier. They have two children: Prince Henrik (b. 2009) and Princess Athena (b. 2012).

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Joachim and Marie
There are rumors swirling that Queen Margrethe intends to abdicate soon, leaving the crown to her son, Frederik, and daughter-in-law, Mary. She said recently that they are both ready and able to take up the responsibilities of monarch, which many have taken as an indication that she will step down soon. Either way, nothing is known for certain and only time will tell.

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It will be interesting to see Harry interacting with Frederik and Joachim, though it should also be noted that when it comes to hierarchy within the RF, he is actually akin to the younger generation – specifically the six-year-old Prince Vincent. We’ll see what the agenda holds!

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