On 14 January 1972, Queen Margrethe II succeeded to the Danish throne. Her Royal Standard is the Danish state flag with the Royal Arms in a white square. Like the flag and the coat of arms, the Queen as head of state embodies the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark and links three democratic societies, Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, with history.

“King Frederik IX is dead. Long live Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.” Those were the words of Danish Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag in 1972. The reign of Margrethe II now spans five decades.

Queen Margrethe is one of the longest reigning monarchs in the 1000-year history of the Danish monarchy. As head of state, she is loved by many and respected by most in all three parts of the Kingdom of Denmark: Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The Queen was born on 16 April 1940 in Copenhagen, only seven days after the occupation of Danmark by the German Wehrmacht in World War II. Right from her birth in dark times, she has been the centre of the nation’s attention and affections.

She was given the names Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid: Margrethe in honour of her maternal grandmother, the British Princess Margaret of Connaught who became Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden and died at the age of 38 in 1920. Alexandrine in honour of her paternal grandmother, Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, born Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Þórhildur is an Icelandic name; at the time of her birth, her grandfather Christian X was both King of Denmark and King of Iceland. She was also named after her mother Ingrid, born Princess of Sweden.

Margrethe’s parents, who became King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid in 1947, had three daughters. However, the Danish Law of Succession allowed only males to be monarchs. In 1953, the law was changed for women to be able to inherit the throne, on the condition that they had no brothers. Princess Margrethe was now first in line to the throne. 

Frederik IX died on 14 January 1972 at the age of 72. He would have been able to celebrate 25 years on the throne in April of that year. Margrethe was a young woman of 31, with a husband and two sons, 2 and 3 years old.

The Royal Standard covered the coffin of King Frederik IX. His funeral service was held at the Cathedral of Roskilde on 24 January 1972. Here, almost 40 Danish Kings and Queens have been laid to rest since the late Middle Ages. Later that year, the heraldry of the Royal Family was changed by the Queen.

In the Greater Coat of Arms of Denmark, also known as the Royal Arms, fields representing Ducal titles in Schleswig-Holstein were removed, as well as fields representing the titles King of the Wends and King of the Goths used by Danish monarchs since the 13th and 14th Centuries. The three lions of Denmark, the two lions of Southern Jutland, the polar bear of Greenland, the ram of the Faroe Islands and the three crowns in commemoration of the Nordic Union of Queen Margrethe I remained and are arranged around a cross of Dannebrog. The inescutcheon with two bars is the dynastic arms of the Queen; in the male line she is a descendant of the Counts of Oldenburg.

Margrethe II is in touch with the times. Also, she values traditions and royal ceremony, she has a keen interest in history and archeology, and she takes her constitutional role as head of state very seriously. In the 50 years on the throne, the Queen has blossomed as an artist and a style icon. She illustrated the 1977 edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, she has done costume design for the Royal Danish Ballet and the Tivoli Gardens, her paintings, embroidery and decoupage have been exhibited several times.

Today, Margrethe II is an 81-year old widow with eight grandchildren, intent on carrying on as Queen of Denmark. On 14 January 2022, Queen Margrethe II will visit the grave of her father, King Frederik IX, in Roskilde. Most of the planned Golden Jubilee celebrations are postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Official Jubilee portrait of the Queen: Per Morten Abrahamsen.