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Of all the royal engagement rings in Europe and beyond, I’m not sure any are quite as spectacular as the diamond ring worn by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Here’s the story behind the incredible Danish royal ring.
The year is 1966, and Crown Princess Margrethe, heir to the Danish throne, is in love. Three years earlier, Margrethe had met Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, a French diplomat working at the French embassy in London, while she was studying at the London School of Economics. They eventually began a romance, which they managed to keep their relationship completely secret from the public. The press captured the couple embracing in public for the first time in September 1966, when Margrethe welcomed him to Denmark at Copenhagen’s airport.
On October 4, a special meeting of Denmark’s parliament was held, where full approval was granted for Margrethe’s marriage to Henri, which would take place on June 10, 1967. Margrethe and Henri attended the meeting alongside her smiling parents, King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark. After the special session, King Frederik hopped in a car and drove Margrethe and Henri through the streets of Copenhagen, where they were greeted by cheering crowds. Margrethe was exuberant as they were cheered by the people of Copenhagen during a balcony appearance.
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Henri, who changed the spelling of his name to the Danish “Henrik” after their marriage, presented his bride-to-be with an unusual engagement ring: a pair of twinned square-cut diamonds, possibly measuring as much as six carats each, mounted on the diagonal on a yellow gold band.
The ring was made by Van Cleef and Arpels. The style of ring is sometimes called a toi et moi ring—which translates to “you and me” in English. Toi et moi rings feature a pair of stones, and when they’re given for an engagement, one stone represents the bride, while the other represents the groom.
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The toi et moi style was popular during the nineteenth century. The trend is supposed to have been inspired by the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that Napoleon Bonaparte gave to Josephine de Beauharnais. This, of course, makes the style extremely appropriate for Margrethe, who is a direct descendant of Josephine twice over. Her parents were both descendants of Empress Josephine’s granddaughter, Queen Josefina of Sweden—King Frederik IX through Josefina’s eldest son, King Carl XV of Sweden, and Queen Ingrid through Josefina’s third son, King Oscar II of Sweden. (Some have speculated that Queen Ingrid herself may have had a hand in procuring the ring, though that’s never been confirmed.)
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Margrethe began wearing the ring in public in October 1966, when the engagement was officially announced. The jewel, paired with her wedding band, has been a mainstay on her left hand ever since. Above, the ring is displayed prominently in one of the first official portraits of the couple taken during her reign. The new Queen Margrethe II wears the ring with several pieces of important heirloom jewelry, including the Pearl Poire Tiara with the Khedive of Egypt Pearl Necklace and Earrings, plus Queen Louise’s Diamond Floral Bracelet.
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More than five decades later, she’s still wearing the ring. Margrethe and Henrik were a well-matched couple, and though he sometimes chafed at the restrictions of the role of prince consort, the couple were clearly in love throughout their marriage. They’re pictured above during one of their summer holidays at their beloved French home, the Chateau de Cayx, in 2007.
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Prince Henrik passed away in February 2018, following a dementia diagnosis. After his death, the ring he gave her, along with her golden wedding band, has continued to be one of Margrethe’s constant jewelry companions.