Today, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark marks two important, solemn anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the death of her beloved father, King Frederik IX of Denmark, and her simultaneous accession to the Danish throne. As she celebrates her Golden Jubilee, King Frederik will no doubt be close to Queen Margrethe’s heart and mind, and she’s likely to wear a jewel during the festivities that pays tribute to her father: her ruby horseshoe brooch.
In the 1950s, Denmark faced a succession question. King Frederik and Queen Ingrid had three children, but they were all daughters, and at the time women could not succeed to the Danish throne. In 1953, a new Act of Succession was adopted by referendum. The new law allowed a woman to become monarch if she had no brothers. (The law has since been changed again, allowing the oldest child of the monarch to inherit the throne regardless of sex.)
The new 1953 law ensured that King Frederik and Queen Ingrid’s eldest daughter, Princess Margrethe, would inherit the throne. Before that, the heir had been the king’s younger brother, Hereditary Prince Knud. To mark the moment when his daughter became his heir, King Frederik presented Princess Margrethe with a special brooch. The jewel, studded in rubies and diamonds, reflects Denmark’s national colors. Its shape, a small horseshoe, is a token of luck and fortune.
King Frederik gave the horseshoe brooch to Margrethe on June 5, 1953, the day that she became heir to the throne. That weekend, the family posed for a series of portraits at Fredensborg Palace. King Frederik and Queen Ingrid posed with their daughters, Margrethe, Benedikte, and Anne-Marie, all three of whom were now eligible to become Denmark’s monarch. And if you look closely at Queen Margrethe’s dress, you’ll see her new little ruby horseshoe brooch pinned to her collar.
Not quite twenty years later, on January 14, 1972, the inevitable happened: King Frederik passed away, and Princess Margrethe became the Queen of Denmark. The new Queen Margrethe II was proclaimed monarch the next day by the prime minister. Denmark doesn’t crown their monarchs, so this proclamation ceremony was the important moment where the public could see their new queen for the first time.
For the proclamation, Queen Margrethe wore deep black mourning clothes with the insignia of the Order of the Elephant. She wore the pearl and diamond earrings that she’d worn on her wedding day five years earlier. And, of course, she wore her father’s little token of luck for the future: the ruby horseshoe brooch.
Queen Margrethe has continued to wear the brooch over the five decades that have passed since her proclamation. She doesn’t reserve it only for important occasions, but you’ll often see it make appearances at events connected with the continuity of the monarchy: anniversaries, jubilees, and even the births of new family members, which ensures the continuation of the family line. Above, in January 2011, she wears the brooch as she visits her newest grandchildren, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine, at the hospital shortly after their birth.
Last spring, she wore the brooch to celebrate the the 101st anniversary of the reunification of Denmark and Southern Jutland, which happened following the defeat of the Germans in World War I. She paired the brooch with a lovely pair of diamond and ruby cluster earrings from her collection.
The June 2021 event was a celebration of the confirmation of the Danish border, and it was also a moment when the continuity of the monarchy was reinforced once more. Both of Margrethe’s heirs—her son, Crown Prince Frederik, and his son, Prince Christian—attended the ceremony with her at Frederikshoej.
Probably the most prominent outing for the brooch in recent memory came ten years ago, when Queen Margrethe wore it during her Ruby Jubilee celebrations in Copenhagen. Above, on January 14, 2012, she wears the brooch as she and Prince Henrik greet the crowd from the balcony of Copenhagen’s city hall.
On that occasion, she also wore her lovely diamond and ruby earrings with the brooch. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing the ruby horseshoe worn again during today’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. Though many of the larger events planned to mark the anniversary have been moved to September, we’ll see the royals participate in a celebration at the Danish Parliament, as well as a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of King Frederik and Queen Ingrid.
And the public will soon have a chance to see the ruby horseshoe brooch up close as well: it’s one of the pieces included in the special jubilee jewelry exhibition, which will hopefully open sometime soon at Amalienborg Museum. (The exhibition was originally scheduled to open today, but that’s been postponed as well.)
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