We witnessed history in Copenhagen today—Queen Margrethe II of Denmark abdicated in favor of her son, King Frederik X of Denmark. And, as you might have expected, there were plenty of very special royal jewels on display during the transition celebrations!
On the final afternoon of her 52-year reign, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark rode in a carriage from Amalienborg to Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen for her abdication. She announced her plans to hand the throne over to her elder son, Crown Prince Frederik, just two weeks ago in her New Year’s Eve broadcast.
Queen Margrethe II was joined by Crown Prince Frederik and his elder son, Prince Christian, for her final Council of State meeting as monarch. She signed the instrument of abdication during the meeting, immediately making her son the King of Denmark.
The new Crown Prince Christian looked on as his grandmother handed over the abdication papers to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
The former monarch, who will now be known as Her Majesty Queen Margrethe of Denmark, shared a long, meaningful look with her son after her abdication.
The ceremony took place almost 52 years to the day after Margrethe presided over her first Council of State meeting as monarch. She had succeeded to the Danish throne the previous evening on the death of her father, King Frederik IX, at a Copenhagen hospital.
Cameras captured a meaningful, sentimental picture of three Danish monarchs—a retired Queen, a new King, and a future King—as Margrethe rose to leave the room. This moment of transition is a kinder one than the one experienced by Queen Margrethe in 1972, but it’s still an exceptionally emotional moment for the family.
And with that, Queen Margrethe of Denmark departed, leaving her son with the keys to the kingdom.
She departed Christiansborg by car to drive back to her home in the Amalienborg complex.
Meanwhile, the new King Frederik X posed for his first official portrait as monarch at Christiansborg Palace.
His new royal cypher was also released by the Danish court.
And then, he stepped on to the palace balcony, where thousands of Danes had gathered to witness the proclamation of their new king.
King Frederik had tears in his eyes almost immediately. This is the official moment of inauguration for Danish monarchs. The last coronation of a Danish king took place in 1840, when King Christian VIII and Queen Caroline Amalie were anointed at Frederiksborg Palace. Since then, Danish monarchs have been proclaimed to their people in much simpler public ceremonies.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen joined King Frederik X on the balcony for the ceremony.
Here’s a view of the enormous number of people who gathered in the square below to see the historic moment in person.
As part of the ceremony, the Prime Minister announced three times that Queen Margrethe II had abdicated, declaring, “Long live King Frederik X!”
Afterward, King Frederik spoke briefly to the people. He paid tribute to his mother’s reign and asked the people for their support. He concluded with his new royal motto: “Forbundne, forpligtet, for Kongeriget Danmark” (Connected, committed, for the Kingdom of Denmark).
And then, the crowd below roared when the monarch was joined by his wife, Queen Mary of Denmark, on the balcony.
Their four children—Crown Prince Christian, Princess Isabella, Prince Vincent, and Princess Josephine—followed their parents on to the balcony to greet the public below.
The King was visibly moved throughout at the reaction of the Danes to his wife and children’s arrival.
The family made a second balcony appearance as well, which concluded with a kiss between the King and the Queen. (Whatever may have transpired within the family in recent months, this moment made it clear, to me at least, that these two are an absolutely united front moving forward.)
After the balcony appearances, the family members left Christiansborg. The King’s younger brother, Prince Joachim, left first by car. Next King Frederik and Queen Mary departed in a carriage to process back to their home at Amalienborg. Their four children followed in a car.
Crowds continued to gather at Amalienborg ahead of the royal couple’s arrival. This overhead view is a good visual of the complex, which consists of four separate palaces gathered around a central courtyard. King Frederik X and Queen Mary live with their children in Frederik VIII’s Palace, which is on the lower right-hand side of this image. Queen Margrethe lives in Christian IX’s Palace (on the lower left-hand side of the image) and Prince Joachim and Princess Marie have apartments in Christian VIII’s Palace (on the upper right-hand side of the image).
After the royal family’s return to Amalienborg, they greeted the public below from the balcony of Frederik VIII’s Palace.
King Frederik X and Queen Mary made another pair of balcony appearances. They were joined for the first by their four children.
And then, they appeared together a second time on the balcony.
King Frederik again offered a sign of affection to his wife, kissing Queen Mary on the cheek before she headed back inside the palace. The balcony appearance at Amalienborg was the conclusion of the public events of Sunday’s celebrations. Tomorrow, a reception will be held in Denmark’s parliament, and a service at Aarhus Cathedral celebrating the new monarch will take place on Sunday, January 21.
But before we go today, of course we need to talk about the jewels! The gemstones of the day were rubies and diamonds, which reflect the red and white national colors of Denmark. We got our first glimpse of royal rubies as Queen Margrethe left Amalienborg to head to Christiansborg Palace ahead of the Council of State. She wore a pair of earrings made of silver and set with diamonds and rubies.
The earrings are sentimental ones. Prince Henrik gave them to Queen Margrethe in April 1990 as a gift to celebrate her 50th birthday. Above, she wears them as she appears with Henrik on the balcony of Copenhagen’s City Hall during her Ruby Jubilee celebrations on January 14, 2012.
I think we could all have predicted which brooch she’d wear for today’s Council of State meeting. She wore the Ruby Horseshoe Brooch on the collar of her jacket as she signed the instrument of abdication at Christiansborg Palace.
The brooch was a gift to Margrethe from her father, King Frederik IX, on June 5, 1953. That day, a new constitution came into effect in Denmark that allowed Margrethe to succeed her father as monarch. (Before the change, the throne would have gone next to her uncle, Hereditary Prince Knud, passing over her because she was a woman.)
The special ruby and diamond brooch, featuring Denmark’s colors, is shaped like a horseshoe—representing a father hoping for a little bit of luck for his eldest daughter as she followed in his footsteps.
King Frederik IX died on the evening of January 14, 1972. The following morning, for her proclamation as monarch, Margrethe wore the horseshoe brooch prominently, pairing it with the diamond and pearl earrings gifted to her by her husband as a wedding present five years earlier.
Margrethe has often paired the horseshoe brooch and the ruby earrings together for important occasions, including her Ruby Jubilee celebrations twelve years ago.
And speaking of rubies—of course the new Queen Mary of Denmark had to make her first public appearance as queen consort wearing pieces from the Danish Ruby Parure!
Queen Mary wore the earrings from the set, with the hairpins nestled in her chignon and the brooch pinned at her waist. She also slipped the ring from the set onto her right hand.
The rubies are some of the most important heirloom jewels in Denmark. Made in 1804 for Désirée Clary Bernadotte, later Queen of Sweden, to wear at the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, the jewels came to Denmark in 1869 with Queen Lovisa. They’ve remained in the family ever since, worn by Queen Alexandrine and Queen Ingrid, who bequeathed them to her grandson, King Frederik X, in 2000.
Queen Mary has worn the rubies regularly for grand occasions since 2004. We most recently saw her wearing the tiara and other jewels from the set for the New Year’s Levee on January 1.
And now, the rubies and diamonds are worn by a new queen consort. Mary becomes the sixth Scandinavian queen to have the rubies in her collection, after Queen Desideria of Sweden, Queen Josefina of Sweden, Queen Lovisa of Denmark, Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, and Queen Ingrid of Denmark. To her dress, Queen Mary also pinned one more important royal decoration: the Royal Family Order of her mother-in-law, Queen Margrethe II.
King Frederik and Queen Mary’s daughters also wore lovely jewels to celebrate the dawn of their father’s reign on Sunday. Sixteen-year-old Princess Isabella, the elder of the two, wore a gorgeous pair of floral earrings that appear to be set with diamonds and rubies. (These look like antiques to me.)
Isabella also wore an important royal brooch. This brooch, made of diamonds with a large white pearl and a pink pearl pendant, was Princess Isabella’s baptismal gift from her grandmother, Queen Margrethe, in July 2007. What makes it even more special, though, is that the brooch was originally Queen Margrethe’s baptismal gift from her grandmother, Queen Alexandrine, in May 1940. Isabella notably wore the brooch for her confirmation in May 2022.
The King and Queen’s younger daughter, thirteen-year-old Princess Josephine, was elegant in a single-stranded pearl necklace for the proclamation ceremony. She paired the necklace with earrings with pretty pink cabochon drops. (Rose quartz, perhaps?)
Back at Amalienborg, a pendant featuring her initial, the letter J, also peeked out from Josephine’s coat.
And that wraps up today’s coverage of a remarkable royal moment in Denmark. I’m planning to cover the parliament reception on Monday—see you back here then!