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Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II says she will abdicate after 52 years in surprise New Year’s Eve announcement


  • Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced she is abdicating after 52 years on the throne.
  • She said in a New Year’s Eve announcement that her eldest son Crown Prince Frederik will succeed her.
  • She said the decision was prompted in February 2023 after she underwent back surgery.

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Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced she will abdicate the throne after 52 years.

The Danish royal made the surprise revelation during her annual New Year’s Eve speech on Sunday. Margrethe became queen in 1972 at the age of 31 after her father, King Frederik IX, died of complications from pneumonia.

queen margrethe II

Queen Margrethe II and members of the Danish royal family in April 2018.

Luca V. Teuchmann/Getty Images

“I have decided that now is the right time. On 14th January, 2024 — 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father — I will step down as Queen of Denmark. I will hand over the throne to my son Crown Prince Frederik,” Margrethe said.

During her speech, Margrethe said she underwent “extensive” back surgery in February that prompted her to think about the future.

“Inevitably, the operation gave cause to thoughts about the future — whether now would be an appropriate time to pass on the responsibility to the next generation,” she said.

Margrethe became Europe’s longest-seving living monarch after Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022.

Representatives for The Queen of Denmark’s Household did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s comment request made outside of regular business hours on Sunday.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark smiles during a visit to Brandenburg Gate on September 10, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Queen Margrethe is in Berlin on a two-day visit.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The Danish royal family’s recent drama has played out in public

Margrethe’s announcement comes after the Danish royal family’s drama began playing out in front of the public.

She said in September 2022 that descendants of her youngest son, Prince Joachim, would no longer have Danish royal titles starting in 2023. Instead, they could only use their titles as count and countess of Monpezat. The decision directly impacted Joachim’s four children: Count Nikolai, now 24; Count Felix, 21; Count Henrik, 14; and Countess Athena, 11.

“With her decision, Her Majesty The Queen wishes to create the framework for the four grandchildren to be able to shape their own lives to a much greater extent without being limited by the special considerations and duties that a formal affiliation with the Royal House of Denmark as an institution involves,” a statement said.

Princess Marie of Denmark, Prince Joachim of Denmark, Prince Henrik of Denmark, Princess Athena of Denmark, Prince Nikolai of Denmark, Countess Alexandra of Denmark and Prince Felix of Denmark in August 2017

Prince Joachim of Denmark and his family.

Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images

The children of Crown Prince Frederik retained their royal titles, which appeared to cause tension between the family. Joachim spoke out after his mother’s announcement, telling Danish outlet Ekstra Bladet that his children were “mistreated” and that Margrethe only gave him five days’ notice of her decision.

Margrethe issued a public apology in October 2022.

“I have made my decision as Queen, mother, and grandmother. But, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected. That makes a big impression, and for that I am sorry,” a press statement read.

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