The Danish Royals

The equitable Danes may believe that excessive pride is best kept hidden, but ask about their queen and this philosophy promptly flies out the window. The passion for Queen Margrethe II is infectious, and before long you may find yourself waving the Dannebrog flag along with the rest of them when the queen passes through. Graceful and gregarious, Queen Margrethe II is the embodiment of the new Danish crown, a monarchy that is steeped in history yet decidedly modern in its outlook.

Denmark's royal lineage has its roots in the 10th-century Kingdom of Gorm the Old. His son, Harald Bluetooth, established the royal headquarters in Zealand, where it remains to this day. Copenhagen's stately Amalienborg Slot has been the official royal residence since 1784. From here Queen Margrethe reigns in a true Danish style marked by sociability, not stuffiness. Renowned for her informal charm, the Queen has fostered an open, familial relationship between the royal house and the Danish public. Queen Margrethe's nurturing role has evolved naturally in a country of Denmark's petite size and population. Though she lives in Copenhagen, the Queen is far from Zealand-bound.

Margrethe wasn't always destined to be queen. When she was born in 1940, the law of succession was limited to sons, and it wasn't until 1953 that the law was ratified to include female accession of the throne. She was groomed to become queen, and on her 18th birthday stepped into her position as heir apparent to the crown. She studied archaeology and political science both at home and abroad, at the universities of Copenhagen, Århus, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne. In 1967 Margrethe married the French-born Prince Henrik, born a count near Cahors, France.

Today's modern monarchy is perhaps best exemplified by what the queen does when she takes off her crown. An accomplished artist and illustrator, she designed the costumes for the acclaimed 1987 television production of Hans Christian Andersen's The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep. She also illustrated an edition of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries, where they command top prices, all of which she donates to charity.

If there's anyone in the royal circle who has captured the public's hearts like Queen Margrethe, it's the elegant, stylish, Tasmanian-born Crown Princess Mary, who married Crown Prince Frederik in 2004 at Copenhagen Cathedral. Some 180 million people worldwide watched the event. The couple now has four children; the first-born, Christian, who will one day become king, was born in 2005.

Frederik's younger brother also went abroad for love. Prince Joachim married Hong Kong–born Alexandra in 1995, but the couple divorced in 2004. Both have since remarried—Joachim to the French Marie Cavallier, who is fast catching up to Mary in terms of style and popularity. When in Denmark, you will become familiar with the faces of all of these royals, since they often occupy the front pages of the Danish tabloids sold at the front of every convenience store.

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