Danish queen to abdicate in favour of Crown Prince Frederik

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, the longest-serving monarch in Europe, has announced she will abdicate after 52 years on the throne.

The 83-year-old queen, who took over the throne in 1972, will step down on January 14. She will be succeeded by her eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik, she said in her annual New Year’s speech on Sunday.

The queen said she had “decided that now is the right time”.

“Time takes its toll, and the number of ‘ailments’ increases. One cannot undertake as much as one managed in the past,” she said.

Extensive back surgery in February prompted her to question “whether now would be an appropriate time to pass on the responsibility to the next generation”, she said. “I will hand over the throne to my son, Crown Prince Frederik.”

He will become Frederik X while his wife, Crown Princess Mary, will become queen.

Queen Margrethe acceded to the throne at the age of 31 following the death of her father King Frederik IX. She is a distant cousin of the late British queen, Elizabeth II, who was the longest-serving monarch in Europe until her death last year.

In Denmark, the monarch is expected to stay above partisan politics, serving only in a ceremonial role.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen thanked the queen for her decades-long service. “It is still difficult to understand that the time has now come for a change of throne,” Frederiksen said in a statement. “Queen Margrethe is the epitome of Denmark and throughout the years has put words and feelings into who we are as a people and as a nation,” the premier said.

The queen’s abdication stunned many Danes, who have known no other monarch.

“Saying goodbye to our queen as regent feels to me right now like saying goodbye to a part of my country, my history, my foundation,” Pernille Vermund, a member of the Danish parliament, wrote on X.

Denmark’s royal family has had a difficult year after the queen decided to remove royal titles from the children of Prince Joachim, her second child. She did this as part of efforts to slim the monarchy and give her grandchildren more normal lives, but it led to unprecedented public criticism of the monarch by her own family.

Prince Joachim said his four children had been “hurt” by the decision, leading the queen to apologise.

Queen Magrethe’s abdication is the latest in a series of European royal families passing power down the generations in recent years. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated in 2013 in favour of her son Willem-Alexander, while King Juan Carlos of Spain stepped down the following year amid scandal.