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Frederik X is proclaimed the new king of Denmark after Queen Margrethe II abdicates

People dressed as kings and queens wait at Christiansborg castle in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, as Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik takes over the crown from his mother, Queen Margrethe II.
Martin Meissner
/
AP
People dressed as kings and queens wait at Christiansborg castle in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, as Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik takes over the crown from his mother, Queen Margrethe II.

Updated January 14, 2024 at 10:13 AM ET

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark's prime minister proclaimed Frederik X as king on Sunday after his mother Queen Margrethe II formally signed her abdication, with massive crowds turning out to rejoice in the throne passing from a beloved monarch to her popular son.

Margrethe, 83, is the first Danish monarch to voluntarily relinquish the throne in nearly 900 years. Many thousands of people gathered outside the palace where the royal succession was taking place, the mood jubilant as the Nordic nation experienced its first royal succession in more than a half-century, and one not caused by the death of a monarch.

Wearing a magenta outfit, Margrethe signed her abdication during a meeting with the Danish Cabinet at the Christiansborg Palace, a vast complex in Copenhagen that houses the Royal Reception Rooms and Royal Stables as well as the Danish Parliament, the prime minister's office and the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen next proclaimed Frederik king from the balcony of the palace before thousands of people — subjects of a kingdom where the trappings of royalty are mostly symbolic in today's modern era of constitutional democracy.

Frederiksen read the proclamation three times, which is the tradition, as Frederik stood beside her wearing a ceremonial military uniform adorned with medals. He was then joined on the balcony by new Queen Mary and the couple's four children, and the crowd spontaneously sang the national anthem.

"My hope is to become a unifying king of tomorrow," Frederik said. "It is a task I have approached all my life."

"I want to return the trust I meet. I need trust from my beloved wife, you and that which is greater than us," the new king said.

Frederik then kissed Mary and another great cheer rose from the crowd.

The abdication document was earlier presented to Margrethe as she sat at a massive table covered in red cloth around which royals and members of the Danish government were seated. Frederik sat beside her.

After signing it, Margrethe rose and gestured to Frederik to take her place. "God save the king," she said as she left the room.

The abdication leaves Denmark with two queens: Margrethe keeps her title, while Frederik's Australian-born wife becomes Queen Mary. Frederik and Mary's eldest son Christian, 18, has become crown prince and heir to the throne.

Christian handed Margrethe her walking stick as she departed from her abdication ceremony.

Citing health issues, Margrethe announced on New Year's Eve that she would step down, stunning a nation that had expected her to live out her days on the throne, as is tradition in the Danish monarchy. Margrethe underwent major back surgery last February and didn't return to work until April.

Even the prime minister was unaware of the queen's intentions until right before the announcement. Margrethe had informed Frederik and his younger brother Joachim just three days earlier, the Berlingske newspaper wrote, citing the royal palace.

People from across Denmark gathered outside parliament, with many swarming streets decorated with red-and-white Danish flags. Several shops hung photos of Margrethe and Frederik, while city buses were adorned with smaller Danish flags as is customary during royal events. Many others across the kingdom of nearly 6 million people followed a live television broadcast of the historic event.

The royal guards' music band made their daily parade through downtown Copenhagen, but wore red jackets, instead of their usual black, to mark major events.

Copenhagen resident Rene Jensen, wearing a replica of a royal robe and a bejeweled purple crown on his head, said that he expected Frederik to be "a king for the nation, representing us everywhere."

The last time a Danish monarch voluntarily resigned was in 1146, when King Erik III Lam stepped down to enter a monastery. Margrethe abdicated on the same day of January that she ascended the throne following the death of her father, King Frederik IX, on Jan. 14, 1972.

Denmark's monarchy traces its origins to 10th-century Viking king Gorm the Old, making it the oldest in Europe and one of the oldest in the world. Today the royal family's duties are largely ceremonial.

Australians also turned out on the streets of Copenhagen to celebrate one of their own becoming queen.

"I think it's good that she's not from royalty and has a normal Australian background. We can relate more to that, because she's from a middle-class background, and we are too," said Judy Langtree, who made the long journey from Brisbane with her daughter to witness the royal event.

A survey — commissioned by Denmark's public broadcaster DR — published Friday showed that 79% of the 1,037 people polled by the Epinion polling institute said that they believed Frederik was prepared to take the reigns and 83% said they thought his wife Mary was ready to become queen. The survey margin of error was 3 percentage points, DR said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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