Saturday, December 10, 2011

Margrethe II of Denmark

Margrethe II (born 16 April 1940) is the Queen regnant of the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1972 she became the first female monarch of Denmark since Margaret I, ruler of the Scandinavian countries in 1375-1412 during the Kalmar Union.

Early life
Princess Margrethe was born on 16 April 1940 at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. Her parents were the future Frederik IX and Ingrid of Sweden, then Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark.

She was baptised on 14 May 1940 in the Church of Holmen. The princess's godparents were King Christian X of Denmark, Prince Knud of Denmark, Prince Axel of Denmark, King Gustaf V of Sweden, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.

Since her paternal grandfather, the then-reigning King Christian X, was also the King of Iceland at the time, and Margrethe until 1944 was an Icelandic princess, the Princess was as a tribute to the people of Iceland given an Icelandic name, Þórhildur, consisting of "Thor" and the word for "battle" or "fight". The name is spelled with the thorn letter, which is a surviving rune, and is equivalent to "th". It is sometimes anglicized as Thorhildur.

Margrethe has two younger sisters: Princess Benedikte (born 1944), who lives in Germany, and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece (born 1946), who lives in London.

In mid-1960, together with the Princesses of Sweden and Norway, she traveled to the United States, which included a visit to Los Angeles, California, and to the Paramount Studios, where they were met by several celebrities, including Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley.

Heiress presumptive
At the time of her birth, only males could ascend the throne of Denmark, owing to the changes in succession laws enacted in the 1850s when the Glücksburg branch was chosen to succeed. As she had no brothers, it was assumed that her uncle Prince Knud would one day assume the throne.

The process of changing the constitution started in 1947, not long after her father ascended the throne as Frederick IX and it became clear that Queen Ingrid would have no more children. The popularity of Frederik and his daughters and the more prominent role of women in Danish life started the complicated process of altering the constitution. That proposal had to be passed by two Parliaments in succession and then by a referendum, which was held on 27 March 1953. The new Act of Succession permitted female succession to the throne of Denmark, according to male-preference primogeniture, where a female can ascend to the throne only if she does not have a brother. Princess Margrethe therefore became the Heiress Presumptive.

On her eighteenth birthday, 16 April 1958, the Heiress Presumptive was given a seat in the Council of State, and the Princess subsequently chaired the meetings of the Council in the absence of the King.

Education and marriage
She studied prehistoric archaeology at Girton College, Cambridge during 1960–61, political science at Aarhus University between 1961–1962, at the Sorbonne in 1963, and at the London School of Economics in 1965, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

On 10 June 1967, Crown Princess Margrethe of Denmark married a French diplomat, Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, at the Naval Church of Copenhagen. Laborde de Monpezat received the style and title of "His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark" because of his new position as the spouse of the Heiress Presumptive to the Danish throne.

Queen Margrethe is fluent in her native tongue, Danish; the native tongue of her husband, French; as well as English, Swedish and German.

Her father King Frederik IX died on 14 January 1972. On the occasion of her accession to the throne, Queen Margrethe II became the first female Danish Sovereign under the new Act of Succession. She was proclaimed Queen from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace Square by Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag on 15 January 1972. The Queen chose the motto: God's help, the love of The People, Denmark's strength.

In 2008 the Queen announced that her male-line descendants would bear the additional title of Count of Monpezat, which they inherit from the Queen's husband and consort, Henri-Marie-Jean André Count de Laborde de Monpezat.

She is the 1,188th Dame of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain and the 961st Knight/Lady of the Order of the Garter.

Personal life and interests
The official residences of the Queen and the Prince Consort are Amalienborg Palace and Fredensborg Palace in Copenhagen. Their summer residence is Gravenstein Castle near Sønderborg, the former home of the Queen's mother, Queen Ingrid, who died in 2000.

The Queen is an accomplished painter, and has held many art shows over the years . Her illustrations—under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer—were used for the Danish edition of The Lord of the Rings published in 1977 and the re-issue in 2002. In 2000 she illustrated Henrik, the Prince Consort's poetry collection Cantabile. She is also an accomplished translator and is said to have participated in the Danish translation of The Lord of the Rings. She is also a costume designer and designs some of her own clothes.

Margrethe is a chain smoker, and she is famous for her tobacco habit. However, on 23 November 2006 the Danish newspaper B.T. reported an announcement from the Royal Court stating that the queen would never again be seen smoking in public. Still, the queen does continue to smoke but in the future she will do so only privately. The announcement is probably due to the fact that the Danish parliament recently has decided on strict rules concerning smoking.

She suffers from arthritis and has had both her knees replaced as a result.

A statement in a 2005 authorized biography about the Queen (entitled Margrethe) focused on her views of Islam: "We are being challenged by Islam these years. Globally as well as locally. There is something impressive about people for whom religion imbues their existence, from dusk to dawn, from cradle to grave. There are also Christians who feel this way. There is something endearing about people who give themselves up completely to their faith. But there is likewise something frightening about such a totality, which also is a feature of Islam. A counterbalance has to be found, and one has to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on you. For there are some things for which one should display no tolerance. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction."

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