Monarchy of Denmark

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Queen of Denmark
Dronning af Danmark
Royal coat of arms of Denmark.svg
Drottning Margrethe av Danmark crop.jpg
Margrethe II
since 14 January 1972
Style Her Majesty
Heir apparent Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark
First monarch Gorm the Old
Formation c. 935
Residence Amalienborg Palace
Website The Danish Monarchy

The Monarchy of Denmark, colloquially known as the Danish Monarchy, is a constitutional institution and a historic office of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Kingdom includes not only Denmark, but the autonomous regions of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The monarchy is currently represented by Queen Margrethe II, who ascended the throne on the death of her father, King Frederik IX, on 14 January 1972. Danish regnal names have traditionally alternated between "Frederick" (Frederik) and "Christian"; Margrethe has taken the place of a Christian, and accordingly her heir apparent is Crown Prince Frederik.

The Danish Monarchy is constitutional and as such, the role of the monarch is defined and limited by the Constitution of Denmark, which refers to the position as the King (Konge).[1] The monarch and his or her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial, diplomatic and representational duties. The ultimate executive authority over the government of Denmark is still by and through the monarch's royal reserve powers; in practice these powers are only used according to laws enacted in Parliament or within the constraints of convention.[1] The monarch is, in practice, limited to non-partisan functions such as bestowing honours and appointing the Prime Minister.

The unified kingdom of Denmark was founded by the Viking kings Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth in the 10th century, making the monarchy of Denmark the oldest in Europe.[2] Originally an elective monarchy, it became hereditary only in the 17th century during the reign of Frederick III. A decisive transition to a constitutional monarchy occurred in 1849 with the writing of the first Constitution. The current Royal House is a branch of the princely family of Glücksburg, originally from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, the same royal house as the Norwegian and former Greek royal families. On her accession, Queen Margrethe II became the first female monarch of Denmark since Margrethe I, ruler of the Scandinavian countries in 1375‒1412, during the Kalmar Union.


Early kingdom

One of the two Jelling stones, attesting to Harald Bluetooth's unification and Christianization of Denmark.

The Danish monarchy is over 1000 years old, making it the fourth oldest continuous monarchy in the world still existing today, the oldest being the Imperial House of Japan, and the oldest monarchy in Europe to still exist. The modern Kingdom of Denmark dates back to Harthacnut's son, Gorm the Old (Gorm den Gamle), who reigned in the early 10th century.[3]

The Danes were united and officially Christianized in 965 CE by Harald Bluetooth, the story of which is recorded on the Jelling stones. The exact extent of Harald's kingdom is unknown, although it's reasonable to believe that it stretched from the defensive line of Dannevirke, including the Viking city of Hedeby, across Jutland, the Danish isles and into southern present day Sweden; Scania and perhaps Halland. Furthermore, the Jelling stones attests that Harald had also "won" Norway. The son of Harald, Sweyn Forkbeard, mounted a series of wars of conquest against England, which was completed by Sweyn's son Cnut the Great by the middle of the eleventh century. The reign of Cnut represented the peak of the Danish Viking age; his North Sea Empire included Denmark (1018), Norway (1028), England (1035) and held strong influence over the north-eastern coast of Germany.

The last monarch descended from Valdemar IV, Christopher III of Denmark, died in 1448. Count Christian of Oldenburg, descendant of Valdemar IV's aunt Richeza, was chosen as his successor and became the next monarch of Denmark, ruling under the name Christian I.


Originally the monarchy was elective, but in practice the eldest son of the reigning monarch was elected. Later a Coronation Charter was signed by the king to restrict the powers of the Danish monarch. Absolutism was introduced in 1660–1661, during the reign of Frederick III when the elective monarchy was transformed into a hereditary monarchy. Male primogeniture succession was laid down in law in the Royal Decree of 1665.

Constitutional period

On 5 June 1849 the constitution was altered to create a constitutional monarchy for Denmark.[4]

The last Danish monarch from the direct line of the House of Oldenburg, Frederick VII, died without issue. In accordance with the act of succession, Prince Christian of Glücksborg acceded the throne on 15 November 1863, being the first Danish monarch of the house of Glücksborg, a cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg. Christian eventually became known as 'the Father-in-law of Europe' due to his family ties with most other ruling dynasties of Europe: His daughter Princess Alexandra married Edward VII of the United Kingdom, another daughter Princess Dagmar married Alexander III of Russia and Princess Thyra married Crown Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland who was also a British prince. His son Vilhelm went on to become George I of Greece. Further, his grandson Carl became Haakon VII of Norway. To this day the Danish Royal Family are related to most other reigning European dynasties.[4]

The Act of Succession of 27 March 1953 introduced the possibility of female succession, which enabled the current reigning Queen regnant, Margrethe II, to accede the throne.

Constitutional and official role

The Throne Room at Christiansborg is where foreign ambassadors present their credential to the Queen.

According to the Danish Constitution the Danish Monarch, as the de facto head of state, is the holder of executive and, co-jointly with the Folketing, legislative power.[5] The Monarch retains the ability to deny giving a bill royal assent as well as choosing and dismissing the Prime Minister, although in modern times this has become increasingly unlikely. King Christian X was the last Monarch to exercise the power of dismissal on his own will, which he did on March 28, 1920, sparking the 1920 Easter Crisis.

However, when reading the Danish Constitution of 1953, it is important to bear in mind that the usage of the word king, in the context of exercising acts of state, is understood by Danish jurists to be read as the Government (consisting of the Prime Minister and other ministers). This is a logical consequence of articles 12, 13 and 14, all of which in essence stipulates that the powers vested in the monarch can only be exercised through ministers, who are responsible for all acts. Thus, the monarch cannot carry out official acts of state on her own.[6]

Today the Monarch has an essentially ceremonial role restricted in exercise of power by the written constitution, convention and public opinion. The Prime Minister and Cabinet attends the regular meeting of the Council of State. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs report regularly to the Queen to advise her of the latest political developments. The Queen hosts official visits by foreign Heads of State, pays State Visits abroad, receives letters of credence for foreign ambassadors and signs those for Danish ambassadors. The convention for appointment of a new prime minister after a general election is that after consultation with representatives of the political parties, the party leader who has the support of the largest number of seats in the Folketing is invited to form a government. Once it has been formed, the monarch will formally appoint it.[7]

Greenland and the Faroe Islands

Greenland and the Faroe Islands are two Danish dependencies which enjoy Home-rule and their head of state is also the monarch of Denmark, in accordance with the Danish Constitution.[8]

After a referendum in Greenland in 2009, the Danish Parliament implemented a new Danish Law called Act on Greenlandic Self-rule, which, unlike any other case with the Indigenous Peoples around the world, acknowledges Greenlanders as a people in accordance to the International Law, and hereby giving the Greenlanders ability to obtain sovereignty.[9]


Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark

Denmark has had absolute primogeniture since 2009. The Danish Act of Succession[10] adopted on 27 March 1953 restricts the throne to those descended from King Christian X and his wife, Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, through approved marriages.

Dynasts lose their right to the throne if they marry without the permission of the monarch given in the Council of State. Individuals born to unmarried dynasts or to former dynasts that married without royal permission, and their descendants, are excluded from the throne. Further, when approving a marriage, the monarch can impose conditions that must be met in order for any resulting offspring to have succession rights. Part II, Section 9 of the Danish Constitution of 5 June 1953 provides that the parliament will elect a king and determine a new line of succession should a situation arise where there are no eligible descendants of King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine.

The monarch of Denmark must be a member of the Danish National Church, or Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark (Danish Constitution, II,6). The National Church is by law the State Church, though the monarch is not its head.

Princes and princesses in the line of succession use the style prince/princess to Denmark, where all those not in line use the style princes/princess of Denmark.


The first law governing the succession to the Danish throne as a hereditary monarchy was the Kongeloven (Latin: Lex Regia), enacted 14 November 1665, and published in 1709.[11][12] It declared that the crown of Denmark shall descend by heredity to the legitimate descendants of King Frederick III, and that the order of succession shall follow semi-Salic primogeniture,[11] according to which the crown is inherited by an heir, with preference among the Monarch's children to males over females; among siblings to the elder over the younger; and among Frederick III's remoter descendants by substitution, senior branches over junior branches. Female descendants were eligible to inherit the throne in the event there were no eligible surviving male dynasts born in the male line. As for the duchies, Holstein and Lauenburg where the King ruled as duke, these lands adhered to Salic law (meaning that only males could inherit the ducal throne), and by mutual agreement were permanently conjoined. The duchies of Schleswig (a Danish fief), Holstein and Lauenburg (German fiefs) were joined in personal union with the Crown of Denmark.

This difference caused problems when Frederick VII of Denmark proved childless, making a change in dynasty imminent, and causing the lines of succession for the duchies on one hand and for Denmark on the other to diverge. That meant that the new King of Denmark would not also be the new Duke of Schleswig or Duke of Holstein. To ensure the continued adhesion of the Elbe duchies to the Danish Crown, the line of succession to the duchies was modified in the London Protocol of 1852, which designated Prince Christian IX of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, as the new heir apparent, although he was, strictly, the heir neither to the Crown of Denmark nor to the Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein or Lauenburg by primogeniture. Originally, the Danish prime minister Christian Albrecht Bluhme wanted to keep the separate hereditary principles, but in the end the government decided on a uniform agnatic primogeniture, which was accepted by the Parliament.

This order of succession remained in effect for a hundred years, then the Salic law was changed to male-preference primogeniture in 1953, meaning that females could inherit, but only if they had no brothers. In 2009, the mode of inheritance of the throne was once more changed, this time into an absolute primogeniture.

Privileges and restrictions

Following the transformation of Denmark's monarchy from elective (at least theoretically, although it had generally descended to the eldest son of the House of Oldenburg since 1448) to hereditary in 1660, the so-called Kongelov (Latin: Lex Regia) established the right to rule "by the grace of God" for King Frederick III and his posterity.[11] Out of the articles in this law, all except for Article 21 and Article 25 have since been repealed.

Article 21 states "No Prince of the Blood, who resides here in the Realm and in Our territory, shall marry, or leave the Country, or take service under foreign Masters, unless he receives Permission from the King".[11] Under this provision, princes of Denmark who permanently reside in other realms by express permission of the Danish Crown (i.e. members of the dynasties of Greece, Norway and the United Kingdom) do not thereby forfeit their royalty in Denmark, nor are they bound to obtain prior permission to travel abroad or to marry from its sovereign, although since 1950 those not descended in male-line from King Christian IX are no longer in the line of succession to the Danish throne.[11] However, those who do reside in Denmark or its territories continue to require the monarch's prior permission to travel abroad and to marry.[11]

Article 25 of the Kongelov stipulates, with respect to members of the Royal dynasty: "They should answer to no Magistrate Judges, but their first and last Judge shall be the King, or to whomsoever He decrees."[11] Although all other articles of the Kongelov have been repealed by amendments to the Constitution in 1849, 1853 and 1953, these two articles have thus far been left intact.


Amalienborg Palace, the monarch's principal residence

The royal palaces of Denmark became property of the state with the introduction of the constitutional monarchy in 1849. Since then, a varying number of these has been put at the disposal of the monarchy. The agreement on which is renewed at the accession of every new monarch.

The monarch has the use of the four palaces at Amalienborg in Copenhagen as a residence and work palace. Currently, the Queen herself resides in Christian IX's Palace and the Crown Prince in Frederik VIII's Palace. Christian VIII's Palace has apartments for other members of the royal family, whereas Christian VII's Palace is used for official events and to accommodate guests. The state rooms of Christian VIII's Palace and Christian VII's Palace may be visited by the public on guided tours.

Christiansborg Palace, site of many official functions of the monarch

In addition, parts of Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen is also at the disposal of the monarch. It is the site of official functions such as banquets, state dinners, diplomatic accreditations, public audiences, meetings of the Council of State, receptions, royal christenings, lyings-in-state and other ceremonies. Also, the Royal Stables which provide the ceremonial transport by horse-drawn carriage for the royal family, is located here. The royal parts of the palace are open to the public when not in use.

Another residence is Fredensborg Palace north of Copenhagen which is used principally in Spring and Autumn. It is often the site of state visits and ceremonial events in the royal family.

In Jutland, Graasten Palace is at the disposal of the monarch. It was used as the summer residence of King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid. Since the death of Queen Ingrid in 2000, the Queen has stayed at Graasten for a yearly vacation in summer.

The hunting lodge the Eremitage Palace in Dyrehaven north of Copenhagen is used during royal hunts in Dyrehaven.

Finally, Sorgenfri Palace is at the disposal of the monarch. It was the residence of Hereditary Prince Knud and Hereditary Princess Caroline Mathilde and is not in official use at all at this time.

Apart from these state-owned palaces, Marselisborg Palace in Aarhus is privately owned by the Queen. It functions as the summer residence of the Queen, as well as during the Easter and Christmas holidays.

Royal Family

In the Kingdom of Denmark all members of the ruling dynasty that hold the title Prince or Princess of Denmark are said to be members of the Danish Royal Family. As with other European monarchies, distinguishing who is a member of the national Royal Family is difficult due to lack of strict legal or formal definition of who is or is not a member. The Queen and her siblings belong to the House of Glücksburg, a branch of the House of Oldenburg. The Queen's children and male-line descendants belong agnatically to the family de Laborde de Monpezat.[13]

Main members

The Royal Family of Denmark during Queen Margrethe II's 70th birthday, 16 April 2010.

The Danish Royal Family includes:

Extended members

The extended Danish Royal Family which includes people who do not hold the title of Prince or Princess of Denmark but have close connections to the Queen could be said to include:

Greek Royal Family

Most members of the Greek Royal Family are members of the Danish Royal Family and bear the title of Prince or Princess of Greece and Denmark, as descendants of Christian IX of Denmark. Due to the morganatic status of her marriage, Marina, Consort of Prince Michael, and their children, Princesses Alexandra and Olga, are exceptions.


The monarchs of Denmark have a long history of royal and noble titles. Historically Danish monarchs also used the titles 'King of the Wends' and 'King of the Goths'. Upon her accession to the throne in 1972 Queen Margrethe II abandoned all titles except the title 'Queen of Denmark'. The kings and queens of Denmark are addressed as 'Your Majesty', whereas princes and princesses are referred to as His or Her Royal Highness (Hans or Hendes Kongelige Højhed), or His or Her Highness (Hans or Hendes Højhed).

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Chapter 2 - The Royal Family". Folketinget.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Europe on a Shoestring (6th ed.). Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet. 2009. p. 307. ISBN 1742203345. Retrieved 11 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Den-Danske-Kongestamme". Kongehuset. 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015. External link in |website= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The History of the Danish Monarchy". Danish monarchy. Retrieved 16 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Constitutional Act of Denmark
  6. "My Constitution Act with Explanations 2013". Folketing. Retrieved 2014-01-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Tasks and Duties". Danish monarchy. Retrieved 16 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Facts about Greenland
  9. "Selvstyreloven - Lov om Grønlands Selvstyre -". Retrieved 2016-01-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "ICL — Denmark — Succession to the Throne Act". Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2008-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6
  12. "Kongeloven". Statsministeriet. Statsministeriet. 4 September 1709. Retrieved November 21, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The Royal House". Danish monarchy. Retrieved 16 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "A Prince and a Princess are born".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Kronprinsesse Mary har født

External links