Sunday, 18 April 2010

Queen Margrethe celebrates 70th birthday in style

On those rare occasions in her later years when Queen Victoria of Britain emerged from her seclusion to make public appearances the weather was generally brilliant, causing it to be called “Queen’s weather”. Such brilliant weather also added sparkle to her great-great-granddaughter’s 70th birthday celebrations in Copenhagen on Thursday and Friday.
Queen Margrethe II has a taste for grandeur which seems to be combined with a conscious grasp on the staging of monarchy and Danish royal anniversaries are therefore nearly always celebrated in style over several days.
As her father did, the Queen usually appears on the balcony of her mansion at Amalienborg at noon on her birthday, accompanied by her family. Thousands upon thousands of people filled the Amalienborg Square this Friday when Queen Margrethe came out to acknowledge the cheers. She was shortly joined by the other members of her family, who can be seen in the second photo – from the left: Crown Princess Mary with Princess Isabella, Crown Prince Frederik, Prince Christian, the Queen, the Prince Consort, Prince Joachim, Princess Marie with Prince Henrik on her arm, Prince Felix and Prince Nikolai. Altogether they made three appearances on the balcony.
Unlike ten years ago the foreign royals did not appear on the balconies of the other mansions, although they did at that time take part in a guided tour of Crown Prince Frederik’s and Crown Princess Mary’s newly renovated residence, Frederik VIII’s Mansion.
Because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland and the closed airspace the number of foreign guests was anyway quite reduced. At that time only the King and Queen of Sweden, Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling, Prince Carl Philip, the Crown Princess of Norway, the Queen of the Netherlands, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and the First Lady of Iceland had arrived.
The President of Finland and her husband had already had to leave to return to Finland by car, while the King and Queen of Norway as well as Crown Prince Haakon only made it to Denmark in the evening. The King and Queen of Spain, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Brabant and the President of Iceland were all among the sixteen foreign guests who had to send their regrets. Concerning Crown Princess Mette-Marit it could be added that it was the first time that she alone represented Norway at such a large event and she seemed to pass that test with flying colours.
Later in the day the City of Copenhagen hosted a lunch reception at the City Hall, to which the Queen and Prince Consort drove in a open landau through streets lined with people – across the Amalienborg Square, past the Marble Church and down King’s Great Street over the King’s New Square and then down “Strøget” to the City Hall, where they also made a balcony appearance.
The day ended with a private party for family, friends and a handful officials at Fredensborg Palace north of Copenhagen. Earlier in the week there had been a state banquet for Danish officials at Christiansborg Palace on Tuesday and a gala performance at the Royal Theatre on Thursday night. The last photo shows some of the guests leaving the theatre – the only one I can recognise is Christian Kjær in his chamberlain uniform (third from the left).
The Queen’s birthday was celebrated almost as a festival over several days in Copenhagen with large public participation and although there is a lot of pomp and circumstance, it all happens with what Politiken described as the lack of reverence which speaks of real respect.
The city was festively decorated, with flags flying everywhere, including from the spire of Christiansborg Palace (fifth photo) and the columns of the Marble Church (sixth picture). And in keeping with a centuries-old tradition, golden apples sprang in the Caritas fountain in the Old Square (fourth photo), whose restoration had been completed just in time for the monarch’s birthday.
When Norway chose a monarchy over the republic in 1905, the Danish author Peter Nansen, a republican, wrote to his Norwegian colleague Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: “Denmark has by Our Lord been chosen to be the country which shall maintain the monarchical principle until the end of times. When the rest of the world has dismissed its monarchs Denmark will remain as the small prehistoric country with a fairy tale king who on the great holidays drives in a golden carriage while the golden apples dance in the fountain in the Old Square. And all the tourists of the world will descend on Denmark to see how things were done in the old days”.
After these celebrations I am not alone in finding it even harder than before to imagine the Republic of Denmark – or indeed the Kingdom of Denmark without Margrethe II as head of state.

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