Thursday, 29 November 2012

New books: The wit and wisdom of Margrethe II

The Queen of Denmark is known for her wonderful ability to use the Danish language to formulate striking sentences and for her sharp powers of observation. Thus one can only applaud that the author Jens Andersen has now followed up his very interesting biography of Queen Margrethe with a collection of memorable queenly quotes.
Om man så må sige – 350 Dronning Margrethe-citater, published by Lindhardt & Ringhof, is arranged alphabetically, ranging from “abdikation” to “året” (the year) and covering a vast field of topics on the way from A to Å.
I am not sure if an alphabetical order is the best way of arranging such a book; it might perhaps have been more interesting if related topics had been grouped together. As it is, one will for instance find a quote about the Order of the Elephant under E for “Elefantordenen”, while a quote about orders in general is found under “O” for “ordensvæsen”.
The quotes are taken from the Queen’s speeches and from Andersen’s interviews with her for her biography, but primarily from the many, many interviews Queen Margrethe has given to newspapers, magazines, television and books. The oldest are from 1966, the newest very recent.
Occasionally one might have wished for other quotes to have been selected. For instance, there are two quotes about “ungdommen” (young people), both of them dating from 1975, when the Queen herself was fairly young. One supposes her views on that topic may have developed since then. On a couple of occasions I could also think of better Queen Margrethe quotes than those chosen for this book.
Queen Margrethe is interesting, intelligent and witty, and knows how to utilise the Danish language (only one utterance is quoted in another language than Danish). Thus this is a book full of pearls. Just a few examples will be enough:
“We do not have that much to moan about when one thinks of what people did not moan about before”.
“When one loves one gets more to lose”.
“I do not think one should chase the fashions of the day, concerning neither sweaters nor opinions”.
“Generalisations must be broken down on the spot”.
“One would not die from my cooking, but I am not sure one would survive my driving”.
“One may well use one’s head even though one is in love. Someone has said that one cannot prevent lightening from striking – but one may prevent the whole town from burning down”.
“It is not possible to develop into a complete human being if one must live in a room with only three walls”.
“The monarchy is an anachronism if one decides that it should be one”.
“When people say that I may not speak, they forget that I may well think. I may think what I want, like everyone else. I shall just refrain from saying everything I think. That might be something many people should do once in a while”.


  1. The Queen is such an impressive person, and apparently very witty too. I'm sure the quotes are all even better in the original Danish. I sometimes think it must be harder for someoneas intelligent and talented as Queen Margrethe to be a constitutional monarch than it is for her less intellectual counterparts. (Not trying to be disrespectful of other European monarchs, but I suspect they would agree that "Daisy" is the most intellectual among them.

    1. Yes, something of the original "flavour" is indeed lost when translating. Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag wrote something similar to what you say in his diary during the last days of King Frederik IX. He observed that King Frederik had been very easy to deal with, but that the incoming monarch might be too intelligent and thus not as easy to work with. (I think it is safe to say - and fairly obvious - that Margrethe II is the only real intellectual among the current European monarchs).

  2. I enjoy your blog posts very much and have learned much about the Danish queen as a result. She is an impressive person. Has the biography you reference in this post been translated into English by any chance? I'd like to read it.

    1. No, it has not - there is no interest from foreign publishers in translating such books into English as they would not sell enough to make it profitable. As far as I know the only book in English on Queen Margrethe is "Queen in Denmark" by Anne Wolden-Ræthinge (one of the countless interview books), which the publisher Gyldendal also issued in an English translation in 1989.


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