Queen Margrethe II became the first Danish monarch to abdicate in nearly 900 years on Sunday.
Denmark’s longest-reigning monarch, Margrethe II, formally abdicated the throne on Sunday afternoon as thousands gathered in Copenhagen to witness the royal succession to her eldest son, who is now King Frederik X.
Margrethe stunned the Scandinavian country on New Year’s Eve when she declared her intention to relinquish the crown after more than five decades as Queen – becoming the first Danish monarch to step down in nearly 900 years. Her abdication comes 52 years to the day after she assumed the crown following the death of her father, King Frederik IX.
The 83-year-old cited health issues as the reason for her historic decision, which came several months after she underwent back surgery last February.
“The Queen has been here and she has been on the throne for more than 50 years,” Danish royal expert Thomas Larsen told the Associated Press ahead of Sunday’s abdication. “She is an extremely respected and popular figure, so people hadn’t expected this and they were in shock.”
Margrethe signed her abdication in the presence of Danish lawmakers at a state council meeting on Sunday afternoon, after which Frederik – formerly the country’s Crown Prince – officially became King.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen subsequently proclaimed Frederik as Denmark’s newest sovereign from the balcony of the Christiansborg Palace in the capital, the seat of government, parliament and the supreme court. Thousands witnessed the proclamation from the square below.
Frederiksen had been unaware of Margrethe’s decision until just before the announcement, while Frederik was informed just three days beforehand, according to Danish newspaper Berlingske.
Four guns stationed at Copenhagen harbor fired three salvos of 27 rounds to mark the succession. Unlike in the UK, where King Charles III replaced his mother Queen Elizabeth II following her death, there is to be no coronation ceremony.
Despite stepping down, Margrethe retains her royal title – meaning that the country will have two Queens, as Frederik’s Australian-born wife becomes Queen Mary. Their eldest son Christian, 18, becomes Denmark’s new Crown Prince and the heir to the throne.
The royal couple take the throne at a time of strong public support for the monarchy. A recent poll conducted after Margrethe’s abdication announcement found that 82% of Danes believe that Frederik will perform well as King, while 86% had a similarly positive view of Mary.