Queen of Denmark says in New Year's speech that she will abdicate her throne

ByBill Hutchinson ABCNews logo
Sunday, December 31, 2023

In a surprise New Year's Eve announcement, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II said she plans to abdicate her throne more than five decades after succeeding her father King Frederik IX.

"I have decided that now is the right time. On 14th January, 2024 -- 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father -- I will step down as Queen of Denmark," she said in her annual speech to her nation.

The 83-year-old monarch said she will hand the throne over to her son, 55-year-old Crown Prince Frederik.

The announcement came near the end of the queen's speech. She concluded the address offering thanks for the "overwhelming warmth and support which I have received during all these years."

"Thank you to the changing governments with whom the collaboration always has been rewarding, and thank you to The Parliament, who have always vested their confidence in me," Queen Margrethe said. "Thank you to the many, many people who on special occasions and in everyday life have embraced me and my family with kind words and thoughts, turning the years into a string of pearls."

She said a series of recent "ailments," including extensive back surgery in February, prompted her decision to step down.

"In two weeks time, I have been Queen of Denmark for 52 years. Such an amount will leave its mark on anybody - also on me! The time takes its toll, and the number of 'ailments' increases. One cannot undertake as much as one managed in the past," she said.

In her speech, the queen noted the "horrible terrorist attack on civilians in Israel," calling it "incomprehensible."

"The war makes antisemitism spread again. It is tragic and shameful," she said. "Tonight, I wish to make a clear and unequivocal call for all of us in Denmark to treat each other with respect. We must approach each other more closely, not distance ourselves from each other. We must remember that we are all human beings. This applies to Jews as well as Palestinians."

She also used her final New Year's Eve speech to address climate change, saying, "The seriousness is obvious."

"The globe's climate is changing faster than we thought," the queen said. "We need to address climate change. The consequences are not only in the future. They are here already, and they are extreme. Most people in Denmark are fully aware of this, even if it has been difficult for some of us to fully realize it. Together we must now find the hope and determination to do something."

As usual, she signed off her New Year's speech, saying, "God bless Denmark. God bless you all."

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen issued a statement thanking the queen for her "lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the Kingdom."

"Queen Margrethe is the epitome of Denmark and throughout the years has put words and feelings into who we are as a people and as a nation," Frederiksen said.

During her reign, Queen Margrethe, whose role has mostly been ceremonial, has been a popular public figure in Denmark as well as in Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, semi-independent territories that comprise the Danish Realm.

She garnered praise from her royal subjects beginning as a princess when she joined the Danish women's air force unit. Her popularity reached new heights in 2011 when she visited Danish troops in southern Afghanistan wearing a military jumpsuit.

"In the new year, Crown Prince Frederik will be proclaimed king. Crown Princess Mary will become queen," Frederiksen said, referring to the prince's wife of 19 years. "The kingdom will have a new regent and a new royal couple. We can look forward to all of this in the knowledge that they are ready for the responsibility and the task."

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