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Abdication of Queen Margrethe II

The last king of Denmark until now: the Frederick who changed everything

Denmark hasn’t had a king for over half a century. However, in 2024, all that will change as Margrethe II abdicates and her throne passes to her son who becomes Frederik X. He shares his name with the last man to reign – his grandfather, Frederick IX. And it’s thanks to his groundbreaking granddad that the throne passes to him at all. Denmark’s last king of the 20th century changed everying.

The 24 years that Frederick IX reigned saw a great period of societal change within Denmark, and indeed, the Danish realms. Succeeding his iconic father—a symbol of wartime resistance—couldn’t have been easy, but King Frederick IX handled it with aplomb.

Within the first year of his reign, which began on 20 April 1947, the Faroe Islands became a self-governing territory. Frederick IX’s reign also saw a postwar boon in the economy and social lives of Danish citizens. Women entered the workforce in large numbers and Denmark became a more modern country.

The biggest event to happen in Frederick IX’s reign is likely the Act of Succession 1953, which saw, for the first time, women allowed to inherit the throne.

Denmark had practiced agnatic primogeniture for decades, barring women from the throne at all. In fact, none of King Frederick and Queen Ingrid’s children were born with succession rights. But when it was clear that Princess Margarethe, Princess Benedikte and Princess Anne-Marie would not gain a younger brother, high-level conversations started to ensure that the throne would pass to Margrethe over Frederick’s younger brother, Prince Knud.

In 1953, the Act of Succession was passed allowing for male-preference primogeniture. It meant that Princess Margrethe became heiress presumptive and would inherit the throne someday. In 2009, Denmark once again changed their succession laws to allow for absolute primogeniture—regardless of gender, the birth order of the children would dictate their place in the line of succession.

King Frederick IX reigned happily for 24 years, but sadly succumbed to a flu-like illness 15 days after delivering his final New Year’s Eve speech. He was buried at Roskilde Cathedral on 24 January, succeeded by the woman who has defined Danish life for the past 52 years: Queen Margrethe II.

On January 14th 2024, the 52nd anniversary of his death and her accession, Margrethe will hand the throne to her own son and Denmark will, once more, have a king called Frederik.

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About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.