Keld Navntoft/Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters
Queen Margrethe II delivers a New Year's speech and announces her abdication from Amalienborg Castle, Christian IX's palace in Copenhagen, on Sunday, December 31, 2023.
In a surprise move, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has announced that she will abdicate in early 2024 after more than five decades in power.
Margrethe, 83, said in her traditional New Year's speech broadcast on Danish television that she would hand over the throne to her son, Crown Prince Frederik.
He cited a back surgery in February 2023, giving his thoughts on the future.
“In two weeks I will be Queen of Denmark for 52 years,” she said.
“That kind of sum would leave its mark on anyone – even on me! Time takes its toll, and the number of 'diseases' increases. One cannot undertake as much as one managed in the past,” he added.
“I had extensive back surgery in February this year,” he said. “Everything went well, thanks to the skilled healthcare workers who took care of me. Inevitably, the move prompted thoughts about the future – whether it would be the right time to pass on responsibility to the next generation.
“I've decided now is the right time,” he said.
“On January 14, 2024 – 52 years after my beloved father – I will step down as Queen of Denmark. I will hand over the throne to my son, Crown Prince Frederik.
Queen Margrethe II ascended the throne on 14 January 1972 following the death of King Frederick IX.
After the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II last year, Margrethe became Europe's longest-serving monarch.
Prince Frederik will ascend the throne as His Majesty King Frederik X in January, the Danish Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
His wife, the Australian-born Princess Mary, is Queen Consort – the first Australian to ascend to the role.
The pair famously met in a Sydney bar during the 2000 Olympics and her fans watched from afar as she joined the Danish royal family.
Princess Mary's ascension to the throne will ensure plenty of visitors to the ceremony from her former home in Hobart, Tasmania, where she worked as a real estate sales executive before meeting the prince.
On January 14, after the Council of State meeting, the Prime Minister will announce the change of throne at Christiansborg Castle.
The Queen will continue to be named Her Majesty following the handover.
Denmark's royal family has a limited role under the country's constitution, with power vested in parliament. Kings play an important ambassadorial role, as well as signing new legislation.
Margrethe has enjoyed broad support from Danes throughout her career, Reuters reports.