Princess Margrethe was born 16 April 1940 at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen as the first child of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess (later King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid). Her father was the eldest son of the then-reigning King Christian X, while her mother was the only daughter of Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf (later King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden). Her birth took place just one week after Nazi Germany's invasion of Denmark on 9 April 1940.
She was baptised on 14 May in the Church of Holmen in Copenhagen. The Princess's godparents were: King Christian X (paternal grandfather); Hereditary Prince Knud (paternal uncle); Prince Axel (her paternal grandfather's first cousin); King Gustaf V of Sweden (maternal great-grandfather); Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (maternal grandfather); Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten (her maternal uncle); Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (maternal grandmother's father).
She was named Margrethe after her late maternal grandmother, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Alexandrine after her paternal grandmother, Queen Alexandrine, and Ingrid after her mother. Since her paternal grandfather was also the King of Iceland, she was given the Icelandic name Þórhildur.
When Margrethe was four years old, in 1944, her first sister, Princess Benedikte, was born. Princess Benedikte later married Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and lives some of the time in Germany. Her second sister Princess Anne Marie was born in 1946. Anne-Marie later married Constantine II of Greece and now lives in Greece.
Margrethe and her sisters grew up in apartments at Frederick VIII's Palace at Amalienborg in Copenhagen and in Fredensborg Palace in North Zealand. She spent summer holidays with the royal family in her parent's summer residence at Gråsten Palace in Southern Jutland. On 20 April 1947, King Christian X died and Margrethe's father ascended the throne as King Frederick IX.
At the time of her birth, only males could ascend the throne of Denmark, owing to the changes in succession laws enacted in the 1850s when the Glücksburg branch was chosen to succeed. As she had no brothers, it was assumed that her uncle Prince Knud would one day assume the throne.
The process of changing the constitution started in 1947, not long after her father ascended the throne and it became clear that Queen Ingrid would have no more children. The popularity of Frederick and his daughters and the more prominent role of women in Danish life started the complicated process of altering the constitution. The law required that the proposal be passed by two successive Parliaments and then by a referendum, which occurred 27 March 1953. The new Act of Succession permitted female succession to the throne of Denmark, according to male-preference cognatic primogeniture, where a female can ascend to the throne only if she does not have a brother. Princess Margrethe therefore became heir presumptive.
On her eighteenth birthday, 16 April 1958, Margrethe was given a seat in the Council of State. She subsequently chaired the meetings of the Council in the absence of the King.
In 1960, together with the princesses of Sweden and Norway, she travelled to the United States, which included a visit to Los Angeles, and to the Paramount Studios, where they were met by several celebrities, including Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley.
Margrethe was educated at the private school N. Zahle's School in Copenhagen from which she graduated in 1959. She spent a year at North Foreland Lodge, a boarding school for girls in Hampshire, England, and later studied prehistoric archaeology at Girton College, Cambridge, during 1960–1961, political science at Aarhus University between 1961 and 1962, attended the Sorbonne in 1963, and was at the London School of Economics in 1965. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Queen Margrethe is fluent in Danish, French, English, Swedish and German, and has a limited knowledge of Faroese.
Princess Margrethe married a French diplomat, Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, 10 June 1967, at the Church of Holmen in Copenhagen. Laborde de Monpezat received the style and title of "His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark" because of his new position as the spouse of the heir presumptive to the Danish throne.
Margrethe gave birth to her first child 26 May 1968. By tradition, Danish kings were alternately named either Frederick or Christian. She chose to maintain this by assuming the position of a Christian, and thus named her eldest son Frederik. A second child, named Joachim, was born 7 June 1969.
Shortly after King Frederick IX had delivered his New Year's Address to the Nation at the 1971/72 turn of the year, he fell ill. At his death 14 days later, 14 January 1972, Margrethe succeeded to the throne, becoming the first female Danish sovereign under the new Act of Succession. She was proclaimed Queen from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace 15 January 1972, by Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag. Queen Margrethe II relinquished all the monarch's former titles except the title to Denmark, hence her style "By the Grace of God, Queen of Denmark" (Danish: Margrethe den Anden, af Guds Nåde Danmarks Dronning). The Queen chose the motto: God's help, the love of The People, Denmark's strength.
In her first address to the people, Queen Margrethe II said:
My beloved father, our King, is dead. The task that my father had carried for nearly 25 years is now resting on my shoulders. I pray to God to give me help and strength to carry the heavy heritage. May the trust that was given to my father also be granted to me.
The Queen's main tasks are to represent the Kingdom abroad and to be a unifying figure at home. She receives foreign ambassadors and awards honours and medals. The Queen performs the latter task by accepting invitations to open exhibitions, attending anniversaries, inaugurating bridges, etc.
As an unelected public official, the Queen takes no part in party politics and does not express any political opinions. Although she has the right to vote, she opts not to do so to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.
After an election where the incumbent Prime Minister does not have a majority behind him or her, the Queen holds a “Dronningerunde” (Queen's meeting) in which she meets the chairmen of each of the Danish political parties.
Each party has the choice of selecting a Royal Investigator to lead these negotiations or alternatively, give the incumbent Prime Minister the mandate to continue his government as is. In theory each party could choose its own leader as Royal Investigator, the social liberal Det Radikale Venstre did so in 2006, but often only one Royal Investigator is chosen plus the Prime Minister, before each election. The leader who, at that meeting succeeds in securing a majority of the seats in the Folketing, is by royal decree charged with the task of forming a new government. (It has never happened in more modern history that any party has held a majority on its own.)
Once the government has been formed, it is formally appointed by the Queen. Officially, it is the Queen who is the head of government, and she therefore presides over the Council of State (privy council), where the acts of legislation which have been passed by the parliament are signed into law. In practice, however, nearly all of the Queen's formal powers are exercised by the Cabinet of Denmark.
In addition to her roles in her own country, the Queen is also the Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires), an infantry regiment of the British Army, following a tradition in her family.
Queen Margrethe II celebrated her Ruby Jubilee, the 40th year on the throne, 14 January 2012. This was marked by a carriage procession, a gala banquet at Christiansborg Palace and numerous TV interviews.
In 2016 an interview within the book De dybeste rødder (en: The Deepest Roots) she showed, according to historians at Saxo instituttet, a change in attitude to immigration towards a more restrictive stance. She stated that the Danish people should have more explicitly clarified the rules and values of Danish culture in order to be able to teach them to new arrivals. Further stated that the Danes in general have underestimated the difficulties involved in successful integration of immigrants, exemplified with the rules of a democracy not being clarified to Muslim immigrants and a lack of readiness to enforce those rules. This was received as a change in line with the attitude of the Danish people.
The official residences of the Queen and the Prince Consort are Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen and Fredensborg Palace. Their summer residence is Gråsten Palace near Sønderborg, the former home of the Queen's mother, Queen Ingrid, who died in 2000.
Margrethe is an accomplished painter, and has held many art shows over the years. Her illustrations—under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer—were used for the Danish edition of The Lord of the Rings, which she was encouraged to illustrate in the early 1970s. She sent them to J. R. R. Tolkien who was struck by the similarity of her drawings to his own style. Margrethe's drawings were redrawn by the British artist Eric Fraser in the translation published in 1977 and re-issued in 2002. In 2000, she illustrated Henrik, the Prince Consort's poetry collection Cantabile. She is also an accomplished translator and is said to have participated in the Danish translation of The Lord of the Rings. Another skill she possesses is costume designing, having designed the costumes for the Royal Danish Ballet's production of A Folk Tale and for the 2009 Peter Flinth film, De vilde svaner (The Wild Swans). She also designs her own clothes and is known for her colourful and sometimes eccentric clothing choices. Margrethe also wears designs by former Pierre Balmain designer Erik Mortensen, Jørgen Bender, and Birgitte Taulow. The Guardian in March 2013 listed her as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s.
Margrethe is a chain smoker, and she is famous for her tobacco habit. However, on 23 November 2006, the Danish newspaper B.T. reported an announcement from the Royal Court stating that in future the Queen would smoke only in private.
A statement in a 2005 authorized biography about the Queen (entitled Margrethe) focused on her views of Islam: "We are being challenged by Islam these years. Globally as well as locally. There is something impressive about people for whom religion imbues their existence, from dusk to dawn, from cradle to grave. There are also Christians who feel this way. There is something endearing about people who give themselves up completely to their faith. But there is likewise something frightening about such a totality, which also is a feature of Islam. A counterbalance has to be found, and one has to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on you. For there are some things for which one should display no tolerance. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction."
Queen Margrethe II visited the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, in Nanjing, April 27, 2014. The Queen said the Memorial Hall records the darkest part of history in 77 years. "We cannot change the cruel history, but can learn a historic lesson and experience from it. Today, we commemorate Sindberg. We need not only to review the past, but also need to face up to the future," she said. Margrethe II and Prince Henrik watered a tree symbolizing peace, on the square outside the Memorial Hall. They also laid down a yellow rose, named by Sindberg’s hometown as "Forever Nanjing, Sindberg Yellow Rose" in 2004.
The Queen and Prince Consort have two sons and eight grandchildren all born at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen:His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik André Henrik Christian of Denmark (born 26 May 1968). He was married to Mary Donaldson on 14 May 2004 at Copenhagen Cathedral, Copenhagen. The couple have four children:
His Royal Highness Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John of Denmark (born 15 October 2005)
Her Royal Highness Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe of Denmark (born 21 April 2007)
His Royal Highness Prince Vincent Frederik Minik Alexander of Denmark (born 8 January 2011)
Her Royal Highness Princess Josephine Sophia Ivalo Mathilda of Denmark (born 8 January 2011)
His Royal Highness Prince Joachim Holger Waldemar Christian of Denmark (born 7 June 1969). He was married to Alexandra Manley on 18 November 1995 at Frederiksborg Palace Church, Hillerød. They divorced on 8 April 2005. He was married secondly to Marie Cavallier on 24 May 2008 at Møgeltønder Church, Møgeltønder. Joachim has four children; three sons and one daughter:
His Highness Prince Nikolai William Alexander Frederik of Denmark (born 28 August 1999)
His Highness Prince Felix Henrik Valdemar Christian of Denmark (born 22 July 2002)
His Highness Prince Henrik Carl Joachim Alain of Denmark (born 4 May 2009)
Her Highness Princess Athena Marguerite Françoise Marie of Denmark (born 24 January 2012)
In 2008, the Queen announced that her male-line descendants would bear the additional title of Count or Countess of Monpezat, in recognition of her husband's ancestry.
She is the 1,188th knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain, and only the 7th Lady of the Order of the Garter since 1901, when King Edward VII appointed his consort a member. She is also Colonel-in-Chief of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires) in the United Kingdom.
Queen Margrethe II Land in Northeast Greenland was named in her honour on 16 April 1990 on the occasion of her 50th birthday. Denmark: Sovereign Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Elephant(R.E.)
Denmark: Sovereign Knight Grand Commander with Collar of the Order of the Dannebrog(S.Kmd)
Denmark: Sovereign Dame of the Royal Family Order of King Christian X
Denmark: Sovereign Dame of the Royal Family Order of King Frederik IX
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Cross of Honour of the Order of the Dannebrog(D.Ht.)
Greenland: Sovereign Recipient of the Nersornaat Medal for Meritorious Service, 1st Class
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Air Force Long Service Medal
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Homeguard Medal of Merit
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the 25 years of Homeguard Service Medal
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Medal of Honour of the League of Civil Defence
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Medal of Honour of the Reserve Officers League
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Red Cross Medal of Honour
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Red Cross Medal for Merit
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the 100th Anniversary Medal of the Birth of King Christian X
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the 50th Anniversary Medal of the arrival of Queen Ingrid to Denmark
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the 100th Anniversary Medal of the Birth of King Frederik IX
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the Queen Ingrid Commemorative Medal
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the 350th Anniversary Medal of the Royal Danish Life Guards
Denmark: Sovereign Recipient of the 400th Anniversary Medal of the Guard Hussar Regiment
Argentina: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Liberator San Martín
Austria: Grand Cross of the Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, Grand Star
Bahrain: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Khalifa
Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
Brazil: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Southern Cross
Bulgaria: Grand Cross of the Order of the Stara Planina
Chile: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Merit of Chile
Croatia: Grand Cross of the Grand Order of King Tomislav
Estonia: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
Egypt: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Nile
Finland: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose
France: Grand Cross of the Order of the Legion of Honour
Germany: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Special Class
Greek Royal Family: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia
Greece: Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer
Iceland: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Falcon
Iranian Imperial Family: Dame Grand Cordon of the Order of the Pleiades, 1st Class
Italy: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
Japan: Knight Grand Cordon with Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum
Japan: Paulownia Dame Grand Cordon of the Order of the Precious Crown
Jordan: Knight Grand Cordon with Collar of the Order of al-Hussein bin Ali
Latvia: Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars
Lithuania: Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Vytautas the Great
Luxembourg: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau
Mexico: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Aztec Eagle
Morocco: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite
Netherlands: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
Nepalese Royal Family: Member of the Mahendra Chain
Nepalese Royal Family: Member Grand Cross of the Order of Honour
Norway: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St. Olav
Norway: Recipient of the Silver Jubilee Medal of King Olav V
Norway: Recipient of the Silver Jubilee Medal of King Harald V
Poland: Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle
Poland: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
Portugal: Grand Cross with Collar of the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword
Portugal: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Prince Henry
Romania: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Star of Romania
Saudi Arabia: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Abdulaziz al Saud
Slovakia: Grand Cross of the Order of the White Double Cross
Slovenia: Commander of the Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia, 1st Class
Spain: 1, 188th Knight with Collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Spain: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Charles III
Sweden: Member Grand Cross with Collar of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
Sweden: Recipient of the 85th Birthday Badge Medal of King Gustaf VI Adolf
Sweden: Recipient of the 50th Birthday Badge Medal of King Carl XVI Gustaf
Sweden: Recipient of the Ruby Jubilee Badge Medal of King Carl XVI Gustaf
Sweden: Recipient of the 70th Birthday Badge Medal of King Carl XVI Gustaf
South Africa: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Good Hope
South Korea: Grand Cross with Collar of the Grand Order of Mugunghwa
Thailand: Knight Grand Cordon with Collar of the Order of the Rajamitrabhorn
Thailand: Knight Grand Cordon with Chain of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri
United Arab Emirates: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Al Kamal
United Kingdom: Stranger Lady of the Order of the Garter (7th Lady since 1901; 1979)
United Kingdom: Recipient of the Royal Victorian Chain (1974)
United Kingdom: Honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (?)
Holy See: Dame of the Decoration of Honour
Yugoslavia: Grand Cross of the Order of the Yugoslav Star, Great Star