Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II will abdicate on January 14 after 52 years on the throne and will be succeeded by her eldest son Crown Prince Frederik, she said in her annual New Year’s speech.
The 83-year-old queen, who took over the throne in 1972, is the longest-serving monarch in Europe following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
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In February, she underwent a successful back surgery.
“The surgery naturally gave rise to thinking about the future – whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation,” she said in the speech on Sunday.
“I have decided that now is the right time. On 14 January 2024 – 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father – I will step down as queen of Denmark,” she said.
“I leave the throne to my son, Crown Prince Frederik,” she added.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen confirmed the decision in a news release.
He paid tribute to the monarch, offering a “heartfelt thank you to Her Majesty the Queen for her lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the Kingdom”.
In Denmark, formal power resides with the elected parliament and its government.
The monarch is expected to stay above partisan politics, representing the nation with traditional duties ranging from state visits to national day celebrations.
Born in 1940, Margrethe has been one of the most popular public figures in Denmark.
The 1.82m (6-foot) tall, chain-smoking monarch often walked the streets of Copenhagen virtually unescorted and won the admiration of Danes for her warm manners and for her talents as a linguist and designer.
A keen skier, she was a member of a Danish women’s air force unit as a princess, taking part in judo courses and endurance tests in the snow. Margrethe remained tough even as she grew older.
In 2011, at age 70, she visited Danish troops in southern Afghanistan wearing a military jumpsuit.
As monarch, she crisscrossed the country and regularly visited Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, the two semi-independent territories that are part of the Danish Realm.