It’s hard to be a teenager no matter who you are or where you live, but spare a thought for the two teenagers who are currently part of the Danish Royal Family.
Christian is just 16 years old, and he’s the future King Christian the Eleventh of Denmark. Danish kings alternate between two names, Christian or Frederik, and his father’s name is Frederick, so Christian’s name was in place before he was even conceived, before his parents even met. He was always going to be Christian the Eleventh.
His sister, Isabella, is 15, and she and her young twin siblings are the spares. They have all of the media attention and the responsibility for good behavior that their brother has, but with no royal job waiting for them when they get older. Sure, they may cut a ribbon here or there, but they will have no guaranteed income from the Danish taxpayers.
Christian and Isabella have been in the news this week because the boarding school that Christian attends, and that Isabella plans to attend, was the subject of a TV documentary on bullying. This a school for Denmark’s elites – and yes, there is an elite class in Denmark, although they generally stay very well hidden. And this is an old-fashioned boarding school that still begins each educational year with a bird shooting, using bows and arrows.
According to some former students, violence was a part of daily life in the school. New students were dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and assaulted by older students. Many of those students are now leaders in Danish government and business life.
Where can they let their hair down?
There is a great deal of pressure on the Royal Family to take their children out of the school. But there are not many places to go in Denmark if you’re a Danish Royal teenager who occasionally wants to let his or her hair down around other teenagers.
And Christian is part of the first generation of royals to grow up in the age of social media. These days, anyone can post a photo of a future king having too many beers at a party, or an anecdote about him asking someone for a date and getting turned down.
Traditionally the media coverage of the Danish royals is very tightly managed, much more so than the British Royals.
But in the age of Tik Tok and Snapchat and Instagram, that’s harder to do. This month one of her peers shared a video of 15-year-old Isabella doing a TikTok challenge in which you have to drink a great deal of liquid quickly without burping.
The newspapers picked up the story, saying she was drinking Sprite, while other accounts say it was beer. I didn’t see it myself, so I don’t know.
Are you nuts, Mom?
The whole thing was papered over with lots of nice photos of Isabella’s confirmation, where she wore a chic white business suit instead of the usual lacy dress and posed with her grandmother the Queen. She also did her first official on-camera interview, where she showed great promise at the Royal skill of speaking a lot without really saying anything. For what it’s worth, confirmation, around age 14 or 15, is traditionally the age at which Danish teenagers are permitted to drink alcohol.
Isabella is a typical teenager. She has been spotted rolling her eyes at the family Christmas tree event and snapping at her mother “Are you nuts, Mom?” at a poorly-organized outdoor photo session with the Queen.
Football team class wars
Christian was caught on social media recently attending a football game, and his mistake was more significant. He was wearing a scarf of the Danish football team FCK, football club Copenhagen, which has a bitter rivalry with the other big Copenhagen club, Brøndby. If you visit Copenhagen, you’ll see a lot of not-very-nice graffiti from supporters of these two clubs disparaging the other.
Other Royals have liked other football teams before, but this rivalry has a class element to it. FCK is generally preferred by the media class, the laptop class, the elite, while Brøndby is generally more working-class. It’s not the sort of fight a future king should be getting involved with. He’s got to represent everyone.
Danish military lies ahead
I feel for Christian, who is the newest link in the world’s oldest continuous monarchy. It stretches back to Harold Bluetooth in the year 958 – and yes, the Bluetooth on your phone is named after him.
Much of Christian’s life is already planned out for him. For example, he’ll have to spend some time in the Danish military, some serious time. His two male cousins of this generation tried out the military for a couple of months and then quit. That’s not going to do for Christian.
And then university, and then a lifetime of ribbon cuttings and charity sports runs and Parliament openings and business promotional visits.
The Danish Royal family is very good for Danish business, particularly in hierarchical societies like the Middle East and Asia, where it is much easier to get a meeting with a CEO when the Crown Prince announces his interest in attending.
Danish Royal Teenagers: Family business
Christian seems like an OK guy, and he’s very tall, by far the tallest person in his family, which is good for a king. He also carries off a business suit pretty well for a 16 year old. I hope he gets the chance to stay at his school if he wants to. It’s hard to make friends as a future king, and Denmark’s other wealthy and elite kids are probably his best bet.
Of course, he’ll always have Isabella to back him up, plus their two younger siblings, who are not teenagers yet. And there are some other teenagers around Europe in the same position. Future queen Ingrid in Norway is 18. Leonor in Spain is 16 and she’s already doing official engagements. Catharina-Amalia in the Netherlands is 18, while Estelle in Sweden is only 10. In this generation, it is mostly girls in the future monarch role, although Prince George in England and Prince Jacques in Monaco will be teenagers in a little less than a decade.
Christian and Isabella and these kids will spend a lot of time together in the future, doing official visits, dining together at state dinners, and being godparents to each other’s children. Being a Royal is a family business.