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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Queen Margrethe, Denmark’s good-humored, much-loved monarch

Many Danes adore their Royal Family, and follow every twist and turn of their story in glossy magazines and now, a glossy Instagram feed.

In this approved Royal media, children are always well-dressed and smiling, marriages are always happy, and royal parents are always deeply royal proud of their offspring. Everybody trims the Christmas tree together, or goes for a healthy run together, or attends large galas in fancy dresses and glittering jewelry.

But there are also some Danes who dislike the monarchy and the roughly 100 million kroner they cost Danish taxpayers each year. These people call the royal family Denmark’s biggest welfare recipients.

Her nickname is Daisy

No matter how they feel about the institution of Royalty, almost everyone likes Denmark’s Queen Margrethe, who is celebrating 50 years on the throne this week. Margrethe’s nickname is Daisy, which is what her good friend and third cousin Queen Elizabeth of England calls her. (The French version of the name Margrethe is Marguerite, which translates to Daisy.)

Every New Year’s Eve, the streets of Denmark go quiet as Daisy makes her annual televised speech to her subjects. I find the speeches pretty much the same every year; they’re about being kind to each other, taking care of the environment, and such.

She designs her own clothes

The real entertainment is in the Queen’s wardrobe – she designs her own clothes, and often chooses rather un-Danishly bright colors – and whether she’ll get her carefully written note cards mixed up.

The Queen does not use a TelePrompter to speak, and her note cards occasionally find themselves out of order, causing her to try to sort them out in mid-speech. In recent years she has been persuaded to use a stapler to keep them together.

Anyway, every year she thanks the Danish military for its work, and every year she makes sure to shout out to the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the farthest flung parts of her kingdom. And she ends every annual speech with “GUD BEVARE DANMARK” – God Save Denmark.

Artistic interests

The Queen is the head of the Danish state church, and the Danish state – she still signs all the laws, including the specific law that made me a citizen. But the Queen is also an artist. She paints, and draws, and has designed stage sets for the Royal Ballet.

She still travels around Denmark, although not as much as she used to, now that she’s more than 80 years old. Her sons and her lookalike daughters in law, Mary and Marie, do most of the ribbon-cutting these days.

She is a widow now – her French-born husband, Henri, Henrik, died a few years ago – but she does have a companion, a Swedish count named Gustaf, with whom she attends art exhibits and the like.

At any rate, Queen Margrethe is popular because she has a great lust for life, and a wonderful ability to laugh at herself.

Comedian in drag imitated Queen Margrethe

Queen Margrethe imitatorFor decades, a Danish comedian named Ulf Pilgaard did an imitation of the Queen as part of a theater comedy review. He would dress up in full drag, with wigs and makeup, wearing loud dresses sometimes patterned with yellow daisies. And he got a lot of laughs out of the Queen’s family dramas and her passion for smoking cigarettes.

Late last year, when this elderly comedian finished his final performance before retirement and was basking in the applause, the queen herself turned up onstage to congratulate him and give him a gift.

A Royal monogrammed ashtray.

Celebrations postponed

The celebration of the Queen’s 50 years on the throne will be modest, due to ongoing COVID restrictions. The large gala with the fancy dresses and glittering jewelry has been rescheduled for later in the year. Instead, there will be a small celebration featuring Crown Prince Frederik, who – sooner or later – will be taking over the Queen’s job.

I’m sure he’ll be competent at signing laws and cutting ribbons, but he won’t start out with the immense public affection that Queen Margrethe has developed in 50 years on the throne.

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