Wednesday 14 April 2010

Queen Margrethe's birthday celebrations

Photo: Films

Queen Margrethe will turn 70 on April 16. We are familiar with the annual birthday greeting, usually on the balcony at Amalienborg, but it is a tradition to make a bit more of the celebration when it is a significant number. We saw this in 2008 for Crown Prince Frederik's 40th birthday. A monarch's birthday is one of those occasions when private and public merge. It becomes a moment to celebrate the qualities of the person who embodies her own individuality, her position as the head of her royal house, with all its own traditions and deep connection to Denmark as a nation and her position as head of state in one of the most stable constitutional monarchies in the world. It is altogether a celebration of Margrethe and Denmark: and there will be another 'big number' to celebrate in 2012 with the anniversary of her 40 year reign.

The celebrations so far demonstrate Margrethe's popularity, although this is not to say there are not some in Denmark who wish for a Danish republic. The figure has been roughly around 20% over recent years, which leaves Margrethe and the Danish royal family with the highest approval ratings of any royal family in Europe. Some recent stories in Jyllands Posten suggest more transparency in accounting is being sought by the Social Democrats and some republican protesters have been denied a place by the police in Amalienborg Square to protest their views on the Queen's birthday. The police have stated it is for their own protection since the square is expected to be very crowded with people there to celebrate the Queen. The protesters will demonstrate nearby. Debate about the costs of maintaining a royal head of state or an elected or appointed head of state is not unique to Denmark. The costs of national representatives are probably fairly similar whether under a constitutional monarchy or a republic (with added costs of elections). It is clear that a large majority of Danes value their royal family and all that it represents historically and traditionally to Danish identlity.

Margrethe Alexandrine Þorhildur Ingrid was born at Amalienborg on April 16, 1940 to King Frederik IX and Swedish-born Queen Ingrid. The Heir Apparent acceded to the throne on the death of her father on January 14, 1972 and proclaimed her motto as "God’s help, the love of The People, Denmark’s strength". There are various events and observances as part of the celebrations including the release of a new stamp, coins, a television special about Margrethe and Denmark, various exhibitions, a birthday press conference and official and private galas. There is also extensive coverage in the media.

The DR documentary - The Queen's Denmark - screened on April 5. The documentary was made over four years as the Queen visited the places in Denmark which have meant most to her. The Queen herself is the narrator and it is beautifully shot by the JJ Films crew (yes, Jacob Jørgensen's company, father-in-law to Countess Alexandra, former wife of Prince Joachim). Jacob Jørgensen and Ulrik Wivel directed the program.

Queen Margrethe talks about her passions for culture and history, recounts her many memories linked to different places such as Trend in north west Jutland, Gråsten and Greenland. She talks about her relationship with her father King Frederik and about her marriage to Prince Henrik. The film features previously unpublished reflections on the Queen's strong personal affiliation to Denmark.

The film's director Jacob Jørgensen says "The intention of the film is to show the Queen's very special and warm relationship with Denmark. It is unparalleled that we have insight into the Queen's thoughts about her childhood, about the family and about the job as regent at the same time as we see the places which have meant a great deal to the Queen throughout her life. We have had quite a funny and also exciting collaboration together to make the film."

You can see JJ Films' trailer here on Youtube and the program itself can still be viewed on DR's player here. The program is just under one hour and although it is all in Danish you can get a strong sense of the Queen's deep connection to Denmark, to her sense of human history and nature all about her, to her quite tender reflections about her father and his pride and confidence in her to do the job as regent, remarks about the Danish language (which she finds beautiful) and so on. The cottage she shows us is Trend, a hunting lodge set in deep forest by the north western shore of Jutland. She describes how pleasurable it was as a child to just step outside and be walking in the grass - something special for someone brought up in various castles. Trend is now a favoured place for Frederik and Mary to go for short family breaks. The Queen had an inspirational teacher who introduced her to archeology and she also mentions her Swedish grandfather's encouragement (King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden 1882-1973) of her childhood interest in rocks and nature, where humans have left their mark everywhere just under foot. It is a lovely film with insight not only into the Queen's inner life but also shows us something of Denmark. She says in her youth she might have liked to have been an archeologist, but that changed as she got older when she became more artistic in her private pursuits. She became reconciled to her fate to become regent in her late teens and knew she would always have her deep sense of duty and connection to Denmark. The music featured in the documentary was written and performed by well-known musician Chris Minh Doky, Frederik's friend and husband to Mary's lady-in-waiting Tanja Doky.

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