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Fri, May 19, 2006 : Last updated 20:26 pm (Thai local time)



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Home > National > Queen Margrethe II: artist and academic





Queen Margrethe II: artist and academic

She's an artist, a writer, a translator, a clothes designer. She's also Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, head of Europe's oldest monarchy but considered one of that continent's most progressive royals.

The Danish Royal House, which has been headed by the same family for 49 generations, can trace its ancestry back to Gorm the Old (died 958 AD) and his son Harald I Bluetooth (died 987 AD), who are credited with the first unification of the country.

Through the millennia, Denmark has evolved from a Viking stronghold into a modern, prosperous nation. It joined Nato in 1949 and the EU in 1973. Among its approximately 5.4 million inhabitants (about 1.4 per cent of the total EU population), it counts Inuit, Scandinavians, Faroese, Germans, Turks, Iranians and Somalis.

The major religion is Evangelical Lutheran, followed by other Protestant churches, Roman Catholics and Muslims.

Her Majesty was not heir to the throne when she was born, in April 1940. The eldest of King Frederik IX's three daughters, she could not become queen because, according to Danish law at that time, only males could become monarch. However, in a major overhaul of the constitution in 1953, a unicameral legislature was established, and females were allowed to ascend the throne in the absence of male heirs.

When her future became clear, the 13-year-old princess began her royal training, eventually studying at various European universities, including Copenhagen University, Cambridge, Aarhus, the Sorbonne and London School of Economics. Arguably the most intellectual and educated monarch in Europe, she holds degrees in political science, archaeology and economics.

In January 1972, when she ascended the throne, she became Denmark's first reigning queen. Denmark, however, is a constitutional monarchy and the sovereign cannot perform political acts independently.

Although the queen signs all acts of legislation before they can become law, these only come into effect after being countersigned by a cabinet minister.

The queen's main tasks are to represent the Kingdom abroad and to be a unifying figurehead at home. She is also the Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshire), an infantry regiment of the British Army.

Despite the constraints of her position, Her Majesty is considered a "hands-on" queen. The prime minister and foreign minister regularly advise her on the political developments.

She hosts official visits by foreign heads of state and pays state visits abroad. She receives every ambassador from foreign countries represented in Denmark and also formally appoints and dismisses civil servants.

In addition to writing her own speeches, she holds, in the winter months, private audiences with seven of her subjects every fortnight, when her visitors have the opportunity to discuss any subject they wish to raise.

As an unelected public official, the queen does not participate in party politics nor expresses any political opinions. She does, however, occasionally give advice informally on topics of national concern.

Her openness once caused a stir. In an authorised biography of the Queen published in 2005, when she addressed the problems of fundamentalist Islam faced by her country, the sentence, "We have to show an alternative to the totalitarity that is also one of the sides of Islam" was mistranslated as "We have to show our opposition to Islam".

In the storm that followed, the correction was announced and the biography was re-published several months later with the mistranslation amended.

According to reports, if Her Majesty were not queen, she could make a living as a professional artist. Under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, her illustrations accompanied the 1977 Danish edition (and the 2002 re-issue) of JRR Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings". It is also said that she provided some of the translations. She is also skilled in embroidery and church textiles.

Her Majesty, married to former French diplomat Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, now Royal Consort Prince Henrik, has two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim. In the more than 30 years of her reign, Her Majesty has enjoyed ever-increasing popularity with her people. According to some reports, in fact, if she were not Queen of Denmark, she would be elected president.

Laurie Rosenthal

The Nation








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