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Danish queen apologizes after she strips grandchildren of their royal titles

Queen Margrethe II acknowledged that the decision had led to “strong reactions” and said she was sorry, but she doubled down on her move to streamline the country’s monarchy.
Queen Margrethe II Of Denmark And Family Celebrate Her Majesty's 76th Birthday
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark celebrates her 76th birthday with her grandchildren at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen in 2016. Julian Parker / UK Press via Getty Images file

Denmark's Queen Margrethe II has apologized for stripping four of her grandchildren of their royal titles after public outcry from members of her family.

The queen acknowledged in a statement Monday that the decision had led to "strong reactions" and said she was sorry, but she doubled down on her move to streamline the monarchy.

The queen announced last week that the titles of her younger son Prince Joachim's descendants would be discontinued, meaning his four children will no longer be known as princes or princesses but as counts and countesses of Monpezat from January onward.

The queen has two sons, the oldest of whom is the heir to the throne. Prince Joachim, who is sixth in line, has three sons and a daughter from two marriages. The children are 10 to 23 years old.

Margrethe’s half-century reign makes her Europe’s longest-serving monarch after the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II last month.

Margrethe decision, which she said she made as part of an effort to streamline the Danish royal family, did not go down well.

Prince Joachim told the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet last Wednesday that his family were only given five days’ notice of the announcement, which he said was "unfortunate." Prince Marie, his wife, described their relationship with the queen as "complicated."

“We would have liked to have had time to talk about it,” the princess said in the same interview.

Queen Margrethe II during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne in Copenhagen on Sept. 10. Ida Marie Odgaard / AFP - Getty Images

The queen issued her statement Monday to address the backlash and apologize for the decision’s impact on her son and grandchildren.

“I have made my decision as Queen, mother and grandmother, but, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected,” the statement said.

“That makes a big impression, and for that I am sorry,” the queen added.

She said there should be “no doubt” that her children and grandchildren are her “great pride and joy” and that she hoped that “we as a family can find the peace to find our way through this situation.”

The queen stuck to her guns, however, and maintained that the dissolution of the four titles was “necessary” for “future-proofing of the monarchy.”

“Holding a royal title involves a number of commitments and duties that, in the future, will lie with fewer members of the royal family,” Monday’s statement said.

"My decision has been a long time coming," it added. "With my 50 years on the throne, it is natural both to look back and to look ahead. It is my duty and my desire as Queen to ensure that the monarchy always shapes itself in keeping with the times. Sometimes, this means that difficult decisions must be made, and it will always be difficult to find the right moment."

Robert Hazell, a professor of government and the constitution at University College London's School of Public Policy, said Denmark is a small country of around 6 million people and “did not need a big royal family.”

“It is a liberating decision. These children will now be free to pursue their own lives, without the expectation that they must undertake royal duties,” he said.

"In each generation, the monarchy needs to streamline the royal family to a core team who will carry out royal duties, leaving the rest free to pursue their own careers," he added, describing the decision as “sensible and forward-looking.”

Last week's announcement is the latest of several moves by the queen to slim the monarchy and its expenses. In May 2016, she announced that Prince Christian, the oldest son of Prince Frederik, will be the only grandchild to receive an annuity from the state when he becomes an adult.

The Danish royal family is also not the first European monarchy to take such steps.

The Swedish royal family took similar measures to trim the number of its members in 2019, when King Carl XVI Gustaf stripped five of his grandchildren of their royal titles.