By Johannes Birkebaek
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II on Thursday defied a cold spell to ride through the streets of Copenhagen in a gold-coated horse carriage for the last time as monarch before handing over the throne to her son Crown Prince Frederik next week.
The 83-year-old queen, who was crowned in 1972, announced on live TV during her traditional New Year’s Eve speech that she intends to abdicate the throne, taking many in the country of 5.9 million people by surprise.
“I was shocked when I saw the queen abdicated. I was also a bit sad because she’s been queen for 52 years and I thought it would be ongoing,” said Laura Zinkel, a 21-year-old student, who came to the royal palace with her mother to catch a glimpse of the queen.
“The Danish royal family is very accessible to the Danish people because they participate in quite normal things, which is extraordinary,” she added.
The queen rode from her home in the Amalienborg Palace near the waterfront to the parliament for a traditional New Year’s reception in a carriage built for Christian VIII by carriage maker Henry Fife in 1840 and coated with 24-carat gold leaf.
The queen has enjoyed broad support throughout her life from the public, who have described her as a tactful and yet creative personality.
“She has been a stable figure and a kind big mother for all of us (Danes),” said Bente Lundbak Pihl, 57, as she and her daughter watched the carriage.
The queen has often designed costumes and scenography for theatre plays and ballets interpreting the fairy tales of famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
She became heir to her father in 1953 at 13, after a constitutional amendment allowed women to inherit the throne. She will abdicate on Jan. 14 and be succeeded by her eldest son, who will become King Frederik X.
(Reporting by Johannes Birkebaek; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Hugh Lawson)