Denmark’s King Frederik X appears before huge crowds after taking the throne

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Denmark’s King Frederik X ascended the throne on Sunday, succeeding his mother, Queen Margrethe II, who formally abdicated after 52 years as monarch, with big crowds gathered in the capital to witness history.

Margrethe, 83, stunned the nation on New Year’s Eve when she announced she planned to become the first Danish monarch in nearly 900 years to voluntarily relinquish the throne.

The succession was formalized the moment Margrethe signed the declaration of her abdication during a meeting of the Council of State at parliament. Denmark, one of the oldest monarchies in the world, does not have a coronation.

The new king was later proclaimed by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on the balcony of the parliament, Christiansborg castle, with the words “Long live King Frederik the 10th.”

“My hope is to become a unifying king of tomorrow. It is a task I have approached all my life. It is a task I take on with pride, respect and joy,” Frederik said in his first speech as king from the balcony overlooking large crowds of cheerful people.

Moments later, Frederik, 55, was joined on the balcony by his Australian-born wife Mary, 51, who is now queen, their children Christian, 18, who is the heir to the throne, Princess Isabelle, 16, and twins Princess Josephine and Prince Vincent, both 13.

In close to freezing temperatures, people from all over Denmark converged on the capital to witness events, in a sign of the huge popularity the monarchy is enjoying in the nation of nearly six million.

“It brought tears in a joyful way to see him do so well up on the balcony, both with his speech and when Mary came out and held his hands and finishing with a kiss,” said Kasper Wiigh Larsen, 45.

“It has really been worth it to stand here and wait all day,” he said.

The new king and queen later rode by horse carriage through packed crowds in the streets of Copenhagen back to their residence, Amalienborg, a royal complex built in the 1750s and located in central Copenhagen.

The couple will continue to reside with Margrethe, who will retain her title as queen, in Amalienborg albeit in their respective palaces in the octagonal complex.

The new king and queen take the throne at a time of huge public support and enthusiasm for the monarchy. The most recent survey done after Margrethe announced she would abdicate indicated that 82% of Danes expect Frederik to do well or very well in his new role, while 86% said the same about Mary.

Margrethe, who had previously said she would remain on the throne for life, did not give a reason for her decision to step down but said that a major back surgery she underwent in February last year had made her consider her future.

(Reporting by Johannes Birkebaek, Louise Rasmussen, Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Editing by Frances Kerry and Christina Fincher)