Allow yourself – if only for a moment – to be swept away by this fairytale. It’s an antidote, perhaps, to months of horror headlines, two years of war and an ongoing political dialogue so poor that makes school yard squabbles sound like Rhodes scholar debates.
Queen Mary, once just plain old Mary Elizabeth Donaldson from Hobart, Tasmania, now sits on Europe’s oldest royal throne alongside her husband, King Frederik X. Just like her wedding 20 years ago, it was sealed with a memorable kiss.
In Copenhagen, the cobblestoned centuries-old city that inspired the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, they came out in droves, wearing lined winter coats, scarves and woollen hats – some even held hands. By the time the royal family popped their heads through the balcony doors, the temperature had fallen to below freezing.
There was ample room here for the cynics. Some even turned up carrying placards.
“Justice for Pingo,” screamed one, using King Frederik X’s old navy nickname to call for him to be tried for treason – apparently for his government’s decision to allow US army bases on Danish soil. The new king is likely to be asked for royal assent.
But tin foil hat-wearers and republicans alike were completely outnumbered by the more than 100,000 people who just wanted to, even if just for a few hours, open their hearts and forget about everything else.
Hotels, trains and airlines had been fully booked since the queen dropped her bombshell abdication announcement in her annual televised New Year’s Eve address.
Faith Julija Kristensen, who left Sydney in 2006 for a new life with her partner in Denmark, was one of those who embraced the moment.
Having travelled a couple of hours into Copenhagen by train just for the occasion, she’d found a prime spot outside Christiansborg Palace, hoping to get a glimpse of the new king and queen. She’d even penned a poem:
Something’s building deep inside, a special kind of pride.
A new king takes the throne with an Aussie-born by his side.
Proof that fairytales are real and dreams, they do come true.
Our Mary, Queen Mary, we are so proud of you.
Just like Faith, Jorja Curry, a 17-year-old Australian exchange student, arrived early to witness history with her host family. After 12 months in regional Denmark, she is flying home to Armidale, NSW, on Monday.
“I wasn’t going to miss this for the world,” she said. “Mary is such a wonderful role model for girls here, and it’s something, as an Australian, I think we should all be really proud of.”
With the full royal pageantry – a stage coach, guards in bearskin hats, and a vintage Rolls-Royce – the hugely popular chain-smoking Queen Margrethe II, 83, left her residence at Amalienborg shortly after 1.30pm for a short carriage ride to Christiansborg Castle, the seat of government and parliament.
There, at a council of state at 2pm, surrounded by her son, grandson and cabinet officials, she signed a declaration of abdication, ending her 52-year reign with the stroke of a pen. It was only the second time a Danish sovereign has stepped down, the last one – Erik III – did so almost 900 years ago in 1146.
Frederik, 55, who became king as she left the room, was then proclaimed sovereign by Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
“The crown prince, who will now be our regent, is a king we know, a king we care about and a king we trust,” the prime minister said.
The cheers for a new king were at times deafening as he walked out on the castle balcony, the home of the Danish parliament and a familiar landmark to lovers of Scandi noir political drama Borgen. A sea of Danes waved red-and-white flags and together sang their national anthem.
Royal successions are also usually prompted by a death. But this one was different – with the outgoing queen playing a starring role. The mood was jovial and upbeat. A transition of power from one era to the next. The new king shed tears.
The cheers became louder when Mary – whose popularity in her adopted nation is only shaded by the outgoing queen – later joined him, followed by their children.
If there is proof that fairytales aren’t always storybook-perfect, it’s that the couple has for two months now been plagued by rumours of an affair.
The suggestions of infidelity arose after Spanish media outlets published photos of then-prince Frederik with Mexican philanthropist, model and TV personality Genoveva Casanova during a private trip to Madrid in October. Casanova has denied the allegations of a romance between her and Frederik, calling them “completely untrue”.
Danish media have gone to great lengths to ignore the claims, but some references have appeared in the tabloid press. Everyone knows the claims. But they stress it’s not the kind of thing the Danes are comfortable talking about publicly.
And so we watch the pair interact. First with their children and then, eventually, with each other. Lovingly. Grasping hands and raising them into the air. For several minutes, they received an unbroken round of applause. But when they first left the balcony, something was missing.
To cries for more, the royal couple appeared on the balcony once again. Egged on by the crowd as a feeling of joy spread across the thousands gathered at castle square, the new king and queen kissed. They both beamed with happiness.
Is all forgiven or was it all a beat-up? Either way, the couple had come full circle to seal the day with a kiss, bringing back memories of their wedding, where the crowds also demanded an embrace.
Frederik pointed out, among other things, that as king he would take that responsibility on his shoulders with respect, pride and great joy.
“My hope is to become a unifying king of tomorrow,” he said.
“I need all the support I can get from my beloved wife, my family, from you and from that which is greater than us.”
A nation wishes him well but knows his successes will be down to his wife.