Danish Queen's move to ensure survival of the monarchy leaves family 'in shock'

OSLO, NORWAY- SEPTEMBER 26: Queen Margrethe of Denmark speaks as the recipient of this year's Nordic Association's Language Award on September 26, 2022 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Rune Hellestad/Getty Images)
Queen Margrethe of Denmark receiving the Nordic Association's Language Award in Oslo, 2022. (Getty Images)

Queen Margrethe of Denmark has announced that the titles 'Prince' and 'Princess' will be removed from four of her grandchildren - the children of her second and youngest son, Prince Joachim.

The children of Crown Prince Frederik, her firstborn, will retain the titles of Prince and Princess of Denmark.

From January, Prince Joachim's children will be known as Count and Countess of Monpezat, with their previous titles being "discontinued."

Joachim shares sons Nikolai, aged 23 and Felix who is 20, with his ex-wife Alexandra, and his youngest two children — Henrik, 13 and Athena, 10 - with his current wife Princess Marie.

Reacting to the decision, Countess Alexandra — Prince Joachim's first wife and mother to his two eldest children — has revealed the children feel "excluded" to Danish newspaper BT.

"They cannot understand why their identity is being taken from them," she said.

Prince Joachim is reported as saying to Ekstra Bladet — a Danish publication — that the initial plan presented to him was for his four children to lose these titles once they reached 25. He claims that he received just "five days notice" to this timeline moving rapidly up.

He added: "We are all very sad. It's never fun to see your children being mistreated like that. They find themselves in a situation they do not understand." When asked if the removal of his children's prince and princess title would change his relationship with his mother, he replied: "I don't think I need to elaborate."

Nikolai — the eldest of the four grandchildren — has said the family is "in shock at this decision and how quickly it has actually gone. I don't understand why it had to happen this way."

The statement added that the aim of removing the titles is to "a framework for the four grandchildren to be able to shape their own existence to a much greater extent without being limited by the special considerations and duties that a formal affiliation with the Royal House of Denmark as an institution involves."

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK- APRIL 16:   Queen Margrethe  II of Denmark celebrates her 76th Birthday with her grandchildren, ( l to r ) Princess Isabella,Prince Nikolai, Princess Athena, Prince Henrik, Princess Josephine,Prince Felix,Prince Christian  and Prince Vincent, at  Amalienborg Palace, on April 16, 2016, in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark with her grandchildren at Amalienborg Palace, in 2016. (Getty Images)

"The Queen's decision," the statement also said, "is in line with similar adjustments that other royal houses have made in various ways in recent years."

However, all of Prince Joachim's children remain in the line of succession and will be referred to as 'excellencies' rather than His or Her Highness.

Who is Queen Margrethe of Denmark?

Queen Margrethe is now Europe's longest-reigning monarch: the 82 year old took the throne in 1972. Some of the celebrations for her own Golden Jubilee were recently cancelled out of respect upon the news of Queen Elizabeth II's death. Her own husband, Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark died in 2018 at the age of 83.

She is well known for doing things her own way. Artistic and individual, she is often regarded as less formal than some of her European counterparts.

Margrethe has designed costumes and sets for theatrical and ballet performances for decades, as well as illustrating J.R.R Tolkein's 'Lord of the Rings' and her artistic works have been featured in many exhibitions.

Her annual New Year's Address is often used to more directly tackle contemporary social and political issues than the late Queen Elizabeth's Christmas speeches were known to.

(FILES) A file photo dated 31 December 2001 of Denmark's Queen Margrethe delivering the traditional New Year's speech from the office at her residence Amalienborg Palace. Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, the head of the world's oldest monarchy dating back a thousand years, quietly marked 13 January 2002, 30 years on the throne. No celebrations or festivities were planned to mark the occasion, the royal palace said. The queen, 61, was to carry out her duties as usual on Monday, which included holding a public audience, the palace announced.    AFP PHOTO        /EPA/SCANPIX NORDFOTO FILES/KELD NAVNTOFT (Photo credit should read KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Margrethe delivering the traditional New Year's Address from Amalienborg Palace, in 2002. (Getty Images)

The idea of 'slimming down' monarchies has proliferated public thought in recent years. Large royal households attract increasing criticism for the costs associated with maintaining those royals who are further down the respective lines of successions.

King Charles, in particular, has been widely reported to be keen on the House of Windsor becoming more streamlined for some years now.

In the face of the cost-of-living crisis Britain faces, any perceived excess in royal expenditure will be highly scrutinised.

Queen Margrethe's move follows that a similar decision made by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 2019 as European royal houses attempt to appear less bloated, which if left unattended can raise questions about the necessity and value of monarchies as a whole.

Public opinion in Denmark will most likely with time approve of this recent decision from the House of Glücksburg, helping to ensure the longevity of the royal house. However, opinion is currently divided, as the newly formed rupture within the family pulls focus.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - AUGUST 28: Prince Joachim and Princess Marie together with their children and Jochim's former wife Alexandra Christina Manley at the dinner party to celebrate the 18th birthday of Prince Nokolai (R- 3rd) hosted by Queen Margrethe of Denmark on the royal ship Dannebrog at the quay next to Amalienborg on August 28, 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Prince Nikolai is the son of Prince Joachim and his former wife Alexandra Christina Manley. Following this event Dannebrog leaves Copenhagen Tuesday for Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, where the Queen commence a three day visit.  (Photo by Ole Jensen - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Prince Joachim with his current wife Princess Marie and their children, accompanied by
his ex-wife Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg and their two sons, celebrating Nikolai's 18th birthday in Copenhagen, 2017. (Getty Images)

Similar issues have already started to rear their heads in the House of Windsor, as Charles' attempts to slim down the number of working royals are already seemingly underway.

Upon the birth of Archie, Meghan and Harry's eldest child, discussions surrounding his title — or lack thereof — caused conflict amongst the family.

During the Sussexes interview with Oprah in 2021, Meghan said that she desired Archie to have a title not "for all the grandeur surrounding this stuff" but to ensure he would be entitled to security.

A man watches the Duke and Duchess of Sussex interview with Oprah Winfrey, which is being shown on ITV, on a phone screen in a flat in London. Picture date: Monday March 8, 2021. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Someone watches Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah on a smartphone in London, 2021. (Getty Images)

Now Charles has become monarch, Harry and Meghan's children are entitled to be called prince and princess. However, the Royal Family's website has not yet been updated to include this, indicating that there is a possibility that Archie and Lilibet will not be granted the titles.

Given the controversy already surrounding Meghan and Harry's relationship with the rest of the Windsors, it seems unlikely that if King Charles were to make a similar announcement to Queen Margrethe's the news would be received as easily.