Prince Henrik, consort to Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, died peacefully on February 13th at Fredensborg Palace. His body was formally removed from Fredensborg back to Copenhagen, where the public was able to pay tribute to him. His funeral followed on February 20th.
The nation mourned the prince who had been a part of their royal family since his 1967 marriage to their Crown Princess Margrethe.
Born Henri Marie Jean André, Count of Laborde de Monpezat, he was a colorful character among the royals. Henrik was the definition of a bon vivant who enjoyed cooking and winemaking. He ran the Château de Cayx estate in France, a favorite retreat in his native country. It was a much-loved spot for the prince, who spent summers there with his wife and children, and then his sons and their children. The prince also worked to translate French literature into Danish. He was termed a “Renaissance Man”, which made Henrik an excellent fit for Margrethe – the Queen is a painter, costume designer, and patron of the arts – a “Renaissance Woman” in her own right.
Courtship, Marriage, and a New Country
The charming, multilingual diplomat fell for Margrethe, and she for him. They met at a dinner party in the home of mutual friends in 1965, and again they met during a friend’s wedding. It was on the plane ride home together that Henrik declared his love for her. In the autumn of 1966, they were engaged. Margrethe’s ring is called a toi et moi ring – French for “you and me” represented by two large diamonds. A perfect way to seal and engagement by her French beau.
The royal wedding ceremony took place in Holmens Kirke and subsequent celebrations were held at Fredensborg Palace. The following year on May 26th, 1968, Henrik and Margethe welcomed their first son, Frederik, named for his grandfather King Frederik IX. Their second child, Prince Joachim, was born June 7th, 1969. Both Frederik and Joachim carry their royal titles as well as their father’s family title. Both are styled “His Royal Highness” and as a Count of Monpezat.
The issue of titles was a sticking point for Henrik, who expressed his disappointment at not becoming king when Margrethe became queen. In royal protocol, a king is higher in rank than queen, so it would’ve been inappropriate for him to become king when it was his wife who was the blood heir to King Frederik IX. Henrik didn’t see it that way. His complaints startled Danes, who did not expect their Prince Consort to make such a matter public.
Public Anger, Unroyal Burial
Prince Henrik was laid to rest in a very modern way, unique from the standard Danish royal burials. It was done so at his request because of his very public frustration of not being a king or even a king consort. After being cremated, part of his ashes were buried in the garden of Fredensborg; the remainder of his ashes have been scattered in the waters around Denmark.
Originally, the queen and prince had commissioned artist Bjørn Nørgaard to create a stunningly unusual glass sarcophagus. Inside, frosted glass silhouettes of the royal couple. It is mounted on three columns with silver elephant heads (a nod to the Danish Order of the Elephant). Margrethe and Henrik were to be buried in the royal vault under the floor in Roskilde Cathedral, with the sarcophagus above representing them, much like the traditional stone versions seen in royal cathedrals in Britain and Europe.
Then, in 2017, Prince Henrik made the announcement that the plans for this royal burial would not take place. Instead, he would be buried away from his wife. It was a form of protest that would serve to remind Margrethe for the rest of her life that she had denied him his equality. It was said that the prince had dementia, and thus his retirement from public life, but he was lucid enough to remember that he had be wronged, and he made sure that his new wishes were followed to the letter.
Henrik’s family and only very close friends attended the funeral, including his siblings and even his former daughter-in-law Alexandra, the Countess of Frederiksborg. The nation came out in full force to see his coffin and pay respects by leaving flowers.
Margrethe must be devastated, but like the true queen that she is, she has gracefully appeared in public to acknowledge the public tributes to Henrik and was a pillar of strength during the funeral itself. He sounds like he was a firecracker, full of life and a vibrant personality. Despite his displeasure over being denied kingship, Henrik served his country admirably and was Margrethe’s right-hand-man for the entirety of their marriage. They appeared very happy and Queen Margrethe, I am sure, will miss him terribly. Princess Marie,too, must be incredibly sad to lose not just a father-in-law, but a father-in-law who shares her homeland’s cultural background. They seemed very close. Crown Princess Mary made a sweet gesture of wearing a necklace that Henrik gifted her for her wedding to Crown Prince Frederik.
My prayers to the Danish Royal Family.