Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has announced her abdication after a 52-year-long reign. The unexpected announcement was made during her annual New Year speech to the nation.

The monarch ascended to the throne on 14 January 1972, following the death of her father, King Frederik IX. The queen will step down on the exact anniversary of her accession. Queen Margrethe II will retain the title “Her Majesty” even after abdicating.

The throne will pass to her son, Crown Prince Frederik, marking a historic transition in Danish royalty. The announcement was made from Christian IX’s Palace at Amalienborg, where the Queen expressed her reasons for the decision.

The decision to abdicate was influenced by a back surgery in February, prompting Queen Margrethe II to reassess her position and consider passing on the responsibilities to the next generation. In her speech, she mentioned that time is running out, and the challenges are increasing, making it harder for her to handle the same responsibilities as before.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen expressed gratitude for the queen’s lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the kingdom. Frederiksen acknowledged the difficulty in accepting the change of the throne after more than 1,000 years of the duty and position being handed down.

In the new year, Crown Prince Frederik will be proclaimed king, and Crown Princess Mary will become queen. Crown Princess Mary, originally Mary Donaldson from Australia, became Crown Princess of Denmark in 2004 upon her marriage to Crown Prince Frederik.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen expressed confidence in the new royal couple’s readiness for the responsibility and tasks ahead.

Queen Margrethe II’s contributions to Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland were described as “of undeniable importance,” and she is recognised with gratitude and admiration. The Queen has been a highly popular public figure in Denmark, known for walking the streets of Copenhagen virtually unescorted, her warm manners, linguistic talents, and design skills.

Despite growing older, Queen Margrethe II remained active and tough. In 2011, at the age of 70, she visited Danish troops in southern Afghanistan, dressed in a military jumpsuit. As monarch, Queen Margrethe II extensively travelled across Denmark and regularly visited Greenland and the Faroe Islands, semi-independent territories within the Danish realm.