Celebrations abound in Denmark this month to recognize the 50th wedding anniversary of Queen Margrethe II and Frenchman Count Henri (now Henrik) de Laborde de Monpezat. The couple married in Copenhagen on 10 June 1967. Flashback photos and articles about Margrethe on that day and through the years portray a starkly different life after marriage compared with Denmark’s only other ruling queen: Margrethe I. This is hardly surprising, since almost 600 years separated the women’s lives.
The current Margrethe fell in love and married at the age of 27. But the first Margrethe had a husband chosen on her behalf – for political reasons, as was common in noble circles in those days. She was merely six years old. The marriage occurred four years later, on 9 April 1363, to 22-year-old King Haakon IV of Norway.
Margrethe II has two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Joachim, who have each produced four children, so the family line continues. The long-ago queen bore a son, Oluf, when she was 17. But her war-weary husband died a few years later and she never remarried; when Oluf perished suddenly at age 16, she groomed a relative as a proxy son-and-heir.
Queen Margrethe reigns over a much smaller territory country than did her predecessor. Margrethe I strategized to expand Denmark’s geopolitical control and managed to bring Norway (along with its territories of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands) and Sweden (which included today’s Finland) under her rule in the so-called Kalmar Union. Moreover, she was preparing to incorporate Schleswig as well when she died in Flensborg at the age of 59, possibly of the plague or poison.
Although the two Margrethes reflect widely contrasting life experiences, staged by very different historical times, both are regarded as intelligent and capable monarchs, who have left an indelible mark on Denmark’s culture and history.
—The Royal House: H.M. The Queen
—Encyclopdia Britannica Margaret I: Queen of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. By Lennart T. Norman
—danmarkshistorien Historiske perioder: Late Middle Ages, 1340-1536: Margrethe I and the Kalmar Union 1376-1412
—danmarkshistorien Margrethe 2., 1940- (in Danish)
—TV documentary about the Late Middle Ages, including Margrethe I (in Danish)
–Images of Margrethes I and II are in the public domain, via Creative Commons.