The Last Queen on Earth: How Denmark's much-loved chain-smoking Margrethe, 82, is now world's longest-running head of state

Margrethe II has earned many admirers in her native Denmark, but she has also earned nicknames such as 'the ashtray Queen' and 'fatal role model'

The Last Queen on Earth: How Denmark's much-loved chain-smoking Margrethe, 82, is now world's longest-running head of state
Denmark's Queen Margrethe II is now Europe's longest-reigning monarch after the death of the UK's Queen Elizabeth II (Steffi Loos/Getty Images)
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DENMARK, EUROPE: Denmark's Queen Margrethe II is now Europe's longest-reigning monarch after the death of the UK's Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, September 8. In Denmark, the 82-year-old mother-in-law of Australian-born Princess Mary is on the throne for 50 years serving. After the passing of her father, Frederik IX, she was given the crown of a monarch in 1972 at the age of 31. 

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Although Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been a monarch since 1967, he didn't become the country's head of state until 1984, when Brunei won its independence from the UK. The Queen of Denmark, the current longest-reigning female monarch is frequently featured eating, smoking, and wearing loud, colorful clothing; Vogue called her "an unsung style heroine." 

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'Queen Elizebeth was huge inspiration'

Queen Margrethe II was among the first foreign monarchs to honor Her Majesty and had a close relationship with Queen Elizabeth II. As third cousins and great-great-granddaughters of Queen Victoria, Margrethe frequently looked up to Elizabeth as a big sister. Margrethe stated in May that Elizabeth, the only other living Queen and 14 years Margrethe's senior, served as a "huge inspiration" to her, reported in UK's ITV News. She said, "Queen Elizabeth was 26 when she became Queen. When I was growing up, I hoped I wouldn't be as young as that when my father died. It made an enormous impression on me. The fact that she was dedicating her life. I understood what that meant. This is for life. That is the whole point of my life. And I know she sees that too." She added, "When I was growing up, my mother and father said to me, 'look at what they do in England' and I could see that it could be done and it was worthwhile and you could live a very full life with it, even with a heavy schedule and demanding job."

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Queen Margrethe of Denmark (right) waving as she rides in an open carriage with Queen Elizabeth II , on their way to Royal Ascot, England, June 17th 1980. (Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images)
Queen Margrethe of Denmark (right) waving as she rides in an open carriage with Queen Elizabeth II, on their way to Royal Ascot, England, June 17, 1980. (Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images)

'The Ashtray Queen'

Daily Mail reported, that Margrethe has earned many admirers in her native Denmark, but she has also earned the nicknames "the Ashtray Queen" and "fatal role model." The chain-smoking monarch is frequently pictured holding a cigarette, and in spite of years of criticism, she defiantly maintains her beloved smoking habit. She has even been seen holding her young grandchildren's hands and smoking a cigarette during a photo opportunity at the royal family's summer home, Gersten Palace. On another occasion, the Queen smoked during a royal visit to nursing home residents who had asthma. According to a 2001 study by Professor Hugo Kesteloot, the prevalence of smoking-related deaths among women in Denmark could be attributed to the popularity of Queen Margrethe. The royal family, however, was immovable. At the time, Prince Henrik, her late husband, and a former smoker said, "We must not be impressed or influenced by political correctness. Let people die from smoking if they want. It's their business." During her visit to the Royal Opera House in London, there were rumors that all smoke alarms had been turned off to accommodate her habit. 

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Due to Covid, Margrethe celebrated the 50th anniversary of her accession on a smaller scale in January. The full celebrations had been delayed until this weekend, but after the passing of Queen Elizabeth, they were drastically scaled back, with a carriage procession through Copenhagen's streets and a balcony appearance being canceled.

'An Artistic Queen with bright eyes and wide smile'

She has bright blue eyes, and a wide smile, and is well known for her laid-back and playful personality as well as her involvement in Danish culture. She is a painter as well as a costume and set designer and has frequently collaborated with the Royal Danish Ballet and Royal Danish Theatre. She is a native speaker of English, French, German, and Swedish and has studied at both Cambridge and the Sorbonne. She has worked on complex translation projects, such as the 1981 Danish translation of Simone de Beauvoir's 'All Men are Mortal', which she co-wrote with her French-born husband, Prince Henrik, using a pseudonym. 

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Portrait of Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her husband Prince Henrik, March 16th 1972. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Portrait of Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her husband Prince Henrik, March 16, 1972 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Local dk reported, that Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who has reigned for the past 48 years, is trailing her. Although four nations—Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden—have crown princesses, Margrethe is also Europe's only reigning monarch. 

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On April 16, 1940, just one week after Nazi Germany invaded Denmark, Margrethe was born in Copenhagen. She eventually became the oldest of three sisters, but when she was born, women were not permitted to inherit the Danish throne due to the country's succession law. Following a referendum, the law was altered in 1953 as a result of pressure from succeeding Danish governments concerned with the need to modernize society. 

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Queen Margrethe II of Denmark attends in a state banquet in Bellevue Palace on November 10, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. The Danish queen and her son are conducting a state visit to Germany, including the country's federal capital, Berlin, and that of its largest state, Munich, from November 10-13. Denmark and Germany are neighboring countries and close partners politically, historically, economically and culturally.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark attends a state banquet in Bellevue Palace on November 10, 2021, in Berlin, Germany  (Steffi Loos/Getty Images)

A historian, Lars Hovebakke Sorensen told AFP, "She has managed to be a queen who has united the Danish nation in a time of large changes: globalization, the appearance of the multicultural state, economic crises in the 1970s, 1980s, and again in 2008 to 2015, and the pandemic. The basis of her popularity is that the queen is absolutely non-political." 

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The queen, who is fondly referred to as "Daisy" by her family and subjects, has maintained the monarchy's relevance without eroding its stature. She became a widow in 2018, but she has vowed time and time again that she will never quit her job. "I will remain on the throne until I drop," she declares.

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