10 June 2017

50 Years with Daisy and Henrik

Denmark's Queen Margrethe II is larger than life. At nearly six foot tall with red hair, she would have stood out in any crowd even if she had not been the heiress to Europe's oldest monarchy. Add to that an artistic streak, a brilliant mind, a joie de vivre and a love of bright colors, and it is hard to imagine her sinking into the background or lounging with the wallflowers at a party.

Nevertheless, when the dashing young French diplomat Henri de Laborde de Monpezat was invited to a dinner party where he knew he would meet her, he almost didn't show. Bubbling over with a big personality of his own, he was sure princesses were deadly boring misses. He could not have been more mistaken about the young woman who was called Daisy by her family.

Fifty years ago today, on June 10, 1967, the couple were wed in Copenhagen. Daisy wore a daisy brooch that had been a gift to her mother Queen Ingrid in memory of her own mother, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, who was also called Daisy. She also sprinkled daisies in her bouquet and, in another tribute to tradition, she incorporated lace that had been part of family wedding gowns before hers and that lace has been handed down to the brides who followed her.

Henri was created a Danish Prince and his name was adapted to his new language as Henrik. However, he never forgot his homeland. The couple has maintained a home there as well and their children are just as comfortable with French as with Danish (and any number of other languages--their official bios even list which languages they each speak).

Their family grew very quickly. Son Frederik arrived before their first anniversary and second son Joachim was born just three days before their second anniversary. The couple devoted themselves to their children, but it was not long before fate called Margrethe to the throne. She was only 31 when her father King Frederik IX passed away and she inherited her throne.

Throughout her reign, Margrethe has proven popular with her people. Her down-to-earth style helps her to connect. It's not unusual to find her browsing a local marketplace or bicycling about the countryside. She has also continued to cultivate her artistic interests. Her credits include illustrating a set of The Lord of the Rings books, designing dance and theater costumes and even painting. Some of her more colorful outfits were even designed by her. Henrik also has a creative side, though his preferred outlet is writing poetry.

Over the decades, the couple has weathered many of the same challenges faced by Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her consort Prince Philip. Both princes are known to be strong willed and to have a bit of a macho streak, so playing second fiddle to their wives has not always been easy. Watching their sons, as heirs, take on bigger roles has also had its issues. Philip once allegedly said that he was just a "bloody amoeba," while Henrik went so far as to leave the country for three weeks to consider his position in 2002, publicly stating, ""For many years I have been Denmark's number two. I've been satisfied with that role, but I don't want to be relegated to number three after so many years."

The rift was healed and the couple resumed their close relationship, now with the added novelty of being grandparents. Each of their sons has presented them with four grandkids. The family regularly holds family photo calls with all of them and the love the young ones have Margrethe and especially Henrik is clearly evident.

Last year, Prince Henrik officially retired from his royal duties at the age of 80. (His counterpart Prince Philip is due to stand down later this year at 96.) So, we only see Henrik now on those family occasions, usually swarmed by the small princesses and princes, while Margrethe continues in her anointed role as Denmark's Queen. There is no public fanfare, no grand royal gatherings planned for this anniversary as there has been in the past. For their 50th, the tribute is much more personal: a sculpture by Henrik as a gift to his Daisy has been installed in the grounds of one of their homes. The unveiling was attended by the whole family that the two have created together. (View the photo album on their official website.)

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