The Queen of Denmark’s decision to strip four of her grandchildren of their titles has sparked unprecedented royal drama in Copenhagen and prompted her furious son to publicly air the family’s dirty laundry.
Queen Margrethe II announced last week that the four children of her youngest son, 53-year-old Prince Joachim, will no longer be allowed to use the titles of Prince and Princess from January 1st.
She apologized on Monday for the injuries caused.
But Margrethe stuck to the decision that would allow Nikolai, 23, Felix, 20 – born of Joachim’s first marriage -, Henrik, 13, and Athena, 10, to live a normal life without royal obligations.
The move followed a trend among other European royal families to slim down their monarchies, including in Britain, where the Windsors face their own family feud.
“Holding a royal title entails a number of obligations and duties that will in future fall on fewer members of the royal family,” Europe’s only reigning queen said in a statement.
But Prince Joachim saw it as a snub and quickly spoke up in the media.
“On May 5th, I was presented with a plan. That this whole question of my children’s identity would be removed when they each turned 25. Athena will be 11 in January,” he told Danish tabloid BT
“Then I received a five-day advance notice” that the decision had been expedited.
His first wife Alexandra also told BT she and their children were “shocked”, while their eldest son expressed his sadness.
“I’m very confused as to why this had to happen this way,” Nicolai told the tabloid Ekstra Bladet.
– “Necessary” decision –
The outpourings sparked surprise in the Scandinavian country just days after the hugely popular royal family celebrated the Queen’s 50th anniversary on the throne with pomp and smiles.
There is “no tradition in Denmark for members of the royal family to discuss things publicly,” historian Lars Hovbakke Sorensen told AFP.
Prince Joachim said he had “unfortunately” not had any contact with his mother or older brother Crown Prince Frederik since the Queen’s announcement.
“It’s family too. Or whatever you might call it,” he told BT
In a further blow, his French-born wife Princess Marie said the couple’s relationship with Crown Prince Frederik and his Australian-born wife Mary was “complicated”.
The media then dug up another old family dispute, namely Joachim and Marie’s claims that their 2019 move to Paris – where Joachim is the Danish embassy’s defense attache – was not their “own choice”.
But the Queen’s decision did not surprise royal observers.
It was “natural, reasonable and necessary,” said historian Sebastian Olden-Jorgensen.
The Queen’s four other grandchildren born to Crown Prince Frederik, 54, will retain their titles.
However, back in 2016, the Queen ruled that only the future king, Prince Christian, will receive an appanage when they come of age.
The removal of Joachim’s children’s titles is just another step in the same direction, experts said.
“She wisely chose to do this herself and not leave it to her successor, the Crown Prince,” said Olden-Jorgensen.
“It’s much easier for her to do this to her son than it is for him to do it to his brother later,” he added.
– ‘Total breakdown of communication’ –
Nonetheless, the heated reactions from Joachim’s family “suggest a conflict and a total breakdown in communication,” wrote columnist Jacob Heinel Jensen in BT
The Queen’s apology came in a statement on Monday.
“I underestimated the extent to which my younger son and his family felt affected … and I’m sorry for that,” she said.
“I hope now that as a family we find the calm to find our way through this situation.”
An opinion poll conducted by Voxmeter found that 50.6 percent of Danes support their decision, while 23.3 percent disagree.
This isn’t the royal family’s first scandal, although they’ve rarely been so sensational.
In 2002, the late Prince Consort Henrik made headlines when he fled to his château in southern France to “reflect on life” and complained that he was not shown enough respect in Denmark after Crown Prince Frederik was chosen to be the queen to represent at a New Year’s party instead of him.
And just months before his death in 2018, Henrik, who had dementia, revealed he didn’t want to be buried next to his wife because he was never equaled with her.