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King Frederick VII of Denmark died on November 15, 1863 and despite two marriages he did not leave any heirs. Therefore under the agreement of the London Protocol of 1852 Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a junior branch of the House of Oldenburg, mounted the throne as King Christian IX. Since the balance of power between the sovereign and parliament was still in dispute, therefore, the early part of his reign was dominated by political disputes. In spite of his initial unpopularity and the many years of political strife, where the king was in conflict with large parts of the population, his popularity recovered towards the end of his reign, and he became a national icon due to the length of his reign and the high standards of personal morality with which he was identified.

Christian IX died in 1906 and was succeeded by his eldest son as King Frederik VIII. Frederik was liberal and he had a much more favorable to the new parliamentarian system than his father had. He came to the throne very late in life and was already in ill health and reigned for a short period, dying in 1912. His son and successor, Christian X, faced a constitutional crisis, one of the largest crisis since the adoption of the constitution in 1849.

The conflict was over the long debated issue of the reunification with Denmark of Schleswig, a former Danish fiefdom, which had been lost to Prussia during the Second War of Schleswig. The King and the cabinet were in dispute over this issue. One of the issues was the future of the city of Flensburg, in Central Schleswig. A plebiscite was to decide whether or not to return central Schleswig to either Denmark or Germany. Danish nationalists felt that at least that city should be returned to Denmark regardless of the plebiscite’s results. Christian X agreed with this premise and ordered Prime Minister Zahle to include Flensburg in the re-unification process. Zahle felt he was under no obligation to comply. He refused the order and resigned several days later after a heated exchange with the King.

Afterward, Christian X dismissed the rest of the cabinet and replaced it with a conservative cabinet. The dismissal caused an almost revolutionary atmosphere in Denmark, and for several days the future of the monarchy seemed very much in doubt. Christian X, seeing the light of this, opened between the crown and members of the Social Democrats. Realizing the monarchy was about to be overthrown he backed down on his demands and dismissed his conservative cabinet, installing a compromise cabinet until elections could be held later that year. This was the last time a sitting Danish monarch attempted to take political action without the full support of parliament. Following the crisis, Christian X accepted his drastically reduced role and became a symbolic head of state. His son, Frederik IX (1947-1972, and granddaughter, Queen Margrethe II (1972-) have continued being non-political figureheads.

Cut here from Wikipedia is the Danish monarchs’ Constitutional role.

The Queen’s main tasks are to represent the Kingdom abroad and to be a unifying figurehead at home. She receives foreign ambassadors and awards honours and medals. The queen performs the latter task by accepting invitations to open exhibitions, attending anniversaries, inaugurating bridges, etc.

As an unelected public official, the Queen takes no part in party politics and does not express any political opinions. Although she has the right to vote, she opts not to do so to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.

After an election where the incumbent Prime Minister does not have a majority behind him or her, the Queen holds a “Dronningerunde” (Queen’s meeting) in which she meets the chairmen of each of the Danish political parties.

Each party has the choice of selecting a Royal Investigator to lead these negotiations or alternatively, give the incumbent Prime Minister the mandate to continue his government as is. In theory each party could choose its own leader as Royal Investigator, the social liberal Det Radikale Venstre did so in 2006, but often only one Royal Investigator is chosen plus the Prime Minister, before each election. The leader who, at that meeting succeeds in securing a majority of the seats in the Folketing, is by royal decree charged with the task of forming a new government. (It has never happened in more modern history that any party has held a majority on its own.)

Once the government has been formed, it is formally appointed by the Queen. Officially, it is the Queen who is the head of government, and she therefore presides over the Council of State, where the acts of legislation which have been passed by the parliament are signed into law. In practice, however, nearly all of the Queen’s formal powers are exercised by the Council of State, and she is required by convention to act on its advice.

In addition to her roles in her own country, the queen is also the Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires), an infantry regiment of the British Army, following a tradition in her family.

Next week, I will look at the conservative state of Prussia.