Happy Birthday, Margrethe!

The best sovereign on the continent reaches a milestone.

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Queen Margrethe of Denmark turns 80 today, and to commemorate the occasion she gave an interview that appeared in the newspaper Politiken on Saturday. The conversation was wide-ranging, but the part that made headlines throughout Scandinavia was her admission that while she considers climate change an important issue, she’s not personally panicked about it, and that while she’s aware that climate does change – “it has changed and is changing all the time” – she’s not certain whether humans directly influence those changes. Let it be emphasized here that this is one queen who actually knows something about these matters: she studied prehistoric archeology at Cambridge and hence has an extremely long-term perspective.

(This isn’t the first time, by the way, that Margrethe has failed to strike the approved tone on climate change: in more than one New Year’s address, for example, she’s celebrated the melting of Greenland ice because it opens up the possibility of exploiting the island’s rich natural resources.)

The reactions to the queen’s birthday interview came swiftly. Søren Jakobsen, a commentator on Danish royal affairs, expressed surprise and dismay that she’d waded into such “controversial” waters. Danish scientists lamented what they considered Her Majesty’s unfortunate ignorance. And Uffe Elbæk, a member of the Danish parliament, responded in the strongest terms he could come up with: he compared the queen to Donald Trump. But the critic who seems to have gotten the most attention is Sikandar Siddique, another parliament member. Describing the interview in a tweet as a “coarse, irresponsible, and decidedly misleading intrusion into the political debate,” Siddique called on the Royal Palace to retract the whole thing. For good measure, he told the newspaper BT that the queen was ignoring an “existential crisis.” And in a letter to the daily Ekstra Bladet he went full Greta Thunberg: “Are 250 million refugees not a catastrophe? What about the lack of food? The extreme weather that is killing millions? What about the lack of clean water, which will have disastrous consequences for billions of people?” Siddique demanded that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen “put the queen in her place.”

It's entirely predictable that Margrethe would incur the wrath of the same kind of people who’ve cheered Saint Greta’s rabid finger-pointing and the wokeness of vapid young royals in Norway, Britain, and elsewhere. This brainy and vibrant lady (a skilled artist, translator, and costume designer who studied not only at Cambridge but at the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics) is one European sovereign who’s never marched in ideological lockstep. She’s repeatedly made it clear, for example, that she’s no fan of the EU. In a 2016 interview with Der Spiegel, Margrethe rued the fact that EU enthusiasts “forget that Europe is a conglomerate of different entities – in other words, countries. But if you don’t love your own country, don’t know your own roots, and don’t relate to them any longer, you’ll also have problems with the rest of Europe. A tree without roots falls down. A tree with roots will sooner or later become a forest. I think many people have forgotten what their roots are.” Reading her speeches and watching her interviews, one comes across the word roots again and again; no surprise that a book she released in 2016 – which demonstrated her impressive breath of knowledge of her country’s heritage and her depth of affection for it – was entitled The Deepest Roots: The Queen Speaks about Denmark and the Danes.

Surely no living monarch has been remotely as honest and gutsy as Margrethe has been on the topic of Islam. In her 2001/2 New Year’s speech, she admitted that not all newcomers to Denmark had made a proper adjustment to the Danish way of life; in her 2005 official biography, she was quoted as saying that Denmark was “being challenged by Islam” and that while she was impressed, in a way, by people who “give themselves up completely to their faith,” she also found “something frightening” about the “totality” of Islamic belief, and that a “counterbalance” to it had to be found, for “there are some things for which one should display no tolerance.” In her 2014/15 New Year’s speech, she urged her fellow Danes to “encourage newcomers to build a new life in which they can take responsibility for themselves and do their best to become a part” of Denmark. After a 2015 terrorist attack on Copenhagen, she not only condemned this villainous betrayal by Muslims who’d been welcomed to Denmark with open arms but also expressed concern for Danish Jews who were mistreated by many of the terrorists’ coreligionists.

In The Deepest Roots, she maintained that the Danish people shouldn’t hesitate to make demands of immigrants. Again she mentioned the failure of integration: “It’s not a law of nature that living in Denmark makes you Danish.” In a 2016 interview, Margrethe was asked by a reporter for Der Spiegel about a recent speech in which King Harald of Norway – bending over backward, as usual, to placate Norwegian Muslims – had said, “Norwegians believe in God, Allah, everything and nothing.” Did she view Denmark in the same way? Margrethe acknowledged that many people with non-Danish roots and non-Christian faith did indeed live in Denmark, but said that despite this fact “I wouldn’t say that we’re a multicultural country.” Most recently, in her 2016/17 New Year’s speech, she noted that refugees “have expectations about their new life – and we also have expectations of them. Refugees must understand the place they have come to: a country…where the way of life and customs are different [from theirs] and have a long history and deep roots.” 

Needless to say, Margrethe is a constitutional monarch, but her views have nonetheless been mirrored, at least to an extent, in her government’s actions on Islam. While Norwegian authorities buckled under to Muslim leaders from around the world during the Muhammed cartoon controversy of 2006, Denmark stood firm. Ever since that episode, which alerted Danes to the deep irrationality of many of their Islamic brethren, they’ve taken a somewhat more sensible approach to the Religion of Peace than have the inhabitants of neighboring countries. The public discussion of Islam in Denmark is far franker than in most of Western Europe. Its immigration curbs, niqab ban, and requirements that Muslims acquaint themselves with Danish language and culture have been decried by the international media as – what else? – racist. To be sure, it’s all relative. Ask Copenhagen author Lars Hedegaard, who’s been put through years of legal harassment for voicing uncomfortable truths about Islam. In the final analysis, alas, Danish government measures haven’t prevented or reversed Islamization, only slowed it down. I’m no monarchist, but I know that if Margrethe actually wielded executive power, things would be different.

I also know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. If Margrethe’s outspoken defiance of PC norms occasionally irks her country’s elites, the Danish men and women in the street, with few exceptions, admire the hell out of her. Unlike other crowned heads on the continent, she doesn’t hesitate to proclaim her love for her country – convincingly – and to make it clear that, on her watch, she won’t brook any compromise of its freedoms or any attempt to jettison its most cherished traditions. Nor does she labor under any misconceptions about the nature of her role: she’s a living symbol of national unity, a link to her country’s history, and a reminder for all Danes of their shared identity. Her duty, first and last, is to them and no one else. She has no interest, as some royals do, in coming off as a face of international do-goodism, and, unlike Queen Elizabeth, she doesn’t see it as her duty to keep her yap shut in the face of serious threats to her kingdom’s peace, freedom, prosperity, and security. Like President Trump, she puts her country first, period. If a few of Denmark’s elected officials had half her intelligence, courage, and sense of national loyalty, her country wouldn’t be in the pickle it’s in. Happy birthday to her; long may she reign.

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Photo by Comrade King

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