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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Expert calls Danish royal family clash unprecedented

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced last week that Prince Joachim's children would lose their royal titles as princes and princess next year, a decision that has sparked a very public family feud.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Denmark's Prince Joachim appeared very emotional during a spontaneous street interview with the press outside his Paris home last week. When asked how he felt about his children being stripped of their royal titles by their grandmother, Queen Margrethe II, the normally calm and collected prince visibly struggled to hold back tears. 

“We are all very sad about it. It is never nice to see your kids hurt in that way. Now they find themselves in a situation they do not understand,” Joachim, 53, told the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet.

The interview took place shortly after the Danish royal palace publicly announced the queen's decision that, beginning next year, Joachim's four children — Nikolai, 23; Felix, 20; Henrik, 13; and Athena,10 — can only go by the titles count and countess of Monpezat rather than prince and princess.

Joachim, his wife Princess Marie and their four children had already been told about the change in May. However, according to Joachim, they did not expect it to enter into force before each child turned 25 years old.

The public family feud has sparked questions of why the royal titles matter at all in 2022 and why the dispute has received so much international media attention.

Lars Hovbakke Sørensen, historian and expert on the Danish royal family, said in an interview with Courthouse News that the formal adjustment is in line with recent changes in other European monarchies but called the personal reaction highly unusual.

“In other European countries, such as, for example, Sweden, we have seen a similar formal separation of selected family members, who get a more secondary role when it comes to official obligations,” Sørensen said.

He added, “This case, however, is quite extraordinary because the Danish royal family usually keeps their conflicts behind closed doors. But here, the family feud is out in the open, and Prince Joachim has publicly criticized his mother´s decision. Everyone can see that he feels hurt on behalf of his children.”

Sørensen explained that neither political power nor funding comes with royal titles. Instead, the value is more symbolic, as the family members called prince or princess officially represent the Danish Kingdom nationally and to other countries worldwide.

“It is a very strategic decision made by the queen to decrease the size of the royal family. The goal is to maintain the public popularity and support by avoiding too many [taxpayer-funded] costs to different family members,” he said.

Prince Felix, Princess Marie, Prince Joachim, Princess Athena, Prince Henrik and Prince Nikolai gather to mark the 50th anniversary of Danish Queen Margrethe II's accession to the throne in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)

In the palace's initial formal statement, Queen Margrethe, 82, said removing the formal titles would help her grandchildren “shape their own lives without being constrained by special consideration and obligations.” On Monday, however, she acknowledged having underestimated how much her decision affected Joachim and his family.

Joachim's role in the family used to occupy a more central spot in Danish royal affairs and the national media landscape, according to Sørensen.

Until the turn of the millennium, Joachim was the only one of two princes who had married — back then to Alexandra Christina Manley — and had children. He resided in the Schackenborg Castle in southern Denmark and functioned as the royal family´s representative outside the capital of Copenhagen,  

But in 2004, his older brother Crown Prince Frederik, the heir to the throne, married Australian-born Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, and they became parents to Christian, 16; Isabella, 15; and Vincent and Josephine, both 11.

Today, Joachim lives in Paris, where he works as a defense attaché for the Danish Embassy.  

Whether the gradual distancing from Denmark and an important place in the royal family is related to Joachim's strong response to the family losing their titles is unclear. But he has openly criticized his mother for not contacting him personally with the news and claimed they had no contact.

According to Sørensen, the conflict over titles could damage the reputation of the Danish royal family if it continues in public.

“People might find it odd to continue heated discussions over royal titles when there are so many other big issues in the world. We have an energy crisis, a war in Ukraine, and rising inflation. Especially when the stripping of titles has not been an issue in other European countries,” he said.

The Danish queen remains the sovereign head of state.

She receives a monthly state payment of 7.2 million Danish kroner ($964,300), while the crown prince gets around 1.8 million DKK ($241,000) and Joachim is paid 315,000 DKK ($42,200) per month.

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