40 years since King Frederik’s death
In 1972, King Frederik IX could have celebrated his 25th anniversary on the throne had he not died on 14 January, approximately three months before his jubilee would have taken place.
The nearly 25 years King Frederik IX ruled was a period that almost coincided with the time between two of the crucial turning points in Denmark’s modern history: The liberation from the German occupation in May 1945 and the referendum on the country’s entry into The European Community (today, the EU) in October 1972. It was a period in which the Danish society experienced a sweeping development scarcely seen before in peacetime. The country went from a time of scarcity of almost everything to a high point now of general growth and prosperity. It was transformed from an agricultural society to an industrial society. It evolved from a class society to a society with broad equality in a highly developed welfare state. It went from being neutral towards powerful nations to being a member of the western democratic alliance. It was a period that resulted in great and profound changes of previously existing forms and traditions.
As a constitutional monarch, Frederik IX was not directly involved in all of that, but he managed, together with Queen Ingrid, to adapt the Royal House to the new times. As the first modern king, and with sympathy both for tradition and for future demands, Frederik IX completed the conversion of the monarch to now primarily serve as the ceremonial head of state and as a symbol of national unity and historical continuity. The remoteness and aloofness the Royal House had inherited from earlier times was replaced by a broad openness that was well suited to new social conventions and new media. With a personal style characterised by boldness, directness and spontaneous friendliness, Frederik IX managed to meet many people with an informal demeanour without sacrificing the dignity that belongs to a head of state. “Informal formality” was his definition of the balance between closeness and distance, which it is the monarch’s difficult task to practice.
A notable event during Frederik IX’s reign was the adoption by referendum of a new constitution and throne succession law on 5 June 1953, which both can be seen as a reflection of the society’s modernisation. While the new constitution for the first time inscribed the parliamentary principle into its text, the throne succession law introduced conditional female succession, which made the then Princess Margrethe the heir to the throne.
Frederik IX’s death after a brief illness in January 1972 triggered widespread popular mourning, and the ceremony in connection with his funeral later the same month was followed by hundreds of thousands in the streets and by even more on TV.