Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Queen out, King in

It would appear Denmark has a new monarch. 

Back on New Year's Eve I happened to see the Queen's speech. Normally I don't make a habit of watching it, but I'd been ill all Xmas with some flu-like thing and hadn't been outside so I was lying on the couch when it came on so I just let it roll. It's actually quite a compliment that I bothered given I have never, not even once in my life, seen the UK monarch's Christmas speech! As a good Scottish republican family, I was brought up to know that the one thing you really must never do is sit down to watch old Lizzie address the nation, though I guess it is probably Charlie these days. 

I saw the Danish one the first year after I arrived here as my homework for Danish class was to listen to it to see what I understood. Unlike most Danes the old Queen speaks very slowly and clearly and is positively a delight if you're a foreigner, from a comprehension point of view anyway, even if you have your reservations constitutionally! Most foreigners coming here really struggle to understand spoken Danish more than any other form of the language as Danes mumble, swallow the ends of their words and speak quickly. Given I learnt Danish passively by hearing it over many years, understanding spoken Danish is what I find easiest, even today. It definitely outstripped my ability to speak the language back then for sure, but I followed the teacher's instructions as my first lesson on arrival here was the last one before Xmas, only to find out that when I went back in January that I had been moved into a whole different class with a different teacher and completely different homework!

So, there it was running in the background when two minutes from the end of a fairly long and not overly riveting speech she nonchalantly announced she was going to abdicate in a fortnight. This was a bit of a shocker given no one has abdicated in Denmark for 878 years. Denmark went into meltdown. First there was a half hour of shocked silence where people acted like she'd upped and died during her speech but they all seem to worship her the way bees do their queen, so within half and hour the hive mind had collectively decided that if their beloved Daisy had decided to resign then that must be the most wonderful event ever to befall the Danish people and not only would it be ideal for her to step down but it would also be just perfect to see her son and his wife take over the throne two weeks later and they would turn their love and adoration to him as well/instead. Polls on the day said support for the monarchy was up at 80% 😮 (wtaf!) with only one in five Danes having any reservations about spending their hard-earned tax money on this family's luxurious lifestyle, oops I mean service to the nation. Wow, what an interesting take from a country that professes to prize equality over most things. I guess some really are more equal than others...

So last Sunday was the day. I figured I should get into the spirit of being Danish by buying a cake to celebrate the big event. Unfortunately the whole of Funen had the same idea and my favourite prize-winning bakery had already tweeted this before I woke up!

But when it comes to cake I am not that easily defeated, so off to the big Coop bakery in Søndersø I went instead. It was a ghost town, not to mention almost sold out too. There were maybe two cars in the car park, while the rest of Denmark sat glued to the telly or better still in the courtyard of their parliament building waiting for the new monarch to be presented.

There's nothing quite like a change of the head of state in one's new country to make you feel reeeeally foreign in your adopted home...

There were flags up in people's gardens, kids wearing crowns looking like they'd been on a mass outing to Burger King, folk waving flags galore, weeping pensioners, 90 000 people on parliament square in the freezing cold chanting 'hurrah' in unison with the Prime Minister in some vaguely culty manner! They were even all over TikTok sharing this kind of thing: 

Watching their traditions, for example that the monarch has to ride in some golden horse-drawn carriage presumably without the heated seats and comfortable suspension of the car used to transport the rest of the entourage seemed a bit to me like they'd drawn the short straw. No wonder the old girl decided to resign if it got her out the carriage into the limo! One thing I could never have in Northern Europe is a car without heated seats in the winter!

Nor have I ever been overly comfortable with all the deferential curtsying and bowing. There was King Frederik bowing to his own mother. What?! My kids sure don't so that when I'm around! It's just plain weird. And as she stood up to leave the room she proclaimed 'Gud bevare Kongen!' (God save the King). Again, it's just not something my mother ever said leaving me or my brother to go into another room! It's just all kind of unrelatable! Maybe it's actually monarchies in general rather than specifically this one that I struggle with. 

This is a little country and seems to function more like a clan than a nation. As a foreigner, I could see how they all felt, but I couldn't feel it. I didn't know how to. What makes this family different to any other here? The new King was born the same year as me, has four kids instead of five. Are we really that different? Apparently, so, but I am not sure why! I definitely felt very much an outsider watching this national family party that I felt I just hadn't been invited to, mentally at least! I secretly wonder whether the new Queen herself, a fellow foreigner, felt just a tiny bit on the outside of all this too, or maybe it's easier to feel part of it all when the crowd is going wild for you, the state is filling your bank account and instead of a ten year plus battle for Danish citizenship, you're simply given it as a freebie on your marriage!

Interestingly, when the kids went into school on Monday morning, Léon whose Gymnasium class is in their final year and full of 19-20 year olds, said that to a man they were gushing over the weekend as if a member of their own family had married and thrown the best party ever. Anna whose class is two years younger and still in the first year of Gym were on the whole the same, though a few were more neutral, however Amaia who is in her first year of the 3-year middle school, surrounded by 14 year olds, said no one mentioned it and when the history teacher tried to engage them on the topic of the historical occasion from the day before no one showed the slightest interest in any of it! Come to think of it the kids in the crowd at the actual event were all very much younger than Amaia. Maybe it is cool to rebel at 14, but by 20 you are back securely in the fold of this enormous family.

I suspect this is all very familiar to those who watched Charles' do last year in England but you see I was way too busy washing my hair that day to catch any of the footage. 😉

Anna summed it up on the day for this house succinctly... 
Anna: You see that crowd of people waiting outside in the cold to greet the new king of Denmark, mum?
Me: Yes.
Anna: I can guarantee you one thing... My future husband is not in that crowd!🤣

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