‘Sorry,’ not sorry? Denmark’s queen strips four grandchildren of their royal titles

The Queen of Denmark issued a public apology this week after stripping four of her grandchildren of their titles – a move that drew “strong reactions” and an apparent royal spat.

In a statement released by the palace Monday, Queen Margrethe II said she “underestimated” how the news would affect her second son, Prince Joachim, and his four children, set to lose their prince and princess titles as well as “His/Her Highness” titles next year. 

The 82-year-old Danish monarch last week announced the titles of Prince Joachim’s descendants would be discontinued in January.

Margrethe was proclaimed queen on Jan. 15, 1972, a day after her father, King Frederik IX, died following a short illness.

Denmark's Queen Margrethe II looks up before she plants a tree in the Luther Garden in Wittenberg, Germany, Oct. 2, 2016.
Denmark's Queen Margrethe pays her respect to the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, following her death, during her lying-in-state at Westminster Hall, in London, Sunday Sept. 18, 2022. Queen Margrethe II has tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the Danish royal palace said Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.y. (John Sibley/Pool via AP, File)

“With her decision, Her Majesty The Queen wishes to create the framework for the four grandchildren to be able to shape their own lives to a much greater extent without being limited by the special considerations and duties that a formal affiliation with the Royal House of Denmark as an institution involves,” a Sept. 28 statement from The Royal Household of Denmark reads.

Nikolai, 23, Felix, 20, Henrik, 13, and Athena, 10, will retain their places in the line of succession but will be known instead as counts and countesses of Monpezat – a French old bourgeois family from the Province of Béarn associated with the Danish Royal Family by marriage.

“In recent days, there have been strong reactions to my decision about the future use of titles for Prince Joachim’s four children. That affects me, of course,” the Danish monarch said in the statement. “My decision has been a long time coming. With my 50 years on the throne, it is natural both to look back and to look ahead. It is my duty and my desire as Queen to ensure that the monarchy always shapes itself in keeping with the times.”

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The queen goes on to say that sometimes, difficult decisions must be made.

“Holding a royal title involves a number of commitments and duties that, in the future, will lie with fewer members of the royal family,” the queen continued. “This adjustment, which I view as a necessary future-proofing of the monarchy, I want to take in my own time.”

“I have made my decision as Queen, mother and grandmother, but, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected. That makes a big impression, and for that I am sorry,” the queen wrote. “No one should be in doubt that my children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren are my great joy and pride. I now hope that we as a family can find the peace to find our way through this situation.”

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Queen Margrethe II’s half-century reign makes her Europe’s longest-serving monarch following the Sept. 8 death of England’s Queen Elizabeth, 96, who ruled for 70 years.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.