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Danish traditions For Members

Why did Queen Margrethe just ride through Copenhagen in a golden carriage?

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Why did Queen Margrethe just ride through Copenhagen in a golden carriage?
Queen Margrethe takes her final New Year trip in her gilded carriage through a snowy Copenhagen on January 4th 2024. Photo:Emil Nicolai Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

A carriage plated with 24 carat gold each year conveys Denmark’s monarch through the streets of Copenhagen. Queen Margrethe is taking her last such carriage ride in January 2024 before abdicating later this month.

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What's this all about?

Each year, on an early January morning, a golden carriage conveys the monarch -- this year, Queen Margrethe, and next year the future King Frederik -- through central Copenhagen, in accordance with tradition. Members of the public keen to get a last glimpse of the Queen in her gilded transport braved the snow on Thursday to line up along the short route between the royal residence, Amalienborg, and the seat of parliament, Christiansborg.

Later in the day -- around 1:30pm by convention -- the Queen will make the return journey from Christiansborg to Amalienborg.

The Queen’s golden carriage is escorted by the Guard Hussar Regiment’s (Gardehusarregimentet) horse squadron through the centre of the capital.

Escorted by who?

The Guard Hussar Regiment’s horse squadron. The cavalry soldiers wear traditional blue and red uniforms, standing out in the January gloom as they escort the golden carriage.

The Guard Hussar Regiment’s horse squadron escorts the Queen's carriage. Photo: Emil Nicolai Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Why?

On New Year’s Day, the Queen hosted the customary New Year's Levee (nytårskur) and ‘ball’ (taffel) for the government, speaker of parliament and official representatives of Denmark and the palace. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary -- next year's hosts -- were also in attendance.

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There is normally a second nytårskur for high-ranking members of the judiciary, military and diplomatic service, and a third event, also for high-ranking military officers as well as representatives from charities and royal protectorates.

It is this third ‘New Year's Levee’ to which the Queen uses her golden-plated carriage to get from A to B, in accordance with the tradition. Other senior royal family members usually take part.

Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, who will take over as king and queen on January 14th, arrive for the Queen's New Year levee on January 1st. Photo: Keld Navntoft/Ritzau Scanpix

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What's a New Year's Levee though?

The custom of the Royal Palace wishing ‘Denmark’ a Happy New Year by inviting its representatives to dinner and bidding the nation a prosperous year goes back centuries. Many of the traditions included in the carriage trip originated in the 1600s.

The tradition in Denmark of having royal ‘New Year Levees’ on several days has roots in the period after World War I, when the older New Year’s Day levee had to be extended due to the growing number of state institutions and organisations which had to be invited by the Palace.

Although it's an established ceremonial custom, the Levee has seen a few cancellations this century. It was cancelled in 2005 because of the South East Asian tsunami on December 26th 2004, and in 2021 and 2022 due to Covid-19 restrictions. The 2024 addition has taken on added significance because it will be Queen Margrethe's last as regent -- although she may be involved in some capacity in future editions, after her abdication.

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