Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced that she is abdicating her position in the new year after nearly 52 years on the throne.
During her New Year’s Eve speech, Margrethe II, 86, said that she plans to step down on Jan. 14. The date marks the anniversary of her own ascension to the throne in 1972, following the death of her father, King Frederik IX.
“I have decided that now is the right time,” she said in her speech, explaining that back surgery she had earlier this year led to “thoughts about the future.”
Her son, Frederik André Henrik Christian, will ascend the throne after her abdication.
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The octogenarian is Europe’s longest-reigning living monarch. She is one of the most popular figures in Denmark, often seen chain-smoking or roaming around the country unescorted.
At the age of 70, she traveled to Afghanistan to visit Danish troops and wore a military jumpsuit during the meeting.
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Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen released a statement about the surprise news, thanking the monarch “for her lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the Kingdom.”
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“Queen Margrethe is the epitome of Denmark and throughout the years has put words and feelings into who we are as a people and as a nation,” Frederiksen said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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