Royal Succession—Denmark’s Change of the Guard

Denmark has a new monarch. King Frederik X ascended to the head of state on Sunday when his mother, Queen Margrethe II abdicated in a private meeting.

In Danish style the pomp and circumstance was kept to a minimum, even as more than one hundred thousand royal subjects turned out to celebrate in the capital city of Copenhagen.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen proclaimed King Frederik X to a sea of people from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace, the house of Danish Parliament.

Proclamation of King Frederik X by PM Mette Frederiksen

HM the King with the Prime Minister on the Balcony. Foto: Sine Tidsvilde | Statsministeriet

“Each queen and each king is a link in a more than thousand-year-old chain,” the Prime Minister said. “When one steps back, the next is ready.”

King Frederick (55) raised a white gloved hand, waving to acknowledge the cheering crowd, and wiped away a tear. In a speech, he praised his mother, saying she would “Always be remembered as an extraordinary ruler.”

And for himself he said that “My hope is to become a unifying king of tomorrow. It is a task I have been approaching all my life.”

His Majesty King Frederik André Henrik Christian, Count of Monpezat is the son of HM Queen Margrethe II and HM Prince Henrik of Denmark (d. 2018). 

Per Morten Abrahamsen ©

Queen Margrethe II had become the longest-serving living monarch in Europe, reigning for 52 years. Considering her prodigious popularity, the announcement of plans to abdicate in her New Year’s Eve address came as a shock. Citing back surgery and other ailments the Queen (83) shared that “Time takes its toll.”  

King Frederik and his wife Queen Mary (51) shared a kiss on the balcony before leaving  Christiansborg in a horse-drawn carriage enroute to their residence at Amalienborg Palace.

Built in 1750 in the rococo style, the waterfront palace complex consists of four noble buildings surrounding an octagonal court.

The changing of the guards at Amalienborg Palace is a popular tourist attraction in Copenhagen. Every day at 1130, the Royal Life Guards march from the nearby barracks to the Palace to relieve the on-duty guard company.

Where Frederik met Mary

Sports fan Frederik met his future wife Mary Elizabeth Donaldson in a Pub at the Slip Inn—a Mexican-themed beer garden on King Street Wharf in Sydney. When they were introduced, Mary did not realize that Frederik was a crown prince. He was in Australia attending the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Mary grew up in Australia, and was working as a sales director for a real estate company, and had a background as an advertising executive. She has a Bachelor of Commerce and Law (BCom/ LLB) from the University of Tasmania, where her father had been a professor and Dean.

They soon entered into a long-distance relationship, with Frederik making several discrete visits to Australia.

Mary moved to Denmark in 2001, they were engaged in 2003, and married on 14 May 2004 at Copenhagen Cathedral. They have 4 children: Crown Prince Christian (18), Princess Isabella (16), and twins Prince Vincent (13), and Princess Josephine (13).

The Royal Danish Crown (of Christian V), Kongehuset©

Political Science & the Modern Monarchy

The Kingdom of Denmark is the realm over which the monarchy is head of state. It is comprised of the kingdom’s territory in continental Europe and the autonomous regions of the Faroe Islands and Greenland. 

Danes overwhelming support the head of their constitutional monarchy. As such, King Frederik is now responsible for approving each new law passed by Danish parliament—while legislative powers have been in the hands of elected officials ever since the framework for democracy was enshrined in the Danish Constitution of 1849.

Christiansborg Palace, the Seat of Danish Parliament. Foto: Johannes Jansson©

The parliament of Denmark is called the Folketing, and the system of governance is a parliamentary democracy. There are 16 parties in parliament; since 1909 no party has had enough representatives to govern on its own. Instead, parties form a coalition government with the leader of one of the stronger parties becoming prime minister; national elections are on a four year cycle.

After an election, the new coalition of governing parties presents a government for the monarch’s approval, after which he will appoint the new government.

On Monday, as Frederik’s first day of work in his new role as King he was back at Cristiansborg Palace to attend Pariliament.

School Days

Crown Prince Frederik with other prospective political science students at Aarhus University in August, 1989. Foto: Dan Jakobsen, Aarhus Stiftstidende

Frederik been had enrolled at Aarhus University in 1989 with the intent to take a few courses as his mom had done. By Christmas he resolved to complete his degree.

“I have a lot of good memories from my time at Aarhus University,” said Frederik. “It was an inspiring refuge for me. I clearly remember my first day at school—there was a sense of anticipation, an appetite and curiosity to start a new chapter in life.”

Ultimately his education included a year at Harvard, and by 1995 he had earned his Master of Science degree in political science, as the first Danish royal to earn a university degree.

Having said that, Queen Margrethe II studied Philosophy, Archaeology, and Political Science at Aarhus, and other universities in Denmark and across Europe including Cambridge, the Sorbonne, and London School of Economics.

“No one is born a leader… or perhaps almost no one,” said Frederik in 2018 after cutting the ribbon inaugurating the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership, whose raison d'être is to conduct international research at the frontier of knowledge to be applied in and by public organizations.

Royal Flag with Coat of Arms, Kongehuset©

Guard Duty

Danish Armed Forces uphold the sovereignty of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, and maintain readiness in the event of national crises. Denmark has a longstanding tradition of international cooperation and operations in the trouble spots of the world.

Frederick began his extensive military service in the Danish Army’s Queen’s Life Guard Regiment in 1986, becoming a platoon commander in the Royal Danish Hussar Guard Regiment before transferring to the army reserve.

He qualified in Fromandskørpset, the Danish Navy Frogman special operations unit, completing the gruelling 9-months of initial training in spite of the notoriously high attrition rate.

Once commissioned in the naval reserve, Frederik enrolled in flight school. He qualified as an air force pilot, and entered the air force reserve in 2000.

He was a staff officer at Denmark’s Defence Command, and senior lecturer with the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College in 2003.

Frederick has also served as a diplomat as a member of Denmark’s mission at the UN, and first secretary of the  Danish embassy in Paris—in addition to Danish, Frederik speaks English, French, and German.

After 38 years of military service, and in concert with the succession, King Frederik X was appointed to the highest ranks as Admiral of the Navy, and General of the Army and Air Force, his dress uniform festooned with medals and the breast stars of the Order of the Elephant, and the Grand Commander Cross.  

Konge Longe Leve. God Save the King.  

Story by Van Hansen. Header photo: Keld Navntoft, Kongehuset© 




Disney's Radical Vision for the City of Tomorrow

The Epcot theme park that was eventually built diverged from Walt Disney’s plans for his ‘community of tomorrow.’ Story by Alex Krieger, Harvard University

Since Epcot’s inception, millions of tourists have descended upon the theme park famous for its Spaceship Earth geodesic sphere and its celebration of international cultures.

But the version of Epcot visitors encounter at Disney World – which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 – is hardly what Walt Disney imagined.

Colorful projection mapping on a model of Mission Space from a recent trip to Walt Disney World.

In 1966, Disney announced his intention to build Epcot, an acronym for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” It was to be no mere theme park but, as Disney put it, “the creation of a living blueprint for the future” unlike “anyplace else in the world” – an entire new city built from scratch.

Disney died later that year; his vision was scaled down, and then scrapped altogether. But when I was writing my book on urban idealism in America, I was drawn to this planned community.

Since the arrival of the first colonists, Americans have experimented with new patterns of settlement. Imagining new kinds of places to live is an American tradition, and Disney was an eager participant.

A City of the Future

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival (2020)

A captivating 25-minute film produced by Walt Disney Enterprises remains the best window into Walt’s vision.

In it, Disney – speaking kindly and slowly, as if to a group of children – detailed what would become of the 27,400 acres, or 43 square miles, of central Florida that he had acquired.

Echoing the rhetoric of American pioneers, he noted how the abundance of land was the key. Here he would achieve all that could not be done at Disneyland, his first theme park in Anaheim, California, that opened in 1955 and had since been encroached upon by rapid suburban development. He proudly pointed out that the land on which Disney World would be built was twice the size of the island of Manhattan and five times larger than Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney announces his ambitious vision for Disney World and Epcot.

Among the remarkable components of Disney’s Epcot would be a community of 20,000 residents living in neighborhoods that would double as a showcase of industrial and civic ingenuity – a running experiment in planning, building design, management and governance. There would be a 1,000-acre office park for developing new technologies, and when, say, an innovation in refrigerator design would be developed, every household in Epcot would be the first to receive and test the product before it was released for the rest of the world.

This map shows the 1966 plans for Epcot (orange) in relation to the contemporary situation (blue) at Walt Disney World Resort

Map showing 1966 plans for Epcot (orange) in relation to the contemporary situation (blue) at Walt Disney World® | image courtesy Lommes CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

An airport would enable anyone to fly directly to Disney World, while a “vacation land” would provide resort accommodations for visitors. A central arrival complex included a 30-story hotel and convention center, with the downtown featuring a weather-protected zone of themed shops.

Epcot’s more modest wage-earners would be able to live nearby in a ring of high-rise apartment buildings. And there would be a park belt and recreational zone surrounding this downtown area, separating the low-density, cul-de-sac neighborhoods beyond that would house the majority of residents. There would be no unemployment, and it was not to be a retirement community.

“I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities,” Disney said.

‘New Towns’ Abound

During the 1960s, the aspiration of building anew was much in the air.

Americans were becoming increasingly concerned about the well-being of the nation’s cities. And they were unsatisfied with the effort – and, especially, the consequences – of urban renewal.

They felt insecure in the face of growing urban poverty, unrest and crime, and frustrated about increasing traffic congestion. Families continued to move to the suburbs, but planners, opinion leaders and even ordinary citizens raised concerns about consuming so much land for low-density development.

Sprawl as a pejorative term for poorly planned development was gaining currency as a fledgling environmental movement emerged. In his popular 1960s ballad “Little Boxes,” Pete Seeger sang of “Little boxes on the hillside / Little boxes made of ticky tacky” to criticize the uniform suburban and exurban tracts of housing rippling out from America’s cities.

A hope emerged that building new towns might be an alternative for unlovely and unloved city neighborhoods and for soulless peripheral subdivisions.

Self-described “town founders,” most of them wealthy businesspeople with ideals dependent on real estate success, led America’s New Towns movement. As Disney was preparing for his Epcot presentation, the Irvine Company was already deep into the process of developing the holdings of the old Irvine Ranch into the model town of Irvine, California. Today, Irvine boasts nearly 300,000 residents.

Cows graze on hill overlooking suburban development.

Irvine, Calif., was built on a ranch. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Meanwhile, real estate entrepreneur Robert E. Simon sold New York’s Carnegie Hall and, with his earnings, bought 6,700 acres of farmland outside of Washington so he could create Reston, Virginia. Fifty miles away, shopping center developer James Rouse started planning Columbia, Maryland. And oil industry investor George P. Mitchell, keeping an eye on the successes and setbacks of Rouse and Simon, would soon take advantage of a new federal funding program and embark on establishing The Woodlands, near Houston, which today has a population of over 100,000 people.

These new towns hoped to incorporate the liveliness and diversity of cities while retaining the intimacy of neighborhoods and other charms associated with small towns.

Disney’s Dream Today

Glass Pyramids of the Imagination! Pavilion at EPCOT in Lake of Bays, FLA

Disney, however, didn’t want to simply spruce up existing suburbs.

He wanted to upend preexisting notions of how a city could be built and run. And for all of its utopian promise, the genius of Disney’s Epcot was that it all seemed doable, an agglomeration of elements commonly found in any modern metropolitan area, but fused into a singular vision and managed by a single authority.

An important innovation was the banishing of the automobile. A vast underground system was designed to enable cars to arrive, park or buzz under the city without being seen. A separate underground layer would accommodate trucks and service functions. Residents and visitors would traverse the entire 12-mile length of Disney World and all of its attractions on a high-speed monorail, far more extensive than anything achieved at Disneyland.

In the car-crazed America of the 1960s, this was a truly radical idea.

Given Walt Disney’s legendary tenacity, it would have been fascinating to witness how far his vision would have advanced. After his death, some sought to fulfill his plans. But when urged by a Disney designer to carry through on Walt’s broader civic-minded vision, Walt’s brother Roy, who had taken the reins of the company, answered, “Walt is dead.”

Today, Disney’s utopian spirit is alive and well. You see it in former Walmart executive Marc Lore’s ambitions to build a 5-million-person city called “Telosa” in a U.S. desert and Blockchains LLC’s proposal for a self-governing “smart city” in Nevada.

But more often, you’ll see efforts that tap into the nostalgia of a bucolic past. The Disney Corporation did, in fact, develop a town during the 1990s on one of its Florida landholdings.

Seal of Celebration, FLA

Dubbed “Celebration,” it was initially heralded as an exemplar of the turn-of-the century movement called New Urbanism, which sought to design suburbs in ways that conjured up the small American town: walkable neighborhoods, a town center, a range of housing choices and less dependence on cars.

However, Celebration has no monorail or underground transport networks, no hubs of technological innovation or policies like universal employment.

That sort of city of tomorrow, it seems, will have to wait.

Alex Krieger is Research Professor in Practice of Urban Design at Harvard University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.