PEOPLE Explains: Who Is Prince Henrik, the Danish Royal Who Refuses to Be Buried Next to His Wife the Queen?
Denmark’s Prince Henrik has been making headlines over the past week for his decision not to be buried next to his wife, Queen Margrethe. But who is the man who is controversially taking a decades-old grudge to the grave? Learn a little bit more about him here.
1. He’s pretty bitter about his title.
Outside of his adopted country, Henrik is best known for his long-lasting displeasure with the title he was given in the Danish royal family. Married to Queen Margrethe, he is a prince consort, not a king, as is traditional for men married to female monarchs. However, Henrik thinks that this is unfair to him, and has even cried gender discrimination, and that he should have the title of King Consort. The now-retired royal has been vocal about his unhappiness with this choice for years.
“It makes me angry that I am subjected to discrimination,” he said told the French newspaper Le Figaro. “Denmark, which is otherwise known as an avid defender of gender equality, is apparently willing to consider husbands as worth less than their wives.”
It’s worth noting that male spouses of female monarchs are rarely given the title of king: Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth, isn’t a king, and neither was Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. (Queen Margrethe herself is Denmark’s first female monarch since 1412, so there’s less precedent in the country’s own monarchy.)
2. He won’t be buried next to his wife.
Queen Margrethe ascended the throne in 1972, and you’d think 45 years would be long enough to get over the whole not-a-king thing. Not so: Last week, a representative for the Danish royal family announced that Henrik would not be buried in Roskilde Cathedral, next to his wife, as originally planned. Why? Well, he’s taking his bitterness over his title to the grave.
“It is no secret that the prince for many years has been unhappy with his role and the title he has been awarded in the Danish monarchy,” the family’s director of communications told B.T., a Danish newspaper. “For the prince, the decision not to be buried beside the queen is the natural consequence of not having been treated equally to his spouse — by not having the title and role he has desired.”
Henrik opened up himself about his decision to Se og Hør, a Danish magazine, saying that he feels his wife has disrecpted him.
“If she wants to bury me with her, she must make me a king consort,” he told Se og Hør. “She’s the one playing me for a fool. I didn’t marry The Queen to get buried at Roskilde.”
3. He fled Denmark in 2002 — because of a title-related reason.
Oh yes, there’s more to the why-am-I-not-king story. The issue came to a head on New Year’s Day in 2002, when, in the absence of Margrethe, the couple’s son, Crown Prince Frederik, was made host a of a reception at the palace. Feeling slighted and demoted to third in the hierarchy of the Danish royal family, Henrik left Denmark and went to stay at the couple’s property in the South of France, Château de Caïx. He said that the incident left him feeling “walked over in such a way that my self-respect is destroyed.”
“For many years I have been Denmark’s number two,” he said, according to the BBC. “I’ve been satisfied with that role, but I don’t want to be relegated to number three after so many years.”
He stayed in France, his home country, for three weeks, prompting chatter of a potential royal divorce. Eventually, Margrethe joined him and the couple mended fences, heading back to Denmark.
4. He’s French, but he spent much of his childhood in Vietnam.
Henrik was actually born Henri de Laborde de Monpezat in Talence, France, just outside of Bordeaux in 1934. But shortly after he was born, his family relocated to Hanoi, Vietnam (still then under French control), where he spent the first five years of his life, and later on, his high school years. When he married Margrethe in 1967, he changed his name to the Danish Henrik, rather than Henri.
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Before his marriage, he served in the French Army in the Alergian War, and worked for the French Foreign Affairs ministry at the French Embassy in London.
In 2008, he and Margrethe decided to create a new title they’d hand down to their sons, Frederik, and Prince Joachim: Count de Monpezat, in order to keep a reference to his French heritage a part of their family, too.
5. He’s a poet.
Clearly, Henrik feels things deeply. So it makes sense that he puts emotions to paper through poetry, which he writes in his native language, French. Several of his poems have been published in poetry collections over the years, and they even inspired composer Frederik Magle’s symphonic suite, Cantabile.
“I see poetry as an opportunity for immersion in a superficial time dominated by news and entertainment that makes us rootless and restless,” Henrik said according to DR, a Danish broadcast network. “Poetry takes us closer to the true nature of the world, in poetry we can approach the eternal questions such as love, loneliness and death.”