Prince Henrik – CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
He was the man who would be king and whose line is about to take the oldest throne in Europe. Prince Henrik of Denmark was a sometimes controversial consort to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark but he was at her side as she prepared to make history and take her country’s throne and he remained there throughout her reign until his death in 2018. Best known in his later years for his demands to be given the title of king consort, on January 14th 2024, his son will become the Danish monarch and place his father’s family on a throne at last.
Henri Marie Jean André de Laborde de Monpezat was born on 11 June 1934 in Talence, Gironde, France, to Count André de Laborde de Monpezat and Countess Renée de Monpezat, née Doursennot.
Henri, as he was then known, spent his first five years in Vietnam while his father was employed there. He was educated privately at home until 1947 before enrolling at the Jesuit boarding school in Bordeaux. Henri would attend upper secondary school in Cahors, France, and would later graduate from the French upper secondary school in Hanoi, Vietnam. For his university studies, he studied law and political science at the Sorbonne in Paris while also focusing on Chinese and Vietnamese at École Nationale des Langues Orientales.
He served in the French Army during the Algerian War and worked in the French Foreign Affairs ministry. A lover of poetry, the prince has had several of his works published in French, Greenlandic and Danish as well as other memoirs and a recipe book.
The polyglot, who spoke his native French, Danish, English, Chinese and Vietnamese, married Princess Margrethe of Denmark (then heir apparent to the Danish throne) on 10 June 1967. He converted from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism and changed his name to the Danish form “Henrik.” Upon his marriage, he became His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark.
Together, they had two sons: Crown Prince Frederik (b. 1968) and Prince Joachim (b. 1969). Then, unexpectedly, Margrethe came to the throne upon the early death of her father in 1972. Henrik was at her side following her proclamation on the balcony of Christiansborg Palace on January 15th 1972 and for the next decades.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. The prince became a passionate advocate for the environment and took on a wide range of public engagements and patronages. However, he was also outspoken and didn’t shy away from airing his frustrations at never being titled as king consort to his queen. However, he was made Prince Consort in 2005, and in 2008, both of Margrethe and Henrik’s sons were given the title “Count of Monpezat.” It was also made hereditary for both male and females of their male-line descendants.
In her New Year’s address at the end of 2015, Queen Margrethe announced that Prince Henrik would begin to slim down his duties. Later that year, he gave up the title of Prince Consort. It was revealed in August 2017 that Henrik did not wish to be buried beside his wife in Roskilde Cathedral. A spokesperson stated that the Queen accepted his decision. By then, however, Henrik was ill. He was taken to hospital in early 2018 but returned from there to Fredensborg Palace just a few days before his death on February 18th 2018.
He left eight grandchildren as well as his two sons. Frederik is the father of Christian, soon to be heir to the throne of Denmark, as well as Isabella, Vincent and Josephine. Joachim also has four children – Nikolai, Felix, Henrik and Athena.
It is the children of Henrik’s younger son who will continue his name. Queen Margrethe decided in 2022 that Joachim’s children would lose their royal titles and become Count or Countess of Monpezat.
And through his elder son, Frederik, the man who dreamed of being king will finally see his family take a throne.