Passing of the torch: Denmark prepares to welcome in new King and Queen

Royal Editor Chris Ship takes an in-depth look at the soon-to-be King Frederick X and his Australian-born wife, Queen Mary, who will be crowned in a spectacular ceremony in Denmark

Queen Margrethe is to Danes what Queen Elizabeth was to many British people.

Long-serving, much loved, and all that most people had ever known.

But on Sunday - the same day that the Danish Queen hits the 52nd anniversary of her accession - she will step down and hand the throne to her son.

Abdication is not very British - apart from the scandalous one in 1936 - and nor is it very Danish.

No Monarch in Denmark has voluntarily stepped down from his or her role since 1146 - which is nearly 900 years ago.

It is why on New Year's Eve, when Queen Margrethe made the surprise announcement of her decision, Danish people were shocked.

Danes watch the traditional speech from the Monarch at 6pm on December 31 each year.

It's a bit like our own Christmas Day address at 3pm from King Charles and previously Queen Elizabeth - although I get the impression it is watched by nearly everyone in the country before they start their New Year parties.

Some people told me they nearly dropped their cocktail glasses when Queen Margrethe announced she would be standing down just two weeks later.

Even her two sons, Crown Prince Frederick and Prince Joachim, were only told of the decision just days before.

But on Sunday, Prince Frederick will become King Frederick X of Denmark and his wife, Crown Princess Mary, will become the first non-European to take the title of Queen of Denmark.

Queen Mary, as she will become, is Australian.

She was born in Tasmania to parents who moved there from their home in a Scottish fishing village along the coast from Edinburgh.

This is the Royal Rota - our weekly podcast about the royal family, with ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship and Producer Lizzie Robinson.

She is immensely popular in Denmark having mastered the Danish language - which is no easy task - and taken on many causes which have endeared her to the people.

In fact, the Danish Royal Family has approval ratings most Monarchs could only dream of.

Recent opinions polls in this country of six million people have shown the Royals have approval ratings in excess of 80%.

One young republican we spoke to told us hers is not a very popular position to hold in Denmark right now - so much so, those who want this country to have an elected head of state, are unsure about protesting at Sunday's proclamation for fear of provoking an angry reaction from the crowd.

Police are expecting up to 200,000 people to mass outside the Christiansborg Palace on Sunday afternoon.

Crown Prince Frederick is to become King Frederick X of Denmark. Credit: PA

All the hotels in the Danish capital are reporting they are fully booked and the trains to Copenhagen this weekend are fully booked.

Danes will come to Christiansborg Palace where, just like our own Royal Family does on big occasions, there will be a moment for the new King and Queen on the palace balcony after they have acceeded the throne.

They will also leave the Palace for the Monarch's residence a mile away in a horse-drawn coach.

But that is where the similarities end.

This is a much less formal country than the UK and many of the very old Royal traditions were abolished when the country became a constitutional monarchy in the mid-1800s.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark abdicated on New Year's Eve. Credit: PA

So, Queen Margrethe will sign her abdication papers in the Council of State Room in the presence of her family and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, before Frederick and Mary step onto the balcony where the former will make a speech.

No long Westminster Abbey-style service, no crowns ceremonially placed on heads, no orb or sceptre and no sitting in thrones as we witnessed in London at the Coronation in May.

They don’t actually use the two thrones which sit in the appropriately named throne room – they are there for the visitors to see what Monarch of previous generations used to use.

They don’t even wear the Crowns any more – the only they are used is when the Monarch dies and it is placed on their coffin.

But as this is a voluntary abdication, there has been no death as there was when Queen Margrethe was proclaimed after her father, Frederik IV, passed away in January 1972.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Margrethe is, until Sunday, Europe’s longest-serving monarch.

And with such a popular royal family and no mourning of the last monarch, Denmark is ready for a party.

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