How Europe's Longest-Reigning Monarch Stunned Her Royal Family

As the death of Queen Elizabeth II of England receded from international headlines, European royalty was once more in the news when Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Europe's only reigning queen and the longest-serving European monarch in history, announced major changes to her family. Those changes affected the sovereign's youngest son, Prince Joachim's four children, aged 10 through 23 when the news broke, based on CNN reporting. According to the Danish royal palace, the choice was made by the queen with the best interest of her grandchildren at heart.

Also according to CNN, Queen Margrethe's decision is in keeping with similar moves made to downsize the remaining monarchies in Europe. As the Danish royal household director of communications, Lene Balleby wrote in an email to CNN, "We fully understand that there are many emotions involved at the moment, but we hope that The Queen's desire to future-proof the Royal House of Denmark will be respected."

4 of her grandchildren are no longer princes and princesses

The names of the four grandchildren affected by Queen Margrethe's restructuring of the royal family are Athena,10, Henrik, 13, Felix, 20, and Nicolai, 23. According to a statement from the Royal House of Denmark, the queen's youngest son's children will no longer be princes and princesses of Denmark, and those titles will cease to exist as of January 1, 2023,  From that point onward, the young Danish royal family members will be known only as the Count and Countess of Monpezat.

The royal palace's announcement of the change mentioned that the move was made to allow the four royal grandchildren a chance to lead more normal lives. It read, "With her decision, Her Majesty the Queen wants to create a framework for the four grandchildren, to a much greater degree, to be able to shape their own existence without being limited by the special considerations and obligations that a formal affiliation with the Royal House as an institution implies." Prince Joachim and his three eldest sons are pictured above in the late 1980s.

The four royal grandchildren were blindsided

According to the mother of Prince Joachim's two eldest sons, though, the monarch's decision was unexpected, and the royal grandchildren now feel excluded from the family. Speaking with the Danish news outlet B.T. (via CBS News) Joachim's first wife, Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg (pictured) said, "This came from out of the blue. The children feel excluded. They can't understand why their identity is being taken from them." The children of Margrethe's eldest son Crown Prince Frederik were unaffected.

With Elizabeth II's son, Charles, now King Charles III, similar slimming of the ranks may also come soon to the British royal family, as well, according to LADbible. In 2019, Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf removed five grandchildren from the royal house. These moves save money — only working members of the royal family are paid to perform their duties — while they also maintain some family support for a reigning monarch to perform their duties. Royal family members stripped of their titles are responsible for their own income.