Not since Hamlet questioned whether it was nobler to be or not be has the death, and afterlife, of a Danish prince captured so much attention.
For, in a stunt as dramatically morbid as anything Shakespeare might have dreamed up, the 83-year-old Prince Henrik of Denmark has declared that he does not wish to be buried alongside his spouse, 77-year old Queen Margrethe II, the constitutional head of state.
Prince Henrik’s decision to pass on the opportunity to lie for eternity alongside his bride in a glass sarcophagus borne by silver elephants and crafted by Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard at Roskilde Cathedral, about 35 kilometers outside of Copenhagen, is not being made on grounds of humility.
In fact, rather the opposite: the Prince’s decision is in fact an eternal protest at never having been made king, despite being married to the queen.
Henrik, 83, is French by birth. He was born Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, married Queen Margrethe in 1967 and was given the title prince consort. But he has repeatedly said he would have liked to be named king consort, or, you know, ‘King’ for short. Henrik has long argued that he is the victim of gender discrimination, as a woman who married a king would indeed become Queen of Denmark.
“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. This discontent has grown more and more in recent years,” the palace’s communications chief, Lene Balleby, told the Danish tabloid newspaper BT. “For the prince, the decision not to 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.”
The Prince’s decision has been accepted by the queen, Balleby said.
The Queen and Henrik have two children but are not believed to be particularly close; he spends much of his time at his vineyard in France, although he is still married to the queen and they officially live together.
“The first hint came around his 50th birthday when he said on TV he found it difficult to ask his wife for pocket money for cigarettes,” Stephanie Surrugue, who wrote a biography of the prince, who is widely reputed to be Europe’s grumpiest royal, told the New York Times.
“He should try to be a Dane before he tries to be king," Sasha Filskov, a 43-year-old Danish-born interior designer now living in London, said. "A Danish prince would not be worrying about equality in that way. Danes strive for equality in a proper, meaningful way. He doesn’t represent Danish values, he is just representing outdated French values.
“Margrethe is the coolest royal in the world. She cycles everywhere, even though she is in her 70s, and wears jeans. It’s just sad that Henrik has lived in Denmark all his life but completely and missed the point of what being Danish means. She’ll be better off without him.”