Speech

Prime Minister’s speech at the dinner at Fredensborg Palace on the occasion of His Royal Highness The Prince Consort’s 70th birthday, 11 June 2004

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Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses,
Dear Prince Henrik.

Destin oblige.

That is the title of your memoirs. The two words occur time and again when you talk about and look back at your life. Destiny. Obligation.

Destiny brought you to Denmark. Made you Prince of Denmark. Destiny could also have let you travel other paths. The path of diplomacy; of culture; of business. And destiny could have taken you to other parts of the world.

But, destiny did bring you to Denmark. And we are very happy that it did. We are very happy that you for so many years have stood beside, first, our Heir Apparent and, subsequently, our Queen.

From the very outset, you have filled your role and carried out your work with great respect for the spirit of the Monarchy. Your effort has been sustained by a sense of obligation and loyalty.

At the same time, however, you have contributed to the gradual renewal of the Danish Monarchy. With consideration and respect. With an eye for striking the right balance between change and preservation. It is like maintaining a chateau. You yourself have put it very succinctly: “One cannot remove everything that is old. It is necessary to listen to the spirit of the house. Otherwise one ends up being guilty of vandalism”.

Your Royal Highness.

Your interests and abilities cover a very broad spectrum. You command much respect for your efforts in a great number of areas. You are involved in the protection of nature and the preservation of our cultural heritage - buildings and landscapes. You are actively involved in Danish export promotion. And you are the patron of a series of organisations and institutions, ranging from the Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir and the French school in Copenhagen - Prins Henriks Skole - to Danish winegrowers.

You have probably accepted the last patronage utterly convinced that Danish winegrowing is not very likely to threaten the global position of French wines.

You set great store by being useful and making a personal effort. Your sense of obligation is a driving force in the same way as your wish to find harmony in life.

You master, furthermore, the ability to combine the role of a public person with the quality of being a real human being with room for feelings. You are more than a mere role. And this shows very clearly when you meet the surroundings with your characteristic sense of humour. You find it easy to smile and you can see the funny aspect of many situations.

Your great interest in literature has already materialised in several publications that have met with much acclaim. And I understand that you have yet another book of poetry in French in the drawer, ready for printing.

Still, it is not only spiritual food you take a keen interest in. You have never made a secret of your profound interest in both food and wine. Also in this respect, you attach much importance to quality and good primary products.

The American novelist, Joseph Conrad*, once said that only one kind of book unambiguously serves the purpose of increasing the happiness of mankind: cookery books. I won’t go as far as that, but merely note that also in this area you have made meritorious contributions – and of course not only in the form of literature.

Your Royal Highness.

You have a well-developed ability to express yourself in varied language – rich in nuances. With empathy. With significance. With irony. With sarcasm. With humour.

The Danish people constitutes a small nation. We are proud of our history and our culture. We protect and uphold our sense of Danish nationality.

However, for a person to be Danish, it is not vital to be able to pronounce the word “rødgrød” without an accent. Irrespective of whether the person in question comes to Denmark as a prince or a porter.

What is vital is that the person understands and respects Danish society and its values.

And you do. You came to Denmark with a French background. Right from the outset, however, you have considered it an obligation to act as a fine representative of Denmark. And you have taken pleasure in doing so.

In a Monarchy headed by a Queen, the role of Prince Consort is a special task. You have indeed said quite frankly, “(...) it is probably very few people who can get used to the gender role I have had. (.....) I have adjusted my mind to the idea of always being of secondary importance.”

Your Royal Highness, I can say - in that respect you share the fate of most other Danish men.

Your Royal Highness, you fulfil your function and perform your work with a great sense of responsibility, with style and stature. We are grateful for the effort you have made for the benefit of Denmark. And it is my pleasure to convey to you the heartfelt congratulations of the Danish Government on your 70th birthday.

May I ask you all to rise and join me in three cheers for the Prince Consort.

Long live His Royal Highness The Prince Consort!

HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH

*****

*Due to an unfortunate error in the research carried out prior to the Prime Minister's work on the speech, Joseph Conrad is mistakenly called an American. Joseph Conrad was born in the Ukraine, but later became a citizen of the United Kingdom.