Every December 31st the Danish Queen, Margrethe II, gives her New Year speech on TV. From time to time, it contains moral reminders to the Danish people but the speech is, nevertheless, one of the most popular broadcasts year after year.
"God Save Denmark"
With this sentence the Danish Queen, Margrethe II, has concluded each and every one of the 40 New Year speeches she has given on television since she ascended the throne in 1972. And with 2.4 million viewers in 2011, the speech has turned into one of the most popular TV programmes in Denmark.
Historian and PhD Lars Hovbakke Sørensen believes that the speech is so popular because it is one of the few symbols of unity in Danish society today.
"It's the one time of year when the Queen directly addresses the entire Danish population with a strong personal message. The speech is apolitical and therefore most people can see something of themselves in it. It is one of the few events where Danes gather across economic, cultural, religious and generational divides, and therefore it is very important to many people", says Lars Hovbakke Sørensen.
But even though the speech unites the nation, the Queen is not afraid to give the Danes a reminder, if she thinks there is a need for it.
The Queens New Year´s speech 2011. Photo: Keld Navntoft, Scanpix.
"Life is not television"
In 1984 one of the messages in the Queen's speech was that the Danes should meet immigrants more respectfully and not expose them to "our Danish humour and small, arrogant comments" as she put it.
In 1997 the Queen warned not to take life too easy: "Life is not TV where we can change channels as soon as what is happening doesn´t really captivate us."
In 2007 the message was that the Danes should not forget their community: "We have a responsibility to each other, it is one of the principles our society is based on. Maybe we understood that better, when there was less to share. Now it's so easy to think that someone else should take care of the problems, as long as we can just get on with our own lives.”
And in 2011 the speech encouraged the Danes to take personal responsibility and not just blame society in the current crisis.
Lars Hovbakke Sørensen explains that the Queen has developed her New Year speech into becoming more and more personal over the years. But the sometimes harsh reminders do not make the Queen less popular among the population - quite the contrary.
"The Queen is interested in Danish society and she wants the royal family to play a role as a symbol of unity for it. The Danes like it when the Queen gives them a reminder. People take it seriously. I think it makes the Danes think about how they behave towards other people”, says Lars Hovbakke Sørensen.
In recent years bookmakers have started taking bets on which words the Queen will use in her speech. And some of them are quite unusual. In 2011 you could get your money back 41 times if the Queen said "facebook". "Justin Bieber" and "happy slapping" stood at odds 50 (needless to say the Queen did not mention any of the three).
But the new trend of betting on the speech does not imply that the Danes no longer have respect for the speech, says Lars Hovbakke Sørensen.
"The only reason why bookies offer bets on the New Year speech is that it is so popular. Everyone is dedicated to it," he says.
Regardless of what words and topics the Queen will bring up in her future speeches, it is absolutely certain that they will all end with the same three words like all her other speeches: “God Save Denmark”.