In honor of A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony, we’re researching other delightful, innovative, and interesting Danish women in the arts. Click here to learn more about NMWA’s current exhibition.
Dark wizards, pint-sized hobbits, and rings of power may not be the first images conjured when regarding Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. But the Danish monarch has a closer tie to Middle Earth than one might expect—as the illustrator for the Danish edition of The Lord of the Rings saga.
While The Lord of the Rings is set during an age-ending war between good and evil, it is reminiscent, to an extent, of the world that Queen Margrethe was born into. She was born in Copenhagen on April 16, 1940, a week after the Nazi invasion of Denmark.
Although descended from a long line of royalty (her great-great grandmother was Queen Victoria), Queen Margrethe was not the heir to the throne at birth. That changed after a 1953 amendment to the Danish constitution, which allowed women to ascend in the absence of male heirs. In 1972, she became the first female monarch of Denmark in 500 years. She enjoys immense popular support—it has been said that if she had not been crowned monarch she would have been elected president.
Educated in archeology, political science, and economics, Queen Margrethe has had no formal training in the visual arts. However, she has created artwork in a wide range of mediums and styles, including church textiles, mystical watercolors, prints, surrealistic decoupage works, and embroidery, in addition to costume and set design. Many of her works have been shown in exhibitions in Denmark and abroad. Not only is she a hands-on queen, attending government meetings and writing her own speeches, she is also a versatile, creative artist.
Christened Margrethe Alexandrine Thorhildur Ingrid Oldenburg, the Queen’s Nordic name seems worthy of any Tolkien character. In fact, her illustrations for The Lord of The Rings were submitted under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, a partial anagram of her birth name. The Danish dame’s woodcut-style illustrations complement Tolkien’s gripping fantasy. The author enjoyed the Queen’s illustrations, which bore a similarity to his own.
At the age of 72, Queen Margrethe II heads one of the happiest-ranked countries in the world; one hopes that she will one day celebrate her one-hundred-and-eleventieth birthday—Baggins-style.
—Emily Haight is the publications and marketing/communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.