Something surprising is happening in the state of Denmark.
The country's monarch Queen Margrethe II has announced she will abdicate the throne in January after more than 50 years of reign.
"On 14 January 2024—52 years after I succeeded my beloved father —I will step down as Queen of Denmark," the 83-year-old said in her annual New Year's Eve speech, broadcast live on Danish television Dec. 31, according to multiple outlets. "I leave the throne to my son Crown Prince Frederik."
Frederick, 55, is the eldest of the queen and late husband Prince Henrik of Denmark's two sons. His coronation date was not announced.
The queen cited a back surgery she underwent this past February as a factor in her decision to step down.
"Everything went well, thanks to the competent health personnel, who took care of me," she said. "Inevitably, the operation gave cause to thoughts about the future—whether now would be an appropriate time to pass on the responsibility to the next generation."
The queen was 31 when she ascended the throne in 1972 following the death of her father King Frederik IX and is the first female Danish sovereign under a new law.
She is currently the longest-serving monarch in Europe, following in the footsteps of United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for 70 years before her death at 96 in 2022.
Like the U.K., Denmark has a constitutional monarchy. While the royals play a limited role, power ultimately resides in the hand of the country's elected parliament. In addition to Denmark proper, the Danish Kingdom also includes the autonomous territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Following the queen's speech, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen thanked her for her service, saying she brought honor to the kingdom.
"On behalf of the entire population, I would like to express my deepest thanks to Her Majesty the Queen for her lifelong dedication and tireless support for the Kingdom," she said in a statement on Twitter. "Queen Margrethe is the epitome of Denmark and throughout the years has put words and feelings on who we are as a people and as a nation."