By Diane Ako
The 71 year old Queen Margrethe represents a monarchy that’s over one thousand years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. She ascended to this position in 1972, becoming the first female monarch of Denmark since Margaret I, ruler of the Scandinavian countries in 1388-1412 during the Kalmar Union. Her husband is a French diplomat. Officially, the Queen is the official head of government, but de facto, she acts as a figurehead and a representative of the Kingdom when abroad.
The dinner starts at 7 PM, however we ask that all guests arrive early. All guests should be at the embassy when Her Majesty and His Royal Highness arrive at 7 PM, and access to the embassy may be difficult because of the Secret Service security measures. Please be at the embassy no later than 6:30 PM!
Please do not bring your own cameras. There will be photographers taking pictures as the guests arrive and throughout the evening. There will be no posed pictures with HM and HRH.
The Embassy had negotiated a good group rate at a nearby hotel, so that’s where most of the Consuls stayed. Consequently, the lobby was crammed with tuxedos and ballgowns at 6 p.m., and the port cochere was brimming with a line of taxis.
When we walked up to the Embassy, event photographers greeted us, as did a crew from a Danish gossip magazine, Billed Bladet. It's like People or US magazine in America. Royal watching is a big deal, so the magazine featured a page on what the Queen did in the US. This headline says The Queen's Journal in the USA. Claus and I are a bitty little picture in the bottom right, though it sure was fun to see.
It was a surprise for me too, as half of the conversations were conducted in a language I don't know, so if the photographer introduced himself as from a magazine, I would certainly not have known. It was such a whirwind of activity that Claus probably just forgot to mention it to me. The couple right above us are some new friends from the party. The woman in the purple dress is a lawyer and an Honorary Consul.
We were ushered into the crisply air conditioned building, which was a welcome respite from the 100 degree humid sauna that is a La Nina summer in the east coast.
Waiters wandered the room with silver platters of champagne, wine, and iced tea. A Danish music group provided live music while a videographer captured the action. Everyone was extremely friendly. I think this was the friendliest event I have ever attended. People were walking up, introducing themselves, and chatting.
One woman noticed Claus’ custom tuxedo studs and complimented him. We told her the story about how much trouble we went through to make it, and she was surprised to learn it wasn’t ordered from some factory. When her husband came to join us, she pointed it out to him and suggested he do the same. He asked, “Where’d you get this done?”
The wife answered, “His nail tech did it.”
“Well, it’s not my nail tech,” corrected Claus, as we laughed.
“If you’re going to talk about this you can just say it’s my nail tech,” I said, trying to help Claus out. In all, two or three people noticed the studs, so Claus was happy that he put the effort into it.
At 7 p.m., the royal couple showed up, and we were asked to line up so that we could file in and greet them. I was completely nervous about making a faux pas, and I don’t remember much about that moment, except that it went by really fast.
There were only about 70 people dining, so it felt very intimate. The queen sat two tables away from us. I was seated next to the Queen’s physician and a consul from San Francisco. It’s very Danish to seat you apart from your spouse, in order to encourage conversation. Midway through dinner, she stood up and gave a speech, thanking the Consuls for their service.
The food was excellent, and after dinner, we were all directed into the salon for a 15 minute live music performance by a group called Mythos.
After that, staffers ushered us to the large balcony, where waiters circled with dessert wine and coffee, while everyone mingled. The queen directed one of the Embassy Consuls to select ten Consuls for a meet-and-greet, and we were one of the lucky ones to be chosen. Maybe it's because we traveled the farthest.
There was a small seating area on the lanai, and the Queen was seated on a loveseat. There were two chairs arranged around it. We waited in nearby, while a staffer ushered couples through for three minute meetings. When it was our turn, a staffer presented us with a brief introduction (including whether or not the Consul speaks Danish), then stood back.
We were a bit awestruck and didn't know what to say to a queen. She did most of the asking and Claus did all of the answering. After the first few sentences in English, she wanted to switch to Danish, so I mostly just tried to figure out what they were saying from my rudimentary Danish skills gleaned from life with a bilingual four year old. Luckily, I'm used to this feeling, because my in-laws don't speak much English. I just smiled and looked at her humongous diamond wedding ring which probably puts Kim Kardashian's to shame.
Honestly, it was like speed-dating. The kinds of questions were very basic, like: Where are you from, what do you do, how long have you been there? Then, the staffer cleared his throat, so we thanked her and made way for the next couple. Though quick, it was still very exciting to be having a private conversation with a queen!
Shortly after this, Her Royal Highness and Prince Henrik left and the party ended. The Consuls all went back to the hotel and created an impromptu party in the hotel bar until it closed. It was a really fun night.
I'm always reading princess fairy tales to Olivia, and I can't believe that on this night, I sort of lived my own version of a fairy tale, with a royal ball- certainly a night I'll never forget.
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