Through an agreement with UK-based Alliance magazine, PND is pleased to be able to offer a series of articles about global philanthropy.

Behind Denmark's Royal Foundations

Behind Denmark's Royal Foundations

Queens, kings, chamberlains, counts, princesses, and princes: many members of the royal household have a seat at the table of the eleven philanthropic foundations founded by the Danish Royal House over the years. Last year these foundations awarded more than 26 million Danish kroner (£3 million) to a number of causes: culture, social issues, science, disease-fighting and humanitarian assistance. But what does the Royal House and philanthropic donations have to do with each other? And why does the Royal House continue to create new foundations as the line of succession grows longer?

According to historian Dr. Lars Hovbakke Sørensen, "[I]t has to do with the fact that we used to have an absolute monarchy in Denmark." The monarch was the source of all authority, and "it was a part of his or her role and responsibility to show benevolence," says Sørensen. However, once Denmark moved toward a more democratic system in 1848, the monarchy was shorn of its powers and lost close contact with the people. Foundations became a way of maintaining the relationship between the people and the Royal House. They also served as a raison d’être and gave the monarchy a way of carrying on the tradition of showing its benevolence.

A wide range of causes

Several of the Danish foundations publish annual lists of their donations on the Royal House's website. The biggest of the classic application-based foundations is Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik's Foundation, which donates to cultural, scientific, and social causes. It is the Queen herself who chairs the board and controls the right to make grants. 

As a sample of the projects the foundation supports, grantees in 2018 included the Danish Dance Theatre's Copenhagen Summer Dance 2018, the Danish Cancer Society, and the Danish AIDS Foundation. It also included international development organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and that organization's efforts to help Rohingya adults and children fleeing violence in Myanmar.

While there is no thematic pattern in the evolution of royal philanthropy, the type of projects funded have gradually changed, observes Sørensen. "Today they support modern music and modern art, where in the past they supported the classical arts." He also points to the Mary Foundation, which epitomizes its changed approach.


A different direction

The biggest of the Royal House's foundations, the Mary Foundation was founded by HRH Crown Princess Mary in 2007 in collaboration with a number of Danish companies and large foundations. In contrast to the other foundations in the Royal House, the Mary Foundation is problem-oriented, has a professional, project development staff, and forms partnerships with other organizations. Its direction is characteristic of the Crown Prince Couple, notes Sørensen.

"The Crown Prince Couple have chosen a new approach in order to renew the Royal House, to keep up with the times and show that you can do things differently," he says. And these differences reflect both changing times and the changing preoccupation of the Danish people.

Jakob Thomsen is the managing editor of Danmarks Fonde. This article is a result of a collaboration between Alliance magazine and Danmarks Fonde and is republished here with permission.