Denmark’s Margrethe II revives the legend of the red and white flag

Queen Margarethe II in Danish King’s Garden.

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

Anticipation was in the air even before Queen Margrethe II of Denmark stepped off the royal yacht Dannebrog in Tallinn’s Seaplane Harbor. Quiet murmurs from the crowd and cables clinking against flagpoles seemed to mimic a drum roll.

The royal yacht Dannebrog was gently swaying and people who had come out to welcome the queen looked expectant. Before the welcoming ceremony could begin, questions of when the flags will fall could be heard from the crowd. Danish Ambassador to Estonia Kristina Miskowiak Beckvard had hinted on Friday that people should keep an eye on the sky on the day of the queen’s arrival as the ancient legend of how Denmark got its flag might be repeated. The ambassador was referring to the Battle of Lindanise 800 years ago when King of Denmark Valdemar II finally managed to defeat the Estonians after the Dannebrog fell from the sky and boosted the morale of the Danes.

The quiet hum of airplane engines was almost imperceptible when suddenly a special forces member appeared from between thick clouds dragging an Estonian flag behind him, with his parachute also displaying the national colors.

He was followed a few minutes later by another skydiver bearing the Danish flag. And just like on Lorentzen’s famous painting, the fabled flag descended through thick clouds.

Soon after, calls by spectators making their way to the podium heralded the arrival of the queen. The queen, wearing a bright red coat and hat, and President Kersti Kaljulaid in a white dress were cheered by the people on the backdrop of Danish flags.

When the heads of state reached the red carpet, soldiers were called to attention and lifted their arms in perfect synchronization. The Defense Forces Orchestra played the national anthems of both countries. After the welcoming ceremony was concluded, the queen’s motorcade headed for the presidential palace in Kadriorg.

All one could hear in the garden of the Kadriorg Art Museum was the crunch of fine gravel underfoot and the shutters of cameras. Suddenly, the clouds were gone, and the sun was beating down on the crowd.

The queen, surrounded by security, and the president walked slowly toward the museum, treating the spectators to courtly waves every now and again. Queen Margrethe II was greeted by Director of the Kadriorg Art Museum Aleksandra Murre on the steps, and the queen was handed her first bouquet of flowers of the visit. A girl with braids, clad in the national dress handed both heads of state a cluster of cornflowers. After official greetings were concluded, the heads of state entered the museum where Queen Margrethe opened the exhibition “Dannebrog – A Flag from Heaven”.

At the same time, children were celebrating the royal visit by playing in the Freedom Square. The square was filled with tents that allowed one to play laser tag, study the history of Denmark or get a bite to eat.

The president and the queen arrived accompanied by sirens before the queen placed a wreathe at the base of the War of Independence Monument. Behind the monument, on the slopes of Harju Hill, men in national dress were holding an Estonian flag and women that of Denmark. The day continued to the sound of music, with Danish and Estonian choirs performing songs in both languages.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen emphasized friendship between Estonia and Denmark, support from Danish troops in the Estonian War of Independence and current military cooperation as well as the anniversaries of the two flags.

In addition to the Danish King’s Garden, citizens of Tallinn can now take a stroll in the Danish Queen’s Rose Garden – adorned with red and white roses, the garden was created behind the Kiek in de Kök Museum, at the base of the city wall. The queen took a stroll in the garden with Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart. Together, they lifted a red cloth from the plaque bearing the new garden’s name and continued their walk toward the Danish King’s Garden and the side of Toompea Hill facing St. Nicholas’ Church. That is where the legend tells us the Battle of Lindanise took place. The garden is now home to a sculpture and monument to the Danish flag.

Standing next to the Dannebrog Monument, the mayor presented Queen Margrethe II with a Danish flag. Marines wearing ceremonial uniforms unfolded the flag adorned with long red ribbons and folded it again after the ceremony that took place to the tune of a boys’ choir from Copenhagen.

The queen was expected to attend a concert at the Estonia Concert Hall and a gala dinner in her honor by President Kaljulaid at the Arvo Pärt Center in the evening.