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The Associated Press
Sweden's royals King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, right, arrive at Copenhagen City Hall in Copenhagen on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. Tens of thousands of flag-waving Danes braving near-freezing temperatures have cheered Denmark's popular figurehead monarch celebrating 40 years of her reign. Queen Margrethe drove in a horse-drawn carriage from 1840, escorted by mounted Hussars, through Copenhagen Saturday to attend a reception at the City Hall, attended by Scandinavian monarchs, Iceland's president and Greece's deposed royal family.(AP Photo, Polfoto, Anthon Unger) DENMARK OUT

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Tens of thousands of flag-waving Danes braved near-freezing temperatures on Saturday to cheer Denmark's popular figurehead monarch as she celebrated 40 years on the throne.

Escorted by mounted Hussars, Queen Margrethe traveled in an 1840 horse-drawn carriage through Copenhagen to attend a reception at the City Hall, attended by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja, the family of the deposed monarch of Greece and Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.

Under clear blue skies, crowds lined the route that started at her home, the downtown Amalienborg Castle

After a banquet lunch, Margrethe and her husband, Prince Henrik, waved from a balcony to thousands of people on the City Hall Square, bursting out in a surprise jubilee song and hurrahing.

The 71-year-old head of Europe's oldest monarchy began the day by laying a wreath at the tomb of her father, King Frederik IX.

Margrethe, whose powers are largely ceremonial, became queen on Jan. 14, 1972, after Frederik died at age 72.

The next day, a 31-year-old, fragile-looking woman, dressed in black, stared at tens of thousands of people from a parliament balcony. At her side was then-Prime Minister Jens-Otto Krag who proclaimed to the crowd: "King Frederik IX is dead. Long live Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II."

Through the past 40 years, Danes have held an affinity with the Danish royals who have remained largely scandal-free.

And besides Margrethe's royal duties, she has won praise for her artistic works, which range from abstract paintings and embroidery of church vestments to altar pieces, dinnerware and scenery and costumes for television and theater plays.

However, some believe she soon should retire and hand over her duties to her oldest son, 42-year-old Crown Prince Frederik. That's what Queen Juliana of the Netherlands did in 1980, when she turned 71, abdicating in favor of her daughter, Queen Beatrix.

But Margrethe believes staying is part of the job description in a hereditary monarchy.

"It is a commitment that I actually feel very comfortable with," she told a news conference this week.

Her family traces its lineage back to Viking kings in the 10th century.