Henrik de Laborde de Monpezat, husband of Denmark's Queen Margrethe, dead at 83

Denmark's Prince Henrik, husband of Queen Margrethe, died on Tuesday night at Fredensborg Castle, the Royal House said in a statement. He was 83, and had been diagnosed with a benign tumour two weeks ago.

French-born Henrik questioned the royal succession line publicly through the years

Danish royals Queen Margrethe II, left, and Prince Henrik are seen in an October 2014 photo. Prince Henrik, the French-born husband of Danish monarch Queen Margrethe who publicly vented his frustration at not being the social equal of his wife or their son in line to become Denmark's king, died late Tuesday. (Darko Bandic/Associated Press)

Prince Henrik, the French-born husband of Danish monarch Queen Margrethe who publicly vented his frustration at not being the social equal of his wife or their son in line to become Denmark's king, died late Tuesday. He was 83.

"His Royal Highness Prince Henrik died peacefully in his sleep ...," the statement said. "Her Majesty the Queen and the two sons were at his side."

The French-born prince had been hospitalized following an illness that began during a private trip to Egypt. Shortly before his death, he was transferred from a Copenhagen hospital back to the castle, north of the city, where he had wanted to spend "his final time."

"The royal family has lost an anchor," Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said in a statement, who said Henrik "kept his good spirits till the end."

King Carl XVI Gustaf in neighboring Sweden expressed his condolences on Instagram, adding "we will remember Prince Henrik with great warmth."

Flags were at half-mast on public and private buildings across Copenhagen, including the city's famed downtown amusement park Tivoli. National radio channels changed their morning programs to broadcast more austere music interrupted by anecdotes about Henrik's life.

The royal couple are seen with U.S. President Bill Clinton when he paid a visit to Denmark in July 1997. (Reuters)

The royal household on Wednesday announced a month of mourning during which royals will wear dark clothing and not participate in social events. It also said military staff would wear black arm bands.

Prince Henrik sparked controversy in August 2017 when he announced he did not wish to be buried next to the Queen, breaking a 459-year-old tradition. He said he was unhappy she had never acknowledged him as her equal.

Shortly after, the palace announced that Prince Henrik was suffering from dementia. He formerly held the title of Prince Consort but renounced that title when he retired from his official duties in 2016. He had often spoken of his frustration at being denied the title of King instead of Prince Consort. In Denmark, a princess traditionally becomes queen when her husband takes the throne, but a man does not become king when the roles are reversed.

After a 2009 Danish referendum supported the equality of the sexes in the royal succession, Henrik remarked: "I hope that men will be as equal as girls," spurring further debate and briefly finding support in parliament in favour of allowing Prince Henrik the title of king. But no law was ever passed.

Both loved and criticized by the Danes for his aristocratic manner, best exemplified by his colourful clothes and thick French accent, in recent years Henrik found support particularly amongst the Danish youth for breaking with the Danish norms of cultural uniformity.

Known as a bon vivant

In 2016, the Prince renounced his title of Prince Consort and retired from his official duties. Thereafter he spent much of his time at his private vineyard in Château de Cayx, France, although he remained married to the Queen and was officially still living with her.

Known for his love of wine and food, the Prince was also a passionate artist, producing several poems, sculptures and cooking books.

Born Henri Marie Jean Andre de Laborde de Monpezat in France in 1934, he married Margrethe in 1967. Henrik has two sons with the queen, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim.

The Danish royal family has no political authority, but is one of the world's oldest kingdoms and prides itself on stability.

The Danish royal family are seen at a garden in Graasten Castle during their summer holidays on July 25, 2015 in Graasten, Denmark. (Henning Bagger/Scanpix Denmark/Reuters)

Shortly after the royal marriage, media criticized Henrik because he had openly aired his views that spanking was good for children. In the mid-1980s, Henrik publicly said he wanted a paycheck instead of relying on the queen, who gets annual allowances.

In a 2002 interview, Henrik again stunned Danes by saying he felt he had been pushed aside in his own home, not only by his wife but also by his son. This followed the annual royal New Year's reception for foreign diplomats, where Frederik had been host because his mother was unavailable due to a broken rib.

"For many years I have been No. 2," Henrik told Danish tabloid B.T. "I have been satisfied with that role, but after so many years in Denmark I don't suddenly want to become No. 3 and become some kind of wearisome attachment."

Crown Prince Frederik, an International Olympic Committee member, had left Pyeongchang before the official opening of the Winter Games to rush home because of his father's worsening condition. During Henrik's final illness, Danes wrote on the royal household's Facebook page, offering warm thoughts to his family.

With the files from Reuters