It is the end of the interview. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who has handled herself with reserved grace during a half-hour session, rises from the sofa, shakes hands and walks to the door. It is locked.

She rattles the doorknob, and there is confusion on the outside but no one can find the key. Uncertain whether to be annoyed or amused, she turns around looking for an escape. A door on the far side of the room reveals a closet. The fireplace brings a laugh.

"We go up the chimney, like Father Christmas," she says.

Notorious at home for keeping the media at a distance, she is laughing now all the harder as her minions in the hallway work frantically to free her.

Then, throwing up her hands, she surrenders to her fate. And in mock horror she looks at her guest, a reporter, and cries: "They've locked me up with the press!"

Queen Margrethe is a popular monarch in a world where the relevance of royalty is under constant review -- seen as "a convenience for politicians," as someone once said of Queen Elizabeth II, "and a frivolity for the communications industry."

Popularity polls, which she thinks are "slightly artificial" if not actually unhealthy, have been, where she is concerned, "very positive, I'm afraid." Others say that if Denmark eliminated the monarchy, she would be elected president.

Longtime queen watchers say the 50-year-old monarch makes an effort to get closer to her people, popping up without fanfare at art exhibits, the theater, in shops. She is an artist, an archaeologist and a translator (she speaks five languages). A six-foot redhead, she chain-smokes.

Margrethe says her forebears always worked at humanizing the monarchy. "My great-great-grandfather took his walks in the city just as we've been able to do ever since. You'd certainly have to go more than a hundred years back for it to be very different."

What she calls her "little pit theory," to explain why Denmark's 1,000-year-old monarchy works, boils down to a matter of size.

"Denmark's a small country, it's only 5 millions, and there's not a great distance between each Dane," she says during an interview in Williamsburg Sunday night. "And if each Dane knows a hundred Danes, he or she knows a much larger proportion of one's countrymen than one would if one lived in a country of 12 or 20 or 40 millions."

According to her -- "I'm one Dane among a lot of Danes, with a very special job," she explained -- it stands to reason that "very many people will have seen me at some point. There's not an awful lot of us Danes, altogether, so we do talk to each other."

In a series of interviews with Danish journalist Anne Wolden-Raethinge, later published in book form as "Queen in Denmark," Margrethe broke the unspoken rule among royals that there is majesty in mystery. She says now it was "the exhibitionist" speaking.

"I felt if I had to do it at all I had to say something, otherwise I'd better not do it. I mean, either you tell people something which matters to you and which is real or else you don't agree to do a book like that because it would be ridiculous to say nothing."

In it she offered homely glimpses of herself at every stage of her life, from her childhood in Nazi-occupied Denmark during World War II, to her marriage to the French-born Henri-Marie-Jean-Andre, Count de Laborde de Monpezat, to motherhood, the monarchy and modern times. Among the most difficult was her adolescence, knowing she would one day be queen.

"The very idea that a prerequisite for my succession was that my father was dead was a great strain; it was vile," she says. At another point, "The fact that I knew I was heir to the throne contributed to my insecurity during adolescence. ... So much starts simmering at that age, and as far as I am concerned, my insecurity and my malaise were probably an equal mixture of constitutional law and hormones."

On her 18th birthday, when for the first time she appeared on the palace balcony to "accept the applause" of the Danes, she saw that "there was a bit of theatre in my father and there is in me as well -- and it is a great help. It does not mean you have to play a part, that you have to pretend. It means that you can go out and say: 'I am here, because this is where I belong.' "

This week she is making her first state visit to the United States since becoming queen 19 years ago. As with state visits to other countries, she will be selling Denmark because "it's one of the jobs you can do. ... If you think Denmark does something rather well, you can say so. You're not selling anybody's soap."

But she won't be talking politics. In fact, after President and Mrs. Bush welcome her on the South Lawn of the White House today, they will take Queen Margrethe, Prince Henrik and their entourage into the Green Room rather than the Oval Office, which would imply official discussions.

"The queen reigns, she does not govern," says Danish Embassy Minister-Counselor Bent Skou, explaining the queen's constitutional status. "If the president discusses how he sees the world situation and it calls for comments of a political nature, then the foreign minister will reply."

Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Elleman-Jensen jokes that Margrethe takes "the nice questions." She says of media attempts to elicit her views, "If you really don't have to meddle in politics, it's not all that difficult to handle because you simply don't say anything if you're asked questions you can't answer."

But she gets her point across.

Although her visit to the United States coincided with the Persian Gulf War, for her, the question was never to come or not to come. The question was how.

Danish government leaders, faced with the increasing prospect of a ground war and the collateral hazards of terrorism, were uncertain about whether she should fly commercially, her usual means, or by government aircraft.

On Sunday, at Newark International Airport, the queen stepped off a regularly scheduled Scandinavian Airlines flight from Copenhagen.

"By her actions, I would say she expresses opinions," Elleman-Jensen says the next morning in Williamsburg. "She took a commercial airline across the Atlantic, didn't she? That's like the statement Barbara Bush made. That's one tough lady too."

Although many Americans don't realize it, Denmark does have a role in the Persian Gulf War. Elleman-Jensen says the country is providing "on a per capita basis the most substantial humanitarian assistance in the area by any country."

That includes sending a Danish navy frigate as part of the U.N. gulf blockade, preparing an emergency military hospital at Jutland to receive the wounded, earmarking $20 million in cash to Britain's war effort, providing another $10 million in refugee aid, lending military equipment to various countries, sending missiles and 45,000 gas masks to Turkey and another 20,000 to refugee camps on the West Bank and buying some military supplies for the Israelis.

While she is here this week, the National Archives will display, among other items, the telegram dated May 9, 1940, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent to Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Ingrid congratulating them on the birth of their daughter.

"Upon this joyful occasion Mrs. Roosevelt joins me in the sincere wish that your daughter may have a long and happy life," Roosevelt said.

To the Danes, whose country had been occupied by the Germans on April 9, 1940, just one week to the day before Margrethe was born, the telegram was like a signal that the Americans were well aware of their plight.

"She became our daily point of light," says Danish Ambassador Peter Dyvig.

She was not born to be queen; the rules didn't provide for female succession until 1953. Born Alexandrine Torhildur Ingrid but named Margrethe -- intimates call her "Daisy" -- for Denmark's only other queen she does not feel she has to prove herself because of what she calls "a biological fluke."

Nonetheless, she is a dedicated artist whose works are included in an exhibit of Danish women that she opened yesterday at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

She says she has never been "anything even vaguely like a feminist. It just doesn't agree with my way of life, with my way of looking at life. I've never liked people who" -- and, here, it's more a sound than a word -- "zigazigaziga in anything, whether women or men, for that matter. It doesn't appeal to my psychology."

She knows she is privileged to be leading the life she does. Brought up in midcentury, she has "the advantage of being a slightly rare bird" though expects that even a queen will find things changing as time goes on.

"I'm still in the position where people -- men -- are cautious to me. You're given a little bit. I know a lot of women have to compete with the thing that 'Oh, women can't,' but in the odd position like mine I think you're given more of a pat on the back than you might otherwise be given," she says.

She has "never said never" about abdicating in favor of her son, Crown Prince Frederik, she says, "because you never know anything about the future ultimately do you? But what I have always maintained is that there is no tradition in Denmark for abdication."