From THe Australian
February 24, 2005
EVEN as she stood on the palace balcony on her wedding day kissing her prince and waving at the adoring crowd below, Princess Mary's fairytale new family life was falling apart.
Within four months, the cracks in the royal Danish household were exposed by the announcement of the divorce of the younger brother of Mary's husband Crown Prince Frederik.
After two children and nine years of marriage, the divorce of Prince Joachim and his Hong Kong-born wife Princess Alexandra sent shock waves through the longest serving royal house in Europe.
In the lead-up to the divorce announcement, which will be the first in the family in 158 years, the former Sydney real estate agent had to keep smiling and acting as if nothing was amiss - despite being aware of the friction between the younger couple and their impending split, timed to be made public after her spectacular wedding.
Mary had to talk about lifelong commitment and happy families while Alexandra was being frozen out of the inner circle and a new home was purchased for her to live
The split has transferred even greater expectation on to Mary's young shoulders. As the new wife of the heir to the Danish throne, Mary was expected to follow in the footsteps of Alexandra, who was adored by the Danish public. Alexandra, who was a commoner like Mary, carried out her role without a hitch - but ultimately failed to keep her marriage together. Alexandra's divorce begged the question: How long would Mary last as the new young face of the ageing Danish monarchy?
Due to arrive in Sydney today for a 22-day visit - and her first official trip home - Mary is expected to present a glittering image amid intense formality. She does not wish to be portrayed as the Australian sheila who kissed a prince at a pub and slowly morphed into an elegant swan. Rather, she wants to be seen as a ready-made royal who was born with innate grace, glamour and poise.
Mary is proud of her Australian heritage - decorating her home north of Copenhagen with a kangaroo garden statue and other Australian furnishings - but she appears determined to keep images and stories of her life before Frederik buried.
One of the first letters she penned on her crisp insignia-topped palace parchment following her wedding was to a Sydney-based personal development guru. Instead of a heartfelt thankyou for tuition in self-expression and confidence, it was a polite demand that Teresa Page remove all record of her from the Starmaker Studios website (www.starmakers.com.au
Page, who instructed Mary for seven weeks in 2001 - three months after her famous meeting with the prince - acceded to the request. Photographs taken when Mary had fuller cheeks, hips and cleavage, and a rambling testimonial written when she was just plain old Mary Donaldson, were removed as they were not in keeping with her new image. In the testimonial Mary wrote: "What I have experienced - much and varied. Probably one of the strongest elements is the connection between mind and body, not only that a connection exists but how to develop it and work it to your advantage. As an absolute novice, I walk away with the understanding and appreciation of the industry and the requisite tools and techniques to progress in the industry. And one final thing, it was delivered from an experienced experience. Thank you. Mary Donaldson."
The move was part of the campaign by the Sydney real estate agent and the Danish royal palace to erase records of the journey Mary took to becoming a crown princess.
From day one, friends and family were instructed, via email, not to spill the beans on her past. Her brief fling with Sydney Swans footballer Ryan O'Keefe just weeks before she met her future husband was kept under wraps until it was revealed in a gossip column after the wedding. So was her seven-year live-in relationship with Melbourne spin doctor Brent Annells.
Her less than regal fashion sense has been slowly erased - the casual sports clothes are gone. So are the shy and awkward expressions, the Australian accent and about 8kg.
The new polished Mary is ready to take her place as a princess on a pedestal 4 1/2 years after she met Frederik at a Sydney pub on September 16, 2000. Although her background and common touch are part of her charm, there must be an air of mystique.
But the appearance of effortless sophistication takes a lot of work when royals are on the road. When she arrives in Sydney today, Mary will be accompanied by her make-up artist Soren Hedegaard, at least two bodyguards from the Danish Security Intelligence Service and a lady-in-waiting. The guards who protect Mary and Frederik are distinguished by their red lapel pins and ear-microphones. Mary's lady-in-waiting is the elegant, surrogate mother-figure Countess Victoria Bernstorff-Gyldensteen, 54, an American-born Danish noblewoman who is part secretary, part adviser. She prompts Mary if she forgets names and holds her bouquets and speeches.
The Danes are hoping that a good dose of Australian sun and tucker will give Mary a healthy glow and put some flesh back on her bones. Even though she's in fine shape for another bikini beach shot, there will be no such opportunity this time. Mary was upset by bikini shots taken of her on Sydney's Bronte Beach during her visit with Frederik in January last year. "In terms of throwing on a swimsuit, I would think twice about that because it's not very nice to be photographed in a swimsuit," she said in a recent interview.
Her gaunt appearance is a highly sensitive issue in Denmark, with many commentators blaming her inability to conceive a royal heir on her dramatic weight loss both before and after the nuptials in May last year. The pressure to conceive is intense, with Queen Margrethe forced to come out in August last year and flatly deny the former Australian was expecting. "The most important thing is that the young couple is left in peace. We are not sitting on the edge of our chairs [waiting for a baby]," she said.
During her 12 days in Sydney, two nights in the nation's capital, a whistlestop in Melbourne and two days in Hobart, Mary will lend her new glamour to black-tie dinners and social gatherings, tree-plantings and openings.
But what is being promoted as a charity tour is a sailing camp for Frederik. The sailing fanatic has timed the visit to skipper the Danish entry in the Farr 40 world yachting championships, due to begin next month.
Mary is just keeping herself busy on-shore while Frederik sails alongside her former boss at Belle Property, Chris Meehan. She will attend medical research clinics and ladies charity lunches while Frederik sails.
At other events the pair will wave at crowds and shake hands with politicians, fundraisers, prominent Australian Danes and A-list celebrities.
They will be chauffeur-driven with a police escort -- flashing lights and green traffic lights all the way -- and taxpayers will foot the bill for the royal couple's luxury accommodation, security and other travel expenses.
At one event in Sydney, 100 social-climbing couples are paying $3000 per couple to attend an intimate evening at one of the city's most glamorous harbourside homes.
Ladies must curtsey to Mary, men must bow, but a palace spokeswoman says children who present Mary with posies can do away with formalities.
The hectic tour will be followed by a private holiday visiting friends and family in Tasmania. The Danish media is disappointed, however, that she is not visiting a zoo or tourist sights that would produce those classic Australiana shots.
Since their wedding, Mary has accompanied Frederik on official visits to Greenland and London, and a skiing trip to Switzerland.
Apart from learning the ins and outs of royal etiquette and getting used to the fact her mother-in-law's face is on the back of 10 and 20 kronor coins - she has dutifully upgraded her skiing, sailing and golfing skills - the favourite pastimes of the Danish royals. She has four golf club memberships at the most exclusive courses in Copenhagen, has attended engagements as patron of eight organisations and has had university scholarships set up in her honour.
She's proved a good and successful student, but sometimes the old Mary slips out from behind the facade. When she was named royal patron of the Danish Heart Foundation in January, taking over from her father-in-law Prince Henrik, she was unable to continue with her speech - one of only a handful she has given in Danish. Referring to her mother, Henrietta, who died in November 1997 after a heart operation, she was so overcome that she couldn't remember her words and her notes had to be passed to her.
As a former tutor of Mary, Sydney's Page is proud of the transformation of her graduate, although she says she was hurt that Mary shunned her and forced her to remove her star pupil's testimonial from her website.
Page says Mary always had a "lovely voice", even if it now sounds "more clipped". "She doesn't sound Australian, put it that way," Page says. "I believe that the reason why everyone loves her is because she is very authentic. To fit in you really have to adapt, you have to be very status-conscious, it dictates everything."
In November 2001, Vanda Carson broke the story that Mary Donaldson was the secret Australian girlfriend of Frederik.