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Class Rules - How Mary Donaldson is being trained for life as the Queen of Denmark - Working all Dane and night to be fit for a king.
Mary Donaldson may be a modern Cinderella but she's got a long road ahead before she's Denmark's Queen of Hearts.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful Australian commoner called Mary who fell in love with a handsome young prince named Frederik.
Frederik was from Denmark, where the royal family is worshipped. Mary was from Tasmania, where Ricky Ponting is worshipped. Though Frederik probably wouldn't know Ricky Ponting if he fell over him and though Sydney resident Mary is nothing like a Dane, Frederik asked for his fair Mary's hand in marriage.
He was royal and she was a commoner but all the land of Denmark rejoiced. And Australia was pretty chuffed too.
Here's where the story should read: "And they lived happily ever after."
But the life of the modern Cinderella is no fairy tale and Mary Donaldson has enormous glass slippers to fill.
Donaldson is not just marrying a prince. She is marrying the Crown Prince, putting her directly in line to be Denmark's Princess Consort, or even Queen if Frederik decrees. Royal watchers say the latter is likely.
She is also marrying a royal family, a wildly beloved one at that, with some fiercely guarded traditions and a history that many Danes can recite in their sleep. She's marrying into a national pride that is not her own.
And she's getting herself one heck of a mother-in-law in Queen Margrethe II, the reigning monarch, almost saintly in the eyes of her subjects. In fact, next time your lamb roast doesn't measure up to your mother-in-law's, spare a thought for Mary Donaldson. You'll feel much better about your inadequacies. Mary Donaldson is about to get the mother of all mother-in-laws.
Betty Windsor can only dream about popularity like Margrethe's. The adoration she generates is closer to that poured on Princess Diana than anything else.
An acclaimed artist, intellectual, visionary, academic and woman of the people, not to mention a tremendously beautiful woman, Margrethe has the added magical ingredient of having been born only days into the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II. The baby princess was seen as a symbol of hope then and as the Queen, continues to define Danish pride in its culture, particularly in relation to art, literature and history.
It's often said if Denmark became a republic, Queen Margrethe II would be its first president. Even republicans say: "Yes, a republic, but not during the reign of this queen".
Big shoes indeed.
Not that Donaldson will fill them directly. She is destined to be a ribbon cutter and stately presence by her monarch husband's side but the comparisons will be made.
"Poor Mary," said a senior Danish journalist. "I wouldn't be her for the world. We own her now. She has sold Denmark her soul and her body and her heart. But she has done it with eyes wide open." A close observer of the Danish court said Mary already had started the dramatic change in her life. "The moment it [the engagement] became official, she stopped being Mary and started being the future Queen Mary," he said. "The jump from one to the other is the original quantum leap."
For a start, said sources close to the court, Donaldson has already had a fertility test. They doubted the Danish Government - which generally approved wholeheartedly of Mary - would have approved the union if it were unlikely to produce an heir to the throne. Perhaps most sudden of all, from Wednesday of this week Donaldson stopped being a professional career woman; stopped dead. She resigned instantly from her position in a computer software company.
"There cannot be the slightest hint of undue influence in business dealings now that she is to be Queen," one source said. "From now on, she is a royal." And, said one source, as Mary moved out of her office, her new bodyguards moved in to protect her.
But where was she and Prince Frederik? Some reports said they were in Rome, others in southern Sweden. What was clear is that the couple were savouring last moments of privacy together before Donaldson meets her first big test on October 8 when the betrothal becomes official.
And some test that will be. Donaldson will face the Danish media, probably live on TV, when most Danes will hear her speak for the first time.
She will have to speak in Danish, a notoriously difficult language spoken nowhere else on Earth and she had better get it right.
Will she be able to say: "God-dag, rart at mode dig" (hello, it's nice to meet you) to her
adoring public? While Alexandra, the Hong Kong-born wife of Frederik's younger brother, Prince Joachim, has been lauded for her perfect Danish, Mary's soon-to-be father-in-law, the French-born Henrik, the Prince Consort to Queen Margrethe II, has been the source of much gleeful derision in Denmark over his inability to speak Danish without a French accent.
It seems the Danes take their Danish - ironically, a much-lampooned language outside Denmark - very seriously and just love to poke fun at foreigners' mishandling of it.
Kristian Lund of the BT newspaper told a Danish university newsletter: "Danes have never really been particularly kind to [Henrik]. We've all had a laugh over his obvious difficulties with our language and his very French way of doing things."
Billed Bladet, a Danish royal-watching magazine, said in 2001 when Henrik was having somewhat of a crisis about the whole thing: "What Prince Henrik could not manage to do in 35 years, Alexandra has managed in less than seven. She speaks Danish pretty much without an accent."
Talk to any Dane and the language thing is the first chestnut to arise."First of all the Danish public require her to speak and read Danish. That's number one," says Ole Malmgren of the Australian Danish Consulate. "I don't know if she is fluent. I haven't heard her speak."
Per Thornit, Lord Chamberlain of the Danish royal court says: "Right now Mary Donaldson is taking intense Danish lessons. This is mission number one for her right now, and it will be for quite some time to come."
Donaldson's big coming out as a Danish speaker will be the October 8 official engagement announcement. That will be followed by another great Danish test.
Bodil Cath, one of Denmark's leading royalty reporters says "her baptism of fire could very well be the official visit to Denmark by his Royal Highness the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg on October 20 to 22, just 12 days after Mary's engagement to Frederik".
"Mary doesn't know the grand duke but she will stand next to the Crown Prince for the official reception at Copenhagen Airport Kastrup. This will be her first-time experience of a proper royal reception with all its pomp and circumstance. She will be able to get an idea of how to carry herself when she eventually becomes Denmark's queen." But, she adds: "Mary is already very popular among the Danes. They are madly excited about her, even if she's not said a word yet."
The very popular Princess Alexandra's grasp on Danish - and she is - half Chinese - has been one of the major factors in her popularity. Indeed, there is one school of thought in Copenhagen that the long delay in announcing Mary's engagement was directly linked to her Danish lessons. As an indication of just how vital this is, supervision of her becoming as Danish as an Aussie girl could be was handed over earlier this year to one of the Danish court's senior men. He is Per Thornit, the Lord Chancellor, also chief-of-staff to Prince Frederik's household and the man who eased Princess Alexandra into Danish life.
"Mary will need more than good Danish," said a Copenhagen editor. "She will need to know Danish history going back generations, she will need to know all about Denmark in World War II, she will need to know the traditions and history of a court that traces itself back to the days before Prince Hamlet.
Thornit says: "We are not giving her any training in handling the press. That would be a shame. She is such a sweet and natural young lady. She doesn't need any training to meet the press." Danish 101 is a whole other matter, however. "We haven't been able to start any particular educational projects for her yet," Thornit says.
"(But) she will undertake intense history lessons and social science studies. She will be taken on extensive visits to all the major Danish institutions; the parliament, the prime minister's office, the Confederation of Danish Industries, the Danish Agricultural Council, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions and so on. "These visits will not be official visits but work visits to educate Mary Donaldson on the many different national institutions in the Danish society."
If the Australian is indeed being asked to give herself not just to her husband but to Denmark, the rewards are not at first sight lavish, especially compared with the lifestyles of other royal families, notably the Windsors.
For example, the apartments at Fredensberg in which she will reportedly live are only about 1000sq m, court observers say.
And Prince Frederik's annual allowance - which will probably be increased when he marries - is about $1 million, chickenfeed compared with allowances handed out to, say, Prince Charles in Britain. While the Danish royals own two pretty grand palaces, they are not absurdly luxurious and their palatial retreat in France in fact belongs to Queen Margrethe II's husband.
The pre-nuptial agreement that Donaldson has been made to sign was essential for the necessary permission for the marriage from the Danish Government. Not only does she forfeit her rights to any children of the marriage should the two separate but the agreement also forbids her from taking any of the Danish crown jewels or works of art out of the country if the two divorced.
Combined with the loss of privacy and what could be a long, long wait for Prince Frederik to become king - Queen Margrethe is only 63 - the disadvantages of what is being portrayed in the glossy magazines here as yet another fairytale romance start to add up in a fairly forbidding way.
Of course, where Mary Donaldson is different is that she, just as was Alexandra, is a commoner from a country far away and thought to be very exotic. However not as exotic, perhaps, as the new husband of Princess Stephanie of Monaco, who is a Portuguese circus acrobat. A lawyer from Hobart seems pretty tame in comparison. October 8 will also tell us when and where the marriage is to be.
The betting is on either Easter (after Lent of course) or May, in Holmens Kirke, home of Danish Lutheran-influenced Protestantism not far from the statue of some medieval Viking axe-murderer in central Copenhagen.
"People were despairing of Frederik ever getting married and they will be expecting babies and babies quite quickly," says an observer. "It is a long time, more than 30 years, since we had a royal occasion to match this, Frederik's mother's coronation.
"Then, it will be confirmed that Mary is indeed ours, Mary of Denmark."