article from www.smh.com.au
Quite contrary about princess Mary
The romance between a Sydney real estate agent and her Danish prince might read like a fairytale in Australia. But to the Danes, writes Peter Fray, it's more like a mystery story.
Once upon a time a handsome yet troubled young prince from a cold country where ugly ducklings had a reputation for turning into beautiful swans travelled a long, long way away to watch the Olympic Games. There, as he partied hard into the warm late summer Sydney night, the warm-hearted, mumbling prince met a girl with flowing brunette hair and laughing brown eyes. Her name was Mary.
The prince was smitten. She was so natural, so relaxed. She loved horses and outdoor sports, just as he did. She was good fun, stylish and sensible, and, unlike previous girlfriends, she was not a Dane. The other girls had embarrassed him - one had gone topless, another talked too much about inside royal life - but with Mary he felt safe.
Never mind his existing girlfriend, never mind she was a commoner and never mind she came from Tasmania, a place he'd hardly heard of: she just might be the princess of his dreams, his soul mate.
As the night wore on, she touched his smooth hairless chest and showed interest in the prince's kingdom. Their relationship blossomed. He visited Australia again. Everything was a big secret.
But then, one day, more than a year after they met, the royal-obsessed Danish press finally found out about the prince and his Australian lover - and Mary Donaldson's life was never, ever the same again.
After she had moved to Copenhagen, her very own Hans Christian Andersen fairytale was dogged by frenzied speculation: when will the prince marry his princess? When will the queen recognise her? When will Mary speak? Who actually is she?
ANNA Johannesen's office is a shrine to Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, 34, the eldest son of Queen Margrethe II and the Royal Consort Prince Henrik, and the heir to one of the world's oldest monarchies. It can be traced back more than 1000 years to Gorm the Old (died 958). His bride will be queen.
For more than 15 years, Johanne-
sen, a journalist on Copenhagen's royal weekly magazine, Billed Bladet, has been responsible for charting Frederik's fortunes. The pictures on her wall tell the story: pimply youth, smiling nervously on a visit to a Japanese restaurant (late teens); Euro-playboy (mid 20s) accompanied by then girlfriend Katja Storkholm, a former underwear model; stiff-backed serious military officer in full regalia (late 20s).
The prince has a liking for fast cars, adventure (naval frogman, polar dog sledding, jungle treks) and, until recently, high-profile, glam women. Other ex-girlfriends include Maria Montell, a Danish pop singer, and Bettina Oedum, a fashion designer. They are all good-looking and well-endowed. "He likes boobies, I think," says Johannesen, with a grin.
But the pride of place on Johannesen's wall goes to a grainy cover image from November 2001 of a big-boned girl. She looks flustered with her arms crossed and a slight scowl on her face. The headline: "Here is Frederik's big love". It was the first time Denmark got to see the woman widely tipped to be its next queen. Mary Elizabeth Donaldson's first words were "no comment", setting the tone for what was to come. Johannesen didn't really mind. "All the other girls talked a little too much," she says. "Mary, she smiles, she's friendly, but she doesn't say anything. Mary, because she is a foreigner, she's clean. We have nothing on her."
What there is on Mary Donaldson, 31, appears very tame. Billed Bladet published pictures of her as a slightly chunky but bright schoolgirl at Hobart's Taroona High School. At the formal, she wore frizzy hair and big shoulders (it was the late 1980s); a former boyfriend recently told Danish TV that he reckoned she was a "great girl" and said he envied the prince.
Her family is solid middle class. She is the youngest of four children. Her two sisters, Trish, a nurse, and Jane, a pharmacy worker, are in Hobart, her brother, John, is a mine engineer who lives in Perth, and her father, John, a maths professor from the University of Tasmania, divides his time between Hobart and Oxford. Mary's mother, Henrietta (Etta), a university secretary, died in 1994. There is talk that Mary didn't cope for a while after it. But her stepmother, Susan Moody, the crime writer, recently assured the Danes that "Mary was strong enough" to be their queen.
Donaldson studied law at the University of Tasmania before moving to Sydney in the mid-1990s. She ended up working for upmarket real estate agents Belle Property and living in Padding-
ton. By all accounts, she is intelligent, sociable and friendly.
But is that enough? As Trine Larsen, a veteran royal reporter for Denmark's biggest-selling tabloid, Ekstra Bladet, says, "being in the royal family is not a fairytale, it's hard work. You are not only marrying the crown prince, you are marrying the people of Denmark. I think we have a right to know about her. What has she got to hide?"
THE Danes love the monarchy. It is very close to them. Queen Margrethe, 62, gives an annual press conference at her husband's Chateau de Caix, near Cahors in south-west France, and is often seen around Copenhagen. A talented artist, she has worked as a designer for productions at the famous Tivoli theatre. Polls put support for the royals at 80 per cent plus, largely due to the queen's skill at being both in touch but regal, relevant yet still royal.
Most Danes are very proud of their nation's achievements. In the local papers, top football teams in the English, Italian, Spanish or French leagues which have Danish players are put in bold, as a way of celebrating both national pride and international recognition.
So it is with the royals. They are both national and international. The queen married a Frenchman; her younger son, Joachim, 33, wed a Hong Kong Chinese-European. The Danes like new blood, as long as it is the right sort.
While Donaldson remains very popular, she also lives in limbo. With no engagement ring and no recognition from the queen (though it is said she went to see the latest Lord of the Rings film with Mary and Frederik at Christmas), she has no other status other than being the prince's girlfriend.
Historian Claus Bjoern, a noted royal commentator from Copenhagen University, describes Donaldson as a "nice young woman with no specific distinction. We don't know at the moment whether she has the abilities [to be queen] because nobody knows anything about her. She's a nice young woman without a profile to the Danish people."
Donaldson compares unfavourably with Princess Alexandra, Joachim's wife. She has produced two good-looking children, undertakes an endless round of charity work and, most importantly, has mastered Danish, one of Europe's hardest languages. She speaks it better than some Danes. This has secured her place in the country's heart.
Donaldson is known to have been studying the language, probably at the military academy, one of Frederik's alma maters, but no one yet knows whether she'll be able to speak it fluently in public, an unofficial prerequisite if she is to be queen.
Added to the language challenge is the broader question of integration. Australian academic Stuart Ward has been living off and on in Denmark for about seven years. Married to a Dane, he says many expats find the society complex and difficult to understand. "For the average Australian, this place is quite formal in terms of social relations and anything but spontaneous," he says.
But he thinks what Donaldson may lose in social etiquette she gains by being from the other side of the world. "What Mary Donaldson might lack in terms of social elevation, she picks up in spades by her geographic remoteness." There is, he says, a palpable sense of excitement about her. "It's very upbeat."
LANGELINIE is one Copenhagen's smart new waterside areas, full of converted and fake warehouses. Massive multi-storey sea ferries pass by to other Scandinavian ports. Designer outlets for food and clothes do a brisk business, despite the freezing wind.
The famous Little Mermaid statue is nearby - as is the city's latest unofficial landmark, Donaldson's flat. Local photographers watch Mary's lights to see if she's in. If she's not, then they know they are missing chances for some candid shots with her and the prince.
It's then the real frenzy starts up: Mary and Frede go skiing; Mary and Frede going to a wedding (she didn't wear a bra!
; Mary and Frede kiss in Hobart, in January. Magic.
That kiss for the cameras was seen as the clearest sign yet that Mary will be the next queen. But not yet. Late last year, 10 months after Donaldson had moved to Copenhagen, heated speculation centred on a May 2003 wedding, but that now seems very unlikely. A late summer or autumn wedding is more possible, though no one really knows and there is always the prospect that Donaldson may, like previous girlfriends, be dumped by Frederik after about two years. Per Thornit, Denmark's chief of court, told the Herald that the question of Mary was "purely a private thing". A letter requesting an interview with the prince went unanswered.
As for Donaldson, she has continued the smiling-not-telling game. She works as a project consultant for the local branch of Microsoft. Calls to her office were referred to the company's press officer, Anne Bove-Nielsen, who said Donaldson did not wish to speak. Letters to her home and office were ignored. So, the Danes wait.
About six years ago, Frederik jumped naked from a window at his father's French chateau. It was captured by paparazzi. He later explained to Trine Larsen that he felt he had to constantly test himself with physical challenges.
This troubled, thrill-seeking persona seemed far removed from the smart, fashionably dressed prince who sat through the opening of an international conference on drugs in sport in Copenhagen this week. He admirably feigned interest, in a display worthy of the British royals. Some say the prince, who has two tattoos (a shark and a Nordic symbol) and is known to be a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has finally matured.
But does this new maturity include settling down with a girl from Tassie? Is she ready for it? Frederik, who will soon turn 35, has always said he would marry with both head and heart. He looks happy when pictured with Donaldson. She is losing weight.
The press want a wedding. And soon. "There has to be some story about them now, the sooner the better," says Anna Johannesen. "We want a wedding; we want children. What are they waiting for?"