Another member has very kindly
given me access to the interview with Mary in Berlingske Tidende, shortly before her 40th birthday.
It's a very interesting and very frank interview.
Excerpts from an interview in the newspaper Berlingske Tidende.
Interviewer: Karen Margrethe Schelin.
It’s a pretty long interview and this time I will concentrate on Mary’s thoughts in regards to her role as Crown Princess. It’s pretty interesting I think.
The interview took place around noon on the day our Marie gave birth.
Q: What thoughts do you have on the long journey, now that you turn 40?
M: “40 years is a turning point/significant day but I don’t really think the day itself has taken up that much room in my thoughts. I rather think that I during the time up to my birthday, - perhaps for the whole of last year – has found myself in a reflecting/pensive period of my life.
Previously I didn’t reflect so much about it, perhaps because it all went so fast: Coming to a new country, getting a new life, a new role. Getting married, learn about a new culture and a new society. To come from the other side of the globe, with a completely different upbringing and then having to fill this role in an institution like the DRF, which is so strongly anchored in all Danes.
I felt very strongly that I had to live up to the expectations. That’s why I tried to control as much as I was able to control and perhaps I closed off doors to sides of my personality”.
Mary still think she has remained herself: “But perhaps in a little more limited/restrained way. I think it was my way of protecting myself. And probably also an expression for a natural uncertainty, when you consider that a person from Tasmania lands in the DRF. I think I throughout the years have learned to let go a little more, but I could be better at it”.
Q: How did you deal with the role as Crown Princess?
M: “I have all the time felt that I had grabbed the sides that are important to me, which I was interested in; How do I use my skills and abilities for the benefit of Denmark? How do I best represent Denmark as the person I am?
Of course I have naturally sought advice and observed and learned from the other members of the DRF.
How do they go about it? How can I contribute to the big picture and at the same time be myself within my field? And that's the personal touch, which all members of the DRF have".
Q: Your father-in-law, the Prince Consort, once said there is no manual for prince consorts, in the same way there is presumably no manual for crown princesses?
M: “No, not formally, even though I read that I went to princess school. Sometime you might have wished for that, but first and foremost it’s about getting to know your country. Because if I have to stand and represent my country outwards and also inwards, then I have to know the country well. I think you have to go by feel (fingerspitzengefühl) and then you have to follow your heart because you have to work with it for the rest of your life”.
Q: What does the response you get from the population mean to you personally?
Mary: “It can still be experienced as very overwhelming, when you come out and meet the warmth that stream towards you. It's nice to feel that you have the backing in the population for what you do. That people think it has significance. That you sometimes can make a difference for a single person, other times for many people.
It’s also toughing with the persons who show up to meet you. It can bring tears to the eyes. An old lady who has been sitting waiting all morning and then she grabs your hand and says: - Thank you so much/a thousand thanks.
You don’t feel you have done anything that can deserve so much love from strange people. It’s a part of convincing me how important a part the DRF is of the Danish identity. That I’m certain my mother-in-law, the Queen, also felt during the celebrations of the 40th jubilee as Regent”.
Q: How did you (formal you) experience the meeting with the Danes? Is there something you have problems getting used to?
M: “It wasn’t the big cultural shock when I came to Denmark. I was so warmly received by my husband’s friends and the family, so my first meeting with the Danes was very positive. I quickly settled in and if you (informal you) ask whether there were things that puzzled me, it was mostly little things. As when I was at a party and wasn’t allowed to eat, because I have to toast all the time (*) and that there were an endless lot of speeches. In the beginning I couldn’t understand what was said, unless I sat next to a gentleman who was good at translating. Then you sat at the table forever. It was cosy but different to what I was used to”.
The Danish humour is no problem: “It’s that same, bit dark, humour that has always been close to me….”. (Mary refers to a comedian, which would need a long explanation).
Q: Do you today feel Danish?
M: “Yes, I’m Danish. I have a background I’m proud of and fond of and which I draw on, where it’s relevant. That is a part of the person I am, and that it always will be. It has been a part of shaping me before I came to Denmark and also after I came to Denmark”.
Q: So you don’t miss Australia?
M: “Australia is a fantastic country. That it is. And I’m glad I was born there and grew up there and that my family moved out there. If you think about it, kind of high flying, then it’s only a generation ago, my family came from this part of the world. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I thrive so well in Denmark.
Even though she thrives when in Australia, she always looks forward to going home to Denmark again: “Today the wanting for me is mostly about family and dear friends”.
Q: When you look back today, what challenge do you think has been the biggest?
M: “Perhaps you should say the two biggest challenges. The one being a public figure. To be spoken about and that many have an opinion on how you do things, how you move, what you say, how your hair is. When you are not used to it, you feel incredibly exposed. You get a bit used to it, but I’ve never been a person who sought to be the centre of attention. It was always my friends who were in the centre of attention and I enjoyed watching them.
The other challenge was to learn to believe in myself. Do I do things in the right way? Have I proven well enough that I’m capable of my task? I have no background for doing that, so I have put in a lot of effort. I felt I had to convince everyone; I promise you: I’ll lift that task.
So there have been doubt and insecurity and that I have covered well, because not many believe I can be insecure.
My way of covering the insecurity was to control everything what could be controlled. But in reality you can’t control very much”.
Mary admits that she in the beginning had a tendency to even over-prepare herself: “If I were to go out to something about heart diseases, I build up an entire new vocabulary in order to speak with those people. The day after it might be a visit to Vollsmose (a notorious ghetto), where I had to talk to foreigners about being immigrants in Denmark. Each time I went out I learned a new vocabulary and familiarised myself with the background for the different subjects. So you work insanely hard to keep up. People were even astonished but that was my way of covering up the insecurity. I didn’t feel there was room for wrong-footing”.
Separating work from private life can be difficult: “It can be a challenge, because in a sense you are always your role, because you are yourself in that role. Our job is physically in our home. Next to our home is our secretariat/administration and we have staff that can ask questions all hours of the day.
So there can easily be a grey area between work and private life. At the same time you have to have periods where you are a hundred percent private. You do. But I’d think that both the Crown Prince and I would wish we could separate it better”.
Q: Work and private life?
M: “Yes, but work takes up so much space in our every day lives and you can’t just say: Now it’s private and now she’s Crown Princess. – It doesn’t work that way”.
Q: How are you about criticism and more or less fantastic stories about you and your family in the press? Don’t you ever feel like speaking out?
M: “That’s a term that will probably always be there but you can get frustrated when someone writes that I have no social commitment (**). When I know that we through the Mary Foundation reach out to hundreds of thousands of children by promoting a culture that makes bullying unacceptable and in the same way have reached out to tens of thousands of women suffering from domestic violence.
On the other hand you of course have to listen to criticism, if it’s something you can move on from. But if I am to speak from the heart, I don’t think it’s particularly nice, especially when you feel that the criticism has no foundation”.
- There is of course much more in the interview. About her children and the Danish mentality, in regards to not liking to stand out. Also about the loss of her mother strengthened her faith. And so on.
(*) I know the feeling, Mary. Countless toasts is a part of a good Danish dinner. And we sit for hours at the dinner table!
(**) Koplev and his article. (See among other places the thread about Frederik’s workload). He lashed out at Mary as well. He was taken apart, by the way, in a talk show on TV2.
- Those in the know, know how to find the complete interview.