In the company of Mary and Frederik
They're royal, but ordinary, and the chemistry is real, says journalist Jane Wheatley, who spent several hours with the Danish royal couple during a photoshoot for Good WeekendPT8M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vcxq 620 349 October 11, 2013
Securing an interview with the woman formerly known as Mary Donaldson from Tasmania comes with a considerable list of rules.
Could I talk to Crown Princess Mary, as she's now known, alone? No. Could I witness something of her daily routine? No.
Nor might I ask about her succession to the throne – that would be discourteous to the present queen. And to ensure propriety, a media minder would be with us at all times.
Intimate: the chemistry between the prince and princess was palpable. Photo: Franne Voigt
There had already been a long period of negotiation to get me to the palace that Denmark's Crown Prince and Princess call home. Now I feared the whole thing might be rather stage-managed. But we started with a tour of the palace, which turned out to be the perfect ice breaker. They were like any married couple – pleased as punch with their home renovations and eager to show them off.
I'd been advised to address each of them as Your Royal Highness or in the third person – as in “does the Princess miss Australia?” – but this was patently bonkers, so after the introductions (and a passable curtsey) I managed mostly with “you”, which seemed to go down all right.
Prince Frederik, frankly, is a doll – funny, disarmingly open and a bit fidgety, like a schoolboy who would rather be out in the playground. He is an action man – sailing, skiing, running. The previous month he'd completed an Iron Man competition.
Playing up to the image: Frederik and Mary. Photo: Franne Voigt
He wore an open-necked shirt and tweed jacket. His private secretary, tall and ruddy cheeked, was similarly dressed, as if each might be about to pull on boots and go hunting in the Danish forest.
By contrast, the Princess's private secretary and the palace PR lady were dressed much like Mary – all three were slim and elegant in cropped pants and high heels.
The Princess was composed and perhaps a bit wary but warmed up quickly. She was impressive when talking about her trip to a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, though she worried later that she hadn't expressed herself exactly as she wished. I thought how difficult it must be to learn to measure what you say and to avoid politics.
In the afternoon, the couple submitted happily as photographer Franne Voigt coaxed them into relaxed poses. The princess looked fabulous in a vintage black cocktail dress bought on a trip to New York. Then she changed into a floaty white full-length evening frock and we went up onto the roof of the palace. Voigt shot them lying in each other's arms, as if they'd just come up for a breath of air and a kiss. The chemistry between them was palpable.
After the shoot, Mary reappeared in jeans, sneakers and a pink fluffy jumper, looking like a cool mum ready for after-school tea and homework duties. The Prince calls her “Maz”, adopting the Australian theory that no name is too short to be shortened.
The most striking thing about Mary and Frederik is how they manage to be themselves while playing up to the image that the public demands of monarchy.
Despite the difficulties in securing an interview, their children go to state schools; the prince collects the young twins from kindergarten on his tricycle.
Mary told me: “You can cycle through town and nobody shouts, "look, it's the Princess" – they are used to seeing us. Some people come up and say hello and that's fine. It's no big deal.”
The Danish royal couple will come to Sydney later this month for the 40th anniversary of the completion of the Sydney Opera House, which was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon.
Jane Wheatley's full interview is published in Saturday's Good Weekend.