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How Mary Donaldson went from Tassie girl-next-door to Denmark’s next queen

Australian-born Princess Mary to become queen of Denmark

When Mary Donaldson was born in Hobart, Tasmania, on February 5, 1972, her parents were probably filled with hopes and dreams for their new child.

Those likely didn’t include their newborn daughter becoming a queen. But that’s exactly what’s about to happen.

Within weeks Mary, now Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, will become the world’s next Australian-born queen.

It follows the bombshell announcement by her mother-in-law, Queen Margrethe II, that she will step down as monarch on January 14, ending her 52-year reign.

Margrethe’s son, Crown Prince Frederik, will become Denmark’s new king – and his wife Mary will be his queen consort.

So how did a young girl from Tassie become the next queen in one of the world’s oldest monarchies?

Early life

Mary is the youngest daughter of two Scottish immigrants; John Donaldson, a mathematics professor, and Henrietta Donaldson, who was an executive assistant to the University of Tasmania’s vice chancellor prior to her death in 1997.

The Donaldsons had two other daughters and a son, and all appear to have enjoyed typical childhoods.

An avid athlete in high school, Mary spent her teenage years as an equestrian, playing basketball and captaining hockey and swimming teams.

Her current life is a long way from her Tasmanian childhood. Here she cycles across Sydney on a 2023 visit. Photo: Getty

Although she was somewhat aware of royals, she never thought she’d become one herself.

“My biggest memory is of [Princess] Diana walking up the red carpet with a very, very long train,” Mary has said.

“But I don’t recall wishing that one day I would be a princess. I wanted to be a veterinarian.”

In 1994, she graduated from the University of Tasmania with a degree in commerce and law, and followed it up with advertising and marketing qualifications in the following years.

She worked for advertising agencies in Melbourne, before travelling through the US and Europe in 1998.

In Edinburgh, Mary spent three months as an account manager with a global marketing agency.

Relationship with Frederik

Returning to Australia in 1999, she worked in advertising and real estate in Sydney – the city where she famously met her future husband at the Slip Inn during the 2000 Olympics.

“The first time we met or shook hands, I did not know he was the Crown Prince of Denmark,” Mary later said.

“It was perhaps half an hour or so later that someone came up to me and said, ‘Do you know who these people are’?”

The couple soon began dating long distance, and Mary said their strong communication skills helped establish a deep connection.

Mary and Frederik on their wedding day. Photo: Getty

Mary moved to Europe in early 2002, and initially taught business English in Paris. She then went to Denmark to learn Danish and work as a project consultant for Microsoft Business Solutions.

“Moving to Denmark was a huge change in my life – a new culture, new language, new friends, and another way of life,” she told The Australian Women’s Weekly.

“I did experience a feeling of loneliness, short term, when I first moved.”

Mary and Frederik’s engagement was announced on October 8, 2003, to much fanfare.

They married on May 14, 2004; Danish parliament passed a special law, known as “Mary’s Law”, to fast-track her Danish citizenship.

Life as a royal

In the years since officially becoming a member of the Danish royal family, Mary has proved popular both in her new home and old one.

Her acceptance in Denmark hasn’t come without hard work.

Mary has been lauded for her down-to-earth nature, spot-on royal style and keen grasp of Danish, which can be notoriously difficult to learn (although her Australian accent still seeps through).

She’s had military training to work her way up from private in the Danish Home Guard in 2008 to honorary major in 2023.

In 2007, she established The Mary Foundation, which fights against bullying, domestic violence and loneliness.

Mary has long been accepted as a key member of the Danish royal family. Photo: Getty

The Danish monarchy’s role is largely symbolic.

Apart from the reigning monarch officially appointing new governments after elections and formally approving laws, the royal family mostly promotes good causes, welcomes foreign heads of state, and promotes Danish products and businesses.

Some of Mary’s key focus areas have been promoting equality, particularly the rights of girls and women, as well as sustainability and nature conservation.

“I’ve always had a strong sense of justice: That everyone should have the same opportunities, no matter where you come from,” she told Financial Times in 2022.

In 2019, she was made a regent, meaning she can carry out the duties of Denmark’s head of state if Queen Margrethe and Frederik are unavailable.

She and Frederik have four children: Christian (next in line to the throne after his father), Isabella, and twins Vincent and Josephine.

Mary told Financial Times the family were able to do regular activities like eating out or seeing movies because Danes gave them space in public. The flipside was anyone, anywhere, can take pictures or videos of them.

“But what can you do? I make eye contact with people and smile,” she said.

“If you go for a walk and your dog wants to talk to another dog, well, you talk to the person who’s got the other dog.”

The family is based in Denmark, but Mary has never forgotten her Australian roots, and has often brought her children to visit friends and family Down Under throughout the years.

She most recently touched down with her youngest children 12-year-old Vincent and Josephine for a private family trip in December.

They were reportedly later joined by Frederik and Isabella, 16, while 18-year-old Christian stayed at home to study for exams.

Queen Margrethe II (centre) with Frederik, Mary and their children, Prince Christian (second from right), Princess Isabella (third from left), Princess Josephine (third from right) and Prince Vincent (left). Photo: Getty

Mary’s life as a royal has been mostly scandal-free for nearly two decades, apart from a slight ruckus when Queen Margrethe decided to streamline the royal family by stripping the children of Frederik’s younger brother, Prince Joachim, of their royal titles in 2022.

Then, just months ago, Mary and Frederik’s image of a rock-solid marriage took a hit after allegations a romantic link between him and Mexican socialite Genoveva Casanova.

The rumours were strenuously denied by Casanova and publicly ignored by the Danish royal family apart from a brief statement from a palace spokesman to Danish publication B.T. that they “do not comment on rumours and insinuations”.

Unlike Britain’s pomp-filled coronation of last year, there will reportedly be no formal crowning ceremony for Frederik and Mary.

Instead, Frederik’s accession as the head of state for Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands will simply be announced on the day from Amalienborg, the royal family’s official residence in Copenhagen.

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