The Countess of Frederiksborg

When Alexandra Manley wed Denmark's Prince Joachim in 1996, her mother-in-law, Queen Margrethe told of how those who had previously married into the family including her own French-born husband arrived "literally in a rain of roses". But, she also warned, inevitably there would be some thorns. "These they often had to find themselves," she said, "and take away, one after the other."

Nearly ten years later Princess Alexandra would pass one of the thorniest moments of her life, when her seemingly fairytale marriage would come to a high-profile end.

The daughter of Shanghai-born Richard Manley and Austria-native Christa Nowotny, Alexandra the eldest of three sisters came into the world in Hong Kong on June 30, 1964. A commoner, she had a middle-class upbringing thanks to her father and mother's respective careers as an insurance company executive and manager of a communications company.

Described by one former teacher as "cool and sophisticated", the bright young beauty completed her general schooling in Hong Kong, going on to studying international business abroad at universities in Vienna, Tokyo and London.

It was after returning to Hong Kong that Alexandra met Prince Joachim at a party in the city, where the handsome young royal was working for a Danish shipping company. After a whirlwind courtship, thought to have begun in late autumn of 1994, Prince Joachim, on bended knee, presented Alexandra with a diamond and ruby engagement ring while the couple holidayed together in the Philippines. Their engagement, which took both Alexandra's family and Danish royal watchers by surprise, was officially revealed in May 1995.

Alexandra subsequently left her management post at a Hong Kong investment firm, swapped British citizenship for Danish, and converted from the Anglican church to Lutheran. A keen student of language, she added Danish to her repertoire of English, French, German, Japanese and Cantonese, impressing her future subjects with a public speech in her adopted tongue just three months after her first lesson.

A few months later, Ms Manley became HRH Princess Alexandra of Denmark, marrying the Queen of Denmark"s second son in the chapel of Frederiksborg Castle on November 18, 1995. Their first child, Prince Nikolai William Alexander Frederik was born on August 28, 1999 and, their second, Prince Felix Henrik Valedmar Christian, arrived on July 22, 2002.

Alexandra immediately became one of Europe's most-loved princesses, earning a reputation for grace, discretion, hard work and a true sense of style. And it was her status as one of Denmark's favourite royals that made the 2004 announcement that the couple were to divorce the first such split in the royal family since 1846 even more shocking.

After the separation, Alexandra, who retained her royal title and an annual allowance, moved out of the marital home and bought a £665,000 villa in the Danish capital, where she will reside with her two children. However, she and her husband also wasted no time presenting a united family front, appearing together at official events as well as their son's first day of school.

Though she has openly admitted she misses Hong Kong, it is unlikely Alexandra will return to her homeland. Saying she "feels Danish", she remarked in 2003: "Denmark is my life now, my future… Danes have welcomed me with open arms from the start." And with a new life ahead of her, with her photographer husband Martin Joergensen who she married in March 2007, it appears that the public will continue to shower the enormously popular former princess with roses, despite the fact her royal marriage and title came to a prickly end.
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