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Why Crown Princess Mary was 'immediately popular' when she became a Danish royal

HELLO! speaks with royal reporter Wim Dehandschutter about the Australian-born Crown Princess and Queen Margrethe's abdication

Crown Princess Mary waving
Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
5 January 2024
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Crown Princess Mary was "immediately popular" in Denmark following her engagement to Crown Prince Frederik in 2003.

Australia-born advertising executive Mary Donaldson began dating the future Danish king after meeting Frederik during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"I think she made the right decision after meeting Frederik to learn Danish because during her first press conference, she already spoke some words of Danish so she was immediately popular in Denmark," Belgian royal reporter Wim Dehandschutter tells HELLO!

"And I think she made a natural transformation from a commoner, who didn't know Crown Prince Frederik, who didn't know the royal family in Denmark, to a glamorous princess and future queen. In Denmark she's also called the perfect Crown Princess, even though she herself says no one is perfect."

Wim adds: "She's also very stylish. She's appreciated for her great efforts against bullying, domestic violence, and social exclusions. She stands up for women's rights and the LGBTQ+ community. She also knows what people expect from a royal, that's how she's adapted to the role."

The Crown Princess launched Mary Fonden in 2007 to improve the lives of vulnerable women and children. She reflected on the foundation's work over the past year in a moving blog post ahead of the festive season.

Mary Donaldson and Crown Prince Frederik on their engagement in 2003© Getty
Mary and Frederik during their engagement interview

Mary shared some highlights for her foundation, including the launch of its program Lift at the beginning of the year, which aims to tackle loneliness among young people. Another new initiative was Sammen Uden Vold (Together Without Violence) which aims to detect domestic violence in families with young children and offer them help.

The similarities between the Danish Crown Princess and the Princess of Wales have often been noted.

Wim says: "I understand that the British media compare the Princess of Wales with Crown Princess Mary because they look alike. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was right when he remarked many years ago that 'Kate is like a younger sister to Mary'. Their lives are also a little bit similar, they were both commoners who married princes and both became very popular within each royal family."

WATCH: Mary and Kate reunite in Denmark in 2022

Like Mary, Kate's work centres around families, with the Princess of Wales launching the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood in June 2021, which focuses on the impact of the early years on later life.

As well as both being mothers, Kate and Mary also have similar taste in fashion, with the royal women favouring designers such as Emilia Wickstead, Erdem and Jenny Packham.

Kate Middleton standing alongside Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark wearing a grey double breasted coat and a black top handle bag © Getty
Kate and Mary have met on several occasions

The British and Danish monarchies have long shared close ties, with the late Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Magrethe being third cousins, as they are both descendants from Queen Victoria and King Christian IX of Denmark.

Wim, who interviewed Queen Margrethe in 2017, said that her abdication came as a "big surprise" for Danish people.

"On New Year's Eve, I spoke with Danish friends and they tell me that they were in shock because Queen Margrethe is very popular in Denmark, 80 per cent of the population supports her. And they also refer to her not as the Queen, but her nickname Daisy. She has been on the throne for 52 years so for many Danish people, they know no other queen, so for the, it's the end of an era."

Queen Margrethe wearing a burgundy dress and a furry coat© Getty
Queen Margrethe will abdicate on 14 January 2024 - 52 years after her reign began

Reflecting on his interview with the Danish queen seven years ago, Wim tells HELLO! "I was very surprised by the announcement of her abdication. I interviewed Queen Margrethe in 2017 and I asked her about voluntary abdication, because we've had several in Europe, in the Netherlands, where it's tradition, and in my country, Belgium, and also in Spain.

"She gave the predictable answer at that time, she told me 'In this country, we haven't gone in for that way of handing over. It's always been you stay for as long as you live and that's the way I see it too.' At that moment, I didn't think it was a special answer because it was in line with expectations, it was believed that Margrethe would remain on the throne until her death."

Queen Margrethe of Denmark© Getty
Queen Margrethe is handing the throne over to her son Crown Prince Frederik

Health reasons have been cited as one of the main reasons for Margrethe's decision to abdicate, with the monarch outlining in her New Year's address: "In February this year I underwent extensive back surgery. It went well, thanks to the skilled healthcare staff who took care of me. Of course, the operation also gave rise to thinking about the future - whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation."

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Princess Isabella of Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Prince Christian of Denmark, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Henrik The Prince Consort of Denmark, Prince Henrik of Denmark, Prince Joachim of Denmark, Princess Marie of Denmark, Prince Felix of Denmark and Prince Nikolai of Denmark attend Queen Margrethe's 70th Birthday Celebrations at Amaienborg Castle on April 16, 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark.   © Getty
Margrethe with her late husband, children and grandchildren in 2010

Wim also believes there are "emotional reasons" behind her abdication.

"Margrethe became a widow after the death of Prince Henrik, her husband. Furthermore, there was a lot of fuss about her decision to strip four of her grandchildren of their royal titles of prince and princess. She was criticised by her own family, it became world news and at that moment she was portrayed as heartless. And I think for her she couldn't understand it because she thought she was doing this for the sake of her grandchildren to relieve them of their royal duties and expectations."

Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary will become King and Queen of Denmark following Queen Margrethe's official abdication on 14 January. 

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