It will be the biggest spectacle that Copenhagen has ever seen. Thousands will line the streets while millions more watch on television, lapping up the pomp and ceremony befitting of a Royal wedding in Europe’s oldest monarchy. But, as with so many Royal tales these days, there is a twist. Mary Donaldson, the 32-year-old who will marry Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark today, may look the part, but this future queen has more in common with Kylie than kings.
Donaldson is not a Dane. She’s not even European. Rather, she is to become the first Australian to marry into a Royal Family. Born in Tasmania to Scottish parents who emigrated from Edinburgh, Donaldson met the 35-year-old future king of Denmark in a pub at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Their whirlwind romance and model looks quickly turned them into the darlings of the Scandinavian media, and she has made herself popular with the Danes, keen to ingratiate herself in the culture and learn about the country.
But her Scottish roots have not been entirely forgotten. At today’s wedding, the Scots element of her family will be out in force. Notably among them will be Donaldson’s uncle, Jack Maton, who will wear a kilt, along with her father, John. Also there will be another uncle, Peter Donaldson, and her two aunts from Scotland, Margaret Cunningham, 75, and Catherine Murray, 71, both from Donaldson’s mother Henrietta’s side of the family. Childhood sweethearts, her parents emigrated to Tasmania in the 1960s but never lost touch with their family back home. Henrietta died in 1997.
Donaldson, the youngest of four children, was born in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart on 5 February, 1972, where she attended a state school in the Hobart suburb of Taroona. Smart and athletic, she excelled at her school, Taroona High, where she was a prefect captained the school hockey team, and was a member of the swimming team and equestrian one-day eventing team. Years later, when she met Prince Frederik, their mutual passion for horses and water sports was among the reasons they connected so quickly.
After completing a law degree at the University of Tasmania in 1993, Donaldson moved to Melbourne where she worked in advertising and then travelled overseas. Her trip included a three-month contract as an account manager for an advertising firm in Edinburgh, where she took the opportunity to visit her relatives.
Upon returning to Australia four years ago, she began working for an advertising agency in Sydney during the Olympics. It’s all a far cry from the traditional Royal wife role. She met Frederik after the pair were introduced by mutual friends at a fashionable night spot called the Slip Inn. She has said they started to talk and "simply didn’t stop".
The relationship quickly developed, but the pair managed to keep it a closely guarded secret for just over a year before it became public in November 2001. By this stage, Donaldson had opted for a career change and was working as a Sydney estate agent.
Her father clearly approved of the match and, in a rare public comment, said: "For us it’s just two young people who are in love. It doesn’t matter whether he’s a prince or a plumber." Early in 2002, Donaldson moved to Denmark to be closer to Frederik and began work at a computer software company. Finally, after much speculation in the Danish press, the Royal engagement was announced last October.
Ever since, the country has been gripped with what has become known as "Mary fever". She has mastered the Danish language and gained a reputation as a trendsetter in the fashion stakes. She has converted to the Lutheran faith and, following her marriage, will relinquish her British and Australian citizenship in favour of a Danish one. Indeed, she has captured the nation’s heart in such a way that many Danish commentators have compared her to a young Princess of Wales.
Charlotte Torpegaard, the fashion director of Denmark’s glossy magazine, Eurowoman, says: "The Danish people are very taken by Mary. The expectation about her is that she will become a style icon like Princess Diana or Jacqueline Kennedy - the latter being one of Mary’s own style icons.
"Of all the Royals, Danish girls identify most with Mary’s style. She has this modern edge. She already has a lot of influence. We already talk about the ‘Mary-style’ and the Danish weeklies copy her style all the time. There is particular excitement about what she will wear for the wedding itself."
But it’s not just in Denmark that Donaldson has attained superstar status. In Australia, the gossip columns have been full of titbits about her royal romance. Her every move is examined, every outfit pored over. Even the Slip Inn, the Sydney bar where the couple met, has achieved fame as a result and has since launched a marketing campaign with the slogan: "Meet your Prince at the Slip".
Speaking from her home in Port Seton, West Lothian, Donaldson’s great-aunt Margaret is clearly excited about the wedding and the fact her niece is marrying into the Danish Royal Family.
"It’s incredible," she says. "Mary is a lovely girl with a bubbly personality, but no-one ever imagines their relative will marry a member of a Royal Family. It’s still a bit difficult to take in that your niece is going to become Crown Princess Mary."
The ceremony itself will be a glittering affair at Our Lady’s Church, a grand Lutheran cathedral in the heart of Copenhagen. Donaldson will wear a gown designed by the Milan-based Danish designer Uffe Frank and arrive with her father in the Royal limousine Store Krone, a 1958 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. The rings will be made by top Danish jeweller Flemming Hertz from gold mined in southern Greenland, where the precious metal was only recently discovered.
After the ceremony, the couple will be carried through the crowded streets in a 1906 horse-drawn gold carriage called Barouche, escorted by the Danish Regiment of the Hussar Guards in full red-dress uniform on 48 horses, as well as a procession of bagpipe players as a nod to Donaldson’s Scottish heritage.
Traditional, yes. Chic, definitely.