Scottish roots of Danes' 'perfect princess'

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SHE is the daughter of a Scots academic, he is the Crown Prince of Europe’s oldest ruling Royal Family.

But yesterday, the commoner, Mary Donaldson, and Prince Frederick delighted the people of Denmark by announcing their engagement.

The couple, whose three-year romance has been followed with near obsession in his homeland, are expected to marry next year in a lavish ceremony.

A spokesman for the Royal palace in Copenhagen announced yesterday that Queen Margrethe had approved her son’s engagement to Ms Donaldson, 31, but would not formally announce the wedding date until she addresses the Danish government early next month.

Prince Frederik, 35, met Ms Donaldson in a Sydney bar during the 2000 Olympics but the couple managed to keep their romance secret until a Danish celebrity magazine reported in late in 2001 that the prince was dating a brunette from Tasmania who worked in an estate agents in Sydney.

Since then, the Danish media, which has dubbed Ms Donaldson "the perfect princess,", have hoped and prayed for a Royal wedding, especially after she moved to Denmark in early 2002 to work as a project consultant for the Danish subsidiary of Microsoft.

According to the prince’s website, Ms Donaldson worked in Edinburgh for three months as an account manager for an international firm.

In recent months, the couple have often appeared in public together but only at private events because she cannot accompany the prince to official functions. They will make their first official appearance at a news conference on 8 October.

"It has not been the biggest secret, it has been widely covered in the media," a smiling premier, Fogh Rasmussen, said.

Ms Donaldson, who has two sisters and a brother, is the youngest child of Dr John Donaldson, who holds a chair in mathematics at Oxford University, and is married to the British crime novelist, Susan Moody.

Dr Donaldson was born in Morningside in Edinburgh and graduated from Edinburgh University in 1963 before emigrating to Australia with his first wife, Henrietta, who died in 1997. Although, he recently retired as Dean of Tasmania University, Mr Donaldson remains a visiting professor at Oxford University.

A spokesman for Tasmania University said Mr Donaldson will be thrilled at his daughter’s engagement.

"He is very proud of all his children and his other daughters still stay in Hobart," he said. "Despite emigrating he is a ferociously proud Scot and takes a great interest in Scotland."

The marriage is quite clearly a love match. In a recent television interview with Denmark’s TVS network, the Crown Prince publicly broke his silence about the relationship.

Asked if his relationship with Ms Donaldson was serious, the prince smiled and said: "I would certainly say so."

Newspapers in Copenhagen have approved of his choice of partner, repeatedly underlining her elegant and fashionable dress sense - and the fact that she has a law degree.

In the past, Crown Prince Frederick has been nicknamed "the playboy prince" in Denmark for his romances with models and pop stars, and regularly earned the scorn of the country’s media, who thought his hedonistic lifestyle did not match his Royal role.

The prince studied international relations and government at Harvard University in the US and graduated from a Danish university with a master’s degree in political science.

A major in the army and the air force, and a commander in the navy, he is also a member of the Frogman Corps, an elite Danish navy unit.

It is understood that the Crown Prince is currently in India promoting Danish exports after spending two weeks with Ms Donaldson in Tasmania. According to Royal sources, the prince was in Tasmania to compete in the international sailing competition, the Dragon World Championships, while Ms Donaldson took the opportunity to catch up with her Hobart-based sisters, Patricia Woods, a nurse, and Jane Stephens, who works at a West Hobart pharmacy.

The Tasmanian trip marks the second time they have flown out to Australia in recent months, with the couple visiting Sydney last October to attend the wedding of Ms Donaldson’s friends Kylie Matthews and Anthony Jones at St Mark’s Church, Darling Point, Sydney.

Once married, Ms Donaldson would become Crown Princess Mary and the first Australian to enter a European Royal house. She would also be in line to become queen of the Scandinavian country of 5.3 million.

She will not be the first commoner, or foreigner, to become part of the Danish royal family.

In 1995, Frederik’s brother, Prince Joachim, married British commoner Alexandra Christina Manley of Hong Kong, now Princess Alexandra.

"We have a long tradition of Royals finding their spouse abroad," said Merete Wilkenschildt, author of several books on the Danish monarchy.

However, despite her playboy son’s engagement, Queen Margrethe, 63, has repeatedly said she has no plans to abdicate to allow her son to succeed to the throne of Europe’s oldest ruling monarchy.