His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik and Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary are Denmark's young and very popular successor couple. Mary Donaldson appeared from a remote country and with her grace and nature won the heart of not only the Crown Prince, but also half the kingdom.
The Role of the Successor Couple
In an inveterate monarchy like the Danish, the successor couple period has a special status. On the one hand, it marks the end of the long and by no means safe journey of a crown prince or crown princess towards marriage with another person. On the other hand, everyone knows that the wedding is not itself the end, but only the precursor of something even greater, i.e. the accession. That is why all expectations are mercilessly directed towards the couple.
In addition, the nation only experiences a successor couple decades apart. It most recently happened in the brief period 1967-72, when Denmark's current sovereign, Queen Margrethe II (b.1940), and His Royal Highness Prince Henrik (b.1934) played the role. Moreover, in the nature of things nobody knows how long the period will be. In other words, everybody needs to enjoy the time while it lasts.
Wedding & Continuing Renewal
Crown Prince Frederik met Mary Donaldson during the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. He was then 32 and she was 28. Rumours of a relationship soon appeared in the Danish weekly press, but they only flourished after Mary Donaldson got a job in Copenhagen in 2002. Previously, she and Frederik had both worked in Paris for a while.
On 8 October 2003, Her Majesty the Queen publicly announced their engagement. At that day's press conference, Mary Donaldson addressed the Danish people for the first time. She was able to do so in the nation's own language, Danish, which many have found difficult to access. This may not seem a big thing, but for a small nation of five million inhabitants, it was an important signal that Mary was ready to take on the task of Crown Princess according to the best traditions of the royal house. The wedding took place six months later.
The wedding revealed that the couple belong to a younger generation. Thus, the week before the wedding included a big rock concert in honour of the couple in Idrætsparken in Copenhagen, giving by the leading Danish rock musicians. And in his speech to Mary at the wedding banquet, the Crown Prince quoted poetic rock lyrics by the contemporary Danish musician Lars H.U.G. Their love was interpreted and understood in a contemporary language.
Frederik has said about the continuing renewal of the royal house: ‘The danger inherent in the office is of course that one becomes isolated. One has to beware of that. But in our country, the royal family is not at all isolated compared to other countries. Here we can count ourselves lucky that our institution moves with the times. That is main thing: to move with the times. Find out the lie of the land and be influenced by what you find. And shape the institution on that basis.'
This renewal was also demonstrated by his choice of spouse. Mary Donaldson's parents are commoners. By comparison, in the two preceding generations of the royal house, the Crown Prince's mother in 1967 married a nobleman, a French count of the Monpezat family, while his maternal grandfather in 1935 married the daughter of a Swedish king, the later Queen Ingrid (d.2000), with whom the Crown Prince incidentally had a close relationship.
This shift away from class considerations in relation to marriage more than anything else reveals the gradual modernisation of the Danish royal house.
On 15 October 2005, the couple had a little prince. On 21 January 2006, he was baptised in Christianborg Palace Church and given the name Christian Valdemar Henri John. The succession is thus secured for two generations.
On 21 April 2007, the couple had their second child - a little princess. On 1 July 2007, she was baptised in Fredensborg Palace Church and given the name Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe.
On 8 January 2011, the couple had their third and fourth child - Prince Vincent and princess Josephine.
February 2012: The Crown Prince Couple and their children, Verbier, Switzerland. Scanpix.
The couple's popularity in Denmark is huge and extends to circles which have not traditionally shown an interest in the royal house. Already before his marriage, the Crown Prince was voted Dane of the Year several times. The couple have mastered the difficult art of renewing the monarchy without destroying its mystique.
At the political level, the royal house is by definition neutral, but in recent years the task has not become easier for the future sovereign, as politics increasingly impinge on the area of moral values. So far, the Crown Prince has however managed to adopt an open style, for instance with his statement that he would like to be the king of an increasingly multicultural nation.
Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary live partly at Amalienborg, the royal family's residence in Copenhagen, partly at the Chancellery at Frederiksborg Castle in Northern Zealand, which for generations has been the Danish royal family's summer residence.