Charming children, language lessons and flawless fashion have helped Australian-born Queen-in-waiting, Mary, cement herself as one of Denmark’s most popular royals.
Her modern-day fairytale – which started when she met Crown Prince Frederik at a pub during the Sydney 2000 Olympics – reaches a new high next week.
Beloved chain-smoking octogenarian Queen Margrethe II on New Year’s Eve announced she would be the first Danish royal to abdicate in close to 900 years, paving the way for eldest son Frederik, 55, to be King and Mary, 51, to be Queen.
Danes are expected to embrace the generational change, according to author and palace expert Thomas Larsen, who noted the royal couple enjoyed public approval ratings of around 85 per cent.
”They should not try to be a cheap copy of (Queen Margrethe). They have to find their own path,” Mr Larsen told AAP in Copenhagen.
He attributed much of Mary’s popularity to her mastery of one of Europe’s most difficult languages.
”The key to making a close relationship with Danes is to be able to speak the language,” Mr Larsen said, adding the public never quite warmed to the Queen’s French-born late husband Prince Henrik who struggled to gain fluency.
A strong work ethic, sincerity, and commitment to social justice issues, including the Mary Foundation’s efforts to combat bullying and domestic violence, has also helped the crown princess gain wide respect, Mr Larsen said.
”She has been trying to make a difference and use her position within the royal family to improve the lives of others,” he said.
Søren Ravn Jensen, the director of Denmark’s Christmas Stamp Foundation, a charity assisting vulnerable children, said the crown princess always brimmed with empathy and kindness on regular visits as patron.
She has a gift for making others feel special and in the past had happily bounced on a jumping castle and swapped high heels for sneakers to play padel tennis with children, Mr Jensen said.
”She’ll be a splendid Queen,” he told AAP.
In fashion stakes, Crown Princess Mary has graced the cover of Denmark’s top women’s magazine, ALT for damerne, several times and editor-in-chief Rikke Dal Støttrup said that from day one she has been an ”icon for Danish women”.
She has a special ability to effortlessly carry both long gowns with trains for gala events and jeans and sneakers with natural ease, Ms Støttrup said.
”We immediately connected to her style, which was both classically elegant and contemporary at the same time.
”In a way, she can be considered the country’s biggest influencer.”
Although she faced a steep learning curve to become a royal, Copenhagen University historian Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen expects Mary to make a smooth transition to Queen.
”She will continue very much as she is … serious. (Frederik) is the one who has to change,” Mr Olden-Jørgensen told AAP.
”He’s very down to earth … he will have to learn to exercise a bit more dignity and distance.”
Royal commentators say one of Mary’s most significant roles in the Danish royal household has been to help her husband feel more at ease in the spotlight and shake off his party-boy past.
”He has certainly settled down and become increasingly comfortable with his role as a royal. Well into his 30s it was evident that he was uncomfortable with being the centre of public interest,” Mr Olden-Jørgensen said.
Some Danes joke that a film about British King George VI overcoming a stammering problem, could have been made about Crown Prince Frederik because he has struggled with public speaking in the past. Mary is credited with helping him be more confident.
”His mother the Queen said in a speech once … ‘When Mary entered your life we could see spring around you suddenly, we could see you had found your life companion’,” Mr Larsen said.
The royal couple’s marriage has been the subject of intense tabloid media speculation in recent months following the publication of pictures of the crown prince and a Mexican socialite on a night out in Madrid.
But the Danish public’s response was: ”once is never, but twice is a bad habit,” Mr Olden-Jørgensen said.
”If this stays an isolated incident people will forgive and forget but if he continues with something like that, he will cause serious trouble for himself and the monarchy,” he said.
Frederik and Mary’s four children – Prince Christian, 18, Princess Isabella, 16, and twins Prince Vincent, and Princess Josephine, who turn 13 on Monday – have all joined their mother on trips to her home city of Hobart.
In contrast to his father’s tormented youth, Prince Christian, who is expected to have a higher profile following the January 14 succession, appears confident in public.
”Mary has shown herself as a true professional and has been a good teacher,” Mr Olden-Jørgensen said.
”The greatest asset of the royal couple is their children, they are well-behaved and charismatic. To Danes, royalty is about family. Family values are very important to the success and identity of the Danish monarchy.”