Just before Christmas, newspaper Berlingske Tidene published an extensive interview with crown prince Frederik and crown princess Mary, accompanied by two photo shoots in an extra edition of their Sunday Magazine.
This was clearly court's communication strategy to turn around the criticism Frederik & Mary had been subject to over the past months: the huge costs of the renovation of their Amalienborg mansion and Trine Villeman's bestseller "1015 K København" had caused some negative press.
Steen Brogaard conducted a photo shoot with the crown princely family inside Kancellihuset.
Part I: ”We start the day by making oatmeal”
For the first time the Crown prince couple talk about the joys and the challenges of being a family. In this first chapter, they give their views on bringing up the children and talk about the love they have for each other and the kids. About not fussing exessively about the children, about showing their feelings in public and about how hard it can be when the press gets too close.
The fire is crackling in the fireplace when we enter the crown prince couple’s cosy living room in the Chancellery House at Fredensborg Palace. Two big Christmas stockings with “Isabella” and “Christian” embroidered on them are lying over the armrest of the sofa. A simple row of string lights is glistening in the magnolia tree outside.
Crown prince Frederik puts another log on the fire and makes himself comfortable on the sofa next to crown princess Mary. They are both dressed in casual clothes. The crown prince is in worn jeans and a big sweater while the crown princess wears skinny jeans and a chequered woollen jacket.
A generous dish with biscuits and two jugs of coffee and green tea stand on the square table between us. The mugs are "Mega Mussel" from Royal Copenhagen. It is the first time the crown prince couple invites the press to their home.
In one of the corners, behind the long table with tall-backed chairs, lies a big pile of toys. The living room is decorated with modern, comfortable furniture. There's room for playing, family time and being together with friends. This is where the couple relax at night after the kids have been put to sleep and they can “drink a glass of red wine and look into each other's eyes”.
Through the white-framed windows and the double doors, the garden with the naked winter trees can be seen. Two prams are standing under one of them. An older model used to belong to Queen Ingrid, who used it for her eldest daughter. Queen Margrethe found her old pram by coincidence in a storage room at Fredensborg, and in the spring she had it restored and gave it to the couple.
“My mother did not use it for either my brother or me when we were young, so it has skipped a generation. But the Queen thought it would be fun to have it restored. She was very proud and happy when she came and gave it to us. We use it for Christian now for when he takes a nap because it is bigger than an ordinary pram,” says crown prince Frederik.
Princess Isabella is also napping while the interview with Berlingske is happening. The now eight month old princess lies in her own pram, close to her brother’s under the tree in the backyard of the Chancellery House.
The crown prince couple don't hide the fact that it has been a radical change for them to become a family. There is a lot that has happened since the wedding in Copenhagen’s cathedral in May 2004. But they seem to have found a good rhythm, and are enjoying being a family with young children. Even if it sometimes ruins their sleep.
Frederik: “Both kids are with us at night. Christian doesn’t sleep in our bedroom anymore, but he did until he was about 10 months old which was as long as he was deeply reliant on his mum. He has his own room now and Isabella is of course still sleeping with us. We still have contact with Christian at night via his baby alarm, so if he has bad dreams we can go to his room. Everything has happened so quickly. One should keep a diary as there is so much happening with the little ones. Of course, we take photos of them and also videotape them sometimes. We must try to get it organized in some way.”
Crown prince Frederik adds that for him the word “massive” pretty much sums up having started a family.
“It is both a massive life change and also very physically demanding, affecting everything in life. It forces you to become more organised and it is both pleasurable and momentous. With our lives the way they are, rather irregular, with other things constantly pushing into our everyday lives, we don’t really have a permanent daily routine from eight in the morning until six in the evening. Our work comes in doses and it comes at any time."
Mary: “Time becomes more valuable when you have children. There is a demanding new dynamic. You have to find a new balance, to make everything work as it did before. On the other hand, we have more flexibility in our everyday life than most other people, as we get help and support every day from our staff. For example, we don’t have to clean or go to the supermarket.”
The Crown princely couple say that both of their children have been good at sleeping through the night. However, there have been some problems with Princess Isabella in the last few weeks. In the crown princess’s own words, there’s been a bit of a hiccup in the usual sleeping pattern.
Mary: “Perhaps she's teething or maybe she is just growing. Overall, Isabella is much more temperamental than Christian. He was an extraordinarily calm and mild baby. Isabella can be really happy and then suddenly become very angry. But the kids are two different genders. I have heard from my girlfriends that girls are often more hot-tempered than boys as babies. Apart from that, she is very calm and when she smiles, you are helpless…”
Frederik: “You just melt."
Inspite of a busy everyday life, the crown princely couple make a priority of being with their children. They want to at least “be there first thing in the morning and last thing at night", as crown prince Frederik puts it.
Frederik: “Our morning ritual consists of one of us getting Christian up, quickly changing him and bringing him downstairs in his pyjamas. Then we go to the kitchen to make “oat-food”, as Christian calls it. It is, of course, good old oatmeal. That keeps you going for a while.”
Mary: “When we have made the oatmeal, we all sit at the dining table. Isabella too, as she is big enough to sit in her high chair now. She also gets some oatmeal and then we talk and eat, and Ziggy runs in and out. It is really cosy. When Christian has finished eating, he plays and has fun with Ziggy before he needs to get dressed and goes to the nursery.”
Do you take Prince Christian to the nursery yourselves?
Frederik: “We take him there and pick him up ourselves as much as is possible. It is so natural and lovely, and he likes it when we take him there. He is very happy to be in the nursery. When the weather allows it, I take him in the Christiania-bike but it's a little too cold right now, and he doesn’t want to wear his mittens. There are those contrary times when a child doesn't want to wear mittens or a bonnet, and you can’t do anything about it…Then we go by car.”
Mary: “But it is mostly you, as we have Isabella as well now, so we share the work between us.”
Can you avoid prying looks at the nursery?
Frederik: “It’s very relaxed. It's like a fast package delivery for parents, and the more they see us, the more we blend in. Saying goodmorning or a quick hello to each other quickly breaks the ice. There is not an avenue of flags every day!”
Will Isabella attend the same nursery?
Frederik: “We have signed her up there, so we will see later on if it fits her development and her personality. But it is always a good thing to be prepared.” Prince Christian is good at speaking and he can also say a few English words, says the crown princess: “We speak Danish with him most of the time. But Christian is also learning English more and more. He hears it from my family and friends and he can say both “grandad” [for John Donaldson] and “grandpapa” [for prince Henrik] and “farmor”. He has it all under control and he is indeed very good at speaking. He talks very clearly and says real sentences, so he is well on his way I would say.”
Frederik: “Yes, he runs around and is not afraid to test himself. He also has a big vocabulary, and he can come up with some phrases where we are left thinking: 'Where does he get this?' The teachers from the nursery have also confirmed this. He is not just parroting, but seems to think about what he is saying.”
Mary: “Christian is also very good at reading body language and facial expressions, and maybe that’s because he meets so many different people in the house every day.”
Frederik: “Yes, our staff can’t help but talk to him, so he has to answer all kinds of questions and relate to many things. Sometimes, he goes into their office to fiddle with things, disturb their work or make some trouble – for example, paint on the big whiteboard with our calendar. But I think he has been told to draw in one specific spot on the whiteboard now.”
How did you prepare before becoming parents? Did you read Jesper Juul’s "Det kompetente barn"or any other books about becoming parens?
Mary : “You can read a whole lot about it, but you never know how it will turn out in reality. We did read different books but I think the most important thing were family and friends whom we could ask for advice. For me, my sisters were a big help, especially during the first months after we had Christian. Just being able to call and ask a question if something happened.”
Frederik: “I also asked my brother about what he had done with his two lads – especially the first time. I wouldn’t say that one copies just anything, but it is good to gather some inspiration from different sides and then say to youself: 'We are the way we are, and we are not a copy of other parents.' One can’t copy others 100 percent.”
Mary: “Yes, that's very important, because what works for us and our everyday life is not necessarily the same as for others. All families are different. But routines are important to us. It gives us a good feeling knowing that the children follow their routines regardless of being with us or with the nanny. Of course it is only me who can breastfeed them. But the kids and the nannies know when they have to sleep and eat and that gives you a confident feeling when you are away from them.”
Frederik: “It works well, I think, and even when the kids were babies, Mary and I had our evenings together, so that we were able to sit down, have a glass of wine and look each other in the eyes and say: “Whew, we have made it this far!”
Does the crown prince remember routines from his own childhood?
Frederik: “Yes, I actually do. My brother and I were almost raised like twins. There’s exactly twelve months between us. We also had a permanent nanny with whom we spent a lot of time. Mostly there were of course the routines concerning mealtimes and later on homework.”
But you and Prince Joachim did not spend a lot of time with your parents in your everyday life?
Frederik: “The times were different. My parents had children quite soon after they got married, and their two different cultures needed to work together. And you shouldn’t forget that my mother became queen when she was only 32 years old and had to fulfill her new role as monarch. I remember when I turned 32, thinking: Oh my, if I suddenly had to go through what my mother went through back then!' But then I can also remember that many, many years ago, I decided that when my time came, it was to be a journey with the children as well, as much as possible. I have always been convinced of that. I was anxious to see if those earlier thoughts would become reality, and they have.”
Crown princess Mary adds that she thinks it’s a shame that the perception exists that crown prince Frederik and prince Joachim didn’t have enough time with their parents during their childhood.
Mary: “When I think of the memories you have shared with me about your mother and father and the funny stories I hear from your family about the time when you were kids, I get the impression that you spent more time together than most people think. I think there’s been way too much focus on the fact that you didn’t eat your meals together when you were very young. That doesn’t mean that you didn’t spend time together during the day.”
Frederik: “You are right. I will never forget the indignation my brother and I caused – I think it was for my mother’s 50th birthday – when we told how we had our first meal together with our parents by the time we were four years old. But we only told the anecdote because it felt very natural to us. If it had been a bad experience for us, we would probably not have mentioned it. So to us, it wasn’t as bad as it might sound to other people.”
The couple say they agree “surprisingly” well on how to bring up their children.
Mary : “One would think that we might have different outlooks, as I come from Australia and Frederik comes from Denmark, and we have very different family backgrounds. But we are much alike when it comes to the specifics of the children's upbringing. We agree about how we should take care of the children and make sure that they are well, and that shows that we have had some of the same basic values during our own upbringings. Having the children sleeping in our bedroom has been the right way for both of us. And I must say we have been very lucky, as both of our children have been very good sleepers. If not, it would have been a lot harder, and then we would have had to make more use of the wonderful nannies we have who help us.”
Which values would you like to pass on to your children?
Frederik: “They will always have a safe harbour. That’s also how I remember my own childhood.”
Mary: “I think we agree about the major basic outlines. I grew up in a safe and loving home as well, and we would like to pass that on to our children. If you speak about the details, it is a bit harder as the children are still so young. Both of us take things as they come. In my family, they were also very consistent, and that is something, you Frederik, talk a lot about too and I agree with you about that.”
Frederik: “We try to do as much as possible with the children in the morning and in the evening. The guiding line is the continuity, but one shouldn’t forget the most important thing – the love for them. One can pour one’s love into them. I remember that it was a great experience for me when that little boy there – Christian – threw his arms around my neck. 'No, that’s not happening,' I thought. It is so wonderful. And I see this as a result of the fact that we have spent so much time with him from the start. It is always so exciting to be with your little child.”
Mary: “We can also see it in the way Christian enters a room filled with adults. He is completely calm. He actually seems to feel good in situations that could be a bit overwhelming for a child. He seems to feel very safe and happy.”
Frederik: “Yes, we also experienced that at Isabella’s christening, when we had an outdoor luncheon. Christian just walked around on his own between the different tables and talked to people. We don’t fuss over him. Of course that doesn’t mean that one should have one’s back to him and let him wander off on his own. But he should be allowed to test himself and he might get a few bruises so to speak, but one should be careful not to overprotect him. He is not supposed to put his hand on a hotplate, but it is not a problem if he gets a bit too close to the fireplace and senses that there is a source of heat which he should stay away from.”
Mary: “Perhaps his mum is a bit more worried… but Christian has a good level of confidence and that's very important. Right now, it's very important to give love and protection and enjoy Christian. At the same time, this is also the time to start being a bit more consistent. He can’t get exactly what he wants whenever he wants it.”
Is one of you a strict parent and the other not, when it comes to upbringing?
Frederik: “No, and that could easily sound like one of us is the tough one, but I don’t think that’s the case. Whoever is nearest to him takes over right there and then. It is not a science. It is just something you do.”
Mary: “It's also important that the children get the same message and the same ground rules from both of us. We have to stand together as a team. That will be even more important when they get older, but there’s no reason why we can’t practice a bit…”
For a family with young children, it can often be hard to find time for each other. Is it hard for you too?
Frederik: “Yes, you just have to be patient. With Christian, we involved ourselves 100 percent, and then I thought that with the second one, it wouldn’t be as if you were landing on the moon. It might be 50 per cent more. But that is not so. It is more like double and that is perfectly fine. You can be tired and feel drained when you have put the kids to sleep at night, and then we sit in the same spot as where we are sitting right now. But patience has to win out in that situation. When the children are older a lot of time will come back to us. One has to look forward and try to find small oases or small deserted islands with palm trees, where one can lie down in the shade and relax – metaphorically speaking. And you are there too, Mary! But of course you can’t improvise in the same way as you could before you had the children.”
Mary: “It is also hard to be away from the children, so when you have some spare time, you would like to spend it with them. It’s not as if you lose each other just because you’re with the children. It is just another way to spend the time together, and that is one of the best parts. Of course, we sometimes have a busy schedule all day and perhaps have to go out at night too. But two days later, we have a little more time off where one can go for a run with the children, go horse riding or just have a lovely dinner at home and watch a film.”
What has it meant to the crown prince to become a father?
Frederik: “You find some hidden sides of yourself, right? First and foremost, you are excited by the joy of expectation. How will you react? You experience intense love for the small creatures which you have made. Perhaps some men find it hard to accept those feelings, but I don’t. I think it is fantastic to experience these overwhelming feelings. It is so overwhelming.”
The crown prince even has a reputation of being a soft man?
Frederik: “Yes, and then some say that you’re not a man of the time or that you are a man of the time. I can’t figure out which one is popular right now. Perhaps one can say that I am "me" of the time. And then you can be happy about the fact that it obviously evokes a certain sympathy in the public. Therefore, I am not bothered to shed a tear in public places in connection with big family events.”
This thing about being very emotional, when did that happen to you for the first time?
Frederik: “When we got married. At the time, it was very, very hard to keep my emotions hidden and I thought to myself: 'Whatever'. I have something special about churches. The sound in a church is very sacred. That elevated feeling and the organ music. Some people find the sound bleak, but it hits me deep inside in a good way. And I felt this at the three or four rehearsals we had in the cathedral before our wedding. I didn’t consider it as something wrong when I became emotional. It was amazing. I remember and enjoyed every second in the church.”
Were you able to ignore the media circus?
Frederik : “I believe I was, yes. And you can track that all the way to where we sit today. I constantly kept it in my mind, that I couldn’t let it overshadow the fantastic joy and happiness it was, to say yes there in the church both in private and in public. The public part was the fact that the whole world was watching. The private was the fact that two persons were standing alone in front of the altar, who knew that they loved and love each other and were happy about this. To us, it was about making the moment a private moment. For me, it can lead to the fact that whether the church was filled or if there was only a single witness in the back row, the moment was still as special as it was. The most important thing about those seconds were to remember what going up to the altar means. That it is not just about a bride dressed in white, who looks perfect, but it is about what happens inside your heart.”
What thoughts do you have on the kids’ future when it comes to the enormous media attention?
Frederik : “We really appreciate the interest from the public. We are often asked if our children can join us, and the other day Christian attended a small formal event. I can see from my own past that it is good to bring the children into it. The earlier we do it, in a calm way, the better they can handle it later on.”
Mary : “We are very aware to make them as prepared as possible so they can meet the challenges ahead. We prepare them well so they have the confidence it takes. And, as Frederik just said, they come along sometimes and get a bit of experience. That way it's not something completely strange they have to think about, but they're slowly introduced to it from the beginning because it will be a big part of their lives.”
Can that seem scary for you as parents?
Frederik: “When I look back on my own youth, the media is much more present today, especially the digital media. Everything is covered and spread all over the world. It's a development you can't hold back, but you could wish for a more conscious and responsible use of the media. That goes for every journalist and every man or woman – for example, when it comes to photos taken with mobile phones."
Mary: “But we shouldn’t generalise as it only concerns very few people. Generally, the Danes are very happy to see their royal family walking down the street. And when we take a walk in Fredensborg park, we are perceived like any other family. I feel the same way when I walk around in Fredensborg twon. People say hello and that's it. It happens rarely that you’re met with cameras from ordinary people. It's different at official engagements, but in general I think the Danes are good at respecting some distance.”
How has the crown princess experienced the loss of anonymity?
Mary :“It' hard to find the right words for it, I think. It was a gradual transition, a process. But it really became clear to me when we had our first child, Christian. Suddenly, you are much more vulnerable. You always want to protect your children at any price, and I realised that there are some things I can’t protect them against. They will always live with the pressure of being in the spotlight. At times, it has seemed to be a very high price to pay but then I look at what I have gained and I wouldn’t want to trade. I look at my beloved husband and the children we have together, the lovely country I live in and which is my home and where my heart is. I feel very much at home here in Denmark. The more I have gotten to know Denmark and the Danes, the more I love it. At times, it has been a high price to pay, but it's a cost that comes with my role as crown princess. On the other hand, it puts me in a unique position when it comes to creating awareness for some important issues. I can help to make a difference, so in that way I am grateful for the attention. But when our privacy is involved, it can be hard and I don’t think I will ever get used to that. I have never tried to be the centre of attention. I am a little shy. So yes, at times it has been a high price but I wouldn’t trade, and what I have now has made me the person I am today. I am incredibly happy for that.”
How has the crown prince supported you in this process?
Mary :“Frederik has helped me a lot. He gives me the perspective I need. That perspective comes from his experience because it's been a part of his entire life. That experience - and also his love - when there are some bad front pages in the weekly press for example and the knowledge he's standing right behind me means a lot and makes me think that everything is going to be alright.”
Highness, what do you say to the crown princess?
Frederik :“Try to skate over it!”
Does the press respect the court’s request to protect your children?
Mary : “We think so, and we are very grateful for it. We hope it will continue. Frederik and Joachim have told me that they were allowed to do things, some that did not go well, without being judged in front of everybody. They were allowed to live their lives and try things without being afraid of failure. We hope that the press will follow that policy with our children as well. When Christian began nursery school, we allowed the media to take pictures of him on the first day and then we asked the press to leave him alone after that, and they have. I am happy for that – especially when I take him there wearing my track suit trousers, straight from bed…”
But it can’t be fun to wake up to different stories in the press? Do you ever feel like talking back?
Mary : “Some days are more fun than others. But no, there’s no reason to talk back. If we were to comment each article, we wouldn’t have time to do anything else.”
Is it the same with a book like Ekstra Bladet’s “1015 København K” which is entirely based on anonymous sources?Frederik : “Yes, I have heard about it. We don’t want to comment on that book. I think it has lived its life. Generally, we have a good dialogue with the press in Denmark and we respect this relationship, even though there can be an imbalance from time to time. It probably hurts the crown princess more than me, also because the foreign press has a tendency to copy Danish bad press and refer to so-called royal experts. But then we just say to each other that fortunately we know where we are. And that’s what matters the most.”
Mary: “Yes, you can only try to laugh with it, and as Frederik says, we know the way it is in our real world, how much we love each other and our lovely family. We just have to look each other in the eyes and say: ‘That is not true!’ Fortunately, all over the country, shops won’t sell certain magazines that cross a line and you see bookshops who won’t sell that book in their shop. They make up their own minds about this.”
Frederik : “People love to comment on all sorts of things these days. No matter if it is about our family or about politics, so we don’t have to spend our time on that. People are almost lining up to have a say. That is our liberty.”
The Christmas peace seems completely undisturbed in the home of the princely couple, and as a guest, you feel the kind atmosphere that dominates the Chancellery House. Christmas will be celebrated in Århus at Marselisborg Palace together with the rest of the royal family, as is tradition.
Finally, we would like to hear how you go about the Christmas present race – prince Christian must have reached the gift age?
Frederik : “Yes, he believes that everything that's wrapped is a gift for him. For the first two to three years of children’s lives, it is very inexpensive but then it gets very expensive!”
Mary : “Our approach is that Christian only gets a certain number of gifts so that he appreciates each and every one. We also did this for his birthday. He didn’t just pull the paper off and continue to the next gift. He was happy and interested in every gift. He didn’t get a lot. Right now he has his advent calendar which the Queen has embroidered. She came over and gave it to him herself. It hangs in our dining room and so he gets a little gift each morning. Just small things – like raisins or a small car.”
Does the public send gifts for your children as well?
Mary : “Christian and Isabella have been endowed with a lot of good and child-proof things. And we would also like to take the opportunity to say that we are very happy and thankful for the great support from the public and that so many people show an interest in our lives. We get so many congratulations from children, young people and older people. It is something we appreciate a lot.”
Crown princess Mary slips out of the room for a few minutes and when she returns, she has princess Isabella in her arms. The little princess is wearing in tights with a teddy bear on her behind and a matching pink velvet dress. On her feet she has small socks knitted from musk oxen wool. She has inherited them from her big brother and “they will soon be too small”. She “talks” happily and looks curiously at Berlingske’s reporter. After a few minutes of "baby language" the crown princess passes her little girl to me as any other proud mother would.
“She is so sweet and pretty,” I say.
Frederik: “Yes, just like her mother.”
In this chapter the crown princely couple talk about the obligations that come with being as a future regent couple. About observing and absorbing as much as they can from the queen and the prince consort, about having a goal regarding social issues and about the crown princess's frustration of only being linked to fashion at some point.
The interview takes place a day after crown princess Mary visited the Danish Heart Association, handing out research funds that will help children who suffer from heart conditions. After the official schedule the crown princess walked through Tivoli with the “heart children”. She also went on a rollercoaster ride with them.
“What we do may seem like a small thing. But we get a great response and so it feels like a present to be able to do something special with them. It should be understood in the right way. It's not like we are walking around and performing magic or pretending to be something special. We get a tremendous lot in return, like when you learn that you have made a big difference for a small child who met you and sat in the merry go round with you - that she is in high spirits and for a short moment forgot about her problems,” says crown princess Mary.
The crown princely couple is getting increasingly involved in social affairs.
The crown princess is, among other things, patron of a number of associations and organisations with a social aim and lately she has founded The Mary Foundation. The crown prince is, among many others, patron for Save the Children and is attached to the Red Cross, with a recent TV campaign appearance for them.
Is a new social profile for the Danish royal family emerging?
Frederik: “It may be perceived that way. But if you look at my grandmother queen Ingrid, she was very engaged in social issues. She has left an indelible touch of joy and love in Sydjylland. Actually I think she was very engaged in social issues for her time. She got involved in issues that were relevant back then – for example polio, which was a big issue right after the Second World War. I also believe she was involved in Mødrehjælpen. The DRF has always had a tradition of getting involved in social issues, but perhaps it's seen as something new because male family members are getting involved as well. That includes my father too.”
Mary: “It may also reflect a development in society that we all have become more conscious to contributing to society and helping. Personally I feel very strongly that all people have a right to belong and to know that someone cares about them. Through my engagements and patronages I have often had the impression that social isolation is a particular problem. Social isolation can be both the result and the cause of a problem. Social isolation and illness is a vicious cycle. That was the basis to set up the Mary Foundation which at the same time gives me the opportunity to keep all the threads of my social work together. It is one more platform that will hopefully help some people to have a better life. It is something I’m really passionate about and as crown princess it gives me a unique opportunity to help to make a difference.”
How does it affect you to personally meet vulnerable and ill people?
Mary: "It can be hard. But even though I’m often deeply moved, I think that they get a better experience if I show a smiling face and a little encouraging sympathy. It may give a little hope or perhaps just a good experience that they can take along. It can sometimes be difficult, but we get so much in return when we meet vulnerable and ill people.”
Frederik: “Yes, and even though there is a lot of commotion when you arrive, with lots of people and flashlights blinding you, we always try to create the space to have genuine personal contact during the brief minutes that are available. For some people it can be hard to understand that a monarchy like ours has significance in the times we live in, even that it can generate an economic surplus. In theory basically it can’t, but time and time again we experience to our great joy that we do make a big difference to people and those are the best experiences for us. That even though it may only last a few minutes, the receiver understands that we mean it from our hearts.”
Mary: “Yes, it is very important for us that it is perceived as something more than just being there. By engaging ourselves in these issues we also hope to create a debate about a problem and to encourage the possibility that the conditions and the lives of these people are improved in some way. It is about helping to do that, because we cannot do it just by creating attention.”
As the “newly instated” crown princess you were criticized in the press for having too keen an interest in fashion. Is this an area from which you have retreated a bit?
Mary: “Fashion is an exciting industry and I believe it is almost the third largest export industry of the country. I chose to get involved with fashion because it was a place to start and it was where I could be present and get some experience. It’s a big and important industry, but because it was about fashion and money and about dressing up it was regarded as shallow. Had it been windmills it may have been a different matter. It may also have been a convenient or easy way to fit me in. Perhaps it should have been balanced a bit more, but I think it went off balance because fashion attracts a lot of attention. I was never merely involved in fashion. But it almost seemed as though I wasn’t doing anything else and I experienced that as a bit frustrating in the beginning.”
Frederik: “Women like to look good and the rest of us like to keep an eye on what is going on in fashion. I think that instead of criticising the crown princess for attending fashion shows, you could say 'Here we have a young woman, who has just arrived in a new country and who has the opportunity to put her mark on a significant industry'. That is, look a bit deeper instead of focusing on what she is wearing today and whether it is a particular brand of clothing. The crown princess may shine with her dress sence and her presence, but what is behind it is hugely important. As far as I understand one out of every eight people in Denmark is somehow involved in the fashion industry, and young Danish designers are fighting a hard battle.”
Mary: “I think it went off balance because there was so much focus on it in the media. But I also chose to get involved in the field because I really like Danish fashion. It's very international and often it is among the very best. The fashion industry has been very appreciative of my efforts and I entered at a moment when Danish fashion really started to bloom. But I was also involved in many social issues and since then I have quietly steered my work more in that direction. It is something I have been giving a lot of thought and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to approach it. And as I said before, I believe that every person hopefully will contribute to society and help where they can. And, in my capacity as crown princess I have a unique opportunity to bring attention to a number of areas which at the same time also interest me.”
How do you view your future role as regent couple? The expectations that rest on you are different from those when your mother became regent?
Frederik: "Yes, absolutely. The demands on the regent couple will constantly change. Every era has its own demands. My mother was only 32 and she was a woman, so back then there were very formidable demands made of her when she woke up one morning and was queen. You may say that we benefit from the tradition and that we have been able to observe the impressive way my parents – and your parents-in-law, Mary – fulfill their role. We observe and absorb as much as we can."
But the crown prinely couple belongs to a new generation and you lead a different life than your parents do. What will be your particular interest as a regent couple?
Mary: “As Frederik is saying, we are right now trying to figure out where our path will lead us as we continue to take in as much as we can. But we cannot prepare ourselves 100 per cent. We cannot transport ourselves to the future and see how it will be. We will do it in our own individual way, just as the queen and the prince consort do it their own way. As Regent Couple they reflect the times they live in and we will too, when we get there. We don’t know yet how things will look at that time. We make ourselves ready, so we are prepared to embark on our journey in the best possible way.”
Frederik: “To dare be ourselves has turned out to be a plus for both of us. It may be that some people see it differently. I think by being myself, I have come further than I believed possible. Some may have thought that I was a bit too different, but I told myself: 'What you see is what you get'."
Mary: “Otherwise it will be an unhappy life.”
Frederik: “Yes, you can only smile your own smile. And fortunately it turns out that in general people like to see that you show a human face. Many even give praise that you shed a tear.”
That must be a healthy acknowledgment to reach with all the expectations that have always been on your shoulders as crown prince?
Frederik: “Yes, and I no longer see it as something embarrassing to show my feelings. I may have ten or fifteen years ago and I certainly do not expect that others should express themselves in the same manner. But that’s how we end up doing it, because in every respect we can only be ourselves.”
How do you balance being royal being a style icons like other celebrities?
Mary : “We don’t consider ourselves style icons. But we are conscious of the fact that we must dress neatly and correctly for the events we take part in. I don’t think people would be thrilled if we showed up improperly dressed. We are very conscious that we represent Denmark and that we do it in the correct manner. And it can really be frustrating if you are out an event and there is more focus on your clothes than on what's happening. The clothes are part of our 'uniform' but we don't want to outshine the event, or look like a Christmas tree. So of course we have many considerations as to how we engage in what we do. We think carefully. Sometimes it’s just a case of 'I want to do that'. Every event we attend has a very strict schedule, almost down to the minute, but of course there should also be room for spontaneity.”
Isn’t it a bit odd to have to wait for a position that you have no idea about when it will begin?
Frederik: “No matter what new job you are facing there will always be some uncertainty. If you could see it all in advance you would be over-qualified. The challenge lies in the margin of unpredictability there will always be. Otherwise the job wouldn’t be experienced as a chance for development. That’s the way I try to handle it and it has actually been something of a revelation for me when I began to view it in that way. You cannot prepare yourself for everything.”
Mary: “No, it’s just like having a baby. You can read and talk and absorb from all directions, but you cannot know how it will actually be in reality.”
Frederik: “That’s how I felt when I left for Greenland in 2000. Yes, you were physically capable. You trusted your psyche and were well prepared. We trained as much as we could and built most of our things ourselves and so on. However we could never make up a schedule and say: 'We will absolutely finish at such and such time'. In the case of Greenland it’s the moods of nature that decide if you will get to the finish at all. Physically you can be unfortunate and get injured and then you have to quit before time. It’s the same thing in sports. The more you train – that applies to our future too – and gain life experience, the more you minimize the unforeseen things the job of a monarch involves. To be well prepared is the most important thing and here life experience comes in. That is what we will pass on to our little boy, so that hopefully he will be allowed to maintain his curiosity and the interest in his surroundings. He may travel and live abroad so that he will have the opportunity to get to know himself. The most important thing is to be able to be at peace with yourself, to obtain a centre of gravity. And you get that through life experience and that only comes with time.”
Mary: “We believe it is a very essential part of our work to carry on the traditions and history which make the monarchy something unique and a rallying point for Denmark. Continuity is very important but there must also be room for development, so we will fulfill the role in our unique way. That’s the way every regent couple has done it.”
What thoughts do you have as crown princes in regards to prince Christian's future?
Frederik: “I have thought about that a lot, especially before his birth. Jeez, do stay inside in your mother’s belly! You shouldn’t come out into this big, raging world!”
Mary: “Nooo…" (thoughtfully:), "We must make sure that he's so well prepared that he can face all the challenges that come his way. That he will be a happy boy and get the chance to live a life like everybody else, but still with this difference… And that he can carry it with pride. He must be proud of who he is. Naturally there will be times in life when he may not want to have all the pressure of expectation on his shoulders. So then it will be our job to support him.”
Frederik: “He surely will question things along the way. Why are the reactions to him as they are? We will be 100 per cent present. To put it briefly, it’s our hope that he will live like an ordinary person in an extraordinary world. But there will surely be times where he'll find it difficult to be different.”
Mary: “That’s how all children feel it. You would rather be like everybody else. You’d rather not stand out in any way. You want to belong to the group, to the community.”
If the crown prince could write a letter to himself as a young man, what would it say?
Frederik: “I would write that I was fortunate to be given a lot of freedom. Inside as well as out. I really was allowed to develop myself and have my own experiences and that has been worth pure gold. I could not have bought that. It was cool that I had that freedom and those experiences. And I was allowed to keep my curiosity and challenge myself physically as well as mentally. In the Frogman Corps for example, there were many times when you thought, 'It wasn’t really me who did that!' You could never have believed you were capable of it, but you managed it in some mysterious way. By working through the issues and listening to your own thoughts you pulled through. It was best when you faced some measurable demand that had to be honoured, otherwise it was just 'goodbye and thank you' with a good conscience but neverthless downcast, right? That gave me a lot of insight in myself and also courage. I became aware that you can actually set some extreme goals for yourself, and honour them. Physical well-being gives a good mental balance, so yes, it has also been a help in respect to my future job as regent. This applies to all people that you get cheered up by physical exertion. In my letter I would write that it’s important to get the freedom to experience things. Without wanting to be too aloof I will refer to a single sentence by Piet Hein: 'Remember to love, while you dare. Remember to live, while you do'. You could say that to yourself, but only when looking back, because as a teenager you cannot forsee your life, but you do live much more intensely and have a lot of emotions. So yes, you must not forget to love.”
Does the crown princess have an advice for herself as a teenager?
Mary: "I think it's important to learn from the experiences you have along the way. I believe you should live in the present and also look ahead, even though I don’t always remember it. But I believe in it. I’m certain that I could give myself a lot of advice today with retrospective effect, but I don’t think I would have been able to receive it when I was a teenager or younger, because at that time I didn’t have the experience to accept it, not like I have today. I think I would say to myself: 'Good luck on the journey'."