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Mary Donaldson went from commoner to Danish Queen



Mary Donaldson’s Journey to Danish Royalty

Mary Donaldson

Photograph: Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images Europe

From Casual Encounter to Crown: Mary Donaldson’s Remarkable Journey to Danish Royalty

In a twist of fate that began with a lighthearted discussion about chest hair in a Sydney bar twenty-three years ago, Mary Donaldson, a former real estate manager from Tasmania, is now on the verge of becoming the queen of Denmark. What has been described as a “real-life fairytale” by many has captivated the public’s imagination.

The unconventional journey unfolded in the year 2000 at the Slip Inn, a nondescript bar in Sydney, during the peak of Olympic fever.

On that night, two young women found themselves in the company of a group of young men, including Prince Frederik of Denmark, his cousin Prince Nikolaos of Greece, his brother Prince Joachim, and Princess Martha of Norway, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

As the story goes, the conversation among the group revolved around the age-old debate of whether a hairy chest or a smooth one was more desirable. Beatrice Tarnawski, a friend of Mary’s, shared her perspective, recalling, “All the girls around the table were discussing what is best –

Danish Queen

Photograph: Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images

the man with a hairy chest or a man without hair, and the princes were wearing open shirts. We were allowed to touch Prince Frederik and Prince Nikolaos. I liked Prince Frederik best because he was so smooth. Prince Nikolaos had a lot of hair, and that really wasn’t my type.”

At the time, Mary, then 28, was blissfully unaware of the royal identities in her midst. In her own words from 2003, she recounted, “The first time we met, we shook hands and I didn’t know he was the crown prince of Denmark. An hour or so later, someone came up to me and said, ‘Do you know who these people are?’”

What began as a chance encounter in a Sydney bar has evolved into a captivating love story that transcends borders and social classes. Mary Donaldson’s journey from Australia’s middle class to the threshold of Danish royalty is a testament to the unpredictability of destiny and the enduring allure of real-life fairytales.

As she stands poised to become the queen of Denmark, the world watches in fascination at this modern-day Cinderella tale that started with a discussion about chest hair.

Mary Donaldson’s Journey: From Long-Distance Love to Danish Royalty

In an interview with Australia’s 60 Minutes, Mary Donaldson reflected on the enduring nature of her relationship with Prince Frederik, stating, “From the very first moment that we started talking, we never really stopped talking.” With the constraints of geographical distance, their connection blossomed through words, forming a strong foundation for what was to come.


Born in Hobart in 1972 to Scottish parents, Mary’s upbringing was anchored in academia; her father, a mathematics professor, and her mother, an executive assistant at the University of Tasmania. As the youngest of four siblings, she attended local schools, pursued studies in commerce and law in Tasmania, and ventured into the fields of advertising in Melbourne and Sydney, later transitioning to real estate.

The pivotal moment in Mary’s life occurred after the chance meeting at the Slip Inn. Despite the challenges of secrecy and distance, the couple nurtured a blossoming romance, with Prince Frederik making multiple visits to Australia. The revelation of their relationship came in 2001 when a Danish royal magazine, Billed Bladet, unveiled Mary as the “pretty, outgoing, gifted, and perhaps future crown princess.”

Following this revelation, Frederik invited Mary to relocate to Copenhagen. In preparation for her royal role, she enlisted the expertise of a style consultant to guide her transformation from commoner to a potential future queen. The official engagement announcement came on October 8, 2003, captivating the world with the unfolding fairytale.

As Denmark’s Queen Margrethe paved the way for Frederik to ascend the throne this month with her surprise abdication, Mary diligently embraced her new role. Advised by Queen Margrethe to learn Danish before their 2004 marriage, Mary became a symbol of grace and poise, captivating the Australian media with her real-life fairytale narrative.

The couple, now Prince and Princess, share the joys of parenthood with four children. Beyond her royal duties, the 51-year-old princess has actively engaged in humanitarian causes, advocating for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.


Reflecting on her journey, Mary spoke to the Financial Times in 2022, expressing a strong sense of justice and a belief in equal opportunities for all. Her mother’s passing in 1997, before Mary met Prince Frederik, serves as a poignant chapter in her life. In an interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly in 2013, she shared, “I’m sure she would be very happy to see me where I am, not only happy in my family life and as a mother, but also to see that I’ve used my new situation and the resources and skills I have to form a platform to make a difference where I can. And I think she’s probably smiling.”

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