The Stunning Transformation Of Queen Mary Of Denmark

Being a royal of any country is difficult, but it's even tougher for someone who wasn't born in the country they serve. In addition to learning the protocols and realities of royal life, foreign-born royals must learn the customs, culture, language, and ways of life in a new place. Such was the reality for Queen Mary of Denmark, the Australian-born royal who met her husband by happenstance and married into the Danish royal family after an international courtship. 

The foreign-born queen, who's friends with Princess Catherine and has been compared to Princess Diana, has lived quite the life. After growing up in a small town in Tasmania, Queen Mary never imagined she would one day become a literal princess and eventually a queen. But after her life took an unimaginable turn, Mary accepted the hand she was dealt gracefully and has fully leaned into her position within the Danish royal family. Take a look at the stunning transformation of Queen Mary of Denmark. 

Queen Mary comes from an educated family

Queen Mary of Denmark was born in February of 1972 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia to John and Henrietta Donaldson. She was the fourth child to be born into her family, joining two sisters and a brother. Though much of her childhood was spent in Australia, Queen Mary also spent time in different countries thanks to her father's career as a professor of applied mathematics. The royal lived in Canada and the United States for a time before the family set its permanent residence back in Australia. "I will always have emotional ties to Australia," Mary said in an interview with "60 Minutes Australia." "Australia forms part of my identity and who I am."

Unfortunately, the beginning of Mary's adulthood was marked with tragedy. Her mother, who had been the executive assistant to the vice-chancellor of the University of Tasmania, died after complications from heart surgery. "I felt alone in my pain," Mary said in a television interview in 2015, as reported by Sky News. "As if nobody understood what I was going through and I had come to a standstill while the whole world around me kept moving forward. I would have liked to have spent more time with her."

She's been educated all over the world

Given that she's lived so many places across the world, Queen Mary has been educated in many places, too. She began her formal education in Houston, Texas while there with her family for her father's work, and she finished the first part of her schooling in Tasmania when her family moved back. Queen Mary stayed in Tasmania for high school and college before attending graduate school in Melbourne.

After school, Mary began her career in earnest, only halting her trajectory after becoming engaged to King Frederik (more on that later) and moving to Denmark. And Queen Mary's education didn't end when she moved to Denmark. In fact, there was much for Mary to learn when she arrived. In addition to planning a wedding, the future queen was assimilating to a new culture. "There was so much preparation. But most of my time was spent on Danish lessons, and learning the language," Mary told Vogue Australia.

Queen Mary met King Frederik during the Olympics

Although they're royalty, Queen Mary and King Frederik's love story began in as common a place as anyone's. In the summer of 2000, Mary was living and working in Sydney, Australia. Frederik was in town for the summer Olympics, and the two met by happenstance at a bar. To Mary, Frederik was just another guy. "The first time that we met or shook hands, I did not know he was the crown prince of Denmark," Queen Mary said on "60 Minutes Australia." "It was perhaps half an hour or so later that someone came up to me and said, 'Do you know who these people are?'"

To make their meet-cute even more random, it almost didn't happen. "I nearly didn't go that evening," Mary told Vogue Australia. "The taxi arrived, and I said, 'Oh, all right' at the last minute and just got in." In 2003, three years after their chance meeting, Mary and Frederik became engaged, officially putting Mary on the path to becoming the next queen of Denmark.

She got married in Copenhagen

Queen Mary and King Frederik met in the most ordinary of ways, but their wedding was nothing short of extraordinary. The two married in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 14, 2004, shortly after getting engaged. The bride wore an Uffe Frank gown and accessorized with an heirloom veil and a diamond tiara. She was walked down the aisle by her father, and her sisters and a close friend served as bridesmaids. Royals from other European countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Monaco were in attendance, too.

While some moments were surreal, others were very typical of a wedding day. Mary was supported by her friends and family, but she also had adoring fans from all over Denmark showing their gladness over the nuptials, too. "I had a moment where I had to take some deep breaths and squeeze his hand hard, but when the doors opened the music was so incredibly beautiful, so amazing, it was ethereal. It was like being carried by the music as I walked. A lot of brides say they forget this part, but I remember every step," Mary told Vogue Australia about her wedding day.

Queen Mary officially became a Danish citizen

Ahead of her marriage to King Frederik, the Danish government stated that once she was officially married, Queen Mary would become a Danish citizen. The steps followed were reportedly typical for any foreign-born member of the Danish royal family. Additionally, Mary converted Christian denominations, leaving the Presbyterian church and joining the Lutheran church after becoming royal.

Even after becoming an official citizen, Mary found certain aspects of her new life in Denmark difficult. "It's still frustrating sometimes with the language. I can't get across that extra 20 percent in some discussions. But there are, luckily for me, many similarities between Australians and Danes so the mental distance has been easier to travel. The Danish have that dry sarcastic humour that Australians have; they don't take themselves too seriously. They really enjoy life," Queen Mary told Vogue Australia a few months into her marriage. Eventually, all struggles subsided, and Mary fully embraced her new country. "I am Dane. I have a background that I am proud of and happy about and draw on where appropriate. It is part of the person I am and always will be. It has helped to shape me before I came to Denmark, and even after I came to Denmark," Mary said in an interview on her 40th birthday.

She became a mother

Upon Queen Mary and King Frederik's engagement, there was one major pressure placed upon both, particularly Mary: that she would bear an heir. Frederik had expressed his hope for a big family, and the rest of the Danish royal family hoped for the same for their royal lineage to continue. Luckily for Mary, the pressure was off quickly as she became pregnant soon after getting married. In 2005, she gave birth to her first child, a son named Crown Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John. In 2007, she had her second child, a daughter named Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe, and in 2011, she welcomed twins, a son named Prince Vincent Frederik Minik Alexander and a daughter named Princess Josephine Sophia Ivalo Mathilda.

Being royal didn't remove Mary from the challenges all mothers face. "We feel so blessed that we have four healthy, healthy, beautiful and happy children. First a boy and a girl, then twins. It was — wow! We're going to have twins. I know that we have good help, but for a mother to breastfeed twins and have two older children already, it makes anything just really hard. It is also one of the finest periods in your life because you are trapped in a little bubble with small and innocent children. They are just as God delivered them," she said of motherhood in an interview in honor of her 40th birthday.

She established her own charitable givings foundation

As a royal who joins by marriage, there's some lack of definition as to how exactly that person will spend their time. Queen Mary felt that ill-defined pressure from the beginning, but she quickly chose her path. "There is a fundamental description of my role — to be a good and effective representative of Denmark and its people, and its interests outside of the country, in culture, arts, education, research, humanitarian projects, to raise interest in societal issues that need to be discussed," she told Vogue Australia. To Mary, being a representative of Denmark meant helping its citizens in any way she could. In 2007, the royal established The Mary Foundation, an organization that works to foster community and combat loneliness.

Since then, she's championed other causes, particularly those affecting women. "Understanding that inequality and lack of respect for human rights were root causes for maternal mortality — that still today, a woman can risk losing life by giving birth — was where my journey started," Queen Mary told the Financial Times. She's also a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. "I've always had a strong sense of justice: that everyone should have the same opportunities, no matter where you come from," she said.

Queen Mary became recognized internationally for her style

Becoming an internationally-known figure in the early 2000s came with lots of pressure, as well as lots of eyeballs. Queen Mary went from someone who didn't care too much about her appearance to someone who had to care. "Very early on, it was clear that there were expectations about what you wore and how you dressed appropriately to an event," Queen Mary told the Financial Times. "That was pretty daunting for me. I was a T-shirt-and-shorts girl, known to go barefoot." Within just a few years, though, Mary was embracing the new stylistic expectations that came with her role. "I like clothes that are simple with beautiful details. It is good to have fun with clothes, experiment a little," she told Vogue Australia shortly after her wedding.

By 2010, Mary was a global symbol of chic royal style, and she had fashion mavens praising her efforts. "​​I've seen pictures of her and she dresses really well. Mary has a very sophisticated, European style that is also worthy of a princess," designer Tommy Hilfiger told Bunte of the royal's style. The outlet noted that Prada, Missoni, and Christian Louboutin were among her favorite designers at the time.

She celebrated her 50th birthday in a major way

In February 2022, Queen Mary of Denmark celebrated her 50th birthday. While most women across the world celebrate the milestone with a dinner or a special gift, the Danish royal marked her new age with some stunning portraits. Mary wore a gorgeous light blue dress and dazzling gemstones for the photos, the same ones she wore after she became engaged to King Frederik. The jewels were once worn by Désirée Clary, a woman who was once engaged to Napoleon Bonaparte. The next owner of the jewels, Clary's daughter-in-law Josephine, gave them to her granddaughter, Princess Lovisa, upon her marriage to Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 1869, and the jewels are still owned by the Danish royal family today.

Upon her 50th birthday, Mary was well aware that her time as queen was going to begin sooner than later, and she already had thoughts on the future of the Danish monarchy. "A monarchy exists in the time and the society that it is a part of, and Danes are progressive and innovative and free-thinking. How progress happens is dependent on the personalities of the people within the royal family, and, of course, the people they are among," she told the Financial Times.

Queen Mary officially became queen

In late 2023, Queen Margrethe II announced that she would be stepping down as monarch, making way for a new king and queen. "In the new year, Crown Prince Frederik will be proclaimed king. Crown Princess Mary will become queen. The kingdom will have a new regent and a new royal couple. We can look forward to all of this in the knowledge that they are ready for the responsibility and the task," the prime minister said, as reported by NPR. On January 14, 2024, Frederik and Mary assumed the throne, officially becoming King Frederik and Queen Mary of Denmark.

Although the couple knew they would become monarchs relatively soon given Queen Margrethe's health and age, they were still surprised by her decision to abdicate, and the short time from her announcement to Frederik's accession resulted in a whirlwind for the royals. Still, Mary was beaming on the day of the coronation. "I stood with the children when you stepped out onto the balcony towards your fate. It was a moment that moved me incredibly much. We could hear and feel it, even if we couldn't see it. It was a beautiful moment. I was both very happy and very proud," Mary said to her husband in her first official interview as queen, as reported by Tatler.

Her marriage was rocked by rumors of an affair

Just before Margrethe II announced that she would step down from the throne, the Danish royal family was facing another issue — rumors swirled around Europe that King Frederik was having an affair. Rumblings began after Frederik traveled to Spain and was photographed spending time with Genoveva Casanova, a Mexican socialite who has mutual friends with the king. Despite Casanova vehemently denying the rumors of an affair, the story persisted, even after Frederik and Mary became king and queen. Royal experts were on particularly high alert just before Frederik's coronation, and body language expert Judi James told Fabulous, "Mary's power and status signals have increased, as she seems to have been handed the opportunity to build her own independent power-base if that is what she wants," as reported by The Sun.

No matter the rumors, the pair are still married, and they put on a brave face for their first interview since becoming king and queen, and since facing intense rumors of infidelity. Although they didn't address the rumors, Queen Mary did note the challenges of becoming queen. "It is very new and there are many changes and decisions," she said, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Queen Mary's new royal portrait was unveiled

To usher in a new era in Danish royalty, after they officially became king and queen, Frederik and Mary each posed for a new royal portrait. Like in her portraits before, Queen Mary wore beautiful jewels with unique history and special meaning to Denmark. The set of jewels, made by C.M. Weisshaupt, dates back to around 1840 and was presumably given as an anniversary gift from Christian VIII to Queen Caroline Amalie. The jewels are also special to the country because they never leave Denmark. When they are not being worn, the jewels are on display at Rosenborg Castle, making them the only jewels that are both kept in a museum and actively donned by royalty.

Being queen has come with its challenges for Mary, but she was already accustomed to the difficulties of being royal before taking on a new title. "I don't think there's a secret," Queen Mary told the Financial Times when asked how she handles royalty. "It's being in touch and being close to the people: knowing what's happening in society; which way are we heading; what are the new trends and challenges. It's a natural, organic process that happens as generations come and go."