When her engagement to Danish Crown Prince Frederik was announced Australian-born marketing executive Mary Donaldson shared one of her early royal experiences watching Lady Diana wed the Prince of Wales on TV in 1981. She admits she didn't see herself taking a similar trip down the aisle, however.
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
"My biggest memory is of Diana walking up the red carpet with a very, very long train," she says. "But I don't recall wishing that one day I would be a princess. I wanted to be a veterinarian."
Mary Elizabeth Donaldson was born on February 5, 1972, in Hobart, Tasmania, the youngest of Scottish-born maths professor John Donaldson and university secretary Henrietta Clark Donaldson's four children. The princess-to-be's parents had emigrated from Edinburgh to Australia in the early Sixties, becoming citizens of the country in 1975. (Mum Henrietta passed away in 1997, and John married author Susan Elizabeth Moody four years later.)
An avid athlete at Taroona High School, Mary was captain of the girls' hockey and swimming teams and very involved in equestrian pursuits. She continued her education at Hobart Matriculation College where she served on the basketball team before wrapping up her studies at the University of Tasmania, from which she graduated in 1994 with a Bachelors degree in Commerce and Law.
The fresh-faced young graduate dived into professional life, moving to Melbourne, where she accepted a position at an international advertising agency. Her career would eventually lead her into the world of public relations, and culminate in her last pre-royal post as a project consultant for Microsoft Business Solutions in Denmark.
Her life was to change forever when she met a sporty young man who introduced himself as "Fred" at a Sydney hotel pub in October 2000. They'd each arrived with a separate group of friends. The king of Spain's nephew, Bruno Gomez-Acebo, was the link between the two cliques but by the end of the evening Mary and Frederik were deep in conversation, seeming to have eyes only for each other. "The first time we met we shook hands," she recalled. "I didn't know he was the prince of Denmark. Half an hour later someone came up to me and said, 'Do you know who these people are?'."
Over the next three years the two were often seen together in both Australia and Denmark. "Frederik is one of those people who being around makes you happy. His intelligence and kindness and he's quite funny as well. We have a connection of the mind," says Mary. It wasn't until April 2003 that Queen Margrethe publicly acknowledged the relationship, though, fuelling rumours of a pending engagement. Six months later the palace announced a royal wedding would take place the following spring.
Despite having to fulfil a demanding series of requirements - she agreed to relinquish her Australian citizenship, convert from her Presbyterian faith to the Danish Lutheran Church, learn Danish and agree to give up her rights to the couple's children in case of divorce - Mary tackled the challenge of her new position with aplomb. "Today is the first day of my new role," she said after appearing on the palace balcony as Frederik's fiancée for the first time. "It is something that will evolve over time and I have much to learn and experience."
On May 14, 2004, the pretty brunette with the captivating smile walked down the aisle with her prince in a bridal outfit which encompassed both her Australian heritage and the history of the family she would now be joining. A gown by Danish designer Uffe Frank was topped off with a veil first used by Crown Princess Margret of Sweden in 1905. While her bouquet consisted of Australian eucalyptus known as Snow gum plus flowers from the palace garden.
The couple's first child, Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John, was born October 15, 2005, and their second, Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe, followed on April 21, 2007. Then three years later there was more good news. The palace confirmed Mary was expecting twins, and the bouncing babies arrived in January 2011.
Speaking to press outside the hospital, their proud dad described their newborn baby boy, weighing 5lb 9oz, and their 5lb 7oz girl as a "miracle times two". Royal watchers will have to wait a little longer to learn the new arrivals' names, however. According to Danish tradition, the names of royal babies are not announced until their christening, three months after their birth.
Mary's grace, beauty and professionalism have won over her the people of her new homeland, with one poll finding 75 per cent of Danes believed she would make a good queen.