King Frederik X and Queen Mary became Denmark’s new monarchs after the surprising abdication of Queen Margrethe II—here’s what to know about the royal couple.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark surprised many when she announced her abdication at the tail end of 2023, and just last week, she officially stepped down and passed the crown to her eldest son Frederik André Henrik Christian. The newly-appointed monarch has taken on the title of His Majesty The King Frederik X, with his wife Mary Elizabeth Donaldson as queen.
This marks a new age for Denmark, as the reigning royals plan to adapt to the modern social landscape, interacting with their subjects in more accessible ways than one would normally expect from kings and queens of the past, as per The Guardian. For those who are less familiar with the royal couple, read on to learn more about their life and work:
Frederick André Henrik Christian: A King of Modern Values
Frederick was born on May 26, 1968 as the eldest son of Queen Margrethe II and the late Prince Henrik of Denmark. He also has a younger brother, Prince Joachim of Denmark, who’s in the order of succession to the throne. Much like his mother, Frederick attended a variety of educational institutions when he was studying. These include Krebs’ Skole, Amalienborg, École des Roches in Normandy (where he was a boarder from 1982 to 1983), and Øregaard Gymnasium, writes Kongehuset, Denmark’s Royal House.
He then went on to take postgraduate studies at the University of Aarhus with an MSc in political science, before studying political science again in Harvard from 1992 to 1993. It was then when Frederick shed his more rambunctious “party prince” image, having been the first Danish royal to attain a full university education, reports George Wright of the BBC.
Professional and Military Experience
Like many royals, Denmark’s king also has a military background and experience in the professional field of diplomacy. In 1994, the king served at the Danish UN Mission in New York, then became the First Secretary of Embassy in Paris’ Royal Danish Embassy from 1998 to 1999. Throughout his younger years, the then-prince participated in various military exercises, having received training “primarily within the defense,” according to Kongehuset. In 2010, the king became a commander in Denmark’s navy and a colonel in its army and air force, and to this day remains active in the country’s defense.
An Affinity for Adventure and Sports
Many citizens of Denmark are aware of the king’s free-spirited nature and love for adventure. As per The Guardian, the king enjoys engaging in sports and daring recreational activities. In 2000, the young royal even joined a ski expedition across Greenland, reports George Wright of the BBC. He also received treatment in the hospital for different sports-related injuries like those from sledging and scooter riding.
The monarch hosts an annual event called “The Royal Run,” where he and his wife Mary run, walk, and meet with the country’s citizens across five different cities. The king holds the event in an effort to encourage his subjects to stay active, whether they’re professional athletes or families. It’s also part of Frederik’s vision to make Denmark the “most active nation in the world,” according to the event’s official website.
The Climate Advocate
Besides wanting to continue his mother’s legacy of creating a more modern and accessible monarchy for the Danish people, King Frederik has also been very vocal about his commitment to the environment. Sky News writes that the then-prince had been engaged in matters involving the environmental and climate crisis ever since 2009, when the COP15 climate conference began taking place in Copenhagen.
Mary Elizabeth Donaldson: An Accomplished Queen
Then there’s the queen consort, Mary Elizabth Donaldson, who captured the hearts of the Danish people despite being Australian by birth. The queen is the youngest daughter of Applied Mathematics professor John Dalgleish Donaldson, and Henrietta Clark Donaldson, who served as Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of The University of Tasmania.
Queen Mary was born on February 5, 1972 in Hobart, Tasmania, as per Lauren Hubbard of Town & Country. During a brief stay in the U.S, she attended the Clear Lake City Elementary School in Houston, Texas. Then, she returned to Australia to continue her education, studying in Sandy Bay Infants School, Waimea Heights Primary School, Taroona High School, and Hobart Matriculation College. Much like her husband, the queen possesses a love for the active lifestyle, and was a high-flying sportswoman during her school years, according to Kongehuset.
A High-Flying Professional
Mary would go on to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Law from the University of Tasmania. She then moved to Melbourne for graduate studies with the world-wide advertising agency DDB Needham. Afterwards, she began her flourishing professional career as an account manager in various companies like MOJO Partners and Rapp Collins Worldwide of Edinburgh.
In 2002, she moved to Europe for a short period, teaching English at Business English School in Paris. It wasn’t until later in the year when she moved to Denmark to work under Microsoft Business Solutions as Project Consultant for business development, communications, and marketing.
A Classic Love Story
Mary met Frederik in a bar during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. It was truly a meet-cute that played out like a classic romcom, as the young woman had no idea who Frederik was until a friend revealed his identity later on. As per Lauren Hubbard of Town & Country, the then-prince only introduced himself as “Fred” when they first met. Safe to say, sparks flew, and the two began a low-profile, long-distance relationship.
Hubbard adds that Mary and Frederik married in 2004 after years of courtship, though the public had an inkling they’d spend their future together given how Mary converted to the Lutheran Church earlier on. It was a grand occasion, with the princess wearing a dress by Danish designer Uffe Frank alongside an heirloom diamond tiara and veil from the royal family. She also had her late mother’s wedding ring in the dress’ lining and held a bouquet of eucalyptus that paid homage to her Australian roots.
Fit to Be Queen
In a feature for Vanity Fair, Erin Vanderhoof explains how the Danish citizens were quick to accept the Australian-born princess. Though she could freely speak English in the country, she made the effort to learn her husband’s mother tongue, and is very much fluent in it.
“She learned Danish so well that Danish people see her as one of their own,” explains Morten Pelch, a Danish PR representative, to Helen Russell of The Guardian. “She even gets our humor.”
In fact, Vanderhoof reveals that a Danish poll that came out after Queen Margrethe II’s abdication shows that 86% of Danish citizens believe Queen Mary will do well in her new position, while 82% of the nation feels the same way about King Frederik X. The king himself praised his wife’s guidance and wisdom in a recently released book, Kongeord.
According to Laura Gozzi of CNN, Frederick revealed that his father Henrik tried raising him and his brother with very patriarchal values. However, he intimates: “I have learned a lot from having a wife who, from time to time, reminds me that of course I am not always right, and that my words are not automatically believed, just because I am a man in the house.”
No One Left Behind
Queen Mary is the patron of a number of charitable institutions and meaningful initiatives, living up to her and her husband’s reputations for being “activist” royals. In particular, Mary oversees the activities of The Mary Foundation, an institution that she set up in 2007.
As per the foundation’s website, its mission is to “combat social isolation – based on the belief that everyone has a right to belong.” In essence, it aims to help those who’ve been ostracized by society—for reasons ranging from health complications to gender—find community through its various projects. These include campaigns that tackle bullying, domestic violence, and even the inherent loneliness that many people face today.
The Royal Family
Mary and Frederik have four children together: the eldest and Crown Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John (born 2005), Princess Isabella (born 2007), Prince Vincent (born 2011), and Princess Josephine (born 2011).
In line with their more liberal and accessible image as a royal couple, the parents do their best to ensure their children have a fairly normal upbringing. As per The Guardian, the king and queen have even sent their children to state schools. Jacob Gronholt-pedersen of Reuters adds that they’re often spotted escorting their kids in the streets of Copenhagen on a cargo bicycle.
“In many ways, they are a modern and equal power couple,” shared Jakob Steen Olsen, a commentator on the Danish monarchy, with Reuters. “You can say they are more activist and use their status to make the world a slightly better place.”
Banner photo by Hasse Nielsen from the Kongehuset Media Bank.