When I first heard the news that Queen Margrethe II was abdicating, I was shocked. I have been reporting on the Danish Palace for more than a decade and in that time interviewed a flurry of experts – protocol specialists, lofty historians, along with the journalists who follow this family every day for Denmark’s media. Not one person predicted a royal abdication, nor did I consider it a possibility.
Yes, Queen Margrethe had troublesome back surgery early last year and lost her husband and consort, Prince Henrik, in 2018, but the sovereign still seemed to be relishing her place at the head of the nation. What’s more, when her third cousin, Queen Elizabeth II, died in 2022, Margrethe became the world’s last reigning queen. With her abdication, monarchies are now entirely ruled by men. Why would she do that to us?
As I mulled over the news, I started to consider Crown Princess Mary, my other regular Danish interviewee over the past decade, and saw the royal light! This move actually made perfect sense.
In stepping down, Queen Margrethe was ensuring her monarchy’s future and rubber stamping the way forward, a thoroughly modern monarchy in which an Aussie commoner can become queen, and tradition will not stand in the way of progress.
It really was a no-brainer.
From our very first encounter it was obvious to me that Mary was not only uniquely suited to the royal job she found herself in, she was already adding considerable value to the ancient House of Glücksburg. At Crown Prince Frederik’s side, and also forging her own path, Mary was inspiring a nation. Suddenly the royal family looked thrilling and contemporary. No doubt Margrethe, now 83, saw this too and finally the time felt right.
So is Mary ready to be Queen? I think so.
It was 2013 when I first met her for The Weekly’s 80th birthday cover exclusive. Like millions, I had watched the wedding, its exuberance and emotion alongside all that crazy pomp and I was intrigued. Could a fun-loving Aussie girl really take to the strictures of a royal life? And could the Danes accept an Aussie as their next queen consort?
I went on tour with Mary in Malaysia, attending a high-level conference tackling women’s issues around the globe, then visiting a refugee camp and projects helping disadvantaged children.
When I interviewed Mary sitting by the pool in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, she was noticeably moved by everything she’d witnessed and talked about her late mother’s powerful influence on her.
Henrietta Donaldson, Mary’s mother, also had four children, but tragically died before her daughter had even met Crown Prince Frederik. “I’m sure she would be very happy to see me where I am, not only happy in my family life and where I am living and as a mother, but also to see that I’ve used my new situation and used the resources and skills I have to form a platform to make a difference where I can … And I think she’s probably smiling,” Mary told me.
“She definitely taught me to be independent and to trust in myself, and believe in myself. She made me think that whatever you set your mind to do, if you go after it, you can achieve it.”
After that first chat, Mary agreed to take part in a photo shoot for The Weekly at her home, Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. Happy to champion Australian fashion, she modelled our wardrobe of bespoke outfits, commissioned from a clutch of our brightest designers. And over lunch at the Palace, I got a genuine sense of how comfortable Mary really is in Denmark, and most of all her determination to make a difference.
I have to admit it’s a familiar ambition in the royal arena, but over the ensuing years I have interviewed Mary several times and she has been true to her word, spearheading sustainable fashion initiatives, working with the United Nations and fighting for human rights. While at home in Denmark, she’s undeniably a national treasure.
Yes … the time is right for Queen Mary.