In a packed city pub where hundreds stood transfixed by the Sydney Olympics 20 years ago, two strangers only had eyes for each other.
One was Mary Donaldson, a 28-year-old advertising executive from Tasmania who had no idea the handsome European tourist she had been chatting to for hours was actually Crown Prince Frederik, future king of Denmark.
Two decades later, the couple are living proof that fairytales can come true.
Married for 15 years and proud parents to four adorable children, the famously down-to-earth royals are adored by millions and appear to be more in love than ever, with Mary poised to become the world’s first Australian-born queen.
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Then: A fresh-faced Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark drapes his arm around Tasmanian advertising executive Mary Donaldson in a photo believed to be taken shortly after their first meeting in 2000
Now: Denmark’s future king and queen beam at La Grande Arche in Paris on October 7, 2019, almost 20 years after their first encounter at a city centre pub during the Sydney Olympics
After the Slip Inn encounter, 32-year-old Fred – who was in Australia to support Denmark’s Olympic sailing team – asked Mary for her phone number and a romance blossomed.
‘The first time we met we shook hands. 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”?’ Mary revealed in an interview about meeting the heir to the Danish throne.
They maintained a long-distance relationship for a year, with Frederik making secret trips Down Under before Mary moved to Denmark to study Danish language at Copenhagen’s Studieskolen in 2001.
In early 2003, Frederik’s mother Queen Margrethe publicly acknowledged the relationship and the couple announced their engagement at Amalienborg Castle later that year on October 8.
The couple are spotted together at the Melbourne Cup in 2002, months before Frederik’s mother Queen Margrethe publicly acknowledged their relationship
Frederik and Mary make their first official appearance together at the Tasmania Yacht Club ahead of the Dragon Boat World Championship on January 19, 2003
Frederik and Mary married on May 14, 2004 at Copenhagen Cathedral, with the newly minted Crown Princess opting for a beautiful gown by Danish designer Uffer Frank and a veil first used by Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden in 1905.
In a nod to her heritage, Mary carried a bouquet of Australian snow gum eucalyptus interspersed with blooms from the Palace garden.
At the altar, Frederik announced: ‘From today, Mary is mine and I am hers. I love her, and I will protect her with all my love.’
That statement appears as true now as it did 15 years ago, during which time the couple have celebrated many milestones side by side.
At their wedding in Copenhagen on May 14, 2004, the newly minted Crown Princess wore a beautiful gown by Danish designer Uffer Frank and a veil first used by Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden in 1905
Two decades on from their first encounter, the Crown Prince couple only have eyes for each other as they stand side by side in Paris on the first day of their royal visit on October 7, 2019
Their first child, Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John, was born October 15, 2005; Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe followed on April 21, 2007.
Almost four years later Mary and Frederik welcomed twins, Princess Josephine Sophia Ivalo Mathilda and Prince Vincent Frederik Minik Alexander at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen on January 8, 2011.
Standing on the hospital steps, a beaming Frederik declared: ‘It’s a miracle.’
The family has returned to Mary’s native Australia on many occasions, visiting famous landmarks in Sydney, Canberra and the Northern Territory and even spending Christmas Down Under in 2015.
The sporting event which brought them together continues to hold a special place in their hearts, with the couple attending the Olympics in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010, London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
In 2009, Frederik was appointed to the International Olympic Committee – a role he has had ever since.
Over the space of six years, Mary and Frederik welcomed four adorable children, Prince Christian (far right), Princess Isabella (second right) and twins Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine (front of photo)
Mary and Frederik are equally at ease in royal regalia or relaxing at home in cosy tracksuits, as this collage posted to the Danish royal house’s Instagram proves. The top image shows the newlyweds at Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre in 2004, while the bottom shows the couple watching a televised theatre production at home during lockdown on May 9, 2020
From humble Hobart beginnings to dazzling Danish palaces, Princess Mary has become a truly consummate royal by mastering diplomacy and regal decorum – an accomplishment that hasn’t gone unnoticed by her reigning mother-in-law.
In October 2019, Mary took one step closer to becoming the first Australian-born queen after she was named regent in a historic move by Queen Margrethe.
The title gives the Princess power to perform duties as head of state when the 80-year-old monarch is overseas or otherwise engaged.
Between raising her children and appearing at diplomatic events, Mary has worked tirelessly to prove her commitment to charity, becoming a patron of more than 25 international organisations since her marriage to Frederik in 2004.
Mary has mastered diplomacy and regal decorum throughout her marriage to Prince Frederik (the two are pictured at an art gallery in Odense, Denmark on November 2, 2019)
A historic move by Queen Margrethe in October 2019 placed Mary (pictured in Copenhagen on September 5, 2020) one step closer to becoming the world’s first Australian-born queen
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (left) has been given the right to act as regent in place of her mother-in-law Queen Margrethe (right) when the monarch is otherwise engaged
Princess Mary: A royal style icon
In the midst of mingling with world leaders and managing school runs, Mary has made a name for herself as a global style icon.
Known for her sleek and sophisticated dress sense, the Crown Princess has enjoyed a string of sartorial successes over the years and is known for recycling expensive pieces and restyling them with effortless flair.
Mary’s fashion sense is so widely appreciated that a public vote named her the World’s Most Stylish Royal twice, beating the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Letizia of Spain.
The future queen consort has posed for Vogue Australia and German Vogue.
A consummate modern royal, Mary mixes high fashion pieces with budget-friendly buys and patriotic Danish choices for her hectic calendar of official engagements.
The late Karl Lagerfeld once called Mary and Kate Middleton ‘royal sisters’ thanks to their strikingly similar appearance and comparable taste in fashion.
Mary’s signature wardrobe is made up of neat silhouettes, midi-dresses, quirky tailored coats and statement colours.
Her favourite labels include Chloe, Prada, Bottega Veneta and sustainable giant Stella McCartney, as well as Danish designers David Andersen and Mark Kenly Domino Tan.
Culturally, the Princess is a patron of Global Fashion Agenda which runs the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit.
Crown Princess Mary’s life has played out as a modern-day fairy tale (pictured in 2013)
Patronages include the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe and the United Nations Population Fund, where she supports their work to promote maternal health in more than 150 developing nations.
In 2007, the Princess launched The Mary Foundation, a charity focused on stamping out domestic violence, bullying and loneliness.
More recently, the Crown Prince couple have led by example to encourage Danes and people all over the world to do their bit to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Photos posted to the Danish royal Instagram account during lockdown proved the future king and queen were spending evenings in isolation just like everybody else – relaxing in front of the television in comfortable clothes.