Mary & Letizia: Parallel Lives

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Mary & Letizia: Parallel Lives: It was a little over six years ago that the lives of Mary Donaldson and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano converged when they married the crown princes of Denmark and Spain respectively. It was apparently pure coincidence that Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Prince Felipe had chosen to marry at the same time; but with the two weddings taking place within days of each other the two young women were immediately linked in the public consciousness. If near simultaneous marriages was all that Mary and Letizia have in common then citing coincidence would suffice, but a closer look reveals many similarities between them.

They were both born in in the same year: Mary in February and Letizia in September of 1972. Whilst their husbands were also born in the same year: Frederick in May and Felipe in January of 1968. These apparent coincidences have continued with the birth of their children. Mary’s first child, Prince Christian, was born on October 15, 2005, and Letizia’s daughter, Princess Leonor, arrived just a few days later on October 31. And the princesses’ second children, both daughters, were born in April 2007. Mary gave birth to Princess Isabella on April 21 and Letizia to Princess Sofia on April 29.

Is all this just a statistical occurrence or proof of a Jungian synchronicity, some meaningful connection between the two royal couples? At the very least causality must surely have lent cupid a hand! Prince Frederik and Prince Felipe were both at the age when marriage becomes a more pressing issue and both were free to follow their feelings without the constraints of marrying another royal.

Princess Letizia and Princess Mary: Parallel Lives

In early 2003, shortly before his relationship with Letizia became public, Felipe expressed his determination to find a love which would allow him to fulfil his duties: “I will not abandon my aim to marry someone I am in love with, someone with whom I  have an honest, profound relationship on which to base a family, common values and interests that will allow us to share a family and professional life . . . to serve Spain in the best way possible.”

A better summary of contemporary royalty’s desire and dilemma would be hard to find. But it is a dilemma that has become ever more surmountable as the gap between aristocracy and commoner is a shadow of what it used to be. Royalty’s aspirations have been increasingly middle class since the eighteenth century, although it is only in recent times that the choice of life partner has fully reflected this. And, naturally enough, the women the crown princes of Denmark and Spain were attracted to reflected this, both hailing from middle class families and professional backgrounds: Mary in the advertising industry and Letizia in journalism.

The fairytale for both ladies was certainly aided and abetted by the social mores of the day, each in their own way was a ‘catch’, they ticked enough if not all of the boxes an ideal royal partner needed to. But whatever forces combined to see them marry princes, the deciding factor was the ever unpredictable force of love. And no matter how many similarities we find, Maryand Letizia are very different personalities and this has been shown in how they have adapted to their new lives.

Mary was quicker to find her feet; Letizia initially showed signs of nervousness. The down to earth Tasmanian girl no doubt had plenty of nerves too but they were kept well hidden and within months people were talking about the ‘Mary factor’ as she stamped her identity on her new role. In contrast Letizia, although she had made a very favourable impression on the Spanish people, was slower to make the adjustment to public life.

Princess Letizia and Princess Mary: Parallel Lives

Which was slightly surprising given Letizia’s background in journalism and her experience as a TV news presenter, work which had taken her to all parts of the world. She had in fact been a nationally recognisable figure before her marriage having worked for some of the leading TV networks in Spain as well as America’s CNN news channel. A few months before her engagement was announced she had been promoted to anchor of the TVE daily news program ‘Telediario 2’, the most watched news programme in Spain.

Mary’s career goals were no less ambitious but her focus was in making her way in the corporate world. She had equipped herself with a combined degree in commerce and law from the University of Tasmania. Her first jobs were for Australian advertising agencies, but she was always looking to expand her horizons beyond her native country. Here too there are similarities in the two women’s lives. Mary and Letizia were both successful, independent young women with plenty of choice as they made their way in the world. And when they met their future husbands both had all their options open, although the romantic attentions of a prince was something neither could have anticipated.

Mary and Frederik’s first meeting was perhaps the more romantic, theprince being introduced to Mary at a Sydney bar during the 2000 Olympics. The romance began pretty much straight-away and soon turned Frederik into a long haul lover as he frequently jetted between Denmark and Australia. Letizia and Felipe first met in November 2002 when she was in Galicia on assignment to cover the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker. Felipe was there to view the damage caused by the oil spill, which was a major environmental disaster. A manager of the TVE news department is said to have introduced them at a dinner party at a friend’s home. They started dating the following spring. Both relationships were progressed carefully and Felipe was successful at keeping Letizia a secret right up until the engagement was made public. Mary, however, was outed as Frederik’s girlfriend by the Danish press in late 2001.

Mary subsequently took up a post as an English tutor in Paris and her gradual introduction as Frederik’s future wife began with private visits to Denmark, which were covered by the press. The official announcement of Queen Margrethe’s consent for the marriage came on September 24, 2003.  Felipe and Letizia’s engagement was announced a week later on November 1, 2003. It was more of a surprise and the couple acknowledged this in their first public appearance together two days later when Felipe spoke of his “conviction that Letizia is the woman with whom I want to share my life”.

Introducing the future crown princesses of Denmark and Spain was one thing, preparing them to be royal wives another altogether. In this regard Mary and Letizia were ideal choices as both could call on their professional experience as they learned the pleasures and pitfalls of royal life. Royalty generally has learned a good deal since the naive 1980s when Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson were thrust into the spotlight; an ordeal which caused them both great distress and undeniably damaged their marriages.

In the six years since their marriages neither Mary nor Letizia has encountered anything remotely resembling the woes that engulfed the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York. Enjoying stable relationships has been crucial as has, to some degree, the benefit of a more balanced relationship with the media. The behaviour of their friends has been vital. Mary’s friends in particular have been famously loyal in protecting her privacy and there have been no leaks or revelations about her life before marrying Frederik.

Which is not to suggest that there are skeletons in Mary’s closet! She is as she seems, genuine and approachable. Letizia is equally unpretentious and there has never been the slightest hint that either lady has had her head turned by the privilege and glamour of royal life. That Mary and Letizia share a great deal in common is evident. They are very different characters but chance and their life choices have brought them together and they are sharing a very rare experience. That they are handling it all with such consummate professionalism and personal charm means that the Danish and Spanish people have future queens they can be proud of.

Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol.21/11Royalty Magazine 21/11