A little over three years since their first visit Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary returned to Australia. A mix of the official and the personal it was also quite a feat of logistics – needing, as Mary told an admirer during the tour, a good deal of “synchronisation and organisation”. Even more so, as alongside the official duties, the latest additions to the family, twins Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine, were brought along for the trip, writes Simona Rossi. The tour kicked off in the New South Wales capital, Sydney, and a visit to the ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ at Bondi Beach. The exhibition which aims to bring art into the public space is staged on a 2km long coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. This year’s event boasted more than one hundred sculptures made by artists from Australia and across the world. The engagement was for the launch of ‘Curating Cities: Sydney-Copenhagen’, a five year research programme promoting the idea of using art and design to curate (literally ‘care for’) cities. It focuses on the use of creative strategies to meet the challenges of creating eco-sustainable urban environments – a theme which was very much the raison d’être of the whole visit. Mary presented the kids’ choice award to Sydney artist Ken Unsworth, whose ‘Look This Way’ depicts a skeleton on a ladder. Frederik presented the $5000 people’s choice award to South Korea’s Byeong Doo-moon for his sculpture ‘I Have Been Dreaming to be a Tree . . . II.’ On their way out, the royal couple were greeted by onlookers, including Sarah Robertson from Brisbane, who asked the princess for advice on coping with twins for her sister-in-law, who is expecting. Mary’s response was that it took “synchronisation and organisation” – good advice from a very busy mum! Later, whilst opening an urban sustainability conference at Customs House, Mary hitched up her skirt as she and Frederik jumped on to energy-generating bikes which provided (after some vigorous effort from TRH!) the power to make ‘smoothies’. For Frederik and Mary Sydney will always hold romantic memories. ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ was one of the places they visited in the early days of their courtship and is a short distance away from Mary’s old flat in Bondi Junction and the bar where the couple first met, the Slip Inn, is also close by.
The afternoon brought some local cuisine for the couple as they met Danish and Australian business representatives at the Garden Island naval base in Sydney Harbour; after which TRH went on to a meeting with Governor-General of Australia HE Quentin Bryce and her husband, architect Michael Bryce, at Admiralty House. The itinerary scheduled a two-day stay in Sydney and the following day Frederik and Mary met with New South Wales Premier Barry Robert O’Farrell. They also participated in an export promotion at Hotel Sofitel, where the Danish Agriculture and Food Council put on a showcase of Danish gastronomy with the award winning chef Rasmus Kofoed. Frederik’s engagements for the day were focused on environmental issues and promoting business ties whilst Mary visited the Westmead Cancer Care Centre. In the evening TRH attended a black tie dinner at Doltone House. Day three took took them 280 km southwest of Sydney to the national capital Canberra. Official duties stepped up a gear with a meeting and luncheon with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, followed by a meeting with the leader of the opposition in the Australian Parliament, Tony Abbott. TRH then attended the ‘Australia – Denmark Green Growth Forum Seminar’ in Parliament House, where Danish and Australian business leaders discussed the opportunities of investments in renewable energy and new initiatives for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. Frederik took the opportunity to call for fresh approaches to the economy and environment in the current troubled economic climate: “I think we must acknowledge that the continuation of past decades of growth is difficult to sustain. We need change. We need innovation. We need to work with our industries and businesses to find smart solutions.” Denmark, Frederik proposed, provided a model for other nations: “Denmark is among the most energy efficient countries in the world. Since 1980, our economy has grown by almost 80 per cent, without any increase in energy consumption.” PM Julia Gillard concurred in her speech, saying: “I know as Australia undertakes its own journey towards a low carbon future we have a great partner in Denmark. We are strengthened by your example and your expertise.” A short respite for some cultural sightseeing came at the National Gallery of Australia followed by a trip to the National Arboretum. The event was not open to the public but about 500 people, who had won a ballot, attended to catch a view of royalty. Their patience was rewarded as Frederik and Mary took time to chat and accept flowers and gifts.
TRH also planted a native Danish tree, a field maple. Canberra became the national capital in 1908 as a compromise between the country’s two largest and rival cities – Sydney and Melbourne. The honours were shared on this occasion, with Melbourne also hosting the Danish royals for two days. The welcome in Melbourne was as enthusiastic as in Sydney and Canberra, and further enhanced by the starstruck adoration of seven year-old Catherine Babie, who came to meet Princess Mary at the opening of the ‘State of Green – Join the Future. Think Denmark’ (the official green brand for Denmark which aims to strengthen awareness of environmental issues). Catherine, who was born the day before the royal couple’s wedding in 2004, was there to greet her idol after travelling with her family from her home in Adelaide. “She’s beautiful,” Catherine said after curtsying to the princess and giving her a bouquet. “I like her.” One of the highlights came on the second day when TRH joined children at the Melbourne ArtPlay centre. They greeted well-wishers outside the venue, which lies on the banks of the Yarra River, the river beside which Melbourne was founded in 1835. Mary looked fresh in the afternoon sunshine wearing a white skirt, floral print shirt, and nude heels, as she and Frederik watched and chatted to youngsters taking part in a challenge to build a city from Lego bricks. Meeting their very own princess was a great thrill for the children. As Frederik and Mary made their way to the door, several young girls stepped forward to get a hug from Mary and then clung to her legs, momentarily stopping her departure. Mary laughed and accepted more embraces from other children before thanking them all and waving goodbye. Earlier in the day Mary had already experienced the enthusiasm she creates when she opened the environmentally friendly building at Pakenham Springs Primary School. Upon arrival she was greeted by little girls in princess dresses and tiaras, cheering students waving Danish flags and admirers with flowers. After a formal ceremony, Mary toured the new building.
The next day saw TRH on separate trips. Frederik visited McArthur Wind Farm in South Wales. The facility consists of 140 Danish built windmills and is the biggest wind farm on the southern hemisphere. Mary visited Royal Flying Doctor Service in Broken Hill. She was greeted by several hundred people where she announced the name of the country’s first flying breast care nurse at the medical base.The flying doctor service is vital for people in remote areas. Mary told the crowd: “I’m coming to see the work, the invaluable work of the Royal Flying Doctors, and get a first hand impression of just how important they are for the isolated communities in Australia.” Mary’s efforts were applauded by the Executive Director of the South East Section, Clyde Thompson: “She is very interested in women’s health and in the training of medical students and what the RFDS does in remote areas.” The final day of the tour was dedicated to the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, the charity which was set up in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 in which the mentally disturbed Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and injured 21 others. Two small children, Alannah and Madeline Mikac, aged six and three, along with their mother, died that day. Because of this terrible act of violence, Alannah and Madeline’s father, Walter Mikac, Phil West and a small group of volunteers, including Gaye and John Fidler who survived Port Arthur, worked hard to set up the foundation, a national charity with the belief that all children should have a safe and happy childhood without being subjected to any form of violence. Princess Mary is a patron of the foundation and has a close connection to the tragedy which took place in her home state, Tasmania. TRH joined in a luncheon with business leaders from Australia and the chairman of the foundation, John Bertrand. The meeting focused on cyberbullying and showcased how the Foundation’s eSmart system is helping Australian schools to manage cybersafety. In the evening Frederik and Mary attended the annual ‘Starry Starry Night’ charity ball which raises funds for the foundation. The rain did not deter royal fans from coming to see the royal couple. Mary was at her most glamourous in an oyster-coloured Grecian-style gown with a flowing one-shoulder sash. The ball brought the official tour to a close. Frederik then travelled on to Vietnam for a two-day official visit before joining Mary and the children in her home town of Hobart for a private holiday. (Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol. 22/05)