We are still recovering from the royal wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge), but it only seems a few years since Australia had the excitement of seeing Mary Elizabeth Donaldson from Hobart marry Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. I don’t think we’ve got over the thrill of that yet, and the birth of the royal twins this year has been greeted with great interest and enthusiasm.
The unlikely relationship began on September 16 2000, when Frederik was visiting Sydney with the Danish sailing team during the Summer Olympics. He and Mary met at the Slip Inn Bar, where he was enjoying a casual beer and pizza night with his royal cousins; Mary was one of the locals who had been invited to join the party through friends of friends. There must have been something about Mary, because Prince Frederik introduced himself to her at once, and they immediately bonded over sport and horses.
When the media eventually learned of this first meeting, they played up the “prince meets commoner” angle to the hilt, and the fact that the Crown Prince had hit on someone working in real estate down the pub just seemed so beautifully down-to-earth. The media made it sound as if any attractive girl with an office job and a bit of luck could become royalty. The Slip Inn now advertises itself as being fit for royalty, and apparently is still popular with mid-twenties semi-sophisticates who hang around the bar sipping cocktails in slightly desperate hopes of meeting a prince of their own. It seems unlikely that lightning will strike twice though.
Mary and Frederik were able to keep their long-distance relationship secret for over a year, until the Danish press named her as the prince’s girlfriend in November 2001. The following month, Mary moved to Paris where she was able to visit Frederik, and in 2002 she went to live in Denmark permanently. During their courtship, the women’s magazines were bristling with excitement at the prospect of an Australian-born Danish princess, and when the couple became officially engaged in October 2003, they went into hyperdrive. It all culminated in the glorious royal wedding on May 14 2004, upon which the magazines exploded in a paroxysm of frenzied delirium and the Australian public went slightly ga-ga. It was seen as a modern-day fairytale – a simple Tasmanian girl meeting her European Prince Charming and moving into her own palace.
After the thrill of the wedding, there were royal children to look forward to. Mary and Frederik obliged by producing first Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John on October 15 2005, and then Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe on April 21 2007. Christian of course is Frederik’s heir, while Isabella was the first princess to be born in the Danish royal family since 1946.
In August 2010, it was announced that Mary was pregnant with twins, and on January 8 2011, she gave birth to a baby boy at 10:30 am, and then a girl 26 minutes later. By tradition, the names of royal babies are not made public until their christening ceremony, so we all had a few months to speculate what the names might be. As they were born on Elvis Presley’s birthday, Prince Frederik joked that the boy would be called Elvis, but did suggest that they might slip an Australian name in there somewhere.
Guessing the royal baby names became a national idle pastime for both countries, and some suggestions were Banjo and Matilda, Frederik and Marie, Christopher and Mathilda, and William and Mathilde. A Danish poll found Sophie, Adelaide, Caroline, Louise, Charlotte, Astrid and Alexandrine were popular choices for the baby princess, and Magnus, Erik, Harald, Sven, Knud, Axel and Christoffer for the little prince. Australians tended to make silly suggestions like Shane and Kylie, or Serenity and Grayson (not all of them were joking, I’m afraid).
At last the twins’ christening day arrived on April 14 and the long wait was over. It was revealed that Frederik and Mary’s twin son was called Prince Vincent Frederik Minik Alexander, and their twin daughter Princess Josephine Sophia Ivalo Mathilda. It seems that all the guesses that Matilda/Mathilda/Mathilde would be included were on the money, Sophia was much like the Dane’s popular choice Sophie, Alexandrine turned out to be Alexander instead, and Frederik being included was a bit of a no-brainer.
Vincent was an unusual choice, and came as a surprise to both Danes and Australians, as it is considered a rather old-fashioned name in both countries (I’m sure that will change now). Frederik after his father is a royal custom and was to be expected. The interesting name Minik is North Greenlandic, and honours the country of Greenland as part of the Kingdom of Denmark. I have seen Minik translated as “blubber”, “earwax” and “oil used for sealing skin boats”, but Professor Minik Rosing, who attended the christening, gives an alternative definition of “silent snowfall”. That is a much more attractive meaning, and very appropriate for a baby born in mid-winter. The name is pronounced meen-EEK. Alexander is a popular name in both Denmark and Australia, and has been used in the royal family, and by Mary’s family as well – Alexander is the name of her nephew.
Princess Josephine shares her name with one of her godmothers, an Australian friend of Mary’s called Josephine Rechner. However, I am unable to confirm whether Princess Josephine was named in her honour, or whether it is simply a coincidence. Sophia is another popular name, and has been used in the Danish royal family. Ivalo is a North Greenlandic name which means “tendon”, “thread” or “sinew”; it is pronounced EE-vah-lo. Mathilda has been used in the Danish royal family, and is a nod to Mary’s origins – the Australian name we were promised by Frederik.
From polling and surveying conducted online, the majority of people were approving of Vincent and Josephine as a twinset, with most liking the name Josephine more than the name Vincent. Nearly everyone agreed that they sounded great with siblings Christian and Isabella. People have generally been intrigued by the Greenlandic names, and Danish royal watchers have expressed satisfaction at their inclusion. They are two beautiful and carefully chosen royal names for the Danish royal family, which seem to have come as a pleasant surprise to everyone.
Congratulations to the Crown Prince and Princess on their twins, and happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, everywhere! Whether a royal or a commoner, I hope all mothers are treated like a princess today.
NOTES: Translations of Ivalo and Minik from Wikipedia and Behind the Name; Professor Rosing’s definition of Minik was reported in the Danish press.
If you would like to watch the royal twins being christened, you can see it here: