When going through my articles of the past months, I noticed I have forgotten to tell you about the wonderful exhibition “Mary & Kronprinsesserne” (Mary & the Crown Princesses) that can be visited at the Koldinghus in Kolding, Denmark, until 30 December 2022. The exhibition was opened by Crown Princess Mary herself, accompanied by Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Benedikte. If you manage to visit, don’t miss the new permanent exhibition “Flora Danica – The World’s Wildest Dinnerware” that was only opened last week by Princess Benedikte.
The exhibition marks the occasion of the 50th birthday of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in February 2022. Not only does the exhibition paint a portrait of Mary herself, but also of her four predecessors Louise of Hessen-Kassel (1817-1898), Lovisa of Sweden and Norway (1851-1926), Alexandrine zu Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1879-1952) and Ingrid of Sweden (1910-2000), mother of the current Queen, Margrethe II.
The best one could do this summer was arrive as soon as the castle museum opened, and head straight to the courtyard, climb the stairs in one corner and go up to the exhibition. It meant that, at least at first, it wasn’t yet too crowded. The rooms are rather small and packed with items. The first one sees is a digital version of Crown Princess Mary projected on the wall, and you will meet her more often throughout the whole exhibition. She tells the stories herself, which is quite funny as you see her interactive version right in front of you. She guides visitors through the history of herself and her predecessors, and speaks about their role.
I vividly remember the time a young Mary Donaldson turned up in the media as the new girlfriend of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. The young Scottish-Australian eventually moved to Denmark, learnt the language and got to know the country and in October 2003 got engaged to her Frederik. I travelled to Denmark for their wedding in May 2004. By becoming the wife of the Crown Prince Mary turned into a Crown Princess. She was the first non-royal Crown Princess of the country, albeith not the first one coming from another country.
The main theme of the exhibition is what it means to be a crown princess: what is expected, how have her predecessors approached the task, and how does one prepare for ultimately becoming queen and taking on a new role? Of course the role of a Crown Princess has changed over the years, but Mary also talks about what she recognizes in her predecessors and what she admires or finds inspiring in them. She remembers:
“A crown princess faces the challenge of occupying an absolutely central position in a foreign country. You need to learn a new language and a new culture while under close public scrutiny – and you are keenly aware of how much there is to live up to. But you also have great opportunity for shaping your own role.”
Of course the focus is on Mary herself. The exhibition shows several pieces of clothing, paintings and her gorgeous ruby tiara, that one can observe quite closely. On the walls her personal photos from travels, family life and patronages are being projected. It is well worth standing in front of the walls and just wait what is shown. She is an excellent photographer herself. There is a nice selection of her clothing: her engagement dress and coat, a dress she wore when pregnant, the outfit she wore at the christening of her eldest son Prince Christian, an evening dress, but also a military outfit and her colourful Greenlandish costume.
I discovered that Louise and Lovisa had been quite good painters, found out about the social work of the crown princesses, their family life, their personal interests. Interesting to me was also the role of the media over the years. I was absolutely in awe of the silk moiré dress that Lovisa probably wore at her silver wedding anniversary in 1894. Also on display is the sapphire tiara of Queen Alexandrine and her meander bracelet, kindly lent by Countess Sussie of Rosenborg. And to show how they gradually became more “normal”: Queen Ingrid’s bike from World War II.
Although the exhibition is not as huge as I thought it would be, it was certainly worth the stop in Kolding this July.
The book & other souvenirs
Kongernes Samling has published a nice book about the exhibition in Danish: “Mary & kronprinsesserne“, written by Jens Busck. All five crown princesses have their own chapter, full of illustrations, although I would have liked to see a bit more items actually exhibited. It has 68 pages and costs DKK 129.
The shop at the Koldinghus sells plenty of royal books and postcards. They even sold packages for children with “ruby tiaras” and the “order of the elephant”, or a paper flower for Crown Princess Mary. One could either start crafting in the castle itself, or take the package home and try to create them there. I was quite tempted honestly to give the tiara a try, but decided not to.
One thought on “Crown Princesses at the Koldinghus”
Thank you for description. I regret I have been unable to see all the exhibition in Denmark this year. My friend was able to visit the Queens Jewellery Box and was ectastic!