How nice to have an issue of this French royalty/aristo magazine devoted mostly to the Danish royals, highlighting of course their French roots and traditions. Too bad Yrma won't be able to read any of this. Just as well. It's quite pointed in its indirect put downs of the less classy, less sophisticated, just plain less way that the Boganborgs are handling their affairs. This interview was conducted by Adélaïde de Clermont-Tonnere, the young reporter who also wrote the feature article on one Carina Axelsson for the same magazine.
Complicity at Amalienborg Palace, Point de Vue No. 3367
Even though they're Danish and entirely devoted to their country, the prince and the princess have kept a certain tenderness twoard their country of origin: France. In the royal palace in Copenhagen, they received us with frankness and generosity, without mentioning a touch of humour.
On the superb, octagonal Amalienborg square, the changing of the guard will soon take place. A light dusting of snow accentuates the architectural purity of this 18th century gem in the centre of which an equestrian statue of King Frederik V is enthroned. Ascending the staircase of Christian IX's Palace, winter residence of the royal couple and one of the four identical residences facing each other, we were first welcomed by a wirehaired teckel whose collar was studded with golden crowns. Prince Henrik appeared a few moments later, accompanied by a luminous Princess Marie. During this Q&A game, laughter burst forth, the fruits of a charming complicity between father-in-law and daughter-in-law.
Pdv: "Monseigneur, in the new year, do you have any good resolutions?"
Henrik: "Like a lot of people after the holidays, I've decided to lose a few kilos, notably around my stomach. I was thin my whole life, but for the past 10 years, a little less! It seems I'll have to give up bread, potatoes, rice and wine which is a lot right there."
Pdv: "And sauces?"
Henrik: "Happily with age, I've almost become a vegetarian, so I won't miss sauces. I count on this advantage: I can live on fish and veggies. On the other hand, wine will be more difficult, especially since I produce it. What would non-professional wine connaisseurs say if I didn't drink my own wine? I should at least taste it.
Marie: "At any rate, you add some water to it, which is very reasonable."
Pdv: "You baptise your wine?"
Henrik: "I learned that at the French court from the 13th century on, that the sovereigns always put water in their wine. Since learning that, I've done the same.
Pdv: "And you Madame, what are your resolutions?"
Marie: "To have more time to myself... To do more sports as well. Honestly, for the past four years, between the children and this new life that's been constructed, I've put the kibash on my hobbies." [ed - she used the English word 'hobbies']
Henrik: "The violin of Ingres! The violin of Ingres! You have to defend the French language." [ed - 'le violin d'Ingres' is a term that refers to favourite pastimes]
Marie: "Excuse me! You're right... Since I've met my dear father-in-law, I pay much more attention to the French language. Usually, I'm very vigilant because I totally share his commitment. We should be proud of our language. It's idiotic to do like the rest of the world and splice in English words. 2013 resolution: speak without anglicisms and defend the richness of the French language so that my father-in-law is proud of me!
Henrik: "But I already am."
Pdv: "Before resigning yourself to your diets, did you have any French indulgences?"
Marie: "Everything! I'm very much a gourmand."
Pdv: "And you Monseigneur, what makes you give in to temptation?"
Henrik: "My whole life is temptation! Which doesn't go well with the 2013 resolutions. But if you leave out gastronomy - my weakness, I admit - it's chasing sun and warmth. I don't like the cold.
Marie: "You're not well situated then!"
Henrik: "Only on this point."
Pdv: "Do you have any projects that you'll keep close to your heart this year?"
Henrik: "I've always got plenty of projects. I have only completed some of them in my life, but that's already not bad. Today, I continue to have a number of activities, but like my dear daughter-in-law, I would also like to have more free time, especially with the grandchildren. I have eight now."
Marie: "My father-in-law definitely sees them, and sometimes without their parents! To have an authentic and personal relationship with each of them.
Henrik: "And it's not easy because the queen and I, like the grandchildren themselves, are very busy. As for the middle generation, because at that age you can handle it, there is even more work!"
Marie: "We have the luck to have extraordinary missions and to be able to make a difference with our position: what a privilege! My humanitarian missions have made a deep impression on my heart. I returned from Cambodia for example, with a Danish association (turning toward Prince Henrik) whose name I'm obliged to say in English, otherwise the reporter won't understand me... It was with DanChurchAid with whom we saw some of the poorest people there are. It wasn't just poverty, it was misery. When we meet people, everything is put into perspective. It's impossible to recover from if you have a heart. You can't but want to continue forward, wanting to put your strength into helping.
Pdv: "Since you both have a double French-Danish culture, could you tell us what the most seductive thing about Denmark is?"
Henrik: "The frankness and spontaneity are great qualities of the Danes. Another quality, conformity, which permits better group agreements, but those who are original and eccentric aren't as well regarded.
Marie: "I find that it's a quality, it's a happy people, very humble, very easy to get along with. In this country, things work and people rarely complain.
Henrik: "That's very true. On this point, they are not like the French who never cease to denigrate their own country, their system, their products. It shocks me when I go to France. In Denmark, we have the opposite: everything Danish is wonderful. That's terrific."
Marie: "The only weak point of this enthusiasm is that sometimes you have to question yourself before you go forward. But that's a great quality in order to be satisfied. Besides, a recent survey showed that based on their own declarations, the Danes are the happiest people in the world.
Pdv: "What have you learned from the Danes?"
Marie: "To think in a way that is more positive. But that being said, I adore my native country and it's thousands of qualities. Even if I've become Danish, France is still my country, my roots, my heart. I have an enormous admiration for the French."
Pdv: "You both have renounced your citizenship for love, do you understand the controversy surrounding the actor Gérard Depardieu who renounced his citizenship for other reasons?
Henrik: "I consider Gérard Depardieu's departure as an advertisement that must be heard. No matter the government, no matter the country, one should never puncture your citizens to an unacceptable threshold. Who's at fault? The citizen who finds it unfair that at least 80% of his income is taken and the State who doesn't stop at a fair limitation. There is a balance that needs to be re-established.
Marie: "In that it concerns me, renouncing my citizenship did cost me, I realise that. It was a big step, even if it was, in the case of my father-in-law and me, completely natural to do so. There are numerous countries which permit double nationality, but in our position, it was obviously not possible. Denmark is my country now, and I'm very proud of that. As for Gérard Depardieu, I don't know what to say...
Pdv: "The need for reserve that you are constrained to observe, doesn't that weigh heavily on you?"
Marie: "It's a natural tendency to want to be as honest as possible, to be able to say whatever you're thinking. This necessary reservation sometimes weighs heavily, but you learn to live with it and control your impulses. You could say what you think to your husband or your children. It's not necessary to share your opinions with the whole world.
Henrik: "Reserve is a universal wisdom. To know to control yourself is never a bad idea."
Pdv: "Has this constraint caused you to hesitate before you got married?"
Henrik: "Before our wedding, there were certainly many interrogation points. At the time, people considered that the queen was making a marriage with a frustrated commoner. You, my darling daughter-in-law, got married normally, in which you and your spouse were equal. This wasn't the case with me. There is no reason that I shouldn't be on the same footing as my spouse. I have the impression, and this impression will stay with me until the day I am laid in my tomb, that I am the second choice. Nor am I the only one who feels this way, Prince Philip shares my point of view. Such an inequality never existed before the 20th century, even less in the 21st. It's a sort of inverse discrimination, modern. For 5,000 years, queens always made their husbands kings. It's just an English fad which is the exception, which was followed by Denmark and The Netherlands. Go found out why! Even in Egypt or even in Byzantium empresses inherited the throne and made their husbands emperors. This injustice is rather hard to take.
Pdv: "Madame, you had some apprehensions before your wedding, were they justified?"
Marie: "They were. I've always been by nature a little anxious, but my fears had base in reality. On the other hand, what I didn't realise is that I'm capable of deplacing them and overcoming them. You find solutions. Certainly very extraordinary things have happened to me to the extent that some negatives were erased, like the difficulty in being exposed."
Pdv: "Do you have more confidence in yourself?"
Marie: "Confidence is a big word, but I don't doubt that my marriage has made me happy."
Pdv: "What has been your biggest hurdle?"
Marie: "The language above all. I speak Spanish, English, but Danish is another ball of wax."
Henrik: "You've been here for four years, and it's been two years that you've really spoken Danish correctly. It's admirable because Danish is a hard language, even the Danes recognise that. Foreigners often have the impression that one is speaking with a potato or some yogurt in the back of the throat when they try to speak it.
Marie: "And on top of that, there are no latin roots whatsoever on which to build, even if there are several French words."
Pdv: "What languages do you speak with your children?"
Marie: "My husband speaks only Danish with the children and I try to speak to them only in French, but my son only answers me in Danish. He's resisting. He doesn't want to speak French with me, even though he understands everything. We try to teach them both languages. It's such an advantage for them and it would be idiotic to do otherwise.
Henrik: "I was much more rigid than the princess. My wife and I decided that our children would be bilingual. Even today, when we have a family lunch, they address me and their mother, they alternate between Danish and French. Sometimes a sentence starts in one language and ends in another!"
Marie: "My husband in fact speaks French without the slightest accent."
Henrik: "Thanks to the firmness of their father! Otherwise all children look for the easy way out, it's only human."
Marie: "They looked for the easy way out? I understand everything!"
Henrik: "Absolutely! Very young, they spoke to me in Danish, like your son. Well, I played the idiot like I didn't understand anything. I did this so well that one day they had a wonderful 'out of the mouths of babes' moment. To a journalist who asked them what language they spoke with their father, my sons, very surprised, responded 'fathers, they speak French.' As if all the daddies in the world necessarily spoke French."
Pdv: "To get back to your son, was the choice of his name Henrik a homage to your father-in-law?"
Henrik: "You call him Henri most of the time."
Marie: "I do call him Henri, I can't seem to do it any other way, even if the name sounds good with a k on the end. It's a homage to my father-in-law, of course, but I've always liked the name, just like my husband. And since the boys in the family are often called either Christian or Frederik, I had to go a little to the French part of the family."
Pdv: "Did your father-in-law guide you through your first steps at court?"
Marie: "I think that we very quickly understood each other. My father-in-law immediately saw me for who I am and how I do things. He told me something very important: 'don't forget, don't let yourself: you have to stay who you are.' I have well understood to what degree being natural is essential. You have to respect your values and your convictions, even if it's not always easy. You must be strong, especially since there is no place for complaining."
Pdv: "Monseigneur, you have a very savory expression to describe your situation: 'a prince consort is a strange animal who must have the skin of a rhinoceros and the sensitivity of a seismograph at the same time' - how did you become this stunning creature?"
Marie: "That phrase is fantastic!"
Henrik: "By constraining myself, by holding back words and feelings, but it's a mission that's worth doing."
Marie: "At the same time, I think that these difficulties have allowed you to develop extraordinary talents. My father-in-law is a great poet, he makes magnificant sculptures. Maybe it's a frustration exercised off to one side, that exacerbates other talents."
Pdv: "Since you are both obligated to this reserve, do you keep a journal to record all of your thoughts?"
Marie: "No, I've never relied on writing to unburden myself."
Henrik: "Certainly, I keep a journal. It's not a secret, the Danes know about it. In it, I note what I'm doing, what passes through my mind. I think it makes an interesting witness."
Pdv: "Madame, you have often said that you would like to keep a normal family life, have you succeeded?"
Marie: "I think so. I try to be present for my children and to work like everyone, to go on holiday like everyone. We try to eat together as a family as much as possible, to continue to see our friends or to go bike riding in every kind of weather... In sum, we have a simple life.
Henrik: "In spite of official engagements, we have a normal life and I'm equally interested in those of my children. By contrast, I admit it, even if the Danish media wants me to be so in this regard, I have never changed a nappy!"
Marie: "It's a generational thing. My father never changed them, either."
Henrik: "People consider me a horrible father because I never did that."
Pdv: "Have Princes Frederik and Joachim yielded to this modern way?"
Henrik: "Absolutely, but they should hold their ground."
Marie: "Yes, my husband changes nappies, but less than the Crown Prince! My husband is more old school, like his father, but also like me, so that suits me."
Pdv: "Madame, you have said that the Danes are modest, you seem to be so, too."
Marie: "My husband has been a good influence then. It's one of the most charming things about him. He is so discrete! When I met him, I was stupified by his simplicity."
Pdv: "Are there things about which you're proud?"
Marie: "My children of course. And the immense honour to be a part of this family, notably for the humanitarian work that we accomplish."
Pdv: "Madame, in a previous interview do you regret, with the birth of your children and your obligations, to not have had the time to "build your nest" to use your words, at Schackenborg Slot? Is that now done?"
Marie: "Still not done. The agricultural property takes an enormous amount of time because we want it to go well. My husband and I are very close and very enthusiastic about this project. But you have to choose your priorities."
Pdv: "And you, Monseigneur, how do you feel 'at home' in these historic Crown properties?"
Henrik: "You have to put your heart into these homes, to the core of their stones. My wife amuses herself with my tendancy to play musical chairs with the furniture in our homes. I love these places so much and when I return from a trip, if things haven't moved for two or three years in a salon for example, I want to reinvent the decor. It's such fun. I do the same in all the rooms of our four or five residences. We are a little like luxurious gypsies."
Pdv: "The queen has declared that 'respect is earned'. What is the key to respect?"
Marie: "You have to know your place and engage wholeheartedly. Give everything you have. Here being natural counts a lot, too, I've come to realise. And to not be too 'olé, olé!'".
Henrik: "We are no longer an absolute monarchy. Respect, far from being automatic, must be earned, constructed. Once upon a time, children had to respect their elders independent of their qualities or defaults. Classes were very rigid, hierarchies, too. That doesn't exist anymore. Everyone must earn respect, most certainly in the case of royals."
Pdv: "Are these requirements compatible with happiness?"
Henrik: "Of course. To get there, I believe that you have to begin the relationship with the heart, and then follow with reason. With my wife, we very quickly made an important distinction, 'there is you, there is me, and there is us.' There are three people in a couple and I'm obviously not talking about a mistress! I'm talking about the entity of the couple. You have to make room for three."
Marie: "Spinoza wrote, 'it's necessary to continue to desire what you have.' I think that this helps a lot. I don't yet have as much experience since we've only been married four years, but I'm convinced about it."