The christening of Prince Christian

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The christening of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark’s first child was always going to be a significant event and, given the royal couple’s high profile, attract a great deal of interest. The focus of attention was the choice of name for Denmark’s little ‘kingaroo’ and how to acknowledge his Danish-Australian parentage. All was revealed on a spectacular Scandinavian winter’s day. Members of the Danish royal family have four given names. For example, Crown Prince Frederik’s full name is Frederik André Henrik Christian. André comes from his paternal grandfather, Henrik from his father’s name and Christian from his maternal great-grandfather. Henrik was naturally thought a likely choice for one of the new Prince’s names and John, the name of Mary’s father, was also on most shortlists. And the historic Valdemar, the name of two early Danish kings, was also considered a strong possibility. An outside possibility was thought to be a Greenlandic name. Frederik has a close connection to the former Danish colony and has participated in the island nation’s Sirius dogsled patrol. There is precedent for using a royal christening to mark the bond between Denmark and its former colonies. Queen, Margrethe II bears the name Thorhildur, in recognition of Denmark’s historic ties with Iceland, also a former colony. Although not announcing the name of the child until the christening was a teaser, it had more to do with superstition than theatrics. By keeping the baby’s name a secret, the royal couple were honouring a tradition that most other parents have long since abandoned – that the child’s name could only be said aloud at the baptismal font, or at the most, be whispered to the godmother just before the christening. Otherwise it was feared the child would not live long. In the case of Frederik and Mary’s child, affectionately nicknamed ‘kingaroo’, the person chosen to announce the name to the kingdom was Erik Norman Svendsen, the Bishop of Copenhagen. Svendsen married the royal couple in 2004 and has since become the preferred minister of the royal couple. Svendsen was seen as the natural choice for a nation that rarely uses the state-sponsored church outside of baptisms, marriages, and funerals. The Bishop, however, underplayed any suggestion that he has come to play a special role in the lives of the royal couple: “It’s what the heir’s parents have decided. It isn’t unnatural that the minister who married a couple also baptises their first child.” With the eyes of the nation upon him, the Bishop was looking at his role as minister of the church: “In practice, there’s no difference whether I baptise my grandchild, a child of a parishioner, or the coming king. Fortunately, I can block all that out once we get started. I just concentrate on the people I am together with in the church.”

The much anticipated day itself made for a beautiful, if freezingly cold, winter scene, as Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary entered Christianborg Palace Chapel for the christening of their first born. Mary, dressed in a sky blue tailored jacket and floral hair band, carried her son, who was swathed in a 19th-century christening robe that has been worn by many members of the royal family, including his father. The robe’s rich ivory shade was reflected in the silk-flowered head decoration Mary wore. Her sky blue jacket was chosen in keeping with the ‘blue-for-a-boy’ theme of the day. At Mary and Queen Margrethe’s request, the chapel had been filled with fragrant flowers from the palace gardens – laurel trees and rhododendron mixed with eucalyptus, a reminder of Mary’s Australian homeland. And, in honour of the little Prince, flowers in various shades of blue – French anemones, African lilies and hyacinth. The three hundred guests were drawn from Europe’s royal families, Mary’s family and the royal couple’s friends. Amongst Mary’s family and friends were father John and step-mum Susan, sister Jane Stephens, Amber Petty, who acted as one of Mary’s bridesmaids at her wedding, and former flatmate Hamish Campbell. Amongst the invited royalty were Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit of Norway; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; Princess Martha Louise and husband Ari Behn; ex-King Constantine of Greece and Queen Anne-Marie and Princess Benedikte (both sisters of Queen Margrethe); Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece and his wife, Princess Marie-Chantal; Crown Prince Philippe and Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium; recently divorced Princess Alexandra of Denmark and her two children; Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands. Around the altar, where stood the solid silver christening font constructed for royal use in the 1600s, the parents were joined by the eight godparents: Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; Jane Stephens and Hamish Campbell; Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece; family friend Jeppe Handwerk and Frederik’s brother Prince Joachim. Princess Mary cradled her son, who seemed slightly restless. Mary whispered throughout the ceremony to soothe him. Whenever he began to cry, she gently put her finger in his mouth for him to suck on. Prince Frederik couldn’t contain his emotions and cried a little too, leaning across to take his wife’s hand in his during the ceremony. Then, all was finally revealed when the Bishop of Copenhagen asked Mary for the name of her first-born. “Christian, Valdemar, Henri, John,” she replied, pronouncing the words with careful deliberation. The Bishop then baptised the infant using the intricately wrought, solid gold, royal christening set. The name was pretty close to the predictions, combining tradition, history and family and delighting Princess Mary’s father, John, and her father-in-law, Prince Henrik. The future King Christian XI is expected to lose his ‘kingaroo’ nickname and in future be known informally as ‘Chris’ or ‘Kette’. After the ceremony, he was soon asleep, while both his parents were close to tears as the music played. They told waiting reporters after the service it had been a “beautiful day”. The royal couple then left the church in a black Bentley. Following the ceremony the royal couple and guests made their way to Fredensborg Palace, 35km outside the capital, where they enjoyed a traditional Danish buffet augmented with some Australian dishes such as Tasmanian lobster, and washing the feast down with some Australian wine. Frederik and Mary also found time to give an interview. Little Christian, who by now seemed hungry and more than ready for his next meal, is certainly a healthy feeder: “He has almost doubled his birth weight,” said Mary. The Crown Princess also displayed her Danish language skills, telling the Danish media that her nickname for the child was ‘Lillemand’ (little man). (Royalty Magazine Vol. 20/02)