Denied access to Mary, her relatives, her friends, and the Danish court — all of whom kept religiously buttoned lips — she had to turn to such sources as the obsequious ABC interview with Andrew Denton, the adulatory pages of Vogue Australia and the Australian Women’s Weekly, and to scour gossip mags like New Idea and Woman’s Day, not exactly known for their veracity, to find something — anything — that might be new.
With nil results.
However, if you want to find out the toileting arrangements of the private investigator parked in a car 24/7 outside Mary’s terrace in Bondi Junction, then read the book. The interview with this otherwise pleasant-sounding young man is by far the most revealing (and practically the only original) of those Ms Tom was able to scrounge.
Trawling the wheelie bin
He also had the unenviable task of trawling through Mary’s wheelie bin. ‘You need a strong stomach,’ he is quoted as saying. US$1,000 a day, paid by sections of the insatiable Danish media, would have helped.
It’s legal, if not exactly ethical, to scavenge through a garbage bin left on a public street. Ms Tom’s interviewee says it’s SOP (standard operating procedure). The Australian Institute of Private Detectives calls bin searches ‘an occasional tool’. A useful piece of information to file away.
Mary Donaldson, brought up in a happy if somewhat authoritarian atmosphere, where being successful at one’s endeavours was part of the family ethic, universally described as ‘nice’, friendly, good at sports, non-smoker, well-regulated drinker, well-educated and very together, was probably just what an equally nice young man might like to take home to meet mother.
Only in his case, he is heir to an ancient throne, and she was definitely from the wrong side of the Almanac de Gotha. No wonder their meeting and later mating has been the subject of much wonder and media mania.
Tom’s hissy fit
Ms Tom appears miffed that Mary, not she, won the prince (a trait discernible in many of the women quoted in this book) but she throws an even bigger hissy fit when the girl she is attempting to write about leaves behind not a speck of dust, let alone a dollop of dirt for Ms Tom to dig.
Faced with unrelenting royal rectitude and thrown back on her own resources, Ms Tom goes in for a distinctly vulgar vocabulary, no doubt to impress that she is just as good as, if not better than her quarry. To flesh out the very gnawed bones she is presented with to reach the publisher’s targeted number of words she adds explanations, extrapolations and totally irrelevant anecdotes.
Take The Slip Inn, the pub where Fred met Mary, for example. Why stick to three words when for an extra 78 of them you can write an excrutiatingly detailed exposition on the Sydney watering spot’s sexually ambivalent name?
Or elaborate on how you think a speculum designated for royal duty might be decorated. Emma favours gilt-edged, and latex gloves with red velvet trim. Latex gloves also appear in the book in conjunction with the words ‘rectal examination’. Nothing, of course, to do with Mary whatsoever, but revealing a literary dexterity that’s sorta awesome in its own way.
Ms Tom also manages to get in the word ‘fart’ in several instances, again a word not usually associated with royal circles, though I once heard Gough Whitlam describe such a scene with his usual urbanity and wit, and without once resorting to the f-word.
Most of the sniping is directed at Mary because she’s picture-perfect. Yet when our perfumed pen takes a potshot at Anne-Mette Rasmussen, wife of the Danish prime minister, for sporting ‘startingly visible “invisible” shoulder straps’ at the wedding, imagine what she’d say if Mary had a snagged stocking or an equally unruly piece of underwear.
She does admire the bridal gown, uses the word ‘exquisite’ and doesn’t dare call it by the downmarket ‘frock’ (as used elsewhere). But she still attempts to make the outfit sound salacious — ‘erotic and vaginal’ are her words and that, dear reader, was just for the sleeves. She didn’t hint at virginal; not even Ms Tom expects a 30-something bride to be intacta these days.
Because the CP of Denmark has impeccable grooming, she’s relegated to cardboard cutout. Or ‘refrigerator-magnetty’ to quote our Emma. Who goes on to say nastily that of course Mary looks good when she has a lady-in-waiting, a personal maid, access to some of the best frocks, hats and shoes in the world, and a hairdresser to give her a ‘daily blow job’.
Tsk, tsk. Just because you are indulging in royalty bashing, dear Emma, there’s no need to be sloppy. The word you should have used — something your eagle-eyed editor, as credited in the upfront pages, was probably too bored by then to pick up on — is ‘blow-dry’. You don’t have to get down and dirty to get your point across.
Or do I detect just a twinge of jealousy? I know it’s irksome to single-handedly coax a tangle of tresses into respectability when you are rushing to work — the ‘I’ve just washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it’ syndrome. And let’s face it, most women envy Mary for another attribute. She wears killer hats but doesn’t get hat hair. Those good fairies worked overtime at her birth.
When Mary dieted away a few kilos, not extremely many (even Emma remarks that a size 12, ‘size 14 max’ is hardly gross) the unexpected happened. The loss of a slight amount of plumpness revealed that Mary has the sort of bone structure cameras love. Not outstandingly beautiful in real life — she’s pretty, but not Miss World — she is what is called photogenic. And how the picture editors adore someone who doesn’t present with a bad photo, so she’s page one glamour material at any time.
She is also not the first person (usually, though not always, women) to change her religion, change her country or join an imposing family to be with someone she loves — think Janet Holmes a Court, think Vicki Roycroft.
And if, like Greg Barns, you rage at the idiocy of a hereditary head of state, I venture to say I prefer the fickle finger of fate for a titular figure to the ‘popularly elected’ heads of the United States — with a recent track record that includes an outright liar and cheat, a failed old actor, and a stumble-tongued moronic warmonger who trots out Godspeak to justify illegal actions.
Ms Tom gets more readable in the latter portion of the book when, knowing she hasn’t got another new word to add to the existing press, goes in for her own speculation about what it’s really like to be transformed into a princess and acknowledging it’s not all castles and curtseys.
She even ends on a positive note: ‘The romantic naysayers can whinge all they want about decent singles being an endangered species. Mary is walking, talking, royal-waving proof that you only need to find one to triumph.’ She forgot to add: ‘if you are prepared to pay the price.’
So that’s about it. You don’t have to get the book: you’ve read all the dirty bits here.
But because Mary plus princess sells a motza, our authoress and her publishers will have the last laugh all the way to the bank. After which they can indulge in a long boozey lunch. And, unlike for poor Mary, if they get nicely pie-eyed, nobody could care less.
More Mary …
There is a better book to look for, Mary, Crown Pincess of Denmark, by a trio of Danes. I am assured by the reviewer for Leatherwood Online, that despite a heroine who is just a teensy-weensy bit anodyne, it’s got some interesting background, is neither gratuitously nasty nor a rave-up, and has terrific pics. So frog kissers, for more details turn to another look at Mary here.
Something about Mary, by Emma Tom (Pluto Press Australia), ISBN 1 86403 273 1
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, by Karin Palshoj & Gitte Redder, translated by Zanne Jappe Mallett (Allen & Unwin), ISBN 1 74114 749 2
Both books can be bought online at the thisTasmania store.