Sunday 23 September 2007

Breaking news! Tabloid journalist prefers Mary's babies to be home alone!

An editorial writer at Sydney's Newscorp daily The Daily Telegraph has written an editorial "Nanny state haunts Mary". From the blog's eye view, it would seem the only haunting going on is the Telegraph's editorial writer haunting royal message boards and grabbing onto random translations from the notoriously slippery Danish language!

The Daily Telegraph By Sarrah Le Marquand
September 22, 2007 Nanny state haunts Mary

OH how quickly they forget. Only two years ago Princess Mary was making headlines - both in Denmark and Australia - for vowing not to hire a nanny to help bring up her as yet unborn baby.
Heavily pregnant with her first child, Mary confidently told reporters: "My children will not be brought up by nannies."
Much was made of her declaration, particularly as the Tassie-born royal was so outspoken about not wanting her children to experience a childhood like that of her husband, Crown Prince Frederik, who was often left in the care of nannies while his parents attended to public duties.
Like many a new parent, it seems Mary has now discovered she spoke too soon. There was no sign of their eldest child as the couple toured New York this week. Although accompanied by five-month-old daughter Isabella on the trans-Atlantic jaunt, two-year-old Christian remained at home - was presumably under the watchful eye of a nanny.
This is not to suggest for one second that Mary and Frederik should be admonished for hiring a nanny. Like any modern couple, they're understandably eager to access the best childcare they can afford.
It's just a shame Mary felt the need to make such sweeping statements before she even gave birth. Until you've actually become a parent - and I say this as someone without children - it's best to refrain from judging both those with nannies and those without. It will only come back to haunt you later.
Sarrah, Christian was not just in the care of his nanny but primarily with his grandparents. John and Susan Donaldson stayed with Christian for the four days Frederik, Mary and Isabella were away. Mary and Frederik were hardly on a "trans-Atlantic jaunt", they were working.

Mary has never said "My children will not be brought up by nannies." This has been a recurring tabloid distortion and has popped up again this week during Frederik's and Mary's official visit to New York to promote Danish design and innovation.

To set the record straight for once and for all, here is the specific quote on nannies from the book by Anne Wolden-Raethinge (Ninka). The book is in Danish and has only ever been informally translated into English. In the context of talking about balancing work and children, Mary said:

In a family, the children have the highest priority ... Now, I am in a situation where I'll get a lot of help. Consequently I'll be able to work as much as possible in the time there is left. I'll consider myself to be a working mother, but I'll be 100 percent mother. My children won't be raised by nannies - definitely not. On the other hand, I am not a clinging mother-hen type of person. That may change, of course, when I actually have children myself.
Mary clearly states she doesn't know what the future would hold for her as a mother but is indicating a definite desire for herself and Frederik to be the main caregivers for their future children. The notion of not hiring nannies to assist Frederik and herself was never expressly stated. As a working couple it would have been a profoundly unrealistic statement to make... unless Sarrah Le Marquand thinks it would be fine to leave the babies home alone when Mary and Frederik are attending to their duties!

Frederik's background appears to have affected the parenting philosophy of the couple. Frederik and Joachim were cared for by the legendary nanny Else Petersen. She looked after Frederik and Joachim until they went to boarding school in France in 1982 when Frederik was 14. Frederik has spoken of her very fondly. Else Petersen attended Christian's christening, and was seen sharing warm interaction with Frederik, Mary and Christian in the DR1 coverage at the time. Frederik and Joachim apparently did not have a childhood which was as enmeshed in the everyday life of their parents as Frederik's and Mary's children are. Frederik and Joachim did not eat with their parents at the dinner table until they were four years old, according to Frederik's own account, and the Queen has confirmed in remarks of her own that she might have done some things differently in retrospect.

The decision to take Isabella to New York is the same approach Mary and Frederik have had with Christian - that she will go everywhere possible to minimise separations and maintain breastfeeding and their bond with her. Had Christian gone to New York it would have been a very complex operation. Christian and Frederik cannot fly together for security reasons, they would have needed both nannies, a different schedule of events and more PET security. As it was, Christian maintained his familiar routines with familiar people around him, his grandfather and step-grandmother, John and Susan Donaldson, his nanny Mette Hansen and many others he encounters in his everyday life, including at day nursery.

So to sum up the FYI on the nannies for the record:

1. Mette Hansen was employed just before Christian's birth. She is in her early 30s. She had worked at University Hospital as a paediatric nurse and was highly recommended by Mary's obstetrician. She was originally employed on a two-year contract, which has probably just been extended since we have not heard that she is leaving.

2. In January 2006 a nanny's assitant/nursery assistant was employed part time. She is a 22-year-old student, Mie Damgaard Kristiansen, known as Misse. We saw her walking Christian in his pram at Marselisborg last Easter while the grown ups were at the Easter Service at Århus Cathedral.

3. In February 2007 Frederik and Mary employed Ann-Alicia Thunbo. Alicia had worked for Joachim and Alexandra since 2002, caring for Felix primarily. Contrary to some tabloid press reports earlier this year, she was not fired by Alexandra, but seems to have had a flexible arrangement between the two families until Isabella was born. Alexandra retains the services of Merete Metz as a nanny for Nikolai and Felix. Alicia has not been seen much at all since Isabella was born, since Mary has done all the normal maternal care. The New York trip illustrates why two nannies are required.

There is little difference between the arrangements Frederik and Mary have and most middle and high income working parents in both Denmark and Australia and elsewhere in OECD countries. Parents who have their children in child care, school and the many other forms of care are not considered to be leaving the upbringing of their children to others.

1.) Mette Hansen returns to Chancellery House with Christian and Isabella the day before Isabella's christening while a rehearsal was still going on at the Palace Chapel, 2.) Mette Hansen in command of Isabella's pram, with Mary and Christian in Fredensborg Palace Park in July, 3.) Mie (Misse) Damgaard Kristiansen walking Christian last Easter at Marselisborg while Frederik and Mary were at church with the Queen, Prince Henrik and Prince Joachim, 4.) Ann-Alicia Thunbo (right) with Nikolai and Felix last June for the Circus Arena charity performance at Schackenborg. The ongoing nanny for Nikolai and Felix, Merete Metz, is holding Nikolai's hand (dark hair), 5.) Ann-Alicia Thunbo at Isabella's christening

Frederik and Mary shouldn't be in the position of being criticised for having a nanny by the press because they have openly stated their desire to leave distant royal parenting in the past. Unless Sarrah Le Marquand thinks it would be okay for the kids to stay up past their bedtime and go to, say, a state dinner? Christian could sit next to the visiting head of state in his high chair as Prime Minister Rasmussen feeds Isabella her mystery mash, while their parents and grandparents attend to the guests. Crown Princess Mary could burp Isabella before the toasts, keeping Christian entertained playing zoos with various Orders of the Elephant. (This sounds like a fun idea actually! You know, we'd love the photos!)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just posted a link to Sarrah le Marquand for you, perhaps there will be an apology shortly.

3:20 pm  
Blogger lotte said...

Hi betty,
Thanks for the support of sentiments expressed. I am not sure any apologies will be flying around. It is just democracy in the end, people have a right to have their say, right? even if it is wrong :D
lotte :)
PS: do you know how hard it is to get a newspaper to apologise? A complaint has to go through the Press Council of Australia. Le Marquand's piece isn't so bad, it is just recycling ill-informed "opinion". But lazy journalists writing from in front of a google screen in Australia should do a little more googling to try and get things right. Another idea: send a journalist to Denmark! But it is much cheaper to have a journo, desk and a computer in Sydney ;)

5:24 pm  
Blogger Tatiana said...

I think the idea of a state visit attended the Kronprinsparret kiddies is a FABULOUS idea!!!! Yay Prince Christian declares a Food Fight!! It's brilliant and inspired.... ;)

6:32 am  
Blogger Tatiana said...

Nah, it's not even worth trying for an apology. I mean, yes, true, the woman who wrote this editorial is ill-informed, but it's not slander. She didn't say Mary WAS anything. She only expressed her opinion of a statement (albeit a mistranslated one) in conjunction with subsequent behavior. If that makes any sense.... not worth losing sleep over. Mary didn't, I can assure you, and if anyone has the right to go after the woman, it's her.... but it ain't worth it.... unimportant, water under the bridge. ;)
I want to go to DENMARK so much! ;)

8:30 pm  
Blogger lotte said...


Look up the Press Council of Australia and see how unlikely an apology is!! Apology wasn't the aim anyway. Aim was for the media, which reads the blog, to get the story straight for next time. It wasn't written for royal watchers (although a few of them could do with some FYI). It is not unimportant to try and do something if the same misinformation keeps on circulating endlessly...

lotte :)

11:01 pm  

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