Well that was fast. Princess Benedikte was profiled in this past weekend's edition of Borsen in the Pleasures section, an editorial off-shoot of Berlingske, and therefore, rather royal friendly. In light of the recent publication of It Costs a Kingdom, Benedikte's profile is more grounded in frugality and service. Given her age and lifetime as a Danish princess, her story can be seen as the old school form of royalty. Benedikte has always been elegant without being showy; her style doesn't prioritise competitiveness, trendiness or her budget, it is always tasteful, perfectly royal and yet perfectly fitting a woman of her age (born 1944, she'll be 70 in a couple of years). It is also not lost on the reader that this woman physically evokes memories of Queen Ingrid, seen by most Danes as a quintessential royal: a foreigner who became thoroughly Danish, royal to her fingertips, sweet enough to charm the masses and raise lovely daughters, but strong enough to force her husband to sober up and become a better king, and as this article points out, was quite keen on saving money and quality over quantity. What a contrast to Yrma! Hm, Operation Kick Out the Bogan seeds are being planted as Ingrid's profile is being raised again? A good start.
In a new hairstyle that is softly flattering and much less imposing than previously, the photos of the princess in her small but sufficient apartment at Amalienborg (no taxpayer-funded renovated psychodelic palace) show an approachable older woman who lives with old family furnishings - read: no unnecessary funds were spent here - with no obvious live-in staff - there is probably a cook and chauffer at her ready when necessary, and a maid for quick linen changing, but they probably "live" at Daisy's place - and an appreciation for fine Danish craftsmanship. In other words, just the kind of self-respecting, discrete, patriotic but charming royal you'd want.
After the article, there are some little asides printed in the magazine that came from the conversation that make good antedotes to further fill out Benedikte's personality.
Home at the Palace with the Princess
The portrait of Asger Aamund is staring at me as I walk slowly up the stairs in Moltke's Palace in central Copenhagen this first Tuesday in November.
As this year's honorary artisan 2012, a photograph of him greets in this prestigious place on the stairs up to the party room, where tailors, jewellers, furriers, stylists and hairdressers are right now finalising the models and unique works, which will shortly be presented at the Guilds' annual show for 2012. This presents a number of craftspersons with their finest creations. In Christian 8's Palace, the 68-year-old Princess Benedikte has arranged a tasteful apartment with furniture inherited from her parents, King Frederik 9 and Queen Ingrid. The air is charged with anticipation at the festively dressed audience who will turn up to celebrate craftspeople with a special ability to beautify us. Finally, tonight's patron, Princess Benedikte, and all will take their seats. The show can begin.
The day before the event Pleasures by Borsen was granted a meeting with Her Royal Highness at Amalienborg. Most of the furniture and paintings in Princess Benedikte's apartment are heirlooms from Queen Ingrid and King Frederik. The princess lives in the apartment one or two weeks a month in connection with official duties. From the apartment, she can look out to Amalienborg Palace Square, a view which she calls the "world's best".
"Not to be on holiday, but when work calls," she notes with a smile. The apartment has five rooms: a study, a living room, dining room on the first floor and a bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. Prince Richard, her husband of 44 years, is taking a nap while we talk. Family photos, private books and small tables with ceramics and knick-knacks dominate the study, where we sit and talk. On the walls, ochre Tyge Bendix paintings from Rome - King Frederik and Queen Ingrid's favorite holiday spot - and a small Eckersberg painting with Amalienborg Palace Square.
"It is important that we maintain awareness and respect for good craftsmanship. It has the quality of life and tradition to do, and there is really nothing finer than fine craftsmanship," the Princess says rhetorically when I want to hear why she said yes to be in the role of patron of the Guilds' annual show.
"And I get inspired when I see the show. I become aware of other talents than the ones I usually have the habit of buying from. Last year I found a beautiful, reversible jacket with mink outside and suede inside, which I had buy. I love to wear fur," continued Princess Benedikte, as she touches her hands, so you sense that she unconsciously feel the fur of imagination.
"We talk with our hands in the family," she laughs when I mention her touching the imaginary coat.
The princess reveals that it is highly Queen Ingrid, who have inspired and taught her to understand and appreciate quality. "The feeling of quality comes from my mother. She loved fine craftsmanship. Mama took me to shops and exhibitions, and so I often stood behind her and could hear her say," It's a beautiful case, tag and feel it".
"And it's true. One can hardly help but feel on a piece of furniture with a nice finish. This is a smooth and nice feeling. And it's the same with sumptuous fabrics," says Princess Benedikte, which to date interview is elegantly dressed in a simple green Elise Gug dress and black heels."My mother always said, rather two good, beautiful things than ten so-so. Always quality over quantity," says Princess Benedikte, in the same moment stresses that it is not just about buying at the most expensive price.
"The best bargain is yes, when you buy good quality at low prices. My mother loved to haggle, not in Denmark, but when she was on the markets in Italy." With charm to get far. "When Mother talked about his coup with triumph in his voice," remembers Princess Benedikte who even haggles over price.
"That I've learned from the older generation." In the small joys the princess is also concerned about the quality of the apartment overlooking the Amalienborg Palace Square - "the world's best", she believes. Inspired by her mother, she has made a virtue out of guiding her three children to be discerning.
"Especially my oldest daughter (42-year-old Alexandra, ed.), who lives in Paris, she has inherited an understanding of craftsmanship. But it has been a little harder for me than for my mother to take the children to exhibitions and skilled craftsmen, since in Germany we live in the country. Instead, they have got plenty of fresh air and the interest in horses."
If one is to appreciate craftsmanship in depth, it is often a good idea to work with materials and have a creative flair. The Princess notes with a smile that she does not have the same creative gene that her older sister, Queen Margrethe, has. "When it comes to creativity, we others have the pleasure of contemplating," she says.
Princess Benedikte does, however, do embroidery. In particular, cross stitch - as her mother did.
"I just finished an advent calendar for my grandson Constantine who is two years old. You can hang 24 gifts inside, and there are Christmas trees, half-timbered houses and Santa Clauses. As a good grandmother, I have also made an Advent calendar for my two other grandchildren, which I think is 'hyggeligt'," she says, pointing to the coffee table where we sit.
In the glass cabinet are more photos. Among one of the Queen from 2005, the official photo from the Swedish crown princess' wedding to the future King Frederik and one of a grandchild, Countess Ingrid at Legoland. But it is cross stitch under glass that is most interesting. It is a gift from Queen Ingrid to her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandrine.
"Mother both stitched and embroidered quite a bit. This cross stitch here is from 1949 and depicts all the homes that Queen Alexandrine lived in. The castle of Schwerin, where she grew up, Villa Wenden in Cannes, where she was married to my grandfather Christian 10, Sorgenfri Palace, Marselisborg Palace, Klitgården by Skagen and of course Amalienborg," says Princess Benedikte and lead the conversation back to the starting point: good Danish craftsmanship.
"Everything goes in waves, and I feel that good craftsmanship is enjoying a renaissance. We must also be careful that we do not only become a low-cost Denmark. From abroad we talk about Danish design, and it is precisely the quality and not the quantity that we can export," advises princess.
She welcomes the fact that the fashion industry is one of Denmark's largest export successes, and the Danish furs sell like hotcakes - especially to China.
The Princess enjoys the little things and is also concerned about the quality of the apartment overlooking the Amalienborg Palace Square - "world's best," she says. Princess Benedikte opened the double doors between her study and the salon. Her apartment in Christian 8's Palace overlooking the Amalienborg Palace Square has three rooms in a suite on the first floor, a study, living and dining room, and a bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. Prince Joachim has an apartment on the second floor, and Princess Benedikte and Joachim share three guest rooms between them.
And the apartment's paintings - not least Hammershøi and Oluf Høst, the many flower arrangements that she can not live without, and having started to read Christian Jungersen's latest book "You Disappear". "I have heard many good things about it. This should be a real quality book."
Princess Benedikte on
... eating well: "I love an awful lot of seafood, and I run toward crayfish. Unfortunately, I have become allergic to oysters, but caviar is nice every now and then. My favourite food is salads in different guises, but Italian cuisine is also wonderful. Also Asian foods are among my favorites, but not sushi, I'm not into raw. The most important thing for me is that it tastes good and at the same time is easy."
... maintaining her figure: "I do not eat an overwhelming amount and I have many good stairs to train on. Both here at Amalienborg and Berleburg. I am also like to ski and ride. When I'm at home on Berleburg, I ride every day. Riding is my hobby."
... colours: "Colours appeal to me. I have always liked red - in all shades from deep red to pale pink, but I also like to use other colours, and I imagine that most colour suits me. My mother was also happy to use colours. If I'm going to a party, I often coordinate colours with the Queen. My mother was very conscious that we three sisters did not come in the same colour, and that is still in me."
... saving her clothes: "I go mostly toward Danish design, something that suits me and my style. Good quality should like to last for several seasons, and I do not throw clothes out. This is why I buy only things that I can preserve and save in the closet in the attic. After it's been there a few years, I take out an old favourite, and it is often a pleasure. I also inherited substantial rolls of fabric from my mother that I had sewn into dresses. The quality was outstanding."
... collecting things: "I don't really collect anything, but my mother had a fine ceramics collection that we three daughters have shared. I have my things out in the apartment here at Amalienborg, and there are pieces by Axel Salto, Gertrud Vasegaard and Alev Siesbye - several extremely delicate things. The mere sight of them makes me happy. My husband is very fond of antiques and has a great nose for it. Over the years, he has bought really good things, and we often go to antique shops here in Copenhagen."
Photos: Magnus Møller