Today in 2004, Mary Elizabeth Donaldson attended a pre-wedding theater gala in Copenhagen. The glittering event was held the night before her wedding to Crown Prince Frederik, and the future crown princess wore one of the family’s most important suites of royal jewelry for the occasion.
Mary, who met her prince during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, arrived at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen with Frederik on May 13, 2004, for the pre-wedding gala. In a nod to Mary’s Australian heritage, musical artists from Australia performed alongside Danish acts at the concert. One memorable moment featured Australian ballerina Margaret Illmann paired with Danish dancer Mads Blangstrup for the famous balcony scene from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Another meaningful act from the show was the Bridal Waltz from the Danish ballet Et Folkesagn, performed with costumes and scenery designed by Mary’s new mother-in-law, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
For the gala, Mary wore a dramatic red gown by Danish fashion designer Uffe Frank, who also designed the wedding gown she wore the following day. Frank reportedly took inspiration from one of Queen Ingrid’s gowns for the striking red dress, which features a short train. Mary has occasionally reworn this gown in the years since, notably appearing in it for a gala in honor of Queen Margrethe’s 70th birthday in 2010.
The light blue sash of the Order of the Elephant was draped across Mary’s red dress, with the star of the order pinned at her waist. The Order of the Elephant is the highest-ranking order of chivalry in Denmark. You’ll note the distinctive elephant badge, worn on the left hip, on Mary’s sash in the photograph above. The honor dates back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and it is generally bestowed today on members of the Danish royal family, as well as visiting foreign heads of state and senior members of foreign royal families. Crown Princess Mary was officially appointed by Queen Margrethe as a member of the order on May 9, 2004, just before the royal wedding festivities began. She appeared in the order’s insignia in public for the first time at a gala dinner held on May 11, 2004, at Christiansborg Palace.
At that May 11 gala dinner, Mary had also debuted the most important suite of jewelry in her new royal collection: the Danish Ruby Parure, which dates to the early 1800s. She wore the rubies in public for a second time at this gala. The set of diamond and ruby jewels was purchased by Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s marshals, for his wife, Désirée Clary. Désirée (who had once been engaged to marry Napoleon) wore the set at Napoleon and Josephine’s imperial coronation at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on December 2, 1804. She walked behind Empress Josephine in the grand imperial procession, carrying the new empress’s veil and handkerchief on a pillow.
Almost exactly 200 years later, Crown Princess Mary began wearing the rubies. The suite had become royal jewelry in 1810, when Bernadotte was elected heir to the throne of Sweden. (His descendants still reign in Stockholm today.) The jewels were passed through the generations, ultimately ending up with Princess Lovisa of Sweden, who married the future King Frederik VIII of Denmark in 1869. Lovisa’s grandmother, Queen Josefina of Sweden, gave her the rubies as a wedding present. Josefina specifically chose the set as her gift because the rubies and diamonds echoed the red and white colors of the Danish flag.
The rubies have remained in Denmark ever since. Subsequent Danish royal women have innovated with the set. Queen Alexandrine used the ruby and diamond hair ornaments from the suite to create a bandeau-style tiara. Queen Ingrid took that bandeau and had it expanded, making it into a large wreath tiara. On her death in 2000, Queen Ingrid bequeathed the ruby set to Crown Prince Frederik, asking him to present it to his future wife. Four years later, Crown Princess Mary fulfilled Ingrid’s wishes by wearing the rubies during her pre-wedding festivities, including this theater gala. In the years since, Mary has also made the set her own, adapting the size and shape of the tiara so that it better fits her head and making some of the other pieces more versatile as well.
For the May 13 gala, Mary wore nearly the entire ruby set, including the wreath tiara, the girandole earrings, and the necklace with its festoons and pendants. She used the large brooch from the suite, complete with its pendant, to secure the sash of the Order of the Elephant. She also wore the bangle bracelet from the parure on her left wrist.
Mary completed the look with two rings: her diamond and ruby engagement ring, worn on her left hand, and a slim gold band, worn on her right. Like the ruby set, Mary’s engagement ring was also designed to mimic Denmark’s national colors. All in all, the event was a very patriotic royal jewelry moment!