- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2004

Princess Alexandra of Denmark had no difficulty standing out in a roomful of gorgeous young dancers at the opening of the Royal Danish Ballet at the Kennedy Center last Tuesday night.

All eyes were on the cool, statuesque daughter-in-law of Queen Margrethe II as she swept from the presidential box of the Opera House into a private dinner after a performance of “Napoli,” by legendary Danish choreographer August Bournonville.

Her Royal Highness’ tailored, white sequin-embroidered jacket worn with flowing silk and chiffon evening pants and a rope of knotted pearls were sure to draw approving glances from the formally-attired guests.

Especially the ladies, of course, for whom everything is in the details. Even Best Dressed Hall of Fame perennial Deeda Blair was heard favorably commenting on the princess’ sleek silhouette and “exquisite, complex chignon” piled atop her head.

The wife of Prince Joachim, the Queen’s second son, was just beginning a four-day visit to Washington with a chockablock schedule of museum, monument and school visits; lunches at the State Department, World Bank and Hay-Adams Hotel (the last hosted by Wilma Bernstein, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Stuart Bernstein); to say nothing of tea with first lady Laura Bush.

Guests were eager to learn more about the princess, whose extraordinary allure can in part be explained by the fact that she is the first person of Asian descent to marry into a European royal family.

The daughter of an Austrian mother and British father with a paternal Chinese grandmother, Princess Alexandra, 39, met her future husband in early 1994 when he was visiting Hong Kong, where she worked as an economist. Their romance was kept secret until they announced their engagement in May of that year.

Any objections to the match were soon forgotten after she gave a speech in fluent Danish only three months after her first lesson. At the November 1995 wedding, her formidable mother-in-law made a point of welcoming her as both kin and countrywoman.

“Now you will have all of Denmark for your family-in-law,” Queen Margrethe told the princess before assembled dignitaries, including representatives from seven European ruling houses.

“She is so down-to-earth,” Mr. Bernstein assured royalty-shy guests as he and the dinner’s host, Danish Ambassador Ulrik Felderspiel, introduced her to Librarian of CongressJames Billington, banker Joe Allbritton, George Washington University President Steven Trachtenberg, commentator John McLaughlin, former Ambassador to Denmark William McCormick Blair Jr., National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dan Gioia, William Howard Taft IV, Rusty Powell, Count Peder Bonde, Ann Stock and other VIPs before dinner was served just shy of 11 p.m.

Although Justice Sandra Day O’Connor did rise to make a toast to Queen Margrethe, the rest of the evening was marked by an informality that was astonishing to protocol-conscious guests, who commented on the absence of a receiving line and the fact that the national anthems of Denmark and the United States were omitted from the program in the Opera House — in marked contrast to the pomp and circumstance in 1992 when the Queen’s sister, Princess Benedikte, made a similar appearance in the ballet’s behalf.

Princess Alexandra likely prefers a more low-key approach. With many royal duties and two small boys, Prince Nikolai, 4, and Prince Felix, 1, to care for, she has little time for airs and graces.

“My sister and I grew up as tomboys,” she explained with a smile, “so I never really thought much about being a princess until I became one.”

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