The European royals who have fled to Australia to escape the limelight

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Sixteen thousand kilometres. That’s how far Count Nikolai of Monpezat, who until recently was a prince of Denmark, has travelled to live in Sydney for the next four months.

Apparently, it’s all about experiencing life outside the mighty shadow cast by his royal family back in Copenhagen.

Count Nikolai, second from right, with his family, father Prince Joachim of Denmark, Princess Marie (in pink), Count Henrik (behind), Count Felix, and Countess Athena at Amalienborg Palace.Credit: Getty

Freshly stripped of his royal HRH title by his grandmother Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in an effort to streamline the Danish royal family, Nikolai has opted to set up camp in his aunt Mary’s old home town.

The good-looking 23-year-old part-time high fashion model has enrolled at the University of Technology, along with his equally good-looking girlfriend Benedikte Thoustrup.

Model royal: Count Nikolai walks for Dior in Paris.Credit: Getty

They’ve already been spotted out and about on coffee dates and watching the Danes lose to the Matildas during the FIFA World Cup. And while he may no longer hold his princely title, being a count will certainly get him a good table at Totti’s and a few party invites in status-obsessed Sydney.

His arrival sees the continuation of a peculiar tradition of young European blue bloods escaping gilded cages and fluttering to Australia to taste life without some of the unimaginable privilege they’ve been born into.

Not that a plush apartment with a harbour view is really roughing it outback-style with the commoners, but still.

Nicolai’s father, Prince Joachim, now 54, lived in country NSW for six months soon after graduating from high school.

As a 17-year-old, the prince worked on a farm at Wagga Wagga, revealing in 2013: “You have to let go of a lot of things that you thought were given. You have to adapt to a new environment, and once you return to your home, you will benefit from these experiences.”

Charles at Timbertop in 1966.Credit: Fairfax Media

King Charles III was a 17-year-old when he was dispatched for six months at Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop campus in the Victorian Alps.

He has since described those six months in Australia as “by far the best part” of his education. He undertook cross-country expeditions in blistering heat, logging 113 kilometres in three days, climbing five peaks along the way, and spending nights freezing in a sleeping bag.

“While I was here I had the Pommy bits bashed off me,” he said years later during a return visit to Australia.

On a chilly autumn night, inside a small boiler room at Timbertop campus, a then 14-year-old named Jonathan “Jonny” Southey had an encounter with the future King that he would never forget.

He was smoking a cigarette – a big no-no – when he was caught by the prince.

“He said, ‘Southey, you should know better than that. I better confiscate that cigarette’,” Southey recalled years later to The Age.

Southey figured he would soon be admonished by teachers and caned, but revealed the prince had “spared” him by saying nothing of the encounter.

Decades later Charles sent his wayward son Prince Harry to Australia in 2003.

In his biography Spare, Prince Harry writes about the joys of mustering cattle in dusty rural Queensland, as he escaped his life in fishbowl Britain.

Harry musters cattle on a horse called Guardsman at Tooloombilla in central Queensland.Credit: AP

“My family believed hard labour is the answer to everything,” Harry wrote.

“This wasn’t merely work. Being a jackaroo required stamina, but it also demanded a certain artistry.

“You had to be a whisperer to animals. You had to be a reader of the skies, and the land. You also had to possess a superior level of horsemanship.”

Despite planning to spend six months in Australia, the appearance of paparazzi camping out meant his stay was cut short to nine weeks.

Time out Down Under was also something his mother Diana, then Lady Spencer, had taken when she was mulling over Charles’s marriage proposal.

The then-Lady Diana Spencer described herself in later life as a “lamb to the slaughter”.Credit: Bettmann

For three weeks during the Australian summer of 1981 she secretly lived in a beach house in sleepy Mollymook, on the NSW South Coast, where local Margie Nyholm ran a fish and chip shop.

“This very tall girl started coming in and she had a scarf around her hair and big glasses on,” Nyholm later told Who magazine. “Her mother usually ordered fish and chips. Diana would stand there and look at all the food and then just buy a little fruit-juice box. She’d talk to her mother and her mother said, ‘Darling you must keep your strength up.’ She was trying to encourage her to eat.”

After Diana’s return to England, she and Charles announced their engagement on February 24, 1981.

Zara Phillips met her future husband, rugby player Mike Tindall, at the Manly Wharf Hotel during her gap year travelling around Australia.

Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary, pictured in 2021, with son Prince Christian.Credit: AP

And perhaps it won’t be long until another of Europe’s future kings is shipped to our shores. Princess Mary’s oldest child, Prince Christian, marks his 18th birthday in October.

The Danish royal family recently stated he would not be going on the official payroll until after he completes his studies and turns 21, at which time he’ll be taking on official duties.

That means the future king has three years to experience life outside the royal bubble, and given he is actually half Australian, he’d be welcome here with open arms … and probably a few cameras too.

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