Guests invited to celebrate Crown Prince Haakon’s 40th birthday this weekend are also being asked to help pay for his main gift – “awesome” musicians who will play at an outdoor rock festival on the grounds of the royal estate at Skaugum. At least one unidentified guest has already given NOK 500,000 (USD 82,000), according to one of the prince’s party organizers.
Newspaper VG revealed the contents Tuesday of an e-mail sent to the more than 200 guests invited to “SKAUGUM Festival” this weekend by Morten Andreassen, a close friend of Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. In it, Andreassen discloses that guests, who will be camping out on the grounds of the royal estate, “already have given from NOK 500 to NOK 500,000.”
The Royal Palace itself has also sent out an e-mail in which “friends of Haakon” are told that his 40th birthday “is going to be a big event” and that “we are going to ‘rock him’!” The palace’s mail also asks for contributions to “a stage filled with awesome live music,” although the palace staff stopped short of suggesting specific amounts.
“Like most men,” the palace staff wrote, Norway’s crown prince “tends to buy whatever equipment he needs himself, and he has already accumulated a large number of material items. Therefore, a group of us are taking the initiative to go in on a ‘joint present’ (the music) that he will really appreciate and always remember.”
Guests are then asked to “please transfer whatever amount you wish to the following bank account number” for “The Royal Palace,” complete with the IBAN and swift codes needed for international money transfers. “We would also like to remind you of Mette’s message in the invitation that the whole idea of the Skaugum Festival is a complete surprise for Haakon, so please keep this in mind,” the letter adds, concluding that “we are all looking forward to this truly exciting celebration!”
It’s doubtful the “whole idea” will be much of a surprise, given the announcement made about the festival on the palace’s own website and the media coverage it’s received already. The follow-up e-mail sent by Andreassen also revealed how “Mette wanted to stage a festival, and festivals are built up around musical experiences.” He added that artists secured “are on par with the biggest festivals in Norway” and that “like all festivals … we have, without economic control, bought first and then we solve the problems with money afterwards. This is thus a desperate mail from a man who right now has serious money problems.”
Then Andreassen’s mail gets even more explicit, written by “someone who, in contrast to the Palace, is neither embarrassed nor has any restraints about urging you to support this gift and pressure you to give a little extra this time.” Even though he calls the palace “a guarantor” for the party’s costs, he asks guests to consider that a ticket to a music festival with the kind of (surprise) artists the prince’s party is attracting would cost “around NOK 1,000, and in addition you’ll be served cold drinks and good food for two days.” While contributions already have ranged from NOK 500-500,000, he wrote that most “are around NOK 2,000 per person.”
Andreassen, who told VG that the music is a means for “giving something back to Haakon,” also helpfully added the bank account information and asked that guests “pay now rather than later.” He wouldn’t say how much was needed in total, and added that others on the party organizing committee have contributed to make decorations and write songs.
One of the invited guests, comedian Bård Tufte Johansen, told VG that he thinks it’s normal for friends to chip in for joint gifts. He joked that he didn’t intend to give any more that he would have to a “middle-manager.” Others were more critical.
“It’s quite special to invite folks to a party and send them the bill afterwards,” Carl Erik Grimstad, a political scientist and former palace official, told VG. He called the e-mails “comical,” and predicted they’d provide “good material for stand-up comedians for years ahead.”
Grimstad also suggested that the bank account number should be revealed publicly so that anyone can help offset the costs of Crown Prince Haakon’s birthday party, not just his guests.
Palace spokeswoman Marianne Hagen said the palace sent out its mail merely “to orient guests” and wasn’t getting involved in the gift plans beyond that. “We’re hosting the bank account to give a feeling of security for the guests,” she said.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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