As if recent criticism over his upcoming birthday party and wife’s wardrobe weren’t enough: Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) revealed on Friday that Crown Prince Haakon was caught speeding, and even swearing, while driving in California in May, but avoided getting a traffic fine. NRK caught the entire and ironically humourous episode on film, because a crew from the public broadcaster was in the car themselves and taping the ride down the California coast, in connection with a documentary on the heir to the throne’s 40th birthday.
“This will be fine footage for you,” the crown prince sarcastically said to the NRK staff member sitting in the back seat of the rental car that he was driving down what appeared to be California’s famous Highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Crown Prince Haakon studied at the nearby University of California at Berkeley in the 1990s, and was returning to the scene and to the beaches where he once surfed as part of NRK’s documentary.
The stretch of scenic coastal highway where the crown prince was driving has a top speed of 55 miles per hour (90 kilometers) even on its straight sections south of Half Moon Bay, but the Norwegian royal was picked up on police radar driving around 70mph. Suddenly both he and his NRK crew could hear a siren behind them.
“Faen,” muttered the crown prince on the NRK video clip that was published Friday on NRK’s website (external link, mostly in Norwegian). That’s a Norwegian expletive rarely heard from royals but which, perhaps unsurprisingly, was audible just before Crown Prince Haakon had to ask NRK reporter Hans Olav Brenner, who was sitting next to him in the front seat, to get out the rental car’s papers from the glove compartment. The California Highway Patrol always asks to see both the driver’s license and car registration in the case of suspected traffic violations.
Both Brenner and Crown Prince Haakon were clearly nervous in the awkward situation as an NRK camera apparently mounted on the car’s windshield kept rolling. Brenner is heard commenting that he didn’t think the crown prince had been driving too fast, and both shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
“Maybe it’s just my sense of TV esthetics, but I can imagine the police officer ordering us to get out with our heads over our hands,” Brenner told the crown prince while they waited for the police officer to decide their fate.
“With your head over your hands, it generally goes well,” Haakon responded, noting Brenner’s metaphorical mix-up. Brenner had meant to say “hands over our heads.”
Palace denies any influence peddling
Their car was being followed by one carrying security guards for the crown prince from Norway’s own police force. Brenner later told NRK colleagues that he believes the California police officer “was in contact” with them and was told that the speeding motorist he’d just pulled over was the crown prince of Norway.
Palace officials told NRK, however, that Crown Prince Haakon’s own police escort didn’t involve themselves or say anything that might have prompted the California officer to let the crown prince off with just a warning. He was given neither a citation nor a fine, merely advised to keep his speed “closer to 55 than to 70” and “be careful” because other police officers might not be so forgiving.
Like father, like son
The incident was withheld until the day before NRK is scheduled to air its documentary on Crown Prince Haakon as he reaches the mid-life mark on his way towards inheriting the monarchy. His father, King Harald, was also caught speeding when he was still the crown prince but was pardoned by his father, the late King Olav. The king enjoys immunity and the crown prince is legally answerable only to the king.
It’s not unusual, however, for California police officers to exercise their own judgment in the case of traffic violations, Traffic rules and practice varies from state to state in the US, but the California Highway Patrol is known for being both diligent and reasonable on the road. In Norway, there usually no such room for personal evaluation on the part of the police officer, and motorists caught speeding would be cited and fined at least NOK 4,900, unless they’re the crown prince.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund