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Princess and her husband draw flak

Several members of the Norwegian Parliament, from both ends of the political spectrum, are joining Norwegian bishops in criticizing Princess Martha Louise and her husband Ari Behn. They claim the couple has stepped over the bounds of royal conduct.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JUNE 19: Princess Martha Louise of Norway and husband Mr Ari Behn attend the Wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling on June 19, 2010 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

“Both of them have crossed the line,” the former secretary of the Labour Party, Martin Kolberg, told newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday. Kolberg now is a Member of Parliament, a member of its Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs (Kontroll- og konstitusjonskomité) and responsible for issues involving the monarchy.

Several members of the parliamentary committee have reacted negatively to the princess’ business operations, which involve helping people get in touch with their guardian angels. The princess set off more controversy earlier this week when she suggested to newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad that she also can contact the dead. She later tried to downplay her remarks.

“I can’t remember any situation in modern history where a princess has done this sort of thing,” Kolberg told Aftenposten. “I simply don’t think she should.” Nor is he happy that the princess’ husband, author and budding artist Ari Behn, has appeared as a model in a Swedish clothing company’s ad campaign, which features his “royal” ties.

“I think they’ve both gone over the line for what members of the royal family can do,” Kolberg said. “This infects the entire royal house and can in the worst case contribute towards weakening its authority.”

Per-Kristian Foss, a former finance minister and head of the Conservative Party who remains a Member of Parliament, also feels that the princess is getting into “dangerous” territory when she talks about angels and communicating with the dead.

“That kind of controversial activity within religion and faith is as touchy as politics (which the royals are not allowed to comment on),” Foss told Aftenposten. “She’s taking a big risk by doing this and I think it indirectly weakens the royal family’s image.”

Both Crown Prince Haakon, the princess’ younger brother, and Behn have defended Martha Louise, calling her “brave, caring and hard-working” among other things. There has been no official comment so far from either her father, King Harald, or her mother, Queen Sonja, despite the rising level of unusually harsh criticism from bishops and politicians.

Behn’s modeling job, meanwhile, “is both unnecessary and incorrect in his position,” Kolstad said. “I would be quite special if a government minister popped up in a clothing ad.”

Hans Olav Syvertsen of the opposition Christian Democrats called Behn’s modeling job “extremely unfortunate,” and expressed surprise that the staff at the Royal Palace didn’t advise him against it.

Syvertsen said he understands why several royal experts in Norway have recently called for Martha Louise to give up her princess title or at least voluntarily withdraw from her position as a royal heir. She currently is fourth in line to the throne after her brother, Crown Prince Haakon, and his two small children.

While Arild Anundsen of the Progress Party wasn’t so sure all the uproar around Martha Louise was entirely negative, Hallgeir Langeland of the Socialist Left indicated he was enjoying the fuss.

“I’m just glad that Ari and Martha stir up trouble for the royal house,” Langeland told Aftenposten. “That’s good for us republicans.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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