NRK boosts Mette-Marit’s image

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As Crown Princess Mette-Marit formally opened a church in her name in Miami over the weekend, Norwegians back home were being shown a glowing documentary on her life, produced by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). It seemed like NRK was intent on boosting the crown princess’ image, although some might argue that’s no longer necessary.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit was the subject of a documentary on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Sunday evening, that sometimes seemed to raise more questions than it answered. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Controversy erupted when Mette-Marit Tjessem-Høiby emerged as the new girlfriend of Crown Prince Haakon in the late 1990s. She reportedly had a wild past, little formal education and a son from a brief relationship – not exactly the stuff future queens are made of.

Most of the noise has since died down, though, and Mette-Marit has worked hard to find her place in the royal family. It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the state broadcaster to make the lengthy documentary, which dredged up her past again but mostly offered a string of overwhelmingly positive testimonials about the woman who went from rebellious teenage commoner and single mother to wife of the crown prince. The documentary didn’t coincide with the crown princess’ birthday, and it came three months after the couple celebrated their 10th anniversary in August, so there was no obvious news peg. But NRK had promoted it heavily and aired it in prime time on Sunday night, just before the highly popular British series Downton Abbey. A large television seemed virtually assured.

NRK offered some unique footage of the royal family, for example eating breakfast at home with the crown prince doing much of the serving. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

The documentary, first of two parts, touched on Mette-Marit’s admittedly wild past without going into any detail on what she really did as a young woman that caused such a fuss when her relationship to Crown Prince Haakon became known. There were archive clips from her tearful admission and apology to the Norwegian people, aired just days before the wedding in 2001, when she publicly stated that she’d “tested the limits” of what most consider acceptable behaviour. She distanced herself from narcotics, without directly admitting drug use, and said she understood that many Norwegians were having a hard time accepting her as their new crown princess.

Otherwise, there were no specific references in the documentary to the house-party life she was reported to be part of at the time, or her single motherhood. King Harald, in one of the many testimonials to Mette-Marit on the NRK program, addressed the issue mostly by describing “how brave” it was of her to confide in him and Queen Sonja about her past, but the monarch also refrained from detailing what she’d actually said. When she’d finished talking to them, according to the king, “I asked her, ‘Is that all, is there anything more you want to tell us?’ and she said, ‘no, that was all,’ so I responded, ‘OK, fine, we’ll go for this.'” That opened the door for the marriage to go forward.

The two royal children and Mette-Marit's older son from a previous relationship also were featured in NRK's documentary: From left, Prince Sverre Magnus, Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Marius Borg Høiby. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

The monarch said he wasn’t entirely at ease, though, until he explained the situation to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was leading his first government at the time. “‘I’ll get the government to along with this,'” King Harald quoted Stoltenberg as saying.

The crown prince, meanwhile, had made it clear they’d marry regardless, even if it meant he’d need to abdicate. “We all knew what the situation was,” Haakon’ only sibling, Princess Martha Louise, told NRK. Queen Sonja claimed in her testimonial to Mette-Marit that her proposed daughter-in-law’s honesty  is what endeared the young woman from Kristiansand to the royal family.

The viewer was left to speculate on exactly what Mette-Marit’s offenses were, if they went beyond her much reported partying in the 1990s. Meanwhile, her mother, two brothers and sister also were given air time on national TV to expound on Mette-Marit’s qualities. The family was portrayed as close-knit and loving, raising another question of why Mette-Marit felt a need to rebel as a young woman. It wasn’t answered.

The crown princess described herself as “a very complex person” who also likes to be alone. The closest anyone else came to criticism was that she has a temper and was “a bit spoiled” as the youngest of four children. Crown Prince Haakon seemed to apologize throughout the program for the “demands” he put on her by asking her to marry him and take on royal duties, that it would be difficult, without mentioning all the wealth and privileges of royal life that Mette-Marit also gained as part of the marriage.

NRK generally portrayed her, through interviews with family and friends and photos of her with her children, as a warm, sympathetic and caring person. Part Two of the documentary will air next Sunday, and is due to focus more on her development as a royal, her intermittent studies and her charitable work.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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