Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit and her husband Crown Prince Haakon have once again made it clear that they only want press coverage of their children on their own terms. They publicly objected on Friday, via the official website of the Royal Palace, to a local magazine’s front-page coverage of Mette-Marit’s 21-year-old son’s new romantic relationship with a Playboy model.
The magazine Se og Hør ran a story in its recent edition about Marius Borg Høiby, Mette-Marit’s son from an earlier relationship before she met the crown prince in the late 1990s. Høiby grew up in the royal family after his mother married Crown Prince Haakon, but he moved abroad after finishing high school in Norway.
Høiby has no royal title, while his younger half-sister Princess Ingrid Alexandra and half-brother Prince Sverre Magnus are both heirs to the throne after their father, the crown prince. Their parents, along with King Harald and Queen Sonja, have nonetheless insisted that they consider Høiby to be a full-fledged member of the royal family.
Se og Hør has long catered to public interest in the royals, especially at a time when local news media no longer carries regular royal coverage. It thus reported that Høiby, who initially moved to California with a Norwegian girlfriend, “was in love again” and living with Playboy model Juliane Snekkestad in London. The couple, according to Se og Hør, celebrated Christmas with the royal family and have made a few “secret visits” to the crown couple’s royal estate at Skaugum, where Høiby lived after his single mother married the crown prince.
The magazine’s coverage clearly angered Høiby’s mother, who has gone to great lengths in the past to protect her children from unwanted press coverage. On Friday, a short press release appeared on the Royal Palace’s website, headlined: “Crown couple wants to take up last week’s cover story in Se og Hør.”
The press release brought attention to the magazine for those who hadn’t seen it on local newsstands. It stated that “Marius Borg Høiby has on several occasions expressed that he does not want media attention around his private life.” The statement added that young Høiby is “grateful” that the Norwegian press has “largely respected” his wishes.
It went on to note that “the crown couple thinks the presentation of Juliane Snekkestad in last week’s Se og Hør is “unfortunate.” Then the press release changed tense and became more personal: “We (presumably the crown couple) view this as a violation of the peace of private life (with) extremely unfortunate use of headlines and layout on the magazine’s front page. We view Juliane as both hard-working and clever. She should have been able to avoid landing on the front page of Se og Hør in this manner.”
The palace refused to answer any questions on the unusual press release. Neither Crown Princess Mette-Marit nor Crown Prince Haakon would elaborate and it was unclear whether they intend to file any further complaint. When asked whether they intend to take their objections to Norway’s national press complaints board PFU (Pressens Faglige Utvalg), palace spokesman Sven Gjeruldsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “they would have to get back to that.”
Se og Hør’s editor-in-chief Ulf André Andersen responded that the magazine understands that Crown Princess Mette-Marit wants to protect her son and his girlfriend “and we welcome a good and professional debate over our coverage of the royal family.” Andersen stressed, however, that he and his editorial colleagues viewed Høiby’s new romantic relationship as a matter of public interest.
“Marius Borg Høiby is a member of Norway’s most public family, and there is a long tradition of writing about relations and networks within the family,” Andersen wrote on the magazine’s website. “The romantic relationship between Høiby and Snekkestad has developed over a lengthy period and the couple has been living together in London for several months. She has been on holiday with the family at their private hytte (cabin) and been a guest at Skaugum (the royal estate).”
Andersen added that Snekkestand is a “high-profile model for (the American magazine) Playboy,” that Se og Hør wrote “a positive piece” and “never indicated that Snekkestad is not hard-working.” Høiby, meanwhile, is reportedly building up a career in the international fashion industry.
Can officially complain ‘like everyone else’
Reidun Kjelling Nybø of the Norwegian editors’ organization Norsk Redaktørforening told NRK that if the crown couple believes the magazine violated press ethics, “they have full opportunity, like everyone else, to file a complaint with PFU.” She noted that they have done that earlier, when Mette-Marit also complained about coverage of a lavish family vacation in the Caribbean. The crown princess also tried to shield her oldest son when she wrote “an open letter” when he left home, complaining that “Marius had been subjected to pressure from the press that I don’t think is worthy.”
Mette-Marit gained little public sympathy, not least because Høiby himself had posted private photos of he and his girlfriend at the time in California, and earlier had released family photos on social media as well. Some of his postings caused alarm for security forces, because Høiby perhaps inadvertently signalled their whereabouts. The couple responded by blasting newspaper VG for reporting on concerns around their son’s social media use and defending his right to use publish photo. They claimed it “came at the expense of a child of 15 years.” The couple won only a mixed scolding on their earlier PFU complaint.
Nybø noted that Høiby “is part of Norway’s most public (and publicly funded) family and has taken part in a series of official public occasions with the royal family, for example appearing on the balcony (of the Royal Palace) on the 17th of May. Then he must expect that he draws attention as a person, and PFU has concluded that earlier.”
Nybø told NRK that the national editors’ organization invited Crown Princess Mette-Marit to take part in a “dialogue” about media coverage after she wrote her “open letter.” Nybø said there was no response.
It’s unclear whether Høiby, who is now a legal adult and no longer lives with his parents, was aware or informed that his mother intended to launch another public complaint on his behalf.