Norway’s Princess Martha Louise is creating credibility problems and even “a catastrophe” for the reputation of the Norwegian royal family, editorialized newspaper Dagsavisen this week. Fædrelandsvennen, the major daily in the hometown of the princess’ own sister-in-law Crown Princess Mette-Marit, urged Martha Louise to give up her title, but Martha Louise refuses to do so as criticism continues to swirl around her.
“That’s not something I’m considering,” Princess Martha Louise told Norway’s TV2 Thursday morning. It was her first interview since breaking the news herself early this week that she’s become involved in both a business- and romantic relationship with a self-proclaimed shaman from the US who has claimed he can split atoms and help cancer pasients.
Durek Verrett, age 44, has gained lots of publicity in recent years for being a spiritual adviser and healer with celebrity clients. The couple used social media to stir up a wave of new publicity just before launching a string of appearances next week at which they’re charging the public to hear them talk about their allegedly special powers. The now 47-year-old Princess Martha Louise has long claimed that she, too, has healing power and can help people get in touch with their own angels.
“We (shamans) in fact have the ability that gives us access to atoms,” Verrett told the Focus TV Network in an interview in which he claims he was “chosen” to be a shaman when he was five years old. He went on to say that “we” can rotate the core and electrons in atoms, to also reduce human age, calling such ability “really powerful.”
“That is pure nonsense,” retorted physics professor Alex Hansen at Norway’s prestigious University of Science & Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, which has produced Nobel Prize winners specializing in brain research. “Absolutely no grounds can be found for what he (Verrett) is saying,” Hansen wrote in a text message to newspaper Aftenposten.
Sunniva Rose, who holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Oslo, was even more blunt in her assessment of Verrett to Aftenposten. Norway’s largest newspaper: “What he’s claiming is 100 percent bullshit.”
Norway’s consumer protection authoritity (Forbrukertilsynet) confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday that its staff will be following and examining the content of the couple’s claims to their paying audiences, to ensure they don’t violate Norwegian laws against quackery. “We’ll have to follow all their marketing directed at consumers,” Tonje Hovde Skjelbostad of the authority told NRK. “That’s at the core of what we do regarding alternative treatments.” She said that alternative healers are not allowed to treat serious illnesses or ailments in Norway.
Norway’s national epilepsy federation (Norsk Epilepsiforbund) warned its members against trying methods offered by Shaman Durek. It will continue to accept Princess Martha Louise as a patron, however, while the national leukemia association asked the Royal Palace to distance itself from Verrett’s treatment claims.
Verrett himself dismissed the mounting public criticism shortly after landing at OSL this week: “I think that when we have criticism, it’s because people have fear, so they don’t understand certain things. When they begin to understand, and understanding wisdom eliminates fear. Criticism is normal.”
Bishop cancels couple’s disputed church appearance
The couple who set off a media storm this week suffered a setback on Wednesday, when Stavanger Bishop Anne Lise Ådnøy withdrew permission for them to hold one of their “The Princess and the Shaman” appearances inside Stavanger’s St Petri Church on Monday. The local pastor had approved it over strong objections from members of its congregation, on the grounds the modern Norwegian (Lutheran) Church is open to discussions of alternative beliefs.
Bishop Ådnøy initially condoned the event but changed her mind after receiving “more information” about it and, not least, the NOK 595 (nearly USD 70) ticket prices that the couple is charging the public. “It’s problematic that so much is being demanded of the pasient,” the bishop said live on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s national nightly newscast on Wednesday. “In the church people can be prayed for, and they can receive support and compassion during a tough period of illness, but it’s completely contrary to demand payment for such services.”
The princess, who was married in an elaborate ceremony in Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral from the Middle Ages but later divorced her author-husband Ari Behn, still wasn’t answering media questions on Wednesday, leaving Verrett to tell Norway’s TV2 that he was “very disappointed” by the bishop’s decision. “I wanted to be there, at the meeting with the bishop … and talk about the love of religion,” he told TV2. He claimed he can help cure sick people, arguing that the bishop’s decision to cancel appearance with Princess Martha Louise “shows a lot of ignorance.”
‘Using her title to promote the sale of tickets’
The couple chose TV2, Norway’s national commercial channel that competes directly with NRK, to finally face questions together Thursday morning. Appearing on TV2’s morning talk show God Morgen Norge, Princess Martha Louise said she was not about to give up her royal title. “I’m part of the (royal) family and it’ll stay that way,” the princess said. She also repeated earlier defense of her business ventures: “I am a princess, I’m born ito it,” she said. She said she had chose her lifestyle and her way of earning money and stressed that she no longer receives any income from the state, unlike her parents, King Harald and Queen Sonja, and her younger brother, Crown Prince Haakon and his family. She claimed that everyone who engages in her type of work demands payment for it, and so will she.
She said she could understand the calls for her to renounce her royal title. Fædrelandsvennen, the daily newspaper in Kristiansand, wrote that it’s up to the princess to choose her partner, and that she’s free to believe what she wants, but it affects all of Norwegian society when she and Durek Verrett use her princess title in a commercial context. “Märtha Louise is actively using her ‘princess’ title to promote the sale of tickets,” the paper Fædrelandsvennen wrote. “That’s indefensible.” The paper went on to editorialize that “Märtha Louise has been urged to give up her title several times. She should follow that advice, both out of consideration to herself and the royal family.”
Princess Martha Louise said on TV2‘s morning program that she can understand “that it’s important for them (the newspaper) to say, and I understand that they mean that, and I understand that it’s challenging for them to accept me as I am.” She also claimed she was no longer hurt by all the criticism and fuss she often creates.
Didn’t consult the king or queen
Asked whether she had discussed renouncing her royal title with her parents, King Harald and Queen Sonja, she said she had on earlier occasions when similar criticism arose that she was using her title to sell books and the courses she was teaching at what locally was called “the princess’ angel school.” She did give up the “Her Royal Highness” title when she started her own alternative healing programs and launched her “Astarte” business that later became “Soulspring” several years ago. The conflicts she raises by still using her “Princess” title in commercial ventures are not new.
Asked whether she consulted her parents in connection with next week’s “The Princess and the Shaman” tour, which begins in Copenhagen and then move on to Stavanger, Tromsø, Oslo and Fredrikstad, she said “no.” Asked what their recommendation was on the earlier occasions, she responded: “I’m not going to go into what they say.”
There’s been no official response from Norway’s Royal Palace to the media storm around the princess and her latest venture with her new partner, apart from a denial to Verrett’s claim that he’d initially been restricted by the palace in what he could say. Verrett later told TV2 just after his arrival in Oslo on Monday that: “Martha’s parents, they love me, and I love them. And they’re wonderful, and such good souls, and I think that’s what it’s all about, good souls.”
The 81-year-old monach, approached by media when he traditionally inspected his royal yacht moored in Oslo’s harbour on Tuesday, told reporters that “It’s nice she has found herself a kjæreste (romantic partner).” Asked what what his impression of Verrett was, King Harald responded: “I have no impression of him, I haven’t met him yet.” That makes it difficult to understand how Verrett could claim that “they love him.” They told TV2 together on Thursday that he has since met her parents. They wouldn’t disclose what they talked about, but Verrett called the royal couple “fantastic.”
Verrett, who lives in Los Angeles and is the son of a Norwegian-Indian woman and a father from Haiti, is on his first trip to Norway this week. He has said he’ll join in the country’s elaborate 17th of May celebrations on Friday, when Norway marks what’s now the 205th anniversary of its own constitution. It’s a day when the royal family gathers at the palace, with the king and queen waving from its balcony to the thousands of Norwegians marching below with flags and finery.
It’s unclear whether Verrett would be invited to join the family. NRK reported that he would attend a private luncheon at the palace. The royals had busy schedules before all the special events on Friday, with King Harald and his son, Crown Prince Haakon, having a joint session with Norway’s foreign minister on Thursday followed by an audience granted to the president of China’s Parliament, Li Zhanshu. Li’s visit has also generated great controversy this week, after Norwegian officials allegedly went along with efforts by their Chinese counterparts to stymie demonstrations in front of the Parliament against human rights abuses in China.