Palace to confront princess over title

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As King Harald and Queen Sonja got ready to wave from the balcony of the Royal Palace on Norway’s Constitution Day Friday, a confrontation seems to be looming inside palace chambers. Palace officials have finally broken their silence on the uproar around Princess Martha Louise’s commercial use of her royal title.

King Harald and Queen Sonja were back on the balcony of the Royal Palace Friday morning, to oversee the traditional 17th of May parade in Oslo on Norway’s Constitution Day holiday. Lurking in the background are concerns over how they’ll deal with public outcry over their daughter’s constant use of her “princess” title in connection with her various commercial business ventures. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“We’re following the debate and what’s being said,” wrote palace communications chief Guri Varpe in an email to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) late Thursday. “We will take up a dialog with the princess tied to the marketing of her business activities.”

NRK reported that Varpe wouldn’t elaborate on whether the dialog would only apply to the princess’ marketing and promotion of next week’s controversial series of appearances in Copenhagen, Stavanger, Tromsø, Oslo and Fredrikstad entitled “The Princess and the Shaman.” Martha Louise, daughter of the king and queen and fourth in line to the throne, will be appearing with her new business and romantic partner Durek Verrett, a self-proclaimed American shaman and alternative healer who has made claims in his own videos that greatly upset the medical community, religious leaders and physics professors in Norway, one of whom called Verrett’s claims “100 percent bullshit.”

Long-standing controversy
Debate and criticism has been flying for years over Martha Louise’s commercial exploitation of her title. Norway’s royal family has steered clear of product endorsements and doesn’t allow producers of goods or services to call themselves “purveyours” to any of the royals either, as is custom in some other countries.  On Thursday, newspaper Fædrelandsvennen called on Martha Louise to give up her title, so as not to further damage the reputation and credibility of the royal family and the monarchy itself.

NRK reported that the royal family now wants to distance itself from Princess Martha Louise’s commercial business operations, while the princess made it clear on Thursday that she won’t consider giving up her royal title. Now the question is whether her father, King Harald V, will strip her of the title because of all her controversial use of it over the years.

Princess Martha Louise (far right) with her younger brother and heir to the throne Crown Prince Haakon, his wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit and King Harald V. Speculation is rising over whether King Harald will feel compelled to strip his daugher of her “princess” title since she won’t give it up herself and continues to use it in her alternative healing business. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Varpe noted that Martha Louise did give up the “Her Royal Majesty” title in 2002, when she launched her alternative healing services that aimed at helping clients “get in touch” with their own angels. The reason, according to Varpe, was to create greater distance between her promotion of her own “special powers” and the official work of the Royal House. She also gave up her annual state income and has thus had far fewer official duties on behalf of the palace.

Now her activities and her promotion of those of her partner have sparked so much criticism that the palace clearly is worried. The bishop of Stavanger withdrew use of a local church by the princess and her shaman, concerned about the ticket prices they were charging and the nature of their alternative healing and self-improvement techniques. Not only have academics reacted negatively, so have the national epilepsy foundation, the national leukemia association and the state consumer protection authority, which announced it would be closely following claims made during “The Princess and the Shaman” series of events. Alternative healers are not allowed in Norway to promote treatment to people with serious or infectious diseases.

“The Royal Palace and health authorities must immediately stop quackery and alternative treatment that has no basis in reality or what the professional medical community stands for,” demanded the leader of Blodkreftforeningen (Leukemia Association) in a press release. Varpe of the Palace didn’t comment on whether the palace has responded. Defenders of Verrett in the US and Verrett himself have said he would never tell clients not to go to their doctors, or follow doctors’ advice. Martha Louise herself has once again blamed most of the controversy on the media, even though religious and academic leaders have reacted to videos promoting Verrett’s that are published on his own website. Berglund