The daughter of Crown Prince Haakon was set to undergo Norwegian teenagers’ rite of passage this weekend, known as konfirmasjon. While record few now choose a church confirmation, opting instead for a civil ceremony or none at all, Princess Ingrid Alexandra has no choice, and some commentators think that’s a problem.
The Royal Palace announced months ago that the 15-year-old princess will be confirmed on Saturday at the chapel inside the palace (Slottskapellet). As a direct heir to the throne, and likely to become Norway’s first modern female monarch, she’s constitutionally and royally obliged to confirm her faith in Norway’s Lutheran church.
Kjetil B Alstadheim, political editor of newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) and long a critic of the monarchy, doesn’t think that’s right. While many teenagers often feel pressured by family or local norms to go through with a confirmation ceremony (consoled or even motivated by all the money and gifts they stand to receive), Alstadheim says the pressure on Ingrid Alexandra is completely different.
“If she were to choose not be be confirmed, it wouldn’t just be a youthful rebellion against her family,” Alstadheim told state broadcaster NRK this week. “It would be a rebellion against the Norwegian constitution.”
“It’s true that she has no choice,” conceded Hans Fredrik Grøvan, parliamentary leader for the Christian Democrats party. “But as long as we have a monarchy, I think it must be that way, given the ties to the Christian cultural heritage that the constitution has.”
Grøvan also cited “a long tradition” of royal confirmations to uphold the Christian faith. “Ingrid Alexandra’s life,” he said, “is framed in another manner than other youth because she’s born into the royal family.”
Since Norway officially separated church from state, with the monarch no longer the official head of what’s now simply called “The Norwegian Church,” Alstadheim thinks the princess should have a choice. He thinks Norway could have chosen a monarchy without an obligatory confirmation of the Christian faith when church and state were separated. He argues that the monarch, a position Princess Ingrid Alexandra is destined to assume, is now only Norway’s head of state, not head of the church.
Norway’s current monarch, King Harald V (father to Crown Prince Haakon and grandfather to Haakon’s first-born child Ingrid Alexandra), has stated earlier, however, that if Ingrid Alexandra wanted to change her religion, the constitution would have to be changed first. The constitution was amended in connection with its bicentennial in 2014, but still maintains that “The King shall always be true to the Evangelical Lutheran religion.” Queens too, presumably.
Church confirmations decline
State statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway), meanwhile, has released new figures showing that only 56 percent of Norwegian 15-year-olds chose to be confirmed in the church last year. That was the lowest level ever registered by SSB, and down from 68 percent in 2001, when SSB started keeping track. Before that, church confirmations were much more common, with civil confirmation ceremonies gaining popularity in recent years.
The princess’ own feelings on the subject haven’t been made public. Royal Palace staff has revealed, though, that Ingrid Alexandra already has received a bunad from her grandparents that she’ll wear during the palace ceremony on Saturday. The bunad is from Øst-Telemark, and Queen Sonja (who also has an Øst-Telemark bunad) has reportedly taken an active part in her granddaughter’s bunad project.
Ingrid Alexandra already has a bunad from Vest-Agder, where her mother, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, is from. The princess has followed her confirmation studies in the congregation of her home church in Asker, west of Oslo.