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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Norway grooms its future queen

Flags flew and canons roared at noon on Friday, when Norway’s Princess Ingrid Alexandra celebrated her 18th birthday and officially came of age. She’s the first woman in the country born to be a queen, and was undergoing a ceremonial crash course this week in the duties that lie ahead.

Norway’s Princess Ingrid Alexandra celebrated her 18th birthday on Friday, January 21, in a whirl of official meetings and traditions. PHOTO: Det kongelige hoff/Ida Bjørvik

As second in line to become monarch, after her father Crown Prince Haakon, the now-18-year-old princess is destined to become “Queen Ingrid” as long as Norway’s constitutional monarchy endures. All indications are that it will, as surveys continue to show strong public support for the monarchy. Perhaps most importantly for Ingrid Alexandra is a new survey reported by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week showing that the monarchy also has majority support among her own peers.

That can help as she’s groomed for her future role as head of state. On Thursday, she was given the grand tours of Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Office of the Prime Minister, before sitting in on her first Council of State on Friday. That’s the weekly meeting between the monarch and the government, when laws are formally approved and people are chosen for high-ranking positions within the public sector or on commissions.

Princess Ingrid Alexandra started the day before her birthday with a whirlwind tour of Norway’s three branches of state power, first here at the Parliament where she was greeted by its new president, Masud Gharahkhani. Newspaper Aftenposten noted how those she met during the course of the day reflect now Norway has evolved in recent years, with Gharahkhani, for example, the first President of the Parliament with immigrant parents. PHOTO: Stortinget/Peter Mydske

Ingrid Alexandra has also already been given her own office at the Royal Palace, something denied her commoner-turned-royal grandmother, Queen Sonja, for many years. Sonja made sure that when Ingrid Alexandra’s own mother and fellow commoner, Mette-Marit, married Haakon and became crown princess, she also received her own office at the palace.

Then the princess moved on to visit Norway’s Supreme Court, which is currently led by its first female chief justice, Toril Marie Øie. PHOTO: Det kongelige hoff/Liv Anette Luane

As myndig (legal age) in Norway, Princess Ingrid Alexandra now has the right to join meetings of the Council of State, and she may start performing more duties where royal representation is either required or desired. Her most important job ahead, however, is to concentrate on her education, according to the Royal Palace.

The princess was then taken to the Office of the Prime Minister, where Jonas Gahr Støre met her outside to escort her to the office he just took over last fall. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Ingrid Brandal Myklebust

She won’t graduate from the Norwegian equivalent of high school (videregå-endeskole) until June of next year, at which point she may opt for military training like the four generations of Norwegian monarchs ahead of her did before heading on to university. As monarch, she’ll be the ceremonial head of Norwegian defense forces: Last month she flew in one of the country’s retiring F16 fighter jets and late last year she took part in the army’s parachute jumping exercises.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is a close personal friend of the princess’ parents, so their meeting on Thursday was by no means their first. Now it was time, however, to orient the future queen about how the government works. PHOTO: Statsminiseterns kontor/Ingrid Brandal Myklebust

The princess won’t say what she’s most keen on studying, but revealed that “Mamma” (Crown Princess Mette-Marit) wants her to study medicine. Political science or international relations may be of more practical use in the years ahead.

The large, formal royal banquet that’s been part of all budding monarch’s 18th birthdays in earlier years had to be postponed indefinitely for Ingrid Alexandra because of the ongoing Corona restrictions. She’s been vaccinated and already infected as well, but strict limits on social gatherings made a large party at the palace Friday night impossible. The government’s gift to her, however, will be a large festive dinner at Oslo’s still-new Deichman Library at Bjørvika later in the year.

On her birthday itself, Princess Ingrid Alexandra joined the weekly meeting of the Council of State for the first time. From left: Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, her father Crown Prince Haakon and her grandfather, King Harald V. PHOTO: Kongehuset.no/NTB/Lise Åserud

A steady stream of state officials, meanwhile, from the prime minister to the defense chief were making courtesy calls and presenting various gifts at the Royal Palace on Friday, after the Council of State ended. She’s the first heir to the throne in Norway, however, who won’t be allowed to receive a car like her father, her aunt, her grandfather and great-grandfather did when they turned 18 and could finally legally drive as well. Newspaper Dagsavisen noted on Friday that the nearly 100-year-old tradition had to end, at a time when cars aren’t always considered politically correct in Norway and the City of Oslo keeps trying to limit private car use.

Nor is she allowed to receive any large gifts from commercial interests, following new rules laid down in 2015 to prevent conflicts of interest. Ingrid Alexandra will likely, however, have access to the palace’s and her own family’s large fleet of automobiles, as the paper pointed out.

When all the state formalities were over Friday afternoon, the princess could retire home to the crown prince’s estate at Skaugum for a small private party. Her life until now has mostly remained private, with only carefully controlled information emerging from time to time. Now she’ll have to become more of a public figure, although she’s already made it clear she intends to guard her privacy. She’ll continue to have enjoy great privileges and opportunity, noted Aftenposten, but at the same time her life was defined for her from birth. It’s a paradox for a modern social democracy like Norway to have what some politicians still consider to be an anachronistic form of government based on inheritance instead of merit. Its popularity endures, however, with future generations ready to some day chant “long live the queen.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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