Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his government hosted a formal celebration of Princess Ingrid Alexandra’s new constitutional authority on Thursday. The choice of venue drew some complaints, but the young woman set to become first Norway’s reigning queen in modern times seemed delighted by the festivities around her.
“Tusen takk (literally, a thousand thanks) for this fantastic celebration,” Princess Ingrid Alexandra said when it was her turn to speak at the government’s dinner held in her honour with around 200 invited guests. “Thanks to everyone who has contributed towards making this evening a wonderful experience for me.”
The princess was likely aware of complaints in social media, from library employees and from a city politician for the Reds Party about how her celebration had forced the closure on Thursday of Oslo’s still-new Deichman Bjørvika Library for security and logistical reasons. The leader of one of the library’s employee organizations called it “embarrassing,” while others suggested it reflected a need by the library to lease out areas to generate income. Newspaper Dagbladet editorialized that it was a “tone-deaf birthday celebration” for an heir to the throne that defied how libraries have been hailed as the homes of democracy. “The exception being made here violated that principle,” the paper wrote.
“The more I’ve thought about that, the more irritated I get,” Sofia Rana, who represents the Reds on the Oslo City Council, told newspaper Dagsavisen. The new, large and popular library “shouldn’t have been closed to the public “just so a few privileged persons can drink champagne and eat canapés,” Rana added. “Many students and youth use Deichman every day. It’s a beautiful cultural building and I can understand that the government wanted to invite for a grand dinner there, but they could have found another place. Wasn’t the Akershus Fortress available?”
That’s where state dinners are often held, but the princess said she was “very grateful that we can be here at Deichman this evening. Folks come here every day to borrow books, do school work and be social. I’ve been here myself several times, and it’s become a fine place.”
The government had also invited 25 young Norwegians representing all of Norway’s counties who are active in sports, culture, humanitarian organizations and politics to attend the dinner, along with a long list of exceptional and also young Norwegians, including chess champion Magnus Carlsen, the triple-gold-medal-winning para-downhill racer Jesper Saltvik Pedersen and singer Marie Ulven Ringheim, better known as Girl in Red.
The “official Norway” was also well represented by members of the government, the president of the Parliament and the chief justice of the supreme court. The princess had visited all branches of government on the day before her 18th birthday on January 21 and she thanked them for briefing her on how the country works: “You all welcomed me so much when I visited the three branches of power in connection with my myndighetsdag (her 18th birthday when Norwegians gain legal authority and responsibility).” She said the visits “were really a reminder of how lucky we are here in Norway, and a reminder of our democracy and the secure system we have. It’s been built up for a long time and we continue to develop it, and protect it, every day.”
Prime Minister Støre said in his opening remarks that “we’re celebrating a completely ordinary birthday, and an historic day for the nation.” He noted that Ingrid Alexandra was “born as the first female heir to the throne in the kingdom’s history,” and her important birthday came during a pandemic (forcing a five-month postponement of the official celebration). A month later war broke out in Europe, the continent faces an energy crisis, many elsewhere are facing a hunger crisis and the entire planet is in the midst of a climate crisis. He cited Nordal Grieg’s poem aimed at youth and urging them to “go into your time.”
“Your time has enough drama,” Støre said, “but in uncertain times, the nation has seen how the royal family knows how to go into their own time. They have understood their roles, as unifying and inclusive.” Norway’s modern monarchy was re-established by popular vote in 1905, and still enjoys the confidence of a broad majority.
“You nave a valuable heritage to take care of,” Støre told the princess from the podium, “but have confidence that you shall go your own way, in combination with tradition and renewal.” He also noted that the library venue was chosen because it also combines tradition with renewal, as a new, state-of-the-art building while guests dined on plates and used silverware from the historic Akershus Fortress and Castle. The renovated waterfront area of Bjørvika where Deichman is located is also, Støre noted, the site of where Oslo’s history began more than a thousand years ago.
“You enter a long line of many strong women who have formed Norway, but you shall do it in your own way,” Støre said. “I’m confident that it will be wise.”
The princess said she felt “very lucky to have grown up in a country where we have confidence in one another and were we together try to find good solutions. Confidence isn’t created by individual people, politicians or institutions alone. It’s created by all of us, working together. I’m glad I can share in that with all of you who are here today, and with everyone who lives in our country.”
Celebrations of her 18th birthday continue on Friday, with a gala dinner at the Royal Palace that will be attended by royalty from all over Europe including Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden with her family, Crown Prince Fredrik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, King Wilhelm Alexander of the Netherlands and King Felipe of Spain. Friends and family will also attend, including Ingrid Alexandra’s aunt Princess Martha Louise and her new fiancee, Durek Verrett.