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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Royal glamour lives on, for now

A large majority of Norwegians and Danes still support their monarchies, and the monarchs themselves back each other up. That came through loud and clear on Tuesday, when Denmark’s new king and queen sailed into Oslo and were met by fanfare and adulation.

King Harald hailed his royal guests from Denmark, King Frederik and Queen Mary, and the new Danish king responded with a toast of his own. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Norway’s 87-year-old King Harald V and Denmark’s 55-year-old King Frederik suddenly became equals when Frederik’s mother, Queen Margrethe, abdicated in January. Frederik is much closer in age to King Harald’s son, Crown Prince Haakon, but now they seem a generation apart. King Harald has made it clear he won’t abdicate, viewing his role as a lifelong obligation. He also won’t retire despite various health and mobiity problems.

King Harald has stressed how he values his family’s support, though, and he urged his new young fellow king to recognize the strength his own family can give him as monarch. “The people’s support alone can’t carry a king,” King Harald said, adding that “your family is your biggest support apparatus. That’s at least what I’ve experienced.” He also noted the historically strong ties between the Danish and Norwegian royal families.

His new Danish equal referred to that in his return toast to King Harald at a lavish banquet at the Royal Palace in Oslo Tuesday night. He noted how King Harald’s motto has been Alt for Norge (Everything for Norway), “just as it was your father’s (the late King Olav) and your grandfather’s (the late King Haakon, who’d been a Danish prince himself before becoming Norway’s king in 1905.)”

“Those are three words that bind three generations,” King Frederik told King Harald before the packed dining room at the palace. “You have really taken them to heart. You have given everything, and when there wasn’t more to give, Crown Prince Haakon and the rest of your family stepped in. Your strong family relations have meant everything in a difficult time.”

That was a reference to King Harald’s most recent lengthy illness, when he had to be flown home from a private holiday in Malaysia in February. Crown Prince Haakon had to take over as regent on several occasions, but on Tuesday he was back in his lower rank, while his former crown prince colleague Frederik joined his father’s generation.

The Danish king and his Australian-born wife Mary arrived after a similar state visit/courtesy call on the Swedish king and queen last week. They had a packed program i Oslo, too, including a royal welcome at Oslo’s City Hall plaza, a quick stop for formalities at the palace and a photo session before Haakon accompanied Frederik to a traditional wreath-laying at the National Monument. Then the Danish royal couple visited Parliament and had lunch with Haakon’s daughter and Norway’s next heir to the throne, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who also happens to be King Frederik’s godchild.

King Frederik of Denmark is one of Princess Ingrid Alexandra’s godfathers. The two met over lunch at the Norwegian royal family’s residence on Bygdøy in Oslo during Tuesday’s state visit. PHOTO: Det kongelige hoff/Simen Løvberg Sund

One of Norway’s so-called “royal experts,” historian and author Trond Norén Isaksen, recently suggested that the now 20-year-old Princess Ingrid Alexandra should be allowed to carry out official duties like her father does. Isaksen noted how some government ministers recently needed to be royally appointed while King Harald was still sick and Crown Prince Haakon was abroad on an official tour.

The absence of a royal regent could have been avoided if Ingrid Alexandra had been allowed to function as one, but that would require a constitutional amendment allowing more than just the first heir-to-the-throne to act as regent. Isaksen noted that Norway now has a legally adult heir to the throne in the second- as well as the first generation set to inherit the throne. “That can help the monarchy to function better, reduce pressure on the crown prince (who has often been doing both his job and his father’s) and give Princess Ingrid Alexandra valuable experience for her future as head of state,” he wrote in a recent commentary in newspaper Aftenposten.

Frederik’s need for ‘timeouts’
The new King Frederik of Denmark has, meanwhile, written a new book in which he writes about the importance of “timeouts” from the royal role, and how important it is to have “family time and free time.” His mother, like the late Queen Elizabeth of England, had a strong sense of duty and were criticized for not spending enough time with their children. Frederik thinks “timeouts” from royal duty are “important, because we probably will have more and more to do.”

His thoughts have bothered another royal expert, Jakob Steen Olsen, who told Aftenposten that “it seems like he thinks he should have time off and almost hang his crown on a hook and become a private person. That’s an understanding of royal duty as something you can give up from time to time.”

Olsen thinks that, in the end, can “demystify” royalty and make it seem like an ordinary job instead of a revered calling. Royal Houses need some form of “highness,” he argued. Olsen also noted that Frederik hasn’t given any interviews since becoming king, or answered any questions, although there have been several stories about how often he’s been away on vacation.

The lunchtime conversation between King Frederik and Princess Ingrid wasn’t revealed. Both royal houses seem keen, meanwhile, on trying to control independent media coverage, releasing only their own photos (if any at all) and  their own versions of events and avoiding critical questions, even though they’re still largely financed by the taxpayers.

Isaksen noted, meanwhile, that the Danish royal staff stopped reporting who is acting as regent after Frederik took over. “Some think it’s because they don’t want people to know how often he’s away on holidays,” he told Aftenposten.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Royal Palace staff in Oslo didn’t make any photos of the Danish royal visit available for press use. They did publish some that they’d hired a photo bureau to take on the palace’s own official website. They can be found here, but with text only in Norwegian.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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