Harald and Sonja - Introduction to the website
It is now one year, since this website was opened to mark the wedding of HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway to Miss Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby. It was then for us a new experience, a whole website celebrating a royal event that was expected to be grand. And indeed it was. The wedding of TRH the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess of Norway, after the initial tensions caused by the Crown Princess’ background, gave way to a magnificent celebration in Oslo, with dozens of members of European royalty and dozens of thousands of Norwegians gathering in the streets to celebrate, in what was definitely one of the most glittering royal weddings of the past decade. Even if perhaps the most obvious way to celebrate such an event would be a website about the preparations and then the wedding itself, we thought that we could put our interest in past royal events into some use and make a somehow interesting website about the wedding of Crown Prince Haakon’s parents, the present King and Queen of Norway.
We think the success of this website was quite inspirational and that was why it only meant the beginning of a series of websites about past royal events to celebrate present royal events. Our increasing knowledge of site-making, our intense research and writing and the help of so many friends, made possible that the new sites – about the wedding of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Mr. Claus von Amsberg, the wedding of King Baudouin of the Belgians and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and most recently the memorial site of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother of the United Kingdom – could become much more elaborate and functional, making this initial website look fairly simple, even basic. This is why, taking the opportunity of the wedding of Princess Märtha Louise, the daughter of the King and Queen of Norway, we started a major review of the site, incorporating not only a new, more modern look but also many new photos and some new information as well.
In the original introduction to this website, written in July 2001, we mentioned the similarities of the situation of the then Crown Prince Harald with the one of the present Crown Prince Haakon, by choosing commoners, Miss Sonja Haraldsen and Miss Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, respectively, as their consorts. Princess Märtha Louise has taken a similar step by choosing a rather unconventional consort. The liberality of Norway, already back in 1968, could help to explain the allowance of what now seems to be a common practice
in the European royal families. And the flag of liberal Norway was again waved to explain the reason of the acceptance of Crown Princess Mette-Marit as the future Queen of Norway, breaking most conventions, even in the first year of the new millennium.
But is it correct to say that only in liberal countries the demystification of royalty is happening? We have seen drastic scenes in the most conservative British Royal Family, the youngest daughter of the King and Queen of Spain married a handball player and the youngest daughter of the King and Queen of Sweden is allowed to have a semi-public relationship with a young man with a series of convictions and preparing to undergo trial again. It is right, we think, to say that the step taken by Crown Prince Haakon was huge. But it goes beyond occasional liberalism; it is the part of the idea of monarchy that is changing, slowly but continuously. Royalty has turned from something derived mainly from right of birth to almost-entirely duty of service, in the will of the nation and the people. The latter is now the main, perhaps the only reason why monarchies are kept, under constitutional rules and surveillance. But is it possible to imagine the monarchy without its traditions, without its magic, without its very uniqueness?
It is, for us, difficult. Difficult, but not impossible. The practical virtues of a constitutional monarchy, acknowledged in an European Union where many of the countries are monarchies, make it possible to imagine a monarchy increasingly losing its magic, its mystic, its traditions. But, in our opinion, it will become gradually more difficult for the ordinary subject to identify with a Royal Family that differs little from him or herself. And the problem grows further when the subject turns into mere citizen and has the Royal Family no more as a symbol of the nation, one of the most fundamental roles of royalty. In some countries, it is understood that the Royal Family can only maintain its position if it keeps its magic. However, in other countries, like it appears to be the case in Norway, the Royal Family seems to be expected to become each time closer to the people in every sense, making it possible to foresee what might happen all over Europe, in the future.
In any case, it seems to us that the Norwegian people do, much as they did in 1968, identify with their Royal Family and see their King and Queen as a major symbol of the country. We, thus, invite you to take a look back at a glittering event, mingling modernity with the very essence of glamorous royalty: the wedding of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Harald of Norway with Miss Sonja Haraldsen, on the 29th August 1968.
July 2002, the Editors