In Norway we recently had the very odd situation that a leading Labour politician, the Minister of Commerce and Trade Trond Giske, appointed a group of millionaire and billionaire heirs to advise him and the government on the future of Norwegian business and commerce in the coming decade. What was even stranger: he also asked the Crown Prince to join the group and the Crown Prince accepted. After massive criticism and accusations of politicising the monarchy, the Crown Prince withdrew almost immediately.
On Thursday I wrote an op-ed in Dagsavisen saying that it is almost incredible that the Crown Prince did not understand the impossibility of accepting such a task. As heir to the throne he is obliged to be politically neutral in order to be able to cooperate with whatever government the country has. But it must also be seen in relation to the Constitution, according to which the government is the King’s Council and thereby responsible for his actions. Thus it is impossible for the future king, who is occasionally regent, to accept a position as a councillor to the King’s Council.
I argue that this must be seen in relation to a number of other unfortunate events in recent years. The King is known to have intervened in the process to abolish the State Church to insist that future monarchs should also be required to be Lutheran Christians – although he is the current King, the constitutional requirements to future monarchs are really not his business.
Princess Märtha Louise has over several years now exploited her royal title commercially in a way which would be unthinkable in most other monarchies, while the royal family have been deaf to the criticism this has sparked. The Princess’s husband, who according to the King’s decision of 2002 is a member of the royal family, has made incorrect claims about former palace employees and used the media to wage public vendettas against certain individuals. When asked about this by a journalist recently, the Queen told the media rather sharply that they had to respect “our private things”, although it was in fact members of the royal family themselves who had gone public with these things.
The Crown Prince has thrown himself wholeheartedly into development and climate issues, topics where he can do something very useful by bringing attention to these two most important challenges to our world. But although this is praiseworthy it might one day land the Crown Prince in trouble. The country’s largest opposition party, the Progress Party, has no solutions to these challenges to offer except for reducing development aid and denying the existence of the climate problem. Thus we may in some years find ourselves in a situation where everyone knows that King Haakon VIII disagrees fundamentally with the politics of his cabinet.
In my article I ask if the time has come for the royal family to rethink what they can allow themselves to do and take part in without weakening their own neutrality and integrity.
The article in its entirety may be read here: http://www.dagsavisen.no/meninger/article474507.ece