Saturday, 13 March 2010

My latest article: The limits of royalty

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:


  1. Perhaps mistakes like these stem in part from the younger generation of European royals' having grown up in societies with a broader upper crust, not an inherited nobility but rather an economic, cultural and political elite. After all, striving for personal achievements and recognition, backing social causes, and making full use of one's money and fame would all be expected and encouraged for a young business executive or celebrity, whereas being royal with constitutional constraints on one's position is an exception to the rule.

    I'm curious about what you would consider to be an acceptable solution for Princess Märtha Louise. I'm not well informed on her commercial activities or on how she's used her title, but many European royals hold titles and jobs at the same time, and to me it seems that it would be hard for a royal not to enjoy any advantage in a private career, if only because of the name recognition.

    By the way, would you be so kind as to answer an unrelated question for me? I've noticed that the king, queen, crown prince and crown princess of Norway have their titles in the genitive, e.g. Norges Kronprinsesse. Does that indicate a unique title, equivalent to "the Crown Princess", and does the same apply to Princess Ingrid Alexandra (whose title on the English language version of the royal family's website is "Her Royal Highness The Princess") and for the other titled royals?

  2. Yes, I do agree with you that this was probably a result of the Crown Prince's wish to do something useful with his position and amid enthusiasm he obviously thought this was a good possibility to do so. But it is quite remarkable that neither he, the minister nor their advisors understood the impossibility of this idea - Trond Giske is still insisting that it was a good idea.

    In my opinion Princess Märtha Louise might do whatever she pleases as long as the royal title is not used for commercial purposes. Her career choice is of course very different from that of for example Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, who works in a bank where his royal title is probably not used for promoting the bank. The royal career choice closest to hers is perhaps Prince Edward of Britain, who used the name "Edward Windsor" (and now "Edward Wessex") for commercial activities. That is also what Princess Märtha Louise should have done. She insists that she has no surname, but neither does Prince Edward. Of course everyone would nevertheless know who for instance "Märtha Louise Glücksburg" was, but it would separate her commercial activities from the royal family which she is part of and put her above criticism for exploiting her title.

    "Norges Kronprinsesse" is indeed the official/formal way of writing "The Crown Princess of Norway" in Norwegian. In the reigns of King Haakon and King Olav one never saw the title of prince or princess given in this manner (it was always for example "Prins Harald" rather than "Harald, Norges Prins"), but in the current reign the Crown Prince's daughter is sometimes referred to as "The Princess", but more often as "Princess Ingrid Alexandra". The latter is in my view the best option, as there can be (and are) several princesses, although only one of them is HRH. Until shortly before the birth of Princess Ingrid Alexandra the Court also often referred to her aunt as "The Princess".

  3. Thanks very much for your answers - as always.

    I was actually wondering whether the other Norwegian princesses and prince are officially titled Prince(ss) of Norway (and if so, whether it's phrased as "Prinsesse av Norge" or "Norges Prinsesse") or whether Princess Ragnhild Mrs. Lorentzen or Prince Sverre Magnus, for example, are like the Swedish king's sisters, who are styled Princess but not titled Princess of Sweden.

  4. In Norway the title is simply "Prince Sverre Magnus" and listed in the State Almanach as "Sverre Magnus, prins" rather than "Sverre Magnus, Norges prins". When those who are members of the royal family only (and not of the royal house) occasionally represent Norway abroad, the country should be added - for example "Princess Astrid of Norway, Mrs Ferner". The latter's memoirs are titled "Astrid - Prinsesse av Norge".


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