Princess for a Year: Norway's Party Girl

Dear Fairy Godmother,

Help! I liked riding in the pumpkin coach, but the paparazzi are just too much. As for royal duties, I'd rather be back cleaning up after my wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Is it too late to smash that glass slipper?

— Cinderella

In the past two decades, the world has watched while three commoners married British royal princes — and found that the fairy tale came with more than a few pitfalls.

Princess Diana's unhappy marriage rocked the monarchy, Sarah Ferguson ended up splashed across the tabloids with her toe in a Texan's mouth, and Sophie Rhys-Jones ran afoul of some tabloid trickery following her marriage to Prince Edward.

But there is one commoner-turned-royal who seems to be getting it right.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit, 29, has made it through her first year of marriage to the heir to Norway's throne without any major gaffes or glitches.

"I think in most people's eyes she has done quite a good job," said Liv Berit Tessem, who covers the royals for the Aftenposten, Norway's leading broadsheet newspaper.

From Single Mom to Royal Princess

When she married Crown Prince Haakon in Oslo Cathedral on Aug. 25, 2001, Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby didn't seem like the most obvious candidate for future queen.

She was a commoner who had worked as a waitress and was part of Oslo's wild "house party" circle. She also was an unwed mother, with a young son from a previous relationship with a convicted drug dealer.

One year later, none of that seems to matter much to her future subjects.

"Since the marriage she has completed all her official assignments to most Norwegians' liking," said Håkon Kavli, a political scientist for the MMI Institute in Norway, in an e-mail to

Kavli said the institute's polling showed more than one in three Norwegians think the crown princess is a good role model for the young, "while only one out of 10 think she's a bad role model."

"This is a good result for her, considering all the debate in the Norwegian media on her being a single mother before meeting the crown prince," he said.

Tessem doesn't think single motherhood was ever a strike against Mette-Marit, because it's the norm in Norway.

"People don't have any prejudice; that's the way life is in Norway," she said. "Most children are born outside marriage. People have longtime relationships, but not to have married mommies and daddies is normal."

In fact, the Norwegian public takes a protective interest in Marius, the crown princess's 5-year-old son. When she travels around Norway, people always ask her about Marius, and often send him presents. They want to make sure he doesn't feel left out, said Tessem.

"People are very concerned about her little son," said Tessem. "He must be the child in Norway who is most spoiled, because people are so concerned he is not going to feel right" about his status in the royal family.

Apparently Mette-Marit felt her son was becoming overexposed, because in October she asked the media to stop photographing the boy.

Not Another Diana

But that request to the media has been Mette-Marit's most confrontational act in the past year. She's been careful to steer clear of controversy.

"She has not opened her mouth yet," said Tessem. "She has chosen a very traditional and careful role."

Since the wedding, the crown princess has accompanied her husband on a number of goodwill tours throughout the country.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...