25 AUGUST 2001
Today saw perhaps the most unconventional royal wedding ever. And in the years to come, the marriage of Crown Prince Haakon Magnus to Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby may be seen as a benchmark of regal nuptials. Because the couple certainly did not go about their courtship in a traditional way. Soon after they were introduced by mutual friends in 1999, it became clear that this relationship was going to end at the altar. And so, this afternoon, after an eight-month engagement and a spot of cohabitation that was frowned upon by Norway’s conservative church, the heir to the Norwegian throne took a beautiful blonde single mother to be his wife and future queen.
The streets of the Norwegian capital had been lavishly decorated for the nuptials. The streets had been wreathed in red, blue and white flowers, and hundreds of banners fluttered in the breeze. Scores of Norwegian flags were carried by ordinary well-wishers who came in their thousands to cheer their future monarch and his soon-to-be wife along.
Four kings, five queens, six heirs to the throne and 21 princes and princesses were already in the Domkirke, alongside 750 other distinguished guests, as they waited for the ceremony to start. In the first of what was to be many breaks with tradition, the groom was not waiting nervously at the front of the cathedral with his best man, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, but outside the door of the church. His bride had chosen to dispense with going up the aisle on her father’s arm, and instead had decided that she and her future husband would make the journey to the altar together.
Mette-Marit was due to arrive for her marriage in a vintage Lincoln Continental, but the fine drizzle falling on the city put a stop to that. When she emerged from the bridal car and saw her handsome prince waiting outside the cathedral for her, her face broke into a wreath of smiles. Looking devastating in his dress uniform, Haakon leant forward and planted a kiss on his bride’s cheek, before she took his arm and they swept into the cathedral together. Behind them came their little attendants, including Marius, Mette-Marit’s four-year-old son, who was acting as his mother’s pageboy, his white blonde hair shining above his miniature white tie outfit.
The bride’s dress, of heavy silk crepe, was breathtaking in its simplicity. A corseted bodice gave way to a flared skirt with two-metre train, and a six-metre veil was crowned by an antique tiara that was a present from Mette-Marit’s parents-in-law. Rather than the traditional bouquet, the bride carried a long garland of leaves, with purple and white flowers woven among them.
After bowing to Haakon’s parents, the couple took their seats and the Bishop of Oslo, Gunnar Stalsett, welcomed not just the guests in the Domkirke, but also the Norwegian people. He talked of faith, hope and love, saying that of these three, love is the most important. The bride wiped away tears as the bishop told her that today she was starting a new life “with a clean slate”. His wise words surely touched certain guests as they listened intently to what he had to say to Haakon and Mette-Marit. “Those born to be heir to a throne know what fate is all about. Only love can turn a duty into a gift,” he said, advising them to nurture not only their love but their passion, “which unites and renews.”
Tears could be seen glistening on the crown prince’s face just before the moment when he had to say: “I do” to Mette-Marit and slip the white gold wedding band onto her right hand. At 5:42, the royal couple were pronounced husband and wife after the modern ceremony which featured music by internationally-acclaimed Norwegian jazz musician Jan Garbarek and text readings by Haakon’s sister, Princess Martha Louise, and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. The ancient cannons of Akershus Castle, where the guests had spent the previous night, fired up two 21-gun salutes to celebrate the joyous union of the future King of Norway and his new wife.
As Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit emerged from the cathedral into the clear Oslo evening, the crowd roared its approval. The couple turned to each other and gave the onlookers something to remember: their first kiss as husband and wife. The Lincoln convertible was waiting for them with its top off, the rain having cleared, and the couple returned to the Royal Palace for the wedding banquet and, later, the ball.
In all this dizzying whirl of modernity, there was a flash of tradition, as the couple appeared on the palace balcony to share their joy with the Norwegian people, as Haakon’s parents had done 33 years ago on their wedding day. Then it was the turn of King Harald and his family to congratulate their son and welcome their new daughter-in-law into the fold. But when little Marius arrived, tradition disappeared almost as quickly as it had arrived, as the just-married future queen bent down and scooped her son into her arms.