The wedding of Martha Louise of Norway ended with the traditional kiss on the Palace balcony. But the wedding in Trondheim of Norway’s princess and TV producer/writer Ari Behn was different – weeks before the ceremony, Martha Louise dropped “Royal Highness” and ignored the opposition to her new husband, regarded by many as too “bohemian”. Martha Louise’s brother, Crown Prince Haakon, had already torn up the royal rulebook by choosing a single mother to be his bride and the next Queen of Norway.
On May 24, 2002, Trondheim, Norway’s ancient capital, sparkled for the wedding at the city’s 12th century Nidaros Cathedral where all the country’s kings have been crowned. The cathedral was decorated with hundreds of ‘Martha’ lilies, named after the bride’s grandmother, Queen Martha Louise. Almost 2,000 guests, including representatives from all the European royal families were joined by ordinary Norwegians – selected by ballot – for the wedding ceremony. It was still a major royal occasion, despite the Princess’s decision some months ago to drop “Royal Highness” to allow her and her new husband a better chance for a normal life. When the couple’s relationship was made public, the Palace was arguably too defensive by emphasising that Ari would have no title nor a constitutional role.
Ari Behn is something of a controversial figure in Norway – a writer and a TV documentary producer with a reputation of being somewhat bohemian. He has already published a bestseller and came under fire from the country’s tabloid press for a documentary which showed Las Vegas prostitutes using cocaine. His protests that this was reporting on and not endorsing the lifestyle were brushed aside. That kind of critiscims was water off a duck’s back for Martha Louise. She already had the example of her brother, Crown Prince Haakon, who shrugged off all criticism to marry a single mother who will be the next Queen of Norway. The press dug deep to castigate the woman who was about to become Crown Princess Mette-Marit but it didn’t work – the new Crown Princess’s popularity grows by the day.
Martha Louise met her future husband through his mother, a holistic therapy professor at Oslo University where the Princess studied as an postgraduate student for four years – she has also studied English literature at Oxford, trained as a physiotherapist and has established her own business. During the ceremony, the bishop advised Martha Louise: “It’s a matter of redefining your role as a princess. You are entering a professional life which is not based on your royal dignity. You have chosen a life as a conveyor of cultures and values, with a basis in our rich treasury of folk stories.” Martha Louise earlier had further endeared herself to Norwegians by reading fairytales on Norwegian television. In the spirit of keeping up with the modern world, the newlyweds led the royal procession away from the cathedral on foot, despite a light shower.
By their choice of partners, the current generation of Norwegian royals have shown the determination to keep their monarchy not just up with the times but, in some ways, ahead of the times. When she came under fire before the wedding, the thirty year-old Martha Louise was firm and decisive: “Our relationship is bullet-proof. We’re not worried about obstacles because we will over come them. We are determined to go forward together.” (Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol. 17/09)