Welcome to the Royals issue
Dear readers and friends,
Welcome to our Royals issue! On its pages, we celebrate Norway’s royal family, both looking back and forward, as we introduce you to new generations.
In a time of upheaval, it can feel comforting to honor an institution that has endured through time. The monarchy gives us a sense of anchoring with the past and a sense of stability to take us into the future.
The idea to put together a Royals issue was first sparked when one of our long-time contributors, M. Michael Brady, who lives in Asker, Norway, floated the idea by me to do a profile of Crown Prince Haakon. As King Harald grows older, the crown prince has assumed more duties, as he prepares for his future as king. This idea was reinforced when I had the opportunity to be present at several events with the crown prince in New York and Washington, D.C., last December, including the annual lighting of the Christmas tree at Union Station in the capital. It made an impression, and I got to thinking more about the role the royal family plays in Norwegian life today.
I have to admit that, fundamentally, I am not a royalist. I am American born and raised, and notions of privilege by heredity are foreign to me and in conflict with a world view that holds that everyone is created equal. These are values that most Americans—and Norwegian Americans—hold dear.
That said, it is hard not to admire and like the Norwegian royal family and acknowledge their service to their country and its people. The concepts of duty and service seem to be at the core of their existence; privilege is a perk that goes along with a very demanding job. Few would argue that over the years, King Harald and Queen Sonja haven’t performed in an exemplary manner.
One of the highlights of my role here at the newspaper is King Harald’s New Year’s Eve speech every year. I pull it off the newswire and translate as soon as it appears. For me, it always feels like a beloved father or grandfather (depending on your age) is offering words of wisdom that only a lifetime of experience can offer. I am also always struck how King Harald keeps his message anchored in the moment—there is nothing anachronistic about this king’s outlook on life—how contemporary and forward-looking Norway’s monarch is. He is not afraid to touch on issues of racial and gender biases, social injustice, inequalities in society in general. There is always a good deal of compassion in his words and a love for his people and humanity.
A few years ago in 2015, I had the pleasure to attend a gala dinner here in Seattle to celebrate the king’s visit to Washington and Alaska, and his speech there made a lasting impression on me, sealing my admiration for him.
King Harald spoke on a very personal level about his connection to our country, which began when he spent the duration of World War II in exile here as a young child. Many of you recently thought about this time, too, with the event of the PBS miniseries Atlantic Crossing, which is a fictionalized drama of this period of time and the royal family’s years in residence here.
For him, his formative years in the United States created a lasting tie that binds him to us. The king spoke in a very sincere and touching manner. For him, it is a friendship that can never be broken. He felt welcomed and at home here. It struck me that this has also been the experience that many of us have had when we have gone to Norway.
With the current geopolitical situation in the world, we know that this friendship is more important than ever—and it is something that the royal family works to maintain. They are patrons of numerous Norwegian-American organizations in the United States, and they work tirelessly to support them. As a journalist who covers the many formal receptions and galas, I can tell you that these kinds of occasions are very hard work. It is also work that goes on in other countries and at home in Norway throughout the year, and the royal family is to be commended for their unfaltering dedication.
After three decades of loyal service on the throne, King Harald and Queen Sonja will be passing the torch to the next generation, as new day dawns on the royal family. Without a doubt, the next generations of royals will bring a new perspective to the monarchy, with a different frame of historical reference and experience. The monarchy is changing with them—not always without controversy—and will continue to evolve over time.
As usual, there are many to thank for all the hard work that goes into an issue like this. When I see the pages come together, it is always a magical moment. There are so many pieces to coordinate, so many hours put in to make it all come together. In particular, I would like to call out my colleagues, David Nikel of the Life in Norway blog, and Daniel Albert, who so generously shared their content. David, who now also writes for Forbes, has been a long-time contributor to The Norwegian American as a travel writer, and we greatly value our collaboration with him.
I would also like to thank Terje Leiren, my former professor and good friend, for his continual support and invaluable contribution to this issue.
With the Royals issue, we wish you many hours of happy reading. We hope you enjoy it and that it will enrich your life in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.