This month it is 20 years ago that Crown Prince Haakon of Norway married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby. It was actually my second visit to Oslo, after having stayed in a youth hostel there for the Olympic Winter Games 1994. I didn’t see much royal back then, but this time the visit was nearly totally dedicated to the royal wedding. It wasn’t my first royal wedding, but it was my very first wedding as an accredited journalist, so all was very exciting. However I hardly find any photos back. Lots of wedding and hotel pictures, most of the time very bad quality, a few others that I suppose were taken by a friend of mine. I remember we visited an exhibition in the heart of Oslo, visited Oscarshall, but most of what I find is from the wedding. I suppose because even most photographers still had an analogue camera, I saved nearly all my film roles for the wedding itself.
There are quite a few people I met in Oslo for the first time in my life, after having met them online in the previous two-three years or so. My partner-in-crime during most media adventures was Dag Hoelseth, whom I have met several times since. My Danish friend Stig was in the same hotel as me, not too far from the Grand Hotel, where a lot of royals were staying. Upon arrival at the hotel I found he had left me a note to welcome me. We have met many times since. My Dutch friend Christine was also around, but I had met her before. On the photos of our restaurant meeting at a place called Maud’s – with lots of old royal pictures – the evening before the wedding were also Torkel and Monica with a friend from Norway, Dan from the USA, Marianne and Simone from the Netherlands. Unfortunately both Monica and Marianne have died earlier this year, both far too young. We met Trond, later a royal author, once in the streets near the Grand Hotel. I remember the dinner being delicious – mind you I had reindeer – but quite expensive. But it was fun and the restaurant was just looking great for some royalty watchers. I also met Dutch photographers Albert Nieboer and Bernard Rübsamen.
How I managed to get accreditation? Some time before the wedding the royal palace placed a form online where you could simply leave your details. I discovered it quite late, and asked for accreditation five days after the closure, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t manage to get any. But of course this was just weeks before 9/11, and there weren’t many royal websites around yet. So when Dag told me I was on the list of accredited media – that was placed online – I was just flabbergasted. Apart from some casual clothing I suddenly also had to be sure that it all wasn’t too shabby. Not that I had such posh possibilities that I needed something special. Luckily I had a long black dress, some fancy shoes, a red cardigan, a necklace (all very cheap). The only picture I can find of that is from me and Dag together, so I don’t post.
The press center was situated on of the top floors of the Grand Hotel, which was not really that logical. More than once we met royals while entering or leaving the hotel. And I remember once me and a friend were upstairs when all of the sudden the mother of the bride, Marit Tjessem, entered the press center, probably lost the way. Of course that ended up in the newspapers afterwards. You would also find us quite often at the entrance or side entrance of the hotel waiting for royals to leave, as they were passing on just a few metres distance. I remember standing near the side entrance of the hotel with photographer Bernard Rübsamen. He told me to say something to the fiancée of the Prince of Orange (King Willem-Alexander), Máxima Zorreguieta, when they would leave, so she’d look into his direction. If I remember well I asked her how her leg was doing – she had broken her ankle in Sweden in June. I guess she said something like “Good, thank you”, but she did watch. One of these days he also had to change his film roles with me holding the umbrella above him to keep the camera from getting wet.
The big fun for me and Dag especially started on Friday 24 August 2001, the day before the wedding. In the afternoon Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit took their guests on a boat trip with the royal yacht Norge on the fjord near Oslo. The media was divided in two groups and followed the royals in two old sailing ships. Both me and Dag, as Bernard and Albert were on the second boat. For a change – we had lots of rain these days – the weather was pretty good. We enjoyed the weather and some food. But when it was our turn to see the royals, they were not that willing anymore after having posed for the first media boat. So we were shouting, and shouting … Having quite a loud voice I tried on my own and seem to have reached much further. If there are a few royals that remembering someone shouting very loudly: yes, that was me. Finally the royals and their guests came to our side of the royal yacht to give us the opportunity to take some pictures.
Back in the harbour of Oslo, we quickly changed clothes and went to the Akershus, where the government dinner for the bridal couple was being held. Surrounded by school children waving Norwegian flags, we enjoyed the royals passing on their way to the dinner. Afterwards we left for our own dinner I think, as there was nothing more to see. The next day, Saturday 25 August 2001, the media had to be on the press stands already quite early, around noon I think. Eager to have good places, we were pretty early. Unfortunately most of the waiting time it was raining, but Dag and I found ourselves a place on the stand next to the entrance of Oslo Cathedral. No better place than that. We were standing in the back so the photographers could have the best positions. My camera without zoom was of course not good enough.
Luckily it stopped raining when the guests started to arrive. If you remember her, we were there when Eva Sannum, the then girlfriend of the Prince of Asturias (King Felipe of Spain) arrived in a blue dress, that later on was criticized in the media. I thought she looked rather nice, despite of the cleavage. So many royals passed on their way in, and again on their way out. Without Dag I would never have made it to the Royal Palace for the balcony scene. We just started running as soon as we were allowed to leave the press stand, and jumped on a passing tram (me without paying, sorry!) for the short ride. We weren’t the only ones that made it, and finding our way through the crowds we managed to reach the press stand to have a look at the balcony scene with kiss. We returned for the festive fireworks later that night, when it was so dark that photographing was totally impossible, at least for us.
The next day Stig and I once more returned to the hotel to see the royals leaving. We changed from side entrance to main entrance and back several times. Princess Benedikte of Denmark left in a minibus with her husband and children. When they were all inside, her husband Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg left it again to thank the staff of the hotel, which I thought was quite nice of him. His family however was somewhat irritated, possibly they had a plane to catch. The Prince of Asturias was about the last to leave, unfortunately without Eva Sannum.
Later I bought the official wedding book. I was clearly visible on one of the photos, and if you knew where I was, you could find me on another picture too.