Queen Sonja of Norway claimed that Americans do not understand the importance of a monarchy while addressing her daughter Princess Märtha Louise’s decision to step back from her royal role and marry her American fiancé.
On Tuesday, the Royal House of Norway announced in a statement on its official website that Princess Märtha Louise would no longer carry out her official royal duties.
The royal’s decision was made in an effort to “distinguish more clearly between” the “activities” of her and her fiancé Durek Verrett, a self-proclaimed shaman, and those of the Royal House of Norway, according to the statement.
The princess, 51, who is the eldest child of King Harald and Queen Sonja, got engaged to Verrett in June of this year.
In a statement of her own, the princess, who will keep her title, said that her beliefs in alternative medicine and healing contributed partly to her decision. She noted that she is “aware that many people follow what I do and say very closely” and that her title “entails a certain responsibility”.
“It is therefore important to me, including in my business activity, to distinguish between myself as a private person on the one hand and as a member of the royal family on the other,” she said, adding that she and her parents made the decision together “to create peace around the royal household”.
In the statement, King Harald and Queen Sonja also added that they are “very pleased by the engagement of the princess to Derek Verrett” and said they want their daughter’s partner to “feel welcome in our family”.
However, while addressing her daughter’s decision in a press conference on Wednesday, Queen Sonja appeared to express her disagreement with the choice and suggested that Americans do not fully understand the significance of a monarchy.
“Americans have no idea what a kingdom is. So it’s no wonder he doesn’t realise,” she said, according to Hello! magazine, adding: “Americans don’t understand the bearing of this here. They don’t. He thought he could do whatever he wanted without compromising us at all.”
Despite what she described as disagreements with one another, Queen Sonja said the royal family are ultimately “happy with each other.”
“Even if we disagree on things, we are happy with each other. I have the feeling that the family is now very close to each other in a new, nice way,” she said, before referring to her daughter’s fiancé, who describes himself as a “sixth-generation shaman” on his website, as a “great guy” and “very fun to be with”.
King Harald reiterated his wife’s statements while lamenting his daughter’s decision to step back from her royal duties, telling the assembled press that he was “very sorry that the princess will no longer represent the royal house,” as she was “very good at it”.
In the statement released by the Norwegian royal family, it added that Princess Märtha Louise will keep her title but she and her fiancé would no longer “employ the title of Princess or refer to members of the Royal House in their social media channels, in media productions or in connection with other commercial activities”.
The 82-year-old king then said Verret “probably thought he could do anything without it affecting us,” before concluding that he and his daughter “agree to disagree,” according to the Associated Press.
While the King and Queen appeared to express concern over their daughter’s decision while speaking with press, they condemned any discrimination targeted at Verrett in the statement released by the palace. They said they were “committed to the ideal of all people living together in harmony despite their differences” and “deplore the racist attitudes that Durek Verrett has had to contend with, especially on social media”.
“Across the generations in Norway we have sought to create a society rooted in knowledge, scientific research and freedom of expression - as well as continuous expansion of the Norwegian ‘we’ as society has grown more diverse,” the statement continued. “We wish to continue the efforts to promote a society based on tolerance, where people do not make hasty judgements about others but sincerely seek to find common ground. We wish to achieve a generous, welcoming society where there is room, and respect, for one and all - not just those who are our friends and family but the wider society we are building together.”
The palace also confirmed that, when the couple marries, Verrett will become a member of the Norwegian royal family. The couple is expected to attend “family-related gatherings, such as birthday celebrations, as well as certain major sporting events that the royal family traditionally attends together”.
As for the princess’s plans for the future, she revealed in a video shared to her official Instagram that she plans to pursue her knowledge of alternative medicine.
“I am concerned with health and research and myself have an education in the field of health as a physiotherapist and respect school medicine. I see alternative medicine as an important supplement to school medicine,” she said.
The statement echoed the one released by the palace, in which she expressed her belief that, “for many people, alternative methods can be an important supplement to help from the conventional medical establishment”.
“A warm hand, an acupuncture needle, a crystal, natural remedies, yoga, meditation or therapeutic conversation can, I believe, help to make life better for many individuals. Not instead of, but in addition to, the treatment provided by the health-care system,” she said, before adding: “It is in this area of cooperation and bridge-building that I wish to continue my efforts.”
The princess’s younger brother, Crown Prince Haako, is the heir to the throne. He is followed in the line of succession by his daughter, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, 18, and son Prince Sverre Magnus, 16.