Norway's future queen admits to wild past

Imre Karacs
Thursday 23 August 2001 00:00
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The future Queen of Norway, a former waitress, single mother and alleged connoisseur of recreational drugs, sought her nation's forgiveness for her wild past yesterday, and promised to mend her ways.

"My youthful rebellion was stronger than it was for many people," said Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, the 28-year old commoner who will wed Crown Prince Haakon on Saturday.

"We stepped over limits, and I'm very sorry about that," she added during a joint press conference in Oslo with her blue-blooded groom. "It was important for me to live in defiance of what was accepted," she explained, sobbing profusely into the cameras.

She neither confirmed nor denied widespread reports in the Norwegian press that she had taken drugs, but promised not to take any in the future. "I would like to take this opportunity to condemn drugs," she declared.

The newspapers have been awash with gossip about the wedding for months. Prince Haakon's choice of bride has provoked incredulity even among his tolerant subjects. The Princess-to-be, who brings up her four-year-old son from a previous relationship alone, is not exactly conventional. The couple, to be formally united in Oslo's cathedral on Saturday in the presence of Europe's assorted royalty, have been sharing a flat for a year.

Some Norwegians have even suggested that by choosing such a controversial wife, the Prince has proved himself unfit for his designated role. Luckily, his family stood behind him. Asked yesterday what he would have done if he had been forced to pick between marrying her and the throne, Prince Haakon said: "I have never been pushed to make that choice."

Whatever mistakes Ms Tjessem Hoiby had made in her younger days, she said she thoroughly regretted them now, and had learnt from them. "I cannot make these choices again, even though I wish I could," she said.

She had previously refused to answer questions about her past, even though Prince Haakon had said in an interview last year that she had often attended parties where drugs were used.

She started the press conference by saying that she wanted to break her silence. After the brief sobbed confession that revealed few details, she said: "I hope that I can now avoid talking more about my past and that the press will respect this wish."

Pollsters say Norwegians shrug off the fact that Ms Tjessem Hoiby is a single mother, but many have misgivings about her past and the couple's decision to live together before marrying. Prince Haakon will be head of the state Lutheran church when he succeeds King Harald. The church is opposed to cohabitation outside matrimony.

An opinion poll in June showed the popularity of the monarchy had fallen to a record low, with just 58 per cent in support, down from a historic average since the Second World War of 75-80 per cent.

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