Saturday, August 18, 2012

Royal Profile: HRH Crown Princess Mette-Mairt of Norway

Crown Princess Mette-Marit  of Norway (née Tjessem Høiby) was born 18 August 1973, the daughter of daughter of Sven O. Høiby, who worked as a journalist in a local paper, and Marit Tjessem. Her parents divorced, and her father would later marry Renate Barsgård. She has a sister and two older brothers; her stepbrother Trond Bernsten—by her mother's 1994 marriage to Rolf Berntsen—died in the 2011 Norway attacks.  She grew up in Kristiansand in the southern part of Norway. She spent many weekends and holidays in the nearby valley of Setesdal and at the seaside, where she learned to sail. During her youth she was active in the local youth club Slettheia, where she was also an activity leader. As a teenager she played volleyball, qualifying as referee and coach.

After starting at Oddernes upper secondary school in Kristiansand, Mette-Marit spent six months at Wangaratta High School located in North East Victoria in Australia, as an exchange student with the exchange organisation Youth For Understanding. Later, she attended Kristiansand katedralskole, where she passed her final examinations in 1994. After another break from her studies, Mette-Marit attended Bjørknes Private School and then took the examen philosophicum (the preliminary university examination) at Agder University College.

By her own admission, Mette-Marit experienced a rebellious phase before she met Crown Prince Haakon Magnus. As a part-time student, she took longer than usual to complete her high school education before going on to take preparatory university courses at Agder. She then worked for a year at Cafe Engebret in Oslo.

In the late 1990s, Mette-Marit attended the Quart Festival, Norway's largest rock festival, in her hometown of Kristiansand. She met Crown Prince Haakon at a garden party during the Quart Festival season. Years later, after becoming a single mother she met the prince again at another party related to the festival.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit completed her studies in Development Issues at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London in 2003. She also spent three months at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), where she focused on HIV/AIDS issues. She recently earned a Master of Management from BI Norwegian Business School.

When the engagement between Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit was announced, some Norwegians felt that the Crown Prince’s choice of partner was questionable because of her previous socialization in a milieu "where drugs were readily available". Her first official appearance as the intended bride of the Crown Prince was at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at Oslo City Hall on 10 December 2000, following the announcement of the couple's engagement on 1 December. At the press conference, Haakon said that he and Mette-Marit had been together for about one year. Haakon gave Mette-Marit the same engagement ring as his grandfather King Olav V and his father King Harald V gave to their fiancées. The couple married on 25 August 2001 at the Oslo Cathedral. Upon her marriage she acquired the title Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway. They now live at Skaugum estate, outside Oslo.

The Crown Princess has three children. Her first child is Marius Borg Høiby, born on 13 January 1997; Morten Borg is the father. There has been some controversy surrounding the conduct of the press around Marius, and the Crown Princess asked the media to respect her elder son's privacy as he is not a royal. On 21 January 2004, Mette-Marit gave birth to a daughter, HRH Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who became second-in-line to the Norwegian throne after her father, Crown Prince Haakon. She gave birth to her third child, Prince Sverre Magnus, on 3 December 2005. He is third in line to the Norwegian throne after his sister, Princess Ingrid Alexandra.

The Crown Princess is deeply committed to a broad range of national and international issues. Social inclusion, mental health, youth, education and environmental issues being some of them. Since she married Crown Prince Haakon of Norway in 2001, she has been actively involved in HIV/AIDS-related work. In April 2006 the Crown Princess was appointed Special Representative for UNAIDS. Two years later she was invited by UNAIDS to participate in strategic planning of the future AIDS response. A main focus for the Crown Princess is to strengthen youth leadership and form international partnerships in the AIDS response. In 2010 Crown Princess Mette-Marit was appointed Young Global Leader under the World Economic Forum.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit is the patron of the Norwegian Red Cross and several other organisations. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess’s Humanitarian Fund identifies and supports projects for young people at risk. Over the last ten years, the fund has supported projects in many parts of the world – aiming to provide improved health and education for young people. Crown Princess Mette-Marit has led the Norwegian delegations to the International AIDS conferences in Toronto (2006) and in Vienna (2010). On her many visits representing Norway, the Crown Princess actively promotes Norwegian trade and industry, architecture and design, education and humanitarian initiatives.

The Crown Princess’s leisure interests include outdoor recreational activities and art and culture, particularly literature, film and the visual arts. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess have an active family life and spend a great deal of time with their young children enjoying indoor and outdoor recreational activities, including sport and cultural activities.

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