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A fairytale bride and the first big royal wedding of the 21st century

It was the first big royal wedding of the 21st century bringing kings, queens, princes and princesses together for a very modern monarchical marriage. The relationship between Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Mette-Marit Tjessme Hoiby had been under scrutiny from the moment it became public knowledge. But by the time they took their vows, in front of the ruling houses of Europe, their romance had become one of the most celebrated royal love stories of recent times.

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Mette-Marit was far from a typical royal bride. Born in Kristiansand in southern Norway in August 1973, she had grown up enjoying sports and sailing in particular. When she fell in love with the heir to Norway’s throne, she already had a child from a previous relationship while her involvement in what was dubbed the ‘party scene’ in Oslo also caused controversy. The couple announced their engagement in January 2001 and ahead of their wedding, Mette-Marit made a tearful apology in a TV interview for her past links with drugs. It led to a big surge in support for the bride and the wedding.

The bumpy path to the altar was even referenced during the ceremony itself which took place on August 25th 2001 at Oslo Cathedral. During his sermon, Gunnar Stalsett, Bishop of Oslo told the couple ”you have not chosen the easiest path, but love has triumphed”.

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The wedding itself underlined the modern nature of the couple. Crown Prince Haakon waited for his bride at the door of the cathedral and he and Mette-Marit then walked down the aisle together. Her four year old son, Marius, was the pageboy while the ceremony itself featured modern and traditional music.

The bride wore a deep ivory dress designed by Ove Harder Finseth.  It was an effortlessly simple creation made in an elegantly complicated way. The square cut top with fitted sleeves gave way to a bodice that flowed into a slightly flared skirt. Created in crepe and tulle, it featured a long train that fanned from the full length skirt. The bride’s veil, made of tulle, was around twenty feet long and extended past the train. She carried a strikingly modern bouquet of flowers, shaped into a flowing strip of petals with the bride helping to design its look herself.

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Mette-Marit became Crown Princess of Norway as she made her marriage vows and like many a royal bride before her, she chose to wear a tiara on her wedding day. Her diadem was made up of diamond daisies, arranged into a subtle bandeau shape. It was a present to her from her new in laws, King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway, a sparkling show of support for the new Crown Princess.

The wedding was also notable for its place in the history books. Although it had been less than two years since the last wedding of a European heir to the throne, the start of a new millennium had taken place in between and Haakon and Mette-Marit’s celebration was the first regal marriage of the 21st century. And this much talked about event had an equally well discussed guest list featuring many of the crowned heads of Europe.

And among those attending the celebrations were two more potential royal brides in waiting. One had already announced her engagement and had a regal wedding of her own set to take place in the coming months. Maxima Zorreguieta arrived at the ceremony on the arm of her fiance, Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, while his mother, then Queen Beatrix, also attended. However, another woman at the event was also tipped as a future princess.

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Eva Sannum, a Norwegian model, had spent months seeing her relationship with Prince Felipe of Spain dissected in the newspapers. Her arrival at Haakon and Mette-Marit’s wedding was seen as another indication that an engagement announcement was imminent. She attended the ceremony itself alone but was photographed with Felipe at the reception. However, months later they confirmed they had split up.

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The royal romance celebrated at the wedding itself went from strength to strength. Crown Prince Haakon Magnus and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway have two children together and are now marking twenty years of marriage. It may have begun with a controversial royal romance but this regal wedding has stood the test of time.

Lydia Starbuck is a pen name of June Woolerton who has written extensively on royal history. Her book, A History of Royal Jubilees, is available now. She is also the author of a popular cosy mystery, All Manner of Murder.

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About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.