The first major royal wedding of the 21st century was a fairytale come true. The romantic bride and groom had a love story that had enchanted millions while their marriage ceremony was a first taste of ancient tradition in a brand new millennium. And that brought another first with it. For the wedding of the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway, on August 25th 2001, was also the first real internet royal phenomenon.
Not that it was easy. It’s perhaps impossible to believe in a time when social media means images of big royal event are winging their way around the world almost as soon as they happen but watching this online took effort and commitment. However, for those of us not able to watch on Norwegian TV, the thrill of seeing the dress, the tiara, the guests and the kiss on the day they happened, rather than having to scour the papers the next day or, can you imagine, wait for a magazine with all the photos to hit the shops days later, was well worth it.
I can remember settling down in front of my computer as proceedings got under way in Oslo and waiting. First, for the internet to actually connect. Twenty years ago, we didn’t open up our devices and find ourselves online. We had to dial up, listen to that awful noise that meant a connection was being established and then add a few seconds on for good measure. Fingers crossed, you could now move on to wait number two as your browser slowly came to life. Then it was time to navigate.
There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no You Tube and no Facebook. Instead, devoted royal watchers that day could choose official websites or go on to message boards. I realise this kind of sounds prehistoric but it was also rather exciting. For that afternoon, images of the royal wedding of Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit Tjessem Hjoiby began to appear. What’s more, we could all talk to one another by leaving messages on the boards. If they loaded up. Sometimes, you’d tap away at the keyboard of your desktop and watch your carefully crafted niceties disappear into an internet black hole.
Even worse, sometimes the board went down as a few more people logged in or your internet disconnected. But despite those technical hiccups (and a slight nagging worry about using up too much connection at a time when it was still charged for at a rather high rate) it was a royal dream come true.
It was also rather pleasant. Things didn’t move fast enough for people to get catty and, besides, the joy of almost watching the wedding happen in real time overrode everything else. We were all back the following day, enjoying more photos and comments. Besides, there was nothing to complain about. The couple were so happy that it was impossible not to enjoy their special day.
Two decades on, they remain happy while technology has more than moved on. But their wedding remains a gamechanger and not just because of their royal romance. Since then, technology has become a vital part in how ruling houses tell their story and how those watching on absorb it. The first royal wedding of the 21st century broke the mould in more ways than one.