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The message in a royal engagement ring – Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway

Theirs was an engagement announcement that threatened the monarchy’s stability, but the ring upon Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby’s ring finger symbolised nearly a century of royal love matches, and theirs would, in time, be no different.

Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit met in July 1999 at a music festival and began dating afterwards. At the time, the “Cinderella from Kristiansand,” as the press dubbed her, was a single mother with a partying past. But the future king loved her and was determined that she would be his bride.

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The pair had previously ignited controversy by living together before marriage, and speculation that their engagement was imminent dominated the news in the fall of 2000. On 1 December, the couple announced their engagement, and support for the monarchy plummeted to a historic low.

But Mette-Marit had a special engagement ring on her finger: the engagement ring of Princess Martha of Sweden and later Sonja Haraldsen.

A yellow gold set with diamonds and crescent-shaped rubies, it entered the Norwegian Royal Family in 1928, when then-Crown Prince Olav proposed to his Swedish bride, Princess Martha. They married the following year and were happily married until her untimely death from cancer in 1954. Together, they had three children: Princess Ragnhild, Princess Astrid, and the current King Harald.

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In 1968, after nearly a decade of dating the commoner Sonja Haraldsen, Crown Prince Harald informed his father that unless he could marry Sonja, he would refuse to marry anyone, triggering the demise of the Crown upon his death. Women were barred from Norwegian succession at the time, so the throne would not have passed to Princess Ragnhild or Princess Astrid.

Many in the press and members of the public felt that their Crown Prince should marry a bride of royal descent, and royal brides—like Princess Sophia and Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark—were pushed in the press. This did nothing to dissuade Harald, who was adamant: Sonja or nobody.

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King Olav was told by his government that they could not consent to the marriage, but they would not oppose it if the King gave his assent. So, on 18 March 1968, Crown Prince Harald and Sonja announced their engagement. Upon Sonja’s ring finger: her late mother-in-law’s engagement ring.

The couple were married on 29 August 1968, and King Olav cemented his support of his new daughter-in-law by accompanying her up the aisle (her father had passed away in 1959).

King Harald and Queen Sonja have two children together: the current Crown Prince and Princess Märtha Louise.

Though Princess Märtha Louise is the older child, she had no succession rights at the time of her birth in 1971. She only gained her position in the line of succession in 1990, with the adoption of absolute primogeniture (and unlike in Sweden, this was not retroactive, so she did not supplant her younger brother).

Thirty-two years after their fraught engagement, King Harald and Queen Sonja gave their son and future daughter-in-law their tacit support when faced with their own public scandals.

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Queen Sonja dutifully passed down the engagement ring that now had two successful royal marriages attached to it, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, despite her controversial past, is etching a third love match into the band. A few days before their wedding, the couple held a press conference where Mette-Marit tearfully apologised for her past. It helped change some of the public opinion surrounding her, and in the years since, her popularity—and that of the wider Royal Family—has soared.

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit were married on 25 August 2001 at Oslo Cathedral. In addition to Mette-Marit’s son Marius Høiby, the couple share two children together: Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus.

It is unknown what will happen with this storied engagement ring next, but it seems a likely conclusion that one day, Princess Ingrid Alexandra will wear it on her own ring finger.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.