04 July 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Queen Sonja's Gown

 HRH Crown Prince Harald of Norway and Sonja Haraldsen
August 29, 1968
Oslo, Norway

It was a long nine years between the start of a romance and a wedding for Harald and Sonja. Actually, it was a romance that almost didn't happen at all: Sonja, who had recently lost her father, was not keen to go to the party she'd been invited to in 1959 and had to be encouraged to get out of the house. Of course she did, and there she met the Crown Prince of Norway.
And so they began a romance which was something of an open secret in Norway. Harald was expected to make a royal match, and there were serious questions about whether commoner Sonja would ever be accepted as a royal. Even though the press threw Harald's name together with Princess Irene and Princess Sophia of Greece (now Queen Sofia of Spain), he stayed with Sonja. When Harald’s father King Olav finally agreed to their marriage (often said to be after Harald - his sole heir - stood up and said he wouldn't marry if he couldn't marry Sonja), it was he who walked the bride down the aisle as a public gesture of acceptance and support.
Sonja’s long-awaited wedding gown was a creation from Oslo clothing store Molstad. In many ways, it is a typical design of the time: the silk gown is structural yet simple, with a high round neck, a bell shaped skirt and three-quarter length bell sleeves to match. The pearl ornamentation around the cuffs of the sleeve and the neck is restrained.
A long train fastens at her shoulders and widens as it extends back to a squared edge, and her tulle veil extends the length of the train. Though Sonja would soon have some of the grandest tiaras in the Norwegian monarchy at her disposal, she crowned her veil with a white artificial floral ornament.
Sonja’s entry to the royal family was something of a trial by fire. Her father-in-law was a widower, since his wife Crown Princess Märtha passed away before he took the throne. Sonja took over from her sister-in-law Princess Astrid as acting first lady of Norway in a rather male-dominated monarchy. It couldn't have been the easiest transition, but she was well prepared for her job as queen by the time King Olav passed away in 1991.
Sonja – who celebrates her 75th birthday today, July 4th - and Harald have two children, Princess Märtha Louise and Crown Prince Haakon. Haakon’s own marriage in 2001 to single mother Mette-Marit would raise some of the same questions as Sonja and Harald’s union did. One can’t help but think that their own experiences have colored their support and acceptance of Mette-Marit into the royal family.

What do you think of Sonja's 1960s creation?

Photos: Kongehuset/Scanpix/NRK