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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Royal wedding captivates Norway
Princess Martha Louise and Ari Behn exchange rings to confirm their wedding vows given to Bishop Finn Wagle in Trondheim's Nidaros Cathedral
The ceremony was broadcast live on TV

Norwegians have witnessed their second royal wedding in less than a year.

Princess Martha Louise and her groom Ari Behn kiss outside the church after their wedding
Expectations had been high for Princess Martha Louise's choice of husband
Wearing a plain cut, light beige silk dress, Norway's Princess Martha Louise gave her "yes" to author Ari Behn in a ceremony in the medieval Nidaros Cathedral, in the ancient city of Trondheim.

In front of international royalty, specially invited guests and Trondheim residents, Princess Martha Louise was given away by her father, King Harald V.

Thousands more were watching the ceremony outside on giant screens, and live on television.

People's princess

The princess was moved to tears when her younger brother, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, read a poem during the ceremony, in which Trondheim's Bishop Finn Wagle officiated.

Girls dressed up like little princesses waited for hours for the wedding to begin
'Little princesses' waited for hours for the wedding to begin

Bishop Wagle told Mr Behn he was being given the Norwegian people's princess on this day, and - unlike the fairytale - he would not gain half the kingdom, but the attention of the entire Norwegian people.

Afterwards, the newly-weds walked a few hundred metres from the cathedral to the royal residence to attend the official dinner.

Central Trondheim was packed with people, many wearing national dress, and some had dressed in the much debated official wedding colours of mint and pink.

Cheers

Nine-year-old Vibeke was one of many little girls who had dressed up as princesses, and who waited for hours to see the real Princess and her new husband walking past.

Crown Prince Haakon Magnus and Mette Marit
The Crown Prince also chose a controversial spouse

"I like them both, it was worth waiting for", she said.

On the streets of Trondheim there was little sign of the animosity expressed towards Mr Behn in the Norwegian media since the engagement was made public last year.

The waiting crowds greeted him with cheers and applause when he arrived alone at the cathedral ahead of the official ceremony.

Sharp criticism

Mr Behn's past of hard partying has also led people to suggest he was not fit for a life in the royal family.

He was once thrown out of Oslo's most famous café - the Theatre Café - for drunkenly claiming he and his artist friends were "the new wine" and deserved respect.

He has not regretted the incident since, and has repeatedly said he had no regrets about things he has done in his past life.

The new member of the royal family first hit the headlines after making a TV documentary in which he was seen partying with prostitutes who were using cocaine.

The 29-year old author has also been accused of being lazy - his only book, "Sad as Hell", is only 90 pages long - and his courting of public life has left him open to criticism of being a self-promoter.

Being timid is considered a virtue in Norway.

Princess Martha Louise is generally well liked for her down-to-earth attitude, and expectations had been high for her choice of husband.

Raising the profile

Controversy also surrounded the now Crown Princess Mette Marit when she married Crown Prince Haakon Magnus last August.

An opinion poll early this week showed more than 40% of Norwegians thought the new royal partners would weaken the monarchy.

Since then, though, the Palace has been praised for the way the wedding celebrations have been conducted.

Many commentators say this wedding has raised the profile of the Norwegian monarchy in a positive way.

Speaking shortly before the wedding ceremony, Norway's Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, said he thought the two royal weddings and the celebrations surrounding them would strengthen the Norwegian monarchy rather than weaken it.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Slee
"The couple exchanged white gold rings"
See also:

24 May 02 | Europe
25 Aug 01 | Europe
30 May 01 | Europe
09 Apr 01 | Europe
21 May 01 | Country profiles
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