Princess Mette-Marit of Norway has led a fascinating rags-to-riches life. She was a waitress and a single mother before she became a part of the Norwegian royal family, in fact. Her marriage to Crown Prince Haakon was controversial when it took place back in 2001, although plenty of time has passed since then. But come 2018 a new chapter of her story began, when she announced some bad news regarding her health.
Princess Mette-Marit has been fairly open about her past. When Crown Prince Haakon announced his intention to marry her in 2001, the Norwegian media expressed shock. Not only was Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby a single mother with a four-year-old son, but she had also allegedly been a drug user in the past.
Mette-Marit ended up calling a press conference in which she essentially asked for forgiveness. Just prior to the wedding, she spoke to Norwegian journalists in Oslo. “My youthful rebellion was stronger than it was for many people,” she told them, according to The Independent. “We stepped over limits, and I’m very sorry about that.”
As the press conference continued, Mette-Marit began crying openly. “It was important for me to live in defiance of what was accepted,” she admitted. And although she didn’t directly address the question of whether she had ever taken illegal substances, Mette-Marit did denounce them. “I would like to take this opportunity to condemn drugs,” she said to the nation.
Mette-Merit then stated that she deeply regretted her past. “I cannot make these choices again, even though I wish I could,” she said. And Mette-Merit also asked that the Norwegian media stop trying to unearth sordid details about her earlier life. “I hope that I can now avoid talking more about my past and that the press will respect this wish,” she said.
Such was the controversy around Mette-Marit that some commentators claimed that Prince Haakon should give up the throne if he wished to marry her. Such drastic steps have been taken by royal families before – the British royal family, for instance, suffered a major crisis in 1936 when King Edward abdicated in order to marry Wallis Simpson.
Thankfully, though, Prince Haakon’s family supported him in his decision to marry the person he wanted to. And he himself broke royal rules. Prior to him and Mette-Marit being married, for example, they co-habited. That went against the teachings of the Lutheran church, which Haakon will one day be head of when he takes the throne.
With all the debates and disagreements that the marriage brought to Norway, it perhaps wouldn’t have been surprising if the relationship hadn’t lasted the course. But the marriage did endure. A few years after their wedding, Princess Mette-Marit and Prince Haakon had children together: Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus.
And Mette-Marie gradually became much less of a divisive figure. She was appointed a special representative of UNAIDS, the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, and has headed organisations such as Red Cross Norway and The Norwegian Council for Mental Health. Mette-Marie also met the British royals Prince William and Kate Middleton in February 2018 when they visited Norway.
But it was later that same year that a saddening press release was put out by Norway’s Royal Court. In October 2018 it was announced that the Crown Princess was suffering from a serious lung condition: chronic pulmonary fibrosis. The symptoms of this rare disease are known to become worse over time, and unfortunately there is no known cure for it.
Although there isn’t a cure for the disease at present, research into pulmonary fibrosis is ongoing. While it’s known that exposure to the likes of coal dust and asbestos can lead to the onset of the condition, in some instances its causes remain a mystery. And current treatments revolve around limiting its effects rather than reversing the scarring that it inflicts on people’s lungs.
“The Crown Princess has undergone extensive investigations related to her health and an unusual variant of fibrosis has been detected in the lungs, according to the Crown Princess’ doctor, Professor Kristian Bjøro at the National Hospital,” read the statement from the Royal Court. “It is not yet clear whether the pulmonary disease is linked to a more extensive autoimmune disease process or if there are other causes that underlie the lung changes.”
The Royal Court went on to explain that Mette-Marit’s condition was being analysed. “There is broad consensus that it is not related to environmental or lifestyle factors as is the case with other more common types of pulmonary fibrosis,” the statement continued. And Mette-Marit was also lucky the disease had been caught early, apparently, as it ensured her prognosis was more “favorable.”
“The Crown Princess will have to undergo further investigation in the future and also treatment trials,” Mette-Marit’s doctor, Professor Kristian Bjøro from the National Hospital, said in the statement. “In such conditions as the Crown Princess has, it is common for us to cooperate with environments abroad.”
Mette-Marie herself also released a statement. “For a number of years, I have had health challenges on a regular basis, and now we know more about what these are,” she explained. “The Crown Prince and I choose to inform about this now, partly because in future there will be a need to plan periods without official program.”
“Although such a diagnosis in times will limit my life, I’m glad that the disease has been discovered so early,” Mette-Marie went on. Unfortunately, though, chronic pulmonary fibrosis is indeed a life-limiting disease. People diagnosed with the condition typically only live for another four years or so.
Nonetheless, new treatments are being worked on all the time. Although oxygen therapy can’t restore a patient’s lungs to their original states, it can help with breathing and lessen the blood-related complications that the condition causes. And a lung transplant is also an option, despite the fact that the person who receives it still might find their body rejecting the organ eventually.
Norwegians sent good wishes to Mette-Marit after news of her diagnosis broke. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who is close to the royal family, released an official statement. “Today, I send warm thoughts to Crown Princess Mette-Marit,” Solberg said. “Now it is important that the Crown Princess receives good treatment, is closely followed up and receives much care.”
Other people praised Mette-Marit for her honesty. Lung specialist Olav Kåre Refvem discussed Mette-Marit’s case on the Norwegian channel NRK. “She has given a face to a disease that not so many would talk about,” he said. “This will and can give hope to many people who have been diagnosed and know how difficult this is.”
Mette-Marit has still been seen out and about in the wake of her condition becoming public knowledge. In the days following the announcement, she appeared with her husband at the Opera House in Oslo, where she was reportedly all smiles. Hopefully, she will be able to overcome the cruel hand that life suddenly dealt her – there might yet be a cure in her lifetime.