The house down the block

I live down the block from the King. Quite literally. If I walk out of my hotel, turn right, and walk a little more than one block, I arrive at the elegant and spacious home of King Harald V of Norway and his lovely bride Queen Sonja. I say “spacious” because their house has 117 rooms – definitely a step up from my apartment back in Manhattan.

You can walk around the palace grounds anytime you want, or hang out all day and feed the ducks in the duck pond out back. The palace itself is a grand and lovely nineteenth century residence, the kind that makes you think of swirling waltzes and young ladies in elegant gowns asking dashing officers over for tea.




My friends who live here tell me that you can from time to time see the King and his family coming and going, or just waving cheerfully from the balcony to their adoring subjects.

The King has no real power here. Officially he appoints the government, but the only government he’s allowed to appoint is the one supported by Parliament. He appoints the head of Parliament, but the only person he’s only allowed to choose is the leader of the majority party. It seems that the King’s function is basically to stand out on the balcony every day and command the Sun to rise. But people seem to really like him, maybe for that very reason.

Harald has had an interesting life. He narrowly escaped from the Nazis as a child. As a young man he insisted on marrying his sweetheart Sonja, telling his dad that if he couldn’t have her, he’d remain single all his life. This would have ended the monarchy, which stretches back about 900 years in an unbroken line of succession to Harald’s great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great granddad Egilmar I.

Sonja, by the way, is the only queen in history who has ever been to Antarctica, which continues our theme from yesterday of polar exploring Norwegians.

It seems to me that we have it exactly backwards in the United States. Our head of state is a boorish chief executive in a business suit with entirely too much power, whose own people are so annoyed with him that he needs to be guarded from them at all times. When was the last time anybody let you just stroll around the grounds of the White House and feed the ducks?

Give me a head of state who never wages war, wears a dashing uniform with a bright red sash and epaulets, throws grand teas with his arctic exploring childhood sweetheart by his side, and each morning, with all the pomp and majesty of his august office, commands the Sun to rise.

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