Norway's crown prince believed set to propose marriage

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway's news media went into a frenzy Monday over reports that Crown Prince Haakon was about to become engaged to his girlfriend, a single mother who could become the nation's next queen.

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«There seems to have been conclusions that were jumped to. We aren't engaged,» the crown prince was quoted as telling the national news agency NTB.

However, the broad view was that an engagement was all but fact after the palace summoned the nation's top editors to discuss the process of royal engagement and marriage.

«This is good news and the right decision,» said Lutheran Bishop Gunnar Staalseth, who is seen as religious adviser to the royal family.

It was not clear when the couple might become formally engaged or when Norway might see its first royal wedding since 1968, when Haakon's father, King Harald V, married Queen Sonja.

The popular 27-year-old prince revealed in May that he had a steady girlfriend, Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, who has a three-year-old son. Last month, the palace announced that the two planned to move in together.

Confusion arose Monday because the palace had summoned 12 of the nation's top news editors to a meeting. Afterward, the editors said the couple planned an engagement.

However, at a news conference later in the day, the head of the royal court Lars Forberg refused to confirm that an engagement was pending. He said he had simply explained the process of a royal engagement and wedding due to intense media interest and did not even know if the crown prince had proposed.

«We haven't announced any engagement,» said Forberg. «The royal palace won't announce any engagement until an engagement has been entered.»

Hoiby, 27, is a journalism student, originally from the southern town of Kristiansand.

The fact that Hoiby was an unwed mother barely raised an eyebrow in this Scandinavian country of 4.5 million people, where roughly half the children are born to single mothers or unmarried couples.

And legal experts say her young son could never be king, even if the couple married and Haakon adopted him.

As opposed to their royal kin in much of Europe, Norway's figurehead monarch and his family generally are allowed a high level of privacy and the general public appears to support Haakon's right to live his own life.

However, their plans to move in together and Hoiby's controversial background had come under increasingly critical scrutiny in the news media.

Based on Norway's tradition of respect for the royal family, an engagement could have protected the couple.

King Harald stood up to his own father, the late King Olav V, for years by refusing to marry anybody but his childhood sweetheart, the commoner Sonja Haraldsen, now Queen Sonja.

Norge ska få en ny drottning, skriver svenske Expressen.

Der har i næsten overdreven grad været fokuseret på, at hun er enlig mor og tidligere har været tilknyttet house-miljøet i Oslo, skriver det danske nyhetsbyrået ritzau.

Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, 27, is an unwed mother from Kristiansand who allegedly has links to criminal circles in Norway, skriver amerikanske CNN.

The Norwegian church was horrified at the thought and its bishops urged the pair to marry quickly, skriver engelske Sky news.

En tidigare pojkvän dömts flera gånger för misshandel och narkotikabrott, skriver det svenske nyhetsbyrået TT.

Haakon och Mette-Marit slår ihop sina påsar, melder svenske Aftonbladet.