25 April 2010

Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergström go separate ways

The Swedish Royal Court issued a press statement on Saturday 24 April 2010 informing that Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergström had broken their engagement. The press statement came after weeks of press speculations about the state of their relationship, topped this week by the Norwegian magazine Se og Hør’s revelations of a short-lived affair between Bergström and a Norwegian woman. The affair took place in April last year, before Princess Madeleine and Bergström became engaged.

The press statement was according to today’s Aftonbladet released at 12.50, 67 minutes after SK 903, with Princess Madeleine on board, had left for the United States to work for the World Childhood Foundation.

I only learned about the break-up when I got home late last night from a party at Hurum. When the press release was issued I was occupied with test driving a car in Larvik, and afterwards I was together with my family in Sandefjord before leaving for Hurum. I never turned on the car radio. I was asked for a comment at the party, and I guess everyone presumed that I had heard about the news story, but it never reached me. I guess some of my comments didn’t give much sense! :-) So if anyone present at the party reads this blog article, then they will know why... On Sunday I had to make short trip to Sweden; hence there was no time for blogging until now.

Even if the news of the broken engagement is outdated already, I think it is still worth making a few comments. First of all it is difficult not to feel sorry for Princess Madeleine. A seven years’ long relationship has ended, and it is easy to imagine how hurt and betrayed she feels. The story has also caused much embarrassment to both her and the rest of the royal family of Sweden. But as King Harald V of Norway commented yesterday, it is better that it happened now than after the wedding. One can only feel sympathy for the princess and hope that she with time will learn to get over it and move on.

I find it far more difficult to have any sympathies with the Norwegian woman who told about the affair to Se og Hør. How hard is it to say the two words «no comments» when media contact you about your private life? The woman and her family has issued a statement to the media, in which we are told that when the story was about to break after the Easter of 2009, she received NOK 12.500 to tell her story to a periodical. The statement also claims that she as well as her family has firmly rejected all offers of money to come forward after the story came up again.

I am not sure how this should be interpreted. There have obviously been rumours circulating about the woman and her encounter with Bergström last year, but I can’t remember any coverage of it. In other words, does this mean Se og Hør has been sitting on the story for over a year and has only decided to publish it now after the press speculations about a crisis in the relationship between Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergström started to circulate? It sounds incredible.

Another matter is the press coverage during the last few days. Dagens Nyheter commented on this on Thursday 22 April, two days before the press release about the broken engagement was issued. What can we expect of the Scandinavian media after this? Does this mean a new trend of «hovrapportering» (press coverage of the royals)? One should of course have in mind that Princess Madeleine is a public figure. She is third in line of succession to the Swedish throne, and her engagement was an constitutional affair as not only her father the king’s, but also the government’s, consent was needed. It is therefore legitimate to cover the break-up of the engagement as well. But there is no doubt that the media has crossed the line once again. It feels rather uncomfortable to read so many details about others’ life which I would have preferred had remained private. It is not easy to avoid some of the details, though, when the tabloid front pages are screaming against you.

Kristina Widestedt, researcher at Institutionen för journalistik, medier och kommunikation (JMK), The Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMK) at Stockholm University, makes an interesting observation. She points to the royal vs. commoner distinction in the press coverage. Widestedt claims that the person «burnt» is the commoner, just like when the Danish royal couple (i.e. Prince Joachim and the then Princess Alexandra, now Countess of Frederiksborg) got divorced, and is convinced that there would no coverage at all if Princess Madeleine had been the unfaithful one. I am not so sure if the example of Joachim and Alexandra is the best one, as it certainly was Prince Joachim who got all the bad publicity at first. But Jonas Bergström will really have to struggle hard to get positive headlines again.

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