Monday, April 8, 2013

How not to engage Scandinavian kings...

By Jim Heffernan

Pity those poor Scandinavian monarchs. Sometimes they get no respect.

Of course the current Norwegian king, Harald V, got plenty of respect when he visited Duluth recently to rededicate Enger Tower. But his father, King Olav V, experienced an indignity so egregious when he visited the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, that it was mentioned again last week in a New York Times obituary for a former Calgary mayor. (Read it HERE.)

Ralph Klein, 12th primiere of Alberta 
The obituary for Canadian politician Ralph Klein, whom the Times described as a “rambunctious Canadian politician” who also became Alberta premier, recounted the incident. Here’s how the obituary put it:

“At the Olympics, Mr. Klein (then Calgary mayor) mistook the King of Norway (Olav V at the time) for his driver and asked him to fetch the car. The startled king explained who he was as he pulled out his silver cigarette case. Mr. Klein apologized and bummed a cigarette.”

It brought to mind the famous gaffe 100 years ago at the Stockholm Olympic games when American decathlon gold medal winner Jim Thorpe was introduced to King Gustav V of the host country. Addressing Thorpe, the king said, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.”
King Olav V of Norway

“Thanks, King,” responded Thorpe.

The athlete apparently didn’t know that nobody calls a king king to his face, “your majesty” or “your highness” being the most common commoner way to address royalty.

I don’t know how Duluth Mayor Don Ness addressed King Harald last year when the monarch and his queen visited Duluth, but I’m sure it was all very proper.

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