A royal welcome, with a curtsey

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2011 - 5:52 AM

4-year-old welcomes Norway's royalty with a smile, curtsey

On a perfect Minnesota evening, Bergen Gandrud Pickett, named for the Norwegian city, presented a bouquet of flowers to a grandma who happens to be the queen of Norway.

Her performance, needless to say, was above average.

Bergen, 4 "and a half," stood solemnly on the red carpet of the Saint Paul Hotel. She had felt its obvious plushness while waiting for King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway to arrive for their eight-day tour of Minnesota and Iowa, their first visit here since 1995. Bergen had scrunched the petticoats of her new princess dress.

For two weeks, she had practiced her curtsey, a skill that isn't as easy as it looks, especially when you're also trying to gaze upward, and hold out some flowers, and smile. "Don't forget to smile," her grandma, Mimi Gandrud, coached her one day last week. "And look her right in the eye."

Having Grandma play the queen during practice was a plus, because she couldn't be so much different from a real queen. (Grandpa is Gary Gandrud, Norway's honorary consul here.) After practicing her line, "Welcome to Minnesota," Bergen seemed unfazed. Her mother, Laura Gandrud Pickett of Edina, wished she felt as calm.

Assured that there's no way a 4-year-old bearing blossoms could be anything but charming, Gandrud Pickett raised an eyebrow. "We've told her that the queen might not actually be wearing a crown," she said, recounting the cautionary tale of one child who, confronted with a tiara-less monarch, refused to hand over the flowers.

Queen Sonja was indeed without her crown, looking like nothing more, nor less, than a particularly chic grandma being delivered to a grand hotel with a police escort. And a king.

Their majesties will attend events this week in Decorah, Iowa, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, then visit the Mayo Clinic. Sunday is the big day, with a church service at Augsburg College, a reception at the governor's mansion and a gala banquet. On Monday, they travel to Duluth and will conclude their visit Tuesday by opening the Amundsen Exhibit at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which celebrates the centennial of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's successful expedition to the South Pole.

Norway has had a king of some sort since 872 when Harald Fairhair reigned, but most hailed from Denmark, which ruled Norway for more than four centuries. Not until 1905, when Norway dissolved its union with Sweden, did it attain its own monarchy. Newly independent, the question of having a king was put to the people and almost eight in 10 Norwegians voted in favor.

Prince Carl of Denmark, who had backed Norway's independence, consented to serve and chose the ancient name of Haakon. He was succeeded by his son, Olav, who had been born in his mother's homeland of England. King Harald thus is somewhat remarkable, being the first Norwegian king since 1370 to actually have been born in Norway.

Tuesday night, however, was about Bergen and the queen, who exchanged an almost imperceptible conversation before dozens of onlookers. "For your majesty," Bergen whispered. "What's your name?" Queen Sonja inquired. The rest is something that Bergen may tell her own grandma someday, for the moment was over almost as soon as it began.

Their majesties entered the hotel, and Bergen suddenly got antsy, her task completed, her reward earned.

"Megamind," said her father, Brent, of the animated movie she'd requested if she performed her task with honor, smiling and looking the queen right in the eye.

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

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