So I had a ticket to the Convocation at Luther College in Decorah on Thursday, and I was also incredibly lucky to get an invitation to have lunch with Harald and Sonja (and roughly 150 other people). It was so cool to see them in person! When they entered the luncheon, they passed right by my table - literally 5 feet from me.
A few random thoughts/details from the day:
It was clear that Harald still feels a strong connection to the U.S. (He spent five years in Washington during World War II at the invitation of President Roosevelt.) I think he seemed very sincere in his speech, and I heard several people remarking on his singing of the American national anthem. He knew every word without glancing at his program, and he was singing along with gusto, all of which is more than can be said for some Americans.
Certainly above and beyond what one would expect from a foreign head of state.
Harald seems very jovial, very easygoing, and like he's having a good time wherever he is. He seemed to enjoy the whole service and looked very relaxed, and I thought it was very funny how he sat down in his seat on the platform and immediately looked through his program. He appeared to be reading the page-long biographies of him and Sonja with interest. (I don't think Sonja ever opened her copy.) During the lunch, I looked over at Harald's table several times, and he was always
Sonja didn't seem to be having nearly as good of a time as he was - she seemed rather stiff in comparison to her husband. I don't think she smiled at all as they processed in to the Convocation (Harald was quite smiley and friendly-looking), and I thought she looked rather intimidating. During the service, she managed a very small smile when she and Harald were presented with an award, and then she laughed at one point. Other than that, her expression was quite fixed. When she first sat down at the lunch, she seemed somewhat stiff with the guests at her table. She relaxed more as the time went on, but it still seemed to be much more of a "business lunch" for her than it was for him. In the last 20 minutes or so I thought she seemed to grow much warmer, almost grandmotherly when she was listening to the two students at her table. I guess it takes her awhile to be comfortable/natural?
The lady who introduced Harald during the Convocation mentioned his previous visits to Luther College, the first of which was in 1965 when he was still the Crown Prince. She noted that all the college girls were quite taken with the handsome young Prince, and Sonja looked at Harald and nodded. He laughed and had this funny look on his face, like, "I was
handsome, wasn't I?" and they both laughed (along with the audience). It was a cute moment between them.
Sonja is very
short in real life. (As she and Harald left the luncheon, I heard a lady at the table behind me whisper, "She's a tiny little thing, isn't she?"
) I think some of the official photos, like the ones on the Royal House website right now, are photoshopped to make her taller - the one on the homepage makes her look like she comes past Harald's shoulder, and she definitely doesn't. She was about an inch below his shoulder, and her heels looked like they were about three inches, making her 4 inches below his shoulder. My guess on his height is that he's about 6 foot 2 (188 centimeters) - he was taller than most of the men around him, but he wasn't a giant. If you assume his head's about a foot above his shoulder, and then you subtract another four inches, this makes Sonja 4 foot 10 or 11 (147-150 centimeters).
Aside from how incredibly tiny she is
, I was also struck by her eyes. I've read that Harald has said that what first attracted him to her was her big brown eyes, and they do look very pretty in photos. However, they're much more striking in person. They're very big and very brown, and they have an unusual (but quite pretty) shape.
We were not allowed to take photos in the Convocation or at the luncheon, but I did get a few of them outside after the service, as well as a few outside the Vesterheim Museum later that afternoon.