Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr.
October 20, 1958
Watertown, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||St. Lawrence University|
(m. 1987; div. 1998)
|Partner(s)||Ariadna Gil (2009–present)|
Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr. (/ /; Danish: [ˈviko ˈmɒːtn̩sn̩]; born October 20, 1958) is an American actor, author, musician, photographer, poet, and painter. Born in the State of New York to a Danish father and American mother, he lived in Argentina during his childhood. He is the recipient of various accolades including a Screen Actors Guild Award and has been nominated for three Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.
Mortensen made his film debut in a small role in Peter Weir's 1985 thriller Witness, which starred Harrison Ford and was set in Amish country. He appeared in several notable films, including The Indian Runner (1991), Carlito's Way (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), Daylight (1996), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), G.I. Jane (1997), Psycho (1998 remake), A Perfect Murder (1998), A Walk on the Moon (1999), and 28 Days (2000).
Mortensen received international attention in the early 2000s for his role as Aragorn in the epic fantasy adventure trilogy The Lord of the Rings. In 2005, Mortensen won critical acclaim for his acting in David Cronenberg's crime thriller A History of Violence. Two years later, Mortensen earned acclaim in another Cronenberg film, Eastern Promises (2007); he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. A third teaming with Cronenberg in A Dangerous Method (2011) resulted in a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for his portrayal of pioneer psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Other well-received films include Appaloosa (2008) and Far from Men (2014). He gained additional Academy Award nominations for his leading roles in Captain Fantastic (2016) and Green Book (2018), the latter of which won for Best Picture.
Mortensen was born in Watertown in northern New York State on October 20, 1958, the son of Grace Gamble (née Atkinson; July 8, 1928 – April 25, 2015) and Viggo Peter Mortensen Sr. (May 8, 1929 – March 2, 2017). His mother was American, while his father was Danish; they met in Norway. His maternal grandfather was a Canadian from Nova Scotia. His paternal grandmother was from Trondheim, Norway.
The family moved to Venezuela, then Denmark, and eventually settled in Argentina. They lived successively in the provinces of Córdoba, Chaco, and Buenos Aires. Mortensen attended primary school and acquired a fluent proficiency in Spanish while his father managed poultry farms and ranches. He was baptized Lutheran, the tradition of his father.
When Mortensen was 11 and his brothers 8 and 6, their parents divorced. The three boys returned with their mother to the US, where Viggo spent the rest of his childhood in New York State. He graduated from Watertown High School in Watertown in 1976. He attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor's degree in 1980 in Spanish studies and politics.
Upon graduating, Mortensen went to Europe, living for a time in England and Spain, before returning to Denmark. There he took various jobs such as driving trucks in Esbjerg and selling flowers in Copenhagen. He eventually returned to the United States to pursue an acting career.
Mortensen's first film role was in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), but his scenes were deleted from the final cut. His first onscreen appearance was playing an Amish farmer in Peter Weir's Witness. He was cast in Witness because the director thought he had the right face for the part of an Amish man. He had also been simultaneously cast for another role as a soldier in Shakespeare in the Park's production of Henry V, but he decided to choose acting in the film because he wanted to try something new. He credited that decision and the very positive experience on the film as the start of his film career.
Also in 1985, he was cast in the role of Bragg on the TV series Search for Tomorrow. Mortensen's 1987 performance in Bent at the Coast Playhouse, Los Angeles, won him a Dramalogue Critics' Award. The play, about homosexual prisoners in a concentration camp, was known for the leading performance by Ian McKellen. Mortensen later costarred with him in the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. In 1987, Mortensen guest starred as a police detective on the hit TV series Miami Vice.
During the 1990s, Mortensen appeared in supporting roles in a variety of films, including Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady, Young Guns II, Prison, Boiling Point, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Sean Penn's The Indian Runner, Danny Cannon's The Young Americans, Carl Colpaert's The Crew, which won the São Paulo Film Festival Audience Award, Brian de Palma's Carlito's Way, Crimson Tide, G.I. Jane, Daylight, A Walk on the Moon, American Yakuza, Charles Robert Carner's remake Vanishing Point, Philip Ridley's films The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon, the remake films A Perfect Murder and Gus Van Sant's Psycho (the 1998 remakes of two Alfred Hitchcock's movies Dial M for Murder and Psycho), 28 Days, and The Prophecy, with Christopher Walken. Of these roles, Mortensen was probably best known for playing Master Chief John Urgayle in G.I. Jane.
Another major mainstream breakthrough came in 1999, when Peter Jackson cast him as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. According to the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Mortensen was a last-minute replacement for Stuart Townsend, and would not have taken the part of Aragorn had it not been for his son's enthusiasm for the J. R. R. Tolkien novel. In The Two Towers DVD extras, the film's swordmaster, Bob Anderson, described Mortensen as "the best swordsman I've ever trained." Mortensen often performed his own stunts, and even the injuries he sustained during several of them did not dampen his enthusiasm. At one point during shooting of The Two Towers, Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and Brett Beattie (stunt double for John Rhys-Davies) all had painful injuries, and during a shoot of them, running in the mountains, Peter Jackson jokingly referred to the three as "the walking wounded." Also, according to the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mortensen purchased the two horses, Uraeus and Kenny, whom he rode and bonded with over the duration of the films. He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Aragorn, and was ranked No. 15 on a 2015 survey of "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters" conducted by Empire.
In 2005, Mortensen starred in David Cronenberg's movie A History of Violence as a family man revealed to have had an unsavory previous career. He was nominated for a Satellite Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for this role. In the DVD extras for A History of Violence, Cronenberg related that Mortensen is the only actor he had come across who would come back from weekends with his family with items he had bought to use as props on the set.
In 2006, he starred as Captain Diego Alatriste in the Spanish language film Alatriste, based on the series of novels The Adventures of Captain Alatriste, written by the Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
In September 2007, the film Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, was released to critical acclaim for the film itself and for Mortensen's performance as a Russian gangster on the rise in London. His nude fight scene in a steam room was applauded by Roger Ebert: "Years from now, it will be referred to as a benchmark." Mortensen's performance in Eastern Promises resulted in his winning the Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film award from the British Independent Film Awards. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
In 2009, Mortensen appeared as himself in the film Reclaiming The Blade, in which he discussed his passion for the sword and his sword-work in films such as The Lord of the Rings and Alatriste. Mortensen also talked about his work with Bob Anderson, the swordmaster on The Lord of the Rings, Alatriste, Pirates of the Caribbean and many others.
In 2009, Mortensen performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.
While it was reported in April 2009 that Mortensen had, at least temporarily, retired from film acting, Mortensen said he was misquoted. In a 2012 interview, he denied that he ever said he was retiring, only that he didn't have "plans to do another movie" at the time and that he was "taking a little break now. I don't have anything lined up."
With part of his earnings from The Lord of the Rings, Mortensen founded the Perceval Press publishing house—named after the knight from the legend of King Arthur—to help other artists by publishing works that might not find a home in more traditional publishing venues.
Perceval Press is also the home of Mortensen's many personal artistic projects in the area of fine arts, photography, poetry, song, and literature (see below).
Mortensen is also an author, with various books of poetry, photography, and painting published. With anthropologists Federico Bossert and Diego Villar, he has written several works related to ethnography of natives in South America, specifically in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Some of the published books co-authored by Mortensen are Sons of the Forest and Skovbo. Mortensen's bibliography includes:
- Ten Last Night – (1993), his first collection of poetry.
- Recent Forgeries – (1998), ISBN, 5th Edition, documents Viggo's first solo exhibition and includes a CD with music and spoken-word poetry. Introduction by Dennis Hopper.
- Errant Vine – (2000), limited edition booklet of an exhibit at the Robert Mann Gallery.
- Hole in the Sun – (2002, ISBN), color and black & white photographs of a back yard swimming pool.
- SignLanguage – (2002 ISBN), a catalog from an exhibition of his works, combining photographs, paintings, and poetry into a multimedia diary of his time in New Zealand while filming The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Introduction by Kevin Power.
- Coincidence of Memory – (2002, ISBN) Third Edition. In this book, the artist combines photographs, paintings, and poems that cover his artistic output from 1978 to 2002.
- Mo Te Upoko-o-te-ika/For Wellington – (2003), ISBN, a book to accompany the joint exhibitions at Massey University and the Wellington City Gallery during the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
- 45301 – (2003), ISBN. Abstract images, fragments, and phrases from poems comprise this photography book. Many of the photographs were shot during travels to Morocco, Cuba, and the northern plains of the United States.
- Un hueco en el sol – (2003), a small booklet published to accompany the exhibition "Un hueco en el sol" at the Fototeca de Cuba in Havana. In Spanish.
- Miyelo – (2003), a series of panoramic photographs of a Lakota Ghost Dance. It also tells about the events leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee.
- Nye Falsknerier – (2003). Paintings and poems translated into Danish from Ten Last Night, Recent Forgeries, Coincidence of Memory.
- The Horse is Good – (2004), ISBN, a photography book, partly shot during his work on the film Hidalgo, about horses as partners, teachers, and fellow travelers. Images from Morocco, South Dakota, Montana, California, Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark, Brazil, and Argentina. This book reflects Mortensen's fondness for horses. In fact, he bought Uraeus—the horse who played Brego, Aragorn's steed (Roheryn in the books) in The Lord of the Rings movies—as well as TJ, one of the horses who played Hidalgo. He also purchased the stallion that played Arwen's horse, a gray Andalusian stallion named Florian, and gave it to the stunt woman, Jane Abbott, who rode the horse in place of Liv Tyler.
- Linger – (2005). In this book, the artist combines black and white photographs and prose poems. Images from Spain (partly shot during his work on the film Alatriste), Morocco, Iceland, United States, Denmark ...
- I Forget You For Ever – (2006). Texts and photographs.
- Skovbo – (2008). Collection of photographs, poems (in English, Spanish and Danish) and quotes.
- Sådanset – (2008). A small booklet published to accompany the exhibition Sådanset (October 18 – November 16, 2008) at the Palæfløjen in Roskilde (Denmark).
- Canciones de Invierno – Winter Songs – (2010). Collection of photographs and poems. Bilingual : in Spanish and English. It includes new texts (most of the poems and all the translations) and revised versions of texts previously published. They're accompanied by pictures of landscapes taken during the previous two winters.
- That Turned Ugly Fast – (2015), ISBN, Poems by Mark Berriman, with a foreword by Viggo Mortensen.
- Ramas Para Un Nido – (2017). Collection of photos comprising a "distillation of isolated instances".
Visual arts and discography
Mortensen is a painter and photographer. His paintings are frequently abstract and often contain fragments of his poetry therein. His paintings have been featured in galleries worldwide, and many of the paintings of the artist he portrayed in A Perfect Murder are his own.
Mortensen experiments with his poetry and music by mixing the two art forms. He has collaborated with guitarist Buckethead on several albums, mostly released on his own label (Perceval Press) or TDRS Music. Viggo was first introduced to Buckethead's work while working on sounds for an educational CD on Greek mythology. The finished product included a guitar part by Buckethead, which caught Viggo's ear and led him to initiate contact with the guitarist. The collaboration grew from there.
Mortensen's discography includes:
- 1994: Don't Tell Me What to Do
- 1997: One Less Thing to Worry About
- 1998: Recent Forgeries
- 1999: The Other Parade
- 1999: One Man's Meat
- 1999: Live at Beyond Baroque
- 2003: Pandemoniumfromamerica
- 2004: Live at Beyond Baroque II
- 2004: Please Tomorrow
- 2004: This, That, and the Other
- 2005: Intelligence Failure
- 2006: 3 Fools 4 April
- 2007: Time Waits for Everyone
- 2008: At All
- 2010: Canciones de Invierno
- 2011: Reunion
- 2013: Acá
- 2015: Under the Weather
- 2016: Seventeen Odd Songs
- 2017: Preguntas Desde la Orilla
- 2018: Godzilla Sleeps Alone
Mortensen is featured on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King soundtrack, singing "Aragorn's Coronation" (the name of the extended version of this song in the 3rd original sound track is "The Return of the King"), the words by Tolkien and the music composed by Mortensen. In the extended DVD edition of the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, he sings the song "The Lay of Beren and Lúthien". His poems are written in English, Danish, and Spanish.
Mortensen holds dual American and Danish citizenship. He has stated that he was raised speaking English and Spanish, and sometimes feels that, when speaking Spanish, he "can get to the heart of the matter better".
Mortensen met singer Exene Cervenka in 1986 on the set of the comedy Salvation! The couple married on July 8, 1987. On January 28, 1988, Cervenka gave birth to their son, named Henry Blake Mortensen, who later played his on-screen son in the film Crimson Tide in 1995. Henry graduated from Columbia University in 2010 with a B.A. in Archaeology and has been working at Perceval Press, founded by his father. Mortensen and Cervenka lived in Idaho for three years. They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1997. Since 2009, he has been in a relationship with Spanish actress Ariadna Gil. Though the couple reside in Madrid, Mortensen spends much of his time in the United States, and has stated, "I am a citizen and longtime resident of the United States and am attached to its landscapes, history, and people."
Mortensen has talked about his family's struggles with dementia, seeing both of his parents, three of his four grandparents, aunts, uncles, and his stepfather battle the disease. In 2016, Mortensen travelled to New York to take care of his father, who died a year later from dementia. Two years prior, Mortensen's mother also died from complications of the condition.
Mortensen has expressed a liking for association football, ice hockey and baseball. His favorite teams include Argentine club San Lorenzo de Almagro, English team Fulham, Spanish team Real Madrid, Turkish team Beşiktaş, and both the Argentine and Danish national teams. His favorite soccer players are Diego Maradona and Héctor "Bambino" Veira. He is a fan of the Montreal Canadiens and wore a Canadiens shirt underneath his costume throughout the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. During the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Montreal Canadiens, Mortensen introduced one of his idols, Guy Lafleur, to the crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal. He is also a fan of the New York Mets and, in an interview promoting 2009 film The Road, was seen wearing apparel indicating his support of the Australian Football League's Collingwood Magpies. While appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, he held a sign supporting the New York Giants.
Mortensen was a close friend of Icelandic painter Georg Guðni Hauksson until the latter's death in 2011. He had long been an admirer of Georg Guðni's work as a landscape artist, and the two published books together as well as maintaining a close friendship. He was one of the signees of the "Toronto Declaration" protesting against spotlighting Tel Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. Mortensen has owned property in Sandpoint, Idaho, and spends time there when not filming movies.
Mortensen first endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for U.S. president in the 2016 election. When Sanders lost the nomination, he endorsed Green Party candidate Jill Stein. He wrote an open letter just before Election Day 2016 where he listed the reasons he disagreed with Hillary Clinton and could not support her in the race against Donald Trump, though he thought that Clinton would be elected president. He went on to narrate a viral documentary, The Revolution Televised, about the 2016 presidential election and the protests in the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention.
As of 2018 Mortensen has been a member of the Catalan NGO Òmnium Cultural, a pro-independence organization dedicated to promoting Catalan culture and language in the arts and the public sphere. His longtime partner and her extended family are known supporters of the 2017 Catalan independence referendum, but it is unclear whether Mortensen's support for Òmnium is political or motivated purely by their work supporting Catalan art and media. In 2019, he publicly criticized the use of his character Aragorn by the far-right Spanish party Vox during the campaign for the 2019 Spanish general election.
In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mortensen joined other stars from The Lord of the Rings for actor Josh Gad's YouTube series Reunited Apart, which reunites the cast of popular movies through video-conferencing, and promotes donations to non-profit charities.
|1987||Miami Vice||Eddie||Episode: "Red Tape"|
|Prison||Burke / Forsythe Electrocution|
|Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III||Edward "Tex" Sawyer|
|Young Guns II||John W. Poe|
|The Reflecting Skin||Cameron Dove|
|1991||The Indian Runner||Frank Roberts|
|Ruby Cairo||John E. "Johnny" Faro|
|Carlito's Way||Lalin Miasso|
|The Young Americans||Carl Frazer|
|Gospel According to Harry||Wes|
|American Yakuza||Nick Davis / David Brandt|
|Crimson Tide||Lieutenant Peter "Weps" Ince|
|The Passion of Darkly Noon||Clay|
|Black Velvet Pantsuit||Junkie|
|1996||Albino Alligator||Guy Foucard|
|The Portrait of a Lady||Caspar Goodwood|
|1997||Vanishing Point||Jimmy Kowalski|
|G.I. Jane||Master Chief John James "Jack" Urgayle|
|My Brother's Gun||Juanito|
|1998||A Perfect Murder||David Shaw|
|Psycho||Samuel "Sam" Loomis|
|1999||A Walk on the Moon||Walker Jerome|
|2000||28 Days||Eddie Boone|
|2001||The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring||Aragorn|
|2002||The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers||Aragorn|
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||Aragorn|
|2005||A History of Violence||Tom Stall / Joey Cusack|
|2006||Alatriste||Diego Alatriste y Tenorio|
|2007||Eastern Promises||FSB Agent Nikolai Luzhin|
|2009||The Road||The Man|
|2011||A Dangerous Method||Sigmund Freud|
|2012||On the Road||Old Bull Lee|
|Everybody Has a Plan||Agustín / Pedro||Also producer|
|2014||The Two Faces of January||Chester MacFarland|
|Jauja||Gunnar Dinesen||Also producer and composer|
|Far from Men||Daru||Also co-producer|
|2016||Captain Fantastic||Ben Cash|
|2018||Green Book||Tony Lip|
|2020||Falling||John Petersen||Also director, producer, writer and music composer|
|TBA||Thirteen Lives||Richard Stanton||Post-production|
|TBA||Crimes of the Future||Post-production|
|2002||The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers||Aragorn|
Awards and nominations
On October 13, 2006, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Province and the City of León, Spain.
- Stone, Andrew; Carolyn Bain; Michael Booth; Fran Parnell (2008). "Cinema". Lonely Planet Denmark. Lonely Planet. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-74104-669-4.
Although [Mortensen] was born in New York and has lived outside of Denmark for most of his life, he retains Danish citizenship.
- "UPI Almanac for Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020". United Press International. October 20, 2020. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
...actor Viggo Mortensen in 1958 (age 62)...
- " Flawed father role a test for Viggo Mortensen" Archived August 16, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Toronto Star, Michael O'Sullivan, July 16, 2016.
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- "St. Lawrence University: Commencement". stlawu.edu. May 21, 2006. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
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- Doyle, Macreena A. (2003). "Viggo Mortensen '80 REMEMBERS". St. Lawrence Magazine. St. Lawrence University. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
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- "Viggo Mortensen vuelve al teatro con Carme Elias en una obra sobre la capacidad de perdón (in Spanish)". El País. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- "Little press shines with star power". Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2004. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
- Viggo editará la obra de Branislava Susnik Archived April 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. ABC Color (Paraguay)
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- "Exene Cervenka: Exile in the Ozarks". LA Weekly. June 11, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- "Here" (PDF). Poetry Super Highway. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
- "Prime Time for Barnard Theater". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
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- Ryan, Patrick (February 5, 2021). "'It feels like a horror film': New dementia dramas 'Falling,' 'Supernova' aim for truthfulness over tears". USA Today. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
- Interview with Archived December 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Clarín (in Spanish)
- "Hollywood'da doğdu Beşiktaşlı oldu – Hürriyet Magazin Hattı". Hürriyet Daily News. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- "Hockey is my religion, the Canadiens are my god." Archived August 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine The Globe and Mail. January 23, 2009
- "Guy Lafleur présenté par Viggo Mortensen". Archived from the original on May 14, 2017. Retrieved November 16, 2017 – via YouTube.
- "Best of ABC Online". ABC News.
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- "A Visit with Viggo." Archived January 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Sandpoint Magazine. Winter 2004 Edition.
- Norton, Ben (November 6, 2015). "'That's tyranny': Viggo Mortensen blasts U.S. militarism, criticises both parties for 'hawkish' foreign policy". Salon. Archived from the original on November 10, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- "Viggo Mortensen Goes Green: 'I Trust Hillary About as Much as I Trust Donald Trump'". The Daily Beast. July 16, 2016. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
- Anderson, Ariston (October 17, 2016). "Rome Film Fest: Viggo Mortensen, Matt Ross "Shocked" Anyone Would Vote for Trump". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 2, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- Ronca, Kevin. "The Revolution Televised: Episode 1 – The Awakening of a Generation". Archived from the original on November 13, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2018 – via YouTube.
- Serra, Xavi (October 1, 2020). "Viggo Mortensen: "Soc d'Òmnium perquè m'interessen la història, la cultura i la llengua catalanes"". Ara.cat (in Catalan). Retrieved January 15, 2022.
- Mortensen, Viggo (May 7, 2019). "Vox's political and media blunder (letter to the editor)". El País. Archived from the original on May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- O'Kane, Caitlin (June 1, 2020). "Actor Josh Gad reunites stars of 'Lord of the Rings' while raising money for kids in need". CBS News.
- McNary, Dave (October 15, 2018). "Viggo Mortensen to Star, Make Directorial Debut in Family Drama 'Falling'". Variety. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
- "Viggo Mortensen Tells Grads 'Activism Not A Dirty Word'". Newswise. May 21, 2006. Archived from the original on January 26, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Bysted A/S. "Kongehuset – Forside". Kongehuset.dk. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
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