Palace dinner for princess’ 80th

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Norway’s Princess Astrid celebrated her 80th birthday on Sunday and her younger brother, King Harald, invited family and friends for what officials called a “private” dinner party at the Royal Palace in Oslo. Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon were among those expected to attend.

Princess Astrid at her desk in the Royal Palace in 1954, when she assumed royal duties as Norway's "First Lady" following the death of her mother, Crown Princess Märtha. PHOTO: PHOTO: SA Sturlason, Det kongelige hoffs fotoarkiv

Princess Astrid Maud Ingeborg, born February 12, 1932, functioned as Norway’s “First Lady” for many years, following the death of her mother, the late Crown Princess Märtha, in 1954. The princess was only 22 and the younger of then-Crown Prince Olav’s two daughters, but her older sister Princess Ragnhild had just married Norwegian shipping and businessman Erling Lorentzen and moved to Brazil. With her father a relatively young widower, the job of being his official traveling companion and hostess fell to her.

She maintained regular official duties for 14 years, well after her father had become king in 1957 and until her younger brother Harald finally was allowed to marry commoner Sonja Haraldsen. Then Sonja became crown princess, and Princess Astrid could step aside.

She had already married herself, in 1961, to businessman and retailer Johan Martin Ferner. They had five children, now five grandchildren as well, and the family still runs the fashionable Ferner-Jacobsen clothing store in the heart of Oslo, just down the street from the palace.

Her title after her marriage changed to Prinsesse Astrid fru Ferner but she remained among Crown Prince, later King Olav’s most important supporters. Before King Olav finally agreed to the marriage of his son and heir to the throne, after a nine-year courtship, Astrid was often present at official events, helped host visiting heads of state and traveled with her father in Norway, although only once abroad. They toured most of the country after he succeeded his father, the late King Haakon VII, as king.

Princess Astrid's official portrait on the occasion of her 80th birthday, taken at the Royal Palace in Oslo. PHOTO: Svein Brimi / Det kongelige hoff

Princess Astrid told Norwegian magazine Familien this week that she has no intention of slowing down now, either. “I don’t feel old at all,” she told Familien. “And it’s just a pleasure to help out.” She stressed that she’s motivated first and foremost by the sheer joy of it all.

She’s a royal patron (called beskytter, literally “protector,” in Norwegian) for around a dozen various organizations and her name still pops up in small items in the media when she, for example, attends functions of Norway’s associations for those with Downs Syndrome or dyslexia, or a special event for the women’s social service organization Sanitetsforeningen or the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra.

Princess Astrid said the biggest difference between being a member of a royal family now compared to her time as an active royal in the 1950s and ’60s, for example, is the number of “cameras everywhere, not just professional photographers but also all the mobile phone cameras. You can feel like you’re under surveillance all the time. But we know that’s just how it is, so it’s only to behave well. Then things go well.”

She said she and her parents and siblings lived “quite protected” at the royal estate Skaugum in Asker, west of Oslo, where Haakon and Mette-Marit live now. Things were stricter then, and neither she nor her sister were allowed to go to public school like royal children do today. They had private tutors at Skaugum, along with a few other small children.

When the royal family returned from five years of exile in the US during World War II, when Nazi Germany occupied Norway, things loosened up a bit. They had gone to “ordinary schools,” as she called them, in the Washington DC area and that continued in Oslo. By that time, though, she and Ragnhild were teenagers. Princess Astrid eventually studied economics and political history for two years at Oxford.

Princess Astrid said she thinks Crown Princess Mette-Marit, who’d had a fairly wild past before marrying Crown Prince Haakon, has done “very well, fantastically well, in fact” as she’s matured into her role. Astrid herself seems keen on staying in the background, and her own children were protected from the media. “My children aren’t public,” she stressed to Familien, even though their grandfather was the king. For many years they had weekly family dinners with King Olav at the palace or at his summer residence on the Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo.

She and her husband moved out of the house at Vinderen, which had been a wedding gift from her father, when their own children grew up, and now live in a condominium in Oslo bordering on the forest known as Nordmarka. That’s where she continues her hobbies of knitting, embroidery, reading and, not least, painting porcelain. She looked forward to celebrate her 80th birthday at the palace but was coy about the guest list, which was likely only to include family members and close friends.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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  1. Why should this familiy have a special status in the Norwegian society? We do all have the same value, or don’t we?

    • And you make a very valid, and broader ethical and theological point about human existence. Either all people have equally valid lives or some are expendable by virtue of bad luck having been born into non-royalty, poverty etc.

      And if you are royal, then it is rather gauche to pretend to be “common” and “live like common people do. ” (Paging Pulp!) It shows a total lack of contact with the feelings of those in the under or even normal classes because the fact is that when the rubber hits the road and you get bored of whatever self-inflicted predicament you find yourself in, H.M. Pappa Dearest will bail you out. The proper attitude for a Royal either by birth or marriage, is to humbly acknowledge one’s luck.

    • The Norwegians like them so who are you to say they should go?

      • I didnt say they should go- I just say that they should be grateful for the status they have. I opine for the same reason Norwegian pundits opine on the elections in the United States, and comment on foreign events in general. Tit-for-tat.

        In any case, neither Mr. Hermansen nor I are leading any uprising against the monarchy.

        My opinion, like yours, fellow foreigner, counts for naught anyways. But, as a taxpayer, and inherent in Norwegian constitution Article 100 guaranteeing freedom of expression. the I have every right to an opinion as do you. I opine because I have fingers and I like the melliflous clack that they make upon a keyboard.

        I’m sure we are equally upstanding taxpayers whose hard earned funds go equally to paying the expenses of this particularly priviledged bunch. They should display humility and gratefulness for their luck I find it tacky that they pretend to be common. Besides, it is a ridiculous proposition. Why the hell pretend to be common if you are a royal? I’d rather have a grand monarch if I believed in the inherent disequality of human worth that having a monarchy implies.

  2. Besides, I’m very sure that there were many Norwegians opining that George W. Bush, an ELECTED representative of another country, to go. They were allowed to opine. On the principal of reciprocity, thus have we not the same right?

    Your question is overwhelmingly flawed in many respects, Mr. Cummings, and moot since no one mentioned that they should go. ” Why” is a petition for an explination. I just expressed that it was in bad taste to pretend that you aren’t special when you get taxpayer funds by birthright to travel around the world in a job that you did not earn.

    • Carol Graham says:

      Believe me, there were many Americans opining that GW should go, even as an elected official.
      Every societal model has some sort of hierarchy, either in the theoretical design or the actual application-even the purest “equality for all” models that have been tried have devolved into haves and have nots. Many times “elected” rulers have just as overwhelming a sense of entitlement as a Royal family; or even more, as can be seen now in some conflicted areas of the world where “elected” officials are holding on to power by force in the face of popular desire for their departure.

      In addition to the sense of being born into fortune, most members of a royal family also hold an intense sense of duty to the country and the role they play. Not all, of course, but most.

  3. NorwayExpat123 says:

    GIBCDI, you do realise that as a Westerner you too are royalty in a sense? People around the world would literally kill for the birthrights bestowed upon you, I, and every other Westerner. I don’t think any Norwegian would give up their citizenship for a Nigerian one, everybody likes their own birthrights.

    Over twenty thousand people (mostly children) die every day from easily preventable causes, like malnutrition and lack of basic healthcare. Imagine if you and a few other Westerners somehow got stuck on some deserted island, there would be search parties for you, food and medicine drops, your governments would spare no expense to save you, or in the worst case your families would pool together the funds for your rescue. Whenever a war breaks out in some poor country, Western embassies get their citizens out of the warzone ASAP, and let the locals stick it out and likely perish.

    We have the means necessary to make sure nobody goes hungry again in this world, but we don’t do it. It’s the way things are, and some ultra-royal Norwegian family getting more than us “mere royals” is the least of the injustices in this world. I agree that all human life is of equal value, regardless of birthright, but in practice that is definitely not the way it is, and royalty is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Royal/Wealthy blood > Average Westerner blood > Developing world blood

    Nowhere is the concept more poignant than in the American press, where the cost of American wars is measured in American lives lost, and money spent. “Collateral damage” comes after money, if it is mentioned at all. Imagine if 100,000 American civilians had died due to the Iraq war, instead of Iraqis. There would be uproar, it would not stand.

    • Exactly my point. Should the poorest and most destitute of the world be considered less worthy than myself or than royalty by accident of birth? If your answer is no, then you are in agreement that the principle of equality, no matter how imperfectly applied is worth defending.

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