Norway mourns princess’ death

Flags were lowered to half-mast at the Royal Palace in Oslo on Sunday after King Harald V received word that his oldest sister, Princess Ragnhild, had died at her home in Rio de Janeiro. She was 82.

Princess Ragnhild (lower left) attended the 80th birthday celebration for her sister Princess Astrid (center) in February but couldn't make it to the 75th birthday celebrations for King Harald and Queen Sonja (right) in May. Behind the two princesses are their husbands Erling Lorentzen (left) and Johan Martin Ferner. PHOTO: Det Kongelige Slott

Palace officials confirmed Sunday afternoon that Princess Ragnhild, who moved to Brazil with her Norwegian husband Erling Lorentzen shortly after their marriage in 1953, had died at 9:45am local time.

No official cause of death was released, but the princess had been in poor health for several months and was unable to attend the 75th birthday celebrations of King Harald and Queen Sonja in late May. She had traveled home to Norway last winter, however, to attend the 80th birthday party of her younger sister Princess Astrid in February.

The palace announced that her funeral will be held in Oslo in the chapel at the Royal Palace on a date yet to be determined. Princess Ragnhild, at her own request, will then be laid to rest in the graveyard surrounding the church in Asker where she and Lorentzen were married. Asker Church is also close to Skaugum, the royal estate of Norway’s heir to the throne where the princess grew up with her parents, Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha at the time, and her siblings.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg extended immediate condolences to the royal family on behalf of the Norwegian government. Stoltenberg called Princess Ragnhild “a good ambassador for Norway in Brazil” and “a warm-hearted representative for the country she always felt tied to.”

Stoltenberg noted that when Princess Ragnhild was born in Oslo on June 9, 1930, it marked the first birth of a princess in Norway for more than 600 years. Norway’s modern monarchy was only 25 years old at the time and the children of Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha represented its continuation.

Dramatic youth
Both she, her parents and grandfather, then-King Haakon VII, had to flee Norway just 10 years later when Nazi Germany invaded. She and her mother and siblings spent the next five years in exile just outside Washington DC before the family could make its triumphant return to Oslo when World War II ended in 1945.

She met and fell in love with Erling Lorentzen, a war hero who’d become a royal guard for King Haakon. Their marriage broke new ground at the time, since it was one of the first marriages between a royal and a commoner. She had to give up her “Royal Highness” title and thereafter became officially known, in Norwegian, as Princess Ragnhild fru Lorentzen.

The couple had three children and settled in Brazil, where Lorentzen built up extensive business interests. Princess Ragnhild is said to have retained close ties to her family, however, especially her father, who wrote her a letter every Sunday afternoon. The princess was later criticized by historians and researchers for burning all the letters after then-King Olav’s death in 1991, but she claimed they were private and she clearly didn’t want them to land in public archives.

Opinionated
Princess Ragnhild was also known for having strong opinions and even Stoltenberg referred to her “fresh remarks.” She generated headlines when she let it be known that she did not approve of her brothers’ children’s choice of spouses when Crown Prince Haakon married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby and Princess Martha Louise married Ari Behn. She noted at the time that the royal family in Oslo must have had “bad advisers,” even though she had helped clear the way for royals to choose their own spouses as she had done nearly 50 years earlier.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Sunday evening that the government had offered to pay for a state funeral for Princess Ragnhild, but her family declined the offer. She is survived by her husband, the now 89-year-old Erling Sven Lorentzen, their son Haakon Lorentzen, age 58, daughters Ingeborg Ribeiro (55) and Ragnhild Lorentzen (44) and several grandchildren, most of whom live in Brazil.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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