Princess to close her ‘angel school’

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Norway’s Princess Martha Louise has been back in the news lately, amid reports of financial problems and new projects. On Thursday she and her partner Elisabeth Nordeng announced on social media that they will end their 11-year business venture that was started “to help people get in touch with their angels.”

Princess Martha Louise (left) and her partner Elisabeth Nordeng will shut down their so-called “angel school” in May, but claim they have several new projects in the works. PHOTO: Instagram screen grab

Founded as Astarte Education in 2007 and dubbed an “angel school,” the company changed its name to “Soulspring” three years ago. The princess and Nordeng own 50 percent each, and offered classes in “healing, reading and touching,” and various treatments and therapies aimed at teaching clients “how to find yourself.” Princess Martha Louise has claimed that she has supernatural powers and also conducts classes in hypersensitivity.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported last month that the business had suffered losses and seen revenues decline by nearly 11 percent last year. Financial reports cited by DN showed revenues of NOK 3.3 million in 2017, down from NOK 3.7 million the year before, and a deficit of NOK 86,586. The 47-year-old princess and Nordeng, age 50, nonetheless chose to take out dividends of NOK 160,000 each and pay themselves NOK 740,000 each for holding seats on the board.

Magazine Se og Hør also reported in mid-August that Martha Louise is selling the summer home called Bloksberg on the southern Norwegian island of Hankø that she inherited from her grandfather, the late King Olav V. That set off more speculation of financial need, along with some negative public reaction, even in Parliament. MP Per Olav Lundteigen of the Center Party claimed it was “inappropriate” for the classic old wooden building perched on a hill about the Oslo Fjord to be acquired by “private interests” as a “private treasure.” Others wondered why the historic building was being sold, with speculation rising that Martha Louise, who no longer receives any direct income from the state, needed the money.

Princess Martha Louse, shown here at a royal wedding in Stockholm in 2013, has often been criticized for commercially exploiting the royal title she has retained. Her mother, Queen Sonja, has staunchly defended her right to earn money. PHOTO: Kongehuset/NTB Scanpix

Se og Hør reported this week that both her summer home and the home she shares with her three daughters in the suburban Oslo valley of Lommedalen are mortgaged to the amount of NOK 25 million. The sale of Bloksberg, however, can fetch as much as NOK 35 million, or more, according to real estate brokers.

The Royal Palace’s own website reports that the princess, who gave up her “Royal Highness” title when she first started her businesses, is legally responsible for the operations of her business and that she is obligated to pay tax, unlike other members of the royal family who are exempted. Martha Louise, who is divorced from her former author husband Ari Behn, has also earned money from various cultural activities including books and public appearances, for which she’s been criticized for profiting from her royal title.

Se og Hør reported that the royal family has “a secret plan” to “save” the princess from any financial difficulty. On Thursday she announced in a video posted on social media that she’ll be releasing another book next month and that both she and Nordeng have some new “exciting” projects through the end of this year before they go their separate ways next year.

New horse business
Martha Louise, a former equestrian, also made headlines over the weekend when she debuted at a local horse-racing track as a travkusk, the jockeys who ride behind horses in the sport of trotting. She placed last and also caught criticism for appearing in a commercial for the race. “I was shocked that a member of the royal family would be used to market gambling,” Magnus Pedersen, a political adviser to an organization that battles addiction to gambling, told state broadcaster NRK. “With her background, the high-profile princess can contribute to recruiting folks to something that can land some people in serious trouble.”

Martha Louise had no comment, while officials tied to the race at Bjerke Travebane in Oslo claimed the princess was used to promote the sporting event itself, not the gambling around it. The princess has set up a new company, called Hest (Horse) 360, that involves a website and YouTube channel about horses.

Foundation work
Carina Scheele Carlsen, who has the title of “manager” for the princess and often serves as her spokesperson, told NRK that “the princess is a part-owner and runs this (Hest 360) as a business along the lines of Soulspring and writing books.” It’s sponsored by Rikstoto, which organizes horse racing in Norway, but Pedersen wouldn’t say by how much.

The palace has reported that the princess remains a patron for eight organizations and take an active role in her charitable fund that supports activities for children and youth with physical disabilities. Last week she was also presented as a board member of a new foundation funded by industialist Kjell Inge Røkke called VI, that also aims to promote the rights of athletes with disabilities and help propel them to the highest levels of their sports. Other board members include downhill ski racer Aksel Lund Svindal and recently retired professional cross country skier Marit Bjørgen.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund