It didn’t take long before Princess Martha Louise’s return to Norway led to a new outburst of headlines and criticism in the local media. The 42-year-old princess has a habit of stirring controversy and it seems not much has changed since she packed up and took her family to London two years ago.
Now they’re moving home and she’s already been back in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. She’s once again accused of exploiting her royal title for commercial gain, her charitable connections have come under scrutiny, and religious leaders are upset that she’s promoting a British clairvoyant who claims to be able to talk to the dead.
The princess’ business, in which she freely uses her royal title, has long been controversial: The princess and her partner, Elisabeth Nordeng, met at a clairvoyance course and run what’s popularly known as an “angel school,” in which they teach clients how to communicate with their angels. They conduct courses and workshops, write and sell books and offer special programs like a six-day “spiritual journey” to a farm in South Africa in October.
“They discovered their parallel relationship to angels and divine guidance,” their website states. “They both understood that their spiritual path in life was to share their knowledge of how we can find our spiritual password.” The website also claims that the princess “has been a clairvoyant all her life” and, as a former equestrian, found that “the horses brought her closer to non-verbal communication that allowed her to get in touch with angels and develop her spiritual abilities.”
Still fourth in line to the throne
Now Princess Martha Louise, who remains fourth in line to the throne in Norway, is teaming with British celebrity clairvoyant Lisa Williams who claims she can speak with both angels and the dead. Williams will be making an appearance in Norway this fall, with Norway’s princess and Nordeng joining her on stage at a workshop earlier that day. Tickets cost NOK 1,540 each (USD 256), a hefty price even in expensive Norway, but the princess promoted it by claiming that the three “will give readings form the stage. You may be among the lucky to be chosen!”
Norwegian politicians are reluctant to criticize the royals but the princess’ appearance with Williams upsets some, along with religious officials. Efforts to speak with the dead, or even claims that it’s possible, run counter to the teachings of the Norwegian Lutheran church, which remains funded by the state. The religious leaders don’t think the daughter of Norway’s king should be lending her royal title to Williams’ commercial venture.
“She’s commercially exploiting the title that gives her fourth place in the royal lineage to the Norwegian throne,” wrote political commentator Kjetil B Alstadheim last week. He recently wrote a book that argues in favour of replacing Norway’s monarchy with a republic, claiming that the monarchy is anything but democratic. He has criticized royal roles in Norway, and suggests that Princess Martha Louise continues to fuel the small but steadfast republican movement in the country.
Special attention on Special Olympics
It’s also been reported in recent weeks that the Special Olympics, which the princess still fronts, has been turning over 75 percent of money raised by its donors to the commercial enterprise that solicits the funds. Only 25 percent of what donors actually give goes to the Special Olympics, and sports officials in Norway blasted the Special Olympics itself, claiming it doesn’t do much to actually promote sport. That led to questions around the princess’ choice of an organization to support.
The princess, like her younger brother Crown Prince Haakon, has also decided to keep her three daughters out of the Norwegian public school system. The three daughters of Princess Martha Louise and her author husband Ari Behn will start this fall at the private Steiner School instead of their local public school Lommedalen, west of Oslo. The crown couple’s decision to send their children to private school as well set off a public outcry last month that Crown Prince Haakon had to publicly fend off.
It’s not easy being a royal, and Princess Martha Louise claimed she had enjoyed the “anonymity” of being in London, even though she and her family lived in the posh neighbourhood of Islington along with many other celebrities. Her website for the “angel school,” Astarte Inspiration, noted that “being in the public eye for so many years has been challenging yet enlightening and has molded her into the person she is today.” At the very least, she gets the publicity her business can thrive on, and as newspaper Morgenbladet noted recently, mostly polite media coverage over the years is the main reason the monarchy has survived. It will take more than the princess’ angels, clairvoyance, special privileges and patronage to overturn the monarchy in a country where it still has support from the vast majority.