Johan Martin Ferner, husband of Norway’s Princess Astrid, died over the weekend at the national hospital (Rikshospitalet) in Oslo. King Harald, Princess Astrid’s younger brother, expressed sorrow on behalf of the Royal Palace.
“It is with great sorrow we have received the sad messge that Johan Martin Ferner has passed away,” King Harald declared in an official statement released Saturday. “Out thoughts go to Princess Astrid and her closest family, who have lost a good spouse, father, father-in-law and grandfather.”
Princess Astrid married Ferner in 1961 in a wedding at the church in Asker closest to the royal residence at Skaugum, where she grew up apart from the war years when the family was in exile in the US. The wedding was controversial at the time because Ferner was divorced, and neither the bishop of Oslo nor the local pastor at the church in Asker would marry them.
News bureau NTB recalled that Princess Astrid’s father, King Olav, thus asked the bishop of Nidaros who had formally blessed his succession to the throne a few years earlier to wed the couple. He agreed and the couple went on to have five children. They marked their 54th wedding anniversary on January 12.
Princess Astrid had functioned for many years as Norway’s “first lady” before she married. Her mother, Crown Princess Martha, died before Olav became king in 1957, and Astrid’s older sister, Ragnhild, had moved to Brazil after marrying Norwegian businessman Erling Lorentzen. Princess Astrid continued to serve alongside her father until her younger brother, Harald, married Sonja Haraldsen in 1968, and has remained an active representative of Norway’s royal family,
Ferner, however, remained firmly in the background, only occasionally attending state visits or major events along with his wife. He never spoke publicly about the royal family and seldom agreed to an interview.
King Olav bought the couple a home in Oslo’s fashionable Vinderen district but Ferner worked until retiring, running his own family’s upscale clothing store Ferner Jacobsen in downtown Oslo. The company Ferner Jacobsen AS had been founded by his father and Ferner’s own children have carried its operations into the next generation.
In a summary of his life, the Royal Palace noted that Ferner was born on July 22, 1927. He studied business and trade at London Polytechnic Institute, Bradford Technical College and the University of Lyon. He later joined his brother in operating and developing Ferner Jacobsen in Oslo.
Ferner also won distinctions in sailing, and was part of the Norwegian crew who won a silver medal in the six-meter class at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki in 1952. He and Princess Astrid were both active sailors, along with most of the royal family.
Funeral arrangements were pending.