Norway’s Royal Palace chose a Friday evening when many Norwegians are still on summer holiday to announce the first divorce within the modern Norwegian royal family. Princess Martha Louise and her author husband Ari Behn are going their separate ways after 14 years of marriage.
“We have, like so many others, grown apart from one another, to places we no longer meet like we did before,” the princess stated in the royal announcement Friday evening. “It’s terrible to experience that there’s nothing more we can do. We have tried everything over a long period of time, and when we still can’t meet where we did before, it’s impossible for us to continue.”
Her parents, King Harald and Queen Sonja, stated on the palace’s official website that the looming divorce was “painful and sad, also for those of us close to the couple. We are fond of Ari and grateful for everything we as a family have experienced. We also want to have a good relationship with Ari in the future.”
There was no official comment from the princess’ younger brother and heir to the throne Crown Prince Haakon. None of the royals granted any interviews and neither Martha Louise nor Ari Behn would comment further, requesting that their children also be shielded from the press.
The couple has three daughters: 13-year-old Maud Angelica Behn, 11-year-old Leah Isadora Behn and seven-year-old Emma Tallulah Behn. Their parents will have joint custody. The princess will continue to live in the family’s home in Lommedalen, west of Oslo, while Ari Behn reportedly will find a new place to live not far away.
The palace stated that the princess would also retain ownership of the holiday home called Bloksbjerg that she inherited from her grandfather, the late King Olav, that’s located on the island of Hankø south of Oslo.
Princess Martha Louise married Ari Behn in a lavish wedding at the historic Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on May 24, 2002, not long after her brother also married a commoner, the former Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby. The princess’ marriage was nearly as controversial as her brother’s, mostly because Behn was a high-profile self-styled Bohemian author not viewed as traditional royal partner. He won the support of his new royal in-laws, however, and pursued his writing career with varying degrees of success, while the princess also published various books and famously set up a school that claimed to help students get in touch with their own alleged angels. The couple has attracted a good deal of criticism and ridicule over the years, not least for their alternative lifestyles and for allegedly exploiting their royal connections and her title.
The couple moved with their daughters to London in the summer of 2012, in part to escape media attention. They returned to Oslo two years ago and have not figured as highly in the media as before, after the princess claimed she felt “persecuted” by the media. She’d been met by a barrage of criticism shortly after returning home, not least by Norwegian bishops, after she promoted a British woman at one of her seminars that claimed to be able to communicate with the dead. The princess later called the event “an experiment” and has continued to pursue her own alternative career.
Now the princess claims that she and Behn discovered that “life doesn’t roll along” as planned. She called it extremely sad for both of them.
“We take the blame that we no longer manage to create the safe harbour together that our children deserve,” Princess Martha Louise stated. “We ask that and hope we won’t be bothered during this difficult process. The children need time to digest this, to grieve and find a new footing. We’re just people, too.”
She added that she hopes and thinks she and Behn can continue to be friends: “We’re ending the marriage, but will still be parents together.”