On history, royalty, politics, architecture, art and literature
Sunday, 16 September 2012
At the road’s end: Princess Ragnhild of Norway, Mrs Lorentzen (1930-2012)
Princess Ragnhild, who has died of cancer at the age of 82, was the princess Norway never really got to know. Princess Ragnhild was born on 9 June 1930 and first saw the light of day at the Royal Palace in Oslo, the family home Skaugum in Asker having burned down to the ground just a few weeks before. She was the eldest child of the then Crown Prince Olav and his Swedish-born wife Märtha and was born two days after the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the personal union between the two kingdoms. Moreover, she was the first royal person to be born on Norwegian soil since the birth of the future King Olav Håkonsson in 1370 and the first princess to be born in Norway since Ingebjørg Håkonsdatter in 1301. The names chosen pointed to her royal heritage. Ragnhild was the name borne by both the wife and the mother of Harald the Fairhaired, the king who first united Norway into one kingdom in the late ninth century. The second name, Alexandra, was for her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra of Britain. The Princess was christened in the Palace Chapel on 27 June 1930. Her grandmother Queen Maud held her over the baptismal font, and her other godparents were her grandfather King Haakon VII, her maternal grandparents Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, her great-uncle King Gustaf V of Sweden, her great-aunt Princess Victoria of Britain, her aunt Princess Margaretha of Denmark, and her father’s first cousin, Prince Albert of Britain, Duke of York (later King George VI). She spent her first years at Villa Solbakken, just outside Oslo, until the new Skaugum was ready in August 1932. By then she had been joined by a sister, Princess Astrid. At the time, women did not have succession rights in Norway, but as the years went by after the births of the two princesses and no brother seemed to appear, one started to think of introducing female succession. If so, Ragnhild might have become Queen Regnant, a fate she would later say she was happy to escape. And these discussions came to an end with the birth of a brother, Prince Harald, the present King, on 21 February 1937. With barely one and a half year between them, the two princesses were inseparable. When it was time for Ragnhild to start school, a few girls of “good families” were chosen to join her and Princess Astrid for private schooling at Skaugum and later, when the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, caused petrol to be rationed, at the Royal Palace. In the early hours of 9 April 1940, Germany attacked Norway, and Princess Ragnhild and her siblings were awakened by their parents and told to pack a suitcase with their favourite toys. The sinking of the German battleship “Blücher” in the Oslofjord gave the royal family, the government and most of the MPs time to escape from the capital before the Germans marched in. However, as it was clear that it would be a long fight and one could obviously not take children along on a military campaign, it was decided that the Crown Princess would bring the children to safety abroad. In the evening of 9 April she crossed into her native Sweden, not knowing if she would ever see her husband again. Later in the summer Crown Princess Märtha and the children made the dangerous crossing of the Atlantic to the USA, where they stayed for five years under the supervision of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who became something of a substitute grandfather to the three children. Their father only came for Christmas, making the children particularly dependent on their mother. Following liberation, the royal family returned to Norway on 7 June 1945, two days before Princess Ragnhild’s fifteenth birthday. They were met by ecstatic crowds and in the photos from that day the royal children, who had led peaceful, ordinary lives in the USA, look frightened. Obviously it was a major change to return to a public life they had mostly forgotten. They had attended an ordinary school in the USA, but now that they were back home their parents wanted to go back to the pre-war arrangement with schooling at home. The princesses, and Ragnhild in particular, absolutely refused and in the end got their way. It was not the last time that Princess Ragnhild would make it clear that she had a strong will. Among the royal bodyguards during that first summer of peace was Erling S. Lorentzen, the son of a shipping magnate and a veteran of the elite resistance group Company Linge. He was entrusted with the task of teaching the princesses to sail, and by 1946 the Princess was in love. With hindsight it might seem a perfect match: the princess and the dashing war hero falling in love in the hour of victory. But this was not how it appeared at the time. There had been princesses marrying commoners before – for instance Patricia of Britain in 1919, Dagmar of Denmark in 1922 and Eikaterini of Greece in 1947 – but it was not yet quite normal. King Haakon and Crown Princess Märtha went to considerable lengths to try to put an end to the relationship between Princess Ragnhild and Mr Lorentzen, while Crown Prince Olav apparently could not stand for his daughter’s tears – she was always the apple of his eye. In the end Ragnhild got her way and on 15 May 1953 the happy couple walked down the aisle of Asker Church, just down the road from Skaugum. The problem of what if any official position should be given to the non-royal spouse of a princess was solved with the announcement that the couple would live abroad for the first years. The choice fell on Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where the Lorentzen family had business interest. The plan was that they would stay for two years, but two years eventually became the rest of their lives. The Princess relinquished the style “Her Royal Highness” and became known as Princess Ragnhild, Mrs Lorentzen. When abroad she was accorded the style of “Her Highness”. Apparently it was expected that Princess Ragnhild’s marriage to a commoner would be an exception rather than the rule, and Princess Astrid has said she thought she would not be able to marry a commoner as her sister had already done so. However, Princess Ragnhild’s marriage turned out to be a ground-breaker, and both her siblings as well as the children of the current King have followed her example. Crown Princess Märtha was very ill at the time of her daughter’s wedding, but was looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild, expected in the late summer of 1954. However, just a few days before her and Crown Prince Olav’s silver wedding in March 1954, the Crown Princess’s health took a sudden turn for the worse and her pregnant daughter dashed across the Atlantic to get there in time. The Crown Princess died on 5 April 1954. In August Princess Ragnhild gave birth to her first child in August 1954 and named him Haakon for his great-grandfather. The second child, born in 1957, was named Ingeborg for her great-grandmother, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, Haakon and Ingeborg themselves being siblings. The afterthought, born in 1968, was named Ragnhild Alexandra for her mother, and was the only of the Lorentzen children to be born in Brazil and attain Brazilian citizenship. King Haakon died in 1957 and Ragnhild’s widowed father succeeded to the throne as King Olav V. While Princess Ragnhild went on with her life in Brazil, her younger sister took on their mother’s mantle as first lady of Norway. Princess Astrid thus remained highly visible at home, while Princess Ragnhild gradually faded from the public stage. She held only one patronage and her only public duty, which she gave up in the mid-1990s, was the opening of the annual Christmas bazaar at the Norwegian seamen’s church in Rio. She did, however, maintain close links with Norway, in particular her group of friends from school, her sister and her father. Despite the 24-hour journey and her fear of flying, she made frequent visits to Norway, where she always stayed with her father. Thus she came close to him in a way neither of her siblings did. When not together, father and daughter wrote to each other on a weekly basis (it caused quite a furore when Princess Ragnhild announced some ten years ago that she had burned her father’s letters). Following King Olav’s death in 1991, the Princess invested in her own apartment at Frogner, a fashionable area of Oslo. When turning the key to the flat, it dawned on the 61-year-old Princess that it was actually the first time in her life that she was entirely alone. To her biographer Lars O. Gulbrandsen the Princess explained that the difficult thing was that when travelling between Norway and Rio, she felt she was going home both ways. She always insisted on celebrating traditional Norwegian Christmas at the height of the Brazilian summer, but as the years went by and the Lorentzen children decided to make Brazil their future, it became clear that the Princess and her husband would never return permanently to Norway. As is often the case with people settling outside their native land, the Princess’s opinions eventually became rather out of touch with Norwegian reality. In the mid-1990s she voiced her opposition to the increasingly common practice of couples living together before being married, an opinion she repeated when her nephew Crown Prince Haakon chose to live together with his future wife before they were neither married nor engaged. Her great mistake, which had grave consequences for her public image, came a few years later, when the King and Queen made a state visit to Brazil in November 2003. The King had not visited his sister for 35 years and the Princess looked greatly forward to entertaining him for lunch in her home. However, the King and Queen cancelled on short notice in order to watch a beach volleyball match. The Princess apparently felt publicly humiliated and let her hurt feelings get the better of her by giving an interview to TV 2 in which she made some very critical comments about the Crown Prince’s and Princess Märtha Louise’s choices of partners – opinions she, as a member of the royal family, ought to have saved for the King’s ear only. The interview caused a huge furore when it was broadcast in early 2004, and the public image of Princess Ragnhild – by then unknown to many Norwegians – became that of a bitter old woman more or less “exiled” to Brazil. I am told the Princess herself greatly regretted it all, but, being a wise man, the King chose to forgive and forget. His only comment was that he would not allow this to ruin family relations. Princess Ragnhild rarely missed a family occasion in Norway, but as the years began to take their tolls her journeys to Norway became fewer. The passing of time also meant that she had fewer friends and acquaintances on this side of the Atlantic. Her bond to her sister was always very strong, although the two did not meet very often. Of her other royal relatives she was close to her uncle, Prince Carl Bernadotte, and his wife Kristine, as well as three of her first cousins and their spouses: King Baudouin of the Belgians, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg and Count Flemming of Rosenborg. The Brazilian connection also meant an increasingly close relationship to the Queen of Sweden, herself half Brazilian by birth. In February 2007 Princess Ragnhild declined her invitation to attend the King’s seventieth birthday, and in July of the same year she attended only parts of the Queen’s seventieth birthday celebrations. Her own eightieth birthday was celebrated at the Royal Palace in June 2010. Her last but one visit to Norway was in February this year, when she attended the celebration of Princess Astrid’s eightieth birthday. By that time, Princess Ragnhild had begun using a wheelchair. She fractured her hip during Easter, and it was then that it was discovered that she suffered from cancer. When the great war hero Gunnar Sønsteby, an old friend who had been Erling Lorentzen’s best man died in May of this year, Lorentzen travelled to Norway to attend the funeral without his wife. She was however able to come to Norway to spend some summer weeks at the family’s island holiday home. At the age of 82, Princess Ragnhild died in her home in Leblon in Rio de Janeiro at 9.45 a.m. local time today (2.45 p.m. Norwegian time). Although she chose Brazil in life, she had made it known already a few years ago that she would choose Norway in death and be buried in the cemetery of Asker Church. Princess Ragnhild had a strong personality with some sharp edges and she and was always ready – sometimes perhaps too ready – to voice her opinions. But her shyness meant that the public never got to see the other sides of her personality, such as her dry sense of humour and her sharp powers of observation. These characteristic were highly evident when one met her privately, as I had the chance to do on a couple of occasions, and it is indeed unfortunate that they remained hidden to the public.
The photo is a press handout by Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen/the Royal Court.
Trond Norén Isaksen is a Norwegian historian specialising in the history of monarchies, but also has a deep interest in politics and political history as well as the arts, particularly architecture.
I have a Master of Arts degree in modern history from the University of Oslo. I graduated in 2006 with the dissertation Halvt for Norge? - Bernadottene og det norske tronfølgespørsmålet, which dealt with the Swedish candidature to the Norwegian throne in connection with the dissolution of the union of crowns between Norway and Sweden.
I am the author of two biographies of members of the Norwegian royal family. The first was Dronningen vi ikke fikk,a biography of Crown Princess Märtha and King Olav V, which was published by Genesis forlag in 2003. The second, Kvinne blant konger, a biography of Norway’s former first lady Princess Astrid, was published by N. W. Damm & Søn (now Cappelen Damm) in 2007.
I am also co-author of the book about the Norwegian Royal Collection, Arv og tradisjon, edited by Anniken Thue and published by Orfeus Publishing in 2012.
I have also written more than 100 articles for various publications, including Politiken, Kunst og Kultur, Historie, Aftenposten, Historisk tidsskrift, Majesty,Byminner, Dagens Nyheter, Morgenbladet, The Court Historian, Personhistorisk tidskrift, Prosa, Dagsavisen, Klassekampen, St. Hallvard, Royalty Digest Quarterly, Dagbladet, British Politics Review, Heraldisk Tidsskrift, [Danish] Historisk Tidsskrift, Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift, The European Royal History Journal, Adresseavisen, Royalty Digest, Museumsbulletinen, VG, Nordlys, Trondhjemske Samlinger, Året i bilder, Värmlands museums årsbok and Fredriksstad Blad.
Dronningen vi ikke fikk - En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav
My first book was a biography of Crown Princess Märtha and King Olav V, published in 2003 by Genesis forlag. It may be bought from Capris (external link) by clicking on the picture.
Kvinne blant konger - En biografi om prinsesse Astrid
My second book was a biography of Princess Astrid, published in 2007 by N. W. Damm & Søn. It may be bought from Capris by clicking on the picture (external link).
Complete list of my published works
150. “Kristine Bernadotte” (Dagens Nyheter, 14 November 2014).
149. Untitled review of Randi Buchwaldt's and Ted Rosvall's book Axel & Margaretha: A Royal Couple, in Thit Birk Petersen et al (eds.): Dansk-norske skæbner før og efter 1814 – Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift 2014 (n.p.: Samfundet for Dansk Genealogi og Personalhistorie 2014).
91. “Royal Reformer” (Majesty, Vol. 33, No. 2, February 2012).
90. “Book review: The Four Graces: Queen Victoria’s Hessian Granddaughters” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 89. “Book review: Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 88. “The Oldest of the Bernadottes - Elsa Cedergren (1893-1996)” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 87. “Exhibition review: Ruling Through the Arts” (The Court Historian, Volume 16, 2, December 2011). 86. “Renaissance Queen” (Majesty, Vol. 33, No. 1, January 2012). 85. “Katedralen” (Prosa, no 5 - 2011). 84. “Dronning Mauds ikke så mystiske død” (Dagbladet, 7 November 2011). 83. “Kongelig ettergivenhet” (Aftenposten, 1 November 2011). 82. Untitled review of the books En dynasti blir till - Medier, myter och makt kring Karl XIV Johan och familjen Bernadotte, edited by Niklas Ekedahl, and Familjen Bernadotte - Kungligheter och människor, edited by Ingvar von Malmborg (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2011). 81. “Da Danmark forandret seg” (Dagsavisen, 20 September 2011). 80. “Kongens og dronningens kroner - Opprinnelse og anvendelse”, in Arve Sletten (ed.): Trondhjemske Samlinger2010 (Trondheim: Trondhjems Historiske Forening 2011). 79. “Den siste habsburger - Nekrolog Otto von Habsburg 20. november 1912-4. juli 2011” (Morgenbladet, 15-22 July 2011). 78. “Young Ingrid - Queen Ingrid of Denmark’s Early Years in Sweden” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 2 - 2011). 77. Untitled review of Thomas Lyngby’s, Søren Mentz’s and Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen’s book Magt og pragt - Enevælde 1660-1848(Historisk tidsskrift, no 2 - 2011). 76. “Carl III Johan - Carl XIV Johan? - Striden om unionskongenes ordenstall” (Personhistorisk tidskrift, no 1 - 2011). 75. “Borgerskapets inntog” (Dagbladet, 29 April 2011). 74. “Minner om et kongehus - Oscar IIs dynastiske utsmykkingsprogram” (Byminner, no 2 - 2011). 73. “Palassrevolusjonen” (Dagsavisen, 21 January 2011). 72. “Kongens nye hovedstad: Carl Johan, Christiania og arkitektene i Norges demring” (St. Hallvard, no 3+4 - 2010). 71. “Book review: Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Revolutionsgeneral, Marschall Napoleons, König von Schweden und Norwegen by Jörg-Peter Findeisen” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2010). 70. “Prince of Peace – Prince Carl of Sweden and the Nobel prize” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2010). 69. “Exhibition review: Bernadotte’s Norwegian palace” (The Court Historian, Volume 15, 2, December 2010). 68. “Adel ved Bernadottenes norske hoff” (Historie, no 4 - 2010). 67. “Ingen ny Diana” (VG, 12 December 2010). 66. “Historiens lærdommer” (Klassekampen, 2 December 2010). 65. “Det undersköna Oscarshall - Hoffliv på sommerslottet 1855” (Langt Vest i Aker, no 40, December 2010). [Stolen by that publication from Byminner no 3-2010 and republished without permission, a violation of copyright laws which the editors Øivind Rødevand and Nils Carl Aspenberg have refused to apologise for]. 64. “Et parti som alle andre” (Dagsavisen, 22 November 2010). 63. “Slottets forbindelser til svensk og russisk arkitektur” (Kunst og Kultur, no 3 - 2010). 62. “Oslos fjerde grunnlegger” (Aften, 20 October 2010). 61. “Carl Johan som Norges konge - Maktkampen mellom konge og storting” (Historie, no 3 - 2010). 60. “Hvorfor deles den [Nobels fredspris] ut i Norge?” (Dagsavisen, 8 October 2010). 59. “Book review: Drottning Victoria av Sverige – Om kärlek, plikt och politik by Stig Hadenius” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 3 – 2010). 58. “A Broken Engagement – Frederik of Denmark and Olga of Greece” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 3 – 2010). 57. “Prinsessens tittel” (Aftenposten, 24 September 2010). 56. “Prinsessetittelen” (Aftenposten, 21 September 2010). 55. Untitled review of Herman Lindqvist’s book Jean Bernadotte - Mannen vi valde (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2010). 54. Untitled review of Carl-Erik Grimstad’s book Dronning Mauds arv (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2010). 53. “Tausheten etterpå” (Klassekampen, 14-15 August 2010). 52. “Grevinne Ruth av Rosenborg” (Aftenposten, 29 July 2010). 51. “Det undersköna Oscarshall - Hoffliv på sommerslottet i 1855” (Byminner, no 3 - 2010). 50. “Book review: En brud för kung och fosterland - Kungliga svenska bröllop från Gustav Vasa till Carl XVI Gustaf by Lena Rangström” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 2 - 2010). 49. “Ida Wedel Jarlsberg - Hoffrøkenen som var Ylajali?” (Historie, no 2 - 2010). 48. “Victorias arv” (Aftenposten, 20 June 2010). 47. “Oscarshall fra lystslott til luftslott – Kongelig bolignød 1929” (St. Hallvard, no 4 - 2009). 46. “Fru Schøller - hvor ble hun av?” (Adresseavisen, 29 May 2010). 45. “Arkitekten som formet hovedstaden” (Aften, 11 May 2010). 44. “Opposisjonens siste skanse” (Dagbladet, 29 April 2010). 43. “Dronning Ingrid og det moderne monarki” (Politiken, 28 March 2010). 42. “The Principality of Pontecorvo - Bernadotte’s Stepping Stone to the Throne” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 1 - 2010). 41. “Kongelig grensesetting” (Dagsavisen, 11 March 2010). 40. “Oscarshall har vært kongebolig” (Aften, 29 December 2009). 39. “[Prinsesse] Grete Sturdza” (Aftenposten, 8 December 2009). 38. “Kongevåpenet og 1905 – en kommentar til Hans Cappelens artikkel” (Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Volume 10, Issue 99, March 2009). 37. “Counts of Monpezat – Old Name Makes New Titles for Danish Royals” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2008). 36. “Almost Queen of Sweden and Norway – Countess Maria Krasinska and the Last Days of Carl XV” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2007). 35. “Kongelige titler” (Dagbladet, 4 December 2007). 34. “A British Queen of Norway” (British Politics Review, Volume 2, No. 4, Autumn 2007). 33. “En hån mot Christian Fred[e]rik” (Dagbladet, 20 October 2007). 32. “Astrid og Hendrix” (Dagbladet, 29 August 2007). 31. Kvinne blant konger – En biografi om prinsesse Astrid (Oslo: N. W. Damm & Søn 2007). 30. “An Eccentric Couple – Prince August and Princess Teresia of Sweden and Norway” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 1 – 2007). 29. “Denmark’s Scottish Princess – Anne Bowes Lyon” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2006). 28. “Kongen Norge ikke fikk – Prins Carl av Sverige og det svenske kandidaturet til den norske tronen i 1905”, in Sune Åkerman and Ruth Hemstad (eds.): Skilsmässan som förde oss samman,Värmlands Museums årsbok 2006 (Karlstad: Stiftelsen Värmlands Museum and Värmlands Museiförening 2006). 27. Halvt for Norge? – Bernadottene og det norske tronfølgespørsmålet, 1850-1905 (MA dissertation in history, the University of Oslo, autumn 2006). 26. “Kongen vi ikke fikk – Prins Carl av Sverige og det svenske kandidaturet til den norske tronen i 1905” (Historie, no 2 – 2005). 25. “Norges siste unionsdronning” (Aftenposten, 10 July 2005). 24. “Ingrid Alexandra”, in Morten Malmø (ed.): Året i bilder (Oslo: N. W. Damm & Søn AS 2005). 23. “Count Lennart Bernadotte af Wisborg (1909-2004)” (Royalty Digest, No. 164, February 2005, Volume XIV, No. 8). 22. “Memories of Nine Decades: An Interview with Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XLII, Volume 7.6, December 2004). 21. “The Last Vasa: Queen Carola of Saxony” (Royalty Digest, No. 163, January 2005, Volume XIV, No. 7). 20. “Ingeborg, Princess of Scandinavia”, part II (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XL, Volume 7.4, August 2004). 19. “Jeanne de Tramcourt – A French Colibri at the Swedish Court” (Royalty Digest, No. 160, October 2004, Volume XIV, No. 4). 18. “Ingeborg, Princess of Scandinavia”, part I (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, Volume 7.3, June 2004). 17. “Norway has a New Heiress – The Birth of Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXVII, Volume 7.1, February 2004). 16. “The Unknown Sister: Princess Margaretha of Denmark” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXVI, December 20003). 15. “Mauds og Märthas dødsårsaker” (Dagbladet, 14 December 2003). 14. “Two Kings and Three Queens Bid Farewell to ‘Uncle Mulle’ – The Funeral of Prince Carl Bernadotte” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, August 2003). 13. “Obituary: Prince Carl Bernadotte, 1911-2003” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, August 2003). 12. “Konge uten dronning: Monarkiet under kong Olav manglet et viktig aspekt, det kvinnelige” (Dagbladet, 2 July 2003). 11. “The People’s King - The Centenary of King Olav V of Norway” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIII, April 2003). 10. “Kong Haakon og Hornsrud-episoden” (VG, 5 June 2003). 9. “Dronning Maud – tippoldemoren” (Historie, no 2 – 2003). 8. Dronningen vi ikke fikk – En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav (Oslo: Genesis forlag 2003). 7. “Sibylla – Sweden’s Tragic Princess” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXX, November/December 2002). 6. “To dronninger” (Filologen, no 3 – 2002). 5. “Dronning av et århundre” (Historie, no 3 – 2002). 4. “His Excellency Count Flemming of Rosenborg (1922-2002)” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXVII, May/June 2002). 3. “Story of a Wedding – Princess Martha [sic] Louise of Norway and Ari Behn” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXVII, May/June 2002). [Published without my permission] 2. “Kong Gustaf Adolf var ikke nazisympatisør” (Dagbladet, 7 August 2002). 1. “Norges britiske dronning” (Filologen, no 1 – 2002).