Princess Astrid, Mrs. Ferner

by Scott Mehl

Photo: Svein Brimi / the Royal Court

Her Highness Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner.    Photo: Svein Brimi / The Royal Court

Princess Astrid Maud Ingeborg was born February 12, 1932 at Villa Solbakken in Oslo, Norway. She is the second child of Crown Prince Olav (later King Olav V) and his wife, Princess Märtha of Sweden. Her early years were spent at the Skaugum Estate in Asker, just outside of Oslo. The estate had been given to her parents at the time of their marriage. Here, along with her older sister, Princess Ragnhild, and younger brother, Prince Harald (now King Harald V), Astrid received a private education.

Just eight years later, Germany invaded Norway during World War II. The family fled Oslo. Her father and grandfather, King Haakon VII, went on to London, while Crown Princess Märtha and the children returned to her native Sweden. However, their presence was not well received by the Swedish people, and at the invitation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, they sailed to the United States.

The family boarded the USS American Legion on August 15, 1940. The President provided an escort of two US destroyers, and the ship arrived in New York on August 28th. The family settled briefly at the President’s private estate in Hyde Park, NY, before taking up residence at the White House. Soon after, they moved to a house in Bethesda, Maryland, not far from Washington DC. The house was situated on a 105-acre estate known as “Pook’s Hill”. At first, the family leased the estate from the owner, Merle Thorpe, before purchasing it from him. The would remain there for 5 years, until the end of the war in 1945. During this time, Crown Princess Märtha remained active in supporting the Norwegian cause, and developed a close relationship with President Roosevelt.

In 1945, the family returned to Norway and were reunited with King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav. Princess Astrid then attended Oxford in the United Kingdom, studying economics and political history. The next few years saw many major events in the Norwegian royal family. Her sister, Ragnhild, married in 1953, and moved to Brazil; their mother, Crown Princess Märtha, died in 1954; their grandfather died in 1957, and their father became King Olav V. As the senior female royal, Princess Astrid served as Norway’s “First Lady”, accompanying her father on most all official duties.

In 1961, Princess Astrid married Johan Martin Ferner in a small ceremony at the Asker Church. Because of her marriage to a commoner, she lost her style of Royal Highness (becoming just Highness), but remained a very active member of the Norwegian Royal Family. The couple have five children.

Princess Astrid is still very much involved in the activities of the Norwegian Royal Family, attending most State functions, and serving as Royal Patron to many organizations. In addition, she is the Chairperson of the Crown Princess Märtha Memorial Fund, established in the memory of her mother, which “provides financial support to social and humanitarian initiatives carried out by non-governmental organizations.” (Source: The Royal House of Norway)

Princess Astrid (center), Princess Ragnhild and King Harald Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen / The Royal Court

Princess Ragnhild, Princess Astrid and King Harald.    Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen / The Royal Court

In 2012, Princess Astrid celebrated her 80th birthday with a private gala at the Royal Palace in Oslo with family and close friends. Sadly, it would the last appearance of her elder sister, Princess Ragnhild, who passed away several months later.

On January 24, 2015, Johan Martin Ferner, Princess Astrid’s husband of nearly 53 years, passed away at Oslo University Hospital.  He was 87 years old.