Märtha of Sweden, Crown Princess of Norway

by Scott Mehl

source: Royal House of Norway; photo: Ingeborg Ljusnes, the Royal Court Archive

source: Royal House of Norway; photo: Ingeborg Ljusnes, The Royal House of Norway Court Archive

Princess Märtha Sofia Lovisa Dagmar Thyra of Sweden was born March 28, 1901 at the Hereditary Prince’s Palace in Stockholm. She was the second daughter of Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland, and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. She had an older sister, Princess Margaretha (later Princess Axel of Denmark), a younger sister, Princess Astrid (later Queen of the Belgians), and a younger brother Prince Carl (later Carl, Prince Bernadotte). For the first four years of her life, she was also a Princess of Norway. Sweden and Norway were in personal union under the sovereigns of Sweden. This union ended in 1905.

photo: Wikipedia

On March 21, 1929, Märtha married her first-cousin, Crown Prince Olav of Norway at the Oslo Cathedral. She was once again a Princess of Norway. The couple took up residence at the Skaugum Estate in Asker. They had three children:

Princess Ragnhild (1930)
Princess Astrid (1932)
King Harald V (1937)

In 1940, Princess Märtha and her children fled Norway when the Germans invaded, traveling to her native Sweden. However, their presence was not well received by the Swedish people, feeling that her presence would threaten Sweden’s neutrality. Shortly after, at the invitation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, the family sailed for America. After brief stays at Roosevelt’s private estate in Hyde Park, NY, and then the White House, the family leased (and later purchased), an estate in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. Her husband had stayed with his father, King Haakon VII, establishing a government-in-exile in London.

Princess Märtha remained very active in supporting the Norwegian people during the war, working extensively with the Red Cross, and speaking to groups throughout the country to promote the resistance. She developed a very close friendship with President Roosevelt, and the family were often included in both public and private functions at the White House.

The Norwegian Royal Family returning to Oslo, June 1945. photo: Wikipedia

In 1945, with the war finally over, Princess Märtha and the children returned to Norway, and were reunited with Crown Prince Olav and King Haakon. She continued her work with the many patronages and charities in Norway, focused on doing everything possible to restore Norway and the Norwegian people.

Sadly, the Crown Princess suffered ill health over the next few years. On April 5, 1954, she died at the National Hospital in Oslo, following a long battle with cancer. She is buried in the Royal Mausoleum at Akershus Castle. Her husband would go on to become King Olav V in 1957 until his death in January 1991. He is buried alongside his wife.