Princess Ragnhild of Norway and Erling Lorentzen were married on 15 May 1953 at Asker parish church near Oslo.
The Princess was born on 9 June 1930 and was the older sister of the present King of Norway, Harald V, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday. At the time of her birth, she was the first Norwegian Princess born on Norwegian soil for 629 years, after the birth of Princess Ingeborg in 1301. Christened Ragnhild Alexandra, she got her middle name from her paternal great-grandmother Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom.
After the German invasion of Norway in April 1940, Princess Ragnhild fled with her family and spent the rest of the war in exile in Washington, D.C., with her mother, Crown Princess Märtha and her two younger siblings, Princess Astrid and Prince Harald. The children’s father, Crown Prince Olav, repaired to Britain with his father, King Haakon VII where the King and his cabinet set up the exiled Norwegian government.
The family returned to Norway at the end of the war, on 7 June 1945, two days before Ragnhild’s 15th birthday.
Among the royal bodyguards during that first summer of peace was Erling Sven Lorentzen. Born on 28 January 1923, he came from a prominent shipping family and was a veteran of the elite resistance group Norwegian Independent Company 1, a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) group, better known as Linge Company from the name of its first commander, that performed commando raids and various special operations on Norwegian soil during the war.
He was entrusted with the task of teaching the princesses to sail, and by the following summer, Princess Ragnhild had fallen in love.
While a love story between a princess and a dashing war hero certainly held romantic appeal, the match was nonetheless controversial, as the groom was not only a commoner and a businessman, but had been a bodyguard to the Princess. The Princess’s grandfather and mother, King Haakon VII and Crown Princess Märtha, reportedly went to considerable lengths to try to put an end to the relationship, while her father Crown Prince Olav apparently was more easily persuaded to allow his favourite child to marry for love.
Eventually, Ragnhild got her way, and the couple were married at Asker parish church, just down the road from the royal residence of Skaugum on the outskirts of Oslo.
The wedding was a hugely popular occasion: 200,000 Norwegians crowded the streets to watch the processions, and the guest list included many foreign royals. At the ceremony, Princess Ragnhild wore a dress of ivory satin and carried a bouquet of white orchids and lilies of the valley. The groom wore white tie. The honeymoon was spent in Italy.
Upon their return from their honeymoon, the newlyweds settled in Brazil, to allow Mr Lorentzen to pursue his many business interests in Rio de Janeiro. The move was initially supposed to be temporary, but the couple ended up settling there for good.
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.”
Their three children, Haakon, Ingeborg and Ragnhild, were born in 1954, 1957 and 1968, respectively; only the youngest was born in Brazil. While the Princess was pregnant with her first child, her mother Crown Princess Märtha, who had been very ill for some time, took a sudden turn for the worse, and her daughter dashed across the Atlantic to be with her one last time. The Crown Princess died on 5 April 1954.
After her marriage, Princess Ragnhild lived mostly out of the public eye, undertaking only one annual public duty, the opening of the Christmas bazaar at the Norwegian seamen’s church in Rio. She did, however, maintain close links with her native country and frequently travelled back to Norway to visit her father and her siblings and was often present at family occasions.
In 2004, the Princess attracted considerable furore when, in an interview with Norway’s TV2 station, she expressed her disapproval of the spouses chosen by her niece and nephew, Crown Prince Haakon and his sister Princess Märtha Louise. Despite herself having married a commoner, she expressed the belief the young royals had been poorly advised and went so far as to say that she hoped she would be dead before Crown Prince Haakon’s wife, Mette-Marit, became Queen, saying the match could herald the end of the Norwegian monarchy. After her brother King Harald made it clear that this unfortunate episode should not be allowed to alter good family relationships, the controversy died down.
Princess Ragnhild’s 80th birthday in 2010 was celebrated at the Royal Palace in Oslo, and in February 2012, she made the transatlantic trip again to attend her sister Astrid’s 80th birthday bash. By that time, Princess Ragnhild’s health was declining, and she was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks later.
When Norwegian war hero Gunnar Sønsteby, an old friend who had been Erling Lorentzen’s best man died in May of the same year, Lorentzen travelled to Norway to attend the funeral without his wife. She was, however, able to come to Norway to spend part of the summer at the family’s holiday home.
Princess Ragnhild died at her home in Rio de Janeiro on 16th September 2012 at the age of 82. Her funeral in Oslo was attended by her siblings and members of the Royal Family, and her ashes were interred in the churchyard at Asker.
She is survived by her husband and three children.