Norway

Ari Behn’s funeral held in Oslo


Photo by Oskar Aanmoen/Royal Central

On Friday, the funeral took place for Ari Behn, the former husband of Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, at Oslo Cathedral.

Ari Behn died last week after taking his own life on Christmas Day aged 47. Many royals and members of the Behn family attended the funeral which was broadcast live on Norway’s two largest television channels.

Present from the Norwegian Royal Family were King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Prince Sverre Magnus, Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Princess Astrid.

Members of the Lorentzen family, the family of the late Princess Ragnhild, also attended the funeral.

Ari Behn’s ex-wife, Princess Märtha Louise, also attended. She brought with her their three children, Maud Angelica, Emma Tallulah and Leha Isadora. Ari’s parents and siblings also participated in the sombre occasion.

High-ranking guests from the world of Norwegian politics were also present. The government was represented by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Finance Minister Siv Jensen, Minister for Culture Trine Skei Grande, Minister of Petroleum and Energy Sylvi Listhaug and Minister of Children and Family Kjell Ingolf Ropstad.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also participated; he was formerly Norway’s prime minister. Opposition Leader Jonas G. Støre from the Labour Party also attended.

With so many prominent and royal guests in one place, the police implemented a number of security measures. The Oslo police district stated that the funeral was a private arrangement, however, based on those present, some routine safety measures had to be implemented. Among other measures, the police stopped all car traffic for a few hours around Oslo Cathedral.

Princess Märtha Louise’s new boyfriend, the American shaman Durek Verett has created a lot of debate. In high contrast to Ari Behn, he is not well-liked by the majority of the Norwegian people. There was great speculation over whether he would attend the funeral or not. On the day, he chose to stay away.

It was on Christmas Day that Ari Behn took his own life. The Norwegian Royal Family was quick to comment on the tragic death, as Ari Behn’s three daughters are also grandchildren of the Norwegian King and Queen. In a statement, King Harald and Queen Sonja wrote: “It is with great sorrow that the Queen and I have learned of the death of Ari Behn. Ari was an important part of our family for many years, and we will bring many warm, good memories  of him forward with us.”

The family had an active role during the funeral. Ari Behn’s memorial speech was held by his daughter, Maud. She said: “We wish we could give you a very last hug. We love you dad – you are a sparkling diamond too”. Ari Behn’s 16-year-old daughter came up with a call for people struggling with mental illness. She said, “I just want to say to everyone who has gone through mental illness, that there is always a way out. Although it doesn’t feel that way. There are people out there who can help. Everyone deserves love and joy. There is never weakness to ask for help but strength.

Maud also revealed unknown information about her father’s last weeks. She said: “I had not seen you for two weeks and I already miss you so much. We really wanted to celebrate Christmas with you, and I was so looking forward to seeing you again. But now I will never be able to see your cozy smile and your kind eyes again.”

His parents also gave a memorable speech. His mother said: “Dear, dear Ari, my dear Mikis. In a book dedication to me, you said, “my beloved mama, from your son Mikael, thank you for giving me the gift of life.” This has touched me deeply over the last few days and warmed me. Our last days were not so much about darkness, but about the light.”

Otherwise, the funeral was conducted with several Christian traditions. The last page of the funeral program was adorned with a drawing by Ari Behn’s eldest daughter Maud Angelica Behn. The cover photo is taken by Ari’s close friend Per Heimly. Sigvart Dagsland sang his famous song “Everything I Saw”, while Kåre Conradi, Dennis Storhøi and Elisabeth Thorsen read texts from the Bible during the ceremony. Among the songs everyone sang were, “A Child Born in Bethlehem” and ” Beautiful Savior”. Kåre Nordstoga played the organ and the ceremony concludes with a completely newly composed choral play by Jon Håtun, who has been named “An Ari for Ari”.

Royal Central’s Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen attended the funeral service in Oslo Cathedral. He describes the funeral: “This was a strong and touching funeral. A worthy goodbye to Ari Behn. What remains as the clearest memory will be the speech of his daughter Maud, it will give positive reactions for a long time to come. It was incredibly brave and strong of her to hold such a beautiful speech. Otherwise, the rest of the funeral was fine and in Ari Behn’s spirit. It was great that so many of his relatives participated in the way that they did.”

It was first reported by Swedish media that Princess Märtha Louise’s good friend, the Swedish Crown Princess, cancelled all her private plans and travelled directly to Norway when the news became known, to support her friend and her family. Later this turned out to not be correct. However, the Swedish Royal Family was present during the funeral, by Prince Daniel. The support from the Norwegian people after the death over overwhelming. Hundreds of candles were lit at the Karl-Johan Monument in front of the Royal Palace. Condolence protocols were posted in several places and a torch parade was arranged in Ari Behn’s hometown of Moss. The Royal Family thanked the people for their support.

The funeral was conducted by the bishop in Oslo, Kari Veiteberg. It is a tradition that it is the bishop of Oslo who performs ecclesiastical acts related to the Norwegian Royal Family. Bishop Kari Veiteberg was the bishop who confirmed Princess Ingrid Alexandra in August 2019. The reason why the family chose to hold the funeral from Oslo Cathedral is that it is the largest church in eastern Norway, to accommodate enough people who wanted to attend the funeral. Oslo Cathedral has seating for about 900 people. Prior to the funeral, it was debated whether Ari Behn’s funeral would be paid for by the state. The Norwegian government made a statement last week confirming that the government will be represented in the funeral, but that the Norwegian state will not pay for the funeral.



About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.