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HistoryNorway

Atlantic Crossing airs on PBS dramatising the escape of the Crown Princess of Norway to the United States during World War II


By FDR Presidential Library & Museum - 73-113:95, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43606596

Atlantic Crossing is now airing on PBS in the United States and Canada. It is an eight-part mini-series, looking at the Crown Princess of Norway’s escape to safety in the United States with her children during the Second World War and her friendship with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It stars Sofia Helin as Crown Princess Martha and Kyle MacLachlan as Franklin Roosevelt. Atlantic Crossing originally aired in Norway in the autumn of 2020 and premiered in North America on 4 April 2021. 

The series is a dramatic look at an already dramatic episode of royal history. Martha fully supported Norwegian mobilisation, including encouraging women to do their part for the war effort. However, when the Germans invaded in April of 1940, Martha, and Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid and Prince Harald (the future King Harald V) fled to her native Sweden. At the border, they originally weren’t allowed to pass as they did not have passports, but she physically stormed the gate, and they passed. 

They stayed in Sweden with Martha’s parents; however, much of the population worried that her presence would be an issue for Swedish neutrality. Roosevelt offered them safety in the United States, and although her family didn’t agree, she accepted the offer. 

Martha and the children travelled on a US military ship, American Legion. Upon their arrival, they stayed with Roosevelt at the White House for some time before finding a home in Washington, DC. 

While living there, the Crown Princess and President forged a friendship. They had met when Martha and her husband, Crown Prince Olav, had visited the US in 1939, but their friendship was cemented during the war years. Sources show that Roosevelt was infatuated with Martha, but there is nothing to show that it was anything more than a friendship for the Crown Princess. 

Martha did use their friendship to advocate for US support of Norway. Roosevelt gave the exiled Royal Norwegian Navy a warship, HNoMS King Haakon VII in 1942, and gave his famous “Look to Norway” speech at the handover ceremony. 

The final episodes of Atlantic Crossing will be airing on Sunday evenings on PBS Masterpiece. Though PBS typically airs British television shows, royal watchers are excited to see Scandinavian royal history shown. 

About author

Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com