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Who is Princess Astrid of Norway?

Oskar Aanmoen/Royal Central

Today, 12 February, Princess Astrid of Norway turns 88-years-old! We wish her a wonderful birthday, and on the occasion, we look back on the Princess’s life to find out a little more about the Norwegian King’s older sister.

Princess Astrid Maud Ingeborg of Norway born in 1932 as Crown Prince Olav (later King Olav V) and Crown Princess Märtha’s second daughter and King Harald V’s sister. She grew up with her parents, her older sister Princess Ragnhild and little brother Harald, on the Skaugum property just outside Oslo.

A young Princess Astrid plays with her very first dog Vimsa. Photo: The Royal Court’s photo archive.

When Germany invaded Norway on 9 April 1940, she fled with her mother and siblings to exile. They spent a short time with the Swedish Royal Family in Sweden before they travelled to the United States by boat. There, she lived on the outskirts of Washington DC until Norway was liberated in 1945 and the Royal Family could return to Norway.

Princess Astrid was first home-schooled at the Skaugum Estate before she started at “Nissen” girl-school when she returned to Norway after the war. She studied art in 1950 and then studied social economics and political history at Oxford for two years

Princess Astrid, on the far right, on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Oslo after returning from exile. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

During the first years of King Olav’s reign, Princess Astrid assisted her father with representational duties and was the country’s ‘first lady.’ This was due to the death of her mother, Crown Princess Märtha, before the accession of her father and the decision of her older sister, Ragnhild, to marry outside royal circles and move to Brazil.

Princess Astrid fell in love with businessman Johan Martin Ferner. However, he did not have the royal lineage required of her prospective groom, and, perhaps more controversially, he was divorced. King Olav, however, eventually gave his blessing to the marriage. The wedding was held at the Church at Asker, close to Astrid’s childhood home. Astrid walked into the church as an HRH but left that at the altar, emerging instead as Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner. Read the full story about the wedding here.

The baptism of Elisabeth Ferner, Queen Sonja is the godmother. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Princess Astrid and Johan Martin Ferner went on to have five children together: Cathrine Ferner in 1962, Benedikte Ferner in 1963, Alexander Ferner in 1965, Elisabeth Ferner in 1969, and Carl-Christian Ferner in 1972. While the children were small, the Princess spent a lot of time at home and took an active role in the children’s upbringing. Princess Astrid became a widow when Johan Martin Ferner died in 2015.

Princess Astrid has been dedicated to people with physical and mental problems throughout her life. Among other things, Princess Astrid is the patron of Dissimilis, a cultural organisation for people with mental disabilities.

The royal monogram of Princess Astrid. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Princess is the patron of a number of other associations. Among them, we find The Chronic Pain Association, Women’s Voluntary Preparedness Association, Oslo Art Association, Norwegian Dyslexia Association and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. Princess Astrid is also the head of Crown Princess Märtha’s Memorial Fund providing financial support for social and humanitarian initiatives in organisations and associations.

Princess Astrid rarely gives interviews. It was, therefore, a great pleasure and surprise when she was interviewed by the TV channel NRK in connection with the annual TV programme “The year with the Royal Family”. There, the Princess told about her life as a royal. She warmly talked about her relatives and expressed special gratitude to her aunt, Danish Queen Ingrid (Queen Margrethe’s mother) whom she had regarded as her mother figure after Crown Princess Märtha died.

Princess Astrid on the far left during the 2010 state visit from Russia.
Photo: Kremlin via Wikimedia Commons.

The Princess still takes on some official representation tasks for the Royal Family, and on several occasions, she has stepped in on behalf of the Royal Family. When Queen Sonja fell ill in October 2019, sister-in-law Astrid stepped in and opened an art exhibition on behalf of the Queen. When King Harald had to have an artificial heart valve inserted and was seriously ill in 2005, Astrid took over many of her brother’s duties and was as active a member of the Royal Family as the Crown Prince and Queen were.

Princess Astrid is, to this day, a regular addition to all royal gala dinners, state visits and the traditional celebration of Norway’s National Day, where she usually sits with her dog “Pepita” in a window next to the famous palace balcony. In 2019, the Princess worked a total of 11 days for the Royal Family.

Princess Astrid with her dog Pepita and her son Alexander in her “regular” window at the Royal Palace during the National Day. Photo: Oskar Aanmoen / Royal Central.

Princess Astrid is well-liked by the Norwegian people. She is considered to be funny, friendly and unpretentious. This also led to the Norwegian government granting the Princess an “honorary pension” in 2002 for all that she had done to promote Norway and Norway’s interests.

According to the Norwegian Constitution, Princess Astrid has no right of succession to the Norwegian throne because she was born before 1971, and the relationship is, thus, regulated by a special provision by an earlier version of the Constitution §6 where women lacked succession rights. However, in 2011, she was 90th in the line of succession to the British throne as she is a granddaughter of the British-born Maud who became Norwegian Queen in 1905.

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.