Today is the 80th birthday of Princess Ragnhild of Norway, Mrs Lorentzen, the King’s eldest sister. The King and Queen, who are currently residing at Bygdøy Royal Manor, will tonight host a birthday dinner for family and friends in her honour.
Princess Ragnhild was born at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 9 June 1930, a few weeks after the family home Skaugum in Asker burned down. She was the first princess born on Norwegian soil in 629 years. While Ragnhild is a name associated with the queens of the Norse sagas, she received her second name Alexandra in memory of her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra of Britain.
During the Second World War Princess Ragnhild lived in exile in the USA with her mother and her two siblings, but returned to Norway two days before her 15th birthday in 1945. The following year she fell in love with Erling S. Lorentzen, a ship-owner and veteran of the resistance.
Despite initial opposition from King Haakon and Crown Princess Märtha they were eventually allowed to marry and the wedding took place in Asker Church on 15 May 1953. Following the wedding the couple settled in Rio de Janeiro, where the Lorentzen family had business interests. Three children were born of the marriage: Haakon in 1954, Ingeborg in 1957 and Ragnhild in 1968.
Although they were supposed to stay in Brazil for only two years, they have remained ever since and have made up their minds to do so until the end of their days. They will however be buried in the cemetery in Asker.
Since the death of King Olav in 1991 Princess Ragnhild also maintains an apartment in Oslo, near the Vigeland Park. Formerly she was a frequent visitor to Norway, but with increasing age and frailty the Princess is no longer seen as frequently in her native land. She performs no official duties, but most recently attended the lunch held for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands during her state visit, at which time she had not been seen in public in 2 ½ years. She was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav in 1982.
Princess Ragnhild sparked some controversy some years ago by making very critical remarks about the Crown Prince’s and Princess Märtha Louise’s choice of life partners in a regrettable interview with TV2. The interview was taped right after the King and Queen had abruptly cancelled a lunch with the Princess during their 2003 state visit to Brazil, naturally causing great disappointment to Princess Ragnhild, whose brother had not visited her home in Rio since 1968.
However, the King immediately made it clear that this unfortunate episode should not come between them and in the only interview she has given on the occasion of her 80th birthday, to the weekly Allers, Princess Ragnhild stresses great kindness as one of the best qualities her brother has inherited from their father.
Above is a postcard showing a very young Princess Ragnhild (to the left) with her younger sister Princess Astrid, who was always bigger than her (a sore point throughout their childhood, the latter once told me).