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Princess Astrid celebrates her 80th birthday

A gala banquet honouring Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner will be held at the Royal Palace on Sunday 12 February. Princess Astrid was Norway’s First Lady for many years and remains active through her patronages and her work with Crown Princess Märtha’s Memorial Fund.

11.02.2012

Princess Astrid has focused particularly on caring for those who are weakest in society and on achieving greater inclusion for those who are not part of the mainstream. She enjoys sports and outdoor activities, and is a loyal follower of the ski competitions at Holmenkollen and other major sporting events.

Upbringing and schooling

Princess Astrid was born on 12 February 1932. She was named Astrid Maud Ingeborg after her aunt, Queen Astrid of Belgium, and her two grandmothers, Queen Maud of Norway and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden. She grew up on Skaugum Estate in Asker and was schooled at home in her formative years.

When she returned to Norway following WWII and five years in exile, she enrolled in Nissen girls’ school. She completed upper secondary school in 1950 and then studied economics and political history for two years at Oxford University. Later she also learned dressmaking and cooking at schools in Norway. In addition, she pursued her interest in handicrafts and studied ceramics with the renowned artist Halvor Sandøs.

First Lady

Crown Princess Märtha died on 5 April 1954, and the 22-year-old Princess Astrid became the First Lady of Norway. She also assumed responsibility for Crown Princess Märtha’s Memorial Fund, a duty she has performed with great dedication through the years and which remains a key focus of her activities.

The years as the young First Lady were busy ones. The 1950s were a prosperous decade for the charity bazaar – a sure source of income for philanthropic organisations and an important social event for many. Princess Astrid attended a vast number of bazaars to raise money for women’s organisations and charitable causes.

Princess Astrid also attended major celebrations around the country, either accompanying the King and Crown Prince or alone as the representative of the Royal Family. During official state visits and other events she acted as hostess for banquets held at the Royal Palace and Skaugum Estate. After the death of King Haakon, Princess Astrid accompanied King Olav on his consecration tours, becoming well known throughout the length and breadth of Norway.

Many years later, in connection with her 50th birthday, Princess Astrid stated, “What I appreciate the most are probably the consecration tours with my father in 1958 and 1959. They were such an adventure for me. And I envy my father, who will make another consecration tour this autumn to mark his 25th year as King”.

There was great public interest in Princess Astrid’s activities, and articles in magazines and newspapers about her work, life and hobbies were commonplace.

Patronage

While the Princess shouldered the tasks as First Lady, she also assumed her first patronage: Norske Kvinners Sanitetsforening, an organisation of women volunteers focusing on women’s health. Crown Princess Märtha had performed this duty for many years and Princess Astrid continues to carry on her legacy, nearly 60 years later.

The Princess has been an active patron of a number of organisations, and has demonstrated long-term commitment to and interest in them all. She has supported activities ranging from associations for the disabled to music, health and many different charities.

- “I have become acquainted with many competent, delightful people in this way, and I have gained a great deal of valuable knowledge,” said Princess Astrid on her 70th birthday, as she looked back on her life’s work in an interview in the magazine “Familien”.

Family

On 12 January 1961, Princess Astrid married Johan Martin Ferner in Asker Church. The marriage led to a shift in Princess Astrid’s formal situation. She no longer used the prefix “Her Royal Highness” and assumed the title of Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner.

Mr and Mrs Ferner had five children in close succession, and the demands of their private life grew. She reduced her representative duties, but she continued to perform duties as Norway’s First Lady – with special emphasis on tasks related to her patronages.

When Crown Prince Harald married in 1968, the situation changed. Crown Princess Sonja became Norway’s First Lady and took over many of the duties, although Princess Astrid continued to carry out official tasks on behalf of the Royal Family.

Honourable pension

On her 70th birthday in 2002, Princess Astrid received the following message:

“The Norwegian Government has decided to recognise Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner for her efforts on behalf of Norway as the country’s First Lady for many years and subsequently in connection with extensive official tasks. She has therefore been granted an honourable pension from the national treasury.”


On her 80th birthday Princess Astrid remains an active, dynamic woman. She continues to perform official duties for the Royal Family.

 

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