On January 24, Princess Astrid’s husband, Johan Martin Ferner, passed away. He was buried earlier this week. He was, in short, the model of the perfect royal in-law – never in the papers for his own gain, never speaking about his royal relatives, had a thriving business and life of his own, and always two step behind Astrid when she was out representing. Certain royal in-laws could learn a lot from him.
10 days before his death, Princess Astrid gave an interview to the weekend edition of Dagbladet, Magasinet. According to the wishes of the Princess and the court, the interview was published yesterday, as it was originally written. I have translated out-takes of the interview, below.
The interview took place in the Minister Salon at the Royal Palace in Oslo.
In 1945 the family returned to Norway after the war, and the princesses started going to public school.
“I could not write nicely, and I could not write correctly. Reading out loud was a big problem for me. I thought myself that there was something wrong with my eyes. But it wasn’t.” After a spelling test gone wrong, she was called out on being lazy.
“You were suspected of being lazy. Were you also suspected of being less gifted?”
“No, I had the talking equipment in order,” she says and smiles. She asked the teacher to write the word on the black board as Astrid had written it, and as it was meant to be written underneath. Astrid could not tell the difference.
“Word-blindness, it was called then, but few people knew what it was. Today there is fortunately understanding that some are hit by dyslexia and are not to blame for it.”
“How do you deal with dyslexia today?”
“I still write like a doctor, and I cannot read out loud still. If I try, it becomes a mess. But I read a lot and quite rapidly. I love to read.”
“Harald and I were on a trip with the ship Agamemnon once. The King and Queen of Greece were hosting, and on board there were 101 people who all were related. A lot of them were German, but since this was not too long after the war, we had been told from home, strictly, not to fall in love with either of them.”
She met Johan Martin Ferner for the first time at a children’s party. Then at a masquerade. But it was during sailing that they became more than friends. Johan Martin Ferner had been a part of the Norwegian team winning silver in the 1952 Summer Olympics.
“I don’t quite know when it happened. I tried to support him after his divorce. He was quite down because his marriage had failed. It was probably something that happened over time.”
“How did you hide the relationship?”
“We did not go out a lot. When we did, it was mostly to sail.”
“We were told by Dad that there would be big bruha about our marriage. That’s why there was so short time between the engagement and the wedding. Only two months.”
“A conscious strategy?”
“Yes, it was consciously done. Christmas also came in between, and made it easier. Quite quickly everyone was busy with what was supposed to happen in the wedding. But, just like today, everyone wanted to have an opinion. And the press asks everyone, whether they know what they’re talking about or not.”
“If we had not received official permission to get married, I would have stayed unwed.”
“I have probably been quite strict [with her own children]. I have been the most afraid of them not behaving nicely and people saying that they think they can do whatever they like because they are our children. I decided early that no body would ever have any reason to say that.”
“Harald has not done everything in the same way that our father did. Haakon does not do things in the same way that his dad does. We are all different. And times are changing.”
About Ingrid Alexandra’s challenges. “The press. I think it is getting worse and worse. I don’t know Ingrid’s mind so well that I can say how it will end up. Maybe she will do what I do, blow it off and say: God, how stupid they are. But if she has a vulnerable mind, the press can destroy a lot. The press can destroy a human being, so you have a big responsibility there.”
If she had not been a princess: “I could have wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. But it did not happen that way. As it was a closed study, I could not take the spot of someone who was better suited for it. You see, I might because of other tasks, not have been working as a doctor afterwards.”
“Did it feel unfair?”
“No, I am not made that way. But I had enough points to get into the medical school. And because of the dyslexia, I had the handwriting required as well.” She smiles.