8 August 2016

Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn to divorce

Last Friday (5 August 2016) the Royal Court in Oslo announced that Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn, who have been married since 2002, are to divorce. The couple is going to have shared (joint) custody of the three children, who will continue at their respective schools. Princess Märtha Louise will continue to live in Lommedalen in Bærum outside Oslo. Ari Behn intends to find a place to live nearby to be close to his daughters.  Both the house in Lommedalen as well as the vacation home «Bloksbjerg» at Hankø are both the princess' sole property.

In the press release Princess Märtha Louise has given the following statement:
«Life does not always go smoothly. Both Ari and I have experienced this. But this comes even more apparent now when our life has taken some unexpected turns that we never had foreseen. In these days we will leave each other. We are ending the marriage, but will stay together in parenthood.

It is unspeakably sad for both of us to discover that the road ahead of us will not go the same way it used to. We have as so many others grown apart from each other – to places we no longer meet as we did before. It is terrible to experience that there is nothing more we can do. We have tried everything over a long time, and when we still can't meet where we did before, it is impossible for us to continue.

We feel guilty for no longer being able to provide the safe harbour that our children deserve. But we hope and believe that we will be able to keep our friendship through what is now ahead of us.

We ask and hope that we will not be disturbed during this difficult process. The children need time to digest this, to grieve and find a new footing – each one of them. We are just people, too.» 
The King and Queen has in the same press release given the following statement:
«There are many who will be affected when a marriage is broken up. It is painful and sad – also for those of us who are close to the couple. We are fond of Ari and grateful for everything we as a family have experienced together. We will have a good relationship with Ari also in the future.» 
According to the press release, Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn do not wish to give any further comments. They ask that the press will continue to leave their children alone.

Although Ari Behn on more than one occasion has hinted that his role and life in the royal circle have been difficult and challenging, I must say I was a little bit surprised by the news. But it is of course impossible for outsiders to know what is really going on in other's relationships. Telling about the break-down of a marriage is never easy, but I think the couple and the royal court have solved it well. I don't feel we need to know more details about why the marriage broke down than what the princess has told in the statement. Hopefully the couple as well as the royal family will get through the separation and divorce as smoothly as possible and remain on friendly terms.

As others have also suggested, the divorce will have no constitutional complications. I also doubt that it will affect the popularity of the royal family much. It is just sad for all the people involved.

Legally speaking, the Norwegian marriage act article 21 states that «Each of the spouses may demand a divorce when they have been separated for at least one year.»  The court has so far not stated the date of the County Governor's  (administrative) separation order. The divorce will at the earliest be granted sometime in August 2017. Until then Ari Behn will remain a member of the royal family.

Many people, including several so-called «royal experts» have commented on the separation. Johan T. Lindwall, who covers the royal families for the Swedish tabloid Expressen, claims that  Ari Behn «has been a burden on the Norwegian royal house.» He is not the only one who has claimed this. Personally I feel that many people have made too much out of Ari Behn's somewhat unorthodox or «Bohemian» behaviour. He certainly has created a few headlines along the way, and his comments on a former royal staff member's working conditions were totally unacceptable, but in general I think the headlines have just been mild ripples on the water. His wife's business activities have (or are) far more problematic. Maybe it is rather the royal house which has been a burden on Ari Behn – especially on his role as an author – than the other way around? Let us just say that they have been a colourful couple. And for the record, everyone I know who has met Ari Behn personally has only good things to say about him.

Lindwall also claims that «Märtha Louise har varit kontroversiell med sin änglaskola och böcker. Det gick ju så långt att hon fick avstå rätten till apanage, skattebetalarnas pengar, och Hennes Kungliga Höghet titel ....» («Märtha Louise has been [a] controversial [person] with her angel school and books. It went so far that she had to give up her right to an appanage, the tax payer's money as well as the style Her Royal Highness ...».) This is a rather misleading comment. As mentioned in the court's press statement of 18 January 2002, the Princess' decision to enter working life created a greater distance to the Royal House's constitutional role. The King therefore decided, after having consulted the Princess, that she from 1 February 2002 no longer was to be styled Her Royal Highness, but Princess Märtha Louise.

In the same press statement we were told that «Her Royal Highness Princess Märtha Louise will during January 2002 start to work with «cultural dissemination» [or «cultural mediation», Norwegian word used was «kulturformidling»] and the rosen method [therapy method] on an independent basis. Her first appointment in her working life will be with NRK, the Children and Youth Department» and «A sole proprietorship will be established, where the Princess as a juristic person will take care of her business herself. From 1 January 2002 the Princess pays income tax.»

The latter was as a result of the reform that the financing of the royal family and court underwent and which came into force from 1 January 2002, and had nothing to do with the sole proprietorship that was to be established. The «angel school», i.e. the limited company Soulspring, earlier named Astarte Inspiration, was established much later.

The press statement concerning the future divorce was announced while I was abroad, which explains why my comments are published first three days later.

Updated on Tuesday 9 August 2016 at 20:15 (couple of typos corrected).

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