9 March 2021

Erling Sven Lorentzen (1923–2021)

The Norwegian Royal Court announced today the death of the shipowner, industralist and war hero Erling Sven Lorentzen, widower of Princess Ragnhild and brother-in-law of King Harald V. Erling Lorentzen died in Oslo at 01.30 a.m. on Tuesday 9 March 2021, 98 years old, after a short period of illness.

The king's condolences on behalf of the royal family: «It is with great sorrow we have received the sad message that Erling Sven Lorentzen has passed away. Our thoughts go to his closest ones, who have lost a good father, father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather.»

Erling Sven Lorentzen was born at Huseby in Aker (now part of Oslo) on 28 January 1923 as the youngest of six children of the shipowner Øivind Lorentzen, Holmestrand (1881–1980) and Ragna Nilsen, Hamar (1885–1976). During the war he joined the so-called «Kompani Linge» («The Linge Company», i.e. the Norwegian Independent Company 1 (NOR.I.C.1), a British SOE group formed by Norwegian volunteers) in Scotland where he received military training before becoming regional commanding officer in Hallingdal in 1944. When the royal family returned from exile following the end of the war in 1945, Lorentzen served as one of their bodyguards. He met and fell in love with the the Crown Prince Olav's eldest daughter Ragnhild, who was 15 years old at the time. They corresponded while Erling studied at Harvard Business School. The couple was finally allowed to marry in 1953.

After the wedding in Asker Church on 15 May 1953 the couple settled in Brazil where Lorentzen became a successful business man. In the first years he owned a gas distribution company, before he went into the cellulose business, owning a large share of Aracruz Celulose S.A. and working as its executive chairman for many years.

Erling Lorentzen and Princess Ragnhild had 3 children – Haakon, Ingeborg and Ragnhild – as well as 6 grandchildren. Princess Ragnhild died in 2012 and was buried at Asker Cemetery, where it is also expected that Lorentzen will be laid at rest. After her death Lorentzen continued to live in Brazil, but usually spent the summers in Norway, either at his summer place at Ostøya in Bærum or at his childhood home in Husebyveien in Oslo. The last fall and winter was spent in Oslo. He was an active and vital man to the last. As late as in December 2020 he strongly critizised the TV series «Atlantic Crossing» in a letter to the editor of Aftenposten.

I never met Erling Lorentzen, but exchanged a few e-mails over the years, and he was always forthcoming when I asked for assistance to my genealogy inquiries. He had lived a long and rich life and one should of course not be too surprised when he passed away at the age of 98. Still, I had somehow expected that he would at least turn 100, as he said himself that he aimed for! His father was 99 years old when he died, and his elder brother Øivind Lorentzen, Jr. died in March 2020, 101 years old. 

The Norwegian Minister of Defence, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said today: «One of our last war heroes from WW2 has passed away. His war effort, his will to defend his country and his imparting of knowledge to the younger generations will stand as a monument.»


  1. I realize now I didn't know much about Mr. Lorentzen, so thank you for posting. I also read on a link you provided that he,too, didn't have an easy time to convince King Olav to give his consent to his marriage and they had to wait several years. It appears that the couple were well-suited and had a good marriage.

  2. Formally it was King Haakon who finally gave his consent, but also Olav and Märtha were against the wedding for a long time. Trond Norén Isaksen has written about this, as late as in Aftenposten earlier this week.

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  4. In "Underwater Saboteur", Max Manus mentions "James Lorentzen" who directed work on underground newspapers and propaganda. Gunnar Sonsteby, in "Report from No 24" mentions Erling Lorentzen, the youngest member of the Oslo gang. Is "James Lorentzen" a code name for Erling Lorentzen? Is James Lorentzen a relative of Erling Lorentzen?

  5. No, Max Manus was most likely referring to James Stove Lorentzen (1921-1998), son of Axel B. Lorentzen (1884-1952) and grandson of Jørgen Johan Lorentzen. James was also in Milorg during the war. No, I don't think James was related, although his family was also involved in shipping.

  6. Checking more sources: It was the obituary in Aftenposten in 1998 which claimed that James Stove Lorentzen was the grandson of Jørgen Johan Lorentzen, but that can't be entirely correct. Consulting the book "Skippere, meglere, redere : utgitt i anledning av Lorentzens skibsaktieselskabs 50 års jubileum 1926-1976", 1977, by Bård Kolltveit, Axel Borgvald Lorentzen was the son of Johannes Lorentzen, b. 1864, who was the son of Sally and James Stove Lorentzen. And this James Stove Lorentzen (1821-1901) was born in Scotland as the son of Jean (Jane) Campbell (1798-1878) and --- Stove. Jane married for the second time Jørgen Lorentzen (1788-1861) and her son James was adopted by Jørgen and went under the name James Stove Lorentzen. Now, this Jørgen was a Danish-born seaman and later shipowner and the son of a Danish pastor. He settled in Drammen in Norway in 1814. So, the Lorentzens who descend from the Scottish James Stove Lorentzen are Lorentzens by adoption only and this Lorentzen family have no connection to the Lorentzens from Holmestrand. Concerning the James Stove Lorentzen (1921-1998), he also had an uncle James Stove Lorentzen, b. 1892 or 1893, but he died in 1920, so I am quite confident that the James Lorentzen mentioned in Max Manus' book is the aforementioned James Stove Lorentzen, d. 1998.