Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court
The Norwegian and British royal families have strong ties to each other. King Harald’s grandmother, Queen Maud of Norway, was the daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner, is the older sister of the present Norwegian monarch.
In connection with the coronation of her cousin, King Charles III, the Princess has given a rare interview that the Norwegian Royal Court has published.
Princess Astrid fondly recalled Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, an event she attended almost 70 years ago as a representative of the Norwegian Royal House alongside her parents, Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha.
As one of the few surviving witnesses from that historic day on 2 June 1953, Princess Astrid arrived in London on the Royal Norwegian Yacht “KS Norge” with her parents and was welcomed at Westminster Pier by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth’s husband.
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Princess Astrid says: “It was a magical moment when the crown was placed on Queen Elizabeth’s head by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Queen then turned to the people gathered in the packed church. The coronation is probably one of the greatest memories of my life.”
The Princess continued: “I remember thinking everything was magnificent. Many in beautiful dresses and uniforms from all over the world. The town was nicely decorated, and there was a good atmosphere among the many thousands who were out in the streets. I got to the church early and was lucky enough to be allowed to go up to the regalia to look at them. It was an unforgettable memory to stand so close to the crown, the sceptre and all the other royal regalia. The whole ceremony was great, but the highlight was when the Crown was placed on the Queen’s head before she turned to face the people – so we all got to see her with the crown on her head.”
At the time of the Queen’s coronation, Princess Astrid was only 21 years old, and it was a significant honour for her to participate in the ceremony and subsequent celebrations in London.
There were no monarchs present then. This is because of the belief that there should be no one higher in rank than the monarch to be crowned. A new monarch ranks lower than monarchs who have been on the throne longer. That was the reason why there were no reigning monarchs present in 1953.
The Princess concluded: “I sat next to Lord Louis Mountbatten. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see my parents, but luckily I was able to walk out of the church with them as they passed where I was sitting. I wondered how I was going to get from the church, as I didn’t have my own car. It was resolved when mother and father came by. Many had dressed in beautiful traditional national costumes. From Ethiopia, some came in full lion traps. And then I remember Queen Sãlote Tuou from Tonga. Beautifully dressed in a Tonganese national costume made of, among other things, palm leaves. It caused a stir that the Queen from Tonga drove in an open carriage in the pouring rain during the cortege. She is said to have refused to take up the canopy and drove in an open carriage in the pouring rain to great cheers from all the spectators.”
Although unable to attend in person, Princess Astrid watched the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on TV broadcasts from London, with the current Norwegian Crown Prince and Crown Princess representing the Norwegian Royal Family.