It's been nearly 50 years since Queen Sonja of Norway suffered a devastating miscarriage, and with great candour she is now speaking out about that dark and difficult period of her life. "I remember all the strange faces that bent over me when I was going into hospital," King Harald's wife recalls in an upcoming TV documentary. "It was horrid."
Sonja was 32 when she lost her baby boy – her first child - on 2 July, 1970 aboard the royal yacht. At the time, she and her husband, the then-Crown Prince, had been married for two years, and had only recently announced their big news to the excited Norwegian public. Sonja was almost halfway through her pregnancy when tragedy struck and she awoke to cramps and bleeding.
Queen Sonja has spoken candidly about the loss of her first baby
"Of course it was a desperate situation, I think it was absolutely horrific," the 78-year-old said. "I was lowered on a stretcher down the ship's side."
The then-princess was rushed to Fredrikstad Central Hospital on the mainland – but because of protocol, her husband was not allowed to accompany her into the maternity ward. "So I was utterly alone," she added.
Her father-in-law, King Olav, was among the first to visit her in hospital, as was her own mother, Dagny Haraldsen, who gave the future Queen great strength at her time of need.
Norway's Queen Sonja and King Harald have been married since August 1968
But after the trauma of losing her baby, Sonja also had to face speculation about whether she would be able to carry any more children, and provide an heir to the throne. "Fortunately I was able to have more healthy children," said the Queen, who gave birth to Princess Martha Louise in September 1971 – just one year after the miscarriage – and welcomed Crown Prince Haakon in 1973.