Princess Martha Louise's Ex-Husband, Ari Behn, Laid to Rest in Oslo Cathedral Following Christmas Day Suicide
The author — who died by suicide on Christmas Day at age 47 — was married to the princess for 14 years before divorcing in 2016. Together they shared three daughters: Maud Angelica, 16, Leah Isadora, 14, and Emma Tallulah, 11.
Accompanied by younger brother Crown Prince Haakon, 46, the princess looked visibly upset as she arrived with her children at the 300-year-old Oslo Cathedral to pay tribute to Behn.
Outside, a crowd of thousands gathered in silence from as early as 6am — seven hours before the ceremony — under crisp Scandinavian skies to pay their own quiet respects, with hundreds more gathered inside the cathedral. It was his family’s wish that as many people as possible were able to take part in the ceremony, which was conducted by the bishop of Oslo, Kari Veiteberg.
In a particularly poignant touch, a painting from Maud Angelica was laid on top of Behn’s coffin throughout the service, surrounded by numerous floral tributes from friends and family. Maud Angelica had intended to give the portrait to her father as a Christmas gift, but was tragically unable to do so.
Other mourners included Prince Haakon’s wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit, 46, and their children Princess Ingrid Alexandra, 15 and Prince Sverre Magnus, 14 — plus Mette-Marit’s L.A.-based eldest son Marius Borg Høiby, 22, who she had with ex-partner Morten Borg.
Prince Daniel of Sweden, 46, husband of Crown Princess Victoria, 42, was spotted too. Victoria was unable to attend after the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Princess Estelle broke her leg in a skiing accident. The Swedish royal couple were close friends with Behn and his former wife.
Behn’s girlfriend, lawyer Ebba Rysst Heilman, 35, was also in attendance. She sat in the front row beside Behn’s parents and walked out behind his coffin.
Heilman shared an emotional tribute on Instagram on Dec. 29
“Now your heart has found peace, but it will always beat strongly in my body,” she wrote. “Fortunately, you knew that — and also how much I loved you because I told you every day.
“I will do everything I promised you because you made me believe in me. I can write in ink so that the tears gush. Thanks to everyone who takes care of me. I am eternally grateful for this support.”
While the exact circumstances of Behn’s death remain unclear, the author had a history of alcoholism and depression. In a 2009 interview with Massiv magazine, he described himself as being depressed, lonely and difficult to live with.
On the cover of his book 2018 Inferno, he wrote that he was “too intense, full of words and much too much force,” before adding that he was also “shy and shameless.”
“I couldn’t hold back. I let it burn,” he added.
In an interview to promote Inferno with Dagbladet Magasinet, Behn also revealed that he’d once been rushed to hospital in an ambulance after suffering a severe “panic attack” in the aftermath of his divorce from Princess Martha Louise.
Behn’s death was confirmed by King Harald and Queen Sonja on Christmas Day, who described the author in a statement as “an important part of our family for many years.” The royal family also lowered the Norwegian flag to half-mast outside the royal winter retreat Kongsseteren, in the hills above Oslo.
“Several of us are entering the new year of sadness in our hearts,” King Harald added in his traditional New Year’s Eve message to the nation on December 31. “We are strongly influenced by Ari Behn’s death this Christmas. It has been warm to experience people’s compassion and lit candles at the Palace Square. There is comfort in all the good memories and beautiful words that have been conveyed about the father of three of our dear grandchildren.
“Sometimes life is not to endure. For some, it gets so dark that nothing helps. Not even the love of their loved ones. Some see no other way than to leave life. Those who remain must live on. Poorer — without the one they loved.”
The King continued, “We are grateful that we got to know him. We grieve that our grandchildren have now lost their beloved father — and have deep compassion for his parents and siblings, who have now lost their beloved son and brother.”
RELATED: Ari Behn’s Life in Photos
Princess Martha Louise, who is now dating American spiritual guide Shaman Durek, has not released a statement on her ex-husband’s death. It has been reported that Verrett and the princess were together for the Christmas holidays when they received news of Behn’s death.
In 2017, Behn also made international headlines when he alleged Kevin Spacey of groping him at a Nobel Peace Prize banquet in Oslo in 2007.
“We had a nice conversation, he was sat next to me,” Behn told Norwegian radio station P4 about meeting the Oscar winner. “After five minutes, he says ‘Hey, let’s go out and have a cigarette’ — and then he touched me right on the balls under the table. (Spacey has denied all allegations of assault.)
“I got more than I bargained for,” added Behn, before revealing that he was so shocked by the incident he could only say in response “Eh, maybe later.”
Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad, who was a friend of Ari Behn and attended the funeral, tells PEOPLE: “The Kevin Spacey thing was nothing to him. I don’t know intimately where his dark moments came from, but it was partly due to his use of alcohol.
“He obviously had his dark sides, but he was always very gentle and never showed them to the public. I remember walking around with him and wherever we went would take forever because people always stopped him and he would always engage with everyone in conversation. He was a master of compliments. That’s the reason it comes out in this love now.
“His death is a major thing for the people of Norway because he was so loved for how he was and who he was.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.