My question: How long did the Norwegian prince and his mother stay at the White House? I've found online sources that detail he spent the war in Washington DC, but no dates for staying at the White House. The White House residential quarters aren't that large, were they really there for the entire war?

In April 1940 the Norwegian royal family was forced to flee Oslo when the Germans invaded.

The Doris Kearns Goodwin book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Home Front in World War II; contains this picture of the current King (then Prince) Harald V. playing with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's(FDR's) dog, Fala, on the North Lawn of the White House in 1944.

Prince Harald V Prince Harald V

In the book it says that the young(second grader) and his mother lived at the White House with Eleanor and FDR throughout the war. They originally went to Sweden but even though she was a Swedish Princess they were denied a VISA and left for fear of being sent back to occupied Norway. The young Prince Harald V - 7 years old in the picture- and mother then went to Finland and eventually came to the United States. The crowned prince and father stayed in London with the government in exile. The book goes so far to say FDR arranged for the King of Norway to fly across the Atlantic on Christmas to celebrate with his wife and son on several occasions.

Princess Märtha following an invitation by President Roosevelt, she went to the United States on United States Army transport American Legion, via the then Finnish port city of Petsamo. In the U.S., she and her children initially stayed in the White House. Crown Prince Olav, however, had gone with his father to the United Kingdom, where he worked with the Norwegian government-in-exile. Thus, the crown couple, as were many couples during the time, were separated for much of the war.

Vital mission to Petsamo

President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed that American Legion leave New York immediately and proceed to Petsamo in northern Finland. There, she was to embark the Crown Princess Märtha of Norway and her party and bring them to the United States, their homeland having fallen to the Germans the previous spring. Further, as Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles reported to the United States Minister in Sweden, the President also desired that Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, the former American Minister to Norway, return in the same vessel. The transport would "likewise bring back to this country such Americans in Scandinavian countries as can be accommodated and as may not be able to return safely in any other way."

American Legion — her neutrality shown clearly by the U.S. flags painted prominently on her sides — sailed for Finland on 25 July, and reached Petsamo on 6 August, as scheduled. On the 15th, she embarked Crown Princess Märtha, and her three children, the Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid, and Crown Prince Harald. The Army troopship also embarked a host of American nationals and refugees from a variety of countries: Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, the total number of people being 897.

In August 1941, Crown Princess Märtha traveled with President Roosevelt aboard the presidential yacht, USS Potomac, and sailed to Newfoundland and Atlantic Charter with Winston Churchill.

Crown Princess Martha of Norway with her three children reportedly arriving in New York City in 1940.
Crown Princess Martha of Norway with her three children

Even though she was a former Swedish princess, some in Sweden believed her and her children compromised the country’s neutrality by being in Sweden. The four royals and three staff members then traveled to Finland.

At some point President Roosevelt invited Martha and her children to stay at the White House. The United States was also neutral at the time.

Crown Princess Märtha with her husband, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas J. Watson and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands in 1944 Crown Princess Märtha with her husband, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas J. Watson and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands in 1944

Current Picture.
Current Picture

3 Answers 3


It seems that Crown Princess Märtha and her three children, including prince Harald, didn't stay at the White House for very long. Several sources comment that they initially stayed at Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate, then (briefly) at the White House, before moving to Bethesda. For example, an article in the Washington Post observes:

They stayed briefly at [Roosevelt's] Hyde Park estate and then at the White House, before they settled into a Tudor-style mansion north of Bethesda, off a small road called the Rockville Pike.

It seems that while they were living at Bethesda, Harald attended the Whitehall School.

They arrived in New York aboard the American Legion on 28 August.

From late 1940 until 1945 the family lived in a house on a 105-acre estate named "Pook's Hill," in Bethesda. Several sites state that they lived there from October 1940, but do not quote sources. They were certainly living there by 12 November 1940, when the Pittston Gazette, and other newspapers, reported that President Roosevelt had visited for tea after laying the cornerstone of a new naval medical building at Bethesda.

(That property had been purchased by the Norwegian government and would be sold in 1946.)

So, they could not have lived at the White House for more than 2 months (late August to late October). It was probably rather less.

The Norwegian Royal family had been invited to the US by President Roosevelt. As such they would have been considered to be his guests. They would probably have been invited to the White House fairly often. He certainly seems to have visited them fairly often.

We have photographic evidence that Harald met, and played with, FDR's dog Fala on at least one occasion. Probably more often in fact. However, as to how well he knew the dog, I'm not sure that was ever recorded by history.

  • 1
    Rockville Pike is an express way. It's a major thorough fare.
    – user27618
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 5:09
  • @JMS I'd be inclined to defer to the Washington Post in cases like this, but as I understand it, the Freeway dates from 1947 - after Crown Princess Märtha and her children had returned to Norway. Rockville Pike is considerably older. The description in the article presumably reflects the road as it was in 1940. Of course, they may also have been using the term ironically. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 5:26
  • user27618 was a little off, but not by much. The freeway (I-270) is not on the alignment of Rockville Pike (MD 355), which, before the freeway, was the main road northwest out of Washington. The Wilsons began donating land to the NIH in 1935, and it's possible Harald and his family lived on that land. At any rate, it wouldn't surprise me if the Wash Post article writer John Kelly was being "tongue in cheek" since, this wasn't a straight news piece, and by 2005, when this was written, development had turned Rockville Pike into a gargantuan "stroad".
    – Spencer
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 22:00

This Norwegian site (Royal House of Norway) states that:

While King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav stayed in London, the Crown Princess lived with the children in the outskirts of Washington, DC, until 1945, when peace was declared.

This would presumably be definitive.

  • So he and his mother never lived at the White House? That's your answer?
    – user27618
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 23:55
  • @JMS: It seems that while he may have sojourned at the White House, he never lived there. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 0:20
  • I have two sources saying the crowned Princess stayed at the White House. A different source says she and her children were invited by FDR to stay at the White House. I have a source saying FDR arranged for her trip to the US. She also traveled with him to a Churchill Summit. She also went to both Camp David, and his home in Hudson Valley. His family and friends teased him about her. They (Princes and Prince) were present when he was sworn into his 4th term in office in 1945..
    – user27618
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 0:55
  • 2
    That they were obviously guests of FDR and Eleanor doesn't mean that they lived at the White House. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 3:08
  • The WhiteHouseHistory Organization and the Pulitzer Prize winning author said that they lived at the White house during the war. For at least some period of time.
    – user27618
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 4:38

FDR was good friends with the many other Royal families of Europe. Prior to WWII with the back drop of the 1939 New York Worlds Fair, FDR invited several Royal couples to the US as a sort of charm offensive against both the US's neutrality laws, as well as long standing US isolationist sentiments. These visits included family gatherings such as picnics at FDR's home at Hyde Park. (yes with hotdogs).

Royals who partook included Norway’s Crown Prince Olav and wife Martha, the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom.

According to American Public Broadcasting Service or PBS (America's BBC)

  • Roosevelt had a Warm relationship with Queen Martha for six years. From her initial visit in 39 with her husband up until FDR's death in 1945
  • FDR was involved in bringing Martha and her children to America for refuge
  • FDR hosted them for a time at the White House, and helped them find a place of their own nearby.
  • FDR went on to visit with Crown Princess on more than 100 occasions over the course of the war.

These "visits" were typically social affairs like Dinner and Drinks at the Whitehouse and involved Elenore and other friends along with White House co-workers. Several of whom lived at the White House.

  • Missy LeHand, FDR's secretary
  • Harry Hopkins, FDR's closest friend and adviser
  • Sara Roosevelt, the president's mother
  • Anna Roosevlet, the Roosevelts' daughter,
  • Lorena Hickock, Elenor's friend
  • Joe Lash, another friend of Elenors

These along with Princess Martha were constants, but the gatherings were often augmented by new folk.

FDR liked to host informal parties in which he played the bartender as well as the chief. ( he would make a show of toasting bread for his guests ).

The Roosevelts had a similar relationship with the Netherlands Princess Juliana and her children, although they settled in Canada they would often visit with the Roosevelts at Hyde Park. FDR was the GodFather to Juliana's fourth child Margriet, who was born in Ottawa in January 1943.

According to PBS both exile families would receive war news from FDR as well as a sounding board for petitions on behalf of their countries.


Franklin Roosevelt and Crown Princess Martha: A Friendship Forged in War

No Ordinary Time

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