In June 2022, Princess Martha Louise, a self-proclaimed seer and fourth in line to the throne of Norway, has announced her engagement to a controversial spiritual healer and shaman Durek Verret.
The backlash against the couple at home has centered in part on their controversial beliefs in alternative therapies, with Verrett claiming he has been branded a modern-day Rasputin. Märtha Louise, who claims to communicate with angels and has become a motivational speaker and healer alongside Verrett, appeased criticism in Norway and her own family when, in 2019, she agreed to stop using her royal title while still promoting the New Age business ventures she started with Verrett. That same year, Verrett’s last book was withdrawn from publication by its Norwegian publisher due to what they identified as unproven. complaintsincluding the false claim that “children get cancer because they are unhappy”.
Märtha Louise is far from the first royal to be criticized for her interest in spirituality beyond the realm of the state-sponsored church. For centuries, European monarchs and their families, supposedly divinely ordained by God himself, were supposed to be perfect representatives of the Christian Church. Members of the royal family who dared to explore Eastern religions, astrology, mysticism and the occult were mocked and even imprisoned for their unorthodox beliefs.
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, women across Europe turned to witchcraft to gain agency outside of the patriarchal Catholic Church by directly imploring the spirit world for help and guidance. This included many noble women, among them the legendary 16th-century ruler Queen Catherine de’ Medici of France – a follower of Nostradamus – who is said to have consumed potions and consulted sorcerers in her quest for an heir. Catherine was courageous in her attempts. Only about a century before, powerful and independent royal women in France and England had been accused of witchcraft by their enemies in an effort to neutralize or destroy them. Sometimes they succeeded.
According Gemma Holmanit is Royal Witches: Witchcraft and Nobility in 15th Century England, in 1419, the fearsome Dowager Queen Joan of Navarre was accused of having “used witchcraft” to attempt to kill her stepson Henry V. Although Joan denied these allegations, she was in the shadow of her father, who , years before, had been accused of attempting to harm the French dolphin “using evil magic”. Joan’s lands and fortune were stripped from her.
Far greater consequences awaited Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, wife and former mistress of Humphrey, the younger brother of King Henry V. Around 1441, Eleanor was accused of heresy and witchcraft. She was accused of using image magic to kill King Henry VI. According to Hollman, Eleanor admitted to using magical figures in love rituals. She also admitted that she had taken potions made by the mysterious Margery Jourdemaine, known as “the eye witch next to Westminster”, which were supposed to help her seduce Humphrey. However, Eleanor has denied claims that she used effigies to try to kill young King Henry VI. Her protests were overruled, however, and she was found guilty in 1441, forced to divorce her beloved husband, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Jourdemaine was burned at the stake.
Not all royal wizards met such a dark fate. Dr. John Dee, the famous astrologer, alchemist, scientist and esoteric thinker, was a famous figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. According to Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir, Elizabeth was introduced to polymath Dee by her beloved friend Robert Dudley. The future queen delighted in Dee’s brilliance and turned to him for wisdom regarding everything from comets to dream interpretations and riddles.