Thursday, 15 November 2018

At the road's end: Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg (1921-2018)

The second oldest member of the extended Swedish royal family, Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg, died on 3 November, aged 97.
Generally known as "Oscis", Count Oscar Carl Emanuel Bernadotte af Wisborg was the third child born to Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg in his first marriage to Baroness Marianne de Geer af Leufsta, and thus a grandson of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, the second son of King Oscar II of Sweden and of Norway, who lost his rights of succession when he married his sister-in-law's former lady-in-waiting in 1888. Count Oscar was thereby a second cousin of King Carl XVI Gustaf's father as well as of King Harald V of Norway, Kings Baudouin I and Albert II of the Belgians and the late Queen Ingrid of Denmark.
His mother was the heir to the de Geers' estate, Frötuna near Norrtälje, but after she divorced Count Carl and married Marcus Wallenberg, one of Sweden's richest men, Carl ran the estate on Oscar's behalf. This was where Crown Princess Märtha of Norway and her three children were in hiding for nearly two weeks after the German invasion of Norway in April 1940.
Count Oscar Bernadotte served in the Swedish navy, but later took over the running of Frötuna, which is now run by his only son, Carl. In 1944, Count Oscar married Baroness Ebba Gyllenkrook, with whom he had a daughter, but the marriage ended in divorce. He later married the dentist Gertrud Ollén, who died in 1999, who bore him a son and two daughters. In his eighties Oscar Bernadotte found love again in the person of the art historian Margot Ekelund, who had first been his girlfriend when they were both twenty. They remained a couple until her death in October last year.
I had the pleasure of meeting Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg on two occasions and remember him as a very friendly and rather straight-forward old gentleman. Like many Bernadottes (including his older sister, Dagmar von Arbin, who is now 102), he remained sprightly and active into old age and he had just returned from a trip to France when he fell ill and was taken to the Academic Hospital in Uppsala, where he died. His funeral will take place in Rasbo Church on 2 December.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

My new book: Sigurd the Jerusalemite and the Norwegian crusaders

Today marks the publication of my fifth book, Korsfareren - Sigurd Jorsalfare og hans verden ("The Crusader: Sigurd the Jerusalemite and His World"), which is the first ever biography of King Sigurd the Jerusalemite, who reigned in Norway from 1103 till 1130 and was the first European king to go on a crusade to Jerusalem.
While the crusades have been one of the most popular topics in international historiography in recent decades, most Norwegian historians have ignored the crusades and failed to understand this movement, which was at the heart of international affairs in the twelfth century. Thus they have mostly considered Sigurd a Viking, but in fact Sigurd broke abruptly with his father's Viking policies and dedicated his life to promoting Christianity.
His crusade of 1108-1110, which saw him fight in the Iberian Peninsula, the Balearics and the Holy Land, won him great fame, but the authors of the Norse sagas failed to grasp the larger international context of his crusade. By seeing the Norwegian and Icelandic sources in relation to the Latin, Arab, Byzantine and English sources, I have been able to recreate this context and thereby to give Sigurd his rightful place in the crusading movement. He arrived in the Holy Land at a critical time for the crusader states, which were surrounded by enemies on all sides, just as the Muslims were at last attempting to unite their forces in jihad against the Christians and just as the Byzantine Emperor had finally had enough of the crusaders and conspired with Muslim rulers to drive them out of the Middle East.
In order to survive, the crusader states needed to take control of the ports along the Mediterranean coast, for which they needed naval help from abroad. In all but one case did this help come from Venice, Genoa and Pisa; the sole exception being Sidon (modern Saida in Lebanon), which was conquered with the help of the Norwegians. Such was the significance of the conquest of Sidon that it led to riots in Baghdad.
Later, Sigurd would go on yet another crusade and work to promote the ideas of the papal reform movement in his realms. Eventually he went mad and left behind a kingdom that was soon consumed by a civil war that would last for a century and was turned into a holy war when the crusading ideas were imported to Norway and applied to the struggle for the crown.
The book is published by Historie & Kultur and may be bought in regular bookshops or ordered from online booksellers such as adlibris.no, haugenbok.no, norli.no, tanum.no, ark.no or platekompaniet.no

Monday, 10 September 2018

My latest articles: Princess Elisabeth of Denmark and Palermo

I have forgotten to mention the publication of the September issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 9), in which you may read my obituary of Princess Elisabeth of Denmark, a first cousin of Queen Margrethe who died earlier this summer, and my report on the splendid royal sights of the wonderful, historic city of Palermo, which is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Friday, 7 September 2018

My latest article: Carl XIV Johan's coronation 200 years ago

200 years ago today, Carl XIV Johan was crowned King of Norway in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, which was, for many reasons, a remarkable event. For one thing, Carl Johan, the former revolutionary general Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, did not have a drop of blue blood in his vein. Carl Johan did nothing to deny this and rather based his legitimacy on his military deeds, which had paved his way to the thrones of Norway and Sweden.
In the new issue of Aftenposten Historie (no 8 - 2018), Norway's largest history magazine, I write about how this came to be expressed at his coronation and in the crown jewels Carl Johan commissioned for his coronation, including the sword he had carried in the battle where he helped defeat his great rival Napoléon.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

On this date: King and Queen's golden wedding anniversary

Today the King and Queen celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Although the history of the Norwegian monarchy stretches back more than 1100 years, King Harald and Queen Sonja are actually the first king and queen to reach this milestone (King Oscar II and Queen Sophie were married for 50 years and six months, but were deposed a day after their 48th wedding anniversary).
This afternoon the King and Queen drove to the Cathedral of Oslo in the same open-top Lincoln limousine which took them there fifty years ago to attend a service of thanksgiving. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Prince Sverre Magnus, Princess Märtha Louise and her daughters Maud, Emma and Leah Behn and Princess Astrid were also in attendance. Back at the Royal Palace afterwards, the King and Queen made an unannounced balcony appearance with their children, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Friday, 3 August 2018

On this date: Princess Christina turns 75 and retires from royal duties

Princess Christina, the youngest of the King of Sweden's four elder sisters, celebrates her 75th birthday today and has used the occasion to announce her retirement from royal duties.
Princess Christina became first lady of Sweden when her mother, Princess Sibylla, died in 1972, a position she retained until King Carl Gustaf married Queen Silvia in 1976. Since then she, unlike her three elder sisters, has continued to carry out many public engagements, but after her recent battle with leukemia she has now decided to prioritise herself and her family.
Princess Christina, who is widely considered the brainiest of the siblings, held an unpaid position as President of the Swedish Red Cross from 1992 to 2003 and is the author of an interesting book on Drottningholm Palace, Dagar på Drottningholm, which is also available in English, titled Days at Drottningholm.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

My latest articles: Norwegian golden wedding, Swedish royal dukedoms and Princess Victoria of Britain

The August issue of Majesty (Vol. 39, No. 8) is now on sale and it appears I have written almost half of it. On the occasion of the King and Queen's golden wedding anniversary later this month I write about the nine difficult years they had to wait before King Olav eventually risked giving his consent to their marriage, which everyone seemed to think might spell the end of the monarchy.
I also write about the difficult, unhappy and frustrated Princess Victoria of Britain, the sister of Queen Maud and King George V, who was not allowed to marry the Liberal Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, whom her mother Queen Alexandra treated as her maid and who ended up as a rather bitter woman who often made life difficult for others.
Finally, there is also an article on the history of Swedish royal dukedoms, which were once semi-autonomous states within the states that could become power bases but are now just honorific titles given to the ever-growing number of members of the Swedish royal family.

Monday, 16 July 2018

At the road’s end: Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma (1926-2018), war hero and businessman

Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma, who died on 7 July, aged 92, was a close relative of many of Europe’s royal families and a decorated hero of the Second World War.
Born in Paris on 4 March 1926, he was the son of Prince René of Bourbon-Parma (son of the last reigning Duke of Parma) and Princess Margrethe of Denmark (daughter of Prince Valdemar). His mother was a first cousin of Kings Christian X of Denmark, Haakon VII of Norway, George V of Britain and Konstantinos I of the Hellenes, while his father’s 23 (!) siblings included Empress Zita of Austria-Hungary and Félix, the consort of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. His sister, Anne, married ex-King Mihai I of Romania, while his second wife, Maria Pia, was the daughter of the last King of Italy, Umberto II.
During the Second World War, the family fled to the USA, where Princess Margrethe ran a hat store in New York (and was a close friend and companion of the exiled Crown Princess Märtha of Norway). Aged 17, Prince Michel joined the US army and trained to become a paratrooper. He took part in the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and thereafter in the Pacific war, where he was taken captive by the Vietcong and held for a year before escaping. He detailed his wartime deeds in the memoir Faldskærmsjæger: Fra den franske maquis til Indo-Kinas jungle, which was published in Danish and Norwegian in 1949. (A French edition, Un prince dans la tourmente, appeared in 2001).
In recognition of his wartime service, France awarded Prince Michel the Legion of Honour and the War Cross, as well as a funeral with military honours, which was held at Les Invalides in Paris last Friday. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg was among the mourners.
In 1951, Prince Michel married Princess Yolande de Broglie-Revel, who bore him five children. The couple divorced in 1999, and five years later, Prince Michel married his long-time partner, Princess Maria Pia of Savoy.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

At the road's end: Princess Elisabeth of Denmark (1935-2018)

The Danish royal court has announced that Princess Elisabeth, a first cousin of Queen Margrethe II, passed away at 6.15 p.m. yesterday, at the age of 83.
Her Highness Princess Elisabeth Caroline-Mathilde Alexandrine Helena Olga Thyra Feodora Estrid Margrethe Désirée of Denmark was born on 8 May 1935 as the first-born child of Hereditary Prince Knud (the youngest son of King Christian X) and Hereditary Princess Caroline-Mathilde (a first cousin of her husband). She later had two brothers, Ingolf and Christian, but this line of the family was "disinherited" in 1953, when a new Act of Succession introduced female succession and Princess Margrethe replaced her uncle Knud as heir to the throne, causing some bitterness within the family. At the time of her death, Princess Elisabeth was twelfth in the order of succession.
The Princess made a career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she worked from 1956 until her retirement in 2001. For twenty years she lived with the film director Claus Hermansen, but the ever outspoken Princess explained that they never married as she did not want to lose her royal title and did not want children anyway.
The Princess' funeral will take place in Lyngby Church (the date has not yet been announced) and her ashes will be buried next to Claus Hermansen, who died in 1997.
I will write a longer obituary of the Princess in a forthcoming issue of Majesty.

Monday, 11 June 2018

My latest article: Victoria's secret

I have forgotten to mention the publication of the June issue of Majesty (vol. 39, no. 6), which contains my article on the love story of Queen Victoria of Sweden and Axel Munthe. Locked in a desperately unhappy marriage to King Gustaf V, the ailing Victoria found true love with her doctor, Axel Munthe, author of the international bestseller "The Story of San Michele". In the article I relate the story of their secret love, from their first meeting in 1891 to Victoria's death nearly four decades later and how they were torn apart for several years.

Friday, 11 May 2018

On this date: Carl XIV Johan's Swedish coronation

200 years ago today, Carl XIV Johan was crowned King of Sweden in the Great Church in Stockholm. To the days thirty years before, he had been appointed Sergeant Major in the French army, the highest rank a non-noble could reach before the Revolution swept away noble privileges. It was said in the days of Napoléon that every soldier carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack. In Sergeant Major Bernadotte's knapsack there was not only a marshal's baton but also two royal crowns.
His Norwegian coronation took place in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 7 September 1818. You may read about his coronation and the crown jewels aquired on that occasion and how they reflect his unusual career in my book Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid (2015).
The picture is a detail of Pehr Krafft the Younger's monumental coronation painting, which hangs in the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

My latest article(s): Crown Prince Frederik at 50 & Rosendal Palace

The May issue of Majesty (Vol. 39, No. 5) is now on sale, and while most of it is understandably dedicated to the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry of Britain and Meghan Markle, I write about Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, who will turn 50 in May, and how the once troubled young heir found himself.
In the same issue there is also a new instalment of my occasional series on palaces, this time about Rosendal, the small but exquisite Empire style palace which Carl XIV Johan built at Djurgården in Stockholm.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Carl XVI Gustaf becomes longest-reigning Swedish monarch ever

One of these days, Carl XVI Gustaf becomes the longest reigning monarch in Swedish history.
The previous record holder was Magnus Eriksson, who at the age of three was acclaimed King of Sweden on 8 July 1319. His father, Erik Magnusson, Duke of Södermanland, was the younger brother of King Birger Magnusson, who in 1317 imprisoned both his brothers (Erik and Valdemar). The brothers were either killed in captivity or left to starve to death. His brutal treatment of his brothers led to a rebellion, which forced King Birger to flee to Denmark and placed the young Magnus Eriksson on the Swedish throne.
He was already King of Norway, having inherited the Norwegian crown from his maternal grandfather two months previously, but in 1343 the personal union was dissolved when Magnus ceded Norway to his second son, Håkon VI, while his eldest son Erik was declared heir to Sweden.
In 1357, Erik became co-monarch of Sweden, but following his death two years later Magnus Eriksson was again the sole ruler of Sweden until February 1362, when Håkon was elected co-ruler. Magnus and Håkon were both deposed as Swedish kings in February 1364. As the exact date of this event is unknown, it is impossible to say for sure exactly how long Magnus’s reign lasted and therefore also to calculate on which date Carl XVI Gustaf overtakes him, but it is one of these days.
King Carl Gustaf came to the Swedish throne at the age of 27 when his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, died at 8.35 p.m. on 15 September 1973. (His father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, had died in a plane crash in 1947).
There will be no official celebrations of this milestone. King Carl Gustaf himself, accompanied by Queen Silvia, is on an official visit to Japan these days.

UPDATE: After consultations with the National Archives, the royal court chose to mark the occasion on 26 April, claiming that this was the day Carl XVI Gustaf had been on the throne a day longer than Magnus Eriksson. However, this is based on the date Magnus's successor, Albrecht of Mecklenburg, was acclaimed king, which was not necessarily the same day as Magnus was deposed. In other words, the exact date remains unknown.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Royal jewels: Princess Ingeborg's Fabergé brooch - sold during WWII?

A Fabergé brooch (external link) which was given by the King's maternal grandfather, Prince Carl of Sweden, to Princess Ingeborg on the occasion of their fifteenth wedding anniversary in 1912 was sold by the auction house Coutau-Bégarie in Paris this week.
Several people have asked me about this and the auctioneer's claim that the brooch was sold by Crown Princess Märtha out of necessity during the Second World War. I do not know what is the auction house's source, but to me this seems like a misunderstanding or a supposition.
As I was able to reveal in my 2007 biography of Princess Astrid, Kvinne blant konger, the emerald parure now worn by the Queen was given to Crown Princess Märtha by Princess Ingeborg at the Central Station in Stockholm when she departed for the USA in the summer of 1940. Princess Ingeborg's intention was that her daughter could sell the emeralds if she never returned to Norway (which must have seemed a likely outcome in 1940), but the daring rescue of that the Bank of Norway's gold reserve meant that the Norwegian government-in-exile (unlike others) was able to provide for itself throughout the war and that the royal family did not have to sell their possessions in order to survive.
It therefore seems highly unlikely that Crown Princess Märtha sold the Fabergé brooch out of necessity during WWII.

Monday, 9 April 2018

My latest article: The viceroyalty of Norway

One of the forgotten institutions in Norwegian history is the viceroyalty, which existed between 1814 and 1891, when the Crown Prince or his eldest son could be appointed Viceroy of Norway and exercise the King's functions when the King was in Sweden. This is a unique example of an independent kingdom being governed by a viceroy, but it gave the heir to the throne the chance to get to know Norwegian affairs. Although this was warmly welcomed at first, the viceroyalty eventually became very unpopular.
Until now nothing has been written about the Viceroys of Norway, but on pages 10-17 in the new issue of the Swedish royal history magazine Royalty Digest Quarterly (no 1 - 2018) you may find my article "From Patriotic Desire to Colonial Stigma: The Viceroyalty of Norway, 1814-1891", which is a revised version of a lecture I gave at the conference "Courts and Viceroys: Viceregal Courts in Comparative Perspectives" at New York University in London in 2015.

Friday, 6 April 2018

My latest articles: Prince Henrik & Christian IX

In the April issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 39, No 4) you may read my obituary of Prince Henrik of Denmark, a man of many talents who was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and colourful royals of Europe.
In the same issue I also write about King Christian IX of Denmark, who was born 200 years ago on 8 April 1818. Known in his later years as "the father-in-law of Europe", he was also for a long time a highly controversial figure because of his role as conservative party king during the struggle for parliamentary democracy.
Also in this issue: Ian Lloyd writes about Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and the Commonwealth, Lucinda Gosling on historic royal fashion, Ingrid Seward on royal childbirth in Britain and Paul F. Cockburn on Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's Scottish retreat, the Castle of Mey.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

My latest articles: Gustaf VI Adolf & Hélène of Aosta

In the March issue of Majesty (Vol. 39, No. 3), which has been on sale in Britain for two weeks and is on sale in Norway from today, I write about the life of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, who is often credited with the survival of the Swedish monarchy. I also write about the French-born Princess Hélène, Duchess of Aosta, who was engaged to Prince Albert Victor, heir to the British throne (Queen Maud's brother), but married into the Italian royal family, became an enthusiastic fascist and was widely suspected of coveting the throne for her husband and sons.
In the same issue there is also a report on Prince William and Kate's official visit to Sweden and Norway, a report on the engagement of Princess Eugenie of Britain and Jack Brooksbank and a profile of Meghan Markle (who is also on the cover).
The magazine was already being printed when Prince Henrik of Denmark died, so my obituary of him will appear in the next issue, alongside an article on King Christian IX of Denmark, who was born 200 years ago in April 1818.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

My latest article: A poet among princes

In 45 minutes the funeral of Prince Henrik of Denmark, who died on 13 February, will take place in Christiansborg Palace Church in Copenhagen, and today Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, publishes my obituary of this man of many talents, who during his life could call himself Prince Consort, poet, winegrower, soldier, sculptor and diplomat, but never King. The obituary may be read here (external link).

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

My latest article: 200 years of Bernadottes & the last King of Bavaria

On 5 February the Bernadottes have sat on the Swedish throne for 200 years, so in the February issue of Majesty (Vol. 39, No. 2), which was published in Britain a while ago and will be on sale in Norway tomorrow, I recount the history of this dynasty, which originated in revoltuionary and Napoleonic France, and how it has survived against the odds, including some of the occasions when it might have fallen.
In the same issue I write about a monarch who did fall: King Ludwig III of Bavaria, the cousin of the more famous "mad" King Ludwig II, who seized the crown from another mad cousin, King Otto, in 1913. Although the Bavarians were traditionally attached to their dynasty, Ludwig III was the first monarch to fall when a wave of revolutions swept across Germany in 1918, bringing to an end the 738-year rule of the House of Wittelsbach.
In the same issue there are also articles by other writers on, among other topics, the Duchess of Cambridge's jewels, the gradual transition from Queen Elizabeth of Britain to Prince Charles, the funeral of ex-King Mihai of Romania and the Royal Academy of Arts's new exhibition "Charles I: King and Collector".

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

My latest article: The last King of Romania

Because of Christmas, the January issue of Majesty (Vol. 39, No. 1) is out in Britain already today. In it, I write about the life of King Mihai I of Romania, who died two weeks ago at the age of 96. Mihai, who was the last surviving adult head of state from World War II, reigned from 1927 to 1930, when he was deposed by his father, but returned to the throne ten years later. In 1944, he played a key role in toppling the dictator Antonescu and shifting Romania from the Axis to the Allied side, but in 1947 he was forced to abdicate while being held at gunpoint by the Communists. After the fall of the Iron Curtain he enjoyed tremendous respect and popularity in his former kingdom and was given a state funeral with full military honours last Saturday.