Wednesday, 29 July 2009

What to see: Ulriksdal Palace, Solna

Ulriksdal is one of the ten royal palaces in Sweden and can be found by Edsviken in the municipality of Solna just north of Stockholm. The first palace there was a Renaissance structure built in the 1640s, probably by the architect Hans Jacob Kristler, for Jakob De la Gardie and named Jakobsdal after him. In 1669 it was bought by Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora, who later presented it to her grandson Prince Ulrik at the time of his christening in 1684. It then received the new name Ulriksdal, but sadly the prince died at the age of one.
Hedvig Eleonora’s reconstruction of Ulriksdal, carried out by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, was never completed and the current palace is mostly a result of a great rebuilding done by Carl Hårleman on behalf of her granddaughter, Queen Ulrika Eleonora, in the years 1727-1729. That was when two projecting wings were added on the side which faces towards the park and the roof was supplied with a lantern. It later became one of the favourite residences of King Adolf Fredrik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika and the Dowager Queen Sophia Magdalena lived there from 1808 until her death in 1813.
King Carl XIV Johan, who had been a Marshal of the French Empire, in 1822 created a home for invalid veterans of the 1808-1809 war with Russia at Ulriksdal, inspired by the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris. For the happy reason that Sweden has not been at war since 1814, the number of veterans soon dwindled and in 1849 the remaining few were moved to Danviken Hospital.
In 1856 Ulriksdal again became a royal residence when the future King Carl XV and his wife Lovisa moved in. Today Ulriksdal is first and foremost Carl XV’s palace. King Carl dreamed of the days when Sweden had been a great power and collected furniture and other items from that period. His collection was installed at Ulriksdal, which means that most of the interiors are still in a Renaissance/ mock 16th century style. The joint Swedish-Norwegian arms can still be found above the main entrance, as the fourth photo shows.
His sister-in-law, Queen Sophia, received Ulriksdal as a dower house on the death of Oscar II in 1907, but did not leave many marks on the palace, where she lived in the south wing. Three years after her death, in 1916, her grandson, the future Gustaf VI Adolf, and his wife Margareta, were given the right of disposition and began a reconstruction which was interrupted when the Crown Princess suddenly died in 1920. In 1923 Gustaf Adolf remarried and the architect Sigge Cronstedt created a home for him and Crown Princess Louise at Ulriksdal.
Their footprints are most visible in what had been Carl XV’s “Hall of Knights” – there the dark interior was torn out and the room was transformed to a modern living room. The interior, designed by Carl Malmsten, was a wedding present from the people of Stockholm to the newlyweds and was the first room in a Swedish royal palace to be called a living room rather than a drawing room.
Malmsten considered it the ideal living room and obviously the royal couple agreed. Gustaf VI Adolf stayed at Ulriksdal regularly until 1972, the year before his death, and changed next to nothing in the living room in those nearly fifty years. After his death, time has stood still there – the newspapers from 1972 are still on the table and his and Louise’s monogram as crown prince and crown princess can still be found on the cast-iron gate (photo 5).
In the summer of 1940, Crown Princess Märtha of Norway and her three children in great secrecy stayed at Ulriksdal for several weeks after escaping the Nazi occupation of their country and before going on to the USA. Since 1986 Ulriksdal is open to the public and is occasionally used by the royal family for various events, such as Princess Madeleine’s 25th birthday party in 2007. WWF, which is close to the King of Sweden’s heart, is housed in the south wing of the palace.
There are several other buildings of interest in the park. The orangery (sixth picture) was built in 1693-1705 by the architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (best known for the Royal Palace in Stockholm) and is the oldest orangery in Sweden. In this reign it has been transformed into a museum for Swedish sculpture. The theatre Confidencen was founded by Queen Lovisa Ulrika in 1753 and is as such the oldest operating theatre in the country. Villa Beylon, which can be glimpsed in the seventh photo, was built in 1802-1804 and was until recently the home of Princess Christina, who now lives in Stockholm. Certain parts of the media were convinced that Villa Beylon would be become the married home of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling, but they settled for Haga Palace.
The Palace Chapel, seen in the last picture, was built by Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander in 1864-1865 and consecrated on the name day of Queen Lovisa on 25 August 1865 – it therefore used to be known as Queen Lovisa’s Chapel. Carl XV himself took an active part in creating the chapel, which is built in what the architect called “Dutch Renaissance”, inspired by the fact that Queen Lovisa was Dutch by birth. Their daughter Lovisa, later Queen of Denmark, was confirmed there in 1868.
When Carl XV fell seriously ill, he felt that he had not achieved much in his short reign and was not worthy of being buried with his predecessors in the Riddarholm Church. He therefore asked to be buried in the Palace Chapel at Ulriksdal. However, his brother and successor, Oscar II, duly had him buried in the Riddarholm Church with the other kings and queens of Sweden.

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