Thursday, 12 November 2009

Book news: Two Victorias

Among the royal books expected in Sweden next spring are two books dealing with two very different Victorias.
Queen Victoria will be the subject of the biography Drottning Victoria av Sverige – Om kärlek, plikt och politik (“Queen Victoria of Sweden – On Love, Duty and Politics”) by Stig Hadenius, to be published by Norstedt on 26 April. Hadenius, a respected historian and retired professor of journalism, has written two other royal biographies, of Gustaf V (2005) and Folke Bernadotte (2007). Sadly neither of them was very good and it seemed as if Hadenius had not bothered to do much research for them.
Victoria, who died in 1930, was certainly one of the most interesting Swedish queens. Trapped in a loveless marriage with Gustaf V, who is believed to have been homosexual, she had an affair with his equerry Gustaf von Blixen-Finecke in the early 1890s before apparently finding the love of her life in her physician Axel Munthe, best known as the author of the bestselling The Story of San Michele.
Although physically frail she had a will of iron and took an active part in Swedish politics, standing out as a staunch opponent of parliamentarianism and democracy. Her influence culminated in her husband’s so-called “Courtyard Speech” in 1914, which caused the government to resign after the King in a big speech had made public his disagreement with his cabinet. After that her influence deteriorated and she failed in her schemes to bring Sweden into the First World War on the side of Germany, a country she loved better than Sweden. The best book on this fascinating woman is so far Heribert Jansson’s Drottning Victoria (1963), while Margit Fjellman’s Victoria – Sveriges drottning (1980) is dreadful.
Her great-great-granddaughter Crown Princess Victoria will be the subject of Victoria – Prinsessan privat (“Victoria: The Princess in Private”) by Johan T. Lindwall, a tabloid journalist who keeps a very high profile. The book seems to deal mostly with the private life of Crown Princess Victoria and her romance with Daniel Westling in particular. The book will be published by Forum in March and run to about 300 pages.

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