Monday, 2 November 2009

From a bygone age: Christiania Royal Guard of Citizens

Christiania Royal Guard of Citizens, now long forgotten, was once a popular sight in the Norwegian capital and a familiar aspect of royal ceremonies.
Such companies made up of citizens of the towns have a long history in Norway, where they took care of such tasks which now are performed by the police and fire brigade. The new army ordinance of 1628 stated that there should be 14 such companies in various towns, two of them in Christiania (now Oslo). They were on parade at the acclamation of Frederik III in 1648, but it seems that it was only in 1733, when Christian VI came to Christiania, that uniforms were introduced.
Christiania Royal Guard of Citizens, the most prestigious of these companies, was founded in 1788 on the occasion of the future King Frederik VI’s visit to Norway. This cavalry guard was made up of some of the wealthiest citizens of Christiania. They had to pay for their own uniforms and horses and came to be known as “the Yellow Choir” because of the colour of their hussar uniforms (third photo).
All of them ranked as officers and were therefore exempt from ordinary patrolling duty. The popular artist Andreas Bloch painted them escorting Swedish prisoners of war into Christiania after the Battle of Toverud in 1808, but their most important duties were more glamorous and connected to royal ceremonies.
In the days when royal visitors arrived in Christiania by road, the Citizen Guard would meet them at Tungebråten and escort them along the so-called “King’s Road” over Ekeberg and into town and the royal residence “Paleet” (the Mansion). When the new Royal Palace was completed in 1849, the route was extended up the new main street Slottsveien (renamed Karl Johans gate in 1852) to the Palace.
The guard would also accompany the King and his family for other ceremonial events. There are for example photos of them on parade in the Great Square when Oscar II unveiled the statue of Christian IV in September 1880, but most importantly they served as the royal escort when the King drove to the State Opening of Parliament.
The State Opening in 1880 was one of the last times the Citizen Guard was on parade for that ceremony. With the establishment of a police force and a fire brigade the citizen companies became superfluous and all of them were abolished by an Act of Parliament of 28 May 1881.
Christiania Royal Guard of Citizens was decommissioned by King Oscar II in the Palace courtyard on 8 October 1881. Andreas Bloch painted them leaving the Royal Palace for the last time (the first picture shows a detail). After that the Norwegian capital was without a guard for seven years, until His Majesty the King’s Norwegian Guard in 1888 was moved to Christiania from their barracks in Stockholm.
The mill-owner Hans Fredrik Grüner was the Citizen Guard’s last Captain – the second picture shows him in its yellow uniform. The other members of the Citizen Guard at the time of the decommissioning were Lieutenants Jørgen Young and Fredrik Meyer and Privates Nicolai Andresen, Christian Langaard, Conrad Anker, Einar W. Egeberg, Engelhart Eger, Ingvald Petersen, Erik Hauge, Haaken Mathiesen, Johannes Schjøtt, Anders Semb, Haakon Tofte, Ludvig Woxen, Carl Brambani, Gustav Onsum and a man named Rasch.

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