Sunday, 20 December 2009

New books: Royal Haga

Many were disappointed when the great book series on the Swedish royal palaces, after three years and five volumes, was cancelled in 2005 because the publisher Byggförlaget closed down its business. As earlier mentioned the Royal Court and the Swedish Property Board this year reached an agreement with Gullers Förlag to resume the series, but after another change of publisher the series ended up with Votum Förlag in Karlstad. In November Votum published the first volume of the resurrected series: Haga – Ett kungligt kulturarv, edited by Ingrid Sjöström.
In contrast to the other royal palaces, Haga is actually more of a domain than a palace, as the huge Haga Palace was never completed. The small Haga Palace, the future home of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling, and Gustaf III’s Pavilion may however be found on the estate in addition to numerous other buildings.
This English landscape park sits by Brunnsviken in Solna, just outside the border to the city of Stockholm. It may be reached on foot from the capital and is a green lung much loved by the inhabitants of Stockholm. With Ulriksdal and Djurgården, Haga since 1994 makes up the National City Park, the only of its kind in the world.
Two volumes on Haga in this series had originally been planned, but with the changed circumstances it has all been comprised into one. Probably as a consequence of this, the type is somewhat smaller than in the previous books, but otherwise the design and layout is the same as in the volumes on the palaces Rosendal, Rosersberg, Drottningholm, China and Strömsholm. It is profusely and beautifully illustrated with maps, paintings, architectural drawings, sketches and photos. The prominent Danish architectural photographer Jens Lindhe has taken the new photos for this book, and among the authors are Sweden’s leading experts on the relevant topics.
The historian Jonas Nordin opens the book with a chapter on Gustaf III’s Haga. It was Gustaf III who “discovered” Haga, acquired it as his private property and developed it. The King enjoyed withdrawing to the peace and simplicity of Haga, which also played a significant part in the staging of his public persona.
Gustaf III had great plans for Haga and the art historian Magnus Olausson devotes an extensive chapter to the pleasure park and some of its follies and other buildings. The greatest plan of all was for the erection of a huge palace on a hill in the Haga Park. Only the foundation walls of this grandiose project had been built by the time the King was assassinated and it was left unfinished. If the unfinished palace was meant to be the Swedish Versailles, the smaller Gustaf III’s Pavilion, which was completed about the time of the King’s death, is the northern Petit Trianon. Both the large palace and the smaller pavilion are dealt with in an interesting chapter by Göran Alm, head of the Bernadotte Library.
Stina Olinder Haubo looks at the interiors of Gustaf III’s Pavilion and Thérèse von Lampe interprets its allegorical decorations. Tomas Lidman, Sweden’s national archivist, writes about the pavilion’s library, how it left Sweden with Gustaf IV Adolf and was repatriated much later.
Anita Ankarcrona takes a look at the poet Carl Michael Bellman’s relation to Haga. It is a rather short chapter and Haga in poetry and literature is a topic which I think could have been dealt with more extensively in this book.
The historian Mikael Alm writes about Gustaf IV Adolf and Haga, while the art historian Ursula Sjöberg devotes a chapter to the small Haga Palace, which was built during his reign to house the royal children. Ingrid Sjöström takes a look at Haga during the 19th century before Ursula Sjöberg returns to give us the story of Haga Palace as the home of Prince August and his widow Princess Teresia, who lived there until her death in 1914.
A small weakness of this kind of book is that the thematic approach means that some minor issues fall between chairs and therefore go unmentioned. We read that Haga Palace was a royal residence until 1918, but not a word is said about who stayed there after Princess Teresia’s death (the answer is Prince Erik).
Catharina Nolin deals with the Haga Park in the 19th and early 20th century and Paul Wilund writes about the restoration work at Haga during the 20th century. Gustaf III’s Pavilion is today often considered the very essence of Swedish 18th century still, but Wilund points out that the restorations are not wholly truthful.
The so far last royal residents at Haga were Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla, who came to live there after their wedding in 1932. The Princess remained there for three years after her husband was killed in 1947. Göran Alm writes about the interiors of Haga Palace in their days, while Ingrid Sjöström tells the story of their five children – the present King and his four sisters, who were collectively known as “the Haga Princesses” in what amounted to a cult in the 1940s.
Sjöström also writes about the other buildings in the park in the 20th century and about the use of Haga Palace as a government guest house from the 1960s until this year, when the right of disposal was returned to the King in order to make Haga the Crown Princess couple’s home. Christian Laine finishes the book with short chapters on the Royal National City Park and the pleasure parks around Brunnsviken – and the challenges they are faced by.
This book is not entirely flawless, but all in all it is a great book and a treasure throve of information about this royal estate held in great affection by the people of Stockholm. Its high standard in all respects promises well for the continuation of the book series. The second volume on Drottningholm is expected in the spring, to be followed by books on Tullgarn, Ulriksdal, Gripsholm and three volumes on the Royal Palace itself.

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