Sunday, 21 March 2010

New books: Queen Ingrid as seen by her family

Next week will see the publication of Roger Lundgren’s book Ingrid – Prinsessa av Sverige, drottning av Danmark, marking the centenary of the birth of Queen Ingrid of Denmark. In the country of her birth the book will be published by Bokförlaget Fischer & Co, while a Danish version titled Ingrid – Prinsesse af Sverige, dronning af Danmark will be published by People’s Press.
This is not a full-scale biography of Queen Ingrid; the book is more concerned with the person than with the queen. What makes this book stand out from the others already written is that the author allows Queen Ingrid’s closest family to tell most of the story.
The author, who has earlier written a biography of Princess Sibylla of Sweden and founded the now extinct magazine Queen, quotes extensively from the interview Queen Ingrid gave to Anne Wolden-Ræthinge in 1996. In addition he has interviewed her three daughters, six of her ten grandchildren, her son-in-law the ex-King of the Hellenes, her sole surviving brother, Prince Joachim’s ex-wife, the Queen of Sweden and Princess Christina. Queen Ingrid meant the world to her husband and she was the centre of the family for her children and grandchildren. In this book they make you see why.
What I found perhaps most interesting about this book was what Queen Silvia and Princess Christina say about Queen Ingrid’s on-going involvement with the monarchy in her native land. Princess Christina speaks about how their aunt guided her and her brother Carl XVI Gustaf in their new roles as, respectively, first lady and monarch following the deaths of their mother and grandfather.
Queen Silvia speaks with warmth about the support and advice Queen Ingrid gave her when she came to Sweden as the bride of King Carl Gustaf in 1976 and how they continued to seek her advice on issues big and small until the very end of her days. In this, the Queen of Sweden even makes an interesting revelation about the separation between state and church, which came into force in Sweden in 2000, the year of Queen Ingrid’s death.
It has later been revealed that King Carl Gustaf, like his Norwegian counterpart would also do some years later, made a political intervention insisting that also future monarchs should be required to belong to the Lutheran church.
Queen Silvia says that she and the King wondered how things would be after the separation of state and church and rang up Aunt Ingrid for advice. Having thought it over, her answer was: “Sweden is a democracy. The majority decides in democracies. A majority of the Swedes belongs to the Evangelical faith, so naturally the country’s head of state should also do so”. It is very interesting that Queen Ingrid was so directly involved in an issue in which King Carl Gustaf was accused of meddling in politics.
As this is mainly a personal family portrait of Queen Ingrid, there is comparatively less about her public role or her influence on the development of the Danish monarchy. But if one wants to know what she was like privately and what she meant to her family, this is the book one should read.


  1. Traditionalist monarchists often say that the preservation of a monarchy depends on a degree of mystique and aloofness, but I think the brief glimpse that you've provided here is one example of how interviews, done right, can be endearingly humanizing, not just of the royals but of their roles.

    I'm surprised that the monarchs of Norway and Sweden were opposed to removing religious requirements from the monarchy. I was under the impression that while most Scandinavians identify as Christian, the majority don't actually believe in Christian spiritual doctrines. In your opinion, were the respective kings concerned with future monarchs' actual beliefs about the supernatural, or did they want future monarchs to publicly profess the faith for historical/cultural reasons?

  2. Queen Ingrid was apparently quite aware of Bagehot's warning not to allow daylight to shine upon magic and that was probably the reason why she herself gave very few interviews. However, she did open up the Danish monarchy by making it more media-friendly and by shifting the focus from the monarch alone to the royal family as an example to the nation.

    Your observation about Scandinavians and religion is quite correct - surveys have shown that only a fraction (some 10 or 15 % I believe) consider themselves actual Christians, yet most of the population belong to the state church (about 85 % in Norway) and have their children baptised. This I believe is partly a result of cultural more than religious conventions, but also because the state church (which we still have in Norway and Denmark) makes it "natural" for many to belong to it although they are not actual Christians and only go to church at Christmas.

    What were the kings of Norway and Sweden's reasons for intervening in this issue is hard to say for an outsider. But it is my impression that the King of Sweden did so mostly for cultural/historical reasons - in Roger Lundgren's book Queen Silvia mentions tradition and the fact that Marshal Bernadotte converted to Lutheranism before arriving in Sweden 200 years ago. The King of Norway may have done so for more personal, religious reasons. He is known to be a strong believer and while visiting a mosque last year (for the first time ever), he said it was his personal view that the Norwegian monarch ought to be Christian.

    Anyhow I think neither King Carl Gustaf nor King Harald should have intervened in this issue. The King of Sweden because the Torekov compromise of 1971, which led to the new Constitution whereby the monarchy was after all retained, stipulates that the King should stay out of politics. The King of Norway because the Norwegian Parliament as early as 1821 (and many times thereafter) rejected his great-great-great-grandfather's attempts at influencing the Constitution. The King should simply not concern himself with the shaping of the Constitution, not even when it concerns the role of the monarch. That is solely the prerogative of those 169 men and women elected by the people to be their representatives in Parliament.

  3. Hi there,

    I have a customer interested to know whether or not this book is slated for translation into English at all yet. Do you happen to know?


  4. No, I am afraid I have no information about plans for translating this book into English and I frankly doubt it will happen. Annelise Bistrup's 1997 biography on Queen Ingrid, which is the standard work, also remains untranslated and in general there seems to be no market for English-language biographies of Scandinavian figures except the greatest ones such as Ibsen, Munch or Hans Christian Andersen.

    There is however another book on Queen Ingrid just published which has text in both Danish and English - "Ingrid, 1910-2000" by Randi Buchwaldt and Ted Rosvall (published by Rosvall Royal Books of Falköping, Sweden) - but this is mostly a photo album with a short biographical essay as an introduction. I have yet to read that book, but I will review it here soon.

  5. Hello!!

    I have a question please: is this a picture album or a biography/text book about Queen Ingrid ?

    All the best,

    Laura H.

  6. No, this is not a picture album and neither is it a biography; most of all it consists of interviews with Queen Ingrid's closest relatives and there are not many photos (some more in the Danish version).

    If you are looking for a photo album I would rather recommend this one, which also has a biographical essay in both English and Danish:

  7. Sounds like a wonderful book. Hope it eventually comes out in English.

    Laura C

  8. I am afraid there are no plans (as far as I know) of publishing it in English - it would simply not sell enough to be profitable for a publisher and sadly that seems to be the only thing that counts .


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