Monday, 14 June 2010

My latest article: Oscarshall as crown princely residence

In St. Hallvard no 4-2009, which was published today (severely delayed), I have a long and richly illustrated article about the plans to turn Oscarshall Palace into the Crown Prince’s official residence in 1929.
Oscarshall, which had been built between 1847 and 1852 as a summer residence for King Oscar I and Queen Josephina, had been turned into a museum dedicated to the Bernadotte dynasty by King Oscar II in 1881. In the 1920s it underwent a much-needed renovation and when Crown Prince Olav became engaged to Princess Märtha of Sweden in January 1929, it was soon decided that Oscarshall would be their home.
However, in its current form it was not large or modern enough to be a family home and an architectural contest was held with the intent of erecting a new wing on the western side of the existing palace.
From the 106 entries a jury consisting of the architects Georg Eliassen and Fredrik Crawfurd-Jensen, assisted by King Haakon, chose five projects which would proceed to a second round. However, growing protests over the damage a royal residence would cause to the nature and to the public’s access to Bygdøy led to the city assembly passing a motion against the plans. The motion was passed by Labour’s eleven votes against the right wing’s ten votes.
With the plans having become a bone of political contention, it was announced on 3 June 1929 that the plans had been scrapped, officially because there was too little money available. Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha eventually found their home at the farm Skaugum in Asker, which King Haakon bought from the diplomat Fritz Wedel Jarlsberg.
Today these plans are mostly forgotten – indeed the King himself stated in a badly researched documentary broadcast on NRK1 on 2 May that this had been unknown even to him until very recently. Today Oscarshall is again primarily a museum, but following the restoration carried out in 2005-2009 the court now intends to use it more actively and on 28 May hosted the annual diplomatic reception there.

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