Friday, 24 September 2010

My latest article(s): Two books and a royal title

This year’s third issue of Historisk Tidsskrift (“The Journal of History”) is out this week and includes review articles by me on Carl-Erik Grimstad’s book Dronning Mauds arv and Herman Lindqvist’s attempt at a biography of Carl XIV Johan, Jean Bernadotte – Mannen vi valde, both of which I have earlier written shorter reviews of at this website.
Sadly neither author has succeeded particularly well with their books. Grimstad wants to look at Queen Maud’s finances and the sources of the current King of Norway’s wealth as well as the cultural and ceremonial heritage of the Norwegian monarchy, but makes the error of staring himself almost blind on the British aspects at the expense of the arguably equally strong heritage from Sweden and Denmark. Most of the book in fact deals with the British monarchy in the lifetime of Edward VII.
The tabloid journalist Herman Lindqvist thinks that no earlier biographer has understood who Carl XIV Johan was and proceeds to give us a caricature of the king. What the two books have in common is an extraordinary number of factual mistakes and misunderstandings – in Lindqvist’s case also self-contradictions and non-existent characters. Unfortunately this book has now also been published in a Norwegian translation by Schibsted, which means that many Norwegians will be added to the number of Swedish readers already treated to Lindqvist’s nonsense. For the benefit of Norwegian readers he has already given an interview to Aftenposten, in which he explains that he has now realised what he did not understood when writing the book - namely that Carl Johan was in fact bisexual. (It should be added there is not a shred of evidence to support this latest notion of Lindqvist’s).

Princess Märtha Louise’s latest antics have led to calls for her two renounce her royal title. In Aftenposten last Friday my fellow royal biographer Lars Roar Langslet objected that such calls are based on a misunderstood belief that “Princess” is a title – it is “Royal Highness”, which she renounced in 2002, that is in fact a title, Langlset added.
In a letter to the editor on Tuesday I argued that “Princess” is indeed a title, quoting what the Constitution says and said about the matter at the time of Princess Märtha Louise’s birth, and that “Royal Highness” is a style or a form of address rather than an actual title.
Langslet, a former MP and minister of culture, replied on Wednesday that he had meant to say that “Princess” is not a title like others which are linked to a job or position one has acquired, but rather a title acquired by birth and as such something one should not renounce. In his view the Princess should therefore have kept the “Royal Highness”.
In Aftenposten today I state my agreement with him that titles acquired by birth are something which one should avoid relinquishing and argue that the decision to withdraw the HRH to create a greater distance between the Princess’s commercial activities and the monarchy was rather meaningless, as the HRH is almost never used outside the Palace and it is the title “Princess” which determines if one is associated with the royal family or not. On the other hand, I write, the Princess should follow the example of her British relatives and refrain from using her royal title for commercial purposes.

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