Sunday, 22 May 2011

New books: Royal reminiscences

The publisher Vega in Oslo has in recent years brought out a number of books for their readers to reminisce over topics such as childhood in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, candy, Christmas, toys, cars, motorbikes, charter trips and marching bands. Last year they also felt it was time to add a volume on the royal family, written by Jon Gunnar Arntzen and titled Alt for Norge – Kongehuset gjennom 100 år.
The book is richly illustrated, but most of the pictures are without captions. They are accompanied by a text summing up the history of the Glücksburg dynasty in Norway, a text which is almost entirely descriptive and only very rarely analytical. It adds nothing to our knowledge or understanding of the monarchy or the royal family and does not concern itself much with the development of the institution.
On the other hand this is perhaps not really to be expected and the book might rather have served as an introduction to the history of the royal family. But as such the book is not very useful for the unfortunate reason that it is not trustworthy. Sadly the book is packed with mistakes and misunderstandings – the word “independent” was added to the Constitution in 1905 (no, it had by then already been there for 91 years), Crown Prince Olav was three years old in 1905 (no, he was two), the manuscript to King Haakon’s speech in the Throne Room at Amalienborg in 1905 shows that he originally spelt his name Håkon and his son’s name Olaf (no, he made no speech at the ceremony which was not held in the Throne Room and those words were uttered in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Christian Michelsen, the “manuscript” with the wrong spelling being the PM’s notes), Queen Maud was the first queen to accompany the King to Parliament (no, Queen Lovisa and Queen Sophia had done so before her), following their coronation King Haakon and Queen Maud appeared on the balcony above the main entrance to the Royal Residence Stiftsgården (no, there is no balcony), Crown Prince Olav’s best man at his wedding was Prince Albert of York (no, he was the Duke of York), Crown Prince Olav had a British cousin named William (no, that is Prince John in the photo), Prince Harald was confirmed in 1952 (no, in 1953), no-one has ever lived at Oscarshall Palace, at least not more than one night (Oscar I stayed there for a month in 1855), Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby’s tearful press conference was held in March 2001 (no, in August), the Palace’s portico and balcony were added in 1875-1876 (no, it was there when the Palace was inaugurated in 1849), the Queen keeps her art collection at Skaugum (no, she took it with her when she moved to the Palace in 2001), both Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid were born at Villa Solbakken (no, Princess Ragnhild was born at the Palace) and so on and so forth.
As it is this is a book without any real purpose.

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