On history, royalty, politics, architecture, art and literature
Friday, 21 October 2011
New books: A princess of consequence
If Princess Sophia Albertina of Sweden and of Norway (1753-1829) is remembered today it is probably as little more than the lady who built the Hereditary Prince’s Mansion in Stockholm and whose name is inscribed on its façade. Unmarried, childless princesses tend to be considered as little more than that, but as the historian Carin Bergström, head of the Swedish Royal Collections, shows in her new book Självständig prinsessa – Sophia Albertina, 1753-1829, published by Atlantis this month, there was much of interest about the life story of the sister of Gustaf III and Carl XIII. The book’s title translates as “Independent Princess” and Bergström takes the bold choice of starting not with the Princess’s birth, but with the death of her dominant mother, Queen Lovisa Ulrika, in 1782. The disadvantage of this approach is that we are left in the dark about the Princess’s formative years and perhaps in particular about the extent of her mother’s complex personality upon her. The advantage is that it sharpens the book’s focus on how Sophia Albertina carved out a life of her own. Bergström briefly discusses the reasons why Sophia Albertina, who certainly had to be considered quite a match on the royal marriage market, never married. But the fact that a grand mansion was built for her, starting in 1783, must surely have meant that one had by then realised that she would not marry. The mansion is in itself significant, the author argues. Gustaf III’s brother, Carl and Fredrik Adolf, were given apartments at the Royal Palace instead of mansions of their own. This underlines Sophia Albertina’s independence, but might also be a result of the fact that she as a woman could not challenge the monarch’s position in the way that the royal brothers might do. Sophia Albertina was to live to be nearly 76, a great age in her days. She saw the coups carried out by Gustaf III in 1772 and 1789 respectively, the wars against Russia and the Napoleonic wars, the assassination of Gustaf III in 1792, the deposal of Gustaf IV Adolf and the elevation of her brother Carl XIII in 1809, the election of a new crown prince and his sudden death shortly thereafter, the election of a French marshal to crown prince in 1810, the formation of the union with Norway in 1814 and the accession of the Bernadotte dynasty in 1818. In 1826 it was she who brought Carl XIV Johan the news of the birth of his grandson (Carl XV), which secured the Bernadotte succession in the third generation. By the time of her death in 1829 she was the last surviving member of the House of Holstein-Gottorp in Sweden and in an age of growing nationalism she was, not entirely correctly, hailed as “the Vasa Princess”. Sophia Albertina could be considered a survivor, but she was also an important link between past and future. Throughout the upheavals of the Gustavian and post-Gustavian era Sophia Albertina and her sister-in-law Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta were unchangingly dignified in carrying out the royal duties and upholding the presence and visibility which were often neglected by other members of the royal house. (Indeed, following Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta’s death in 1818, Sophia Albertina was the actual first lady until Queen Desideria could be bothered to move to Sweden five years later). For the upstarts Bernadottes she was obviously of great value in their legitimisation process. Yet one of the great strengths of this biography is how it stresses that Sophia Albertina was more than simply a Swedish princess. In 1787 she became Abbess of the Protestant diocese Quedlinburg, a small city-state in what is now Saxe-Anhalt. This position has often been treated as little more than a piece of curiosa by Swedish writers, but Bergström stresses how it meant actual sovereignty over this small state and that this was something Sophia Albertina was serious about. Unlike her predecessor as abbess Sophia Albertina came to spend considerable time in Quedlinburg (which also caused her to miss out on some important developments in Sweden, such as much of the Reuterholm regime). This meant that she had greater impact on her small realm than her predecessor, but also that she came in close proximity to her maternal relations in Germany, whose cultural interests may have had a certain influence on her. By paying thorough attention to Sophia Albertina’s reign in Quedlinburg and her life in Germany (as well as her journey to Italy) Carin Bergström succeeds in putting her subject squarely into the international context in which she belongs and showing how her life was shaped by events outside Sweden. In 1802 Quedlinburg was ceded by the Habsburg Emperor to the King of Prussia and subsequently secularised, but the latter allowed his first cousin Sophia Albertina to retain her residence and her income. However, five years later Quedlinburg was lost to France. Sophia Albertina daringly declared her intention to negotiate with Napoléon, but Quedlinburg was incorporated into his brother Jérôme’s Kingdom of Westphalia and the reign of Sophia Albertina came to an end. One of the events of Sophia Albertina’s life which has caused most comment, both in her days and later, is her campaign to have her chambermaid Lolotte Forsberg recognised as the illegitimate daughter of King Adolf Fredrik, i.e. as her own half-sister. This severely strained her relationship with her brothers and was in the end unsuccessful, but Bergström launches the theory that the way the Princess allowed herself to be led to believe that Forsberg was indeed her sister might be seen as a result of Sophia Albertina’s longing for a family of her own. Having married noble courtier, Countess Lolotte Stenbock (as she then became) was eventually appointed Sophia Albertina’s Mistress of the Robes and the Stenbock family came to fill the role as Sophia Albertina’s immediate family until her death, when most of her estate was left to them. This was one of the books I had been looking most forward to this year and I was not disappointed in my expectations. Occasionally Bergström gets a year wrong, she misspells the name Désirée throughout and repeats the tenacious myth that Napoléon I proclaimed himself emperor, but she is mostly on safe ground and appears to have full command of her subject. The book is also well-written and insightful and adds greatly to our knowledge of its subject. Following the publication of this biography there can be no doubt that Sophia Albertina was much more than an insignificant appendage to the Gustavian court.
Trond Norén Isaksen is a Norwegian historian specialising in the history of monarchies, but also has a deep interest in politics and political history as well as the arts, particularly architecture.
I have a Master of Arts degree in modern history from the University of Oslo. I graduated in 2006 with the dissertation Halvt for Norge? - Bernadottene og det norske tronfølgespørsmålet, which dealt with the Swedish candidature to the Norwegian throne in connection with the dissolution of the union of crowns between Norway and Sweden.
I am the author of two biographies of members of the Norwegian royal family. The first was Dronningen vi ikke fikk,a biography of Crown Princess Märtha and King Olav V, which was published by Genesis forlag in 2003. The second, Kvinne blant konger, a biography of Norway’s former first lady Princess Astrid, was published by N. W. Damm & Søn (now Cappelen Damm) in 2007. My third book, on coronations and their roke in Norwegian history, Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid was published in 2015.
I am also co-author of the book about the Norwegian Royal Collection, Arv og tradisjon, edited by Anniken Thue and published by Orfeus Publishing in 2012.
I am a regular contributor to the British monthly magazine Majesty and have written about 200 articles for various publications, including Politiken, Kunst og Kultur, Historie, Aftenposten, Historisk tidsskrift, Byminner, Dagens Nyheter, Morgenbladet, The Court Historian, Personhistorisk tidskrift, Prosa, Dagsavisen, Klassekampen, St. Hallvard, Royalty Digest Quarterly, Dagbladet, British Politics Review, Heraldisk Tidsskrift, [Danish] Historisk Tidsskrift, Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift, The European Royal History Journal, Adresseavisen, Royalty Digest, Museumsbulletinen, VG, Nordlys, Trondhjemske Samlinger, Året i bilder, Vårt Land,Värmlands museums årsbok, Kristeligt Dagbladand Fredriksstad Blad.
NORGES KRONE - KRONINGER, SIGNINGER OG MAKTKAMPER FRA SAGATID TIL NÅTID
My third book is about coronations and their role in Norwegian history from the twelfth to the twentieth century, published in 2015 by Forlaget Historie & Kultur. It may be bought from Adlibris by clicking on the picture (external link).
Kvinne blant konger - En biografi om prinsesse Astrid
My second book was a biography of Princess Astrid, published in 2007 by N. W. Damm & Søn. It may be bought from Adlibris by clicking on the picture (external link).
Dronningen vi ikke fikk - En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav
My first book was a biography of Crown Princess Märtha and King Olav V, published in 2003 by Genesis forlag.
Complete list of my published works
154. “The Prince Who Would Be King: Henrik of Denmark and His Struggle for Recognition”, in Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (eds.), The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
153. “Churchill's Six Sovereigns” (Majesty, Vol. 36, No. 1, January 2015).
152. “Uncrowned King of Bavaria” (Majesty, Vol. 35, No. 12, December 2014).
151. “Triumf og legitimitet - Rikssverdet fra Leipzig til Trondheim”, in Andreas R. S. Dugstad (ed.), Trondhjemske Samlinger 2014 (Trondheim, Trondhjems Historiske Forening, 2014).
150. “Kristine Bernadotte” (Dagens Nyheter, 14 November 2014).
149. Untitled review of Randi Buchwaldt's and Ted Rosvall's book Axel & Margaretha: A Royal Couple, in Thit Birk Petersen et al (eds.): Dansk-norske skæbner før og efter 1814 – Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift 2014 (n.p.: Samfundet for Dansk Genealogi og Personalhistorie 2014).
91. “Royal Reformer” (Majesty, Vol. 33, No. 2, February 2012).
90. “Book review: The Four Graces: Queen Victoria’s Hessian Granddaughters” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 89. “Book review: Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 88. “The Oldest of the Bernadottes - Elsa Cedergren (1893-1996)” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 87. “Exhibition review: Ruling Through the Arts” (The Court Historian, Volume 16, 2, December 2011). 86. “Renaissance Queen” (Majesty, Vol. 33, No. 1, January 2012). 85. “Katedralen” (Prosa, no 5 - 2011). 84. “Dronning Mauds ikke så mystiske død” (Dagbladet, 7 November 2011). 83. “Kongelig ettergivenhet” (Aftenposten, 1 November 2011). 82. Untitled review of the books En dynasti blir till - Medier, myter och makt kring Karl XIV Johan och familjen Bernadotte, edited by Niklas Ekedahl, and Familjen Bernadotte - Kungligheter och människor, edited by Ingvar von Malmborg (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2011). 81. “Da Danmark forandret seg” (Dagsavisen, 20 September 2011). 80. “Kongens og dronningens kroner - Opprinnelse og anvendelse”, in Arve Sletten (ed.): Trondhjemske Samlinger2010 (Trondheim: Trondhjems Historiske Forening 2011). 79. “Den siste habsburger - Nekrolog Otto von Habsburg 20. november 1912-4. juli 2011” (Morgenbladet, 15-22 July 2011). 78. “Young Ingrid - Queen Ingrid of Denmark’s Early Years in Sweden” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 2 - 2011). 77. Untitled review of Thomas Lyngby’s, Søren Mentz’s and Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen’s book Magt og pragt - Enevælde 1660-1848(Historisk tidsskrift, no 2 - 2011). 76. “Carl III Johan - Carl XIV Johan? - Striden om unionskongenes ordenstall” (Personhistorisk tidskrift, no 1 - 2011). 75. “Borgerskapets inntog” (Dagbladet, 29 April 2011). 74. “Minner om et kongehus - Oscar IIs dynastiske utsmykkingsprogram” (Byminner, no 2 - 2011). 73. “Palassrevolusjonen” (Dagsavisen, 21 January 2011). 72. “Kongens nye hovedstad: Carl Johan, Christiania og arkitektene i Norges demring” (St. Hallvard, no 3+4 - 2010). 71. “Book review: Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Revolutionsgeneral, Marschall Napoleons, König von Schweden und Norwegen by Jörg-Peter Findeisen” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2010). 70. “Prince of Peace – Prince Carl of Sweden and the Nobel prize” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2010). 69. “Exhibition review: Bernadotte’s Norwegian palace” (The Court Historian, Volume 15, 2, December 2010). 68. “Adel ved Bernadottenes norske hoff” (Historie, no 4 - 2010). 67. “Ingen ny Diana” (VG, 12 December 2010). 66. “Historiens lærdommer” (Klassekampen, 2 December 2010). 65. “Det undersköna Oscarshall - Hoffliv på sommerslottet 1855” (Langt Vest i Aker, no 40, December 2010). [Stolen by that publication from Byminner no 3-2010 and republished without permission, a violation of copyright laws which the editors Øivind Rødevand and Nils Carl Aspenberg have refused to apologise for]. 64. “Et parti som alle andre” (Dagsavisen, 22 November 2010). 63. “Slottets forbindelser til svensk og russisk arkitektur” (Kunst og Kultur, no 3 - 2010). 62. “Oslos fjerde grunnlegger” (Aften, 20 October 2010). 61. “Carl Johan som Norges konge - Maktkampen mellom konge og storting” (Historie, no 3 - 2010). 60. “Hvorfor deles den [Nobels fredspris] ut i Norge?” (Dagsavisen, 8 October 2010). 59. “Book review: Drottning Victoria av Sverige – Om kärlek, plikt och politik by Stig Hadenius” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 3 – 2010). 58. “A Broken Engagement – Frederik of Denmark and Olga of Greece” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 3 – 2010). 57. “Prinsessens tittel” (Aftenposten, 24 September 2010). 56. “Prinsessetittelen” (Aftenposten, 21 September 2010). 55. Untitled review of Herman Lindqvist’s book Jean Bernadotte - Mannen vi valde (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2010). 54. Untitled review of Carl-Erik Grimstad’s book Dronning Mauds arv (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2010). 53. “Tausheten etterpå” (Klassekampen, 14-15 August 2010). 52. “Grevinne Ruth av Rosenborg” (Aftenposten, 29 July 2010). 51. “Det undersköna Oscarshall - Hoffliv på sommerslottet i 1855” (Byminner, no 3 - 2010). 50. “Book review: En brud för kung och fosterland - Kungliga svenska bröllop från Gustav Vasa till Carl XVI Gustaf by Lena Rangström” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 2 - 2010). 49. “Ida Wedel Jarlsberg - Hoffrøkenen som var Ylajali?” (Historie, no 2 - 2010). 48. “Victorias arv” (Aftenposten, 20 June 2010). 47. “Oscarshall fra lystslott til luftslott – Kongelig bolignød 1929” (St. Hallvard, no 4 - 2009). 46. “Fru Schøller - hvor ble hun av?” (Adresseavisen, 29 May 2010). 45. “Arkitekten som formet hovedstaden” (Aften, 11 May 2010). 44. “Opposisjonens siste skanse” (Dagbladet, 29 April 2010). 43. “Dronning Ingrid og det moderne monarki” (Politiken, 28 March 2010). 42. “The Principality of Pontecorvo - Bernadotte’s Stepping Stone to the Throne” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 1 - 2010). 41. “Kongelig grensesetting” (Dagsavisen, 11 March 2010). 40. “Oscarshall har vært kongebolig” (Aften, 29 December 2009). 39. “[Prinsesse] Grete Sturdza” (Aftenposten, 8 December 2009). 38. “Kongevåpenet og 1905 – en kommentar til Hans Cappelens artikkel” (Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Volume 10, Issue 99, March 2009). 37. “Counts of Monpezat – Old Name Makes New Titles for Danish Royals” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2008). 36. “Almost Queen of Sweden and Norway – Countess Maria Krasinska and the Last Days of Carl XV” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2007). 35. “Kongelige titler” (Dagbladet, 4 December 2007). 34. “A British Queen of Norway” (British Politics Review, Volume 2, No. 4, Autumn 2007). 33. “En hån mot Christian Fred[e]rik” (Dagbladet, 20 October 2007). 32. “Astrid og Hendrix” (Dagbladet, 29 August 2007). 31. Kvinne blant konger – En biografi om prinsesse Astrid (Oslo: N. W. Damm & Søn 2007). 30. “An Eccentric Couple – Prince August and Princess Teresia of Sweden and Norway” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 1 – 2007). 29. “Denmark’s Scottish Princess – Anne Bowes Lyon” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2006). 28. “Kongen Norge ikke fikk – Prins Carl av Sverige og det svenske kandidaturet til den norske tronen i 1905”, in Sune Åkerman and Ruth Hemstad (eds.): Skilsmässan som förde oss samman,Värmlands Museums årsbok 2006 (Karlstad: Stiftelsen Värmlands Museum and Värmlands Museiförening 2006). 27. Halvt for Norge? – Bernadottene og det norske tronfølgespørsmålet, 1850-1905 (MA dissertation in history, the University of Oslo, autumn 2006). 26. “Kongen vi ikke fikk – Prins Carl av Sverige og det svenske kandidaturet til den norske tronen i 1905” (Historie, no 2 – 2005). 25. “Norges siste unionsdronning” (Aftenposten, 10 July 2005). 24. “Ingrid Alexandra”, in Morten Malmø (ed.): Året i bilder (Oslo: N. W. Damm & Søn AS 2005). 23. “Count Lennart Bernadotte af Wisborg (1909-2004)” (Royalty Digest, No. 164, February 2005, Volume XIV, No. 8). 22. “Memories of Nine Decades: An Interview with Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XLII, Volume 7.6, December 2004). 21. “The Last Vasa: Queen Carola of Saxony” (Royalty Digest, No. 163, January 2005, Volume XIV, No. 7). 20. “Ingeborg, Princess of Scandinavia”, part II (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XL, Volume 7.4, August 2004). 19. “Jeanne de Tramcourt – A French Colibri at the Swedish Court” (Royalty Digest, No. 160, October 2004, Volume XIV, No. 4). 18. “Ingeborg, Princess of Scandinavia”, part I (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, Volume 7.3, June 2004). 17. “Norway has a New Heiress – The Birth of Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXVII, Volume 7.1, February 2004). 16. “The Unknown Sister: Princess Margaretha of Denmark” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXVI, December 20003). 15. “Mauds og Märthas dødsårsaker” (Dagbladet, 14 December 2003). 14. “Two Kings and Three Queens Bid Farewell to ‘Uncle Mulle’ – The Funeral of Prince Carl Bernadotte” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, August 2003). 13. “Obituary: Prince Carl Bernadotte, 1911-2003” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, August 2003). 12. “Konge uten dronning: Monarkiet under kong Olav manglet et viktig aspekt, det kvinnelige” (Dagbladet, 2 July 2003). 11. “The People’s King - The Centenary of King Olav V of Norway” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIII, April 2003). 10. “Kong Haakon og Hornsrud-episoden” (VG, 5 June 2003). 9. “Dronning Maud – tippoldemoren” (Historie, no 2 – 2003). 8. Dronningen vi ikke fikk – En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav (Oslo: Genesis forlag 2003). 7. “Sibylla – Sweden’s Tragic Princess” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXX, November/December 2002). 6. “To dronninger” (Filologen, no 3 – 2002). 5. “Dronning av et århundre” (Historie, no 3 – 2002). 4. “His Excellency Count Flemming of Rosenborg (1922-2002)” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXVII, May/June 2002). 3. “Story of a Wedding – Princess Martha [sic] Louise of Norway and Ari Behn” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXVII, May/June 2002). [Published without my permission] 2. “Kong Gustaf Adolf var ikke nazisympatisør” (Dagbladet, 7 August 2002). 1. “Norges britiske dronning” (Filologen, no 1 – 2002).