On history, royalty, politics, architecture, art and literature
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
New books: Prince Albert’s death and its impact
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Albert, Prince Consort of Britain, on 14 December 1861, which the British author Helen Rappaport has made the topic of her new book Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy, published by Hutchinson. The story is very well-known, but Rappaport’s book is well-written and she has used some less familiar sources to add some new voices to the story. The opening scene is the happy Christmas of 1860, which was celebrated at Windsor Castle, a place, Rappaport reminds us, which Queen Victoria, despite how it is often associated with her, did not much care for. This makes for a sharp contrast to the gloom of the following Christmas, by which time Prince Albert was dead. Rappaport subscribes to the theory that Prince Albert got Queen Victoria on to the track of constitutional, politically un-biased monarchy, and shows to what great extent the Queen relied on her husband. A significant event occurring between Christmas 1860 and Christmas 1861 was the death of Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. Since her accession in 1837, Victoria had kept her mother at an arm-length’s distance, but when going through her belongings the Queen realised the extent of her mother’s love for her. Victoria threw herself into an extravagant grief, in which she seems to have found some sort of pleasure. She noted with relish how she was complimented on “the manner in which I have shown my grief” and stated quite openly that “I do not wish to feel better”. Victoria’s almost theatrical grief for her mother and the way she wallowed in it was obviously re-played, but on a much grander scale, after Prince Albert died later that year. The story of Prince Albert’s illness and death in December 1861 is told in great detail, perhaps a bit too long-winded. More interesting is the account of the overwhelming public reaction to the Prince Consort’s death, which is followed by the story of Queen Victoria’s posthumous idolisation of her late husband, the cult created around his memory, her withdrawal from public life and the dangers this posed for the monarchy. This is again a story very well-known to anyone familiar with the history of the British monarchy in the nineteenth century, but Rappaport presents it well. She also exposes Queen Victoria’s self-centred egotism and the way in which she was perfectly capable of doing what she really wanted, but when she did not want to do something she got her loyal (perhaps too loyal) physician to back up her claims that the fulfilment of her duty would pose a danger to her health. The author also shows how the Queen’s private secretaries were perfectly aware that she did not work as hard on the official papers as she tried to make people believe. Indeed, the more one reads about Queen Victoria the harder it is to like her. While attempting to explain what caused Victoria’s extravagant mourning for her husband, it seems to me that the author misses out on one point, which again draws a parallel to the death of her mother. “Victoria was always there ready to adore him, to hang on to his every word, his every kiss, to praise unstintingly and monopolise his time, but Albert was tiring of her relentless, cloying admiration and her never-ending emotional hunger”, Rappaport writes about the relationship between wife and husband. But what goes unmentioned is the fact that Victoria did not always treat her husband very well, indeed her at times irrational behaviour towards him seems to have tormented him. To lose the one she loved and realising that she had not been particularly kind to him when he was alive may well have caused a feeling of guilt and a desire to try to make it up to him by excessive displays of grief and idolisation. The book disintegrates somewhat towards the end, where the author rather briefly sums up the remaining decades of Queen Victoria’s life before returning to Christmas 1878, when her second eldest daughter, Grand Duchess Alice, died on the seventeenth anniversary of the father she had nursed, and then moving on to a chapter where the author challenges the oft-repeated story that the Prince Consort died from typhoid fever and argues that the cause of death was most likely Crohn’s disease. The appendix on what Prince Albert died from would have worked better if it had been inserted into its natural chronological place in the book. Particularly given the emphasis put on the Prince of Wales’s near-death experience from typhoid fever on the tenth anniversary of his father’s death it would have been better if the reader had already then been told that the author does not believe that the illness which afflicted the Prince of Wales was the same that killed his father. The book might have benefited from a more thorough fact check. Queen Victoria was forty-two, not forty-three, when her husband died; Prince Arthur was at that time eleven and not ten. The bride chosen for the Prince of Wales was not Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, but of Denmark; Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck is erroneously demoted to “Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck”; there was no French “Emperor Louis Napoleon”, but an Emperor Napoléon III; the author continues to refer to “Princess Alice” even after she had become Grand Duchess; and the King of Sweden and of Norway is erroneously referred to as King of only one of these two countries when he, again erroneously, is said to have visited “the Swedish legation”. The titles of the British nobility also seem to be a mystery to the author; the same person cannot be both Lady Augusta Bruce and Lady Bruce, Lady Jane Churchill and Lady Churchill, Lord John Russell and Lord Russell, and so on. Despite these reservations the overall impression is that Helen Rappaport has produced a readable account of the well-known story of Prince Albert’s death and its consequences.
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).