Wednesday, 15 February 2012
New books: The Norwegian Royal Collection
As I am co-author of the book I shall obviously refrain from reviewing it and restrict myself to a presentation of it. The main themes of the six jubilee exhibitions are royal journeys and royal gifts, and this also puts its mark on the related book.
The book starts which a foreword by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, followed by an interview with the King and Queen about the Royal Collection (by journalist Ulf Andenæs of Aftenposten) and a short introduction by King Haakon’s and Queen Maud’s biographer Tor Bomann-Larsen.
The art historian Ingeborg Lønning, who is head of the Royal Collection, then presents the collection in all its diversity over some 75 pages. Thereafter the historian Trond Norén Isaksen (yes, that is me) charts the history of royal journeys: journeys by Dano-Norwegian monarchs and Swedish-Norwegian union kings to Norway before 1905, major royal tours of Norway for the past 200 years and their significance, and the history and development of foreign visits and in particular state visits. The art historian Nina Høye looks at the aesthetics of royal travelling, including suitcases, celebratory pavilions and arches, means of travel and more.
Thereafter I return with a chapter on the symbolically most important journey, “The Road to Nidaros Cathedral”, i.e. the coronation cathedral. In this chapter I look at the nineteenth century coronation processions in Trondheim and why King Haakon VII in 1906 refused to continue this tradition and instead ordered the coronation coach (which has not been used since 1940, but has now been restored and will be the pièce de résistance of two of the jubilee exhibitions).
Bjørn K. Høie follows this up with a chapter on the royal stables (its carriages, its horses and its personnel) in the years 1905-1940, and Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen thereafter presents a century of royal cars. The King’s authorised biographer Per Egil Hegge writes about the most difficult journey, i.e. Crown Princess Märtha’s and her children’s journey into exile in 1940, but also the triumphant homecoming in 1945.
Thereafter the focus shifts to major presents to the royal family. The art historian Knut Ljøgodt presents the collection of contemporary art which was a gift to King Oscar II and Queen Sophie for their silver wedding anniversary in 1882 and which may be said to form the backbone of the royal art collection. The art historian Widar Halén deals with the sumptuous silver objects which were presented to Queen Maud on hers and King Haakon’s arrival in Norway in 1905, her birthday the following day and their coronation in 1906, among them also the coronation presents from the English and Scottish peoples. The art historian Knut Ormhaug follows this with a presentation of the paintings given to King Haakon and Queen Maud on those same occasions.
Finally, the photographer Jan Haug presents a selection from the Palace’s large photo collections, spanning the years 1857-1964. The book is neither a photo book nor purely a coffee table book, but it is lavishly illustrated. There are many new photos of the objects from the Royal Collection, but also a wide range of historical photographs, most of them from the Royal Collection and some of them never published before.
Here is a panorama of the coronation procession of King Oscar II and Queen Sophie, photographed from the roof of Nidaros Cathedral in 1873; King Haakon VII and several other gentlemen inspecting the engine of a new car in 1934; private snapshots of King Haakon and Queen Maud both before and after their arrival in Norway; King Haakon at play with his son; the distance elegance of Queen Maud; King Haakon and King Edward VII of Britain having sat down for a rest during a walk in the woods in 1908; photos taken by Princess Maud of Britain in 1893 when on a visit to the country which unbeknown to her would one day be hers; the 21-year-old seamstress Miss Sonja Haraldsen modelling her own creations a year before she met her prince; and much more.
The book is in Norwegian, but has English summaries.