Wednesday, 14 March 2012

My latest article: A ceremonial carriage rediscovered

The coronation coach from 1906 is one of the highlights of the current exhibition of treasures from the Royal Collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo, and while researching its history for the new book on the Royal Collection I also managed, in cooperation with representatives of the Museum of Cultural History, to track down its predecessor, i.e. the main ceremonial carriage used by the Bernadotte kings before the change of dynasty in 1905, which is the subject of an article I have written in this year’s first issue of the Museum of Cultural History’s magazine Museumsbulletinen, which was published last week.
This carriage, known as Carl XV’s Landau, dates from 1862-1863 and was made in Hamburg on the orders of Prince Frederik of the Netherlands, the father of Queen Lovisa. Until then the monarchs had normally used the carriages in which they arrived from Stockholm during their stays in Christiania, except for the grandest ceremonial occasions, when more distinguished vehicles were transported from Stockholm to Christiania.
Prince Frederik, who was very rich, thought something should be done about this and therefore presented his son-in-law with a splendid landau with the express desire that it should remain in Norway for the royal family’s use. When King Carl died in 1872 his sole surviving child, Crown Princess Louise of Denmark, gave the landau to her uncle, Oscar II, so that her grandfather’s intention could be fulfilled.
Thus, until the end of the union it was used for the State Opening of Parliament, the silver jubilee of Oscar II in 1897 and many other memorable occasions. After the dissolution of the union King Oscar presented the carriage to Georg Sverdrup, the First Assistant Master of the Horse, who himself gave it to the Museum of Cultural History.
Thus King Haakon VII and Queen Maud found the royal stables almost empty upon their arrival in Norway and made their entry into Kristiania on 25 November 1905 in a rented carriage (which was itself presented to the Museum of Cultural History by coachman Carl Olsen in 1918). The new King and Queen consequently acquired a number of new carriages, including the coronation coach which was first used for their coronation in 1906 and subsequently for the State Opening of Parliament and major royal occasions until 1940.
Carl XV’s Landau was forgotten, but we have now managed to track it down to the stables of Bogstad Manor. Its condition is said to be good, but renovation will be needed if it is to be exhibited. Nevertheless a piece of the ceremonial history of the Norwegian monarchy has fallen into place.

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