Friday, 28 September 2012

Princess Ragnhild laid to rest

At noon today the funeral service of Princess Ragnhild took place in the Palace Chapel in Oslo, the same chapel where she was held over the baptismal font by her grandmother Queen Maud 82 years ago.
It was a small, intimate ceremony; her coffin draped in the Norwegian flag and flanked by an honorary guard of His Majesty the King's Guard. Her son, Haakon Lorentzen, spoke in memory of his mother, while one of the readings was done by her granddaughter Sophia.
Following the funeral service the King and Queen hosted a reception at the Royal Palace, and the coffin was thereafter driven to the churchyard in Asker, where the Princess was laid to her final rest in a private ceremony attended only by those closest to her. It was in Asker Church, which is just around the corner from the crown princely residence Skaugum, that Princess Ragnhild married Erling S. Lorentzen in 1953, and although they spent their entire married life in Brazil they had long ago decided that this was where they wanted to be buried.
Present in the Palace Chapel were some 120 mourners. Among them were her widower as well as all her children and grandchildren, the King and Queen, Princess Astrid (who was with her sister in Rio for a week shortly before her death) and Johan Martin Ferner, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Märtha Louise, Crown Princess Victoria (representing her parents, who were close to Princess Ragnhild through the Brazilian connection), several children, children-in-law and grandchildren of Princess Astrid, her aunt by marriage Princess Kristine Bernadotte, her cousin Madeleine Kogevinas, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister, some other representatives of the authorities, courtiers and friends.
As Erling S. Lorentzen walked out of the Palace Chapel, carrying the flag which had draped his wife's coffin in one hand, Crown Princess Victoria took his other hand.

My latest article: The Princess Norway never knew

Today Princess Ragnhild, who died on 16 September at the age of 82, will be laid to rest. To mark the occasion I have written an article which appears in Aftenposten this morning, where I try to sum up her life and explain why the people of Norway never really had the chance to get to know the Princess properly. You may read the article here (external link).
The funeral service will take place in the Palace Chapel at noon and is expected to last an hour. Thereafter the King and Queen will host a reception and at 2.30 p.m. the funeral cortege will depart from the Palace’s main gate to the cemetery in Asker, where the Princess will be laid to rest in a private ceremony attended only by the family.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

My latest article: Carl XIII, the first union king

If King Carl XIII of Sweden and of Norway (1748-1818) is remembered at all today, it is mostly either as the younger brother of Gustaf III, the adoptive father of Carl XIV Johan or as the husband of the diarist Queen Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta. No complete biography of him has ever been published, but in this year’s third issue of Historie, which is on sale today, I have written a 25-page-article about his life.
Carl XIII was a weak man, who, during his regency for the minor Gustaf IV Adolf in 1792-1796, let his favourite Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm govern in his place. By the time he succeeded to the Swedish throne in 1809, he was too old and frail to play much of an active role, but in his younger years he was known as an intriguer, who, it has been alleged, probably had prior knowledge of the conspiracies which led to the assassination of Gustaf III in 1792 and the deposal of his nephew Gustaf IV Adolf in 1809.
In 1814 he became the first king of the Swedish-Norwegian union, but he only set foot on Norwegian soil once, during the war in August 1814, when he had not yet been acknowledged by the Norwegians as their king.
From 1810 the reins of power were in the hands of his adopted son, but Carl Johan came to experience, as Philippe d’Orléans and other regents before and since, that someone who was not himself the monarch did not have full freedom to go through with his own plans. This involved the amalgamation of the two kingdoms into one, something which the eminent historian Sverre Steen has argued was prevented by sheer existence of Carl XIII, to whom Carl Johan always showed deference. This would have been most easily accomplished in the early, insecure years of the union, but when Carl XIII died in 1818 and Carl XIV Johan himself became king, it was already too late.
The photo shows Erik Gustaf Göthe’s statue of Carl XIII in the Royal Garden in Stockholm, which was erected on the orders of Carl XIV Johan in 1822. It shows him with an anchor and crowned with a laurel wreath, recalling his supposed military glory. Created Admiral of the Fleet in his cradle, the then Prince Carl in 1788 presided over (but did not in fact lead) the battle with Russia at Hogland in the Gulf of Finland, which ended with an even draw, but was hailed as a splendid victory.
Today the statue is generally overlooked. As late as this summer I was approached by a man in the King’s Garden who asked if I knew who the man on the statue was; his colleagues having suggested Hjalmar Branting, the first Social Democratic Prime Minister.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Princess Ragnhild’s coffin arrives in Norway

Around 6.30 p.m. the plane carrying the coffin of Princess Ragnhild arrived at the military part of Oslo Airport Gardermoen from Rio de Janeiro, where the Princess had lived since 1953 and where she died last Sunday.
The coffin was draped in the Norwegian flag and was carried from the plane by eight soldiers of His Majesty the King’s Guard. The King and Princess Astrid received their sister’s coffin at the airport.
The Princess’s husband, Erling S. Lorentzen, her two daughters, Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro and Ragnhild A. Lorentzen Long, the latter’s husband Aaron Long, and the granddaughters Victoria Ribeiro, Alexandra Lorentzen Long and Elizabeth Lorentzen Long escorted the coffin on the journey from Brazil.
Following a short ceremony at the airport the coffin was driven to the Royal Palace in Oslo, where the funeral will take place on Friday.

Friday, 21 September 2012

King attends opening of another royal jubilee exhibition - and appoints new ministers

Today I have been to Elverum to attend the opening of the exhibition “The Longest Journey, 1940-1945” at the Glomdal Museum. The exhibition is one of the six exhibitions based on the Royal Collection which are the government’s 75th birthday present to the King and Queen. The King attended, wearing mourning for his sister, Princess Ragnhild, who died on Sunday.
“The Longest Journey, 1940-1945” is a travelling exhibition which deals with the royal family’s flight, exile and homecoming. Elverum seemed a natural starting point as this small town, some two hours north of Oslo, was the second stop on the royal family’s and government’s flight and it was there that King Haakon on 10 April 1940 refused the German demand that he should appoint a government led by the leader of the Norwegian Nazi party, Vidkun Quisling. (Most of the town was consequently flattened by German bombers).
The exhibition will later be shown at Ørlandet, Ålesund, Bodø, Tromsø, Alta, Hammerfest, Harstad, Lista and Stord before ending up at the Defence Museum in Oslo in 2014.
The exhibition was supposed to be opened by Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, but a cabinet reshuffle meant that she was no longer Culture Minister by the time the exhibition opened. Instead the task of declaring it open fell to Rigmor Aasrud, Minister of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs.
The reshuffle was formalised in a State Council at the Royal Palace at 11 a.m. The King appointed Hadia Tajik, a 29-year-old MP from Rogaland, who is considered as a rising star of the Labour Party, Minister of Culture. Jonas Gahr Støre, who had been Foreign Minister for seven years, was moved to the Ministry of Health and Care Services and was succeeded by Espen Barth Eide, until now Minister of Defence. Støre replacesAnne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, who returns to the Ministry of Defence, where she also preceded Mr Eide. The outgoing Minister of Culture, Anniken Huitfeldt, took on the portfolio of Labour, until now held by Hanne Bjurstrøm, who left the government today.

Memorial service for Princess Ragnhild held in Rio de Janeiro

At 5 p.m. local time tonight (10 p.m. Norwegian time) a memorial service was held in the English church, Christ Church, in Rio de Janeiro for Princess Ragnhild of Norway, who died on Sunday at the age of 82. The Princess had been living in Rio since 1953.
Her son, Haakon Lorentzen, gave an address at the memorial service, something he will also do during the funeral in the Palace Chapel in Oslo next Friday. The Norwegian priests Anne Netland and Ørnulf Steen officiated.
Princess Ragnhild’s coffin will now be flown to her native Norway, where the King and Princess Astrid will receive their sister’s casket at Oslo Airport Gardermoen on Saturday.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

King awards Grand Cross to last Private Secretary

The King has been pleased to award the rare honour that is the Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav to his outgoing Private Secretary, Berit Tversland, making her only the third non-royal Norwegian woman to receive this honour. An era comes to an end at the Norwegian royal court when Tversland now retires as the King’s Private Secretary, a position which was created by King Haakon VII in 1905 and now ceases to exist.
Berit Tversland has been employed by the royal court since 1977, first as governess to the then Prince Haakon and Princess Märtha Louise and later as their secretary. In 2000 she succeeded Magne Hagen as Private Secretary, becoming the first woman to hold that position.
The position as Private Secretary is now abolished, and its office merges with the office of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess into a new entity which will be known as the Royal Secretariat. It will be led by Gry Mølleskog, with the title Chief of Staff. Mølleskog was also head of the office of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess from 2003 to 2006.
The first Norwegian woman to receive the Grand Cross of St Olav was Crown Princess Märtha, who was awarded it with its collar in 1942. The Grand Cross was subsequently given to the author and Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset and the actress Johanne Dybwad in 1947, to Princess Astrid (with collar) in 1956, to Crown Princess Sonja (with collar) in 1972, to Princess Ragnhild in 1982, to Princess Märtha Louise (with collar) in 1989 and to Crown Princess Mette-Marit in 2001.

Flowers and a candle for Princess Ragnhild

Given her low profile in Norway through the last sixty years, public reaction to the death of Princess Ragnhild has, understandably, been subdued. There was no long queue for the book of condolences which was opened at the Royal Palace yesterday, but what seemed to be a steady flow of people. Today I also noticed that some flowers and a candle have been left at the statue of Crown Princess Märtha, the Princess’s mother, in the Palace Park. Princess Ragnhild, like her siblings, absolutely loved this statue and a small version of it stood on a table in her living room in Rio de Janeiro.
Tomorrow, a 5 p.m. Brazilian time and 10 p.m. Norwegian time, a memorial service will be held in Christ Church in Rio before the coffin is flown to Norway.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Finnish state visit to Norway in October

The Norwegian royal court and the office of the President of Finland today announced that the new Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö, and his wife Jenni Haukio will pay a state visit to Norway from 10 to 12 October. There will be the usual welcoming ceremony in the Palace Square, followed by lunch and a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Monument at Akershus Fortress. President Niinistö will then call on the First Vice-Speaker of Parliament, Øivind Korsberg, and the Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, while his wife will open an art exhibition. The King and Queen will give a state banquet in the evening, which will also be attended by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and Princess Astrid.
The next day the President will give a lecture at the House of Literature and then attend a conference, while his wife, who is herself a poet, will remain longer at the House of Literature together with the Queen in order to get a presentation of Norwegian poetry. The Prime Minister will host a luncheon before the guests visit a school at Stovner. The day ends with a reception at the Opera House, hosted by the President and First Lady of Finland.
On the third and final day, the Finnish guests will visit Tromsø and attend engagements focusing on mutual Finnish-Norwegian issues concerning the Arctic area. Unusually, the King and Queen will not accompany their guests on the final day, as they always do, but delegate this task to the Crown Prince.
Sauli Niinistö was elected President of Finland in February, in succession to Tarja Halonen, and sworn in on 1 March. In keeping with Finnish tradition he made a state visit to Sweden shortly after his inauguration.

Princess Ragnhild’s funeral to take place on 28 September

The court has announced that the funeral of Princess Ragnhild, who died on Sunday at the age of 82, will take place in the Palace Chapel in Oslo at noon on Friday 28 September.
The Bishop of Oslo, Ole Christian Kvarme, and the Dean of Oslo, Olav Dag Hauge, will officiate. The King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Märtha Louise and Princess Astrid will be among the 120 mourners present. Subsequently the King and Queen will host a reception at the Palace.
Princess Ragnhild will, as announced already in her lifetime, be laid to rest in the cemetery at Asker Church. Only the family will attend the burial, which it is their wish that the press will stay away from.
A memorial service will be held in the English church in Rio at 5 p.m. on the coming Thursday before the coffin is flown to Norway. The King and Princess Astrid will receive their sister’s coffin at Oslo Airport Gardermoen on Saturday.
The members of the royal family will carry on with their public engagements as usual and court mourning has not been declared. Indeed this seems to be a custom which has lapsed during the present reign. If I recall correctly the death of Queen Ingrid of Denmark in 2000 was the last time court mourning was declared.
Nothing has been said officially about any foreign royals attending the funeral, but most of those foreign relatives to whom Princess Ragnhild was close are by now either dead or too old to travel, the exceptions being her aunt by marriage, Princess Kristine Bernadotte, and the King and Queen of Sweden.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Book of condolences to be laid out at Palace tomorrow

On the occasion of the death of Princess Ragnhild a book of condolences will be laid out at the Royal Palace tomorrow. The Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will sign it at 9.30 a.m., followed by the diplomatic corps from 10 a.m. to noon. From 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. the general public will be admitted. Entry is through the main gate of the Palace.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

At the road’s end: Princess Ragnhild of Norway, Mrs Lorentzen (1930-2012)

Princess Ragnhild, who has died of cancer at the age of 82, was the princess Norway never really got to know.
Princess Ragnhild was born on 9 June 1930 and first saw the light of day at the Royal Palace in Oslo, the family home Skaugum in Asker having burned down to the ground just a few weeks before. She was the eldest child of the then Crown Prince Olav and his Swedish-born wife Märtha and was born two days after the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the personal union between the two kingdoms.
Moreover, she was the first royal person to be born on Norwegian soil since the birth of the future King Olav Håkonsson in 1370 and the first princess to be born in Norway since Ingebjørg Håkonsdatter in 1301.
The names chosen pointed to her royal heritage. Ragnhild was the name borne by both the wife and the mother of Harald the Fairhaired, the king who first united Norway into one kingdom in the late ninth century. The second name, Alexandra, was for her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra of Britain.
The Princess was christened in the Palace Chapel on 27 June 1930. Her grandmother Queen Maud held her over the baptismal font, and her other godparents were her grandfather King Haakon VII, her maternal grandparents Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, her great-uncle King Gustaf V of Sweden, her great-aunt Princess Victoria of Britain, her aunt Princess Margaretha of Denmark, and her father’s first cousin, Prince Albert of Britain, Duke of York (later King George VI).
She spent her first years at Villa Solbakken, just outside Oslo, until the new Skaugum was ready in August 1932. By then she had been joined by a sister, Princess Astrid. At the time, women did not have succession rights in Norway, but as the years went by after the births of the two princesses and no brother seemed to appear, one started to think of introducing female succession.
If so, Ragnhild might have become Queen Regnant, a fate she would later say she was happy to escape. And these discussions came to an end with the birth of a brother, Prince Harald, the present King, on 21 February 1937.
With barely one and a half year between them, the two princesses were inseparable. When it was time for Ragnhild to start school, a few girls of “good families” were chosen to join her and Princess Astrid for private schooling at Skaugum and later, when the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, caused petrol to be rationed, at the Royal Palace.
In the early hours of 9 April 1940, Germany attacked Norway, and Princess Ragnhild and her siblings were awakened by their parents and told to pack a suitcase with their favourite toys. The sinking of the German battleship “Blücher” in the Oslofjord gave the royal family, the government and most of the MPs time to escape from the capital before the Germans marched in.
However, as it was clear that it would be a long fight and one could obviously not take children along on a military campaign, it was decided that the Crown Princess would bring the children to safety abroad. In the evening of 9 April she crossed into her native Sweden, not knowing if she would ever see her husband again.
Later in the summer Crown Princess Märtha and the children made the dangerous crossing of the Atlantic to the USA, where they stayed for five years under the supervision of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who became something of a substitute grandfather to the three children. Their father only came for Christmas, making the children particularly dependent on their mother.
Following liberation, the royal family returned to Norway on 7 June 1945, two days before Princess Ragnhild’s fifteenth birthday. They were met by ecstatic crowds and in the photos from that day the royal children, who had led peaceful, ordinary lives in the USA, look frightened.
Obviously it was a major change to return to a public life they had mostly forgotten. They had attended an ordinary school in the USA, but now that they were back home their parents wanted to go back to the pre-war arrangement with schooling at home. The princesses, and Ragnhild in particular, absolutely refused and in the end got their way. It was not the last time that Princess Ragnhild would make it clear that she had a strong will.
Among the royal bodyguards during that first summer of peace was Erling S. Lorentzen, the son of a shipping magnate and a veteran of the elite resistance group Company Linge. He was entrusted with the task of teaching the princesses to sail, and by 1946 the Princess was in love.
With hindsight it might seem a perfect match: the princess and the dashing war hero falling in love in the hour of victory. But this was not how it appeared at the time. There had been princesses marrying commoners before – for instance Patricia of Britain in 1919, Dagmar of Denmark in 1922 and Eikaterini of Greece in 1947 – but it was not yet quite normal.
King Haakon and Crown Princess Märtha went to considerable lengths to try to put an end to the relationship between Princess Ragnhild and Mr Lorentzen, while Crown Prince Olav apparently could not stand for his daughter’s tears – she was always the apple of his eye.
In the end Ragnhild got her way and on 15 May 1953 the happy couple walked down the aisle of Asker Church, just down the road from Skaugum. The problem of what if any official position should be given to the non-royal spouse of a princess was solved with the announcement that the couple would live abroad for the first years.
The choice fell on Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where the Lorentzen family had business interest. The plan was that they would stay for two years, but two years eventually became the rest of their lives. The Princess relinquished the style “Her Royal Highness” and became known as Princess Ragnhild, Mrs Lorentzen. When abroad she was accorded the style of “Her Highness”.
Apparently it was expected that Princess Ragnhild’s marriage to a commoner would be an exception rather than the rule, and Princess Astrid has said she thought she would not be able to marry a commoner as her sister had already done so. However, Princess Ragnhild’s marriage turned out to be a ground-breaker, and both her siblings as well as the children of the current King have followed her example.
Crown Princess Märtha was very ill at the time of her daughter’s wedding, but was looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild, expected in the late summer of 1954. However, just a few days before her and Crown Prince Olav’s silver wedding in March 1954, the Crown Princess’s health took a sudden turn for the worse and her pregnant daughter dashed across the Atlantic to get there in time. The Crown Princess died on 5 April 1954.
In August Princess Ragnhild gave birth to her first child in August 1954 and named him Haakon for his great-grandfather. The second child, born in 1957, was named Ingeborg for her great-grandmother, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, Haakon and Ingeborg themselves being siblings. The afterthought, born in 1968, was named Ragnhild Alexandra for her mother, and was the only of the Lorentzen children to be born in Brazil and attain Brazilian citizenship.
King Haakon died in 1957 and Ragnhild’s widowed father succeeded to the throne as King Olav V. While Princess Ragnhild went on with her life in Brazil, her younger sister took on their mother’s mantle as first lady of Norway. Princess Astrid thus remained highly visible at home, while Princess Ragnhild gradually faded from the public stage. She held only one patronage and her only public duty, which she gave up in the mid-1990s, was the opening of the annual Christmas bazaar at the Norwegian seamen’s church in Rio.
She did, however, maintain close links with Norway, in particular her group of friends from school, her sister and her father. Despite the 24-hour journey and her fear of flying, she made frequent visits to Norway, where she always stayed with her father. Thus she came close to him in a way neither of her siblings did. When not together, father and daughter wrote to each other on a weekly basis (it caused quite a furore when Princess Ragnhild announced some ten years ago that she had burned her father’s letters).
Following King Olav’s death in 1991, the Princess invested in her own apartment at Frogner, a fashionable area of Oslo. When turning the key to the flat, it dawned on the 61-year-old Princess that it was actually the first time in her life that she was entirely alone.
To her biographer Lars O. Gulbrandsen the Princess explained that the difficult thing was that when travelling between Norway and Rio, she felt she was going home both ways. She always insisted on celebrating traditional Norwegian Christmas at the height of the Brazilian summer, but as the years went by and the Lorentzen children decided to make Brazil their future, it became clear that the Princess and her husband would never return permanently to Norway.
As is often the case with people settling outside their native land, the Princess’s opinions eventually became rather out of touch with Norwegian reality. In the mid-1990s she voiced her opposition to the increasingly common practice of couples living together before being married, an opinion she repeated when her nephew Crown Prince Haakon chose to live together with his future wife before they were neither married nor engaged.
Her great mistake, which had grave consequences for her public image, came a few years later, when the King and Queen made a state visit to Brazil in November 2003. The King had not visited his sister for 35 years and the Princess looked greatly forward to entertaining him for lunch in her home. However, the King and Queen cancelled on short notice in order to watch a beach volleyball match. The Princess apparently felt publicly humiliated and let her hurt feelings get the better of her by giving an interview to TV 2 in which she made some very critical comments about the Crown Prince’s and Princess Märtha Louise’s choices of partners – opinions she, as a member of the royal family, ought to have saved for the King’s ear only.
The interview caused a huge furore when it was broadcast in early 2004, and the public image of Princess Ragnhild – by then unknown to many Norwegians – became that of a bitter old woman more or less “exiled” to Brazil. I am told the Princess herself greatly regretted it all, but, being a wise man, the King chose to forgive and forget. His only comment was that he would not allow this to ruin family relations.
Princess Ragnhild rarely missed a family occasion in Norway, but as the years began to take their tolls her journeys to Norway became fewer. The passing of time also meant that she had fewer friends and acquaintances on this side of the Atlantic. Her bond to her sister was always very strong, although the two did not meet very often. Of her other royal relatives she was close to her uncle, Prince Carl Bernadotte, and his wife Kristine, as well as three of her first cousins and their spouses: King Baudouin of the Belgians, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg and Count Flemming of Rosenborg. The Brazilian connection also meant an increasingly close relationship to the Queen of Sweden, herself half Brazilian by birth.
In February 2007 Princess Ragnhild declined her invitation to attend the King’s seventieth birthday, and in July of the same year she attended only parts of the Queen’s seventieth birthday celebrations. Her own eightieth birthday was celebrated at the Royal Palace in June 2010.
Her last but one visit to Norway was in February this year, when she attended the celebration of Princess Astrid’s eightieth birthday. By that time, Princess Ragnhild had begun using a wheelchair. She fractured her hip during Easter, and it was then that it was discovered that she suffered from cancer. When the great war hero Gunnar Sønsteby, an old friend who had been Erling Lorentzen’s best man died in May of this year, Lorentzen travelled to Norway to attend the funeral without his wife. She was however able to come to Norway to spend some summer weeks at the family’s island holiday home.
At the age of 82, Princess Ragnhild died in her home in Leblon in Rio de Janeiro at 9.45 a.m. local time today (2.45 p.m. Norwegian time). Although she chose Brazil in life, she had made it known already a few years ago that she would choose Norway in death and be buried in the cemetery of Asker Church.
Princess Ragnhild had a strong personality with some sharp edges and she and was always ready – sometimes perhaps too ready – to voice her opinions. But her shyness meant that the public never got to see the other sides of her personality, such as her dry sense of humour and her sharp powers of observation. These characteristic were highly evident when one met her privately, as I had the chance to do on a couple of occasions, and it is indeed unfortunate that they remained hidden to the public.

The photo is a press handout by Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen/the Royal Court.


The royal court has just announced the death of Princess Ragnhild. The Princess, the eldest sister of the King, died in her home in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil at 9.45 a.m. local time (2.45 p.m. Norwegian time). The Princess was 82 and had been frail in recent years. She died of cancer.
The government has offered her the honour of state funeral, but her family has turned down the offer. The date for the funeral has not yet been set, but it will take place in the Palace Chapel and the Princess will be interred in the cemetery at Asker Church, where she married Erling S. Lorentzen on 15 May 1953. He survives her, along with three children and six grandchildren. I will write more about her later.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Royal jewels: Queen Desideria’s malachite parure

Today the Nordic Museum in Stockholm opens a new exhibition showing some 1,000 items of jewellery from the museum’s vast collection. Among the highlights is a neoclassical parure of gold and malachite which has belonged to Queen Sophia of Sweden and of Norway.
The parure consists of a tiara, a necklace, a large brooch, a pair of earrings (one of them damaged) and two bracelets. The tiara is 5 centimetres high and 19 centimetres long, while the necklace measures 44.5 centimetres.
Gold of four nuances surround the cameos carved in malachite with classical scenes after the great Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The central cameo of the tiara shows “day”; the brooch depicts “night”. In the necklace are cameos showing Aiskylos and Hygieia, Hercules and Hebe.
The tiara bears the mark “SP” and the French assay mark 1819-1839, which has made it possible to establish that it was created by the jeweller Simon Petiteau (1782-ca. 1860) in Paris, probably in the 1820s or 1830s.
It has been suggested that the parure may have belonged to Queen Desideria of Sweden and of Norway, and a look at the inventory of her jewels drawn up after her death in December 1860s proves that this is indeed the case. The parure is also listed in the jewellery inventory of her daughter-in-law Queen Josephina following her death in 1876 and then in the inventory after Queen Sophia’s death in 1913.
Apparently none of the heirs of Queen Sophia wanted this parure, which may have seemed very out of date by 1913, and it was decided to donate it to the Nordic Museum. Queen Sophia also owned a similar parure of gold and lava which had also belonged to Queen Desideria and is now the property of Queen Sophia’s great-great-granddaughter, Désirée af Rosenborg, who was given it by her grandmother, Princess Margaretha of Denmark, on her coming of age.
There is also a similar parure, of malachite and pearls, which may have belonged to Empress Joséphine of the French, in the possession of the Fondation Napoléon.
No definite closing date has been set for the exhibition at the Nordic Museum, but it is expected to last at least until May. Read more about the exhibition here (external link). All photos are press photos by Mats Landin, copyright the Nordic Museum.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

British Parliament’s clock tower renamed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II

In a ceremony at its foot yesterday, the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, which is home to the British Houses of Parliament, was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. The decision to rename the tower, popularly but incorrectly known as “Big Ben” (which is actually the name only of the main bell), was taken earlier this year in connection with the celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee. Thus the two main towers of the Palace of Westminster are now named, respectively, the Elizabeth Tower and the Victoria Tower, commemorating the two British monarchs who have reigned for more than sixty years.

Monday, 10 September 2012

New books: Jubilee diamonds

Hugh Roberts’s The Queen’s Diamonds is not the only book accompanying the current exhibition of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain’s diamonds at Buckingham Palace. In addition to that monumental book there is also the smaller Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration by Caroline de Guitaut, curator of decorative arts at the Royal Collection.
While Roberts’s volume is the definite account, de Guitaut’s book aims at a more general audience. While Roberts’s book gives the detailed history of 74 items of jewellery, there are only 22 included in this book, but the selection is varied and representative of many different sort of diamonds, types of jewellery and historical epochs. The items included in de Guitaut’s book are those which are also included in the exhibition.
de Guitaut’s book also includes some items from the diamond exhibition which are not included in Roberts’s book, most of them not Queen Elizabeth’s personal property: Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown, Queen Alexandra’s coronation fan, a snuff box once belonging to King Friedrich II of Prussia and two jewelled swords.
It opens with a short general introduction to the history of diamonds and their association with the English/British royal family. Like Roberts’s book it is well illustrated, both with close-ups of the jewels and photos of them being used. However, there are some mistakes in the captions which appear unnecessary: Lord Snowdon is certainly not 119 years old, although a caption says he is born in 1893; the King of Norway’s name is not Harold, but Harald; and a photo of Queen Mary wearing the tiara and necklace made for the Dehli Durbar in 1911 cannot possibly show her “as Princess of Wales” in 1910, as the jewellery had not yet been created by then.
Caroline de Guitaut’s book can well be read on its own as an introduction to the British royal diamonds, but also as a useful supplement to Roberts’s larger book.

Monday, 3 September 2012

New books: British royal diamonds

As Queen Elizabeth II of Britain is in possession of some of the world’s most spectacular diamonds it seems only logical that the Royal Collection is marking her diamond jubilee with an exhibition on diamonds at Buckingham Palace this summer. There are two books to go along with the exhibition, both published by the Royal Collection: a smaller one by Caroline de Guitaut, aimed at a general audience, and a large one by Hugh Roberts, aimed at those who want the details.
However, Roberts’s monumental book, The Queen’s Diamonds, is not a complete account of all the jewels in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II. Such a work would surely require volumes, and this book is restricted to jewellery consisting entirely or primarily of diamonds, leaving out the emeralds, the sapphires, the rubies and so on. But this seems a fitting choice not only given the occasion of the diamond jubilee, but also because diamonds are arguably the stones most worn by and most associated with Queen Elizabeth. (Britain is also one of the few countries where the crown jewels are still worn by the Queen, but these are not included in the book as they are state property and not personal possessions of the monarch).
The book treats the selection of jewels chronologically. There are chapters devoted to Queen Adelaide, Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and Queen Elizabeth II, and after an introduction about each queen, her jewellery and her use of it we find what is to all means and purposes a catalogue of individual pieces of jewellery acquired by the queen in question, describing their origins, their provenance and the changes made to them.
Altogether there are some 74 pieces of jewellery included in the book, among them eleven tiaras and several necklaces, brooches, earrings, bracelets, pendants, rings and other items. There are three entries for Queen Adelaide, eight for Queen Victoria, six for Queen Alexandra, 29 for Queen Mary, fourteen for the late Queen Elizabeth and fourteen for Queen Elizabeth II, reflecting that much of the jewels worn by the current Queen have been acquired during the past three generations.
The book is very richly illustrated. All the items are shown in full, but for many there are also detailed close-ups, and for most of them there are also historical photos of the jewels being worn (sometimes the captions does not say when and where, which is a minus).
Along the way, some mysteries are solved and some misunderstandings corrected, making this the definite account of the British royal diamonds. However, while reading the book I occasionally wished for more details. For instance, the footnote saying that one of the tiaras most frequently worn by Queen Alexandra was inherited by Princess Victoria and then “disposed of” begs the questions how, when and perhaps why. Sometimes a subtle difference in wording also seems to suggest what might have been spelt out. For instance, the phrase “was loaned” seems to suggest an occasional loan, while the phrase “has been loaned” appears to indicate a permanent loan.
Perhaps one might also wish for more on each queen’s use of jewels, for instance how they used their jewellery for ceremonial purposes and for the enhancement and staging of the monarchy and themselves. For instance one may note that the current Queen has worn the so-called Diamond Diadem on her arrival to every State Opening of Parliament, but apparently this was not the case with her predecessors (her mother and grandmother wore private tiaras or their coronation crowns without arches). Roberts claims that the diadem has been worn by all the queens treated in the book and notes that it was slightly altered in 1937 for George VI’s consort. But apparently there is no record of Queen Elizabeth actually having worn it, which makes one wonder what may be the reasons for this.
This being an “official” publication means that some potentially interesting issues are passed over, probably out of discretion. For instance, Roberts writes that Queen Adelaide dutifully handed over what was considered crown heirlooms to Queen Victoria within days of William IV’s death and we know from James Pope-Hennessy’s official biography of Queen Mary that it caused some tensions when Queen Alexandra after the death of Edward VII insisted on retaining some of the jewels which should by right have been handed over to the new Queen. In Roberts’s book one notes that some of these crown heirlooms, which should have passed to Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, were apparently retained by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for a full fifty years until her own death. No point is made out of this, but one may wonder if this was by special arrangement or if the new Queen simply did not care (or thought she already had access to enough jewellery as it was).
Nevertheless, this is a well-researched and beautifully illustrated account of the diamonds in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II and the book will by its sheer existence be an inescapable work of reference for anyone with an interest in the history of royal jewels.