Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Dag Terje Andersen new Speaker of Parliament

The Norwegian Labour Party’s parliamentary group today decided that Dag Terje Andersen, at present Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, will be the new Speaker of Parliament. He will be elected by the new Parliament when it constitutes itself on 8 October. Andersen will succeed Thorbjørn Jagland, who did not run for re-election, but who was elected Secretary-General of the Council of Europe yesterday.
As Labour is the biggest party in Parliament the position as Speaker of Parliament, second in rank only to the King, is filled by a Labour politician. They will also have one other seat in the Presidium and today nominated Marit Nybakk, one of the longest-serving MPs, to be one of the five Vice-Speakers.
Labour’s parliamentary group also decided that Helga Pedersen will be the party’s parliamentary leader. Pedersen is currently Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs as well as Deputy Leader of the party and was elected to Parliament for the first time this autumn.
As the Constitution stipulates that one cannot sit in Parliament and be a member of the government at the same time, both Andersen and Pedersen will have to resign from the government before taking up their new positions in Parliament. This will probably happen at the State Council due to be held at the Royal Palace on Friday. As a major cabinet reshuffle is expected after the presentation of the fiscal budget on 13 October the two ministers will probably not be immediately replaced.

Labour’s press announcement:

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Thorbjørn Jagland to lead the Council of Europe

The Norwegian politician Thorbjørn Jagland was today elected Secretary-General of the Council of Europe by its parliamentary assembly, winning 165 votes out of a total of 245. The other candidate was Poland’s former Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, who won 80 votes.
Jagland, whose term as Speaker of the Norwegian Parliament expires tomorrow, was Prime Minister of Norway 1996-1997 and Foreign Minister 2000-2001, as well as leader of the Labour Party 1992-2002.
While earlier secretaries-general have come from the ranks of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly it was now a clearly stated wish that the new one should have been prime minister or foreign minister in order to give the Council more weight. This displeased some of the assembly’s members to the extent that they postponed the election, which was to be held in June, to the end of September, apparently hoping that other candidates might emerge. This did however not happen, leaving them with the choice between two candidates who had both been prime minister as well as foreign minister.

Monday, 28 September 2009

President Obama to visit Denmark on Friday

The White House today announced that US President Barack Obama will make a brief visit to Copenhagen on Friday in order to promote his hometown Chicago at the IOC Congress. Chicago is one of the four cities which hopes to be awarded the Olympic Games in 2016, the others being Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo. The King and Queen of Spain, the Crown Prince of Japan and that country’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil will also come to Copenhagen to promote their countries’ candidates.
President Obama will spend five hours in Denmark, which only gives him time to meet the Queen and Prince Consort at Christiansborg Palace after the IOC Congress, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. The President will be accompanied by his wife Michelle, who arrives in Denmark already on Wednesday. Obama will be the third American President to visit Denmark, following Bill Clinton in 1997 and George W. Bush in 2005.
The IOC Congress is also expected to elect Crown Prince Frederik a member of the Committee.

Merkel continues, but in a new coalition

The results from yesterday’s election to the German Federal Parliament show that Chancellor Angela Merkel will be able to remain in office, but with a new coalition partner. For the past four years her conservative Christian Democratic party CDU and its twin CSU have been in a so-called “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats SPD. While CDU/CSU did not do particularly well in the election, SPD ended up with its worst result since the foundation of the Federal Republic sixty years ago, losing 1/3 of its voters since 2005 – most of them to the break-away party the Left and some to the Greens.
The liberal right-wing Free Democrats (FDP), Merkel’s preferred coalition partner, did very well in the election, meaning that CDU/CSU is now able to form a coalition government with FDP. Such a coalition will undoubtedly take Germany to the right. The German election results and Labour’s expected defeat in the next British general election may also signify the end of the so-called “Third Way” experiment which Tony Blair in Britain and Gerhard Schröder in Germany led their Social Democratic parties into.
The photo shows the Parliament building in Berlin last autumn.

The Guardian reports:

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Lost treasures: Bonde Mansion, Stockholm

Bonde Mansion at Rosenbad was, at least seen from the outside, one of the grandest patrician mansions in Stockholm. Situated at Strömgatan, overlooking the water (second photo), it would lead one’s thoughts towards St Petersburg and the Russian neoclassicism.
It was built on the orders of Count Carl Bonde, Marshal of the Realm, who himself made a rough sketch of his own ideas for his new town residence after the older, 17th-century Bonde Mansion had been sold to the city of Stockholm to serve as court house. The new mansion did, however, turn out quite differently from the Count’s sketch. Work began in 1789, but war and financial restraints meant that it was not completed until 1798, by which time Count Bonde had been dead for seven years.
The name of the architect is disputed. It is mostly attributed to the architect Erik Palmstedt (1741-1803), but the master bricklayer Johan Henrik Walmstedt later claimed authorship of the drawings. A member of the Bonde family itself has attributed it to Palmstedt, whose son also included it in his list of his father’s works.
It was a long, rectangular three-storey building with a rather simple façade. What made it stand out was its impressive temple front, which rose to a fourth storey with a triangular pediment carried by six columns of the Ionic order.
The problem when building Bonde Mansion was to adapt it to the adjacent Hildebrand House. To give it a unified façade towards the water and create the appearance that the palace covered the entire block, one side of Hildebrand House was incorporated into the mansion’s main façade (as seen clearly in photos 1 and 2). This meant that the mansion’s columned portico was placed in the middle of the block, but actually well to the left of the mansion’s actual centre. Another problem was that Hildebrand House was one storey higher, something the architect tried to hide by a mansard roof. It has been speculated that there might have been financial reasons for this and that one had hoped to be able to add another storey to Bonde Mansion when it could be afforded.
Bonde Mansion in many ways resembled Giacomo Quarenghi’s Ekaterina Institute in St Petersburg, which had a rather similar location by the Fontanka and a very similar façade with a raised centre section. However, this cannot have inspired the Bonde Mansion’s architect as the Ekaterina Institute was built only in 1804-1807.
Sadly Bonde Mansion had been badly built and with the passing of the years it started to sink, which led to cracks all over, a situation which was made worse when buildings nearby were demolished at the end of the 19th century. In the end Count Carl Carlsson Bonde received an offer he could not refuse from the Nordic Credit Bank, which bought the mansion and had it demolished in 1899. In its place came Ferdinand Boberg’s art-nouveau building Rosenbad (second photo), a complex which included a restaurant, a hotel and offices and today serves as Sweden’s main government building and seat of the Prime Minister. On its corner Strömgatan/Drottninggatan there is a stone relief by Joseph Anton Schmid depicting Bonde Mansion in a somewhat idealised manner (first photo). A photo of what it really looked like may be found at (external link).

Friday, 25 September 2009

New books: Maria I, “mad” Queen of Portugal

At the end of July Templeton Press, a small publishing house in Chippenham, released the book The Madness of Queen Maria: The Remarkable Life of Maria I of Portugal by Jenifer Roberts.
Despite the book’s title the author argues that Queen Maria I was more than just the mad Queen of Portugal and that history has treated her unkindly. In the book’s introduction she points to “the 18th-century battle between church and state, between the old superstitions and the age of reason” as contradictions which Queen Maria embodied. “Pulled by her instincts towards the old religion, she understood at least some aspects of the Enlightenment and took a humanitarian approach to state affairs. A weak and fragile woman, she was unsuited for monarchy and the struggle for power between church and state helped to destroy her”.
This seems like an interesting approach to Queen Maria’s story, but the author fails to follow that thread. Instead she shies away from all politics, except the ups and downs in the Portuguese royal family’s relationship with the Marquis of Pombal. What she offers is rather a personal history of the life of this unfortunate sovereign.
Maria I came to the throne in 1777, as the first female sovereign of Portugal. As she was forbidden by law to marry a foreigner, she was married off to her uncle (later their eldest son was married off to his own aunt, twice his age, before he had reached puberty). Maria’s uncle/husband became King Consort under the name Pedro III, but it was clearly she who was the monarch and King Pedro had to play second fiddle.
In 1786 King Pedro died and two years later Queen Maria suffered the loss of another uncle, two of her three surviving children, a newborn grandchild, her son-in-law and her confessor, who was important to her, within a few months of each other. This apparently pushed her towards the brink and, in 1792, over it. She thought herself to be in hell and believed the devil had gotten inside her. What was then considered simply “madness” is by Jenifer Roberts described as “a rare and particularly severe form of bi-polar disease”.
Queen Maria’s mental agony would last the rest of her life, which ended only in 1816, when she died, aged 81, in Brazil, to where the Portuguese royal family had fled the events of the Napoleonic Wars in 1807. After 24 years with a mother believing herself to be in hell, her heir, João VI, postponed his enthronement ceremony for nearly two years, until he was certain his mother had left purgatory, something the priests could at first not quite agree about.
The book is well written and draws on both British and Portuguese sources, but gives a rather isolated view of Queen Maria, detached from the events of her time. The author apparently got “attracted” to the topic of this book through her earlier book about the Englishman William Stevens’ glass factory at Marinha Grande. For her previous book, Roberts failed to find an account of the Queen’s visit to the factory in 1788, but now she has found it and spends an entire chapter of nine pages as well as an appendix of fourteen pages on it. In a book of only 180 pages this is too much – a visit from a queen may be a chapter of its own in the history of a factory, but in the life of a monarch the visit to a factory is not a chapter of its own.

At the road’s end: Ada Madssen (1917-2009), sculptor

The Norwegian sculptor Ada Madssen died on Tuesday, aged 92. She was born on 9 February 1917 and was best known for her statue of Queen Maud, which was unveiled outside the Royal Palace in 1959. Four years ago a bronze copy of the statue was erected outside the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence in Queen Maud’s hometown London.

At the road’s end: Ertuğrul Osman (1912-2009), heir to the Ottoman Empire

Ertuğrul Osman, the 97-year-old head of the former imperial house of Osman, which ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1299 to 1922, died in a hospital in Istanbul on Wednesday. A grandson of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the former prince was born on 18 August 1912. He succeeded as head of the Ottoman dynasty when he became its eldest male member in 1994 and was at the time of his death the last member of the imperial dynasty to be born under the monarchy.
Having lived in a flat above a New York restaurant for decades, he was allowed to return to Turkey in August 1992 and was granted Turkish citizenship in 2004. During his first visit to Turkey he opted to take part in a guided tour of the Dolmabahce Palace, not wanting to make a fuss. He had no illusions about an Ottoman restoration. “I’m a very practical person. Democracy works well in Turkey”, he told The New York Times three years ago.
He is survived by his second wife Zeynep, a niece of King Amanullah of Afghanistan.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Norwegian State Visit to South Africa in November

It has now been confirmed by the Royal Court that the King and Queen of Norway will pay a State Visit to South Africa this autumn (as I mentioned in April). The visit will take place between 24 and 26 November. The King and Queen last paid a State Visit to South Africa in 1998, when they were received by President Nelson Mandela. This time their host will be President Jacob Zuma, who was sworn in on 9 May following the ANC’s election victory in April. The Royal Court’s press annoucement:

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

New books: Herman Lindqvist on Carl XIV Johan

Among this autumn’s royal biographies is the well-known Swedish journalist Herman Lindqvist’s Jean Bernadotte – Mannen vi valde (“Jean Bernadotte: The Man We Elected”), published by Albert Bonniers förlag on 8 September. This is Lindqvist’s fiftieth book and his 51st can be expected already in November – it will be a book about Crown Princess Victoria, called Victoria – Drottning med tiden (“Victoria: Queen Some Day”).
Jean Bernadotte deals with the life of the future King Carl XIV Johan until the 1814 campaigns against France and Norway, followed by a brief summary dealing with his ascension to the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1818 and his daily life until 1823, but hardly a word is said about his reign.
There are at least 30 biographies and many other books already written about King Carl Johan and one may wonder what the hyper-productive Lindqvist’s motivation for writing another one is. In an interview in the latest issue of the magazine Queen (no 6 – 2009) he explains that he thought no other author had “really understood who he was”. Having read the book, I can say that Lindqvist certainly comes no nearer than earlier biographers.
The people in Lindqvist’s books tend to be portrayed in an often quite flat, one-dimensional way, occasionally reducing them almost to caricatures. In this biography Lindqvist stresses how different Bernadotte always was from everyone else – he was taller than average, spoke French with a Béarnaise accent, he had a great temper etc. His temper was legendary and has often been referred to, while I would say his background was not much different from many of his contemporaries who rose from simple origins to become ministers and marshals in the Napoleonic age. Napoléon himself could serve as one example; the two rivals were probably more alike than any of them were comfortable acknowledging.
Another reason for writing a new biography of Carl XIV Johan could be if one had discovered unknown material. Lindqvist claims he has done “a lot” of research in the Bernadotte Family Archives, but obviously he has not been able to come up with much new. In fact I can find only one new piece of information in this book’s 455 pages: the author has come across a letter Bernadotte, when French Ambassador in Vienna, wrote to the Austrian Foreign Minister informing him that he intended to display a French flag outside the Embassy – an act which led to serious riots.
What Lindqvist considers his first great “discovery” is that Bernadotte was not actually named Jean-Baptiste but just Jean, but that he was called Jean-Baptiste to draw a distinction between him and his elder brother, who was also named Jean and was called Jean-Évangeliste. This is a well-known fact which should come as no surprise to anyone. Indeed it was first revealed 120 years ago by Fredrik Ulrik Wrangel in his book Från Jean Bernadottes ungdom, which is also listed among Lindqvist’s sources.
In an advance article in the history magazine Populär Historia (no 9 – 2009) Lindqvist announced that he had discovered a file of papers in the Bernadotte Archives showing that Bernadotte, when a general, had dreamed of and planned an expedition to India. This is in fact mentioned several times in the first volume of Torvald T:son Höjer’s official biography of King Carl Johan, published seventy years ago.
Lindqvist’s books are written in a very narrative way and mostly in an engaging manner, which make them easy to read and is probably much of the reason for his success as a bestselling author. However, this means that he rarely stops to discuss with himself or the reader. This becomes problematic as there are several episodes in the life of Carl XIV Johan where there are conflicting versions about what actually happened. It may seem that Lindqvist often just picks the best one. He also avoids some of the biggest and perhaps most difficult questions. One such is the question if Bernadotte, who changed sides, went against France and played an important part in Napoléon’s downfall by giving his enemies the key to the Emperor’s military strategy, could be said to have betrayed France. Lindqvist does not even touch on it.
On the other hand Herman Lindqvist does not abstain from making a good story better. For instance he tells how the fifteen-year-old Juliette de Récamier married a much older man, who “many years later” turned out to be her biological father. This was most likely not such a surprise; the accepted version is that Monsieur Récamier entered into a platonic marriage with his illegitimate daughter to make her his heir when he feared he would be executed.
This book is sadly polluted by Herman Lindqvist’s trademark sloppiness when it comes to historical facts. Names and titles are a mess throughout the book: Napoléon’s father was not named Carlos, but Carlo; Pauline Bonaparte was not Princess OF Borghese; Bernadotte’s wife spelt her name Désirée, not Desirée; he mixes the titles “prins” and “furste” constantly; Pauline Bonaparte’s first husband was named Victor Leclerc, not Charles Leclerc; George III was not Prince, but Elector of Hanover; a viceroy and a governor is not the same thing; in 1805 Davout held the rank of Marshal, not General; Elisa Bonaparte was Princess, not Grand Duchess, of Lucca; Archduke Karl of Austria is suddenly demoted to being a mere duke; Frederik VI of Denmark did not have a son named Fredrik Christian – in fact he had no son at all; Pontecorvo was a principality rather than a duchy; Murat was not both Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves and King of Naples at the same time; Napoléon’s elder brother was not titled “José Primero Buonaparte” when King of Spain (when did kings start to use surnames, and if so, why an Italian surname in Spain?); the man who was elected King of Norway in 1814 was Prince of Denmark, not of Oldenburg; the Norwegian Constituent Assembly in the spring of 1814 was not called a “storting”, this term only applies from the first extraordinary parliament which convened in the autumn; the Norwegians in 1814 did not insist on calling Carl XIII “Karl II”; the Duchy given to Denmark by the Congress of Vienna was called Lauenburg, not Lünenburg; Queen Désirée was the paternal, not maternal, grandmother of Oscar II; and so on.
Dates and years also seem to be a problem for Herman Lindqvist. The Battle of Waterloo took place on 18, not 19, June 1815; Franz II/I assumed the title Emperor of Austria already in 1804, not when the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806; 14 March is not the day before 15 April; Carlos IV of Spain was deposed in 1808, not 1809; 1794-1809 makes fifteen years, not fourteen; and in 1814 it was not 24 years since Louis XVI was toppled. One also wonders how Louis Bonaparte could have brought his wife to Italy in 1797 when he married only in 1802.
Lindqvist finds it hard to agree with himself – on one page Bernadotte’s income from the Principality of Pontecorvo is said to be quite good, on another page it was low; one place it is (correctly) said that Britain attacked Copenhagen in 1807, a hundred pages later we learn that it was Napoléon (!) who did so; the Treaty of Kiel was signed on 14 January 1814 on page 386, on 15 January thirteen pages later; and we learn that Carl Johan was the last of the allies to arrive in Paris in 1814, yet the Austrian Emperor arrives three days later on the following page.
But there are graver mistakes than these. For example he states that Bernadotte was elected Crown Prince by the four estates of Sweden, in contrast to Napoléon and his brothers, who, according to Lindqvist, “had become regents through the use of violence”. The fact is that Napoléon was elected Emperor by the French Senate, an election which was approved by an overwhelming majority in a plebiscite. But Lindqvist also seems confused as to what the estates of Sweden actually did. The election of Bernadotte did of course not mean that Carl XIII “should abdicate his throne to a stranger” – he remained king until his death. And it was when he was elected by the estates, not when he was adopted by Carl XIII, that Bernadotte became heir to the throne – the adoption was a mark of goodwill from the King, but held no constitutional significance.
Herman Lindqvist’s version of the events in Norway in 1814 is highly dubious and full of mistakes, and particularly his portrayal of King Christian Frederik shows that Lindqvist is unfamiliar with modern historiography – unless he simply chooses to ignore it to present Carl Johan and Sweden in a more glorious light. It could be pointed out that there is no evidence whatsoever to support Lindqvist’s claim that Frederik VI “naturally supported everything Kristian Fredrik [sic] now did” and that Denmark by the Treaty of Kiel ceded Norway not to Sweden, but to the King of Sweden, which is a significant difference. Lindqvist also gives the wrong number of inhabitants in Christiania in 1814 and his attempts at spelling in Norwegian are full of mistakes – the words “our king” are for instance not “vores kung” in Norwegian.
Despite, or maybe because of the fact that he has spent only a few of his so far 66 years in Sweden, Lindqvist has a grandly patriotic, almost national chauvinistic, approach to the history of Sweden – what used to be called “storsvensk” in Norway. As such it does not suit him that Norway and Sweden between 1814 and 1905 were two independent states in a personal union based on the principle of absolute equality.
In order to convince the reader that Norway was really a Swedish province, Lindqvist pompously tells us: “It was Sweden which had a governor general in Kristiania, not Norway in Stockholm”. This is rubbish. The governor general, who presided over the Norwegian cabinet when the King was not in residence in Christiania, was not a representative of Sweden, but of the King – i.e. the King of Norway, who happened also to be King of Sweden. He was a Norwegian official who was paid by the Norwegian state and who could be impeached by the Norwegian Parliament. He could be either Swedish or Norwegian, but it remains a fact that during the 59 years the position existed, it was held by Swedes for fifteen years, by Norwegians for nineteen and left vacant for twenty-six.
If one should read only one book about King Carl XIV Johan, it should certainly not be this one.

Frederik VII’s secret son revealed

A Danish friend has made me aware that Jyllands-Posten on Sunday had an article about an upcoming book of memoirs by an elderly lady called Gete Bondo Oldenborg Maaløe. In the book, which has the odd title Getes erindringer – Slægtshistorie, erindringer og beretning om et jævnt og (for det meste) muntert, (altid) virksomt liv (“Gete’s Memoirs: Family History, Memoirs and a Tale of an Even and (Mostly) Merry, (Always) Active Life”), Maaløe documents that King Frederik VII of Denmark was her great-grandfather.
Frederik VII, who died in 1863, was the last of the Oldenburg dynasty, which reigned over Denmark for more than 400 years. It has until now been believed that he was unable to beget children as he were married three times without begetting an heir and no illegitimate children have been known.
Mrs Maaløe says that her great-grandmother Elsa Maria Guldberg Poulsen probably met the Crown Prince in Copenhagen, but that the actual circumstances are unknown to her. The relationship resulted in a child who was given the Crown Prince’s full name, Frederik Carl Christian, and his mother’s surname. She quotes one of four letters in her possession from the Crown Prince to Miss Poulsen: “My own good Maria! Please accept my thanks for the son you have given me [...]. I look forward to giving him a father’s kiss when I come to Copenhagen. [...] Let me now see that you take good care of the lad, so that he will come to resemble his father and I can see my counterfeit in him. [...]”.
Maaløe adds that Frederik VII had intended to make his illegitimate son his private secretary, but died before he had completed his education. The King’s morganatic wife, Countess Danner, did however stay in touch with him and provided for him in her will.
Given that the letters are genuine and that Miss Poulsen did not have other relationships at the same time, this proves that Frederik VII was indeed capable of having children and that other explanations for the end of the Oldenburg dynasty must therefore be sought.
The story is mentioned in passing in Jan Møller’s biography Frederik 7. – En kongeskæbne (1994), where the author states that Marie Poulsen, as he calls her, was a servant at Christiansborg Palace and that the relationship was apparently a short-lived one. He gives the boy’s date of birth as 21 November 1843.
(The picture is a detail of Vilhelm Gerntner’s 1861 portrait of Frederik VII, which hangs at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen).

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

What to see: Palais Caprara-Geymüller, Vienna

Palais Caprara-Geymüller is a Baroque mansion located at 8 Wallnerstrasse, in an area of Vienna which is close to the Hofburg and filled with noble and princely mansions. This house was built by an unknown Italian architect in 1698 and at one stage it belonged to the princely family of Liechtenstein.
It came to play a dramatic part in the history of the Bernadotte dynasty when the army contractor Wimmer in 1798 rented it out, for an astronomic amount of money, to the French state to serve as its embassy after diplomatic relations between France and Austria had been restored by the peace of Campo Formio. General Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was appointed French Ambassador in Vienna, although the Austrians would have preferred a more low-key representation, meaning a diplomat with a lower rank than that of Ambassador.
Bernadotte’s diplomatic career in Vienna was a short one – a mere 66 days. The representatives of revolutionary France had difficulties being accepted by the Viennese and it all culminated when the Ambassador ordered a sign to be put up outside the gate stating that this was the French Embassy. While waiting for the sign to arrive he on 13 April put up a French flag with the text “The French Republic’s Embassy in Vienna”. Back then it was not common for embassies to display their flags and the sight of a Tricolour in Marie-Antoinette’s hometown was a red rag to the Viennese.
Serious riots followed, with a mob attacking the Embassy, Bernadotte haranguing the crowds on the street and the mob eventually forcing their way into the Embassy and smashing everything they could get their hands on. Despite repeated pleas from the Ambassador it was five hours before the Austrian authorities intervened and dispersed the mob.
Bernadotte considered the riots the result of a conspiracy against France by the Austrian Foreign Minister Franz von Thugut and the ambassadors of Britain and Russia, but there is no evidence to support such a claim. The Austrians on their part thought France had deliberately provoked the riots to use them as an excuse for declaring war on Austria. The result was that Ambassador Bernadotte left Vienna in a fury, but after a period of tension war between the two countries were averted.
Although this was the end of Bernadotte’s short diplomatic career it meant that he now appeared on the stage of great politics. And it was also the first time he came into close contact with a Swede, namely that distant kingdom’s chargé d’affaires, Fredrik Samuel Silfverstolpe. Bernadotte was to return to Vienna only once, as a Marshal of the French Empire following the Battle of Wagram in 1809. The following year he was elected Crown Prince of Sweden and soon he would join forces with, among others, Austria to defeat France. He did not attend the Congress of Vienna in person, rather sending the diplomat Carl Löwenhielm.
Today the former French Embassy apparently serves as an office building.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Another Bernadotte engagement

On Tuesday Mainau Palace announced the engagement of Count Christian Bernadotte af Wisborg to his girlfriend of two years, Christine Stoltmann, a 31-year-old nurse. They became engaged on 12 August during their summer holiday in Sweden and will wed next summer.
Count Christian, who has studied philosophy and sociology at the University of Constance, is the youngest son of the second marriage of the late former Prince Lennart of Sweden, and as such is a great-grandson of King Gustaf V of Sweden and a great-great-grandson of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.[tt_news]=32&tx_ttnews[backPid]=4&cHash=e60b7d3b06

More on the Bernadotte bicentenary

As mentioned before the 200th anniversary of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte’s election to Crown Prince of Sweden in August 1810 will be celebrated in many ways next year. On the date of the election, 21 August, there will be celebrations in Örebro, where the meeting of the estates which elected Bernadotte was held. It is hoped that the King and Queen of Sweden will attend.
There will also be many exhibitions linked to the bicentenary. The highlight will be the gigantic exhibition “Härskarkonst” about Carl XIV Johan, Alexander I and Napoléon I at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm, showing some 400 works of art. The dates for the exhibition are 29 September 2010-9 January 2011. Thereafter the exhibition will travel to the State Hermitage in St Petersburg.
In Stockholm there will also be an exhibition at the Royal Palace, titled “Hemma på slottet”, which will deal with the family life of King Carl Johan. The preliminary dates for this exhibition are 1 October 2010-27 February 2011.
The Nordic Museum in Stockholm will show an exhibition on how Carl XIV Johan was presented by his people in popular artworks. This exhibition will open on 1 June 2010 and close on 30 September the same year.
Back in Örebro, Örebro County Museum will arrange the exhibition “Bernadotte och Örebro”, dealing with the events of 1810, on show from 15 May and throughout the year. Between 1 June and 30 September the same museum will also have the exhibition “Design Bernadotte” about the design work of Sigvard Bernadotte and Prince Carl Philip.
At Stjernsund Palace outside Askersund, a palace which belonged to King Carl Johan, there will be an exhibition called “Spåren av Karl XIV Johan”, showing the traces of the King’s ownership, while the adjacent “Prince’s Pavilion”, which is not normally included in the guided tours, will be opened to show its interiors in Empire style, which in Sweden is known as “the Karl Johan style”.
There will also be events in Pau, where the future King was born in 1763, and in Oslo, the capital of his other kingdom. In Paris the Swedish House of Culture will do an exhibition on his great-great-great-grandson Sigvard Bernadotte’s design.
When opening Parliament on Tuesday, King Carl XVI Gustaf said: “Next year will [...] be a memorable year. 200 years will have passed since the French Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected Crown Prince of Sweden. And the present heir to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, intends to enter into marriage with Mr Daniel Westling next year. 2010 will be a year to remember – particularly in my family”. Coincidentally Tuesday was not only the 36th anniversary of the King’s accession to the throne, but also the 36th birthday of Daniel Westling.
His and the Crown Princess’s wedding will take place in Stockholm’s Cathedral on 19 June, while the wedding of Princess Madeleine and her fiancé Jonas Bergström is expected to take place at the end of the year (or in early 2011), so it will be a hectic year for the Bernadottes.
TV4 recently announced that their documentary series on the Bernadotte dynasty, made by Gregor Nowinski, will be broadcast in six parts starting in April 2010. The series will begin with the Crown Princess and her fiancé and then travel backwards in time through the dynasty’s 200 years.
The photo above shows Brynjulf Bergslien’s equestrian statue of King Carl Johan outside Oslo’s Royal Palace on a December afternoon.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Who will succeed Jagland as Speaker of Parliament?

Following Monday’s general election speculations are already rife about what changes the coming reshuffle will bring to the government. But it should not be forgotten that there are also several posts in Parliament which must be filled, including leaders of the standing committees and leaders of party groups of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party (the Centre Party was first out when they yesterday chose Trygve M. Slagsvold Vedum, deputy leader of the party).
The positions of Speaker and Vice-Speakers of Parliament must also be filled. The new Parliament will convene on 1 October and be officially opened by the King on 9 October. The day before the State Opening the new Presidium will be elected. The current Speaker, Thorbjørn Jagland (second photo), declined to be renominated in order to be a candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and the five other members of the Presidium were also not candidates for re-election to Parliament.
The position as Speaker of Parliament is the second highest rank in Norway, junior only to the King and senior to the Prime Minister. The position has traditionally been seen as mostly representative, but Jagland has chosen a more active role during the last four years.
Traditionally the Speaker has mostly come from the largest party in Parliament, which since 1927 has been the Labour Party. With the government having won a renewed majority, it will almost certainly again be a Labour MP who will take the Speaker’s chair this autumn. In my view there are two Labour MPs who are likely candidates – Marit Nybakk and Svein Roald Hansen.
Marit Nybakk (first photo) is one of the longest-serving MPs, having taken her seat for the county of Oslo in 1986. She has earlier been leader of the Standing Committee on Defence, but in the past four years has been only second deputy leader of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Her long service and the fact that she has never received a government post might be reasons to reward this hard-working MP with the speakership. It could also be time for a second female Speaker. Alternatively, Nybakk may wish to become leader of the Foreign Committee, a position which is now available as the current leader, Olav Akselsen, left Parliament at the election.
Svein Roald Hansen has been an MP for the county of Østfold since 2001. During the last four-year term Hansen was a member of the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs and he may be seen as a less controversial choice than Nybakk. Both Nybakk and Hansen have often filled in as acting speakers in the absence of the actual Speaker.
Alternatively a minister from the present government could resign from the cabinet to become Speaker of Parliament, but this seems less likely. The speakership is often considered a sinecure for politicians approaching the end of their careers and none of the current ministers who have seats in Parliament seem to consider themselves on the way out of politics in the near future. Dag Terje Andersen, the Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, is expected to leave the government at the reshuffle and has been tipped for a position in Parliament – leader of Labour’s parliamentary group or leader of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs have been suggested, but the speakership may also be a possibility.
Meanwhile, Ola Borten Moe, an MP from the Centre Party, recently suggested that the next Speaker of Parliament should be selected from one of the three parties in the political centre, i.e. his own party, the Liberal Party or the Christian Democrat Party, but this seems quite unlikely, particularly after the election weakened the centre significantly, leaving it with only 23 seats altogether.
The introduction of a unicameral system on 1 October means that Parliament’s new presidium will be made up in a different way than earlier. For 195 years there has been a speaker and a vice-speaker of Parliament as well as of the two divisions the Lagting and the Odelsting. The Presidium will continue to have six members – one speaker and five vice-speakers. Whereas the Speaker and the Vice-Speaker have until now presided every second month, the Speaker will in the future preside permanently, to be replaced by one of the five vice-speakers when he/she is unable to attend.
Given Monday’s election results, the Labour Party will get two seats in the Presidium, while the first Vice-Speaker will come from the Progress Party (the biggest opposition party) and the second from the Conservative Party (most likely Per-Kristian Foss). The Socialist Left Party and the marginally smaller Centre Party will get one seat each in the Presidium. My guess would be Per Olaf Lundteigen from the Centre Party, while the Socialist Left Party’s candidate is more open, as most of that party’s “veterans” left Parliament at the election.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Election victory for Norway’s government

The results from Norway’s general election on Monday show victory for the three parties of the government – they won 86 out of 169 seats in parliament, leaving 83 seats to the opposition. It is the first time since 1993 that a government is not defeated in a general election in this country. All in all, the three parties went back only 0.2 %, which is quite unique in a European government context these days.
It was the biggest party, the Labour Party, which carried the day for the government. Its share of the votes rose by 2.7 % to 35.4 %, giving them 64 seats in Parliament, which is up 3 from the 2005 election. The Socialist Left Party did not do very well this time, and went down (2.6 %) almost exactly as much as the Labour Party went up, ending with 6.2 % of the votes and 11 seats in parliament (down 4). This means that the Socialist Left Party is now exactly the same size as the Centre Party, the third government party, which also won 6.2 % (down 0.3 %) and retained its 11 seats in Parliament. This means that the three parties will now agree on a new government platform and that the ministries will probably be redistributed between the three parties in an upcoming cabinet reshuffle. During the past four years the Socialist Left Party, being bigger, has had one minister more than the Centre Party, but now that they are exactly the same size, this will almost certainly change, unless the Centre Party is compensated by getting a “heavier” ministry.
On the right wing the Progress Party remained the biggest opposition party and with 22.9 % got its best result ever. Yet this was up only 0.9 % from the 2005 election, which was far from the results opinion polls until recently had suggested might be possible. Anyway, this gives the Progress Party 41 seats in Parliament, but their dream of taking part in a government was crushed for another four years.
The Conservative Party celebrated as if they had won the election and was indeed the party which gained most votes – up by 3.1 % to 17.2 % and 30 MPs (up by 7). Yet this is only a “victory” because their result four years ago was the worst in the history of a party which was over 20 % in 2001 and over 30 % in the 1980s.
In general the election results show that the three larger parties, which each had a candidate for the premiership, did quite well, while the small parties were squeezed. The Christian Democrats did their worst election ever, going down by 1.2 % to 5.5 %, which means that they lose 1 MP and get 10 seats in Parliament. This was the party which had the Prime Minister 1997-2000 and 2001-2005.
The heaviest defeat was accorded to the Liberal Party, the country’s oldest party. They received only 3.9 % of the votes, which is down 2 % from 2005 and which means that they lose 8 of their 10 seats in Parliament. The party leader, Lars Sponheim, himself lost his seat in Parliament. Flabbergasted by this unforeseen outcome he immediately announced his resignation as leader of the party, later pointing to Trine Skei Grande, one of the party’s deputy leader and now one of its two MPs, as his preferred successor.
The collapse of the Liberal Party and the defeat of the high-profile, colourful Sponheim was perhaps the greatest surprise of the election night. Sponheim had played a risky game during the campaign, issuing guarantees that his party would not take part in a government with the Progress Party, would not vote for a fiscal budget from a government which the Progress Party was part of, would not support a government which allowed petroleum activity in Lofoten and Vesterålen, would prefer a Labour government to a government in which the Progress Party participated, but would not support a Labour government if they continued in a coalition with the Socialist Left Party. All these negative, unconstructive guarantees were probably the main reason for his downfall – the exit polls show that thousands of former Liberal voters deserted to the Conservative Party, obviously realising that a vote for the Conservatives would be the safest way to get a non-socialist government. Sponheim played a high game and he lost it.
This leaves the right wing in an even greater chaos than before. But for the country the outcome is in my opinion a good one. The current government has done a good job over the last four years and will not get four more years to carry on their work.
The photo above shows the leaders of the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party, Jens Stoltenberg and Kristin Halvorsen, on an earlier occasion. The speculations on what changes will occur in the cabinet are already rife, some suggesting that Kristin Halvorsen will leave the Ministry of Finance, from where it is obviously hard to profile the party she leads, and become Minister of Education instead.
Jens Stoltenberg was received by the King this morning, but, contrary to what some journalists write, the King was not going to ask him to form his third government. With this election result Stoltenberg’s second government will simply continue in office and the King will not have to act in any way.

The full election results can be found here:

Monday, 14 September 2009

What to see: Stjernsund Palace, Askersund

Stjernsund Palace, a few kilometres south of the small town Askersund in the Swedish province of Nerike, is mostly associated with the brief tenure of Prince Gustaf, but its history goes further back.
There has been a building on the spot since 1637, when Count Johan Gabrielsson Oxenstierna built a palace which later passed to his widow’s second husband’s son Gustav Soop. From Soop it passed again to his widow’s second husband’s relatives, the Dohna family, who in 1785 sold it to the wealthy landowner Olof Burén (later ennobled as Burenstam).
The new owner did away with the old palace and commissioned the architect Carl Fredrik Sundvall (1754-1831) to build him a new, modern one. The new palace was built between 1798 and 1808 and counts as one of the great works of Swedish neoclassicism. It is a simple, but imposing rectangular building, stripped of almost all external ornamentation except the imposing staircase and its portico of four Ionic columns carrying an entablature inscribed with the year of its completion. The palace’s location is wonderful – it sits on a hilltop with an elevated terrace in four levels rising from the water which surrounds it on three sides. This is where the lake Alsen meets the huge lake Vättern.
Following the death of Olof Burenstam in 1821, his daughter Eva Fredrika Hagelstam two years later sold Stjernsund to King Carl XIV Johan, who would stay there when travelling between his two capitals Stockholm and Christiania (now Oslo). Upon his death it was inherited by his only son, King Oscar I, whose second son, Prince Gustaf, came to like it very much.
In 1848 a thorough redecoration for Prince Gustaf began, but it was only in 1851 that he bought it from his father. Sadly, the prince did not have the chance to spend much time there. He only came there a few times, never staying for more than a week, before his death at 25 in 1852.
Stjernsund was then inherited by his parents, who in 1856 sold it to their youngest son, Prince August. This rather dim-witted prince soon tired of it and after four years he sold it to the landowner Knut Cassel, whose son Albert inherited it in 1895. His widow Augusta in 1948 sold the land and the forest to the University of Uppsala, but retained the palace and the park until her death in 1951. She then left it to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which opened it to the public as a museum.
The Dining Room, seen in the fifth picture, is one of the few rooms which retain Sundvall’s original décor, although the furniture and chandeliers are of a younger date. The furniture in the Drawing Room (sixth photo) is a mix of neo-Rococo and Gustavian (roughly Swedish louis-seize) pieces. The murals, showing Italian landscapes, were done by the painter F. Hagedorn for Prince Gustaf in 1848.
The next room, in photo 7, is the Ante-room, decorated in a mix of neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance. This room shows clearly what damage light exposure can do to textiles. The furniture coverings are now in a golden tone, but were originally a brownish purple, while the walls used to be yellow. A reproduction, leaning against the sofa, shows the original colours of the faded Aubusson carpet. Above the sofa are a portrait of Countess Ulrika Dohna, a former lady of the manor, and a landscape painted by King Carl XV in 1865.
Stjernsund Palace is open for guided tours in the summer and next summer there will be an exhibition relating to Carl XIV Johan to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his arrival in Sweden.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Norway votes tomorrow

Tomorrow Norway votes in a general election whose outcome is still completely open. With more than 50 out of 169 MPs not seeking re-election there will certainly be many new faces when the new parliament convenes in October, but the question which has dominated the campaign is what government we will get after the election.
When the current government, a centre-left coalition of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party, took office in 2005 it was the first majority government for twenty years. Some polls in the last few days have shown a renewed majority for the government parties, such as Dagbladet’s final poll yesterday, which gave them 89 seats in Parliament with two for the far-left wing party Red (presently not in Parliament) and only 79 seats for the opposition, while Aftenposten’s poll today predicts the narrowest possible outcome – 85 seats for the coalition, 84 for the opposition. If this holds true, the present government will remain in office and be the first government to survive an election since 1993.
Some polls have shown the opposite scenario, giving the majority to the four opposition parties – the Liberal Party, the Christian Democrats, the Conservative Party and the Progress Party. TV2’s poll last night gave the opposition 87 seats against the government parties’ 82. If so it is hard to tell what government the country will get, as the opposition has lately been very busy issuing guarantees against each other.
Siv Jensen, the leader of the populist, far right-wing Progress Party, which will by all prognoses remain the second largest in Parliament, has made it clear that she is willing to cooperate with all the three opposition parties. However, she will not support a government which her party is not part of, nor will they vote for a budget presented by such a government.
The leader of the Liberal Party, Lars Sponheim, has on the other hand issued a guarantee that his party will not support a government in which the Progress Party participates – recently he added that if he breaks this promise, he will allow voters to come home to his farm and beat him up. Sponheim has also made it clear that his party will not take part in a government which allows petroleum activity in the vulnerable northern areas Lofoten and Vesterålen. The other party most opposed to such activity is the Socialist Left Party and although Sponheim has said he rather wants the current Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg (Labour), than Siv Jensen, he has also made it clear that he will not support a government in which the Socialist Left Party participates. The same has been said by the Christian Democrats, who have also guaranteed that they will not cooperate with the Progress Party.
The leader of the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, has said her party is also willing to cooperate with all the non-socialist parties. With this scenario quite improbable, a non-socialist majority means that she will most likely have to choose between forming a government with the Progress Party or with the Christian Democrats and Liberals. The leaders of the latter parties have said that if they form a government with the Conservatives, Erna Solberg will be its prime minister. If the Conservatives and the Progress Party join forces, Siv Jensen insists that she will be prime minister as her party is bigger than the Conservative Party (although recent opinion polls have shown a somewhat narrowing gap).
The changing fortunes of Erna Solberg have been one of the most interesting aspects of this election campaign. A month ago the newspapers were full of articles about her being a failure as party leader and speculations about who would succeed her, while the media made it look as if Siv Jensen was the only alternative to Jens Stoltenberg as PM. Now it seems quite likely that a non-socialist majority in tomorrow’s election can give the premiership to Solberg, which would be one of the most amazing comebacks of Norwegian politics.
Although Jens Stoltenberg insists that a non-socialist victory will mean a non-socialist government, a third possible scenario could be that the Labour Party continues as a minority government without its coalition partners, seeking parliamentary support from issue to issue. Some have also suggested that the centre-left coalition would go on as a minority government until defeated in Parliament, but if so, Lars Sponheim has said he will call for a vote of no confidence.
Further, one cannot rule out the possibility that, faced with a non-socialist majority, some of all those guarantees will be torn up and the politicians of those parties solemnly announce that the people have spoken, the country needs a government and they will accept their responsibilities even though it involves working with parties they have earlier rejected. So in short, almost anything can be the outcome of this election.
It is no secret that I personally would prefer the current government to continue. Although it has not been able to fulfil all its promises from four years ago (what government ever did?), it has mostly done a good job and achieved many notable changes for the better. It has also steered Norway safely through the financial crisis, meaning that Norway has one of the soundest economies in Europe and an unemployment rate of only 3 % - the lowest in Europe. This may be jeopardised if the opposition comes to power, and would be almost unavoidable if the Progress Party were to get a hand on the wheel. A centre-left government will in my opinion be the safest for the future of this country and I cross my fingers that this will be the outcome of tomorrow’s election.
This weekend means the end of campaigning for the politicians and their supporters – the pictures show politicians from Labour and the Socialist Left Party campaigning in central Oslo yesterday. Tomorrow it is up to the people to decide what future they want.

At the road’s end: Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), Nobel Laureate

The American agronomist and humanitarian Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, died from cancer in Dallas yesterday, aged 95. Borlaug was considered “the father of the Green Revolution” and his discoveries are estimated to have saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having contributed to world peace through increasing food supply, particularly in Asia and Latin America.
This award may be seen as a forerunner of recent years’ awards to laureates such as Wangari Maathai, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, and Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who have received the Peace Prize for work less directly connected to wars and conflicts but rather to substainable development and thereby prevention of wars and conflicts.

Washington Post reports:

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Prince Joachim to take over as chancellor of Danish orders

The Danish Royal Court yesterday announced that the Prince Consort has asked the Queen to relieve him of his duties as Chancellor of the Royal Orders, a position he has held since 1968, the year following his marriage. In his place Queen Margrethe II has appointed their second and youngest son, Prince Joachim, who will succeed his father in the position from 1 October.
Whereas the monarch is Grand Master of the Royal Orders, the position of Chancellor has traditionally been held by another member of the royal family. Among earlier chancellors are Prince Viggo, a cousin of Christian X; Prince Harald, a brother of Christian X; and Prince Hans, younger brother of Christian IX. The Chancellor is in charge of the administrative work connected to the Order of the Elephant and the Order of Dannebrog (whose Grand Cross is seen in the photo above).

The Royal Court’s press release:

The news agency Ritzau’s article (in Berlingske Tidende):

Two new Windsors this week

Two members have been added to the non-royal branches of the Windsor dynasty this week. Today Lord Frederick Windsor, the only son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, married the actress Sophie Winkleman in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames, and on Tuesday Lord Nicholas Windsor, the youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, became the father of a second son, who has not yet been named. The cousins Lord Frederick and Lord Nicholas are great-grandsons of King George V. The Guardian reports on the wedding:

Friday, 11 September 2009

Ari Behn gets a new grandfather

The newspapers Dagbladet and Nordlys today report that the King of Norway’s son-in-law, the author Ari Behn, has got a new grandfather – or rather, a different one from what had earlier been thought.
Behn’s father, Olav Bjørshol, discovered through a DNA test last year that he man he had always considered his father, Bjarne Bjørshol, was in fact not his biological father. At the time he had no idea who his real father was. It has now been established that it is Terje Erling Ingebrigtsen, a 76-year-old living in Tromsø with his wife Helen. They have already received a visit from Olav Bjørshol and his wife Marianne Solberg Behn.
The discovery means that Ingebrigtsen is the great-grandfather of Maud Angelica, Leah Isadora and Emma Tallulah Behn, fifth, sixth and seventh in line of succession to the Norwegian throne. (The girls are described as princesses by the two newspapers, but in fact have no titles whatsoever).

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

From a bygone age: The Norwegian nobility

“A monarchy without nobility can of course impossibly exist, but was nevertheless established in Norway”, wrote the new Queen of Norway, Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta, when her husband, Carl XIII of Sweden, had been elected King of Norway in November 1814. Perhaps it was not such an unreasonable thought. As Ellis Wasson points out in his book Aristocracy and the Modern World (2006), “Monarchs needed the cooperation of a powerful aristocracy to rule effectively. There was no contradiction between a strong monarchical state and strong nobility”.
Yet, 195 years on, history has proven Queen Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta wrong. In an egalitarian country as Norway there would have been no place for an aristocracy, whose privileges would have been resented and who might have become some sort of buffer zone between the monarchy and the people.
The Norwegian Constitution which was signed on 17 May 1814 forbade the creation of new noble titles and privileges, but did not take the final step and abolish the aristocracy altogether. However, when the first ordinary Parliament met in 1815, they passed a bill to do so, which the King refused to sanction. A similar bill was passed in 1818 and again in 1821, thus becoming law even without the King’s assent.
King Carl XIV Johan, who had succeeded Carl XIII in 1818, was staunchly opposed to abolishing the nobility – he wanted to have the possibility to award deserving people with noble titles and mentioned non-hereditary titles for life as a possible compromise. He also saw a Norwegian nobility as a means to even out the differences between Norway and his other kingdom, Sweden, which had an influential aristocracy.
Naturally he also saw the aristocracy as a possible powerbase – certain nobles such as Peder Anker (of Bogstad Manor), his son-in-law Count Herman Wedel Jarlsberg (of Jarlsberg Manor) and Severin Løvenskiold (of Fossum Manor) had supported Carl Johan in the struggle for Norway in 1814. On the other hand, some, such as Carsten Anker (of Eidsvold Manor), Peder Anker’s cousin, had supported his rival, King Christian Frederik.
The King failed in convincing the Parliament of the advantages of an aristocracy and veiled threats such as assembling soldiers just outside the capital did not work. The act of Parliament of 1 August 1821 abolished the nobility in Norway, but accorded the noble titles and privileges to those born before that date for their lifetimes.
Wedel Jarlsberg and Løvenskiold were the most important noble families in Norway, but the country’s nobility was not large. Yet the kings of the House of Bernadotte were to find many of their courtiers and trusted advisors among the ranks of these noble families. As a side note, one member of a former noble family, Anniken Huitfeldt, is Minister of Children and Equality in the present government, but, as a Social Democrat, is not particularly proud of her noble background.
Peder Anker served as Norway’s first Prime Minister in the years 1814-1822, while his daughter Karen later became Mistress of the Robes and her husband, Count Herman Wedel Jarlsberg, was Minister of Finance during Anker’s premiership and later became Speaker of Parliament and Governor-General of Norway. Severin Løvenskiold was Prime Minister 1828-1841 and then succeeded Count Wedel as Governor-General in 1841, which he remained until 1856. Their mutual grandson, Carl Otto Løvenskiold (of the Bærums Verk branch), served briefly as Norwegian Prime Minister in Stockholm in 1884, while his wife (and cousin) Elise, née Wedel Jarlsberg, was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Sophia. Ida Wedel Jarlsberg was a lady-in-waiting of Queen Sophia’s.
Many other members of the former aristocracy also found employment at the court of the Bernadottes. Count Wedel’s brother, Baron Ferdinand Wedel Jarlsberg, was head of the Norwegian court 1839-1857, a position which later received the title “hoffsjef” (Lord Chamberlain). Severin Løvenskiold’s son Ernst also became Lord Chamberlain, and so did his nephew Herman Severin, Carl Otto’s brother, to name just some prominent examples.
To a certain extent this continued even after the end of the Swedish-Norwegian union in 1905. At the outbreak of World War II one would find Peder Anker Wedel Jarlsberg (heir to Jarlsberg Manor) as Marshal of the Court and Borghild Anker (of Rød Manor) as Mistress of the Robes. In 1985 King Olav V appointed Ingegjerd Løvenskiold (of the Bærums Verk branch) as Mistress of the Robes, a position she still holds even if she has been relieved of her duties since her remarriage to American millionaire Robert D. Stuart in 1995, which saw her moving to the USA. There will most likely be no successor to the position.
The members of the former nobility are scattered around the country and the globe, but some of the families have retained their manors – such as the Wedel Jarlsbergs at Jarlsberg, the Løvenskiolds at Fossum and Bærums Verk and the Treschows at Fritzøehus.
The last titled Norwegian noblemen were the brothers Count Peder Anker Wedel Jarlsberg and Baron Harald Wedel Jarlsberg. The Count died on 23 June 1893 and when the Baron died on 4 January 1897, the Norwegian aristocracy came to an end. The diplomat Frederik “Fritz” Wedel Jarlsberg used the title Baron, but as he was born as late as 1855, he had no right to do so. When asked what using such a title should be good for, he replied that it was at least very useful if one wanted to make a good marriage.

The photos show, from the top, the arms of the Wedel Jarlsberg family, Bogstad Manor, Fossum Manor and a bust of Peder Anker, ancestor of much of the land-owning former nobility.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Notable architects: Hans D. F. Linstow (1787-1851)

Hans Ditlev Franciscus (or Frants) von Linstow was one of the first architects of consequence working in Norway after independence in 1814. He is best known for the Royal Palace in Oslo, but sadly got to build little else.
Linstow was Danish by birth and came to Norway in 1812, when the country was still part of the Danish Kingdom. With the secession in 1814, Linstow decided to make Norway his new homeland and he became a member of the royal court during the short reign of King Christian Frederik before Norway entered a union with Sweden.
Linstow was an officer and a jurist by education, but had attended lectures on architecture at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen. He had been one of the founders of Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in 1818, but had little experience as an architect. On the other hand there were few architects in Norway at all.
It was apparently King Carl XIV Johan himself who chose Linstow as the architect for the Royal Palace in Christiania (as Oslo was then called). He was appointed in 1823 and the foundation stone for his grand H-shaped project with an elevated centre section (second photo) was laid by the King in 1825. When the terrain had been modified and the foundation walls built two years later, nearly all the money granted by the poor country’s Parliament had been spent and no further money was forthcoming.
Meanwhile Linstow had to make a living elsewhere, which he did partly through selling vegetables. Only after six years was more money granted and Linstow could continue with a reduced and much altered project. In 1845, when it was nearly completed, it was found to be too simple and extra funds were granted to improve it. The result was the Royal Palace as we know it (first photo), completed in 1849.
Linstow himself was not entirely satisfied with the final result, but despite its modest size its artistic quality is fully on par with other royal palaces in Europe. His architectonical inspiration has often been said to be mainly the Dane C. F. Hansen and the Prussian Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Before drawing up the plans for the Palace’s interiors he went on an educational tour of Denmark and Germany in 1836-1837, a tour which certainly left its marks on the Palace. Recently some influence from Sweden has also been pointed out.
The long and difficult process of building the Royal Palace meant that Linstow was stuck with it for 25 years and thereby not able to embark on any other grand projects. He saw many other commissions which he had wanted be given to his assistant-turned-rival Christian Heinrich Grosch, whom Linstow developed a deeply felt bitterness towards. Among the commissions “lost” to Grosch were Christiania Theater and the University – in the latter case it was Linstow who insisted that Grosch’s drawings should be sent to Schinkel in Berlin, who greatly altered and improved them.
Besides the Royal Palace Linstow’s greatest work is Karl Johans gate, the main street of the Norwegian capital. Linstow planned it as a monumental processional route leading from the Eger Square to the Palace and at approximately 2/3 of the street he planned a monumental square framed with public buildings such as university, parliament and a museum. His plan, published in 1838, was carried out only partly – Grosch’s and Schinkel’s three buildings for the University were erected on the northern side, whereas the southern side of the square and indeed the street was turned into a public park (third picture). Yet Linstow counts as the man who planned the new centre of the capital and gave it its most beloved street.
By the Palace Square Linstow had planned a small house for the King’s Guard in a style matching the Royal Palace, but a simpler, temporary building (seen in the fourth photo) eventually became permanent. The Guard House is itself a good example of Linstow’s wood architecture and counts as the country’s first building in what in Norway was called “Swiss style”, which turned out to be both popular and enduring. Linstow’s original design for a guard house was later used for a building in Park Street behind the Palace (fifth picture) – it now houses a car dealer.
Whereas he had originally planned a parliament building as part of the rectangular square including the University and other public buildings, Linstow later changed his mind and in 1841 came up with a plan for a parliament which would be situated on its own opposite the University (sixth photo). Next to it would be a building for the ministries followed by the Supreme Court’s building, which would create an axis of the three powers of state along the street leading to the Palace. The idea was rejected by the majority of the committee for a parliament building, with only Linstow voting for his own plan.
Linstow twice made suggestions for reconstructions of Oslo’s Cathedral. His second proposal, from about 1840 (seventh picture), shows a Byzantine influence, but was not carried out. Neither was his earlier, more restrained neoclassical plan. Outside the capital some 80 rural churches were built according to plans and patterns worked out by Linstow, but often with variations made by the local builders, who were generally quite conservative and retrospective in their preferences.
Near the Swedish town Kristinehamn is the manor Krontorp (eighth photo), which traditionally has been attributed to Linstow, although the attribution is uncertain. The manor house was built 1825-1828 as a place for King Carl Johan to stay when he made the long journey from Stockholm to Christiania and has some similarities with Linstow’s original design for the Royal Palace.
His story has something of the tragedy of unfulfilled genius. Unlike Grosch he did not get the change to put his wider mark on the capital and unlike Grosch he wrote ferociously about architecture, but his textbook on the topic was never published and is now lost. He probably never felt he received the recognition he deserved. In June 1851 the students of the capital threw a party to celebrate Linstow and his work. This must have felt like a welcome, if late, recognition. On his way home Linstow was killed in a carriage accident. He was buried at Christ Churchyard, but his grave disappeared when that part of the cemetery was turned into a park and public playground a century later.

Late royals: Prince Gustaf of Sweden and Norway (1827-1852)

Due to his talents and his early death there has always been an aura of romance surrounding the name of Prince Gustaf, the second of five children of King Oscar I and Queen Josephina. He was born on 18 June 1827 at Haga Palace just outside Stockholm, where his bust (pictured above) can be found nearby. The choice of the name Gustaf, which was strongly associated with the deposed Holstein-Gottorp dynasty, was quite unexpected.
Four of the five children of Oscar I and Josephina shared their parents’ artistic gifts. Prince Gustaf was a talented composer and that is how he is remembered today, as “Sångarprinsen” (the Singer Prince). Some of his songs are still popular in Sweden today, the most well-known being “Sjung om studentens lyckliga dag”. It is always sung by students when graduating – perhaps with particular fervour in Uppsala, where the Prince himself, who was also Duke of Uplandia, studied. “Glad såsom fågeln” is another of his light, happy songs. In a more sombre mood, the Prince in his early twenties wrote a funeral march, dedicating it “to myself”. It was not long before it was to be heard.
In 1851 Prince Gustaf became the owner of Stjernsund Palace near Askersund, which his grandfather Carl XIV Johan had bought as a place to rest on his travels between his two capitals. At the nearby manor Boo lived Baron Hugo Hamilton, head of the royal theatre, and Prince Gustaf fell in love with the Baron’s pretty, 17-year-old daughter Josephine. It has been claimed that the Prince intended to renounce his rights of succession to be able to marry Josephine, but no proof has been found for this.
There was something melancholic, something restless, something fragile about Prince Gustaf, whose health was never strong. In the summer of 1852 he travelled to Germany with his parents, sister Eugénie and brother August, but on the homebound journey he fell gravely ill aboard the ship sailing for Christiania. At the time it was said to be typhus, but more likely it was tuberculosis.
On arriving in the Norwegian capital, Prince Gustaf was carried to the newly completed Royal Palace where he died on 24 September, aged 25. With the exception of his great-nephew King Haakon VII he is the only royal to die at the Palace. His death nearly crushed Princess Eugénie, who had a breakdown she never really recovered from.
His elder brother Carl’s only son was born later that autumn, but died in infancy, leaving the succession to Oscar I’s third son. One can only guess at what sort of king Gustaf would have been. As a young man he was certainly no democrat, opposing the freedom of the press and democratic elections. We can only speculate on whether the history of Sweden and Norway would have taken a different turn if Carl XV had been succeeded by Gustaf V rather than Oscar II in 1872.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

What to see: The Primate’s Palace, Bratislava

Bratislava, formerly known as Pressburg or Pozsony, is now the capital of the Republic of Slovakia, but was for a long time the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary – its kings were crowned in the city’s St Martin’s Cathedral. Since the middle of the 15th century the Archbishop of Esztergom had had his residence in a house located in the square behind the Town Hall.
The present building, known as the Primate’s Palace, was built when Archbishop Joseph Batthyany decided to pull down the old house and have a new and more modern one built. The task was given to the Austrian-born architect Melchior Hefele, who built the new, neoclassical palace between 1778 and 1781. Queen-Empress Maria Theresa had died the previous year and her son Joseph II’s transferred the Hungarian state institutions to Buda, while Batthyany’s successors later moved to Esztergom, meaning that the new Primate’s Palace never really came to be used for what it had been built for.
The palace was used to house visiting archbishops and royals, for offices, apartments and schools until the Archbishop sold it to the city of Bratislava in 1903. The old Town Hall had become too small and the Primate’s Palace was turned into the new town hall, which it remained until the 1940s, when yet another town hall was built opposite it. Today the Primate’s Palace is used for representation and as a picture gallery.
The Mirror Hall (third picture) serves as a session hall for the city representation. This hall was where on 26 December 1805, following the Battle of Austerlitz, the Peace of Pressburg was signed, whereby the Austrian Emperor ceded the Veneto, Istria, Dalmatia and Tyrol to Napoléon I. A memorial plaque in Slovak and German (fourth photo) was put up 100 years later, but unfortunately misspells Liechtenstein – it was of course not the artist Roy Lichtenstein but Sovereign Prince Johann I of Liechtenstein who signed the peace treaty on behalf of Austria, with Talleyrand signing for France.
The plaque is placed in the columned entrance vestibule (fifth photo), from where a grand staircase (sixth picture) leads up to the first floor. In the Red Drawing Room (seventh photo) are three of six valuable 17th century English tapestries which were discovered when the Primate’s Palace was renovated after the city bought it in 1903.

An interview with Mikhail Gorbachev

Twenty years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Ginny Dougary of The Times has interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev, the last (and first) President of the Soviet Union, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for allowing the peaceful revolutions. In the interview, which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the newspaper, Gorbachev talks about the events which brought down the Communist system, his views on Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher, the Western view of Russia and the loss of his wife Raisa Gorbacheva, who died ten years ago this month.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

What to see: The State Hall of the Austrian National Library, Vienna

The State Hall of the Austrian National Library is rightly considered one of the world’s most beautiful libraries and also one of the best Baroque interiors in Europe. It was built for Emperor Karl VI after plans drawn up by his court architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1665-1723). It was however Fischer von Erlach’s son Joseph Emanuel (1693-1742) who saw the plans through in the years 1723-1726.
The State Hall measures 77.7 by 14.2 metres and is 19.6 metres high, except for the cupola, which reaches nearly 30 metres to the sky. The allegorical ceiling frescoes were done by Daniel Gran and completed in 1730. The motif on the central cupola shows the apotheosis of Karl VI and beneath it is a statue of the Emperor as “Hercules Musarum” by the brothers Peter and Paul Strudel.
The nutwood bookcases hold some 200,000 books printed between 1501 and 1850. The 15,000 books placed in the library’s oval centre belonged to Prince Eugen of Savoy. Altogether 7.8 million books and other items are to be found in the collections of the Austrian National Library. The Austrian National Library’s website: