Monday, 31 May 2010

Horst Köhler resigns as President of Germany

Horst Köhler has announced his resignation as President of Germany with immediate effect. It is the first time in the 61 years of the German Federal Republic that a head of state leaves his post in such circumstances.
Köhler’s resignation follows criticism against remarks he recently made about the German involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Some has argued that it is unconstitutional for the President, whose position is largely ceremonial, to express his views on such matters, while Mr Köhler himself said the criticism showed lack of respect for his position.
Horst Köhler became president in 2004 and, coming from a job as head of the IMF, was the first non-politician to hold that post. He was reelected for a second five-year term a year ago. A new president must be elected by the Federal Assembly within 30 days.

Royal jewels: Princess Margaretha’s floral tiara

Because of her close relationship to several royal houses, Princess Margaretha of Denmark came to attend more royal events than most people. She liked to dress up and wear her pieces of jewellery and among her best jewels was a diamond floral tiara in the shape of five loops.
The origins of this tiara are uncertain – an older article says it first belonged to Queen Louise of Denmark, consort of King Christian IX, but its first known owner was her French-born daughter-in-law, Princess Marie.
This eccentric, gifted princess died at the age of only 44 in 1909, but the tiara reappeared after her second son, Prince Axel, married Princess Margaretha of Sweden in 1919. Margaretha continued to wear it throughout her life, which lasted until 1977.
In his book Juvelerne i det danske kongehus (2001) Bjarne Steen Jensen states that Margaretha’s second son, Count Flemming of Rosenborg, inherited the tiara “and it is now worn by Countess Ruth”.
Although presented as an indisputable fact this is, like much else in that book, a mere guess by the author. It is also completely wrong. Countess Ruth of Rosenborg has never worn her mother-in-law’s tiara and she has told me that upon Princess Margaretha’s death it was inherited by her eldest son, Prince Georg, who sold it off. The tiara’s current whereabouts are not known – or if it is still in existence at all.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Swedish court confirms HRH style for Daniel Westling

In connection with the banns of marriage for Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling, held in the Palace Church in Stockholm today, the royal court confirmed the obvious (external link), namely that Daniel Westling following the wedding on 19 June will be styled HRH Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Westrogothia.
Following a claim made by the tabloid journalist Herman Lindqvist (external link), a self-styled “historian” and “expert” on any conceivable topic, that Mr Westling would not be HRH as this was reserved for “born princes and princesses”, the Royal Court’s somewhat chaotic press department made known that this had not yet been decided.
Decisions about styles and titles for members of the royal family are the King’s prerogative, but of course it would have been unthinkable for him to withhold the HRH title for the heiress’s husband as this would have been a clear break with tradition and would have been interpreted as a sign of the King’s disapproval of the marriage (to which he had given his consent).

Saturday, 29 May 2010

My latest article: Whatever happened to Mrs Schøller?

Stiftsgården, the royal residence in Trondheim, is not only one of Norway’s best examples of rococo architecture, but also the largest wooden mansion in Northern Europe. It was built between 1774 and 1778 by an unknown architect for Cecilia Christine Schøller as a manifestation of her wealth and power.
But Mrs Schøller herself never really lived there; hardly was her mansion finished before she left Trondheim for good. Where did she go?
In an article in Adresseavisen today (external link) I trace her footsteps to Copenhagen, where she was closer to the court and the powerful elite, but also to her friends. She died in her house at Østergade 34 on 19 April 1786 and was laid to rest in Nikolaj Church.
But her journey was not over, for the church was severely damaged in the city fire in 1795. Mrs Schøller’s remains were moved to the Garrison Cemetery and later again to Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen’s answer to Père Lachaise, where her grandson Stie Tønsberg Schøller von Krogh erected one of the city’s most unusual tombstones.

Count Christian Bernadotte marries at Mainau

The Palace of Mainau some days ago announced that Count Christian Bernadotte af Wisborg and Christine Stoltmann married at the South German island palace last Saturday. A religious blessing of the marriage will take place at a later date which has not yet been set.
After two years as a couple Christian Bernadotte and Christine Stoltmann became engaged during last year’s summer holiday in Sweden and expect their first child in August. While Count Christian studies philosophy and sociology at the University of Constance his wife works as a nurse in Münsterlingen in Switzerland.
Count Christian is the youngest son of the former Prince Lennart of Sweden, who celebrated his 70th birthday shortly before his son’s birth. Prince Lennart forfeited his right to the Swedish throne and was deprived of his royal titles when he married a commoner, Karin Nissvandt, in 1932. In 1951 he received the Luxembourgian title Count af Wisborg. Christian is one of the five children of Lennart Bernadotte’s second marriage to Sonja Haunz. The groom’s parents died in 2004 and 2008, aged respectively 95 and 64.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Royal commemoration of the bicentenary of Christian August’s death

Today I have attended two events commemorating Prince Christian August of Augustenburg/Crown Prince Carl August of Sweden on the 200th anniversary of his death. Prince Christian August became Governor-General of Norway in 1807, the year Denmark-Norway entered the Napoleonic Wars. As the British blockade made communications between the two parts of the realm difficult, Christian August came to chair the Norwegian government commission, making him, in effect, prime minister of Norway (although Peder Anker was the first to hold that title).
In 1808 he was in command of the Norwegian army which defeated the Swedes. He refrained from carrying out an attack on Sweden when King Gustaf IV Adolf was deposed in a coup in March 1809 and although Christian August advocated King Frederik VI’s candidacy to the Swedish throne, he was himself elected Crown Prince of Sweden in succession to the childless new King, Carl XIII.
Christian August thus became Carl August, but on 28 May 1810, after only a few months in Sweden, he died from a stroke during a military manoeuvre at Kvidinge in Scania. Rumours that he had been poisoned led to the Marshal of the Realm, Count Axel von Fersen, being lynched by a furious mob during the Crown Prince’s funeral procession.
Christian August’s brother Frederik Christian was widely expected to be elected Crown Prince in his stead, but the General Estates rather surprisingly chose Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. One can only speculate on what course Scandinavian history had taken if Carl Johan had never come to Sweden and Christian August or Frederik Christian had succeeded to the Swedish throne instead.
Christian August’s successor as Governor-General of Norway, Prince Friedrich of Hesse-Cassel, erected a simple monument in his memory close to Paradise Bay at Bygdøy. Four years later King Christian Frederik, during his brief reign, ordered a new monument. The bitter irony is that Christian Frederik in the dark evening of 10 October 1814 embarked on his journey back to Denmark from the beach just below where the monument now stands, shortly after having signed his instrument of abdication in the Garden Room at Bygdøy Royal Manor.
By that time the monument had not yet arrived and when it did so, the words “Norway’s King” were removed from the inscription, supposedly by one of the equerries of Governor-General Hans Henrik von Essen. They were put back around 1900.
A few years ago the monument had been allowed to fall into disrepair and was taken down to be restored. Today, on the 200th anniversary of Christian August’s death, an event which may well be said to have changed the course of Scandinavian history, the Queen unveiled the restored monument. The Minister of Culture, Anniken Huitfeldt (herself a historian), made a speech and the managing director of the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, Olav Aaraas, laid a wreath of laurels at the foot of the monument after a salute had been fired.
While the Queen departed to join the King in hosting the annual diplomatic reception, held this year at nearby Oscarshall Palace, a very interesting seminar about Christian August was held at the Museum of Cultural History. Monica Mørch spoke about the restoration of the monument, while Morten Nordhagen Ottosen dealt with the life of Christian August, complete with some counterfactual speculations. From Sweden Professor Torbjörn Nilsson talked about the funeral of Carl August and the assassination of Fersen, while the Danish historian Rasmus Glenthøj summarised the events of the years 1807-1814. As this could be considered the kick-off for the bicentenary of Norway’s independence in four years, Odd Arvid Storsveen rounded off by talking about recent research and new perspectives on the history of that momentous epoch.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Norwegian Parliament votes in favour of monarchy

Earlier today the Parliament of Norway voted down the proposal made by the Socialist Left Party to abolish the monarchy and replace it with an (unspecified form of) republic. Following a debate which was longer than last time Parliament dealt with this issue, the republic received the votes of 17 MPs from the Socialist Left Party and the Labour Party, while 125 MPs voted to retain the monarchy. The debate may be read in its entirety here (external link) and the relevant documents found here (external link).
Altogether four proposals for changing the Constitution have been dealt with by Parliament today, but the only one which was approved was correcting a handful of grammatical mistakes, while proposals allowing MPs to resign their seats and to lower the age of voting to 16 were rejected with the republic.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What to see: Louis De Geer’s Mansion, Stockholm

If the gate in the wall at Götgatan 16 at Söder is open, one will be able to see Louis De Geer’s Mansion, one of Stockholm’s hidden treasures.
It is the earliest building in Dutch Palladianism to be found in Sweden, a style which would eventually leave deep marks on Swedish architecture. The mansion was built between 1646 and 1651, probably after designs by a master bricklayer named Jurgen Gesewitz, who worked for Louis De Geer.
De Geer was born in Liège in what is now Belgium and his family was, like my own ancestors, among the many Walloons who immigrated to Sweden to work in the iron industry following the Dutch-Swedish friendship pact of 1614.
De Geer came to Sweden already in 1615 and soon acquired rich estates. He settled in Stockholm in 1642, where work on the mansion started four years later. Two branches of the family have later been ennobled and the De Geers have produced two Swedish prime ministers. In 1914 Baroness Marianne De Geer af Leufsta married into the Bernadotte family when she became the daughter-in-law of Prince Oscar Bernadotte – her niece Gunnila is the second wife of the former Prince Carl Johan.
Two years after Louis De Geer’s death in 1653 his mansion was bought by Ebba Brahe, the great love of Gustaf II Adolf’s youth and mother of Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, who rose to be one of the leading figures in the reign of Queen Christina. The arms of Ebba Brahe and her husband Jacob De la Gardie can be seen above the gate to the courtyard.
In the 18th century the mansion was turned into apartments. It was restored in the 1960s and these days this Dutch mansion serves, very appropriately, as the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Monday, 24 May 2010

What to see: Katarina Church, Stockholm

Rising over the heights of Söder, Katarina Church is one of Stockholm’s most visible landmarks. It can be seen from most of the city – across the water as in the sixth photo, but also forming a distant point de vue for Queen Street.
The first church there was the Sture Chapel, which was built in the 1580s on the spot where Sten Sture the Younger and 90 other victims of the infamous Stockholm blood bath were burned.
In 1654 Carl X Gustaf, who had just succeeded to the Swedish throne on the abdication of his cousin Queen Christina, commissioned a new church from Jean de la Vallée, one of the first professional architects in Sweden. It was named for the King’s mother, a sister of Gustaf II Adolf.
Four years later the King asked de la Vallée and Johan Wärnsköld to draw up plans for a royal metropolis at Söder, complete with a new palace to replace the old Castle of Three Crowns. This grand plan was never executed because of the King’s death in 1660, but the church was finally completed in 1690.
Unlike traditional Nordic churches, Katarina was a central church with the altar placed in the middle of the cross-shaped building, right beneath the cupola. The churchgoers protested and won the support of Carl XI.
The church burned down with much of its surroundings in 1723 and was rebuilt in 1724-1744 by Göran Josuæ Adelcrantz, whose son Carl Fredrik would later become one of Sweden’s greatest architects. Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz would later change the colour of the church’s exterior from red to the bright yellow we know today.
In another fire in 1990, the dome collapsed and came crashing down into the church, destroying it completely. It was carefully rebuilt and restored under the direction of Ove Hidemark in the following eight years.
The interior is powerful in itself although very simple and almost entirely devoid of decoration. The whitewashed falls allow for dramatic light settings, such as during a pre-Christmas concert as seen in the fifth photo.
The altar is still where it was placed in 1690. Above it is an empty cross with a blood-stained white cloth and a crown of thorns, a work of art made by Liss Eriksson and Kajsa Melanton and titled “Presence through absence”.
Among those buried in the churchyard is Anna Lindh, the much-loved foreign minister who was assassinated during the EMU referendum campaign in 2003 (last photo). She has now been joined by her husband Bo Holmberg, another former cabinet minister, who, unable to bear the tragedy of his wife’s death, survived her for only six years. Also buried at Katarina are the popular singer Cornelis Vreeswijk, the 17th century poet Las Wivallius, the politician Anna Lindhagen and the architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz.

At the road’s end: Two imperial deaths

Two nonagenarian members of Europe’s once-great imperial dynasties have died this month:

A spokesman for the Romanov dynasty today announced that Grand Duchess Leonida Georgijevna of Russia died in Madrid last night, aged 95. She was the widow of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia, who was by many considered the head of the imperial house of Russia, and mother of the current pretender, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirevna.
She belonged by birth to the Bagration dynasty, which reigned in Georgia until 1810. However, the fact that she belonged to the senior branch which had not been reigning since 1505, caused her husband’s rivals for the headship of the Romanov dynasty to argue that their marriage was not in compliance with the imperial rules.
A great-great-granddaughter of the last Duke of Mukhrani, she was born Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhraneli in Tbilisi on 23 September 1914. The family left the Soviet Union in the early 1920s with the help of Maxim Gorkij.
Her first husband, the American Sumner Moore Kirby, whom she married in 1934 and divorced in 1937, subsequently died while held prisoner in a German concentration camp in 1945. They had one daughter, Helen. She married Grand Duke Vladimir in 1948 and will be buried at his side in St Petersburg.

Archduke Rudolph of Austria-Hungary died in Brussels on 15 May at the age of 90. He was the sixth of the eight children of the last Emperor and Empress of Austria-Hungary, Karl I and Zita, and was born in Prangins, Switzerland on 5 September 1919, less than a year after his family had lost their thrones. He was named for his grandfather’s cousin, the crown prince who famously committed suicide in Mayerling in 1889.
In 1953 he married Countess Xenia Tschernyschev-Besobrasow, with whom he had four children, and following her death in a car accident in 1968 he remarried Princess Anna Gabriele of Wrede, who gave birth to a daughter. Archduke Rudolph made a career in banking.
The death of Archduke Rudolph leaves his elder brothers Otto (aged 97) and Felix (who will be 94 in a week) as the only surviving children of the last Habsburg emperor.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

What to see: Dano-Saxon exhibition, Rosenborg Palace, Copenhagen

Tomorrow is the last chance to see Rosenborg Palace’s magnificent exhibition “Faith, Power, Love”, which deals with the dynastic alliances between Denmark-Norway and Saxony in the years 1548-1709. A smaller version of an exhibition which has earlier been shown in Dresden, this exhibition contains many artefacts of unrivalled splendour from the treasury in Dresden.
The exhibition examines the close connections between the houses of Oldenburg and Wettin, which resulted in four marriages and one broken engagement: Christian III’s daughter Anna married August I of Saxony in 1548, Frederik II’s daughter Hedwig became the wife of Christian II of Saxony in 1602, Christian IV’s son and heir Christian married Magdalena Sibylla of Saxony in 1634 and, finally, Frederik III’s daughter Anna Sophie in 1665 became the consort of Elector Johann Georg III. Anna Sophie also pushed through her eldest son’s betrothal to her niece Sophie Hedvig, but the engagement was cancelled upon the death of Johann Georg III.
As the time-span for the exhibition indicates, the close relationship between the two houses was based closely on the fact that the Oldenburgs and the Wettins were two of the leading Protestant dynasties in Europe – it began with the Reformation and ended with August the Strong’s conversion to Catholicism in 1709.
That very year King Frederik IV of Denmark-Norway had visited his cousin in Dresden on his way back from Italy, a visit which was the occasion for some of the most splendid celebrations ever to be held in Europe, but which also ended in a political alliance which contributed to the end of Swedish dominance in Northern Europe. The highlights of the exhibition are some of the costumes worn for the festivities in Dresden in 1709 as well as the gifts exchanged between the two dynasties.
Among the most noteworthy items is the golden horn seen in the first photo. It is based on the famous golden horn from the sixth century which was found in 1639 and which Christian IV presented to his eldest son Christian. Following Prince Christian’s death in 1647 his widow Magdalena Sibylla was allowed to keep it until she remarried five years later. The original horn was stolen in 1802 and melted down, while this is an “interpreted replica” Magdalena Sibylla had had made in 1650.
But perhaps most splendid of all is the female moor holding a shell on which sits the dragon guarding the golden fleece of legend, holding the Order of the Elephant in its mouth (second photo). Made by Johann Melchior Dinglinger, Georg Friedrich Dinglinger and Benjamin Thomae in 1708-1709, it was made to celebrate the Dano-Saxon alliance against Sweden.
The third photo shows janissaries of ivory and gemstones which Frederik IV gave to his sister Sophie Hedvig, having bought or been presented with them during his visit to Dresden.
There are also several magnificent items from the festivities of 1709 – among them the golden mask (fourth photo) made by Johann Melchior Dinglinger and worn by Elector August in the role of Apollo at the carrousel held on 22 June 1709.
At another carrousel, “The Carrousel of the Four Continents”, held three days earlier King Frederik appeared as the “leader of the Europeans” and wore the helmet shaped as a golden eagle seen in the fifth photo. This was also made by Dinglinger.
The sixth photo shows the ceremonial outfit which King Frederik IV is believed to have worn at his first wedding in 1695, while the last picture shows more mundane pieces of clothing – Christian IV’s nightcap and slippers from about 1630.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Prince Charles to visit Oslo next week

The Prince of Wales will be coming to Oslo on Wednesday in connection with the Oslo Forest Climate Conference 2010. He will stay at the Royal Palace, but is expected to leave already on Thursday. As the King and Queen will be in Bergen and the Crown Prince on his way to Shanghai the Crown Princess will host Prince Charles at the Palace.

Friday, 21 May 2010

New books: British foreign secretaries

There is some sort of tradition among leading British politicians of writing biography and history in their spare time – the new Foreign Secretary William Hague is for example the author of biographies of William Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce. His predecessor Douglas Hurd, who was foreign secretary under Thatcher and Major, has written an acclaimed biography of Robert Peel and is now out with Choose Your Weapons: The British Foreign Secretary: 200 Years of Argument, Success and Failure.
But it should be noted that, although there is no trace of it on the cover, this book is a joint venture between Lord Hurd and the historian Edward Young – I guess Weidenfeld & Nicolson’s marketing department may have been behind the choice of glossing over this fact.
The book is not a history of the position or its holder; Hurd and Young have rather chosen a number of foreign secretaries of the last two hundred years to take a close look at – Castlereagh and Canning, Aberdeen and Palmerston, Derby, Salisbury, Grey, MacDonald, Austen Chamberlain, Bevin and Eden. The authors offer no reflections on the choices they have made of who to include and who to leave out.
The choice to include some and leave out others has its disadvantages – for instance the gap between Lord Salisbury and Edward Grey means that one misses out on the Entente cordiale and some other rather important background information about the challenges facing Grey in the lead-up to World War I.
This is political history seen through the spectre of biography. Although the focus is on the politics, the authors also concern themselves with the individuals, some of whom are naturally more interesting than others. The book opens with the famous duel between two foreign secretaries – Castlereagh and Canning – two hundred years ago and somehow it never again reaches the same heights of drama.
The flow of major and minor issues and challenges of foreign policy and politics do occasionally become a bit tedious and I miss more direct comparisons between the foreign secretaries of different eras. The book is at its most interesting when the authors draw such comparisons between past and present, such as between Eden at the end of World War II and Castlereagh at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and on those rare occasions Douglas Hurd allows himself to draw directly upon his own experience as Foreign Secretary.
History shows that historians tend not to make great politicians, perhaps because they tend to see present challenges too much in the light of the past. But many politicians of today could do well to note Hurd’s and Young’s words on the correlation between history and politics: “Knowledge of history does not change politicians into statesmen. But ignorance of history is foolishness. The most dangerous form of ignorance is that smidgeon of shallow knowledge which lacks any understanding of the characters or context of past decisions. The false analogy can be more disastrous than the blank mind”.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Top 10: Architecture of Trondheim

Nidaros Cathedral, built 1180s-1321 (several later restorations), erected on the spot where St Olav is believed to have been buried and considered the most important church in Norway.

The Church of Our Lady was first mentioned in 1207 and has thus recently celebrated its 800th anniversary.

Munkegata (Monk Street) runs north from the Cathedral in the direction the small island Munkholmen and forms the central axis of Cicignon’s city plan of 1681.

Thomas Angell’s Mansion, built 1772 by architect Johan Chr. Neumann (altered by Axel Guldahl the elder 1904), is one of the best examples of Norwegian rococo.

Stiftsgården, built by an unknown architect on behalf of Cecilia Christine Schøller in 1774-1778, is the largest wooden mansion in Scandinavia and is now the King’s official residence in Trondheim.

The main building of Trondheim Cathedral School was built by the famous Danish architect Caspar Friedrich Harsdorff and inaugurated in 1787.

The late neoclassical main building of Trondhjem’s Hospital was built in 1843-1845 by the architects Theodor Christian Broch and Fredrik Hannibal Stockfleth, replacing an older building which was lost in the city fire of 1842. Today an old-age home, it is the oldest existing social institution in the Nordic countries.

The maternity clinic E. C. Dahl’s Foundation used to be housed in this art nouveau building by Johan Osness (1908). Today it houses the offices of the county governor of Sør-Trøndelag.

The Student Society’s award-winning building by the brothers Carl and Eysten Michaelsen (1926-1929) is one of the best Norwegian examples of the classicist revival in the Nordic countries in the interwar years.

The Pier Baths is a recent addition to the thousand-year-old city. This public swimming hall was built by Per Knudsen Architects in 1997-2001.

Monday, 17 May 2010

On this date: Norway’s National Day

Today is the National Day of Norway, which celebrates the events of 1814 when independence was won and the Constitution which is still in force (making it the second oldest in the world) worked out. The Constitution was passed on 16 May 1814, but was dated 17 May as this was the date it was signed by the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly and some other members – the rest of them signed on 18 May. 17 May 1814 was also the date Christian Frederik was elected King of Norway.
As has been the tradition since 1870, with a few exceptions, Oslo’s schoolchildren today paraded up Karl Johan Street and past the Royal Palace, where the King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and Princess Ingrid Alexandra greeted them from the balcony. As usual Princess Astrid also appeared in a window.
This is now so much part of the celebrations that it is taken for granted, but for many years it was not so. It became customary to celebrate Constitution Day in the years following its 10th anniversary in 1824, but this caused King Carl XIV Johan’s deep displeasure. The King rather wanted Norway to celebrate the union with Sweden and the revised version of the Constitution which were passed on 4 November and saw the celebrations of 17 May as an almost revolutionary act.
In 1827 he chose to close his eyes against the celebrations taking place in Christiania, but the following year he was himself present in the Norwegian capital on 17 May for the first time. The King expected trouble and gathered 20,000 troops just outside the city. The papers of the then Foreign Minister, Gustaf af Wetterstedt, show that the King was prepared to suspend Parliament and the Constitution and dictate a new constitution to his own liking if the MPs took part in the celebrations. However, Parliament decided not to mark the day and the King subsequently wrote to his son that he was relieved he had not “been forced to use the troops to prevent excesses”. At the State Dissolution of Parliament he warned the politicians that official celebrations of 17 May would also in the future be considered a provocation against the King, the Constitution and the union.
In 1829 17 May fell on a Sunday and huge crowds came out on the streets of the capital. When they would not stop cheering and refused to disperse, Baron Ferdinand of Wedel-Jarlsberg, the commander of Akershus Fortress (and also Lord Chamberlain), gave orders for the cavalry to clear the Great Square, the act of (mild) violence which has passed into Norwegian history as “the Battle in the Square”. The King was not directly involved in this, as many seem to believe, but when the investigative committee published its findings the King resolved that no-one should be prosecuted. Most blame was put on the Lieutenant of the Realm, Baron Baltzar Bogislaus von Platen, who died a broken man a few months later (the position, which had by then become very unpopular, was left vacant for seven years).
Ironically this heavy-handed treatment of the celebrators meant that the King had to tread more carefully in the future. In 1836 Parliament for the first time officially celebrated 17 May, but the King chose not to intervene – although this was one of the many actions of that Parliament which displeased the King and in combination led to his showing his displeasure by dissolving Parliament before it had finished its business.
In 1839, the 25th anniversary of 1814, King Carl Johan was again in Christiania on 17 May, but had now resigned himself to the celebrations. In what was some sort of gentlemen’s agreement, the King allowed the celebrations to take place and the crowds made sure to do so in safe distance from the royal residence. King Carl Johan died in 1844 and already the next year his daughter-in-law, Queen Josephina, appeared in a window of the Royal Mansion with Prince Gustaf and Princess Eugénie to greet the crowds celebrating Constitution Day.
However, the union kings generally made sure not to be in Norway on 17 May and although the children’s parade has passed by the Royal Palace ever since its inception in 1870, it was only in 1901 that Crown Prince Gustaf became the first member of the royal family to greet it from the Palace balcony.
King Haakon and Queen Maud picked up the tradition when they came to Norway following the dissolution of the union in 1905. Since then the Palace balcony has been empty on only a handful of National Days: for obvious reasons from 1940 to 1944, but also a century ago this year when the royal family had not yet returned from the funeral of King Edward VII of Britain two days earlier. Following the Nazi surrender on 8 May 1945, Crown Prince Olav was back in Oslo already on 13 May and could thus resume the tradition once again.
In the days of King Haakon the balcony could occasionally be quite crowded as he also allowed foreign royals to join the Norwegian royal family if they were in the country on 17 May. His brother, Prince Gustav of Denmark, did so in 1907 and his sister, Princess Thyra of Denmark, in 1929. In 1947 the Norwegian royals were joined by Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, which is quite interesting considering that Prince Carl had himself been a (reluctant) candidate for the Norwegian throne in 1905.
In 1953 several royals had stayed behind following Princess Ragnhild’s wedding two days earlier and Princess Margaret of Britain, Prince and Princess Viggo from Denmark, and Count Flemming and Countess Ruth of Rosenborg joined their Norwegian relatives on the balcony. Princess Ragnhild herself made her last appearance there in 1958, joined by her son Haakon Lorentzen, while Princess Astrid has not appeared after her wedding in 1961.
With the disappearances of the married princesses, the deaths of King Haakon and Crown Princess Märtha and Crown Prince Harald studying abroad, the Palace balcony suddenly became very empty and in 1961 and 1962 King Olav appeared alone. By the time of his death in 1991, King Olav had greeted the children from that balcony more than seventy times.
Since King Harald in 2002 decided to make a distinction between the royal house and the royal family, only the five members of the royal house appear on the balcony, although Prince Sverre Magnus made a very brief appearance last year. Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who first appeared on the balcony at the age of four months in 2004, may well break her great-grandfather’s record. Her father, Crown Prince Haakon, has so far missed it six times – in 1977 (when he was ill), in 1992 (when he graduated from senior high school), in 1994 (when he was on military service in Bergen) and in 1997, 1998 and 1999 (when he was studying in the USA).
These days there is no conflict between the monarch and Parliament and when passing the Parliament Building the children are also greeted by the Speaker of Parliament, Dag Terje Andersen, as seen in the last photo.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

What to see: The New Guard House (Neue Wache), Berlin

When King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in 1815 returned to his capital Berlin at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, planning began for a new guard house to be built towards the eastern end of the main street Unter den Linden.
The New Guard House was built in the years 1817-1818 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the most famous of Prussian architects. With this small building Schinkel, in the words of Gottfried Rieman, “developed his concept of an architecture of classicist magnificence, manifested, in the years to come, in all his major works”.
The guard house mixes a Roman castrum with a Greek temple, but was also conceived to be a monument to the Prussian victory over Napoléon. As such it was flanked by statues of some of the leading Prussian generals and a Victoria forms the centre point of the tympanum.
As the name implies, it was first used to house the guardsmen and thus it was there the changing of the guard took place in the days of the monarchy. Emperor Wilhelm I used to watch the ceremony from a window in Altes Palais, his mansion across the street, a habit which eventually became an obligation – Baedtker’s guide to Berlin stated that the Emperor could be seen in his window at that time and therefore he felt he could not disappoint the tourists.
Following the end of the monarchy, Heinrich Tressenow in 1931 turned Neue Wache into a memorial to soldiers killed in action. After WWII GDR made it a monument to the victims of fascism and militarism – the statues of the generals were accordingly removed.
Since 1993 Neue Wache is a memorial to all victims of war and tyranny. Under the oculus is Käthe Kollwitz’s sculpture “Mother with dead son”, inscribed “Den Opfern von Krieg und Gewaltherrschaft”.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

New books: Charles II and the Restoration

This month sees the 350th anniversary of the Restoration, when the republic came to an end and Charles II returned from France to recover the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. Jenny Uglow’s book A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration is a wonderful account of that momentous year and the following decade.
The author of prize-winning biographies of William Hogarth and Elizabeth Gaskell, Uglow offers a tour de force of Restoration England – the King and the Queen, the mistresses and the ministers, the politics and the wars, the theatre and the church, the palace and the court; in short nearly everything you may want to know about the world of Charles II in the first decade of his reign.
There is not one dull page in this book, which is also beautifully designed. I have only one reservation about it, namely that it is not longer. This may seem an odd thing to say about a book running to 580 pages, but I really cannot see a reason for limiting the book to only the first decade of Charles II’s 25 years on the throne.
Restorations of dynasties or monarchies are always fascinating episodes in history, with their chances of making a fresh start or doing the same things wrong all over again. The Stuart Restoration may be a prime example of this: While Charles II remained on the throne throughout a quarter of a century, his brother and successor James II blew it all in three years. What was it that made Charles II a success and James II a failure?
One can only hope that Jenny Uglow may feel inspired to write another volume on the years after 1670.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dick Harrison tutoring Daniel Westling in history

Sydsvenskan reports (external link) that since February Dick Harrison, professor of history at the University of Lund, has been hired by the Swedish court to tutor Daniel Westling in history. Harrison is the author of numerous books and also has a blog at Svenska Dagbladet (external link) where he answers readers’ questions about Swedish royal history.
This seems a much better choice than the tabloid journalist and self-styled historian Herman Lindqvist, who claims to be Crown Princess Victoria’s and Princess Madeleine’s history tutor, a claim which seems to be greatly exaggerated by Lindqvist himself.
Herman Lindqvist has by the way now also a blog (external link) where he answers readers’ questions about royal history, the difference from Professor Harrison’s blog being that Lindqvist’s answers are quite often wrong - such as his saying that Daniel Westling will not be HRH, as this is “reserved for born princes and princesses”. One wonders how he will then explain the existence of HRH Princess Lilian.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

My latest article: Linstow, the architect who shaped the capital

I have an article in Aften today (external link) about Hans D. F. Linstow, the architect whose main works are the Royal Palace and Karl Johan Street in Oslo and who, in unison with the King for whom that street is named, shaped the new capital in the years following Norwegian independence in 1814.
But as he struggled with the Palace for 25 years and died in a tragic way two years after its completion he had the chance to build little else. Never quite understood by his contemporaries and forgotten by posterity, his grave was erased some decades ago, but this summer he is commemorated by an exhibition at the National Museum, the first to be dedicated to his work since 1922.
The photo shows his two major works: the Royal Palace and Karl Johan Street leading up to it.

Monday, 10 May 2010

New books: Ireland and the British monarchy

With a state visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain expected to happen in a not too distant future, Mary Kenny has written the book Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate Between Ireland and the British Monarchy, which was published by New Island in Dublin last year.
Born in Ireland in 1944, Mary Kenny went to London to work in Fleet Street in the 1960s. Among her journalistic works is Sunday Telegraph’s obituary of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, published twenty years after Kenny was commissioned to write it.
In her work on this book, the author has been able to draw upon her and her family’s experiences in Ireland and Britain during the last century and the book is therefore rich in anecdote, several of which are useful additions to the text. The book might however have benefited from being more analytical.
We do for instance learn that no British monarch has visited Ireland since 1911 and Kenny dedicates the epilogue to a discussion of whether Elizabeth II should be invited to pay a state visit, but the author never really pins down exactly what there is about British-Irish relations that has made this impossible. Perhaps it seems obvious to the author, but is it really that self-evident?
She begins her narrative with the reign of Queen Victoria as she considers the Victorian age to be “the start of modern times” and confines the previous history of the monarchy in Ireland to an introductory chapter. This time-span is in my opinion too short, as the roots for much of the troubles lie not in the reign of Queen Victoria, but at least a century further back.
In what is the most interesting aspect of the book, Kenny charts the development of the British monarchy and Irish political and social history and looks on how these intertwined. Particularly interesting is the way in which she shows how the Catholic Church until some decades ago was some sort of “parallel monarchy” in Ireland, something she exemplifies in many ways, including by showing how the Irish press would often balance a news item about the British royal family with another (often more prominent) about the Catholic Church.
The author also gives us accounts of official royal visits to Ireland, although focusing almost exclusively on the monarchs and the heirs. The presence in the island of other members of the royal family often goes unmentioned, including the Duke of Connaught’s posting to Ireland as commander-in-chief in 1900.
Early in the book Kenny mentions that there were plans for establishing a royal residence in Ireland as late as in the reign of George V, but unfortunately she offers no further details and does not return to the topic. These are two of the things which leave this book somewhat incomplete.
Quotes are sometimes wrongly rendered and there are quite many mistakes and inaccuracies. And her attempts at comparing the Irish situation to other countries do not always work well. For instance she writes that Edward VII’s daughter Maud “had married his Danish brother-in-law, Christian, who became King of Norway as Haakon I” although he was in fact Edward VII’s nephew (or rather Queen Alexandra’s), his name was Carl and he became Haakon VII. She proceeds to tell us that “the Norwegians had democratically voted for their monarchy in order to move away from the imperial relationship with Sweden”, but I am left wondering what “imperial relationship” she is referring to. Certainly both the Swedish and the Norwegian empires were long gone at that time.
All in all this is nevertheless an interesting book, although with certain weaknesses, some of which could quite easily have been rectified.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

King of Spain has lung surgery

According to the court of Madrid King Juan Carlos has undergone surgery in a hospital in Barcelona to remove a non-malign growth from his right lung. Queen Sofía told the press that the King was expected to be able to return home in four days.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Gordon Brown clings to power

The British people has spoken, but, as it was said last night, it is not clear what they have said, as the results of the parliamentary election send a message which is hard to interpret. However, it might seem as if Gordon Brown wants to reply what US presidential hopeful Mo Udall said after being defeated in a primary in 1975: “The people has spoken. The bastards”.
With all 649 constituencies counted, the Conservative Party has won 36 % (up 5 %), the Labour Party 29 % (down 6 %) and the Liberal Democrats 23 % (up 1 %), leaving the other parties with 12 % (up 2 %). Because of the electoral system with single member constituencies, this translates into the Conservatives winning 306 seats in the House of Commons (up 97), Labour 258 seats (down 89), the Liberal Democrats 57 (down 5) and others 28 (down 3).
This leaves no party with the 326 seats necessary to form a majority government, a phenomenon which is called a “hung parliament” and which has not occured in Britain since the election of February 1974.
This is in fact a defeat for all parties. Two years ago hardly anyone doubted that the Tories would win the next election and failing to do so when opposing an unpopular Prime Minister whose party has been in party for thirteen years is quite a significant failure. The Liberal Democrats’s strong showings in the polls recently failed to materialise into electoral success - despite the small increase in the percentage of votes, they actually lost seats in Parliament.
But the biggest defeat is for Labour and Gordon Brown, who has clearly failed to convince voters that they deserve a fourth term. Thus it is even more embarrasing to see that those who said Gordon Brown would cling to No 10 until all his fingers were broken away from the doorknob were apparently right.
True to his words that he would first talk to the party with the strongest mandate, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has agreed to talks with David Cameron about a coalition or at least a form of co-operation. And a coalition between Labour and the LibDems, which I personally would have thought the best possible outcome, will not in itself be able to command a parliamentary majority.
Yet Gordon Brown, despite coming second in the poll, seems intent on remaining at No 10 at any cost, having declared that he is willing to talk with any party. Edward Heath did the same in 1974, when he remained in office after failing to win a majority, while attempting to form a coalition with the Liberal Party. After four days he gave in and Harold Wilson formed a minority government. Wilson called a new general election eight months later, which gave him a narrow majority of three. I would not be surprised if the chaotic result of yesterday’s election also leads to a new election within a year or so.
As prime minister it is Gordon Brown’s constitutional right to remain so until another party wins a parliamentary majority or he is defeated in the House of Commons. But if the Tories and the LibDems succeed in agreeing on a coalition, Brown should have the dignity to step aside before someone finds it right to say to him what Oliver Cromwell told the Rump Parliament when dispersing it in 1653, words which Leo Amery repeated to Neville Chamberlain during the Norway Debate of 1940: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God go!”

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Book news: Queen Christina in English

At an international biography seminar I attended today I picked up a piece of news which might be of interest to some of the readers of this blog, namely that Marie-Louise Rodén is currently working on an English version of her excellent biography of Queen Christina, originally published in Sweden in 2008.
Many books have already been written on Queen Christina, but Professor Rodén is the acknowledged authority on the subject and her book is likely to remain the standard work for a long time. Unlike other biographers Rodén does not end her story with the Queen’s abdication in 1654, but, based on extensive research, follows her until her death in 1689. Thus she shows what role Queen Christina played in European politics after her abdication and also reveals that she did in fact find the great love of her life.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Dehn’s Mansion in Copenhagen lost in fire

A great tragedy struck Copenhagen and Danish architectural history yesterday morning when the historic Dehn’s Mansion, next to Amalienborg, was lost in a fire.
With its pendant Bernstorff’s Mansion, Dehn’s Mansion formed a central part of Nicolai Eigtved’s grand plan Frederik’s Town, created to mark the tercentenary of the Oldenburg dynasty in 1749. Dehn’s Mansion is situated on the northeastern corner of Bredgade (originally Norgesgade) and Frederiksgade, flanking the street leading to Amalienborg from the Marble Church. As such, Dehn’s Mansion is irreplacable. The only positive thing seems to be that the facade is mostly undamaged, but the beautiful rococo and empire style interiors are completely destroyed.
Dehn’s Mansion was built for Frederik Ludvig von Dehn by the German architect Johann Gottfried Rosenberg. Like Bernstorff’s Mansion, Dehn’s Mansion has also been home to several royals, among them Princess Louise Augusta (sister of Frederik VI) and her husband Duke Frederik Christian of Augustenburg and most recently Prince Harald (son of Frederik VIII) and Princess Helena. In recent decades the mansion has housed offices. It was completely renovated in 1983-1986.

Politiken reports:

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

New books: The artist Margrethe II

The art book Dronning Margrethe II – Et livsværk, edited by Anne-Mette Villumsen and Iben Overgaard, has been written to accompany the eponymous exhibition at the Skovgaard Museum in Viborg, marking the 70th birthday of Queen Margrethe II.
Queen Margrethe has had almost parallel careers as monarch and artist and this book looks back at the latter. Beginning with an interview with the artist, the book goes on with chapters where different authors look at various aspects of her work. Torben Weirup writes about her landscapes, Birgit Jenvold looks on the historic links between the monarchy and the arts, Karsten Nissen tells about the bishop’s mantle the Queen has designed for Viborg Cathedral, Ole Nørlyng writes about her scenography while Anne-Mette Villumsen explores her decoupages. The latter half of the book is given over to reproductions and a catalogue of the works exhibited.
The book’s format puts certain limits on how deep the authors can delve into their topic and, as in all anthologies, some succeed better than others. Anne-Mette Villumsen’s chapter on the decoupages is perhaps the best contribution to this book, while Ove Nørlyng in his chapter comes across as a little too uncritical about the Queen’s work, thus doing her a disfavour by not really treating her as a serious artist with weaknesses as well as strengths.

Monday, 3 May 2010

New books: An album about Queen Ingrid

Five years ago Rosvall Royal Books began the series “Swedish Princes and Princesses” with a book on Queen Astrid of the Belgians and now the second book in the series has finally appeared – Ingrid, 1910-2000 by Randi Buchwaldt and Ted Rosvall, published to mark the centennial of Queen Ingrid of Denmark’s birth.
The book is primarily a photo album, but it begins with a biographical essay (in Danish and English) by the 80-year-old Norwegian-born Danish journalist Randi Buchwaldt, who has earlier written books about Princess Benedikte and Queen Alexandrine. Buchwaldt does not really have any new revelations to make, but she stresses her involvement with her patronages and charities to a greater extent than other authors who have written about Queen Ingrid.
Buchwaldt has interviewed Queen Margrethe, Princess Benedikte and Queen Ingrid’s brother, Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg. However I most enjoyed some of the anecdotes told by Carl Johan’s wife, Gunnila Bernadotte.
The Countess speaks of how her husband and his sister every summer would go to visit their childhood paradise Sofiero, now open to the public. Once they overheard a guide telling a busload of Swedish pensioners that Queen Ingrid would often come there, whereupon the Queen exclaimed loudly in Swedish “Here I am!” Another time Queen Ingrid and Count Carl Johan were walking around the garden reminiscing quite loudly as they were both hard of hearing and Gunnila noticed how they were followed by a tail of tourists listening in.
If one compares text and pictures there is a certain unbalance – the biographical essay focuses on Queen Ingrid’s years in Denmark and says quite little about her Swedish years, while there are lots of pictures from her childhood and youth and quite few from her old age.