Wednesday, 31 August 2011

President Zuma honours victims of terrorism on state visit to Norway

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and his most recent wife, Tobeka Zuma (who seems to be the flavour of the month among his wives), today began a two-day state visit to Norway. The ties between Norway and South Africa are particularly close thanks to Norway being one of the few countries which stood by the ANC throughout the fight against apartheid (and not only through the last few years like Britain, the USA and many other countries did).
Between the usual events of the state visit’s first day – ceremonial, political talks and museum visits, the President and his wife found time to stop outside Oslo Cathedral, where they each laid a bouquet of flowers in honour of the 77 victims of the right-wing extremist terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya on 22 July. In the days following the attacks Oslo was literally covered in flowers and the largest sea of flowers was to be found outside the Cathedral, where people still continue to place their tributes. The King and Queen, who have been justly praised for their conduct after the attacks, accompanied their guests to the Cathedral.
Right now the King and Queen are hosting a state banquet at the Royal Palace. The state visit will conclude tomorrow afternoon, but the King and Queen will receive another head of state already on Friday, when the Queen of Denmark comes to Oslo to take part in the celebrations of the bicentenary of the University of Oslo, which was founded by King Frederik VI of Denmark-Norway on 2 September 1811 (the University carried his name until 1939).

My latest article: The crowns of the King and Queen

The 2010 edition of Trondheim Historical Association’s yearbook Trondhjemske Samlinger has finally been published and in it you may find an article I have written about the origins and ceremonial use of the crowns of the King and Queen. The article is based on research in Norwegian and Swedish archives, where I have found a lot of previously unused material.
For instance I am now able to say fairly certainly why the coronation of Queen Desideria, planned for the late summer of 1830, was suddenly cancelled; to show that the King’s crown most likely made it first appearance at the funeral of Carl XIII rather than at the coronation of Carl XIV Johan, as the official version now says; and to prove that it is not correct that the Queen’s crown unlike the King’s has never been used for funerals.
Some related “side questions” are also addressed, among them if it is correct when one often reads that Queen Lovisa - the first queen to be crowned in Norway since 1299 - unlike her predecessors was a Lutheran. And what happened to the tiara worn by Queen Sophia for her coronation in 1873?
The photo, which is a facsimile of the now defunct Swedish weekly Vecko-Journalen, shows the King’s crown on King Haakon VII’s coffin at his lying-in-state in the Palace Chapel in September 1957.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Ont his date: Princess Lilian turns 96

Today is the 96th birthday of Princess Lilian of Sweden, the poor girl from Wales who, after having waited 33 years to be able to marry the love of her life, became one of the greatest assets of the Swedish royal family.
This much-loved Princess is now very frail and has not been seen in public for nearly 3 1/2 years. Last summer her Court Marshal, Elisabeth Palmstierna, was quoted as saying that the Princess suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but I have since been told that Baroness Palmstierna considers herself misquoted and that she only said that Princess Lilian suffered from senile dementia.
As far as we know Princess Lilian remains in her home Villa Solbacken at Djurgården in Stockholm, where she is looked after by nurses around the clock.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

New books: Ceremonial headgear

After several years’ delay the Dutch goldsmith René Brus has at last finished his long-awaited book Crown Jewellery and Regalia of the World, which was published by Pepin Press of Amsterdam earlier this month.
This is a monumental book based on a lifetime’s passion for crowns, an interest which has apparently taken Brus to many a distant country in order to study crowns or witness ceremonial events. The result is not, he stresses in the preface, an encyclopaedia of regalia, but “an attempt to show that crowns can be found everywhere, in any form and design”.
This Brus certainly succeeds in doing, as he does not limit himself to royal crowns, which the somewhat misleading title might indicate, but covers a wide range of ceremonial headgear, including tiaras, votive crowns, mitres, beauty queen tiaras, various headdresses worn for religious and tribal rituals and much more. Africa and Asia are the continents which figure most prominently in this book while Britain and the Netherlands are the European countries most closely studied. There are some surprising omissions, such as the splendid crown regalia of Bavaria, which are not mentioned once.
One cannot help being impressed by the enormous effort Brus has laid down through many years to document so many crowns of different types from far away corners of the earth and to supply the readers with photos (although not all of them of the best quality, he admits). But on the other hand I could also not help feeling that he tries to cram too much into one book, which is also arranged in a rather disorderly manner.
The sequence of the chapters does not feel entirely natural – why “Royal children and marks of rank” before “Coronations”? Why is there suddenly a photo of Queen Sophia of Sweden and of Norway’s malachite parure, which has never been worn for any wedding, in the chapter titled “Royal and aristocratic weddings”?
Despite René Brus’s expert knowledge there are also several mistakes to be found in this book. The book opens with a disclaimer saying that “Every effort has been made to ensure that all information and original names are accurate. However, due to the historical and langual [sic] ambiguities inherent to the subject matter, the author and editor are not in the position to guarantee, with absolute certainty, the historical information provided”.
But if every effort had really been made, one would certainly have avoided such basic mistakes as referring to Britain as “England” throughout (there are no kings or queens of England since 1707, nor is there an “English Parliament”) and to the Bernadottes as kings simply of Sweden during the near-decade when they were kings also of Norway. His statement that “Norway’s Crown Prince has a crown that was actually made for the Swedish Crown Prince” is certainly nonsense – the crown was made for in Norway and paid for by the Norwegian Parliament to be worn by Norwegian crown princes at Norwegian coronations. But later on, Brus writes that Norway “became an independent kingdom” only in 1905, so he is obviously ignorant of the basic facts about the nature of the union between the two kingdoms.
He goes on to say that the Norwegian King’s crown was made by Adolf Zethelius, although it is now two decades since it was established that it was actually made by Olof Wihlborg (the most recent book on the Norwegian crown regalia, which was also published in English in 2006, is not included in Brus’s list of sources). He also maintains that Queen Desideria was not crowned in Norway “as her husband King Oscar I was never crowned as King of Norway”, although Oscar I was in fact her son. Her husband, Carl XIV Johan (whom Brus calls “Carl XIV”), was crowned in Norway and there were other reasons why Desideria’s coronation never took place.
Concerning Sweden, Brus writes that the crowns of both king and queen “were present at the accession ceremony of King Carl XVI Gustaf on 18 [actually 19] September 1973 and at his wedding in 1976”, although only the King’s crown was present at the enthronement (at which time Sweden had no queen). Regarding Denmark he states that “the coronation crown of King Frederik III, made in 1665” was used for Frederik IX’s lying-in-state in 1972 although there is no such crown and the crown actually used was Christian V’s, which is pictured on the same page of the book.
The regalia of the Scandinavian countries are those I am most familiar with and when noticing so many mistakes and misunderstandings concerning them, I cannot help wondering if I can trust the information about the regalia of those countries I am less familiar with. The result is that I have mixed feelings about this book, which it seems is not as reliable as such a great work, the fruit of decades of work, ought to be.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Norwegian “archbishop” defies Parliament

The history of medieval Norway is full of archbishops opposing the political masters of the country, but this was probably not what one expected when it was decided last year to create a twelfth bishop as Primate of the Norwegian Church.
The post of primate had until the 1990s belonged to the Bishop of Oslo and thereafter to any of the eleven bishops elected, but because of complaints that it was difficult to reconcile the duties of primate with those of one’s diocese it was decided that a twelfth bishop without a diocese should be appointed primate. The title Archbishop has not been used in Norway since the reformation and one rather chose the designation “leading bishop”
After a lengthy debate it was decided by Parliament that the primate should be located in Trondheim rather than in Oslo and have her office in the Archbishop’s Palace in Trondheim (pictured above). This was in my opinion only logical, as the only major cathedral in Norway is to be found in Trondheim and the city could well be considered the ecclesiastical centre of the country.
Thus several MPs from the Trondheim area have reacted strongly against an interview with the leading bishop, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, in Adresseavisen yesterday, where she states that she will not move to Trondheim, will carry out most of her work in Oslo and will only go to Trondheim when necessary.
This is a rather blatant disregard for the decisions of Parliament and obviously no individual public servant is in a position to choose to ignore what has been decided by Parliament. If the leading bishop is not prepared to accept the conditions set for her job by Parliament she should not have accepted the post and unless she changes her mind it might soon be time for the government to consider her future in the post.

Danish PM calls snap election

After months of increasingly frantic speculations the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has just announced that Parliament is being dissolved and that new elections will be held on 15 September.
The current government has been in power since 2001, although Lars Løkke Rasmussen has only been Prime Minister since 2009, when he succeeded Anders Fogh Rasmussen when the latter became Secretary General of NATO. Løkke’s government is a coalition of his own Liberal Party and the small Conservative Party, but for a parliamentary majority it has been dependent on formal support agreements with the far-right wing Danish People’s Party, which has used their powerful position to force through much of their policies.
The opinion polls indicate that it might be tight race, but most of them show the government falling behind the opposition. Thus it seems most likely that the next Danish government will be a coalition between the Social Democrats, the Socialist People’s Party and the Danish Social Liberal Party, possibly dependent on the Red-Green Alliance for support. If so, the leader of the Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, will become Prime Minister (the country’s first female PM).
In any case it is to be hoped that Denmark will finally get a government which is not held hostage by an openly racist party which seems to consider human rights a four letter word.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

On this date: Crown Prince and Crown Princess mark ten years of marriage

Today ten years have passed since the Crown Prince and Crown Princess were married in Oslo Cathedral, to which they returned today to celebrate their wedding anniversary. I was among the hundreds who attended a ceremony which, in music as well as in words, was clearly in the crown princely couple’s spirit and marked by the values which have guided their work through the past decade.
The main speech was given by the former Bishop of Oslo, Gunnar Stålsett, who married the couple ten years ago and who, unlike the current Bishop, subscribes to the liberal/progressive brand of Christianity with which the crown princely couple are also associated.
A bible quotation was read by Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who was lifted to the rostrum by her godmother Crown Princess Victoria. Crown Princess Victoria read St Francis of Assisi’s prayer, while Marius Borg Høiby and Princess Märtha Louise also read bible extracts.
The service concluded with the national hymn and “Old Wedding March”, to which the bridal couple left the Cathedral ten years ago. Unusually, the royal family, led by the King, were warmly applauded by the guests as they left the Cathedral, something which may perhaps be interpreted as a mark of appreciation for the royals’ conduct after the terrorist attacks a month ago.
Among the several hundred guests from all walks of live were also the Queen, Prince Sverre Magnus, Princess Astrid and Johan Martin Ferner, Prince Daniel, Ari Behn, the Crown Princess’s mother and siblings with partners, the Prime Minister and five other ministers, many friends, including Princess Rosario of Bulgaria, staff, etc.
The celebrations continued with an event in University Square, marking the tenth anniversary of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess’s Humanitarian Foundation, at which the Crown Prince and Crown Princess both addressed the crowds.
Tonight the King and Queen are hosting a private dinner at the Palace.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Historian criticises Queen Silvia’s Nazi investigation

It is now two weeks since the Swedish royal court published Erik Norberg’s investigation into the Nazi past of Queen Silvia’s father Walther Sommerlath, which had been commissioned by the Queen. The investigation mostly confirmed the findings of TV4’s two-part documentary on the topic last year, but nuanced some points, most importantly that Sommerlath had paid for the factory he took over from the Jewish businessman Efim Wechsler, who was forced to sell it by the Nazi authorities, by giving him a coffee plantation in Brazil in exchange, which also made it possible for Wechsler to emigrate to Brazil.
However, Norberg’s report is fiercely criticised by historian Håkan Arvidsson in a long article in Svenska Dagbladet today (external link). As I expected, the fact that Erik Norberg is a Lord-in-Waiting to the King is used to cast doubt over the impartiality of Norberg’s investigation. The report seems mostly solid to me, but exactly to avoid such doubts it would have been better if the task of investigating the issue had been given to someone not bound to the King and Queen by bonds of loyalty.
Arvidsson also criticises the fact that Norberg describes his investigation as a “narration”, arguing that a narration and an investigation are in themselves incompatible. Arvidsson considers the report “a mix of narration and investigation where narration progressively becomes dominant”.
A large part of Arvidsson’s article is a summary of Norberg’s report. He takes issue with how Norberg’s choice of words occasionally appears to try to put a positive spin on things and makes some valid points about certain weaknesses of Norberg’s investigation.
He points out that the report does not say anything about the value of Wechsler’s factory, which Arvidsson estimates at between 55 000 and 65 000 Reichsmark. As the value of the plantation and the stocks Wechsler received in exchange was 25 000 Reichsmark, this was a good affair for Sommerlath, but not for Wechsler.
Arvidsson also points out that the report says that Wechsler immediately after his arrival in Brazil handed over the plantation to Sommerlath’s brother-in-law, but that it does not say at what prize, if any at all. This, Arvidsson suspects, could possibly mean that it had been agreed that Wechsler should return the plantation and that he might not have received any compensation for doing so.
Arvidsson’s perhaps most interesting point is that what Norberg says about Sommerlath’s apparently passive membership of the Nazi party is based solely on Brazilian sources and thus only concerns the years when Sommerlath was living in Brazil. But Sommerlath returned to Germany in 1938, Arvidsson points out, and Norberg has not looked at whether he was an active or passive party member during those years he lived in Germany and thus had more of an opportunity to be active. The way he took over Wechsler’s factory as part of the “Aryanising” process at least shows that Sommerlath knew how to use his position as a party member to his own advantage, Arvidsson argues.
Arvidsson’s view of Walther Sommerlath is harsh. He believes that there are a lot of indications of Sommerlath being “a man without any particular moral conviction, a fellow traveller who seems to have cynically exploited every opportunity to save his own skin even at the expense of others”.
I cannot agree with his conclusion that “this entire sad and tragic story remains as shrouded in darkness as it was before Chamberlain [sic] Norberg’s effort”, but at least he shows that there are still questions which remain unanswered.

Princess Marie of Denmark is also pregnant

Yet another Scandinavian royal pregnancy was announced today when the Danish royal court released the news that Princess Marie is expected togive birth to her second child in January.
Princess Marie is the second wife of Queen Margrethe’s youngest son, Prince Joachim, whom she married in May 2008. The couple’s first mutual child, Prince Henrik, was born in May 2009. Prince Joachim is also the father of two sons, Prince Nikolai and Prince Felix, by his first wife.
The expected child will be Queen Margrethe’s eighth grandchild and tenth in line to the throne.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Title issues: Crown Princess Victoria’s firstborn

With the announcement of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden’s pregnancy one may start to think about what titles the child will receive upon its birth in March 2012. As Sweden introduced gender-neutral succession in 1980 the child will be in direct line to the throne whether it is a boy or a girl. Thus Sweden will, for the first time since 1950, have two generations of direct heirs.
The position as heir apparent to the heir apparent does not in itself bring any particular title. Prince Gustaf Adolf, the father of the current King, who predeceased both his father and grandfather and thus never became Crown Prince, was occasionally referred to as “arvprins Gustaf Adolf” (Hereditary Prince), but this was simply an informal reference, probably used to separate more clearly between him and his father, whose name was also Gustaf Adolf.
The title “arvprins” (Hereditary Prince) does not exist in Sweden, so the child will quite simply be Prince or Princess of Sweden until its mother accession, when it will become Crown Prince or Crown Princess of Sweden.
The style Royal Highness has so far always gone with the title of Prince(ss) of Sweden. Whereas Britain limits the style HRH and the title Prince(ss) to the children of monarchs and the children of sons of monarchs and Denmark limits the style HRH to the children of monarchs and heirs apparent (other princes and princesses being styled Highness), Sweden has no such limits and it is thus up to the King to decide. It will be interesting to see whether the children of Prince Carl Philip and of Princess Madeleine will be HRHs and princ(ess)es, but there can be little doubt that the eldest child of the Crown Princess will be so.
Until 1982 there was also another title for princes in line of succession: that of “Sveriges arvfurste” (between 1814 and 1905 “Sveriges och Norges arvfurste”). There is no exact English translation of this title, nor is there any good English translation. Like “arvprins” it might be translated as “Hereditary Prince”, but whereas “arvprins” is used informally to designate the heir apparent to the heir apparent, “arvfurste” was an official title used for all princes of the royal house with succession rights, except the Crown Prince.
The current King’s father was for instance “HKH prins Gustaf Adolf, Sveriges arvfurste, hertig av Västerbotten”. The title was quietly abolished in 1982, probably in connection with the birth of Princess Madeleine. As gender-neutral succession had been introduced two years previously and her elder brother had been styled “arvfurste” since being deprived of the title Crown Prince, the alternative solution would obviously have had to be to introduce the new title “arvfurstinna” for princesses with succession rights. Instead “arvfurste” was abolished, making Prince Carl Philip and Prince Bertil the last princes in history to hold this title.

But the most interesting aspect of the child’s title will doubtless be which dukedom he/she will be granted by the King. There were dukes and earls in Sweden already in the twelfth century, but after the medieval age ducal titles was first introduced in the sixteenth century by King Gustaf I (“Gustaf Vasa”) for his sons. A significant difference between then and now is that the Vasa dukedoms were also actual duchies, i.e. partly autonomous regions over which the duke presided with certain powers. Occasionally princes would hold more than one dukedom (up to three) and some, most notably the future Carl IX, used their duchies to build up their own power base which could be used against the monarch. The last prince to hold such duchies was Carl Philip, the younger brother of Gustaf II Adolf, who died in 1622.
The title was revived by Queen Christina, who in 1651 created her uncle by marriage, Count Johan Kasimir of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, Duke of Stegeborg. Upon his death the following year he was succeeded by his son Carl Gustaf, who on his accession to the Swedish throne in 1654 ceded Stegeborg to his brother Adolf Kasimir, who held it until his death in 1689.
Thereafter ducal titles were only reintroduced by King Gustaf III, who had a somewhat romantic sense of history and was particularly enamoured by his distant relatives the Vasas. In 1772 he created his brothers Carl and Fredrik Adolf dukes of Sudermania and Ostrogothia respectively, but now these were not actual duchies but simply dukedoms, i.e. empty titles which did not accord the bearers any particular powers or privileges. This was probably a result of Sweden having changed in such a way since the days of Gustaf I that it was no longer possible for the King to accord his relatives power over parts of the kingdom, but probably Gustaf III also did not trust his brothers’ abilities and loyalties enough.
After 1772 every prince of the royal house has been granted a dukedom upon his birth, with the exception of Gustaf IV Adolf’s second son, who was made Grand Prince (storfurste) of Finland. However, crown princes were at first not given dukedoms – the future Gustaf IV Adolf did not receive any dukedom upon his birth in 1778, nor did his eldest son Gustaf in 1799, Carl August upon his election in 1809 or the future Carl XIV Johan upon his election in 1810.
Carl Johan’s son, Prince Oscar, was however created Duke of Sudermania in 1811 and retained that title when he became Crown Prince in 1818. The same was the case with the future Carl XV, Gustaf V, Gustaf VI Adolf and Carl XVI Gustaf, who as crown princes all held dukedoms granted them while they were still “only” princes. The first child to be born a crown prince and also given a dukedom was Carl Philip in 1979. When his sister Victoria replaced him as Crown Princess in 1980, she too was given a dukedom.
These days a ducal title is also held by the monarch, which is evident from the fact that the royal court insists that King Carl XVI Gustaf is still Duke of Jemtia. This was not the case in earlier reigns, but it is the King’s privilege to change this, which he has obviously chosen to do. That earlier kings did not retain their dukedoms after their accession is clear from the fact that Carl XIII in 1811 gave the dukedom of Sudermania, which he had himself been given by his brother Gustaf III in 1772, to Prince Oscar (later Oscar I).
On the other hand Princes Oscar, Lennart, Sigvard, Carl Jr and Carl Johan were stripped off their dukedoms when they forfeited their succession rights upon marrying commoners, as the ducal titles were clearly linked to their former positions as princes in line of the succession. It is however worth noting that none of these dukedoms were conferred on new-born royals in the lifetimes of their former holders.
The ducal titles are chosen from the provinces of Sweden, but while some provinces have had several dukes since 1772 others have had none. Those dukedoms used since 1772 are: Sudermannia (the future Carl XIII, the future Oscar I, Prince Carl Oscar, Prince Wilhelm), Ostrogothia (Prince Fredrik Adolf, the future Oscar II, Prince Carl Jr), Smolandia (Gustaf III’s second son Prince Carl Gustaf, Prince Lennart), Scania (the future Carl XV, the future Gustaf VI Adolf), Uplandia (Prince Gustaf, Prince Sigvard), Dalecarlia (Prince August, Prince Carl Johan), Wermlandia (the future Carl XIII’s son Carl Adolf, the future Gustaf V, Prince Carl Philip), Westrogothia (Prince Carl, Crown Princess Victoria), Gotlandia (Prince Oscar), Nericia (Prince Eugen), Vestmannia (Prince Erik), Vestrobothnia (Prince Gustaf Adolf), Jemtia (Carl XVI Gustaf), Hallandia (Prince Bertil), and Helsingia and Gestricia (Princess Madeleine).
In 1858 the future Gustaf V was Duke of Norrland for a few hours on the day of his birth, but only until the cabinet objected that Norrland was not a province, but an entire region made up of several provinces and that it was thus too great an honour. The title was changed to Wermlandia later in the day and it was only in 1906 that a dukedom was created in Norrland (that of Vestrobothnia for Prince Gustaf Adolf).
The granting of dukedoms to princesses is something which was only introduced in 1980, when the new Act of Succession came into force and made Princess Victoria Crown Princess, on which occasion she was also created Duchess of Westrogothia. Her sister Madeleine, born two years later, was – uniquely for the Bernadottes – granted two dukedoms, those of Helsingia and Gestricia. The introduction of gender-neutral succession now means that men who marry royal duchesses also become dukes – Prince Daniel is Duke of Westrogothia, while it was announced when Princess Madeleine became engaged to Jonas Bergström that he would become Duke of Helsingia and Gestricia.
The choice of dukedom for the newborn prince(ss) will be for the King to decide. While Sudermannia and Ostrogothia are those most frequently used and may therefore perhaps be considered the most prestigious I have the feeling that it will not be Sudermannia. This is because Stenhammar Palace was left to the royal family by Robert von Kraemer, who in his will decided that it should be made available to a prince of the royal house, preferably a Duke of Sudermnania. It thus became the home of Prince Wilhelm, but it is rather obvious that Prince Carl Philip is now being groomed for taking over Stenhammar when he eventually finishes his agricultural education. A Duke or Duchess of Sudermannia would thus have a better claim to Stenhammar than Prince Carl Philip.
As one has so far avoided recreating the dukedoms held by ex-princes in their lifetimes I also feel certain that the dukedom of Dalecarlia, which was held by Prince Carl Johan until 1946, will not be used given that he is still alive when the child is born. Nor is it likely that the dukedom of Hallandia will be chosen as Princess Lilian is Duchess of Hallandia – of course she is strictly speaking the Dowager Duchess, but the dukedom of Dalecarlia, which was held by Prince August until his death in 1873, was only recreated for Prince Carl Johan in 1916, two years after the death of Prince August’s widow.
Some have claimed to see a pattern in that princes have been accorded the dukedom which had most recently become available, but this is not the case – Prince Carl Philip was for instance created Duke of Wermlandia in 1979 although the dukedom which had most recently become available was that of Sudermannia (in 1965).
During the past 105 years one has on several occasions chosen dukedoms which have never been held earlier – Vestrobothnia (1906), Hallandia (1912), Jemtia (1946), Helsingia and Gestricia (1982) – so choosing one of those still “unduked” might be an option. In that case, the child would be Duke or Duchess of Blechingia, Dalia, Medelpadia, Angermannia, Bahusia or Olandia.
Given the current royals’ – and perhaps particularly Crown Princess Victoria’s – fondness for Olandia (Öland), where Solliden Palace is their much-cherished summer home, I would perhaps risk putting my money on Olandia if a new dukedom is to be used, although personal connections do not seem to have been considered relevant earlier. If they go for a traditional one, I would not be surprised if they chose Ostrogothia. Ostrogothia is not only one of the most frequently used dukedoms, but it would also go well with the parents’ dukedom of Westrogothia, which would furthermore correspond to the earlier situation where the Duke and Duchess of Westrogothia (Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg) were the parents of the Duke of Ostrogothia (Prince Carl Jr).

Sunday, 21 August 2011

National memorial held in Oslo

Today a national memorial ceremony was held in Oslo in honour of the 77 victims of the terrorist attacks on the government buildings and the Labour youth camp at Utøya a month ago. The ceremony in Oslo Spektrum consisted mostly of music and recitals, in addition to which the names of all the victims were read out. The King, his voice breaking, and the Prime Minister both gave excellent speeches which will surely rank among the things each of them will be remembered for.
Among those present were survivors of the attacks, the families of those killed and many of those who came to the rescue. There was also a strong presence of royals and political leaders from the Nordic region. The King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn, Princess Astrid and Johan Martin Ferner, and Marius Borg Høiby were joined by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Crown Princess Victoria, Crown Prince Frederik, the Presidents of Finland and Iceland and the Prime Ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Ahead of the ceremony the foreign guests all laid flowers on the steps of the Cathedral.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Crown Princess Victoria is pregnant

The Swedish royal court has announced that Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel are expecting their first child in March.
Obviously the press release does not say if it is a boy or a girl, but as Sweden introduced gender-neutral succession in 1980 the eldest child will inherit the throne regardless of its sex.
I hereby suggest Oscar III for a boy and Christina II for a girl!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Foreign royals coming to Oslo memorial

On Sunday 21 August the 77 victims of the terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya on 22 July will be honoured with a national memorial ceremony in Oslo Spektrum. Naturally the King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Märtha Louise (accompanied by Ari Behn) and Princess Astrid will all attend and it has now been announced that the Crown Princess of Sweden and the Crown Prince of Denmark will also be in attendance.
Crown Princess Victoria will be back in Oslo already four days later, this time accompanied by Prince Daniel, in order to attend the celebrations of the tenth wedding anniversary of Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. The Danish royals will not attend the latter event, as they have other engagements.

New books: The Crown Princess’s first decade

Next Thursday will mark the Crown Prince and Crown Princess’s tenth wedding anniversary, an event which has not been overlooked by Norwegian publishers. No less than three books have already been published and I am told that a fourth is on the way.
So far I have only read one of them, Mette-Marit – Prinsesse av folket – En illustrert feiring av Norges kronprinspar, which is published by Kagge Forlag. This book is a joint venture of photographer Aasta Børte, who has followed the Crown Princess for ten years, and journalist Monica Aafløy Hansen, who has been the court correspondent of the weekly Hjemmet for nearly as long.
As I am friends with the author I should probably refrain from reviewing the book, but I can say that I think the author and photographer have succeeded in producing a good overview of the Crown Princess’s first ten years as a member of the royal family.
The lavishly illustrated book is arranged thematically, with chapters on the wedding and the children, how the Crown Princess grew into her role, the causes closest to her heart, foreign travel, domestic journeys, clothes and jewellery. Interestingly, the author points out the year 2004 as the turning point for the Crown Princess’s adaptation to her royal role.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

New books: William and Catherine – and Diana

Until the then Princess of Wales chose him to be her mouthpiece for her dirt package in book form in 1992, Andrew Morton was a fairly unknown member of the group of British royal journalists. Diana: Her True Story made his fortune and his name and thus it is perhaps no surprise that he finds it hard to let that story go.
Hardly had the streets of London been cleaned and the bunting taken down following the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton before Michael O’Mara Books Limited published Morton’s William & Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding.
This richly illustrated book takes the reader through the lives of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – their backgrounds, childhoods and upbringings, their time at St Andrews, their courtship and the wedding on 29 April itself.
Morton makes some insightful analyses of Prince William’s character, but like so many others he seems to have struggled mostly in vain to find out much about what Kate is really like. Thus the narrative appears rather drawn-out and tedious when he recounts the years between leaving St Andrews and getting engaged as one long list of social events attended.
Morton’s attempts at finding common denominators between Catherine and her predecessors seem rather desperate when he twice points out that the Duchess’s wedding dress resembled that of the Queen Mother and interprets this as Catherine sending out a message “that she would support her husband through thick and thin” just like the Queen Mother. Just a glance at a photo from the 1923 wedding will suffice to tell that there were no similarities whatsoever between the wedding dresses worn by Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Catherine Middleton.
The link to Queen Elizabeth II is that we are repeatedly told that she like Kate Middleton was in Kenya when she “learned that she was to become Queen”. No, Elizabeth was in Kenya when she learned that she had become Queen.
Diana, Princess of Wales is everywhere in this book. There are photos placed next to each other of Diana and Kate both wearing a blue dress, a photo of Diana and Kate both wearing a red dress and so on. What should have been the story of Prince William’s childhood and upbringing is in reality an account of the life and death of his mother, and – unsurprisingly – a rather partisan one, complete with the negative portrayal of Prince Charles which Morton and his colleagues in the Diana camp could have written in their sleep fifteen or twenty years ago.
About the announcement of Prince William’s and Catherine Middleton’s engagement on 16 November 2010, Morton concludes: “To adapt Diana’s famous phrase from her Panorama interview: there were three of them at this engagement interview, so it was a bit crowded”. Rather, there are three of them in this book. For Andrew Morton it is time to move on.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A new report on Walther Sommerlath’s actions in the Nazi era

It caused quite a stir earlier this year when Swedish TV4 ran a two-part documentary investigating the Nazi past of Queen Silvia’s father Walther Sommerlath, which, contrary to claims earlier made by the Queen and her brother, showed that their father, who joined the Nazi party in 1934, in 1939 took over a factory belonging to a Jew, Efim Wechsler, who was forced to leave Germany following the Kristallnacht, and that Sommerlath’s factory subsequently contributed to the war industry.
Queen Silvia was deeply affected by these accusations against her father and claimed to know nothing about it (she was born in 1943). She subsequently announced that the family would carry out an investigation to uncover the facts and the results of this investigation have now been published on the royal website (external link) in Swedish, English, German and Portuguese.
The report, written by Erik Norberg, Lord-in-Waiting to King Carl Gustaf and former national archivist, confirms much of TV4’s findings, but adds some important information about how Walther Sommerlath took over Wechsler’s factory, which makes Sommerlath appear in a better light than previously.
At the time of his daughter’s wedding to the King of Sweden in 1976, Walther Sommerlath denied to Swedish media that he had ever been a member of the Nazi party. This was disclosed as a lie nine years ago by journalists of the newspaper Arbetet, who simply checked the membership files and found that Sommerlath joined the party in 1934.
Norberg’s report confirms this, showing that Sommerlath joined the Brazilian branch of the German Nazi party in 1934, a year in which its membership rose from 107 to 1014. While Queen Silvia has earlier claimed that “everyone” joined the party, Norberg states that NSDAP eventually had approximately 2,900 members in Brazil, but insists that other organisations associated with the party should also be counted and thus reaches the number 12,000. The German colony in Brazil at that time consisted of some 89,000 individuals, which confirms that a Brazilian historian interviewed by TV4 was right when she shot down Queen Silvia’s claim.
In the absence of any proof of why Sommerlath joined the Nazi party, Norberg speculates about the reasons, but mentions only “social” reasons – the idea that it might have been for ideological reasons is not even hinted at. However, there is nothing which suggests that Sommerlath was an active party member.
It was in December 1938 that Efim Wechsler was asked to leave Germany and in June 1939 he emigrated to Brazil, where his only child was already living. TV4’s documentary showed that at this time, when forced sales of Jewish companies were commonplace, Walther Sommerlath took over his firm Wechsler und Henning in Berlin.
Norberg confirms that Sommerlath’s factory did contribute to the war industry, but adds that the “company was of course insignificant in relation to the overall production apparatus, and it was also a subcontractor to pure military equipment industries”.
Most importantly Norberg shows that the circumstances in which Sommerlath took over Wechsler’s factory were not as black as TV4’s documentary may have made it seem. Walther Sommerlath had in 1937 decided to leave Brazil for Germany, which he did the following year. However, during 1938 he returned briefly to Brazil and at this time bought 20.5 % of a coffee plantation, Fazenda Santa Joaquina, which belonged to his wife’s family.
On 29 April 1939 Walther and Alice Sommerlath sold this to Efim Wechsler, whose company Firma Wechsler und Hennig was taken over by Walther Sommerlath a few days later. But already on 21 December 1939 Wechsler sold his shares in the plantation to Alice Sommerlath’s brother-in-law José Baptista de Almeida Barbosa, using the money to set himself up with a new job and new home in Rio de Janeiro.
Although the sale of Wechsler’s company was obviously forced upon him by the Nazi regime, this goes a long way in indicating that the new owner, Walther Sommerlath, tried to help Wechsler make the best out of the situation.
“All indications are that this was an agreement that had been put in place to compensate Wechsler for the takeover of Firma Wechsler und Hennig and to make it possible for Wechsler to establish himself in Brazil”, Norberg writes. “The price of Firma Wechsler und Hennig was thus quite simply the plantation and the land in Santo André, and these assets in turn created the conditions for Wechsler eventually to become established with his workshop in Rio de Janeiro”.
Norberg also points out that following the end of the war it was “possible to apply to the German State with claims for compensation for economic damage suffered during the period of the Third Reich”. The fact that Wechsler in 1949 applied to the Wiedergutmachungsamt only for compensation for a property in Berlin and not for the company, means that it is “not unreasonable to assume that he considered that payment had already been made for the transfer”, Norberg concludes.

Friday, 5 August 2011

South African state visit to Norway

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and one of his wives, Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, will make a state visit to Norway on 31 August and 1 September.
Norway was one of the countries most closely involved in the struggle against apartheid and King Harald and Queen Sonja paid a state visit to President Nelson Mandela in February 1998, a visit President Mandela returned in March 1999. President Zuma hosted the King and Queen for a state visit in November 2009.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

DVD of Otto von Habsburg’s funeral

On Monday Austrian television ORF will release a DVD containing parts of their excellent broadcast from the funeral of Otto von Habsburg, the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, in Vienna on 18 July.
A DVD of a funeral may perhaps sound a bit morbid at first, but this will also be a historical documentation of the last time the Austro-Hungarian imperial ceremonial was enacted.
The DVD may be ordered from their webshop (external link).

Monday, 1 August 2011

What solidarity looks like

The Northern Bridge leading to the Royal Palace in Stockholm after the terrorist attacks on Norway.