Wednesday, 30 November 2011

New books: The reign of Queen Margrethe II

In the flood of books on Queen Margrethe II of Denmark – books of interviews, picture albums, year by year cavalcades, books on her art, the Queen and theatre, the Queen and archaeology, the Queen and her sisters, the portraits of the Queen and so on – I have always missed a proper biography of this perhaps most interesting of current European monarchs. Thus Jens Andersen’s biography M – 40 år på tronen, published by Lindhardt og Ringhof last Friday, is a welcome addition to the Margrethiana.
Dr Andersen, who is literary editor of the newspaper Berlingske, is one of Denmark’s most noted biographers and his tome on Hans Christian Andersen has been translated into several languages. His biography of the Queen has been written to mark her upcoming fortieth anniversary on the throne and although the Queen and other members of the Danish and Norwegian royal families have allowed themselves to be interviewed, it stands out from other Margrethe books by not being based solely on interviews with her.
Indeed Andersen has done his research well and draws on a wide range of primary and secondary sources. The fact that other voices than the Queen’s are heard, thus providing other perspectives than the subject’s, alone contributes to making this one of the most interesting books which has been written about Margrethe II.
The author has chosen to leave out Queen Margrethe’s early life (except in retrospect when relevant) and to deal exclusively with his reign, which he divides up in chronological chapters which treat a few years at the time. Often these chapters will relate some key events before leading to a more thorough exploration of one or more topics which are of particular relevance to this time period, such as for instance the Queen’s constitutional role, her use of the language, her support for the new nations which emerged out of the events of 1989-1991, or her relations with Greenland.
The book does not contain any great revelations, but adds some titbits of interest, for instance that the Queen thinks her first Prime Minister, Jens Otto Krag, viewed her as a “clumsy teenager” or that she first met the future Queen Sonja already in the summer of 1959. By this stage so much has been written about Queen Margrethe that one can hardly except much new of major interest to appear in her lifetime, but Andersen succeeds brilliantly in putting Margrethe II and her reign into the context of its times and in highlighting some of the longer lines which run through those forty years. One of the long lines he treats particularly thoroughly is the immigration issue, the other women’s liberation.
The author observes that the Queen has become quite good at expressing opinions in a way that does not make them political statements in themselves, but contributes to an ethical discussion. The author has made full use of Queen Margrethe’s New Year speeches, which are rarely dull and which she has used to voice her concerns about issues which have not always been uncontroversial. One recurring topic throughout her reign has been the immigration issue, which has not always sat well with xenophobic Danes. The author sees the Queen’s concerns with this issue in relation to her own family situation, where she has seen up close the challenges faced by immigrants.
Now that Margrethe II has been on the throne for forty years, she is universally admired and respected and the Danish monarchy stands solidly on its feet, it is very useful to be reminded that this has not always been the case. She became queen rather suddenly, at the age of only 31, at a time when the standing of the monarchy was low, and the first decade or so of her reign was marked by a severe economic crisis and a chaotic parliamentary situation.
Andersen shows not only how things have changed since then, but also how Margrethe II herself has developed. For instance he investigates how the Queen in the years immediately after her accession found her way to a deep religious faith, which has come to mean much to her, and also how she began to find her feet as an artist, which afforded her the opportunity to be evaluated by talent rather than by birthright.
The author is generally respectful towards his subject and seems to have a certain admiration for her (which indeed most people seem to have), but he is not fawning or uncritical. Also, he does not avoid some of less pleasant topics or episodes, such as the Prince Consort’s difficulties with his royal role, the award of the Grand Cross of the Order of Dannebrog to the King of Bahrain shortly before his violent suppression of the uprising earlier this year, or the controversy of the antependium the Queen made for Roskilde Cathedral.
Occasionally I found some of the more narrative parts a bit long-winded (for instance about the royal visit to the USA in 1976) and I could have wished for more on the Queen’s views and thoughts about the role of the monarchy in her own days, but the overall impression is that this is an excellent biography which adds something valuable to our understanding of its subject. This seems likely to become a classic among the vast number of books on Queen Margrethe II and a book which current and future students of her reign should not miss out on.
(As a disclaimer I should add that although I am among the historians quoted in the book, this does not disqualify me from reviewing it as I have not contributed to it).

Sunday, 27 November 2011

New books: Royal splendour from across Europe

On the occasion of the wedding of Sovereign Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène of Monaco this summer the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco held an exhibition titled no less than “Magnificence and Grandeur of the Royal Houses in Europe”. I did not see the exhibition, but a while ago I got hold of the eponymous catalogue, edited by Catherine Arminjon, which bears testimony to a sumptuous exhibition of royal treasures from across Europe.
The catalogue is arranged geographically, starting with Portugal and Spain before moving north to France, Britain, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden and then south again from Russia via Poland, Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, Austria, the Hungarian Esterházys, the Savoys of Turin and the Bourbons of Naples before ending up in Monaco.
Thus Liechtenstein is the only of the current European monarchies not included in the exhibition, which is a pity given that the princely collection is one of the grandest in Europe, probably second only to that of Britain. The British Royal Collection has also not lent anything to the exhibition, so the British section is made up of loans from mostly French collections (a bust from the Victoria & Albert Museum is the only British-owned item included).
But the other extant monarchies have all lent items from their royal collections – some more generously than others. Being Norwegian I notice that the loans from this country are actually quite impressive, even including Queen Maud’s coronation gown.
Covering all this in one exhibition or one volume would obviously be impossible and the solution chosen is to focus on one monarch (or couple) per country – Denmark and Prussia being the exceptions by including respectively both Christian IV and Christian IX and the entire Hohenzollern dynasty from Friedrich I to Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The chosen person(s) is often, but not always, the founder of a dynasty – Felipe V of Spain, Adolphe of Luxembourg, Léopold I of the Belgians, Haakon VII of Norway.
For each country there is one main essay, generally followed by one or two shorter and more specific texts and finally a catalogue of the items relating to the country in question. The essays are diverse in their contents, with some authors choosing to write short biographical essays while authors set focus on one topic in particular.
As is the case with all anthologies, some essays are obviously more successful than others. Among the better ones one could mention Philippe Maarschalkerweerd on the education of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Andrea Merlotti on the achievements of King Vittorio Amadeo of Sardinia and Sicily, Gustaf Janssens on King Léopold I of the Belgians’s brand of constitutional monarchy, Peter Kristiansen on King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway, Magnus Olausson on the public persona of King Gustaf III of Sweden and Lorenz Seelig on the artistic patronage of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
The only main essay which does not measure up is, unfortunately I must say, the Norwegian one, which has been written by Widar Halén, director of design and decorative art at the National Museum in Oslo. It seems obvious that Halén has very little knowledge and understanding of the topic he has been asked to write about and has done little about this.
His essay is, bewilderedly, entitled “The new Norwegian monarchy and its context”, and from the text it seems clear that he does indeed think that there was an entirely new Norwegian monarchy in 1905. Thus he refers to “King Oscar II of Sweden” as if Norway had been a Swedish province rather than an independent kingdom in a personal union with its eastern neighbour. He also claims that independence came only in 1905 and that the monogram of Haakon VII “was soon being brandished as a symbol of freedom, particularly during World War II”. In fact this happened only during World War II. It seems obvious that Halén has understood little of what really happened in 1905.
He adds some nonsense about the mediaeval book The King’s Mirror saying that “to serve and honor the king is to pay homage to God”. If this “is seen simply as a description of the king’s immunity and exceptional status, its significance for modern Norway is more readily understood. It was on this basis ten that the Norwegian people chose Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud, daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, as king and queen of Norway”. Reading this, one can but wonder what on earth he is talking about.
To these examples of his own confusion he adds several factual mistakes, such as the claim that Queen Maud died at Appleton House, that the accession of a new monarch was proclaimed from the palace balcony in 1958 (sic) as well as in 1991 or that the Constitution of 17 May 1814 irrevocably abolished the nobility. Using Snorre Sturlason’s Heimskringla as a historical source is highly questionable, to put it mildly.
If asked to write an essay on a topic about which one knows little, one can either decline, or try to learn something about it in order to make the best out of it, or put one’s own confusion into print. Sadly the Norwegian essay of this catalogue is an example of the latter option.
There are inevitably some mistakes to be found also in other parts of the catalogue and the English language is sometimes flawed. Occasionally there is a quaint expression, sometimes a sentence does not make sense, but I am left wondering whether this is due to the translators or a result of the various authors with varying command of the language having been required to write in English.
The catalogue is beautifully designed and having read it, the main impression is that it makes for an interesting grand tour through the history of Europe’s monarchies, taking in some of the most interesting stories to be found along the way and giving an impression of the splendour associated with the royal courts of Europe in recent centuries.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

At the road’s end: Elisabeth, Duchess of Hohenberg, Princess of Luxembourg (1922-2011)

The grand ducal court of Luxembourg has announced the death of the Grand Duke’s aunt, Duchess Elisabeth of Hohenberg, née Princess of Luxembourg, at the age of 88.
The second of the six children of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Félix, Princess Elisabeth Hilda Zita Marie Anna Antonia Friederike Wilhelmine Luise of Luxembourg was born on 22 December 1922. Like the rest of the grand ducal family she spent part of her youth in exile during World War II, but was able to return to Luxembourg following its liberation.
on 9 May 1956 she married Duke Franz Ferdinand of Hohenberg, the grandson of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne whose assassination together with his morganatic wife in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 sparked World War I. The couple had two daughters: Anna, known as Anita, born in 1958, and Sophie, born in 1960. The Duke died in 1977.
The late Duchess will be buried at Artstetten Castle in Austria, where the victims of Sarajevo are also buried, but a memorial service will also be held in the Church of Saint Michel in Luxembourg at a date which has not yet been decided.

At the road’s end: Danielle Mitterrand (1924-2011), activist and former first lady of France

It has been announced that Danielle Mitterrand, activist, veteran of the French resistance and the country’s former first lady, died today at the age of 87.
Born Danielle Émilienne Isabelle Gouze in Verdun on 29 October 1924, she joined the French resistance movement as a nurse at the age of seventeen. She met the resistance fighter François Mitterrand while helping him to escape, fell in love and married him in 1944. The couple had three sons.
Danielle Mitterrand was noted for her involvement in a wide range of issues, including supporting the Tibetans and the Kurds, water ressources, slavery, the death penalty and, more recently, anti-globalisation. Her activism was not always welcomed by the Quai d’Orsay.
In 1981 her husband was elected President of France, in which role he served until 1995. He died from cancer the following year and many will remember the image of his widow and their sons standing shoulder to shoulder with his mistress and their daughter at his funeral.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

On this date: The first coronation in Nidaros Cathedral

Today is the 562nd anniversary of the first coronation to take place in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, now considered Norway’s foremost national monument and the obvious coronation church since time immemorial.
But it was in fact only on 20 November 1449 that such a ceremony took place in the great cathedral. Earlier coronations, which are known in Norway from 1163/1164, took place first in Bergen and later in Oslo, when that town succeeded Bergen as capital.
The Kalmar Union, which had been founded in 1397 and which united the three Scandinavian realms under one monarch, fell apart when King Christoffer on 5 or 6 January 1448 died suddenly in Helsingborg on his way to Sweden.
The Danes subsequently elected Count Christian of Oldenburg their new king, while the Swedes chose the nobleman Karl Knutsson of the Bonde family. Norway was no longer strong enough to stand alone and thus had to choose between Christian and Karl.
There were parties in favour of both candidates, but in June 1449 the Norwegian Council of the Realm chose Christian as King of Norway. This marked the transition from hereditary monarchy to electoral monarchy and Christian I thus issued a royal contract, the first such in Norwegian history.
But Karl’s supporters, led by Archbishop Aslak Bolt, did not give up. In June they managed to get the populace at the assembly called Frostating to declare their willingness to elect Karl king on certain conditions. The election took place at Hamar on 25 October and Karl continued north to Trondheim, where his coronation took place on 20 November.
We know little about the actual coronation, except that the Archbishop placed the crown on the King’s head with the assistance of the Bishop of Hamar and that several men were subsequently knighted.
Four days later an open letter to Christian I was issued in the name of the Norwegian people, where he was encouraged not to come to Norway as one had now elected and crowned Karl in the place where “rightful kings should be elected and crowned, which is in Trondheim”.
But this was not quite true, given that no kings had ever before been crowned in Trondheim. However, Nidaros, as Trondheim was called then, was where kings had been installed (or “taken as king”, as the term said) since at least the tenth century and since 1152/1153 it was also the seat of the powerful archbishop. And Nidaros Cathedral was the shrine of King Olav Haraldsson, Norway’s patron saint. Thus there were several reasons to hold a coronation there.
A practical reason was obviously that the Cathedral was the Archbishop’s own church and his crowning the King there was a visual demonstration of his role as kingmaker and underlined the position of the powerful church in relation to the King. One reason why Archbishop Aslak Bolt supported Karl’s candidature in the first place may well have been that he seemed likely to be a weaker monarch than Christian, which the church would benefit from. The royal contract issued by Karl was indeed more generous towards the church than Christian’s, which it otherwise closely resembled.
The coronation of Karl Knutsson, which contravened the Council of the Realm’s decision and could therefore be considered revolutionary, meant that there were now two rival kings of Norway. King Karl went back to Sweden to collect an army, but the following year he failed in his attempt at taking Akershus Castle in Oslo.
Negotiations were held in Halmstad, where the Swedish representatives, much to Karl’s chagrin, agreed that he should renounce his rights to Norway in favour of King Christian. Karl had little choice but to accept the outcome and on 10 June 1450 he ratified the Halmstad agreement.
Later that summer Christian I was crowned in Nidaros Cathedral, obviously in order to cancel out the usurper’s coronation. Christian’s son, King Hans, was also crowned there in 1483, but thereafter no coronations were held in Nidaros Cathedral until 1818, by which time the Constitution of 1814 had decided that kings should be crowned in that church.
Karl Knutsson’s remaining life was turbulent and marked by continued struggles with Christian I over supremacy in the north. He was twice driven from the Swedish throne, but returned in 1467 and reigned until his death in 1470. Much to the irritation of King Christian he also continued to use the title “King of Norway”. The Norwegian lion is also incorporated into his arms on his sarcophagus in the Riddarholm Church in Stockholm (second photo), which was executed by Lukas van der Werdt around 1574.
Unlike other claimants and usurpers Karl Knutsson is still included in the official lists of the kings of Norway. The reason for the difference in treatment seems to be the fact that he was indeed crowned in the national monument that is Nidaros Cathedral.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

New books: The iconography of Elizabeth II

The diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain is approaching and to mark the occasion the National Portrait Gallery is, as previously mentioned, holding a travelling exhibition titled “The Queen: Art & Image”. Having already been shown in Edinburgh, it is now in Belfast and will go to Cardiff before ending up in London from 17 May to 21 October.
David Moorhouse, the NPG’s curator of twentieth century portraits, has put together the catalogue of the same name, which begins with an essay of historical reflections on the reign of Elizabeth II by the renowned historian Sir David Cannadine. The story of Britain and the British monarchy in the days of Elizabeth II is in many ways the story of recessional, Professor Cannadine argues.
It is also a story of great change, and he points out that Britain and its “imperial-ornamental” monarchy as they were at the outset of Elizabeth II’s reign might have been fairly easily recognisable to the old Queen Victoria. The “most pronounced themes” of Elizabeth II’s sixty years are “the de-Victorianisation and the downsizing of Britain and its empire, and also of the British monarchy”.
Cannadine also touches upon how the image of Queen Elizabeth, “probably the most visually depicted and represented individual ever to have existed across the entire span of human history”, has evolved and how the way the constitutional monarchy has developed makes it “in many ways a feminised monarchy”, which again “makes it easier for a regnant queen to be sympathetically portrayed than a mere dignified king”.
But the image and perception of the Queen is mostly dealt with by Paul Moorhouse in the book’s second essay. Moorhouse argues that the sixty years of Elizabeth II’s reign has seen “a revolution in the way the Queen is represented and perceived”. He divides these sixty years into three eras:
The period from 1952 to the mid-1960s “reflects a concern with the young Queen’s appearance”; the era from the late 1960s to the early 1980s “demonstrates a new concern with reinventing the sovereign’s public image”; while era consisting of the last thirty years “manifests and ongoing engagement with the questions of what the Queen represents”.
The first era saw a certain interest in the new monarch’s youth, beauty and glamour, but as public interest faded and the early “sense of glamour” was “replaced by something more dependable” one had to find new ways. That way was not to project “an image of special status”, but to make the Queen seem more down-to-earth. Moorhouse pins this down to 1968-1969, when “[s]tiff formality was replaced with a renewed emphasis on the Queen’s qualities as a human being”. This led to the groundbreaking 1969 television documentary on the royal family, which has subsequently been criticised for making the royals appear too ordinary and breaking down the barriers between public and private life.
One of the most interesting aspects of the catalogue is that it does not focus on painted portraits alone, but on a diverse range of media. Another new book on Queen Elizabeth states that she has sat for more than 140 portraits, but obviously press photographs have been more influential in shaping the public conception of Elizabeth II than have painted portraits. And then there are other media, such as formal photographs, video/television and the portraits which she has not sat for. The only art form missing from the catalogue is sculpture, with no explanation given for this.
With such a wide range of images to choose from the curator has probably had to make some tough choices. But the final selection is interesting and represents a cross-section of images of Elizabeth II through sixty years. Viewing them together furthermore makes apparent the connections across art form and time, for instance how Pietro Annigoni’s painting from 1954-1955 is obviously related to a formal Cecil Beaton photograph from 1968 and how Annigoni’s portrait and a second one done in 1969 “meet” in Annie Leibovitz’s 2007 photo.
Having read the catalogue with interest I look forward to seeing the exhibition.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Plans for Queen Margrethe’s jubilee announced

The Danish royal court has today published the preliminary initerary for the celebrations of Queen Margrethe II’s forty years on the throne in January 2012. The celebrations will take place during the weekend stretching from Friday 13 January to Sunday 15 January.
The jubilee will commence with a reception hosted by Parliament at 11 a.m. on Friday. The following day, which is the actual anniversary of the accession, the Queen and Prince Consort will drive through Copenhagen from Amalienborg to the City Hall, where there will be a reception at 1 p.m. and where the royal couple will appear on the balcony. In the evening there will be a gala performance, not as usual at the Royal Theatre, but at the Concert House.
On the third day, the Queen will, quite unusually, hold a State Council on a Sunday (at Christiansborg Palace 10 p.m.), before appearing on the balcony at Amalienborg at noon. At 3 p.m. a service will be held in Christiansborg Palace Church and at 8 p.m. there will be a state banquet at Christiansborg for Danish authorities, foreign guests and family (for jubilees “foreign guests” normally means only from the Nordic countries and not royalty from all over Europe).
According to the royal website there will also be several exhibitions to mark the jubilee, including one at the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Palace, where, I have been told, a new portrait by Niels Strøbek showing Queen Margrethe together by Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Christian will be unveiled.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Queen makes public debute as artist

Today the Queen makes her public debut as an artist when the exhibition “Under stort press” (“Under Great Pressure”) opens at Dunkers kulturhus in Helsingborg. The Queen is among the eighty European artists exhibiting more than 1,000 graphic works.
In cooperation with the artists Kjell Nupen and Ørnulf Opdahl the Queen has transformed photos from a journey to Svalbard in 2006 into graphic prints and a series of 24 of them, titled “Tre reiser, tre landskap” (“Three journeys, three landscapes”), will be shown at the exhibition in Helsingborg.
The proceeds of the sale of fifty portfolios containing eight prints by the Queen, eight by Nupen and eight by Opdahl will in its entirety be used to fund “Her Majesty Queen Sonja’s Scholarship for Artists”, which every second year will award a scholarship to a young graphic artist from one of the Nordic countries and will surely be among the art-loving Queen’s most important legacies.
The Queen’s works may all be viewed at the royal website (external link) and in an article on Dagbladet’s website (external link). They will also be exhibited at Henie Onstad Art Centre in Bærum next summer.
The Queen will be present for the vernissage in Helsingborg today, which will also be attended by the King, the Crown Prince and the Queen of Sweden.

Monday, 7 November 2011

My latest article: The death of Queen Maud

“Queen Maud’s mysterious death” was the headline Dagbladet chose to splash all over their front page on the day the fifth volume of Tor Bomann-Larsen’s biography of her and King Haakon was published. The so-called mystery was supposedly that Queen Maud might have been sent on her way through euthanasia, something which seems subsequently to have become a “truth” in the pages of that newspaper.
However, in today’s Dagbladet I point out that this is utter nonsense. No such claim is made in the book, though it mentions that the British royal physician Lord Dawson of Penn used euthanasia to ensure that King George V of Britain, Queen Maud’s brother, died in time to catch The Times’s deadline (pun unintended), something which has been publicly known since George V’s biographer Kenneth Rose revealed it in 1983.
As Queen Maud died in London, Lord Dawson of Penn was among the doctors who signed the bulletin announcing her death, but he was not around when she died in a private hospital in the middle of the night in the presence of only a nurse. A few days earlier she had undergone surgery for cancer, which had revealed that it was incurable, and had been in a weak condition for some days when she died suddenly from acute heart failure.
Following her death King Haakon (and others) wrote that this had spared her further suffering, which is the thing one typically says when someone dies in the early stages of an incurable and painful illness.
To claim that this indicates that her death was caused by euthanasia is surely to add 2 and 2 and get 7.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to set up permanent home at Kensington Palace in 2013

Several British newspapers report today that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William of Britain and his wife Catherine) will set up their permanent residence in a wing of Kensington Palace from 2013, although it is worth noting that this has apparently not been officially confirmed by the royal court.
The wing in question is Apartment 1A, which was most recently inhabitated by Princess Margaret until her death in 2002. Following her death the apartment was turned over to Historic Royal Palaces, which opened it up for exhibitions in 2004 and uses other parts of it for offices and storage. It is reported that Queen Elizabeth II has agreed to reimburse HRP for their expenses.
Apparently an exhibition planned for 2012 will go ahead and the apartment will therefore only be returned to the Royal Household in September 2012. Following extensive renovation work the Duke and Duchess will probably be able to move in in mid-2013, at which time Prince William will complete his military service in Wales.
Following their wedding in April 2011 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have used the small Nottingham Cottage, which is adjacent to Kensington Palace, as their London home, but this has only been a temporary solution. According to media reports Prince Harry will take over the cottage in 2013. The office of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will move from St James’s Palace to Kensington Palace in the middle of next year.
Kensington Palace has evolved from a property called Nottingham House, which was purchased by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1689. Extended several times through history it now consists of various wings and buildings which together form the complex structure that is Kensington Palace. The state apartments are open to the public, while other parts serve as homes to royal employees as well as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael.
Prince William himself grew up at Kensington Palace, but not in the apartment which will be his future home. Following the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1992 the former moved out, while Diana, Princess of Wales continued to live at Kensington Palace until her death in 1997. Her former apartment has subsequently been turned into offices.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

At the road’s end: Sivert A. Farstad (1931-2011), former Lord Chamberlain

Among the death announcements in Aftenposten today is that of former Lord Chamberlain Sivert A. Farstad, who died at the hospital Diakonhjemmet in Oslo on 28 October, aged 80.
Sivert Andreas Farstad was born on 4 July 1931 and made a career in the Navy, where he reached the rank of Rear Admiral.
He was appointed Lord Chamberlain in 1993 in succession to Kaare Langlete. This was a rather challenging time for the royal court, which was in the middle of the complicated (and eventually controversial) restoration of the Royal Palace.
Farstad took his leave in the autumn of 1996 at a crucial phase of the restoration process, citing age as his reason. He was succeeded by Lars Petter Forberg, who became the (so far) last Lord Chamberlain from the armed forces (following Forberg’s resignation one has chosen diplomats instead).
Unlike most other Lord Chamberlains, Farstad was not given the Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav when he left royal service.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, two daughters and five grandchildren. His funeral will take place in Ullern Church in Oslo on 8 November.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

My latest article: Royal appeasers

On Friday I attended the release of the fifth volume of Tor Bomann-Larsen’s biography of King Haakon and Queen Maud, Æresordet (published by Cappelen Damm). The media has made a big deal out of the fact that the author quotes a letter the then Crown Prince Olav wrote to his cousin the Prince of Wales in December 1935, advocating rapproachment between Britain and Germany. While this has been presented as a huge revelation it is in fact not a revelation at all, given that Philip Ziegler writes about it in his official biography of Edward VIII, which was published in 1990, and that I quoted from the letter in my biography of King Olav and Crown Princess Märtha (Dronningen vi ikke fikk - En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav) eight years ago.
What I have been missing in the media is the context in which this should be seen, which is not, as Professor Trond Nordby claimed in a radio debate we took part in on Friday, that Crown Princess Märtha’s family were Nazi sympathisers (they were most certainly not), but that Crown Prince Olav’s closest family was his mother’s British family and that the British royal family were all warm supporters of appeasement until the bitter end. About this I have written a short article (external link) which is published in Aftenposten, Norway’s biggest newspaper, today.