Monday, 31 December 2012

My latest article: The invention of the tradition of Nidaros Cathedral as coronation church

Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim has often been referred to as the ancient coronation church of Norway, but the truth is that the first coronations in the history of this country took place in Bergen and later in Oslo. Indeed it was only in 1449 that a coronation first took place in Nidaros Cathedral, and that was caused by the extraordinary circumstances following the death of King Christoffer. The majority of the Council voted in favour of King Christian I of Denmark, while the minority, led by Archbishop Aslak Bolt, voted for King Karl Knutsson of Sweden, whom the Archbishop made sure to crown in his cathedral. The following year, when Karl Knutsson had been defeated, Christian was himself crowned in the same church.
In this year’s last issue of Historie (no 4 – 2012), which went on sale on 20 December, I explore how one in 1449-1450 tried to create the impression that Nidaros Cathedral was the place where kings of Norway should by tradition be crowned. This invention of tradition proved a great success and in the subsequent decades and centuries one may find many references to this being the tradition, for instance when Frederik I decided that his Norwegian coronation should take place in Konghelle, which caused the Council to object that the tradition was that it should happen in Trondheim.
When Norway regained its independence in 1814 the “founding fathers” set it down in writing in the Constitution that the King should be crowned in Nidaros Cathedral, a requirement which was only abolished in 1908.
The story of how Nidaros Cathedral became the coronation church of Norway, and in particular what happened in 1449-1450 and 1814, is a prime example of what historians call “the invention of tradition”. This term was coined by an eponymous book of 1983, in which the recently deceased Eric Hobsbawm defines “invented tradition” as “a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past. In fact, where possible, they normally attempt to establish continuity with a suitable historic past. […] The historic past into which the new tradition is inserted need not be lengthy, stretching back into the assumed mists of time”.
Such invented traditions arise “more frequently when a rapid transformation of society weakens or destroys the social patterns for which ‘old’ traditions had been designed, producing new ones to which they were not applicable, or when such old traditions and their institutional carriers and promulgators no longer prove sufficiently adaptable and flexible, or are otherwise eliminated: in short, when there are sufficiently large and rapid changes on the demand or supply side”, which was indeed the case in 1449-1450 as well as in 1814, both occasions where Norway found itself at major crossroads of its history.
This story was also the topic of a short article I wrote in Adresseavisen last January, while this is the longer, scholarly version, running to seventeen pages and fully referenced and documented.
As this is also my last article (and blogpost) of 2012 I take this opportunity to wish my readers a Happy New Year!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

I wish all my readers a happy Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Princess Madeleine’s wedding set for 8 June

The Swedish royal court today announced that the wedding of Princess Madeleine and Christopher “Chris” O’Neill will take place in the Palace Church in Stockholm on 8 June 2013, i.e. two days after the National Day of Sweden and two days before the Princess’s birthday.
The Palace Church is often used for royal christenings and lyings-in-state, but comparatively rarely for weddings, the previous occasions being the weddings of Princess Christina and Tord Magnuson in 1974 and of Princess Lovisa and Crown Prince Frederik (VIII) of Denmark in 1869.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

British Queen attends Cabinet meeting for the first time

This morning Queen Elizabeth II of Britain attended a Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street. Unlike other European monarchs the Queen of Britain does not have regular meetings with the entire cabinet and this was the first time in her sixty years on the throne that she attended Cabinet. She sat next to Prime Minister David Cameron, but only participated as an observer and not for the entire meeting.
This does not herald a new practice, but was an exception to mark Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee. It has been widely reported that she thus became the first monarch to attend Cabinet since Queen Victoria, but I cannot recall ever having heard or read of Queen Victoria attending Cabinet meetings. The historian Jane Ridley says something similar to the BBC, suggesting that it might have been George III, who "went only very occasionally". David Cameron himself said during today’s Cabinet that they had concluded that the previous occasion was probably George III in 1781. The last British monarch to take an active part in Cabinet meetings was Queen Anne.
There are currently 22 members of the British Cabinet, with ten more ministers able to attend. Of these 32 ministers only three were born when Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne on 6 February 1952.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

British government introduces bill to change succession

Earlier this week the British government presented its bill to change the succession to the throne, formally called the Succession to the Crown Bill. As earlier mentioned the introduction of this bill follows agreement having been reached between the sixteen realms of which Elizabeth II is queen to introduce gender neutral succession.
This mean that the as yet unborn first child of Prince William will be heir to the throne regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl, whereas a girl would, under previous legislation, have been bypassed by a younger brother.
The bill makes this change retroactive, but only back to 28 October 2011, the date the prime ministers of the sixteen realms reached their agreement. Thus it will only affect those born after that date, which means that for instance Princess Anne and her descendants will still come after her younger brothers Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and their descendants. Lady Louise Windsor, the daughter of Prince Edward, will also still follow behind her younger brother James, Viscount Severn. I think the person closest to the throne who will actually be affected by this is the newborn grandchild of the Duke of Gloucester, Tane Lewis, who is currently ahead of his elder sister Senna in the succession, but who will cease being so when the bill is enacted.
The bill further removes the ban on people married to Catholics from succeeding to the throne. However, those who are themselves Catholic will still be barred from succeeding (as the monarch is head of the Church of England). Interestingly, this provision is made retroactive for those who have married Catholics and are still alive. The persons closest to the throne affected by this are the Earl of St Andrews (son of the Duke of Kent) and Prince Michael, who lost their succession rights when they married Catholics, but who will now regain a place in the order of succession. Several other people will also be affected by this, including for instance the three children of the late Princess Ragnhild of Norway.
Thirdly, the bill radically limits the scope of people who need the British monarch’s permission to marry. Under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 (which will now be repealed in its entirety), all descendants of George II, except those descending from princesses who married into foreign royal houses, needed the monarch’s permission to marry in order for their marriages to be valid under British law. From the time this bill comes into force the need to obtain permission will only apply to the first six in line for the throne – i.e. currently the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William), Prince Henry, the Duke of York (Prince Andrew), Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. Once the first child of Prince William is born next year, Princess Eugenie will be free of this obligation. Failure to comply with this rule means the loss of succession rights for the person in question and his or her descendants. Most marriages deemed void by the Royal Marriages Act will now be “legalised”.
The bill also involves amendments to several other pieces of legislation, namely the Treason Act of 1351, the Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement and the Regency Act of 1937. Interestingly, the bill does not make any changes to the practice whereby the Duchy of Cornwall devolves on the heir to the throne when the eldest son of the monarch. I believe this will require separate legal amendments, as does the issue of whether the title Princess of Wales may in the future be given to the heir apparent when being the monarch’s daughter.
Under current legislation the title Prince(ss) of the United Kingdom and the style Royal Highness are(by Letters Patent of 1917) limited to the children and the male-line grandchildren of the monarch. At some stage one would expect new letters patent to be issued to alter this, which will no longer make sense when the eldest child is heir regardless of its sex.
It is also interesting to observe that the bill does not limit the succession to the throne. Thus all descendants of the Electress Sophia of Hanover, except Catholics, will continue to be in the order of succession and the retroactive inclusion of those who have married Catholics will mean that the number of potential heirs (which already run to hundreds and hundreds of people) will actually increase.
When this bill is passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords and come into effect Spain and Monaco will be the only European monarchies where males still take precedence over females in the succession (while Liechtenstein bars women altogether).

Friday, 14 December 2012

First grandchild for Princess Christina

Svensk Damtidning reports that Princess Christina, the youngest of the four elder sisters of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, has become a grandmother for the first time. Frida Bergström, the partner of her youngest son Victor Magnuson, gave birth on 11 December to a son, whose name has not yet been decided.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Prince Félix of Luxembourg set to marry

The grand ducal court of Luxembourg today announced the engagement of Prince Félix, the second son of Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, to his German girlfriend Claire Lademacher.
The future Princess was born in Filderstadt in Germany on 21 March 1985 and was educated in Germany, the USA, Switzerland, France and Italy. She holds as master degree in bioethics (the same degree as Prince Félix is currently studying for) and has earlier worked for Condé Nast in New York and Munich, for IMG World in Berlin and for the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics and Human Rights, according to the Luxembourgian court. She is currently working on a PhD on the topic of organ donation ethics.
Speculation about an upcoming engagement intensified after the wedding of Prince Félix’s elder brother, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, to Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy in October. No date has yet been announced for the wedding. The third brother, Prince Louis, married Tessy Antony in 2006, while the two youngest siblings, Princess Alexandra and Prince Sébastien, are unmarried.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Elizabeth II’s realms agree to change succession laws

It was announced today that all the sixteen countries of which Elizabeth II is Queen have agreed to change their succession laws so that the eldest child will henceforward inherit the throne whether it is a boy or a girl. Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is in charge of constitutional affairs, says that the government will now introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Commons as soon as possible. Similar measures will be taken in Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
The initiative to change the succession laws was taken by British Prime Minister David Cameron in October 2011 and an agreement was reached by the prime ministers of the sixteen realms at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. The task of securing formal consent from all realms was given to the government of New Zealand, which was expected to complete this task by December. With perfect timing, the process of gathering formal consent has now been completed the day after it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child.
Under the current rules, daughters came after sons in the order of succession, so that a firstborn daughter of the Duke of Cambridge would have been surpassed by a younger brother born at a later date. However, it was earlier stated that if the modified succession had not come into effect before the birth of a child to the Duke of Cambridge the changes would be retroactive from October 2011.
Among the legislation which will be amended by the Succession to the Crown Bill are the Bill of Rights of 1688 and the Act of Settlement of 1701. The bill will also mean that those who marry Catholics will no longer lose their place in the order of succession.
When the changes take effect Spain, Monaco and Liechtenstein will be the only monarchies in Europe which do not have gender neutral succession.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Duchess of Cambridge pregnant with heir to the British throne

The British royal court today announced that the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Catherine or Kate) is pregnant with her first child. The court did not say when the baby is expected to be born, only that “the pregnancy is in its very early stages”. Royal pregnancies are normally not announced until the end of the third month, but it seems this was announced already now to prevent speculations after the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London this afternoon for treatment for very acute morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum).
As the firstborn child of the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William of Britain) the child will be born as third in line to the throne, following its father and its grandfather, the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles). However, if it is a girl she will, under current legislation, be bypassed in the succession by a younger brother, but there is currently a constitutional process going on in the sixteen realms of which Elizabeth II is Queen to introduce gender-neutral succession. If the baby now expected is a girl, this will be done retroactively, so the expected child will be the future monarch whether it is a boy or a girl.
The child will be the third great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II, following the two daughters of Peter Phillips (the son of Princess Anne). Although it is not unusual for Britain to have a royal family consisting of four generations (this was the case from 1948 to 1953 and from 1982 to 2002) it will be the first time since 1894-1901 that there will be three heirs in direct line to the British throne.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

New books: The wit and wisdom of Margrethe II

The Queen of Denmark is known for her wonderful ability to use the Danish language to formulate striking sentences and for her sharp powers of observation. Thus one can only applaud that the author Jens Andersen has now followed up his very interesting biography of Queen Margrethe with a collection of memorable queenly quotes.
Om man så må sige – 350 Dronning Margrethe-citater, published by Lindhardt & Ringhof, is arranged alphabetically, ranging from “abdikation” to “året” (the year) and covering a vast field of topics on the way from A to Å.
I am not sure if an alphabetical order is the best way of arranging such a book; it might perhaps have been more interesting if related topics had been grouped together. As it is, one will for instance find a quote about the Order of the Elephant under E for “Elefantordenen”, while a quote about orders in general is found under “O” for “ordensvæsen”.
The quotes are taken from the Queen’s speeches and from Andersen’s interviews with her for her biography, but primarily from the many, many interviews Queen Margrethe has given to newspapers, magazines, television and books. The oldest are from 1966, the newest very recent.
Occasionally one might have wished for other quotes to have been selected. For instance, there are two quotes about “ungdommen” (young people), both of them dating from 1975, when the Queen herself was fairly young. One supposes her views on that topic may have developed since then. On a couple of occasions I could also think of better Queen Margrethe quotes than those chosen for this book.
Queen Margrethe is interesting, intelligent and witty, and knows how to utilise the Danish language (only one utterance is quoted in another language than Danish). Thus this is a book full of pearls. Just a few examples will be enough:
“We do not have that much to moan about when one thinks of what people did not moan about before”.
“When one loves one gets more to lose”.
“I do not think one should chase the fashions of the day, concerning neither sweaters nor opinions”.
“Generalisations must be broken down on the spot”.
“One would not die from my cooking, but I am not sure one would survive my driving”.
“One may well use one’s head even though one is in love. Someone has said that one cannot prevent lightening from striking – but one may prevent the whole town from burning down”.
“It is not possible to develop into a complete human being if one must live in a room with only three walls”.
“The monarchy is an anachronism if one decides that it should be one”.
“When people say that I may not speak, they forget that I may well think. I may think what I want, like everyone else. I shall just refrain from saying everything I think. That might be something many people should do once in a while”.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

New books: The decline of monarchy in Sweden

The Swedish monarchy is today the most powerless of all the European monarchies. While other monarchs still have a constitutional role, the current Swedish Constitution, which came into force on 1 January 1975, has left the monarch with representative duties only, virtually introducing a republic while retaining the King. How this came about is the topic of the historian Jan Berggren’s interesting new book Från härskare till estradörer – Bernadotternas fall och demokratins seger, published by Carlsson Bokförlag, which charts the decline of monarchy in Sweden since the mid-nineteenth century.
The book opens with a 50-page introduction to the development of royal power from the reign of Gustaf V in the sixteenth century to Oscar I. However, the majority of the book concerns the developments since Carl XV, who came to the throne in 1859 and whose reign marks the beginning of the decline. Berggren’s analyses of the significant events and developments which led to the King’s powers’ continuous decline are very sharp. To those not too familiar with the story of the decline of monarchical power in Sweden this book will probably be an enlightening eye-opener.
The chapter on Carl XV is admirable, clearly setting out why his reign was a turning-point and summing up the key events which inflicted defeats on the King’s power from which it never recovered. The process continued through the turbulent reigns of Oscar II and Gustaf V into the rather more peaceful years of the old and generally beloved Gustaf VI Adolf, whose reign ended with the so-called Torekov agreement of 1971, whereby the monarch was confined to a symbolic role. Berggren proves to be an expert guide through the political events of this century of monarchical decline and retains a sharp eye for the turning points. About the reign of the current King, however, he has little to say (indeed he contends that it is wrong to say that Carl XVI Gustaf “reigns” at all).
Unlike most Swedish authors Berggren takes into account the crucial fact that the first four Bernadotte monarchs were also kings of Norway, which was in a personal union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905. Swedish writers tend to leave out Norwegian issues and to treat the kings as Swedish monarchs only, which means that much of vital importance is ignored. Berggren does not make this mistake, and is to be commended for his ability to present the often complex and entangled political strives of the late nineteenth century, which eventually led to the dissolution of the union, in a clear and accessible prose.
However, one might wish that Berggren would have seen the developments in the two kingdoms more in relation to each other. For instance, one of the main reason why Oscar II, following his deposal as King of Norway in 1905, declined the offer of the Norwegian crown for a Bernadotte prince, was concern that such a move might undermine the standing of the monarchy in Sweden as well as in Norway, and diaries and memoirs suggest a certain Swedish discontent with the royal family in the wake of the union’s dissolution. But how events in one country influenced the monarchy in the other is a topic Berggren avoids.
The book’s greatest weakness is indeed its lack of context. While Berggren’s survey of the political events which led to the decline of monarchical powers is in itself excellent, he does not say more than a few words about the ideas and currents of the time, which were surely the preconditions for the political developments influencing the role of the monarchy.
The author also demonstrates an interest in the monarchs’ sex lives which does not really belong in such a book. Furthermore there are some errors and over-simplifications. For instance the author writes that the famous signature stamp of the Age of Liberty was to prevent the King from refusing to give assent, but, as Jonas Nordin has shown in his excellent book Frihetstidens monarki, the main reason for acquiring this stamp was to save the King from the burden of having to sign everything by hand and it was only rarely used to stamp his signature onto documents he was unwilling to sign. He misspells the name of the leader of the Left throughout (“Svedrup” rather than Sverdrup) and that his claim that the Norwegian Parliament altered the wording of Oscar II’s refusal to give the royal assent to the consular bill of 1905 is nonsense. His claim that Queen Victoria’s behaviour during World War I bordered on the treasonous seems exaggerated given that Sweden was not actually at war.
The last chapter is not worthy of the high standard of the rest of the book. It is indeed a curious chapter, a mix of various topics, much of it consisting of polemics against various books on the monarchy and the royal family published between 2006 and 2010. For instance, there are several pages about the very well-known story of how Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became Crown Prince of Sweden in 1810, all of it in order to argue that the word “we” used in the subtitle of the notoriously unreliable author and tabloid journalist Herman Lindqvist’s book on Carl XIV Johan, “The Man We Elected”, is misplaced.
What makes this chapter even more confused and confusing is that it was obviously written in 2010 and only very lightly updated since then. And given the events of the past two years, which have seen the standing of King Carl Gustaf dramatically undermined, much of this chapter is no longer relevant – in particular what Berggren considers the deference shown to the royal family by the media.

Monday, 19 November 2012

New books: Mountbatten’s daughter, Elizabeth II’s lady-in-waiting

The memoirs of the children of famous parents and of former courtiers have in common that they are frequently rather dull, dreary and over-careful not to say anything that is not already known. The autobiography of Lady Pamela Hicks, youngest daughter of the famous Earl Mountbatten of Burma, first cousin of Prince Philip and former lady-in-waiting to her third cousin, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, is an exception to this rule.
In Daughter of Empire: Life as a Mountbatten, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson last month, Lady Pamela Hicks tells the story of her early years with humour and a sharp eye for the telling detail. She relates the story of her life from her privileged childhood, the “exile” in the United States in the early stages of World War II, her time in India while her father was its last viceroy and the tours on which she accompanied the current Queen as lady-in-waiting. These travels include the visit to Kenya in February 1952 which was cut short by the death of George VI and the accession of Elizabeth II, which Lady Pamela observed at first hand.
As children of famous parents often are in their memoirs, Lady Pamela is admiring and generally uncritical of her parents. Yet she is very candid about her parents’ unusual marriage, and how their open infidelity to each other brought their lovers into the children’s lives in what seems a most natural manner and how these lovers themselves became important to the two Mountbatten daughters. The portrayal of her paternal grandmother, Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven, stands out as one of the most memorable aspects of the book, along with her loving depiction of the time she spent in India with her parents during that country’s transition from colonial status to independence.
There seems to be a set of “approved” royal anecdotes which are included in all such memoirs (how many times have we not read for instance of how the then Princess Elizabeth’s tiara snapped and the pearls and the bridal bouquet had been mislaid just before she set off for her wedding?), but besides these there are many amusing stories in this book, some of them hilarious.
Occasionally Lady Pamela gets her facts wrong, for instance by giving a wrong date or misspelling a name, or imagining she departed from “JFK” airport in the 1940s when she apparently means La Guardia. And there is a glowing account of what “a privilege” it was to meet “the legendary King Haakon of Norway”, who “was deeply revered by his countrymen as a war hero, a symbol of his people’s resistance”, before Lady Pamela goes on to tell us how he “remained defiantly in his palace and rode out on his white horse through the streets of Oslo every day”, which is the exact opposite of what King Haakon actually did (leading a government in exile from London), but reminiscent of what his brother, King Christian X of Denmark, did.
The book ends with Queen Elizabeth II’s great Commonwealth tour following her accession and then a brief epilogue about Lady Pamela’s marriage to the designer David Hicks in 1960 and how they learned of the death of her mother upon returning from their honeymoon. As such it is not a complete autobiography and indeed I think this early end to the book makes Lady Pamela herself appear less interesting than what she might actually be.
There had been marital approaches made by Prince Georg of Denmark, who was turned down by Lord Mountbatten without Lady Pamela having been consulted. There was a romance with a Lebanese man and, we are told, ten proposals of marriage. But it was only when she met an untypical suitor in the shape of David Hicks that she was “completely bowled over”.
“It was an unorthodox match but one that would change my life completely”, she writes. “After twenty-nine years as the dutiful daughter of a family at the heart of British society, with all its traditions and ceremonies, I was about to enter a completely new world – of fashion, design and the whirlwind of the 1960s”. The contrast between the world into which she was born and the world into which she married must have led to interesting experiences and, perhaps, difficult transitions, something which might have been an interesting tale. But perhaps Lady Pamela Hicks considers that a different story?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Royal jewels: The Brazilian tiara

The grandest of the many grand tiaras in the possession of the Swedish royal family is the so-called Brazilian tiara, formerly wrongly known as the Coronation tiara. This magnificent piece of jewellery is normally only worn for the grandest of occasions. Queen Silvia has made it a tradition to wear it for incoming state visits from reigning monarchs and she also wore it for Crown Princess Victoria’s and Prince Daniel’s wedding in 2010 and for the sixtieth birthday of King Carl Gustaf in 2006. She has also worn it for most official portraits.
The myth that this tiara was worn by Swedish queens on their way to the coronation church ever since the eighteenth century can be traced no further than to a book written by the royal postcard collector Sigyn Reimers in 1957 (a book which also seems to be the original source for the equally wrong claim that the emerald parure now in the possession of the King of Norway belonged to Empress Joséphine of the French and was worn by her at the coronation in 1804).
However, there are no traces of this splendid piece of jewellery until the inventory of the jewels of the Dowager Queen Josephina of Sweden and of Norway which was drawn up after her death in 1876. In this inventory the tiara and a matching necklace, a brooch and a pair of earrings are valued at 248,000 SEK, making it by far the most expensive parure in the inventory – the so-called Leuchtenberg sapphires are, for comparison, valued at 69,500 SEK, and the emerald parure now in Norway at 41,000 SEK.
The art historian Göran Alm, who recently retired as head of the Bernadotte Library at the Swedish Royal Collection, has furthermore discovered that Queen Josephina in a draft of her will describes it as “the great Brazilian parure”, leaving it to the royal jewellery foundation. This makes it obvious that the parure only came to Sweden as part of the great inheritance from Queen Josephina’s younger sister, the Dowager ex-Empress Amélie of Brazil, who died in Lisbon in 1873, an inheritance which also included the above-mentioned emerald parure and many other splendid items.
The inheritance was shipped to Kristiansand in Norway onboard the Norwegian naval corvette “Balder” and from there to Stockholm. Thus the tiara arrived in Sweden after the last coronation in the country’s history had been held in May 1873, making it possible to reject conclusively the myth put forward by Sigyn Reimers.
The Brazilian author Claudia Thome Witte, who is writing a biography of Empress Amélie, has recently revealed that the tiara was a wedding present to her from her husband, Emperor Pedro I, in 1829. The diamonds had originally belonged to the Emperor’s first wife, Leopoldina, née Archduchess of Austria, and had been inherited by their children following the Empress’s death in 1826. Pedro acquired the diamonds by assuming a debt in bonds as compensation to the children and presented the tiara to his new bride, who first wore it for the hand-kissing ceremony following her wedding. Empress Amélie wrote to her mother, Dowager Duchess Auguste Amalie of Leuchtenberg, that “the tiara [was set] with the best Brazilian diamonds in various sizes and [of] so pure clarity that [they] seemed made of water”.
There are no known portraits of Queen Josephina wearing the tiara, but following her death in 1876 it was worn by her daughter-in-law, Queen Sophia (pictured above with it and parts of the emerald parure) and subsequently by Queen Victoria. Following Queen Victoria’s death in 1930 it was worn rather frequently by her daughter-in-law, Crown Princess and from 1950 Queen Louise. Queen Louise often wore it to the State Opening of Parliament and in 1937 also at the coronation of her second cousin, King George VI of Britain. After Queen Louise’s death in 1965 it was not seen again until her step-grandson Carl XVI Gustaf married in 1976 and Queen Silvia immediately began to wear it. Now that its Brazilian origins have been established this seems particularly fitting, as Queen Silvia is herself half Brazilian.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

New books: The Queen Mother in her own words

As I pointed out when reviewing William Shawcross’s official biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother of Britain three years ago, one of the pleasant surprises about that book was what a sparkling letter-writer the late Queen was throughout her long life. Apparently I was not alone in noticing this, and last month Macmillan issued what might perhaps be called a companion volume to the official biography, titled Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, edited by Shawcross.
The book runs to 666 pages and covers the huge time span from 1909 until 2001. In between the letters there are also some extracts from the diaries she occasionally wrote in younger years, a few speeches and extracts from recorded conversations with Eric Anderson in 1994 and 1995. The letters are written to a great many different addressees and only very occasionally has the editor chosen to include extracts from letters written to Queen Elizabeth.
Obviously, not all of the letters are equally interesting. The largest section of the book is devoted to the brief fifteen years when she was Queen, while less space is given to her five decades as Queen Mother. To me this seems a reasonable solution, as her years as Queen were obviously more interesting and event-filled than her long widowhood. As the wife of the monarch she was naturally more involved in affairs than as the mother of the monarch, and there are occasional glimpses of her machinations behind the scenes during World War II – for instance how she tried to ensure that the King got the media attention she thought he deserved, and criticism of the King’s advisers in that respect as well as of Churchill for upstaging her husband in a way she thought undermined his position.
There are, in my opinion, perhaps too many letters included from the teenage Lady Elizabeth to her governess turned best friend Beryl Poignand, which deal with such things as her infatuation with the Justin Biebers of a hundred years ago. On the other hand one is charmed when the fifteen-year-old Elizabeth is going to a tea “to meet Princess Mary and Prince Albert next Sunday”, adding that “[t]hey don’t frighten me quite as much as Queens” (“rather nice” was her comment, after the tea, about the Prince who would one day make her Queen). Some of her observations of royal life shortly after her marriage, seen with the eyes of one who was until recently an outsider, are also quite amusing.
Through the letters the reader gets closer to a person who was highly visible for eighty years, but who nevertheless managed to remain very private. In her letters Queen Elizabeth made no attempt at hiding her views on party politics. Already in 1924 she describes herself as “extremely anti-Labour”, followed by other harsh words through the years and herself longing to use her vote and dispatching “a busload of servants up to London” to vote for the Conservative candidate Duff Cooper in 1931.
She declares her hate for the League of Nations and her view that it is “a crime for women to take jobs that men can do as well”. Gandhi was in her eyes “an old blackmailer […], practically committing murder to gain his own ends […]”. There are no signs of her having become less conservative with time, but apparently she learned to express herself somewhat more diplomatically on political matters with the passing of the years and in her old age even acknowledged that Attlee had been “a very good Prime Minister”.
On the other hand she mostly remained discreet about family matters, although there are some critical remarks about her parents-in-law and expressions of the young Duchess’s sense of being frustrated in her wishes by “Press & Precedent”.
Occasionally her letters are self-revelatory in a way which was perhaps unintended. For instance, when Beryl Poignand in 1930 is about to publish a book on Princess Elizabeth, the Duchess of York asks only for the removal of a suggestion that she might one day be Queen. “It always irritates me, this assumption that the Prince of Wales will not marry – he is quiet young and it is rude to him in a way too”, she writes, and one is left wondering if it was perhaps also a thought the Duchess herself was uncomfortable with.
On the subject of King Edward VIII one notes how close she used to be to him in the early years of her marriage. When he abdicated she found it “hard to believe that the one that we knew as Prince of Wales could possibly have done what King Edward did” – to her, the Prince of Wales and King Edward were apparently almost two different men. Queen Elizabeth is often said to have thought that the abdication, and thus in fact Edward VIII, caused the early death of her husband. This is not a view expressed in any of the letters quoted, but already in 1951 we find her referring to the Duke of Windsor as “the part author of the King’s troubles”.
Her deep sense of loss after King George’s death is very evident, as is the degree to which she had depended on him and how he, as she wrote to Queen Mary on the day of his death, had been her “whole life”. Doing things without him “nearly kills one”, she writes in 1954. The letters speak of a blackness which engulfed her for years after his death – in 1957 she was still struggling to find peace of mind – but also of her resolve to never give in, as “the King never gave in, and I am determined to try & do what he would have wished”.
Her letters to Queen Elizabeth II in particular speak of a sense of loneliness which apparently never left her after the death of her husband (the letters suggest that her relationship with Princess Margaret was less confidential than with her elder daughter). The most moving personal aspect of this book is perhaps that of the contrast between the joy which always radiated from the Queen Mother in public and the melancholy and loneliness she felt in private as she lived on for fifty years after losing the man she had been reluctant to marry but who became everything to her. In that way this collection of letters is also implicitly a love story in itself.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Princess Madeleine’s ex-fiancé engaged

The online version of the Swedish weekly Svensk Damtidning today reports that Princess Madeleine’s former fiancé, Jonas Bergström, has become engaged to Stephanie af Klercker, a childhood friend of the Princess’s. Stephanie af Klercker confirms that they became engaged a few weeks ago.
The engagement of Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergström was announced on 11 August 2009, but was called off on 24 April 2010 after revelations of Bergström’s adultery.
Last week the Swedish court announced the engagement of Princess Madeleine to Christopher O’Neill.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Royals to attend funeral of PM’s mother

It is customary for the King or, in his absence, the Queen, to attend the funerals of former prime ministers. More unusually, the King and Queen will attend the funeral of Karin Stoltenberg, the current Prime Minister’s mother, in Oslo on Tuesday afternoon.
Karin Stoltenberg, who died of cancer on 17 October, aged 80, was herself a civil servant who has been credited for playing a major role in shaping policy on family and gender equality issues. She was married to Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and UN High Commissioner of Refugees.
Princess Astrid, who has been a friend of Thorvald Stoltenberg since the late teens, and her husband Johan Martin Ferner will also attend the funeral.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Princess Madeleine engaged to Christopher O’Neill

After much recent media speculation the Swedish royal court today confirmed that Princess Madeleine is engaged to her Anglo-American boyfriend Christopher “Chris” O’Neill. The couple became engaged in early October, and King Carl Gustaf and the government have consented to the union.
The couple live in New York, but says in an interview with the royal website that the wedding will take place in Sweden in the summer of 2013. For the forseeable future they expect to live in the USA.
The court has so far not said anything about what title if any Christopher O’Neill will have after the wedding, but I suppose one will make the same decision as when Princess Madeleine became engaged to Jonas Bergström in 2009, an engagement which was called off in the wake of a kiss and tell interview given by a Norwegian girl with whom Bergström had had a one night stand. Back then it was decided that Bergström would retain his surname, become Duke of Helsinga and Gastricia (which is Princess Madeleine’s dukedom), but not become a Prince of Sweden or a Royal Highness.
The court has, however, confirmed that Princess Madeleine will retain her current titles, i.e. not become “Princess Madeleine, Mrs O’Neill”, as was the case with her aunts.
According to the Swedish court, Christopher O’Neill has joint British and American citizenship (and will not apply for Swedish citizenship) and was born in London on 27 June 1974. He is the only mutual child of Eva Maria and Paul O’Neill (the latter died in 2004), but has five half-sisters. He was educated in Switzerland and the USA and has a bachelor degree in international relations from Boston University and a master degree in business administration from Columbia Business School in New York. He has built a career as a businessman and is currently partner and head of research at Noster Capital.
Christopher O’Neill is a Catholic, but this has no consequences for his future wife’s rights to the Swedish throne, although it means that she will lose her (very remote) place in the order of succession to the British throne (unless her fiancé converts before the wedding). The photo, taken in New York three days ago, is copyright of Patrick Demarchelier/

What to see: Elverum Church, Elverum

When I visited the small town Elverum last month to attend the opening of the travelling exhibition which is part of the royal jubilee exhibitions I also took the opportunity to visit Elverum Church, which turned out to have a rather remarkable interior (first photo), something one would not guess by its very simple exterior (second photo).
The cross-shaped church was built in 1735-1738 after a design of a lieutenant in the artillery named Nicolai Gustav Sandberg. It was, remarkably for the time, paid for entirely by the citizens of the small community, and most of the work, which is of a very high standard, was also carried out by local artisans: The woodcarvers and carpenters Nils Hansen Engen and Ole Hansen Rønne and the painter Ole Gundersen.
The church is an exquisite example of Norwegian regénce style, a style which takes its name from the regency in France of Philippe, Duke of Orléans during the minority of Louis XV from 1715 to 1723 and in which elements of what would come to be known as rococo began to influence the baroque style.
The interior is a symbolic synthesis of king and god, to institutions which were closely related during the Dano-Norwegian absolute monarchy. The absolute monarchy, which was introduced in 1660, was indeed one of the most absolute monarchies the world has known, and only god was above the King.
King Christian VI’s monogram is to be found on the altar (third photo), which was inspired by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger’s altar in the Church of Our Saviour in Copenhagen (which was again inspired by the altar in the Church of Domenic e Sisto in Rome). The altarpiece, showing the crucifixion, was done in Copenhagen by an unknown artist. The two sculptures standing in front represent justice and piety.
On each side of the altar are clocks (a memento mori) and on each of them stands a little angel (fourth photo) holding respectively the bible and the law book. Altogether there are seven putti – two on the altar, two on the clocks and three in the ceiling, all holding banners with biblical quotations calling on the faithful to praise god, honour the King and love fraternity.
Another, larger angel supports the baptismal font (fifth photo), carved by Nils Hansen Engen (on a personal note I may add that I was myself baptised in this font, as my parents worked at Elverum at the time of my birth). Originally this stood in an enclosure to the right in the choir, under a crown-shaped canopy surmounted by an orb (sixth photo). Another crown-shaped canopy (seventh photo), topped by the monogram of King Christian VI, is found above the richly carved pulpit (eighth photo).
At each side of the entrance to the choir is an obelisk resting on four golden balls (ninth photo). On the top of the obelisk to the left is again the monogram of King Christian VI, on the one to the right the monogram of his consort, Queen Sophie Magdalene. King Christian VI and Queen Sophie Magdalene had both visited Elverum during their great journey through southern Norway in 1733, making the latter the first queen to visit the town. Between the obelisks, hanging from the ceiling, can be seen a crucifix from the thirteenth or fourteenth century, which dates from the first church built in Elverum. Its most recent feature, on the other hand, is the new organ which was installed in 2006-2007.
Most of the original interior was removed when Elverum Church was transformed into a simple and rather unoriginal late neo-Gothic church in 1878-1879. However, it was not long before one wished to restore it to its former splendour, and luckily the original interior could be reassembled from attics and barns. The restoration was completed in time for the church’s bicentenary in 1938.
Two years later the church came close to being obliterated. It was at Elverum on 9 April 1940, the day Norway was invaded by Germany, that Parliament transferred its powers to the government for the duration of the war, and it was at Elverum that King Haakon the following day met the German minister, Curt von Bräuer, and famously refused the German demands that he should appoint Vidkun Quisling, the leader of National Unity (the Nazi party), Prime Minister. The King’s refusal caused the whole town, which had no military or strategic value, to be flattened by German bombers in an attempt to kill the King and government. The church narrowly escaped being hit in the bombing raid and is thus one of the few pre-1940 buildings left in Elverum today. Today it is one of the most interesting sights to be seen if one ventures into this part of Norway.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

My latest article: The Crown Prince’s crown

The 2011 edition (yes, they are a year behind schedule) of Trondhjemske Samlinger, the yearbook of Trondhjems Historiske Forening, is now out and, in succession to my article on the crowns of the King and Queen in the previous issue, I have contributed an article about the history and context of the Crown Prince’s crown.
It is the only part of the crown regalia made in Norway and the only item which has never been used. The crown was designed by the artist Johannes Flintoe and made by the jeweller Herman Colbjørnsen Øyset in 1846-1847 for the planned coronation of King Oscar I and Queen Josephine (which eventually never happened).
At subsequent coronations there was never an adult Crown Prince to wear it and as there has, thankfully, never been a crown princely funeral it has also not been used in the same ceremonial way as the King and Queen’s crowns. The crown was inspired by Swedish ideals and is almost unique in Europe, where crowns for the heir to the throne are a rarity.
The photo (which is copyright of myself) shows Flintoe’s original drawing for the crown (in the National Archives), which I believe has never before been published.

Monday, 22 October 2012

My latest article: King Olav and his son’s marriage

What has attracted most interest after the publication of Ingar Sletten Kolloen’s authorised biography of the Queen, Dronningen, on 10 October, is probably her own version of the nine long years she and the current King had to wait for King Olav’s consent to their marriage. Today I have written a short piece in Dagsavisen, where I argue against that newspaper’s claim that it was King Olav’s reactionary ideas and his enlightened despotism that were the reasons for the long wait. On the contrary, I argue, it was his concern for public opinion and the future of the monarchy that caused the long wait. Public opinion was at first strongly opposed to the Crown Prince’s marrying a commoner, wherefore King Olav had little choice but to wait and see if public opinion became more favourable with time – which it did, so that the King in 1968 finally risked giving his consent. You may read the whole comment here (external link).

Friday, 19 October 2012

Luxembourgian heir marries Belgian countess

Today Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg married Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy in a ceremony in Luxembourg’s city hall. Tonight there is a ball at the Grand Ducal Palace and at 11 a.m. tomorrow there will be a religious blessing of the marriage in the Cathedral. Members of all reigning European royal families as well as some non-European and several deposed dynasties are attending the festivities.

Monday, 15 October 2012

At the road’s end: King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia (1922-2012)

The King Father of Cambodia, better known as the country’s former King Norodom Sihanouk, died from a heart attack in Beijing today, sixteen days short of his ninetieth birthday. Throughout his long life Sihanouk held an unusually high number of offices, including King of Cambodia twice (1941-1955 and 1993-2004) and Prime Minister no less than nine times between 1945 and 1960. He was also head of state during the first year of the terrible Khmer Rouge rule.
Born on 31 October 1922, Norodom Sihanouk was the son of Prince Norodom Suramarit (a cousin of King Sisowath Monivong) and Princess Sisowath Kosamak (daughter of King Monivong). Following King Monivong’s death in April 1941, his 18-year-old grandson Sihanouk was chosen as his successor and thus came to preside over the end of French colonial rule and the transition to independence in 1953. (By the time of his death, Sihanouk was one of the few WWII heads of state still alive).
However, on 2 March 1955 King Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father, thus gaining the freedom to become a politican and being elected Prime Minister. When King Suramarit died in April 1960, Sihanouk chose not to resume the title of King, but rather to act as head of state with the title of Sovereign Prince.
Prince Sihanouk thus found himself navigating, in an increasingly authoritarian manner, through the turmoil caused by the war in neighbouring Vietnam. However, his political course led to the outbreak of civil war in Cambodia in 1967. Three years later Prime Minister Lon Nol persuaded Parliament to depose Sihanouk, who was travelling abroad at the time, as head of state.
Sihanouk sought refuge in China and North Korea, founded the National United front of Kampuchea (FUNK) and allied himself with the Khmer Rouge against Lon Nol. Following the Khmer Rouge’s victory in 1975, Sihanouk became puppet head of state, although real power was in the hands of Pol Pot. A year later Sihanouk was forced out by the Khmer Rouge and returned to North Korea. Thus he was not involved in Pol Pot’s regime’s mass murder of up to a quarter of Cambodia’s population. However, in the turmoil which followed through Vietnamese occupation after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime at the end of 1978, Sihanouk would again join forces with them. He became President of a government in exile in 1982.
Following the end of Vietnamese occupation and the peace agreement signed in Paris in 1991, Sihanouk returned to Cambodia in November of that year. On 24 September 1993 Sihanouk again became head of state, now with the title of King. However, this was a constitutional role without much actual power.
Sihanouk’s second term as king was marked by health trouble and at one stage it was announced that, according to his astrologer, he would not see the end of the year. This proved as wrong as most astrological predictions, but in January 2004 the increasingly frail Sihanouk left his kingdom to settle in Pyongyang. He abdicated formally on 7 October, and a week later one of his many sons, Norodom Sihamoni, was appointed King. Sihanouk himself assumed the title King Father and lived out the rest of his days in Beijing.
King Sihanouk fathered at least fourteen children, of whom five were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime. He is survived by his remaining children and his wife Monique, the Queen Mother.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Royal jewels: Queen Maud’s grand diamond tiara

One of the tiaras most frequently worn by Queen Maud, particularly in her younger years, was a grand diamond tiara in three “levels” – a bandeau supporting floral motifs surmounted by thirteen diamond prongs, which were originally interchangeable with turquoise prongs.
The tiara was a wedding present to the then Princess Maud of Britain when she married Prince Carl of Denmark in 1896. She wore it to the coronation of her parents, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of Britain, on 9 August 1902 and was also portrayed with it on several occasions during her first years as Queen of Norway after 1905. There is also a miniature in which she wears the tiara with the turquoise prongs, which were later removed and apparently used for other pieces of jewellery.
For the first decades of her husband’s reign, this tiara and a pearl and diamond tiara which had also been a wedding present, were Queen Maud’s only substantial tiaras. Following the death of her mother in 1925 she also inherited the Maltese cross circlet and a turquoise and diamond circlet shaped as an open crown, giving her a wider range of choice. It seems she wore her grand diamond tiara for the wedding of her son, Crown Prince Olav, to Princess Märtha of Sweden on 21 March 1929.
When Queen Maud went to England in the autumn of 1938, she took most of her jewellery with her to have it cleaned. When the Queen died during in London during that stay, her jewels remained in her native country and were kept at Windsor Castle until 1953, when Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha brought it home following the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.
However, as Crown Princess Märtha died the following year, she never got the chance to use her mother-in-law’s jewellery, which was stored away until 1968, when Crown Prince Harald married Sonja Haraldsen. The jewels were then divided among King Olav’s three children and the grand diamond tiara went to Princess Ragnhild, who had until then had only one tiara.
Princess Ragnhild wore her grandmother’s diamond tiara to several of the royal events she attended in the following years. But from the 1990s the ageing Princess was rarely seen with this grand piece, which is probably rather heavy, opting instead to wear her other tiara, consisting of platinum circles set with large pearls, which she had inherited from her maternal grandmother, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, in 1958.
I understand that, under a family agreement, the diamond tiara will, following the death of Princess Ragnhild, pass to the King to be worn by other members of the royal family. The platinum tiara will on the other hand remain in the Lorentzen family, as this was inherited by Princess Ragnhild directly from her Swedish grandmother.

European Union awarded Nobel Peace Prize

The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, two hours ago announced that the committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 to the European Union. This does not altogether come as a surprise, given that Mr Jagland has been known to be in favour of such an award. However, the decision has obviously caused controversy here in Norway, a country which is not a member of the EU, having twice voted against membership, and where a huge majority is opposed to membership. However, regardless of what one thinks about that issue, it should be obvious that the EU has played an important role for peace in Europe.

Monday, 8 October 2012

New books: Royal anti-Nazis

The Palace and the Bunker: Royal Resistance to Hitler is the title of a very odd new book, written by Frank Millard and recently published by The History Press (apparently the successor to Sutton Publishing, which many of my readers are probably familiar with). Reading it one sometimes wonder if it is the author’s notes which have been published without having passed through the hands of an editor. The subject is very interesting, but the book is one of the weakest I have ever read.
According to the author’s foreword, it “is actually two books in one, each dependent on the other”. The first half deals with the rise of Nazism in Germany; the second is mostly four case studies of royal anti-Nazis. It seems quite obvious that the result would have been much more interesting and readable if the two parts had been worked into an entity where the two things were seen in relation to each other.
The author admits that he “came to the subject of the lead up to the Second World War with little prior knowledge”. While this may seems very surprising for a historian, it makes one realise why the first half of the book is taken up with what seems to be the author’s attempt to explain to himself what Nazism, eugenics, Social Darwinism et al was and how Nazi Germany and World War II came about.
The second part looks at the wartime stories of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, ex-Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, Prince Hubertus of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg and ex-Crown Prince Otto of Austria-Hungary and his Hohenberg cousins, before adding a chapter summarising what other royals did during the war.
As much as a book about royal resistance to Nazism this is a book about various ideas about monarchical restoration in Germany and Austria-Hungary, and indeed it seems to be the author’s idea that Nazism and World War II would not have happened if the monarchies had been restored in these countries.
The author seems to believe that those belonging to royal families are somehow bound to be good men (there is also an uncomfortable religious overtone which even leads Millard to pronounce god’s blessing over one of his subjects). “Princes are the products of, and are and [sic] susceptible to, the influences of their age like anyone else, but in some ways their position and upbringing equips them [with the ability] to see over the fence and consider what they are witnessing with a little more clarity, perspective and dispassion than most other people”. If this is true, one wonders how so many monarchies have nevertheless destroyed themselves? “Such men are born leaders”, Millard assures us, “brought up to serve their countries and, if denied their destiny, it naturally becomes their perceived duty to serve all humanity”. This is a gross generalisation and it would be easy to point out counter-examples.
Millard stares himself blind on monarchies, even claiming that “[t]he German resistance movement did not and could not exist in any cohesive form without the unifying element of monarchy represented by the modern, Left-leaning Prince Louis Ferdinand, who was preferred future head of state following the fall of Hitler and his regime”. He assures the readers that “[m]onarchy was a potential defence against Hitler before the war [and(?)] became a focus of national unity and identity for exiles and anti-Nazis in Europe during the conflict”. These are widely exaggerated ideas; to the best of my knowledge the restoration of the Hohenzollerns was never a central aim for the German anti-Nazi movement, nor was this movement dependent on the deposed dynasties for to be able to exist.
“Their quiet defiance must have played its part in undermining the pretended authority of the dictator”, the author likes to think. He goes on to list several reasons why Hitler would never have come to power if Germany had been a monarchy, including that Prince Louis Ferdinand would not have been personally inclined to appoint him chancellor and that Hitler could not have opposed or reversed the will of the people. But Millard fails to take into account that Nazism had massive popular support in Germany and that Hitler was democratically elected.
Concerning Austria, we learn that “[r]estoration of the monarchy, there also, promised national integrity and moderate government safe from the Nazi menace”. However, the author fails to make any convincing argument for why an Austrian monarchy would have prevented the Anschluss that the Austrian republic did not manage to prevent. “There could have been no takeover of Austria without a fight and a real risk of international condemnation and foreign involvement”, we learn, without the author explaining why the Austrians themselves, who generally welcomed the German takeover, and the world, who did nothing in response to it, would have reacted differently if Austria had been a monarchy rather than a republic. Indeed this seems to be little but fanciful fantasies and wishful thinking by the author.
“Democracy is not automatically representative and what is representative is not always democratic”, the author explains, “but sensibly there was general agreement among the princes featured in this book – and there is agreement among their heirs [!] – that democracy should be the principal element of government[,] guided, assisted and defended by other constitutional elements, such as the hereditary principle and the rule of law as enshrined constitutionally”.
But how does he imagine that individuals such an Emperor Otto or Emperor Louis Ferdinand would have managed to stop a mass movement like Nazism? And how is this fundamental democratic spirit reconcilable with the idea that Louis Ferdinand would have refused to appoint the winner of democratic elections chancellor? And what about Italy, one may ask? The existence of a monarchy did not exactly prevent the rise of Mussolini.
To make things worse, the book is not well written. Sometimes the author jumps back and forth in time in a way that makes it almost impossible to follow events, for instance making it seem as though King Carol II of Romania was deposed twice and leaving one wondering where Prince Napoléon had been before “his return to Switzerland”.
There are many and long quotes in this book, indeed it seems sometimes to consist of little but quotes, which gives the impression that the author does not feel confident enough to stand on his own feet. Not all of the quotes are very relevant or well-chosen. For instance, most of what he has to say about the British royal family during World War II deals with the relationship between King George VI and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt until 1941. Having said that King George wanted to be present during D Day, the author suddenly quotes a long and seemingly random passage from an article in a 2011 issue of Time magazine about the royal visit to the USA in 1939, all of it information which could have found many other places. The passage about Britain’s royal family suddenly ends with an unexpected list of some random royals from various countries and various ages who were awarded the Garter, which the author imagines “was a sign of diplomatic if not military alliance from its inception when applied to foreign heads of state”.
“There will, no doubt, be errors (all mine), but hopefully none of substance”, the author writes in the foreword, before going on to tell us that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was married to her son-in-law Prince Bernhard, that King Haakon VII of Norway was the brother of his adversary King Gustaf V of Sweden, that Sovereign Prince Louis II of Monaco was the father of his grandson “Rainer” (indeed names tend to be misspelt throughout) and so on. When Marshal Antonescu shows disrespect towards “his sovereign”, King Mihai of Romania, he has suddenly become the “dictator of Hungary”.
One also wonders about the author’s choice of sources. There are two German books, one Czech book and a German book about the Hohenbergs listed in the bibliography; everything else is in English. The author says in the foreword that he has “used a lot of English and American sources because this book is aimed primarily at an English-speaking audience”. But surely that is no reason to leave out the relevant literature from other countries and I can hardly imagine that English-speaking readers would find any reason to object to the use of relevant sources even if originally written in a foreign language. Was there for instance nothing of interest or relevance about ex-Crown Prince Rupprecht to find in Dieter J. Weiß’s monumental political biography from 2007, so that the author had to try to piece together his story from what little has been written about him in English?
The overall impression is of a book written by an author whose insufficient knowledge of Nazi Germany and World War II coupled with his blind faith in monarchy make him fail to see the things he write about in their proper context and grossly exaggerate the importance of his subjects. As it is this book might as well not have been published.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Princess Ragnhild’s last resting place

Earlier today I visited the cemetery in Asker, a bit outside Oslo, where Princess Ragnhild was laid to rest on Friday. The Princess’s gravesite, which was chosen by her and her husband, is just inside the southern gate to the churchyard; indeed there is only one grave which is nearer to the statue of Princess Ragnhild’s mother, Crown Princess Märtha.
Among the many wreaths and bouquets were floral tributes from her children, children-in-law and grandchildren (a large heart of red roses), the King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn, Princess Astrid’s children and their families, the King and Queen of Sweden (the latter was scheduled to attend the funeral, but had to cancel because of a cold, which meant that Crown Princess Victoria went instead), the Queen and Prince Consort of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Denmark and Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, the ex-King and ex-Queen of the Hellenes, Princess Kristine Bernadotte and Madeleine Kogevinas (who had chosen white lilies, which have been known in Norway as Märtha lilies ever since Crown Princess Märtha used them for her bridal bouquet in 1929), the government, Parliament, the county governors and many friends. There were no wreaths from the Princess’s Belgian or Luxembourgian relatives.
Asker Church is situated just down the road from the crown princely residence Skaugum, which was Princess Ragnhild’s childhood home. It was in this church that Princess Ragnhild married Erling S. Lorentzen in 1953. The statue of Crown Princess Märtha holding Prince Harald (who plays with her tiara), is by Dyre Vaa and was unveiled in 1969.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A new state portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

Last Friday the Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, unveiled a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, Australia and several other countries by the Australian artist Ralph Heimans.
Coronation portraits are (for obvious reasons) rare these days, but this new portrait may almost qualify as one. It shows Queen Elizabeth standing in Westminster Abbey, apparently at night, wearing her coronation robes and the coronation necklace and looking down at the central onyx of the thirteenth century Cosmati pavement in front of the high altar, in other words the very spot where she was crowned on 2 June 1953.
The painting can be interpreted in many ways, perhaps the most obvious being the old monarch reflecting on her sixty years on the throne - or looking to the future, contemplating her own mortality and the fact that another coronation will take place on that spot in a not too distant future? The “sacred” nature of monarchy might perhaps also be read into it.
It is apparently not quite clear who has commissioned the portrait and thus where it will end up, but it will go on a tour of countries of which Elizabeth II is queen and be shown in London next year.
Scandinavian readers may perhaps already be familiar with Ralph Heimans because of his portrait of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (at the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerød), which shows the Australian-born Crown Princess standing in the Garden Room of Fredensborg Palace, whose wall paintings have been replaced with Australian views.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Princess Ragnhild laid to rest

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

My latest article: The Princess Norway never knew

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

Thursday, 27 September 2012

My latest article: Carl XIII, the first union king

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

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Princess Ragnhild’s coffin arrives in Norway

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

Friday, 21 September 2012

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

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

Memorial service for Princess Ragnhild held in Rio de Janeiro

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

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

King awards Grand Cross to last Private Secretary

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

Flowers and a candle for Princess Ragnhild

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

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Finnish state visit to Norway in October

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

Princess Ragnhild’s funeral to take place on 28 September

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

Monday, 17 September 2012

Book of condolences to be laid out at Palace tomorrow

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

Sunday, 16 September 2012

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

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

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