Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On this date: Prince Bertil’s centenary

One hundred years ago today, one of Sweden’s best-loved royals, Prince Bertil, was born. The third son and fourth child of the future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and his first wife, British-born Crown Princess Margareta, Prince Bertil first saw the light of day at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.
Like Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel a century later, the crown princely couple chose a name without royal traditions, but at least a Swedish one: Bertil, to which one added the names of Oscar II’s four sons: Gustaf Oscar Carl Eugen.
His elder siblings were Prince Gustaf Adolf, Prince Sigvard and Princess Ingrid. A brother, Prince Carl Johan, was born in 1916 and a sixth child was expected in 1920, but tragically Crown Princess Margareta died in the eighth month of her pregnancy. Among his siblings, Bertil was always closest to Ingrid, who would later become Queen of Denmark.
Like his siblings, Prince Bertil received his first schooling at the Royal Palace, but his parents were quite progressive and wanted their children to attend school with other children. At the age of 12, Bertil, like his elder brothers before him, therefore enrolled at the Beskow School in Stockholm.
Prince Bertil suffered from dyslexia and was no great intellectual, but his main interests were sports and cars, areas in which he excelled. Having left school he joined the navy and also began to undertake royal duties.
In 1934 he asked his grandfather’s permission to marry a young lady by name of Margareta Brambeck. Marrying a commoner, with or without the King’s consent, would, according to the Act of Succession of 1810, mean that he automatically forfeited his place in the line of succession, like his brother Sigvard did the same year and their cousin Lennart had done two years earlier. The royal house could hardly afford to lose yet another prince and Bertil was consequently despatched to Paris as assistant naval attaché in order to forget Miss Brambeck.
He did, but while posted as neutral Sweden’s assistant naval attaché in London during World War II, Bertil met the love of his life in the shape of Lilian Craig, a married nightclub hostess from Wales. And this time there was no question of forgetting her, a resolve which would make theirs one of the great love stories of the twentieth century.
By the time Bertil’s youngest brother, Carl Johan, married a commoner in February 1946, Prince Gustaf Adolf and Prince Bertil were the only royal princes with succession right left, except for some elderly uncles who either had no sons with succession rights or no sons at all. But the birth of a son, Carl Gustaf, to Prince Gustaf Adolf in April 1946 seemed to set Bertil free to marry Lilian as soon as she had obtained her divorce.
But then, in January 1947, Prince Gustaf Adolf was killed in a plane crash in Copenhagen. His nine-month son was thus next in succession after his 64-year-old grandfather and his ancient great-grandfather. Thus it seemed more than likely that Carl Gustaf would succeed to the throne before reaching his majority, in which case an adult prince would have to stand in as regent.
Bertil was the last prince left to fulfil this role, but would also become ineligible if he married Lilian. Loyally he chose to put duty ahead of love and asked Lilian to wait for him, which she did for three decades. The Prince used his excellent relationship with the media to form a gentlemen’s agreement: if the press did not write about his relationship with Lilian, they would get the whole story the day it became possible.
Prince Bertil moved out of the Royal Palace and bought a villa at Djurgården in Stockholm, where Lilian lived with him in great secrecy. They were thus able to be together, but could not go out together and missed the chance to have children together. Eventually, as the years passed, Lilian was accepted by the royal family, but there could be no talk of marriage until Carl Gustaf’s coming of age, which was eventually postponed to his 25th birthday in 1971.
Meanwhile Prince Bertil continued to carry out his royal duties, which were many, given that he was the only adult prince. He attended all Olympic Games until 1988, represented his country from Denmark to Iran and often described himself as a travelling tradesman for Sweden, Inc. The genial, down-to-earth prince readily made friends and admirers, enjoyed great popularity and was rightly considered a huge asset for the royal family.
Eventually King Gustaf VI Adolf was to live until the age of almost 91, dying in September 1973, two years after Crown Prince Carl Gustaf had attained his majority at 25. Thus a regency would not be necessary, but Bertil was still needed at his nephew’s side and the old King asked his son not to marry Lilian until Carl Gustaf had himself married.
This happened in June 1976, when King Carl XVI Gustaf married Silvia Sommerlath, whom he had met during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Prince Bertil had been introduced to her the very same day as his nephew met her, and when asked by Carl Gustaf what he thought he should do, Bertil answered: “Marry her!” “And that”, he said later, “was the best advice I have ever given anyone”.
With King Carl Gustaf safely married, the way was at last free for Bertil and Lilian to tie the knot. They were married in the chapel at Drottningholm Palace on 7 December 1976. He was 64, she was 61, and they had waited for 33 years.
King Carl Gustaf honoured his uncle’s loyalty and sacrifice by allowing him to keep all his royal titles and privileges. Mrs Lilian Craig, the former nightclub hostess who had grown up in great poverty in Wales, thus became Princess Lilian of Sweden and was to prove herself a born natural in the royal role. Many royal duties fell to Prince Bertil, who was now at last able to fulfill them with Lilian at his side. When the King travelled abroad Prince Bertil acted as guardian of the realm.
But as he entered his eighties his health began to fail. He had problems with his heart and lungs, which forced him to cut down on his engagements. A hip fracture in 1994 reduced him further. One of his last public appearances was the coming of age of Crown Princess Victoria in July 1995. This meant that for the first time for decades someone other than Prince Bertil could act as guardian of the realm.
He did so for the last time in December 1996. A month later, in the early evening of 5 January 1997, Prince Bertil died in his home Villa Solbacken in Stockholm, holding the hand of his beloved Lilian and sincerely mourned by the Swedish people.
A letter to the editor of the newspaper Expressen four days later told an anecdote which said much about why Prince Bertil was so popular. The writer recalled a summer evening in 1952 when he was an eighteen-year-old sailor and stood outside a Stockholm cinema with four friends from the navy, counting their money and concluding that they did not have enough to pay for the tickets.
A sports-car stopped and out came a man they instantly recognised. They saluted and he said, “Hi guys, are you going to see the film too?” They explained that they did not have enough money. “Take what you have and come with me to the counter”, he said.
“I cannot remember how much it was, but he paid the difference”, the letter concluded. “For that gesture I flew my flag at half mast on 6 January. In honour of Prince Bertil”.

Monday, 27 February 2012

First photos of Princess Estelle

The Swedish royal court has released three photos of Princess Estelle (courtesy of kungahuset.se). The court says they were taken at Haga Palace when she was four days old, which must mean they were taken earlier today.
It was earlier said that King Carl Gustaf would take the first official photos, but no information has been given about who has actually made these photos. However, the newspaper Expressen claims to know that Prince Daniel and Prince Carl Philip are the photographers.
Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister, the Mistress of the Robes, who was an official birth witness in 1977 as well as in 2012, has commented that Princess Estelle looks exactly like her mother.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

People from the past: Countess Estelle Bernadotte af Wisborg (1904-1984)

The unexpected choice of the name Estelle for the newborn daughter of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden has naturally sparked a lot of interest in the Princess’s only relative of that name (except for a young granddaughter of Princess Désirée): the daughter of an American millionaire, who married into a non-royal junior branch of the House of Bernadotte.
Born on 26 September 1904 in Pleasantville, New York, Estelle Romaine Manville was the daughter of American industrialist Hiram Edward Manville, a self-made man who had made a fortune of an estimated 20 million dollars through asbestos, and his wife Estelle Romaine.
At the time of her marriage there were reports that the Manvilles belonged to so-called Four Hundred, i.e. the most prestigious upper-class families of New York and that they descended from Goeffrey de Magnaville, who was ennobled as Earl of Essex after accompanying Duke William of Normandy on his conquest of England in 1066. However, this was all based on a misunderstanding. In fact Estelle’s family had nothing to do with these people and were entirely self-made.
While in her early twenties Estelle Manville was frequently seen in American and European society. During a holiday on the French Riviera in the summer of 1928 she attended a dinner in honour of King Gustaf V of Sweden, where she was seated next to his nephew, Count Folke Bernadotte af Wisborg, a 33-year-old cavalry officer.
Folke Bernadotte was the youngest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte and thus a grandson of King Oscar II of Sweden and of Norway. Prince Oscar had lost his royal statues when marrying a commoner in 1888 and Folke was therefore not himself a member of the royal family, yet he was to become one of the most famous of all the Bernadottes.
“At the first meeting with my future husband I was not really at all gripped by his personality”, Estelle recalled. “I wondered to myself whether he wasn’t actually quite an ordinary and somewhat self-preoccupied gentleman. One day, however, I found him laughing, in the special and completely irresistible way that was his own, and in that instant I understood for the first time something of his inner essence. Similarly his face exploded in a bright and lusty laugh and I suddenly realized that he had extraordinary blue eyes. [...] I thought for a moment I could see the spirit in his soul and in the same instant I realized that he was a good man”.
After an acquaintance of only two weeks, Folke Bernadotte proposed to Estelle Manville and was accepted. “You’ve got to be a fast worker to get the best girl in the United States”, said Folke Bernadotte to someone who remarked on the speed with which it had all happened.
Estelle’s parents hosted a grand wedding for 1,450 guests at their estate Hi-Esmaro in Pleasantville on 1 December 1928. The actual ceremony took place in the local Episcopal Church of St John in Pleasantville and the bride wore Queen Sophia’s bridal veil and the small so-called Bernadotte wedding crown.
The Princes Gustaf Adolf and Sigvard had come over from Sweden, the former to act as best man, and the princes and the bridal couple were entertained to lunch in the White House by President Calvin Coolidge. The American press spun the wedding as the first time a member of a European royal family married in the USA, but this was obviously nonsense as Folke Bernadotte was not a member of a royal family. Other epitaphs included “the greatest occurrence in American Society since the wedding of Miss Consuelo Vanderbilt with the Duke of Marlborough” and the whole affair was estimated to have cost some $ 1,750,000. According to Estelle herself, the price was “only” $ 250,000.
Estelle’s introduction to wider royal circles took place when she accompanied her husband to his cousin Princess Märtha’s wedding to Crown Prince Olav of Norway in Oslo in March 1929. The couple spent most of the first years of their marriage in the USA and France, but in 1931 they settled in Stockholm. At first they lived in his parents’ apartment at 89 Östermalm Street, but in 1931 Folke was given a fifteen-year lease of a 20-room villa at Djurgården, known as Dragongården (now part of the Chinese embassy complex).
In 1933 Folke Bernadotte retired from the army with the rank of major and became head of the household of Prince Gustaf Adolf, a good friend of his and father to the present King of Sweden. Estelle also became a close friend of Gustaf Adolf’s wife, Princess Sibylla, and helped introduce her to life in Sweden after her wedding in 1932. In 1946 Folke Bernadotte was among the sponsors at the christening of the future King Carl XVI Gustaf, whose third name is Folke.
Count Folke and Countess Estelle Bernadotte had four sons: Gustaf in 1930, Folke (“Ockie”) in 1931, Frederick in 1934 and Bertil in 1935. Frederick died at the age of seven months, while Gustaf died three days after his sixth birthday. The deaths of two of her sons were obviously harsh blows for Estelle Bernadotte, who spent some time in a rest home.
During World War II Folke Bernadotte served as Vice President of the Swedish Red Cross, whose President was his uncle Prince Carl. As Prince Carl was by then in his eighties and had been President for four decades, most of the daily work fell on Folke Bernadotte, who thus got the chance to play a role on the world stage as the war neared its end.
In the spring of 1945 he conducted secret negotiations with Heinrich Himmler about a possible German capitulation, which came to nothing. However, Folke Bernadotte managed to get permission to transport Norwegian and Danish prisoners from the concentration camps.
The operation, commonly known as “the White Buses” after the colouring of the Red Cross vehicles, rescued 21,700 prisoners from the concentration camps and made Folke Bernadotte a hero. His stature in Sweden was probably increased by the fact that many were not so proud of much of what neutral Sweden had done during the war and the few Swedish heroes were therefore celebrated even more.
In 1948 the UN sent Folke Bernadotte to Palestine to act as a mediator in the conflict caused by the establishment of the state of Israel. On 15 September 1948 he was assassinated in Jerusalem by the terrorist groups Irgun and Lehy, among whose leaders were the future Israeli prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.
Estelle was thus left a widow at the age of only 44, but remained dedicated to her husband’s causes for the rest of her life. She continued his Red Cross work, served as President of the Swedish Girl Guides and Scout Association from 1949 to 1957 and was also involved with UNICEF and the international conservation movement.
She also continued to appear on the royal scene. For instance she was usually present for the annual State Opening of Parliament in the Royal Palace’s Hall of State in January, wearing court dress and a magnificent parure of pink tourmalines (some say topazes, others white sapphires) which had apparently been worn by Queen Sophia for her Norwegian coronation in 1873. (The parure consisted of tiara, necklace and brooch and Estelle Bernadotte bought a ring, a bracelet and a pair of earrings to go with it. It was inherited by her eldest son, but has now been sold).
On 3 March 1973, 68-year-old Estelle Bernadotte married Carl-Eric Ekstrand, who had been Master of the Household to the late Princess Sibylla and also in charge of administering Estelle’s own fortune. The couple settled in Saint-Paul-de Vence near Nice.
At the age of 79, Estelle Ekstrand died in Uppsala on 28 May 1984 from a staphylococcal infection following hip surgery which developed into blood poisoning. Her ashes were interred at the Northern Cemetery in Solna outside Stockholm, where her name is again given as “Estelle Bernadotte af Wisborg” on her plaque at Prince Oscar Bernadotte’s Family Grave.
Her widower died in 1988, while her sons Folke and Bertil are still alive. While the former is rarely seen in royal circles, the latter remains a good friend of King Carl Gustaf, who even spent his wedding night at Bertil Bernadotte’s summer house at Ingarö in the Stockholm archipelago.
Count Bertil Bernadotte was also present in the Palace Church on Friday for the service of thanksgiving following the birth of the princess given the same name as his mother. No official explanation has been given for why the Crown Princess and her husband chose the name Estelle, which is not Swedish and which does not have any previous royal history. Indeed the choice of name ignores the history, tradition and continuity which the names of (future) monarchs are normally supposed to reflect.
The royal court has not confirmed that the Princess is actually named for Estelle Bernadotte; the information department has replied to press inquiries that they have no information about the reasons for the choice of the name Estelle. There are media reports that Crown Princess Victoria has always liked the name, while Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg, who was earlier the Crown Princess’s Court Marshal, has suggested that the Crown Princess’s interest in peace work may have influenced her choice of the name Estelle for the future Queen of Sweden. The Mistress of the Robes, Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister, said to Aftonbladet yesterday that “the King was very close to Estelle’s husband Folke”, but this is obviously impossible, given that Folke Bernadotte died when King Carl Gustaf was two years old.
As Estelle Ekstrand lived in France for the last years of her life and Crown Princess Victoria was not yet seven years old when she died, the Crown Princess can hardly have known her distant relative very well. However, according to what Estelle Bernadotte’s son Folke told Aftonbladet yesterday, Crown Princess Victoria has met his mother, but in another interview, with Upsala Nya Tidning, he is less certain about it.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Dutch prince suffers extensive brain damage

In the shadow of the announcement of the unexpected choice of names for the new-born Swedish heiress yesterday, the doctors treating Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, the second son of the Queen of the Netherlands, were finally able to say something more certain about his condition following his skiing accident in Lech, Austria a week ago. Unfortunately it seems the outlook is very bleak.
According to the doctors, the Prince had been buried in the avalanche for some 25 minutes before being taken by rescue helicopter to the Innsbruck University Hospital, where he received reanimation treatment before being taken to the intensive care trauma unit.
As a result of having been deprived of oxygen for a long time, the Prince suffered a 50 minutes long cardiac arrest and had to be constantly reanimated. “Fifty minutes is a very long time", the doctors say. “One could say, too long. We hoped that the patient's mild hypothermic state had sufficiently protected the brain against excessive damage. Unfortunately, our hope was in vain”.
The first MRI-scan, which was undertaken on Thursday when this was finally deemed safe enough, and neurological tests later in the day revealed that Prince Friso has suffered extensive brain damage.
“At present it is not certain whether he will ever regain consciousness. In any event, rehabilitation will take months, if not years. Prince Friso's family will now look for an appropriate rehabilitation facility", the statement ends.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Service of thanksgiving for Swedish heiress

After the State Council in which the names and titles of the new-born Swedish princess were announced, a service of thanksgivings was held in the Palace Church at noon today.
Among the guests were the King and Queen, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip, Princess Christina’s husband Tord Magnuson, Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg (the widow of the late former Prince Sigvard), the almost 96-year-old Dagmar von Arbin (a granddaughter of Prince Oscar Bernadotte), Prince Daniel’s parents, Olle and Ewa Westling, his sister Anna Westling Söderström and her new husband Mikael Söderström, Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg (I think), who is a grandson of Prince Oscar Bernadotte and whose mother was named Estelle, numerous official representatives and courtiers.
Afterwards a family photo, shot in the Princess Sibylla Apartment, was released by the royal court through their website kungahuset.se.

Princess Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, Duchess of Ostrogothia

In a State Council half an hour ago the King of Sweden announced that the name of the newborn princess will be Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary and that she will be Duchess of Ostrogothia.
While speculations had centred on the names of earlier Swedish queens, no-one had foreseen that the choice would be a non-royal French or American name. The only royal connection of the name Estelle is the American Estelle Manville (1904-1984), who in 1928 married Count Folke Bernadotte af Wisborg, the youngest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte and thus grandson of King Oscar II of Sweden and of Norway.
Silvia is obviously after her maternal grandmother the Queen of Sweden and Ewa for her paternal grandmother Ewa Westling, while Mary may perhaps indicate that the Crown Princess of Denmark will be among her godparents.
The dukedom of Ostrogothia (Östergötland in Sweden) has been used three times since dukedoms were (re)introduced by Gustaf III in 1772. That year he gave it to his youngest brother, Prince Fredrik Adolf, and it was subsequently given to the future King Oscar II when he was born in 1829. The last holder was Prince Carl Jr, the only son of Prince Carl (and thus grandson of Oscar II), who received the dukedom of Ostrogothia when he was born in 1911, but lost it when he married a commoner in 1937. It is worth noting that the new Duchess of Ostrogothia is the daughter of the Duchess of Westrogothia (Crown Princess Victoria) just like Prince Carl Jr was the son of the previous Duke of Westrogothia.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Name of royal baby to be announced before noon tomorrow

At noon today the birth of an heiress to Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden was marked with a 42 gun salute across the country. About the same time the royal couple and their newborn daughter left the Caroline University Hospital for the short drive home to Haga Palace. But the official ceremonial is far from over with that.
Tomorrow at 11.15 a.m. the King will hold a council at the Royal Palace, where he will officially inform the cabinet of the birth of an heiress as well as reveal her name and what dukedom he has chosen to bestow on his granddaughter.
Around 11.35 a.m. the Marshal of the Realm (Lord Chamberlain), Svante Lindqvist, will inform journalists about the name and titles in the Carl XV Hall. Here the Speaker of Parliament, Per Westerberg, the Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, and the Mistress of the Robes, Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister, who, along with the Marshal of the Realm are the official birth witnesses will also be present (the practice whereby the birth witnesses were actually present in the next room to where the birth took place ceased in the early twentieth century and today the witnesses are only required to see the baby after its birth).
At noon a service of thanksgivings will be held in the Palace Church, attended by members of the royal family (obviously not the Crown Princess and her daughter), official representatives and courtiers.

A future Queen of Sweden born

Right now Prince Daniel of Sweden is holding a press conference at Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset (the Caroline University Hospital) in Solna, announcing that Crown Princess Victoria gave birth to a princess at 4.26 a.m.
The Princess is 51 centimetres long and weighs 3 280 grams.
Around 6 p.m. yesterday an ambulance and two black cars were seen leaving Haga Palace, but the royal court says the Crown Princess was only admitted at 12.50 a.m.
The names and the dukedom given to the infant princess will be announced by King Carl Gustaf in a state council at the Royal Palace tomorrow.
As the succession to the Swedish throne is gender-neutral since 1980, the newborn princess will one day become Queen Regnant (given that the monarchy survives, of course). This means that in her generation, there will be female monarchs in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and probably Spain and a male monarch only in Denmark unless Prince William of Britain's firstborn is a boy.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

On this date: The King’s 75th birthday

Today is the 75th birthday of the King, who was born at the crown princely residence Skaugum in Asker at 12.45 p.m. on Sunday 21 February 1937.
As always on the King’s birthday there will be flags flown and a gun salute at noon, but unlike his 70th birthday there will be no grand celebrations; the King will rather celebrate the birthday privately abroad.
The Palace has, rather oddly, insisted to journalists that there is no tradition for celebrating 75th birthdays in grand style, but this is clearly wrong as there were major celebrations for the 75th birthdays of Olav V in 1978, Haakon VII in 1947 and Oscar II in 1904. It seems the real reason is quite simply that King prefers to celebrate his birthday more privately.
The royal anniversaries are also marked by the six exhibitions based on the Royal Collection which is the government’s birthday present, the first of which was presented to the King and Queen last Wednesday.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to tour Scandinavian countries

It was announced today that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will tour the Scandinavian countries next month to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. On the invitation of the King and Queen, the British heir and his wife will be in Norway from 20 to 22 March, visiting Oslo and Bergen.
In Oslo they will lay a wreath at the National Monument at Akershus Fortress, attend a dinner at the Royal Palace and meet with the Prime Minister and representantives of youth organisations, including youngsters who survived the terrorist attack at Utøya last summer. In Bergen the British royals will attend a concert in the Håkon Hall and visit the British naval ship HMS “Liverpool”.
From Norway Prince Charles and Camilla will continue to Sweden, which they will visit from 22 to 24 March. King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia will host a lunch at the Palace and the guests will, as in Norway, meet young people. The Prince and the Duchess will visit the Vasa Museum and, according to Clarence House, “focus on military and commercial cooperation, the international work of a world renowned environmental research centre and education”.
On 24 March the British royals will move on to Denmark, where there will again be an official dinner hosted by Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik. Here the royal couple will attend a service at the Anglican church, meet Afghanistan veterans, visit a power station, attend a theatre workshop at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore and then move on to Jutland in order to visit a university and an organic farms.
As well as taking in some of the couple’s special interests it seems the visits will involve a ceremonial almost on par with state visits.
Prince Charles was last in Norway in May 2010. He has also attended numerous family events in Norway through the years, including the 75th birthday of King Olav in 1978, his funeral in 1991, the sixtieth birthdays of the King and Queen in 1997 and the wedding of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess in 2001. However, the Duchess of Cornwall has not visited Norway after marrying the British heir in 2005. The visit to Sweden will be the first by Prince Charles since 1969, while he was last in Denmark in December 2009.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

What to see: Treasures from the Royal Collection, Oslo

As previously mentioned the government’s present to the King and Queen for their 75th birthdays is six exhibitions of treasures from the Royal Collection to be shown in various locations throughout the country. The first of these was presented to the King and Queen at an event at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo last Wednesday and will be on show there until 26 August.
This first exhibition is titled “Royal Journeys 1905-2005” and shows items from the Royal Collection related to various forms of journeys undertaken by the members of the present dynasty since its establishment in 1905, which at the same times reflects the wide range of the Royal Collection.
The exhibition is divided into four rooms, of which the museum’s great hall is dedicated to coronations and consecrations and the journeys across the country undertaken in connection with these ceremonies. The pièce de résistance of this room is the magnificent coronation coach made for the coronation of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud in 1906 and not seen in public since 1940. In this room one will also find Queen Maud’s spectacular coronation gown together with the dresses worn by Princess Astrid and Queen Sonja for the consecrations of 1958 and 1991, as well as the uniforms worn by King Haakon, King Olav and King Harald for the ceremonies in 1906, 1958 and 1991.
One room is dedicated to King Haakon and Queen Maud, and includes a mountain of luggage symbolising the fifty suitcases with which Queen Maud travelled. Here are also the young Princess Maud’s sketchbook and photographs made during her first visit to her future kingdom in 1893, items related to the royal election of 1905 and the new King and Queen’s departure from Denmark and arrival in Norway along with uniforms, dresses, orders and gifts from their state visit, all illustrated throughout with photos and video footage.
The next room focuses on King Olav and Crown Princess Märtha, but also includes World War II. Particularly dominant in this room are the sumptuous gifts King Olav received on state visits to exotic countries such as Iran and Thailand. The final room deals with the current King and Queen and the journeys they have undertaken within and without Norway since their accession 21 years ago.
The photos above show some of the many diverse items included in this exhibition. The first photo shows the coronation coach, followed by Queen Maud’s coronation gown and Ida Lorentzen’s painting of the consecration of King Harald and Queen Sonja.
The fourth picture shows the Grand Cross of the Russian Order of St Catherine, set with diamonds, which was given to the then Princess Maud of Britain on the occasion of her cousin Grand Duchess Xenia of Russia’s wedding in 1894. The fifth photo is of a gold casket given to King Haakon and Queen Maud by the Corporation of the City of London during their state visit to Britain in 1906.
The sixth photo shows an electrical Cadillac which Crown Prince Olav was given by his doting grandmother, Queen Alexandra of Britain. Next is Per Palle Storm’s bust of Crown Princess Märtha, followed by her miniature medals and family orders.
The ninth picture shows the blanket and pillow used by King Haakon during the campaign of 1940. Then comes presents given to King Olav during a Thai state visit, a detail of the royal table set for the return dinner during the official visit to Denmark in 2005 and finally a bust given to the King and Queen by Nelson Mandela on his last visit to Norway that same year.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Dutch prince in critical condition following avalanche

Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, the second son of the Queen of the Netherlands, is reported to be in a life-threatening condition in a hospital in Innsbruck, Austria, after having been buried by an avalanche while skiing off piste at the ski resort Lech earlier today. The Prince is reported to have been buried in the snow for fifteen or twenty minutes following the avalanche. Apparently no-one else was taken by the avalanche.
Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, formerly Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands, is 43 years old and the King’s godson. He works as a businessman and is the father of two daughters. He lost his title as Prince of the Netherlands and his succession rights when he married Mabel Wisse Smit in 2004 after it emerged that she had given incorrect information to the government about her previous relationship with a gangster.
Queen Beatrix, who was also staying in Lech, is reported to be at her son’s side in hospital tonight, together with his wife, while his elder brother, Prince Willem-Alexander, is apparently flying in from the Netherlands.

Christian Wulff resigns as President of Germany

It did not really come as a surprise, but this morning Christian Wulff resigned as President of Germany. His resignation came as a consequence of prosecutors wishing to investigate his role in a corruption case asked Parliament to suspend his immunity.
The President acknowledged in his resignation statement that he had lost the confidence of the German people. The case began in December, when it was revealed by the media that Wulff, when Minister President of Lower Saxony, had taken a large loan from the wife of a millionaire friend by the name of Egon Geerkens. As Minister President, Wulff had been asked by the state parliament if he had any business ties with Mr Geerkens, something which he explicitly denied without mentioning the loan from Mrs Geerkens.
The President faced mounting criticism when it emerged he had made an angry and apparently threatening phone call to the editor of the newspaper Bild in an attempt to get the newspaper to postpone its publication of the story.
Christian Wulff, who, like Chancellor Angela Merkel, belongs to the Christian Democratic Party, was elected President on 30 June 2010, following the abrupt resignation of President Horst Köhler. A new head of state will have to be elected by the Federal Assembly within thirty days.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

King and Queen receive exhibition present

Yesterday the King and Queen were formally presented with the exhibitions based on the Royal Collection which are the government’s gift for the royal couple’s 75th birthdays. The presentation took place at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo in the presence of the King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Märtha Louise, Princess Astrid, several members of the cabinet and Parliament’s presidium, the parliamentary leaders of most of the political parties, the top courtiers, other notabilities and those of us who have been involved with the project.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to the King and Queen in a speech which brought tear to the eyes of the Queen, the Crown Princess and Princess Märtha Louise, and the King and Queen thereafter made a joint acceptance speech before they were shown around in the first exhibition.
Later in the day, this first exhibition, titled “A Royal Journey” and showing treasures from the Royal Collection, was formally opened by the Culture Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt. From today the exhibition is open to the public (until 26 August). I will return with a more detailed presentation of the exhibition later.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

New books: The Norwegian Royal Collection

The Norwegian Royal Collection is among the lesser-known royal collections of Europe, but this year and next year parts of it will be shown in six exhibitions funded by the government as a 75th birthday present to the King and Queen, and it is also presented in the book Arv og tradisjon – De kongelige samlinger (“Heritage and Tradition: The Royal Collections”), edited by Anniken Thue and published by Orfeus Publishing today.
As I am co-author of the book I shall obviously refrain from reviewing it and restrict myself to a presentation of it. The main themes of the six jubilee exhibitions are royal journeys and royal gifts, and this also puts its mark on the related book.
The book starts which a foreword by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, followed by an interview with the King and Queen about the Royal Collection (by journalist Ulf Andenæs of Aftenposten) and a short introduction by King Haakon’s and Queen Maud’s biographer Tor Bomann-Larsen.
The art historian Ingeborg Lønning, who is head of the Royal Collection, then presents the collection in all its diversity over some 75 pages. Thereafter the historian Trond Norén Isaksen (yes, that is me) charts the history of royal journeys: journeys by Dano-Norwegian monarchs and Swedish-Norwegian union kings to Norway before 1905, major royal tours of Norway for the past 200 years and their significance, and the history and development of foreign visits and in particular state visits. The art historian Nina Høye looks at the aesthetics of royal travelling, including suitcases, celebratory pavilions and arches, means of travel and more.
Thereafter I return with a chapter on the symbolically most important journey, “The Road to Nidaros Cathedral”, i.e. the coronation cathedral. In this chapter I look at the nineteenth century coronation processions in Trondheim and why King Haakon VII in 1906 refused to continue this tradition and instead ordered the coronation coach (which has not been used since 1940, but has now been restored and will be the pièce de résistance of two of the jubilee exhibitions).
Bjørn K. Høie follows this up with a chapter on the royal stables (its carriages, its horses and its personnel) in the years 1905-1940, and Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen thereafter presents a century of royal cars. The King’s authorised biographer Per Egil Hegge writes about the most difficult journey, i.e. Crown Princess Märtha’s and her children’s journey into exile in 1940, but also the triumphant homecoming in 1945.
Thereafter the focus shifts to major presents to the royal family. The art historian Knut Ljøgodt presents the collection of contemporary art which was a gift to King Oscar II and Queen Sophie for their silver wedding anniversary in 1882 and which may be said to form the backbone of the royal art collection. The art historian Widar Halén deals with the sumptuous silver objects which were presented to Queen Maud on hers and King Haakon’s arrival in Norway in 1905, her birthday the following day and their coronation in 1906, among them also the coronation presents from the English and Scottish peoples. The art historian Knut Ormhaug follows this with a presentation of the paintings given to King Haakon and Queen Maud on those same occasions.
Finally, the photographer Jan Haug presents a selection from the Palace’s large photo collections, spanning the years 1857-1964. The book is neither a photo book nor purely a coffee table book, but it is lavishly illustrated. There are many new photos of the objects from the Royal Collection, but also a wide range of historical photographs, most of them from the Royal Collection and some of them never published before.
Here is a panorama of the coronation procession of King Oscar II and Queen Sophie, photographed from the roof of Nidaros Cathedral in 1873; King Haakon VII and several other gentlemen inspecting the engine of a new car in 1934; private snapshots of King Haakon and Queen Maud both before and after their arrival in Norway; King Haakon at play with his son; the distance elegance of Queen Maud; King Haakon and King Edward VII of Britain having sat down for a rest during a walk in the woods in 1908; photos taken by Princess Maud of Britain in 1893 when on a visit to the country which unbeknown to her would one day be hers; the 21-year-old seamstress Miss Sonja Haraldsen modelling her own creations a year before she met her prince; and much more.
The book is in Norwegian, but has English summaries.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Family gathering for Princess Astrid’s eightieth birthday

Last night the King and Queen hosted a dinner at the Royal Palace in honour of Princess Astrid’s eightieth birthday. The royal court has released four handout photos (by Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen), shown above.
According to the royal court the birthday party was also attended by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess as well as Princess Märtha Louise (who was apparently in the Netherlands earlier in the day, promoting her angel book). The photos show that Princess Ragnhild and her husband Erling Lorentzen was also present. The couple, who are 81 and 89 respectively, live in Brazil and have not been much seen in Norway in recent years.
Coincidentially, both the Queen and Princess Astrid wore the same necklaces as they wore for Princess Astrid’s 75th birthday party in 2007. While the Princess’s appears to be of fairly recent origins, the Queen’s originally belonged to the King’s great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra of Britain.
On Wednesday there will be another family gathering, when the royal family en masse will attend the opening of the first of the six exhibitions based on the royal collections which is the government’s present to the King and Queen for their 75th birthdays.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

On this date: Princess Astrid’s eightieth birthday

Today is the eightieth birthday of Princess Astrid, Norway’s former first lady. To mark the occasion the King is giving a dinner at the Palace tonight in honour of his sister and the court has released two new official photos by Svein Brimi.
The second daughter of the future King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha, Princess Astrid Maud Ingeborg was born on 12 February 1932 at Villa Solbakken in Aker (now in Oslo), which served as the crown princely family’s temporary home after Skaugum had burned down in 1930.
The family moved back to Skaugum in August 1932 and Princess Astrid spent some happy childhood years there before the German invasion forced Crown Princess Märtha to bring her three children to safety in her native Sweden on 9 April 1940. In August that year the Crown Princess and her children went on to the USA, where they found a home in exile until the liberation of Norway in 1945.
Having attended school in the USA and Norway, Princess Astrid went to Oxford in 1950 to study economics, philosophy and political history. The choice was not hers, but her father’s, and was chosen because it was the only programme which lasted only two years, the maximum of time it was considered possible for her to be absent due to the illness of her mother.
The Crown Princess’s illness and the fact that her elder sister, Princess Ragnhild, married and moved to Brazil in 1953, meant that Princess Astrid had to take on an increasing amount of public engagements after her return to Norway. The most spectacular of these was accompanying her parents to London for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, where Princess Astrid was supposed to stand in for her mother if the Crown Princess was not strong enough.
The seriousness of her mother’s illness was only explained to Princess Astrid shortly before Crown Princess Märtha died at the age of 53 in the morning of 5 April 1954. Her death made Princess Astrid the country’s first lady at the age of only 22. Duty has always been important to the Princess and it never occurred to her to say no to the momentous responsibilities that there now placed upon her young shoulders. Two years later King Haakon rewarded his granddaughter with the Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St Olav, making her only the second Norwegian woman to receive this honour.
Her responsibilities increased further when King Haakon died in 1957 and her father succeeded to the throne as King Olav V. While Crown Prince Harald was preoccupied with his education, Princess Astrid was the only family member available to support King Olav, and she became, in the words of her brother, their father’s right hand.
In 1958 and 1959 she accompanied King Olav on his journeys across the country in connection with his consecration. The stress of the first of these journeys caused Princess Astrid to fall ill with rheumatic fever, an illness which would cause her much pain until it was finally cured some ten years ago.
At that time Princess Astrid had fallen in love with Johan Martin Ferner, a businessman whose brief marriage to her friend Ingeborg Hesselberg-Meyer was dissolved in 1956. King Olav, who was head of the Norwegian state church, feared what would be the public reactions to his second daughter also marrying a commoner, and even a divorced one, and consequently withheld his consent for five years.
When the engagement was announced in November 1960 it did indeed lead to much criticism, described at the time as the worst storm the royal family had yet experienced. As the Bishop of Oslo, Johannes Smemo, was unwilling to marry divorcees, King Olav asked the Bishop of Nidaros, Arne Fjellbu, to officiate at the wedding, which was held in Asker Church on a bitterly cold winter day, 12 January 1961. Last year the couple were able to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.
At the time of the wedding, the Princess gave up the style Royal Highness and has since been officially styled as Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner. She also gave up the civil list income she had been granted in 1956. It was, however, made clear that she would continue to carry out her royal duties. This was indeed sheer necessity as the Princess was the only female member of the royal family resident in Norway and would thus remain the country’s first lady until her brother married.
And this turned out to be a long way off, as King Olav was, perhaps understandably, even more reluctant to give his consent to the heir’s marriage to Sonja Haraldsen, the commoner he had fallen in love with in 1959. Meanwhile Princess Astrid carried on with her royal duties, while simultaneously establishing her own home, battling illness and giving birth to the first three of her five children: Cathrine in 1962, Benedikte in 1963 and Alexander in 1965.
It was only in 1968 that King Olav finally felt on sure enough ground to give his consent to the marriage of Crown Prince Harald and Sonja Haraldsen. When they married on 29 August 1968, Princess Astrid, after fourteen years, ceded the position as first lady to her sister-in-law.
While other princesses, such as Mathilde of France or Antoinette of Monaco, have resented giving up the position as first lady to a newcomer, Princess Astrid was in a way relieved to do so and became a great help and support in introducing Crown Princess Sonja into her new role.
However, Princess Astrid did not disappear from the royal scene, but continued to take on a fair share of public engagements, in particular related to the numerous organisations of which she are patron. Meanwhile the Ferner family was completed by the birth of Elisabeth in 1969 and Carl-Christian in 1972. Today Princess Astrid and Johan Martin Ferner are also the grandparents of five.
When King Olav died in January 1991, Princess Astrid came to serve her third king, her brother, Harald V. The King and Queen both have nothing but praise for the selfless way in which Princess Astrid has always been there for them, knowing only one answer when asked to help in one way or another. On the occasion of her seventieth birthday in 2002 the government recognised her loyalty to the crown and the nation by granting her a pension of honour for the rest of her life.
At the age of eighty Princess Astrid remains active, although her public engagements are now rather few. This she herself explains by the fact that people seem to prefer to invite the younger or more high-profile members of the royal family in preference to her.
Princess Astrid has always been close to the King, with whom she shares a human warmth and sense of humour as well as their dedication to duty. She is also an excellent storyteller, blessed with a good recollection and a sense of history which makes her something of the royal family’s living memory. This I came to experience personally when writing my biography of her, Kvinne blant konger (“A Woman Among Kings”), which was published in 2007.
Princess Astrid rarely misses a state banquet, to which she will turn up wearing one of her five tiaras (two of which will eventually revert to the King), the broad version of the sash of St Olav (rather than the narrower now given to women) as this was what she was given by King Haakon 56 years ago, and the family orders of Haakon VII, Olav V and Harald V. She is the only member of the royal family to wear more than one family order, but insists that her way is the correct and that all family orders should be worn. In her case it is also a visual reminder of the fact that she is alone in having served all three monarchs.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

My latest article: The King at 75

The King will be 75 this month, i.e. on 21 February, and to mark the occasion I have written an article for the February issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 33, No. 2) titled “Royal Reformer”. In this article I look in particular at how the Norwegian monarchy has been reformed and modernised during his 21-year-reign and at the King’s handling of the terrorist attacks last summer, for which he has been much lauded.

Monday, 6 February 2012

On this date: Diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain

In the early hours of today, sixty years had passed since King George VI of Britain died in his sleep at Sandringham House in Norfolk, leaving the thrones of Britain and a number of other countries to his then 25-year-old daughter. Thus Queen Elizabeth II today marks her sixty years as monarch, although the main celebrations will take place in early June.
However, to mark accession day Buckingham Palace today released the following message from Queen Elizabeth:

Today, as I mark 60 years as your Queen, I am writing to thank you for the wonderful support and encouragement that you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years and to tell you how deeply moved we have been to receive so many kind messages about the Diamond Jubilee.

In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign and which my family and I look forward to seeing in many forms as we travel throughout the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth.

I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart as we join together in our celebrations.

I send my sincere good wishes to you all.


To mark the occasion the British court has also released the two official photos seen above, taken at Buckingham Palace in December by John Swannell. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh do not perhaps look exactly thrilled to be there, but the choice of background for the photo of Queen Elizabeth is interesting as one sees the monument to her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, the only other British monarch to reach her diamond jubilee on the throne.
On the occasion of the jubilee an official diamond jubilee website was also launched today: http://www.thediamondjubilee.org/ (external link).

Sauli Niinistö elected President of Finland

Yesterday’s second round of Finland’s presidential election saw the conservative candidate Sauli Niinistö elected the country’s twelfth president with a comfortable majority. Niinistö won 62.6 % of the votes as opposed to 37.4 % for Pekka Haavisto of the Green Party. With more than 1.8 million votes Niiniströ received more votes than his predecessors since direct elections of president were introduced in 1994. Electoral participation was, however, record low at a mere 68.9 %.
The election result is something of a watershed as it means that the President of Finland will, for the first time since 1982, not be a Social Democrat, and that, unusually, the President and the Prime Minister will belong to the same party.
In the first round of the election, held on 22 January, Sauli Niinistö won 36.96 % of the votes, while Pekka Haavisto received 18.76 % of the votes and thus narrowly bypassed Paavo Värynen of the Centre Party (17.53 %) as the second candidate in the second round. The Social Democrat candidate, former Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, received only 6.7 % of the votes.
Sauli Väinämö Niinistö, who was born on 24 August 1948, is a jurist by profession and was an MP 1987-2003 and 2007-2011. He served as leader of the Conservative party 1994-2001, was Minister of Justice 1995-1996 and Minister of Finance 1996-2003. He was his party’s candidate in the 2006 presidential election and gave the incumbent President, Tarja Halonen, tough competition, winning 48.2 % of the votes against Halonen’s 51.8 %. From 2007 till 2011 he served as Speaker of Parliament. He will be sworn in as President on 1 March, when Tarja Halonen’s second six-year term comes to an end.
Widowed in 1995, Niinistö remarried in 2009 to Jenni Haukio. The incoming First Lady of Finland is 34 years old, a poet and head of communication of the Conservative party.
The once significant powers of the President have been cut in recent years, most recently in October last year. The role of the President is now mostly ceremonial, but he or she retains a modest influence in foreign policy. The political scientist Ann-Cathrine Jungar wrote an interesting essay (external link) on the development of the presidential office in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet yesterday.
The photo shows the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

My latest article: The need for a royal museum

While the Museum Liechtenstein in Vienna has closed down, the debate on the need for a permanent museum for the royal collection goes on in Norway and in Aftenposten today I have added my voice (external link) to those who argue that such a museum ought to come into existence the sooner the better.
Many good arguments in favour of a royal museum have already been put forward, and I choose to focus on one argument which has so far received less attention. While the interdisciplinary research field called court studies has grown around Europe in recent decades, there has been little academic interest in the monarchy in this country.
The history and the art history related to the monarchy have thus been left mostly to dilettantes or to academics with no special knowledge of the topic, which has led to some regrettable results. The lack of serious research into the monarchy is probably also part of the reason why the history of the Norwegian monarchy is often not properly understood; for instance there seems to be a not uncommon misconception that monarchy was something which was introduced in Norway 107 years ago.
Hopefully a museum for the royal collections might inspire serious and professional research into the history and art history of the monarchy, which could again lead to a better understanding of the monarchy and thus also of the country’s history, in which the monarchy has played a central role through the centuries.
As it now seems to be too late to have such a museum up and running in time for the bicentenary of Norway’s independence in 2014, which had originally been hoped, I suggest the King and Queen’s silver jubilee in January 2016 as an ideal opportunity to open a museum for the royal collections. This would also be an excellent way to mark the fact that preservation of and accessibility to the part of our common heritage that is the royal collection has been a priority for the current King and Queen and something which will also be an important part of their legacy when they are gone.