Friday, 30 March 2012

Second great-granddaughter for Queen Elizabeth II

It was announced today that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of Britain became great-grandparents for the second time yesterday, when their granddaughter-in-law Autumn Phillips gave birth to another daughter at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
The child’s name will be Isla Elizabeth Phillips and she is thirteenth in line to the thrones of Britain and other countries of which her great-grandmother is queen.
The girl’s father, Peter Phillips, is the eldest child of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and her first husband Mark Phillips. Peter was himself born in the year when his grandmother celebrated her silver jubilee, while his daughter has now seen the light of day as her great-grandmother celebrates her diamond jubilee.
The first child of Peter Phillips and his Canadian-born wife Autumn, Savannah, was born on 30 December 2010.

On this date: The Queen Mother remembered

Time flies; today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother of Britain. The Queen Mother died at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, at 3.15 p.m. on 30 March 2002 (Easter Saturday), aged 101 years and 238 days.
Having laid in state in Westminster Hall, her funeral was held in Westminster Abbey on 9 April before burial in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Among my personal memories of those days are the warm atmosphere when I queued for three or four hours for the lying in state (I did not see a single person leave the queue during those hours) and the sound of the crowd of one million people in the streets singing “God Save the Queen” at the conclusion of the funeral service - as well as the sound of hundreds of bagpipes as the funeral procession made its way from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey, a sound which was very clearly audible where I stood in the Mall.
The Queen Mother’s last semi-public outing was the funeral of her daughter, Princess Margaret, which was held in St George’s Chapel at Windsor on 15 February (the fiftieth anniversary of the funeral of King George VI in the same chapel). Princess Margaret had died on 9 February 2002, aged 71.
Today the British royal family again gathered in St George’s Chapel, this time for a memorial service for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Among the family members present were Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, the Princess Royal and Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke of York, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, the Countess of Wessex, Prince and Princess Michael, Princess Alexandra and Princess Margaret’s children and grandchildren. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a private holiday abroad and thus missed the event.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

New books: The history of Paris in photos

Following three enormous photo books on Berlin, New York and Los Angeles, Taschen has recently published a fourth, Paris: Portrait d’une ville. Portrait of a City. Porträt einer Stadt, written and edited by Jean Claude Gautrand. When it comes to photographic histories of cities, Paris is particularly interesting as this city was the city where photography was first invented in the late 1830s and also where the technique to make colour photos was discovered in 1904.
This book thus offers a unique photographic account of the development of Paris from 1839 to 2011 and of life in the metropolis through 172 years. There is something almost breathtaking about seeing street views from as far back as 1839, but also photos of daily life and major events, such as the revolution of 1848, pictures which may well be regarded the first press photos.
Here is the changing of the guard at the now lost Tuileries Palace in the reign of Louis-Philippe, the proclamation of the Second Empire in 1852, the troops returning from Italy in 1859, Baron Haussman’s turning Paris upside down, the revolutionaries, politicians, writers, artists, actors and models who have helped create the myth of Paris, but also the destinies of the ordinary man, woman and child.
The book, which is trilingual (French, English and German), is divided into five parts (1830-1871, 1871-1914, 1914-1939, 1939-1959 and 1959-2011). It is only towards the end that the pace is perhaps a bit too hasty as the book moves quite fast from the events of 1968 to the present day.
This is a great book in all meanings of that word, and may almost be considered a must have for all lovers of Paris as well as those interested in the history of photography.

Monday, 26 March 2012

New photos of Princess Estelle and her parents

The Swedish royal court today released three new photos of Princess Estelle and her parents. The photos were taken at Haga Palace and copyright is Kate Gabor/

Friday, 23 March 2012

Three new ministers appointed today

In today’s State Council the King appointed three new members of the cabinet: Bård Vegar Solhjell (fourth photo) was appointed Minister of Environment, Heikki Holmås (sixth photo) Minister of Development and Inga Marte Thorkildsen (fifth photo) Minister of Children, Equality and Integration. After the State Council the new ministers were, in keeping with tradition, presented in the Palace Square by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
All the new ministers are MPs for the Socialist Left Party (SV), one of the three parties which make up the centre-left coalition which has governed Norway since 2005 (the other parties being the Labour Party and the Centre Party).
The ministerial changes come as a consequence of SV’s recent change of leadership. Having done badly in the local elections in September last year, Kristin Halvorsen announced her intention to step down as party leader after fifteen years in that position.
Holmås, Solhjell and Thorkildsen were all mentioned as possible successors along with Audun Lysbakken, deputy leader of the party and at that time the only of the four to sit in the cabinet (as Minister of Children, Equality and Integration).
Thorkildsen declined to run, while Solhjell and Holmås later withdrew from the contest as it was clear that Lysbakken had the most support. However, on 5 March Lysbakken was forced to resign from the cabinet after a scandal over his ministry having given financial support to organisations close to him and his party without following the rules properly.
Regardless of this Lysbakken was elected party leader a few days later, but will consequently have to lead the party from Parliament, despite the Prime Minister’s express wish that all the party leaders shall have a seat in the Cabinet and its subcommittee consisting of the three party leaders.
SV’s seat in that subcommittee, and the position as the Prime Minister’s deputy, will now be taken by Bård Vegar Solhjell, who is also deputy leader of the party and served as Minister of Education from 2007 to 2009. Since then he has been an MP and the party’s parliamentary leader, a post which Lysbakken will now fill.
Inga Marte Thorkildsen, who has been an MP since 2001 and was elected deputy leader of the party two weeks ago, now takes over Lysbakken’s former ministry.
As Kristin Halvorsen is no longer party leader she will now take over the entire Ministry of Education, which since 2007 has been split between a Minister of Education and a Minister of Research and Higher Education. This means that Tora Aasland, who has held the second post since 2007, now leaves the cabinet (she will turn 70 later this year and is thus the oldest female cabinet minister ever).
Erik Solheim, who was party leader from 1987 to 1997, was appointed Minister of International Development in 2005 and Minister of Environment and International Development in 2007, was widely expected to return to being only Minister of Environment, but was in the end deprived of both cabinet posts, which he has objected loudly to.
Solheim is succeeded as Minister of Environment by Bård Vegar Solhjell, and as Minister of International Development by Heikki Holmås, who has been an MP since 2005.
The replacement of a former party leader (Solheim) and a former deputy party leader (Aasland) from the 1980s and 1990s with the two current deputy leaders (Solhjell and Thorkildsen) and the man who did second best in the leadership contest (Holmås) is obviously a generational shift, but may also be interpreted as an attempt by a party which struggles in the polls to regain ground ahead of next year’s general election by putting three of its four most talented politicians of the younger generation in the cabinet.
The irony is of course that of the four people who were mentioned as possible party leaders last September, three are now in the cabinet, while the one who actually won the leadership contest was forced to resign from the cabinet just days before his elevation to the leadership.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Statue of King Christian Frederik for 1814 jubilee

As I have earlier voiced my dissatisfaction with the decision of the Parliament’s Presidium not to erect a statue of King Christian Frederik for the bicentenary of 1814, I am naturally pleased that the Culture Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, in today’s Aftenposten announces that there will after all be a statue of him erected for the jubilee.
No decision has yet been made about the location of the statue, but Huitfeldt says this will be decided in consultation with the Presidium and that she welcomes suggestions. Personally I would prefer the statue to be placed outside the Parliament Building.
The above portrait of the then Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark was painted in 1812, possibly by C. G. Kratzenstein-Stub, and hangs at Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen. Two years later, on 17 May 1814, the Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll elected Christian Frederik, who had played a crucial role in the events of that momentous year, the first King of an independent Norway in centuries. He was however forced to abdicate on 10 October that same year and later reigned as King Christian VIII of Denmark in the years 1839-1848.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

British royals start Scandinavian tour in Oslo

Today the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles of Britain) and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Oslo on the first leg of their tour of the three northern kingdoms on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.
The British royals were received at Oslo Airport Gardermoen by their Norwegian counterparts, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, but will be hosted at the Royal Palace by the King and Queen.
The first stop in Oslo was Akershus Fortress, where the King and the Prince of Wales inspected a company of His Majesty the King’s Guard and Prince Charles laid a wreath at the National Monument. With an eye for detail the Prince of Wales wore a lapel pin which indicates that he has been awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav (by King Olav in 1978).
The heir to the British throne subsequently had a meeting with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Prime Minister’s residence before the King and Queen accompanied their guests to the Nobel Peace Centre, where they met representatives of youth organisations and survivors of the terrorist attack directed at the Labour Party’s youth movement last summer.
Tonight the King and Queen are hosting a banquet at the Royal Palace in honour of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, where the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Märtha Louise and Princess Astrid will also be present.
Tomorrow the royals will carry out engagements in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, but on Thursday they will be back in Oslo, where their final stop will be the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design and the exhibition of treasures from the Royal Collection which opened a month ago and has been an immense success which has already attracted more than 15,000 visitors.
On Thursday afternoon the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will depart for Stockholm before rounding off their Scandinavian tour in Denmark during the weekend.
Back in London today Queen Elizabeth herself addressed a joint session of both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations.

Princess Estelle to be christened on 22 May

The Swedish royal court today announced that the christening of Princess Estelle, who was born on 23 February, will take place in the Palace Church on 22 May. The Archbishop, Anders Wejryd, will officiate.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Royal jewels: Queen Sophia’s alleged coronation tiara (Estelle Bernadotte’s tiara)

My recent blogpost about Countess Estelle Bernadotte af Wisborg has already attracted hundreds of readers since its publication three weeks ago, as the interest in her has understandably soared after the name Estelle was given to the new-born Swedish heiress. Several readers have asked for further details about Estelle Bernadotte’s grand tiara, which I wrote had been sold. Therefore, here is what I know:
There is some confusion about what stones there are in the parure. The art historian Göran Alm, head of the Bernadotte Library, has described them as “white sapphires”, while they are identified as pink topazes in the inventory of jewellery drawn up after the death of Dowager Queen Sophia of Sweden in 1913. Queen Sophia herself described them as pale rubies in her will of 31 October 1907, while they have been called pink tourmalines by her descendants.
The first certain owner of this tiara was Queen Sophia of Sweden and of Norway, although there is an uncertain tradition that it may have belonged to her mother-in-law, Queen Josephina, or at least have been a gift from her.
There are no jewels matching any of the above descriptions in the inventory of Queen Josephina’s jewellery following her death in 1876, but this is understandable, as the jewellery seems to have belonged to her daughter-in-law already before that time.
The tiara’s first known appearance is a portrait of Queen Sophia (in the possession of the King of Sweden) painted by Hilda Lindgren in 1875, three years after Oscar II’s accession to the throne. In this painting the Queen wears the tiara, but other jewellery rather than the rest of the parure. There is also an identical photograph, making it apparent that the portrait was painted after a photo.
Queen Sophia also wears the tiara in Knud Bergslien’s painting of her and Oscar II’s Norwegian coronation in Trondhjem Cathedral (now Nidaros Cathedral) on 18 July 1873, which hangs in the Hall of Mirrors at the Royal Palace in Oslo. However, this does not necessarily mean that she actually wore the tiara for the coronation, as the painting was executed only in 1882 and it might be possible that Bergslien has painted the tiara after Lindgren’s portrait, which until the dissolution of the union of crowns in 1905 hung in Oscar II’s office at the Royal Palace in Kristiania (now Oslo).
Dowager Queen Sophia died in 1913 and in the inventory of her jewels one finds a parure consisting of a necklace of pink topazes and diamonds, a golden bracelet with one large pink topaz set in diamonds, a tiara of nine large pink topazes and diamonds, and a brooch made of one large pink topaz and diamonds. The value of the parure was estimated at a meagre 9,600 SEK (which might be compared to 222,450 SEK for the emerald parure which now belongs to the King of Norway).
In her will, Queen Sophia left the parure to her daughter-in-law Princess Ebba Bernadotte, the wife of her second oldest son, Prince Oscar Bernadotte. There are photos of Princess Ebba Bernadotte wearing it, for instance to the eightieth birthday of King Gustaf V in 1938.
Princess Ebba Bernadotte died in 1946 and the parure was next worn by her daughter-in-law Countess Estelle Bernadotte af Wisborg. Estelle Bernadotte wore it frequently throughout her life and according to her daughter-in-law bought matching earrings, bracelet and ring.
Following Estelle Bernadotte’s death in 1984 the parure was inherited by her eldest surviving son, Count Folke (“Ockie”) Bernadotte af Wisborg, whose wife Christine wore it to at least one royal banquet in the 1980s and possibly also in the 1990s.
However, Countess Christine Bernadotte af Wisborg has told me that she and her husband, in consultation with their children, decided to sell the parure, preferably to the Swedish royal family as they wanted the jewellery to remain in the Bernadotte family. The Swedish court contacted the Norwegian royal family, who was interested and bought the parure. The Countess cannot remember which year this happened, something I interpret as that it cannot have been very recently.
However, no member of the Norwegian royal family has ever worn the parure, although there should have been plenty of opportunities for doing so, for instance during one of the official visits exchanged between Norway and Sweden to mark the centenary of the dissolution of the union in 2005. This was a reservation I also added when I published the information given me by Christine Bernadotte in an article on the royal crowns of Norway in the 2010 edition of the yearbook Trondhjemske Samlinger.
Recently I mentioned this information to Kjell Arne Totland, former royal reporter for the weekly magazine Se og Hør, but when interviewed by the Norwegian TV channel TV2 Nyhetskanalen following the birth of Princess Estelle he stated that the parure had been bought by the main line of the Swedish royal family. I do not know what were his sources for this, but it cannot have been me, as I clearly said the Norwegian, not the Swedish royal family. Kjell Arne Totland speculated that Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg, the younger son of Estelle Bernadotte and a close friend of King Carl Gustaf, may have acted as intermediary.
The TV2 interview was picked up by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, which ran a short story on it on 28 February. The weekly magazine Svensk Damtidning followed it up with an article in this year’s issue no 11, in which Count Folke Bernadotte confirms the information his wife gave me about the sale to the Norwegian royal family.
The magazine’s journalist Margareta Heed further claims that the tiara was bought from the Norwegian royal family by Prince Daniel and presented to Crown Princess Victoria at the hospital after she had given birth to Princess Estelle.
It is, however, worth noting that Svensk Damtidning gives no sources for this and that the magazine is not always very reliable. There are also several factual mistakes about the tiara in that article (and it is reported in the same issue that Princess Madeleine had returned to New York, although she was seen in Stockholm the previous evening and had engagements in the Swedish capital the following week).
So there the issue stands at present, with several loose treads left, such as the question of why the Norwegian royals never used the jewels if they did in fact possess them.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

My latest article: A ceremonial carriage rediscovered

The coronation coach from 1906 is one of the highlights of the current exhibition of treasures from the Royal Collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo, and while researching its history for the new book on the Royal Collection I also managed, in cooperation with representatives of the Museum of Cultural History, to track down its predecessor, i.e. the main ceremonial carriage used by the Bernadotte kings before the change of dynasty in 1905, which is the subject of an article I have written in this year’s first issue of the Museum of Cultural History’s magazine Museumsbulletinen, which was published last week.
This carriage, known as Carl XV’s Landau, dates from 1862-1863 and was made in Hamburg on the orders of Prince Frederik of the Netherlands, the father of Queen Lovisa. Until then the monarchs had normally used the carriages in which they arrived from Stockholm during their stays in Christiania, except for the grandest ceremonial occasions, when more distinguished vehicles were transported from Stockholm to Christiania.
Prince Frederik, who was very rich, thought something should be done about this and therefore presented his son-in-law with a splendid landau with the express desire that it should remain in Norway for the royal family’s use. When King Carl died in 1872 his sole surviving child, Crown Princess Louise of Denmark, gave the landau to her uncle, Oscar II, so that her grandfather’s intention could be fulfilled.
Thus, until the end of the union it was used for the State Opening of Parliament, the silver jubilee of Oscar II in 1897 and many other memorable occasions. After the dissolution of the union King Oscar presented the carriage to Georg Sverdrup, the First Assistant Master of the Horse, who himself gave it to the Museum of Cultural History.
Thus King Haakon VII and Queen Maud found the royal stables almost empty upon their arrival in Norway and made their entry into Kristiania on 25 November 1905 in a rented carriage (which was itself presented to the Museum of Cultural History by coachman Carl Olsen in 1918). The new King and Queen consequently acquired a number of new carriages, including the coronation coach which was first used for their coronation in 1906 and subsequently for the State Opening of Parliament and major royal occasions until 1940.
Carl XV’s Landau was forgotten, but we have now managed to track it down to the stables of Bogstad Manor. Its condition is said to be good, but renovation will be needed if it is to be exhibited. Nevertheless a piece of the ceremonial history of the Norwegian monarchy has fallen into place.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Danish princess to be christened on 20 May

The court of Copenhagen yesterday (Friday) announced that the daughter of Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, who was born on 24 January, will be christened in Møgeltønder Church on Sunday 20 May.
Unusually for a christening, it will be an evening event, taking place at 5 p.m.
Møgeltønder Church is the parish church to which Prince Joachim’s manor Schackenborg belongs. This was where Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, his second wife, were married on 24 May 2008.
In keeping with Danish royal traditions, the Princess’s names will only be announced at the christening.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Norwegian state visit to Poland and Finnish state visit to Sweden

The Norwegian royal court has announced that the King and Queen will pay a state visit to President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland from 9 to 11 May, spending two days in Warsaw and one in Cracow.
The King and Queen last made a state visit to Poland in 1996, when they were hosted by the then President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his wife Jolanta Kwasniewska.
The Kwasniewskis paid a state visit to Norway in 2003, while President Lech Walesa and his wife Danuta paid a state visit to Norway in 1995. The King was supposed to have attended the funeral of President Lech Kaczyński in April 2010, but was forced to cancel because of the ash cloud which grounded planes all over Europe.
It has also been announced that the new President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, who was elected a month ago and sworn in on 1 March, will pay a state visit to Sweden on 17 and 18 April, accompanied by his wife Jenni Haukio.
It is customary that a new Finnish President makes a state visit to Sweden very shortly after his or her inauguration, reflecting the close relationship between the two countries which were one state for centuries until 1809.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

New books: To dress a queen

What Queen Margrethe II of Denmark wears is a something of a paradox. On the one hand she is known to repeat the same outfit with short intervals (a blue hat and coat made for her 70th birthday were for instance used for a royal christening and a royal wedding only two weeks apart, while a green dress was worn for two of her jubilee parties last month), which may give the impression that she does not give much thought to what she wears. On the other hand she is also known to turn up at major events in dresses which could almost be described as costumes, which gives the impression that she is very conscious of what she wears and how it is all part of the magnificent performance that is the monarchy of Margrethe II.
The answers to such riddles are to be found in the new book Dronningens kjoler, published by Gyldendal in January, which has been put together for Queen Margrethe’s fortieth jubilee as monarch by Katia Johansen, since 1980 curator of textiles at the Royal Collections, in close cooperation with the Queen herself. Johansen explains that she, in her work, has often longed for contemporary sources to how the Danish monarchs dressed and this book is her way of making sure that her successors in a distant future will not have to guess why Margrethe II dressed as she did. The main audience of the book is thus not present readers, but the future.
In an introductory interview the Queen talks about such topics as her “philosophy of dressing”, what clothes mean to her and her own involvement in the design of her dresses. The crucial question is perhaps if the way she dresses is part of some sort of personal and professional scenography. To this Queen Margrethe answers, somewhat ungrammatically: “It is well possible that I see myself at some particularly great events, that it would look good with such a dress. I probably do that more as I have eventually become older and more shameless!”
Most of the book is chronologically divided into three parts – Princess, Heiress to the Throne and Queen – followed by gala dresses and dressing up and a short epilogue on the clothes’ preservation. Each of the chronological chapters begin with a summary of major fashion trends of the various decades, and one cannot help notice that this becomes less and less relevant as the years progress.
While the Margrethe of the sixties and seventies wore clothes which fit well in with the fashion of the day, Queen Margrethe of today is far from trendy. However, this does far from mean that Queen Margrethe now does not dress the part. Rather one becomes aware of how the Queen’s style has become ever more individualistic with the passing of time.
The book is lavishly illustrated and throughout the Queen herself comments on the clothes – and sometimes of other things, such as the poor entertainment and food offered by the President of Greece during his recent state visit to Denmark – and Johansen fills in what the curator has to add. All sorts of clothes are included, from simple summer dresses to grand dresses for major state events.
I suspect that I am not alone in finding the latter more interesting than the former, as it is when dressed up to the nines that the Queen and the amateur scenographer merge into a higher unit. The prime example of this is perhaps the dress first worn by Queen Margrethe for the 400th anniversary of Rosenborg Palace in 2006, which was in itself almost a renaissance costume (the fabric was originally a sari found among Queen Ingrid’s belongings after her death, the Queen explains).
The book is also an introduction to the designers who have made the Queen’s dresses, among whom the late Jørgen Bender stands out (Queen Margrethe herself is sometimes involved in the design). It is only rarely that the Queen does not remember an outfit; mostly she will explain how and why it came about and relate some memories attached to it. Sometimes the fate of the dress is also recorded – some end up in the Royal Collections, some are still in use, some are dramatically altered, some are in storage, some have been given away and some have been thrown away when worn out. Others may be expected to reappear, such as the rather dramatic dress and coat worn for Prince Joachim’s first wedding and for Thomas Kluge’s imposing portrait, which the Queen hints will become her “uniform” for the New Year receptions from next year on.
What I would perhaps have wanted something more about is accessories and the Queen’s thoughts about this. It is for instance quite obvious that Queen Margrethe, like her mother, is very conscious about her choice of jewellery. Of course it was no coincidence that she on 15 January this year wore a small horseshoe-shaped ruby brooch; indeed she wore that brooch when she was proclaimed Queen on 15 January 1972 and had chosen it then as it was given to her by her father on 5 June 1953, the day she became Heiress to the Throne.
The author occasionally says something about the jewels (those interested in the history of royal jewels will also be able to find some interesting pieces of information, such as a very interesting provenance which family tradition ascribes to her turquoise tiara), but there is little about the “philosophy” of their wearing.
One must also regret that the book tends to make a mess of names and dates. The name of the Crown Prince of Norway is spelt in three different ways, mostly incorrect; the name of the current King of Sweden is sometimes spelt Carl Gustaf, sometimes Carl Gustav, while his mother is erroneously called “Sibylle” and so on, while the dates and years for several events mentioned are unfortunately wrong, which is regrettable considering the author’s express wish that this book should be a historical record for posterity.
It seems a safe guess to say that, when long gone, Margrethe II will stand out as one of the most interesting characters in the long line of Danish monarchs. The Royal Collections curators of the 25th century will surely be immensely grateful to their predecessor Katia Johansen for having sat down with Queen Margrethe to record her words on how she dressed and why. Furthermore, Dronningens kjoler will, together with Thyge Christian Fønss’s recent book on the portraits of the Queen, serve as indispensible contemporary guides to the image of Margrethe II and its perception.