Friday, 27 April 2012

Princess Märtha Louise moving abroad again

The royal court last night announced that Princess Märtha Louise and her family will be moving to London. The Princess will continue to carry out the few public engagements she has in Norway and also continue her angle school business in Oslo.
According to the court the family are moving to get new impulses and in order for the children to learn another language. The three daughters will attend an English school, but the Palace says that the duration on the stay in England will depend on how they like it there.
A few years ago there was much ado about their moving to New York, a stay which eventually lasted only a few months.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Engagement of Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg

The grand ducal court of Luxembourg has announced the engagement of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume to Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy. Apparently the official engagement will take place at Berg Castle tomorrow, and according to Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker the wedding will take place already this year.
Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy, who is a citizen of Belgium, is the youngest of eight children of Count Philippe de Lannoy (born 1922) and Alix della Faille de Leverghem (born 1941). She was born in Ronse on 18 February 1984. Her paternal grandmother was Princess Béatrice of Ligne, whose nephew Antoine married Princess Alix of Luxembourg, who is a great-aunt of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume.
The Countess, who lives in Brussels, was educated at schools in Belgium and France and at universities in Louvain and Berlin.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Book news: Some royal books expected this spring

While autumn is the time of the year when most books are published this spring and early summer also seem to hold some interesting expectations.
Already out in Sweden is Göran Burén’s book Mordet på Folke Bernadotte, published by Leopard förlag, which, as the title suggests, looks at the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte af Wisborg, the son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, while acting as UN negotiator in Jerusalem in 1948.
Kerstin Nohrenius, the biographer of French Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy and later Duke of Leuchtenberg, and Lars Wiklund have now written a book on his wife and children, focusing on the eldest, who became Queen of Sweden and of Norway. The book, titled Glädje och sorg i en drottnings liv, has 30 March as its publication date, but apparently it is nevertheless not yet for sale.
Another Bernadotte Queen who continues to fascinate is Victoria, the consort of Gustaf V. She is the subject of Anders Jarlert’s new book Drottning Victoria – Ur ett inre liv – En existensiell biografi, which seems to promise insight into Queen Victoria’s inner life. Like Nohrenius’s and Wiklund’s book it will be published by Carlssons bokförlag.
Also out already is Lena Rangström’s book on royal births and christenings, titled Kanonsalut och vaggor – Kungliga födslar och dop. Another book on the same subject, but apparently dealing with a shorter span of time, Kungliga barn by Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg, will be published in June.
Here in Norway we can look forward to Kongens hus – Alle kongeparets hjem, which will be published by Orfeus Publishing on 8 May.
This book, written by Ole Rikard Høisæther, Thomas Thiis-Evensen and the Queen herself, will present all the residences of the King and Queen. A book of the same title was published in 1995, but very much has happened to the residences since then (for instance the major restoration of the Royal Palace, to mention only the most obvious), so this is an entirely new book on the same subject.
The British book market has much to offer this spring, including a major work on Queen Elizabeth II’s diamonds by Hugh Roberts. The Queen’s Diamonds, published by the Royal Collection, is expected to be published in mid-May ahead of a major exhibition on the same subject during this year’s summer opening of Buckingham Palace. As usual a smaller book aimed at the general audience will also be published in connection with the exhibition: Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration, by Caroline de Guitaut.
The historian Kate Williams will, as previously mentioned, emerge with Young Elizabeth: The Making of Our Queen, expected in May, while her Mistress of Empires: The Extraordinary Life of Josephine Bonaparte, which was also due this year, has been postponed to October 2013.
The journalist Peter Conradi’s very interesting book on the current monarchies of Europe, which has already been published in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, will finally also appear in the author’s homeland. The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made It into the Twenty-First Century will be published by Alma Books on 2 June.
In the less serious end of the spectre we can expect Lady Colin Campbell’s biography of the late Queen Mother of Britain, The Untold Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, which is due to be published on 26 April and has already caused some headlines by its sensational claims that the Queen Mother and her younger brother were not actually the children of their official parents. It will surely be interesting to see what reasons (if any) she gives for Lord and Lady Strathmore employing surrogate parents in order to have a ninth and tenth child...

Friday, 20 April 2012

My latest article: Estelle Bernadotte

The unexpected choice of the name Estelle for the daughter of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden, who was born on 23 February, has naturally sparked renewed interest in her distant relative of that name, Countess Estelle Bernadotte af Wisborg. Estelle Bernadotte, who lived from 1904 to 1984, was the daughter of a wealthy American industrialist and married into a junior line of the House of Bernadotte when she became the wife of Folke Bernadotte, the youngest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte and eventually a humanitarian hero. In the May issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 33, No. 5), which is out today, I tell the life story of Estelle Bernadotte, herself a notable humanitarian who did honour to her name.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

New Swedish royal magazine to be launched tomorrow

I know many of my readers were saddened when the Swedish royal magazine Queen ceased publication two years ago. Hopefully they will be equally pleased to hear that a successor, titled Kungliga magasinet (i.e. “The Royal Magazine”), will be launched tomorrow.
Its founder is Roger Lundgren, who was also the founder and first editor-in-chief of Queen. The owner, Bonnier tidskrifter, later replaced him with Pamela Andersson, under whose editorship Queen gradually moved away from the subject of royalty until the last step was also taken and Queen was turned into the general gossip magazine that is S.
Kungliga magasinet, which is independently owned, will focus on Swedish and European royalty, palaces, jewels, orders, history and style, and will be published eight times a year.
Among the contents of the first issue are interviews with Queen Silvia and Count Carl Johan Bernadotte.

Monday, 16 April 2012

King Juan Carlos breaks hip on elephant hunt

This weekend King Juan Carlos I of Spain broke his hip while hunting elephants in Botswana. The King, who is 74, was flown to Madrid, where he underwent surgery for three fractures to his hip.
Obviously this is a PR disaster for the King of Spain. That the head of state of a country in such a deep economic crisis as Spain goes on expensive foreign holidays to hunt endangered species does not look good at all. Furthermore, it has emerged that King Juan Carlos was accompanied by his alleged mistress, Princess Corinna of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who is as old as his youngest daughter.
Queen Sofía is reportedly on a private visit to her native Greece with her siblings to celebrate Orthodox Easter, and it was stated during the weekend that there would be no changes to her travel plans. The King and Queen will reach their golden wedding anniversary next month, on 14 May.

Friday, 13 April 2012

New books: Norway’s darkest day

It was said of the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who had been wounded in World War I, but survived, that he used to see in the galleries of the House of Commons the ghosts of his more talented, fallen friends and hear them say: “What you, Harold – you Prime Minister?”
In a couple of decades it is well possible that the same sentiment may be shared by Norwegian MPs and ministers feeling that they would not have been in their positions if others had not been killed on the terrible day of 22 July 2011, when the right wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, driven by a hatred of the multicultural society and the Labour Party, first blew up the government building before continuing to the Labour youth movement’s summer camp at Utøya to carry out his massacre, leaving a total of 77 dead, most of them teenagers and young adults representing the future of the Labour Party.
This most dramatic day in the postwar history of Norway is the subject of journalist Kjetil Stormark’s book Da terroren rammet Norge – 189 minutter som rystet verden, which was published by Kagge Forlag in December and is now already out in paperback. It is one of those rare books which are excellent and terrible at the same time, in other words so dreadful that it is hard to put down.
Stormark follows the events from the hours before the bombing on 22 July until the enormous flower manifestation in Oslo three days later. The author does not dwell on the ideas that drove Breivik to commit his unspeakable crimes, which might have served to put the drama into a context, but would at the same time have made it a very different and much longer book.
The story is told mostly chronologically and made up of many individual stories. At first this seems somewhat chaotic as the author seems to try to tell too many stories at the same time and thus makes the book too crowded.
But eventually it comes to work very well when he reaches the massacre at Utøya, which lasted for an interminable hour. While charting the actions of the political leadership and the emergency services, Stormark also recounts the stories of individual victims, some of whom survived, some of whom did not.
Here are also the stories of the victims’ families, who in many cases were in touch with them on the telephone, but endured the heartbreak of not really being able to do anything to help their children except calling the emergency services, mostly in vain.
The many detailed accounts make it seem that the nightmare will never end and that help will never come, which must have been a feeling shared by those present as the drama unfolded. Only when he is captured is the name of Anders Behring Breivik mentioned for the first time.
The author uses his pen to paint vivid pictures, such as the bereaved family being comforted by a man with a tear-washed face whom a government official suddenly recognised as the King, or the sight after nightfall from the landside of all the cell phones abandoned on the island lighting up in the dark as families and friends desperately and in vain kept on ringing.
It is a heartbreaking story told in the present tense which shows the chaos, the desperation, the uncertainties, the shock, the relief, the despair, the ineffectiveness, the shortcomings and the heroism of that terrible day.
The trial of Anders Behring Breivik starts on Monday. Inevitably there will be many books written on the events of 22 July for many years to come, but Kjetil Stormark’s book seems likely to take its rightful place as an instant classic.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Annual report shows royals getting busier

A kind soul at the Royal Palace has sent me the royal court’s annual report for 2011, which was released two days ago. The report as usual contains a wealth of information about what the royals and the court have been up to during the previous year and the calendar of the public engagements carried out by members of the royal family reveals that most of them keep getting busier.
For 2011 the King is listed with 204 engagements, which may be compared to 169 in 2010 and 159 in 2009. The Queen carried out 99 engagements, compared to 69 in 2010 and 60 in 2009.
The Crown Prince had 194 engagements, which is almost twice as many as the 102 he carried out in 2009 (with 122 in 2010). However, the Crown Princess had a less crowded schedule, carrying out 59 engagements in 2011, compared to 74 in 2010 and 67 in 2009.
Princess Ingrid Alexandra is listed as having been present for five engagements (compared to eight in 2010 and four in 2009) and Prince Sverre Magnus at four engagements (the same as in 2010, but four times as many as in 2009). However, the calendar curiously fails to mention the children’s presence at several events at which they were actually present, meaning that the numbers for them are incomplete.
Princess Märtha Louise was present for 24 functions, which is a significant increase from seven in 2010 and thirteen in 2009 (the increase is mostly due to her having been present for several events during the World Ski Championship).
Princess Astrid, the oldest active royal, carried out 36 engagements in 2011, compared to seven in 2010 and ten in 2009. For her, too, much of the increase is due to her presence during the World Ski Championship.
Members of the royal family carried out engagements in Norway, Switzerland, Ghana, Mali, Britain, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Brazil, Italy, Azerbaijan, USA, Monaco, South Sudan, China, France, Finland, Sweden and Poland.
The report also reveals a decline in the number of visitors to the palaces. During the summer season of 2011 (23 June-13 August) the Royal Palace had 22,994 visitors (compared to 27,165 the previous year), while Oscarshall Palace was visited by 9,969 persons between 1 May and 25 September, compared to 19,359 in 2010.
In 2011 the King awarded one Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav and one Grand Cross Collar. No one was made a Commander with Star, while six men became Commanders. 22 people were made a Knight of the First Class.
Fifteen Grand Crosses of the Order of Merit were given out and eleven people became Commanders with Star. Thirty persons were made Commanders of this order, while 55 became Knights of the First Class and twelve were made Knights.

New books: Versailles

Versailles is arguably the most famous palace in the world. The name itself symbolises not only a palace, an estate and a town, but a way of life, a régime and an historical epoch. Today visitors come in their hundreds of thousands or their millions, making Versailles one of France’s foremost tourist attractions.
Needless to say there is a vast literature on Versailles, yet Valérie Bajou’s splendid new book Versailles, published in France last year and now in an English translation by Abrams of New York, is a valuable addition to the bibliography on Versailles.
Through nearly 500 abundantly illustrated pages the book tells the story of the palace, the artworks, the gardens, the park, the Trianons and the museum – and the changing faces of Versailles. In doing so, the book also reminds the reader how little one actually gets to see when visiting Versailles as a tourist. The texts are rather short, but there are hundreds of mostly good photos and the captions provide details about the artworks pictured.
As such this is a book which can be heartily recommended both as a supplement to a visit to Versailles and as a consolation to those unable to go there.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Grand Cross for Duchess of Cornwall

Buckingham Palace today announced (external link) that Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has given her daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cornwall the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) on the seventh anniversary of her wedding to the Prince of Wales.
The Royal Victorian Order was, as the name suggests, founded by Queen Victoria in 1896. It is in the personal gift of the monarch, meaning that appointments are not made on ministerial recommendation, and is mostly used to reward people who have served the monarch or the royal family in a personal way. The order has five grades in addition to a medal (while the Royal Victorian Chain counts as an order on its own).
According to Wikipedia there are currently 54 holders of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, including nine members of the British royal family: The Duke of Kent (1960), Princess Alexandra (1960), the Princess Royal (1974), the Duek of Gloucester (1974), the Duchess of Kent (1977), the Duchess of Gloucester (1989), Prince Michael (2003), the Countess of Wessex (2010), the Duke of York (2011), the Earl of Wessex (2011) and the Duchess of Cornwall (2012).
Unlike some of her predecessors and some of her foreign contemporaries, Elizabeth II has been quite strict in awarding orders to her family members. They are generally not given upon coming of age or marriage, but have to be earned through years of service. It is worth noting that until the award of the GCVO to the Countess of Wessex on her 45th birthday in 2010, no daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth had been given any British royal order (except for the private family order, which was given to the late Princess of Wales).

Strong approval ratings for most Norwegian royals

Two days ago Dagbladet published an opinion poll (conducted by polling institute Ispos MMI) which shows great approval ratings for most members of the Norwegian royal family. No less than 93 % think the King does a good job, while only 1 % think he does a bad job. 81 % believe the Queen represents the country well, while 89 % say so about the Crown Prince and 75 % of the Crown Princess.
Less good are the results for Princess Märtha Louise and her husband Ari Behn. 25 % think the Princess represents the country well, while 27 % think she does a bad job and 43 % ranks her as average. 5 % think Ari Behn represents the royal family well; 57 % that he does so badly.
The other members of the royal family are not included in the poll, probably because they are either too young or not well enough known to the general public.
The bad result for Princess Märtha Louise should probably be seen in connection with the ongoing controversy over her use of her royal title for promoting her angel “school” and books about communicating with angels. Although this is strictly speaking not linked to her royal role, it is understandable if people include it in their evaluation of how she represents the royal family as nearly everything a princess does will inevitably reflect on the royal family. Furthermore, were she to be evaluated solely by how she carries out her public engagements there would not be much to go by, as she performed only seven official engagements in 2010.
Including Ari Behn may seem a bit odder, as he does not carry out any royal engagements except when accompaying his wife.