Monday, 31 December 2012

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

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

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

I wish all my readers a happy Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Princess Madeleine’s wedding set for 8 June

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

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

British Queen attends Cabinet meeting for the first time

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

Sunday, 16 December 2012

British government introduces bill to change succession

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

Friday, 14 December 2012

First grandchild for Princess Christina

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

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Prince Félix of Luxembourg set to marry

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Elizabeth II’s realms agree to change succession laws

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

Monday, 3 December 2012

Duchess of Cambridge pregnant with heir to the British throne

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