Monday, 27 January 2014

The best royal books of 2013

I did not have much time for writing book reviews on my blog in the past year, but 2013 saw the publication of several interesting works, so I thought I should at least give a brief survey of some of the best royal books of 2013 (in no particular order).

1. Jonas Nordin, Versailles: Slottet, parken, livet
Versailles, the ultimate royal palace, is done more than justice by the Swedish historian Jonas Nordin in his well-researched, insightful and readable account of the palace, the park and life at the French court. While most of the literature on Versailles focuses on the age of Louis XIV, Nordin takes the story through the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, making this one of the most complete histories of Versailles.

2. Philip Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Post-war Commonwealth
While the accession of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain 62 years ago was hailed by some as the dawn of a new Elizabethan age, the main link between Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II proved to be that while the foundations for the British Empire were laid during Elizabeth I, the Empire came to an end during Elizabeth II. Taking up Peter Hennessy’s and the late Ben Pimlott’s challenge to historians to explore the links between monarchy and politics, Professor Murphy shows how the British Empire has morphed into a Commonwealth of Nations and what has been the role of Elizabeth II and the monarchy in this process. This volume will take its place among the handful of the most important books on the reign of Elizabeth II written in her lifetime.

3. Jes Fabricius Møller, Dynastiet Glücksborg: En danmarkshistorie
While there is no dearth of Danish royal books there has until now been no book covering the history of the reign of the Glücksburg dynasty since it came to the Danish throne in 1863. The historian Jes Fabricius Møller puts this right by what may be called a “political history” of the Danish monarchy since 1863, where he charts the monarchy’s interaction with politics, the public and the media. Unlike many royal books this one approaches the royal family in an analytical rather than anecdotal manner. Yet it does so in an engaging way, so that the result is rewarding reading for general readers as well as for fellow historians.

4. Elena Woodacre, The Queens Regnant of Navarre: Succession, Politics, and Partnership, 1274-1512
While the Kingdom of Navarre is largely forgotten today, it commanded a strategically important position in the Pyrenean region and is also of interest as the kingdom where reigning queens first ceased being an anomaly. Between 1274 and 1512, when the major part of the realm was conquered by Castile, there were five queens regnant (a sixth queen ruled the rump kingdom later in the sixteenth century). In her ground-breaking volume, the historian Elena Woodacre investigates the challenges faced by these five female rulers and their way of governing, including the various modes of power-sharing with their husbands. As such this is a book which ought to be of interest to anyone interested in the issue of female rule in early modern Europe.

5. Poul Grinder-Hansen, Frederik 2.: Danmarks renæssancekonge King Frederik II, who reigned over the Dano-Norwegian realm between 1559 and 1577, has to a great extent been overshadowed by his popular, long-reigning son Christian IV and often been portrayed in a less than flattering manner. In this first biography of Frederik II, the historian Poul Grinder-Hansen sums up recent decades’ re-evaluation of Frederik II, showing how his policies were arguably far more successful than those of his son and demonstrating the cultural role played by Denmark-Norway’s first true renaissance monarch.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

My latest article: Egypt’s last dynasty

In the February issue of the British magazine Majesty (volume 35, number 2), which goes on sale today, I write about the last Egyptian dynasty. During the reign of the Mohammed Ali dynasty, Egypt was modernised and eventually experienced a nascent democratisation. Cairo and Alexandria were the cosmopolitan centres of the Middle East and the khedives, sultans and kings presided over one of the most splendid courts in the world. It was all wiped out by Nasser’s military coup of 1952 and the subsequent dictatorship, which lasted until 2011.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

On this day: Princess Ingrid Alexandra turns ten

Today is the tenth birthday of Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who was born at the National Hospital in Oslo at 9.13 a.m. on 21 January 2004. The birthday will be celebrated privately.
Because of the constitutional change of 1990 which made succession to the throne gender-neutral, Princess Ingrid Alexandra is the first female heiress to the throne in the long history of the Norwegian monarchy. She will become the first female monarch since Queen Dowager Margareta Valdemarsdatter, who reigned from 1387 to 1412 (but was not Queen Regnant).
The Princess does occasionally accompany other family members to official engagements, but naturally she will not become what is sometimes called a working royal until after she has completed her education. However, if her father has ascended to the throne by the time she celebrates her eighteenth birthday, she will, as Crown Princess, take her seat in the State Council and be able to serve as Regent after having signed a written oath to uphold the Constitution. (If her eighteenth birthday occurs in the reign of her grandfather, however, it will only be after his death that she will take her seat in the State Council and be able to serve as Regent).

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Princess Madeleine’s daughter to be born in New York

According to the Swedish royal court it has been decided that Princess Madeleine’s and Christopher O’Neill’s daughter, who is expected at the end of next month, will be born in New York, where the Princess has lived since 2010.
I believe the little Princess will be the first person in line to the Swedish throne to be born abroad (obviously not counting those who were not in line of succession at the time of their birth, such as Oscar I), and I cannot think of many members of reigning royal families to be born in the USA (King Bhumibol of Thailand being one example). I suppose this will also mean that the child will acquire American citizenship by birth, thus creating the unusual situation of a Princess of Sweden also being a citizen of and owing allegiance to another country.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Tearful farewell to Countess Anne Dorte of Rosenborg

Rain poured down and tears flowed outside Lyngby Church in Kongens Lyngby outside Copenhagen today as the coffin of Countess Anne Dorte of Rosenborg, the widow of the former Prince Christian of Denmark, was driven away after her funeral today. The Countess died on 2 January, aged 66, after a long battle with cancer of the throat, an illness which also claimed the life of her husband seven months ago.
Her three daughters and sons-in-law and seven grandchildren led the mourners. They were joined by, among others, the Queen and Prince Consort, the Countess’s sister-in-law, Princess Elisabeth, and her brother-in-law, Count Ingolf of Rosenborg with his wife Sussie.
The eulogy was given by one of the sons-in-law, Mikael Rosanes, while the eldest grandchild, Anastasia af Rosenborg, sang James Blunt’s “You are beautiful”. The Countess’s coffin was carried out of the church to the strains of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”. The closest family placed red roses on the coffin before it was driven off to the crematorium. Countess Anne Dorte will eventually be laid to rest next to her husband in the cemeterey outside Lyngby Church.

King of Sweden to attend Norwegian jubilee after all

In an almost unprecedented step, the King of Sweden today changed his mind and decided that he and Queen Silvia will after all attend the bicentenary of Norway’s independence. The anniversary will be commemorated at Eidsvoll in the evening of 17 May, 200 years to the date after the signing of the Constitution. NRK’s revelation on Monday that the Queen and Prince Consort of Denmark would be attending, but that the King and Queen of Sweden had declined caused many unfavourable reactions (not only in Norway, but also some in Sweden).
The Swedish royal court rather grandly explained that the inviation had been declined as “the King does not visit other countries to commemorate their holidays or national days”. Apparently the King and his advisers did not realise that he and the Queen had been invited to the jubilee, not to the national day celebrations, and today released a press statement that explains that “This year the celebration of Norway’s national day, 17 May, also commemorates that 200 years have passed since the Norwegian constitution was adopted”. In light of this “additional information about the event on 17 May [...] the King has decided that He [sic!], together with the Queen” will after all attend.
The Swedish royal court is to be congratulated on their newfound knowledge. Their next discovery about the neighbouring country and former union partner may perhaps be that Danish is not the official language of Norway and that it is consequently not our “grundlov” that is being celebrated.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Queen of Denmark to attend Norway’s bicentenary, King of Sweden declines

This year marks Norway’s 200th anniversary as an independent state, which will obviously be celebrated throughout the year, with the National Day 17 May as the major events. On that day, 200 years will have passed since the Constitution )which had been passed the previous day) was signed and dated at Eidsvoll and Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark elected King of independent Norway.
This will be commemorated at Eidsvoll in the afternoon on 17 May this year, and NRK today reports that the Queen and Prince Consort of Denmark have accepted the invitiation to join the Norwegian royals for the celebrations at Eidsvoll. Queen Margrethe is known to be deeply passionate about history and has several times pointed out Christian Frederik, who later reigned as King Christian VIII of Denmark, as her favourite among her predecessors.
The King and Queen of Sweden have on the other hand declined their invitations, which a spokeswoman for the Swedish royal court explains to Dagens Nyheter is because “the King does not visit other countries to commemorate their holidays or national days”.
Norway had entered into a personal union with the accession of King Olav Håkonsson in 1380 and was declared a Danish province by King Christian III in 1536. On 14 January 1814, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, King Frederik VI was forced to cede Norway to the King of Sweden. However, his cousin, Prince Christian Frederik, who was his lieutenant in Norway, put himself at the head of a rebellion which declared Norway independent. A constituent assembly met at Eidsvoll in April and wrote the Constitution which was passed on 16 May, the day before Christian Frederik was elected King. However, a brief war with Sweden in the summer ended with an armistice whereby Christian Frederik agreed to renounce the Norwegian crown, while Sweden agreed to accept the Constitution and Norway’s independence. The personal union between Sweden and Norway, which came into force on 4 November 1814, lasted until 1905.

Friday, 3 January 2014

At the road’s end: Countess Anne Dorte of Rosenborg (1947-2014)

It was announced today that Countess Anne Dorte of Rosenborg, the widow of the former Prince Christian of Denmark, passed away last night at the age of 66. The Countess, who had been suffering from cancer for a long time, died at Gentofte Hospital outside Copenhagen at 8 p.m.
The daughter of Villy Maltoft-Nielsen and Bodil Jakobsen, Anne Dorte Maltoft-Nielsen was born in Copenhagen on 3 October 1947. On 27 February 1971 she married Prince Christian of Denmark, the second son of Hereditary Prince Knud (the younger brother of King Frederik IX), who had been heir presumptive to the Danish throne until a change to the Act of Succession in 1953 deprived him of that position and gave it to the current Queen Margrethe II, causing bad blood between the two family branches until the death of the Hereditary Prince in 1976.
As King Frederik IX did not give his consent to his nephew’s marriage to Anne Dorte Maltoft-Nielsen, Prince Christian forfeited his place in the order of succession and was stripped of his royal title. Instead, King Frederik created Christian and Anne Dorte Count and Countess of Rosenborg, a title which, since 1914, had traditionally been given to princes who lost their rights of succession through marriage.
In 1972 Count Christian and Countess Anne Dorte became the parents of twin daughters, Camilla and Josephine. A third daughter, Feodora, completed the family in 1975.
The family lived in ordinary houses in Frederikssund and Holte, but in later years the Count and Countess lived in a house adjacent to Sorgenfri Palace in Kongens Lyngby just outside Copenhagen, a palace which has been uninhabited since the death of Christian’s mother, Hereditary Princess Caroline-Mathilde, in 1995. By her own account the Countess enjoyed a happy marriage, and Count Christian would teasingly tell the press that he referred to his wife as “Stampemor” (roughly, “Stompie”) because of her habit of stomping her foot when she was angry with him.
Although they did not belong to the royal house, Count Christian and Countess Anne Dorte were usually on the guest list for all major Danish royal occasions. Their open and friendly attitude to the media also meant that they were well-known to the Danish public and generally well-liked by the press.
Some years ago, Count Christian and Countess Anne Dorte, both life-long smokers, were both diagnosed with cancer of the throat, but while the Count was believed to have recovered, other health issues added to the Countess’s plight. Last spring Countess Anne Dorte was expected to have only a short time left to live, but it came as a surprise to everyone when Count Christian, who had hidden the fact that his cancer had returned, passed away on 21 May.
Recently the Countess’s condition was said to have improved and she was able to celebrate Christmas with her family at Sorgenfri, but after Christmas her condition deteriorated and she was admitted to the nearby Gentofte Hospital. Yesterday the family, including her sister-in-law, Princess Elisabeth, was summoned to the hospital, where Countess Anne Dorte calmly bid them farewell and made the final arrangements for her funeral.
The funeral will take place in Lyngby Church in Kongens Lyngby on Thursday 9 January at 10.30 a.m. Following cremation, her ashes will be buried next to her husband in the cemetery adjacent to Lyngby Church.