Thursday, 22 December 2016

My latest article: The Second Empire

My thirtieth and last article of 2016 is about the Second Empire, i.e. the reign of Emperor Napoléon III of the French from 1852 to 1870. Like the Emperor himself, the Empire was full of paradoxes, and it turned out to be the last time France was a monarchy. The article appears in the January 2017 issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 1), which is on sale in Britain from today and in other countries within two weeks, while an excellent exhibition on the splendours of the Second Empire can be seen at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris until 15 January.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Book news: The soft power of royal heirs

In August last year I participated in a conference on the soft power of royal heirs at the University of St Andrews, and now Palgrave Macmillan has gathered the lectures given at this conference in a book titled Royal Heirs and the Uses of Soft Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe, edited by Frank Lorenz Müller and Heidi Mehrkens and published earlier this month. I write about how the Bernadottes during the Swedish-Norwegian union of crowns tried to create a Norwegian identity for the heirs, particularly by the power of presence, education and the office of Viceroy, while Maria-Christina Marchi deals with Italy, Kristina Widestedt with Sweden, Erik Goldstein with the United States, Milinda Banerjee with the Bengal, Janet Ridley, Imke Polland and Edward Owens, with Britain, Alma Hannig with Austria-Hungary, Richard Meyer Forsting with Spain, Miriam Schneider with Greece, Jeroen Koch with the Netherlands and Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh with Prussia, and Frank Lorenz Müller, Monika Wienfort and Heidi Mehrkens provide more general overviews of the topic.

Grand Cross Collar for Crown Princess

At a Christmas reception for the royal household at the Royal Palace yesterday, the King invested the Crown Princess with the Collar of the Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav for her services to Norway. This makes Crown Princess Mette-Marit the fifth Norwegian woman to receive the highest degree of Norway's highest order.
The first woman to receive the Grand Cross with Collar was Crown Princess Märtha, who was given it by her father-in-law King Haakon VII in 1942 in recognition of her important work in the USA during the Second World War. When Crown Princess Märtha died in 1954, her daughter Princess Astrid succeeded her as First Lady and was rewarded with the Grand Cross with Collar by her grandfather two years later. The then Crown Princess Sonja received the Grand Cross with Collar from her father-in-law King Olav V in 1972, four years after her marriage. Princes usually received the Grand Cross with Collar on coming of age, and in anticipation of the introduction of gender-neutral succession the following year, King Olav gave his granddaughter Princess Märtha Louise the Grand Cross with Collar on her eighteenth birthday in 1989.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit received the Grand Cross (without Collar) on her wedding day in 2001, while Princess Ragnhild received the Grand Cross on the occasion of her father's silver jubilee in 1982. Queen Maud, like Queen Sophie, Queen Louise, Queen Josephine, Dowager Queen Desideria and other royal ladies before her, never received the Order of St Olav at all.
The King and Crown Prince wear the Collar for state occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament, but for women there are fewer occasions to do so, the so far last being the King and Queen's solemn blessing in Nidaros Cathedral on 23 June 1991.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

My latest articles: Mountbatten in Sweden & Trondheim as coronation city

This year's last issue of the Swedish royal magazine Kungliga magasinet (no 7 - 2016) went on sale a couple of weeks ago, and to this issue I have contributed an article on how Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the éminence grise of the British royal family, tried to play the role of the power behind the throne in Sweden, where his sister Louise was Queen, including attempts at making Gustaf VI Adolf abdicate and marrying off the young King Carl Gustaf, for whose future Mountbatten often feared. (A shorter version of the article appeared in English in Majesty Vol. 36, No. 12 a year ago).
Also out is Trondhjemske Samlinger 2016, the yearbook of Trondhjems Historiske Forening (the Historical Association of Trondheim), where I mark the 25th anniversary of the King and Queen's solemn blessing with an article on Trondheim as coronation city in the middle ages and in modern times, based on a lecture I gave in Trondheim in connection with the jubilee in June, which was again based on my latest book Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid. The yearbook may be purchased from one of the larger bookstores in Trondheim (for instance Ark Bruns or Norli at Nordre gate) or ordered from the historical association.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

My latest articles: King Bhumibol & Queen Louise's dream

The December issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 12) is on sale in Britain from today and this month I have contributed two articles: One on the unhappy Queen Louise of Denmark (consort of Frederik VIII) and her dream that one of her sons would one day be King of Norway like her father had been, and one on King Bhumibol of Thailand, who died last month after a reign of seventy years in which he worked closely with the military to restore the monarchy's power and prestige before eventually leaving his kingdom to a military junta and an uncertain future.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

My latest article: The legend of Franz Joseph

November has just begun but the November issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 11) has already been on sale for a week and a half. As this month marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary, my article in this issue deals with the last but one Habsburg, his final years, his death, his legend and the irony that he remains the most popular Habsburg ruler today although his 68-year-reign was in many ways a failure.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

At the road's end: Haakon Haraldsen (1921-2016), businessman and the Queen's brother

After much ado, the foundation stone of the new Munch Museum in Oslo was finally laid on Friday by the Crown Princess, assisted by the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen. The ceremony was originally scheduled to be performed by the King, but the Crown Princess stepped in as the King was attending the funeral of his brother-in-law Haakon Haraldsen, who died on 4 October at the age of 95.
Haakon Haraldsen was born on 22 September 1921 as the first of the four children of businessman Karl A. Haraldsen and his wife Dagny, née Ulrichsen. His brother Karl Herman disappeared in a boating accident in 1936, while his sister Gry commited suicide in 1970, meaning that the Queen is now the only survivor of the siblings.
In 1957, Haakon Haraldsen married a Dane, Lis Elder, with whom he had three children, Karl-Otto, Lis and Marianne. He earned his living as a businessman and like the rest of his family (except his former step-granddaughter Pia) he kept a very low profile although he was of course present as most royal family events until a few years ago. He was one of the godparents of his niece Princess Märtha Louise, who was born on his fiftieth birthday.
His funeral took place at Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo and was attended by the King and Queen, the Crown Prince, Princess Märtha Louise and Princess Astrid.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Birth of King Olav's first great-great-grandchild

The first member of the sixth generation of the family founded by King Haakon VII saw the light of day on Wednesday 28 September, when Victoria Ribeiro Falcão gave birth to a boy, who has received the names Frederik Sven Lorentzen Falcão and will be known as Fred.
His parents, Victoria Ragna Lorentzen Ribeiro Falcão and Felipe Sampaio Octaviano Falcão, both born in 1988, married on 9 August 2014. His mother is the only child of Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro, who is herself the eldest daughter of the late Princess Ragnhild. The baby is thus the first-born great-great-grandchild of the late King Olav V.
The newborn has no right of succession to the Norwegian throne, but holds a distant place in the order of succession to the British throne.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My latest article: Crown Princess Märtha and Franklin D. Roosevelt

While a new film on the royal family during the Second World War has just opened in cinemas, the October issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 10), which is now on sale, contains an article I have written about the wartime relationship between Crown Princess Märtha and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their warm friendship has prompted much speculation about the nature of their relationship, but as I have shown in my biography of the Crown Princess and King Olav it was also a political partnership of mutual value.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Private funeral for Gunnila Bernadotte on 29 September

Swedish media report that according to the royal court, the funeral of Countess Gunnila Bernadotte af Wisborg, who was an aunt by marriage to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, will take place in Stockholm on Thursday 29 September, which is the 28th anniversary of hers and the late Count Carl Johan Bernadotte's wedding.
The exact location has not yet been disclosed and the service will be private. The date has been chosen to allow most members of the royal family to attend. Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia have consequently postponed their official visit to the Princess's hometown Älvdalen, which was planned for the 29th, until the next day.
There is so far no information about her final resting place, but I suppose the fact that the funeral will take place in Stockholm points to her being buried with Carl Johan Bernadotte in the Royal Burial Ground at Haga rather than with her first husband Carl-Herman Bussler and their two eldest daughters at Bärbo Cemetery in Nyköping. The fact that space has been left open for another name on Carl Johan Bernadotte's tombstone also points to her having chosen Haga.

POSTSCRIPT: The agenda on the royal website now says that the funeral will take place in the Palace Church and will be attended by King Carl Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

At the road's end: Countess Gunnila Bernadotte af Wisborg (1923-2016)

The Swedish royal court has just announced that the King's aunt by marriage, Countess Gunnila Bernadotte af Wisborg, widow of the late former Prince Carl Johan, died yesterday. She was 93.
She was born Countess Gunnila Märta Louise Wachtmeister af Johannishus on 12 May 1923, the daughter of Count Nils Wachtmeister af Johannishus, who was Master of the Horse at the royal court, and his wife Märtha, née Baroness de Geer af Leufsta. Her paternal grandfather, Count Fredrik Wachtmeister, had a distinguished public career and was Minister of Foreign Affairs in the autumn of 1905, which gave him a crucial role in the dissolution of the personal union between Sweden and Norway. Her mother's sister Marianne was the first wife of Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg, the eldest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte.
On 31 October 1942, Gunnila married Carl-Herman "Bibo" Bussler, who became managing director of the Swedish branch of British Petroleum. They had four children: Louise (1943-1986), Catharina (1946-1946), Madeleine (born 1948) and Carl-Fredrik, always known as Fred (born 1951). Bussler died on 29 June 1981, but some years later Gunnila found a new love in Count Carl Johan Bernadotte, the youngest son of King Gustaf VI Adolf, who had forfeited his royal rights and titles when he married the journalist Kerstin Wijkmark in 1946. Gunnila and Carl Johan had known each other practically all their lives, he told me when I interviewed him in 2004 and related how he had found his own signature in the guest book at Tistad Palace from 1930, when he was at boarding school with her eldest brother Claes. During their first marriages they moved in the same social circles and the two couples were good friends. He described Gunnila's first husband as "a very charming man".
Gunnila Bussler and Carl Johan Bernadotte married on 29 September 1988 in Copenhagen, a wedding hosted by his sister Queen Ingrid. It was by all accounts a very happy marriage and although they married late in life they almost made it to their silver wedding. In a statement today, King Carl Gustaf says that Gunnila was "much appreciated, [a] close and loyal friend in our family and will be greatly missed by us".
Carl Johan and Gunnila Bernadotte lived in a small villa in the hills above Båstad in Skåne, on Sweden's southwest coast, but after his death on 5 May 2012 she moved to an apartment downtown (as she could not drive a car she found it impossible to keep living outside town). In recent years she had health troubles and lived in a nursing home in Båstad. I believe she was last seen at a royal event when Princess Leonore was christened in June 2014.
On a personal note I found Countess Gunnila Bernadotte a friendly lady with a quiet dignity and discretion. In an undemonstrative way, hers and Carl Johan Bernadotte's love for each other was obvious.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Prince Alexander of Sweden baptised

At a service in the church at Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm at noon today, Prince Alexander of Sweden, Duke of Sudermania, the firstborn child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, was baptised by Archbishop Antje Jackelén. The sponsors were his paternal aunt Crown Princess Victoria, his maternal aunt Lina Frejd, his father's first cousin Victor Magnuson (Princess Christina's youngest son), his father's room mate from boarding school, Jan-Åke Hansson, and his mother's childhood friend Cajsa Larsson. The princely crown made for Prince Fredrik Adolf in 1772 rested on a cushion by the font, and at the end of the ceremony King Carl XVI Gustaf invested his grandson with the Order of the Seraphim.
Among the guests were Prince Alexander's grandparents, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and Erik and Marie Hellqvist, his great-grandmother Britt Rotman, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel with Princess Estelle and Prince Oscar, Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill with Princess Leonore and Prince Nicolas, and Princess Sofia's sister Lina Frejd (without her husband Jonas Frejd) and Sara Hellqvist.
Of King Carl Gustaf's four sister, only Princess Margaretha, who lives in England, attended. Princess Birgitta had prioritised a golf tournament at Mallorca, while Princess Désirée had had to cancel after first accepting her invitation and Princess Christina and her husband Tord Magnuson are travelling. Princess Désirée's son, Baron Carl Silfverschiöld, and her youngerst daughter, Baroness Hélène Silfverschiöld, with her partner Fredrik Dieterle did however attend. From Princess Christina's family the only attendees were her youngest son, Victor Magnuson, and his partner Frida Bergström.
Other members of the extended Bernadotte family present were Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, the King's aunt by marriage, and two of Prince Oscar Bernadotte's grandchildren, 100-year-old Dagmar von Arbin and Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg, the latter accompanied by his wife Jill. Of Prince Carl Philip's four godparents, only Prince Leopold of Bavaria attended with his wife Ursula.
From Queen Silvia's family, her brother Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath and his wife Charlotte attended as well as her nephew Thomas de Toledo Sommerlath with his partner Bettina Aussems, her niece Carmita Sommerlath Baudinet and her nephew Patrick Sommerlath with his wife Maline Sommerlath, his son Leopold Lundén Sommerlath and their daughters Anaïs and Chloé Sommerlath. Princess Sofia's uncles and aunts, Anders Rotman and Laila Rönn Rotman, Lena Rotman and Peter Nygren, and Lars and Irena Hellqvist, also attended.
Among the official representatives were the Speaker of Parliament, Urban Ahlin, with his wife Jenni, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his wife Ulla, Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, the ambassadors of Norway and Denmark and the county governors of Södermanland (Prince Alexander's dukedom), Värmland (of which Prince Carl Philip is Duke) and Dalarna (where Princess Sofia hails from).

Thursday, 8 September 2016

My latest article: Friedrich August III, the last King of Saxony

The September issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 9) went on sale at the end of August, and this month my contribution is an article on Friedrich August III, the popular King of Saxony, who in 1918 brought the House of Wettin's 829-year rule to its close but who is perhaps best remembered for what was arguably the greatest royal divorce scandal of the twentieth century.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn to divorce

Some two hours ago, the royal court announced that Princess Märtha Louise and her husband of fourteen years, the author Ari Behn, are to divorce.
In a press announcement published on the royal website, the Princess says that their life has taken some unexpected turns and that they are both unspeakably sorry to realise that their ways ahead will be different paths as they have grown apart, that they "no longer meet as we did before" and that having tried everything over a long period of time there is nothing more they can do about it. The Princess adds that they feel guilty about no longer being able to provide the safe haven their children deserve, but that they hope to be able to remain friends. The King and Queen add that they are "fond of Ari and grateful for everything we have experienced together as a family. We will have a good relationship with Ari in the future as well".
Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn will have shared custody of their three daughters, Maud, Leah and Emma Behn, and while the Princess will retain sole ownership of the family home in Lommedalen in Bærum outside Oslo and the summer house Bloksbjerg at Hankø, Ari Behn will settle somewhere near his daughters.
The divorce will have no constitutional implications.
Contrary to what some have claimed, this is not the first divorce in Norwegian royal history, although it is the first since Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark and Norway (who reigned as King Christian Frederik of Norway in 1814 and as King Christian VIII of Denmark from 1839 to 1848) divorced Princess Charlotte Frederikke in 1810.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My latest articles: Silver jubilee and ex-Queen Anne-Marie

The August issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 8) went on sale in Britain last week, and this month I have contributed a report on the King and Queen's silver jubilee, focusing on the celebrations in Trondheim last month, and an article on ex-Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, who will turn seventy on 30 August.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

My latest articles: Empress Marie-Louise & Swedish royal dukedoms

The July issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 7) went on sale in Britain last week and this month I have contributed an article on Empress Marie-Louise of the French, Napoléon I's second wife. In the eyes of posterity she has been overshadowed by her predecessor Joséphine, but she is fondly remembered in Parma, where she reigned as duchess from 1816 until her death in 1847 and where the bicentenary of her arrival is commemorated this year.
Also just out is Royalty Digest Quarterly no. 2 - 2016, in which I write about Swedish royal dukedoms - their origins, history and statistics - which might be of some interest these days, when new dukes and duchesses are born so frequently that many find it hard to keep track.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Guðni Jóhannesson elected President of Iceland

On Saturday the people of Iceland went to the polls to elect the successor to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who will step down from the post he has held for twenty years on 1 August. The choice fell on the historian Guðni Jóhannesson, who received 39.1 % of the votes.
The incoming President, who turned 48 the day after his election, is an historian and assistant professor at the University of Reykjavik. Among his fields of research is the Icelandic presidency and among his books is one on the presidency of Kristján Eldjárn. He has also translated four Stephen King books into Icelandic.
The president-elect is unaffiliated to any political party, but this is not unusual in Iceland.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

My latest article: Bergen as coronation city

The King and Queen's silver jubilee tour reached Bergen today, two days after their visit to Trondheim, the place of their solemn blessing 25 years ago. While many assume that kings have always been crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, it was in fact only in 1449 that a coronation took place in Trondheim and it was actually in Bergen that most medieval coronations took place, including the first one in 1164, I point out in an article in Bergens Tidende today, which is also available online (external link).

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Silver jubilee celebrated in Trondheim

Today is the 25th anniversary of the King and Queen's solemn blessing in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 23 June 1991. The King and Queen are currently on a silver jubilee tour along the coast, and having visited Tromsø and Bodø during the weekend, they arrived in Trondheim on board the Royal Yacht "Norge" yesterday. Today the celebrations began with a public event in Ravnkloa, the city's old fish market, at 10 a.m. At noon the royal family attended a jubilee service in Nidaros Cathedral and in the afternoon the King and Queen hosted a garden party for 600 guests in the garden behind Stiftsgården, the city's royal residence. I have been attending today's events as press and will do a report which will appear in the August issue of Majesty, which will be out in a month.
At today's service the King and Queen were joined by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Prince Sverre Magnus, the Crown Princess's son Marius Borg Høiby, Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn and their daughters Maud, Leah and Emma, Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild's widower Erling S. Lorentzen and his new partner Ebba Løvenskiold, as well as Princess Ragnhild's three children, Haakon Lorentzen, Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro and Ragnhild Lorentzen Long, the latter two accompanied by their husbands. Rather surprisingly, none of Princess Astrid's children were present.
Yesterday the King, the Crown Prince and Princess Ingrid Alexandra posed for a photo in front of the crown jewels made for Carl XIV Johan's coronation in 1818, which are now exhibited in the Archbishop's Palace. The photo is by Torgrim Melhuus, TiTT Melhuus as/Nidaros Cathedral Restoration Workshop/the Royal Court.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

My latest articles: "St Haakon" and coronations

Today is the 110th anniversary of the coronation of King Haakon VII - the last in Norwegian history - and I mark the occasion with an article in the newspaper Adresseavisen today, in which I look at the significance of King Haakon and Nidaros Cathedral to each other, how King Haakon achieved an almost superhuman position following the Second World War and is treated almost as a saint in the cathedral. The article (external link) is available online, but might be behind the newspaper's paywall.
Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of King Harald V's and Queen Sonja's solemn blessing, the ritual that replaced coronations. The King and Queen are currently on their silver jubilee tour and earlier today they arrived in Trondheim, where they will attend a service of thanksgiving in Nidaros Cathedral tomorrow. On that occasion, tomorrow's edition of Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, carries an article I have written on the history of coronations in Norway and how King Olav invented the ritual of solemn blessing, thus ensuring that Norway is now the only European kingdom besides Britain that marks a monarch's accession with a religious ritual. The article (external link) is already now available on Aftenposten's website.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

King and Queen embark on silver jubilee tour

The King and Queen are celebrating the silver jubilee of their accession to the throne this year, and yesterday they arrived in Tromsø to embark on their jubilee tour of the country on the Royal Yacht "Norge". The tradition of marking great royal events by extensive tours of this vast kingdom was begun by King Oscar II and Queen Sophie at the time of their coronation in 1873. King Olav undertook a similar journey to mark his silver jubilee in 1982, but his son and daughter-in-law will not start quite as far north as he did and visit fewer places.
The tour began with a garden party for 300 guests at Skansen fortress in Tromsø this morning, followed by a public event in the city's square. This is the pattern that will also be followed on the rest of the tour, as the King and Queen have expressed a desire to meet as many people as possible from all walks of life.
Tomorrow the Royal Yacht will arrive in Bodø for a day of celebrations before continuing south to Trondheim, where it will arrive on 22 June. The following day, Thursday 23 June, is the 25th anniversary of the King and Queen's solemn blessing (the religious ritual that replaced coronations) in Nidaros Cathedral. In the morning of that day, there will be a public event in the old fish market in Ravnkloa at 10 a.m., followed by a service of thanksgivings in Nidaros Cathedral at noon. There the King and Queen will be joined by their children, children-in-law and grandchildren as well as by Princess Astrid and Erling S. Lorentzen, Princess Ragnhild's widower. At 3 p.m. the King and Queen will host a garden party for 600 guests in the garden of Stiftsgården, the Royal Residence. NRK will have a live broadcast from the celebrations in Trondheim from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (and I will do a report for the August issue of Majesty).
The King and Queen will ten visit Bergen on Saturday 25 June, Stavanger on Monday 27 June and Kristiansand on Wednesday 29 June. In Stavanger and Kristiansand the Crown Prince and Crown Princess will also attend the celebrations.
In late August or early September the King and Queen are expected to host a similar jubilee garden party in Oslo.

Friday, 17 June 2016

A radio documentary and three lectures

On Thursday next week, 25 years will have passed since the solemn blessing of the King and Queen in Nidaros Cathedral and to celebrate the silver jubilee they embark on a twelve-day tour of the kingdom by the Royal Yacht "Norge" tomorrow. My "contributions" to the jubilee will, except for my latest book, be a radio documentary and three lectures in Trondheim next week.
In the radio documentary, which will be broadcast by the NRK radio channel P2 as part of the programme "Museum", I tell the story of the struggle over the crown of Norway between the kings Christian I and Karl Knutsson in 1448-1450, how that power struggle made Nidaros Cathedral the coronation church for the first time and how one created a myth, which many still believe in, that this was where Norwegian kings had always been crowned. The programme will be broadcast at 6.03 p.m. on Saturday and 8.03 a.m. on Sunday, but is already now available as a podcast (external link).
On Monday at 6 p.m. I will be the guest of Trondhjems Historiske Forening (Trondheim Historical Society) in the Suhm House at Kalvskinnet to give a lecture on Trondheim as the city of coronations - more information may be found here (external link). On Tuesday at 2 p.m. I will present new knowledge of the crown jewels in a lecture at Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum (the museum of decorative arts and design) in Munkegata, about which you can read here (external link), and on Wedneday at 1 p.m. I will be at the Archbishop's Palace to give a lecture on the history of coronations and how and why they were replaced by solemn blessings - more information about that here (external link). If I have any readers in or near Trondheim I would be happy to see you at the lectures.

King Albert and Queen Paola now living in Rome

The Belgian newspaper Le Soir yesterday reported that King Albert II, who abdicated in July 2013, and his wife Queen Paola no longer live permanently in Belgium. According to the newspaper, Queen Paola, who was born into the Roman noble family of Ruffo di Calabria, has renovated a floor of her family home, Casa Ruffo in the neighbourhood of Parioli in northern Rome, and the couple now live there from September to May, while spending the summer in their house in Chateauneuf in southern France and onboard their private yacht.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Duchess of Cornwall and Duke of Cambridge join Privy Council

Queen Elizabeth II of Britain held a meeting of the Privy Council at Buckingham Palace yesterday afternoon, at which her daughter-in-law Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and her grandson Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, were made members of the Privy Council. While this is standard procedure for a future monarch - Prince Charles was made a Privy Councillor in 1977 and the then Princess Elizabeth in 1951 - this is an unusual honour for the Duchess of Cornwall, who becomes the first female member of the royal family to join the Privy Council since Princess Elizabeth in 1951. Indeed, while the consorts of female monarchs - Prince George of Denmark, Prince Albert and Prince Philip - have all been Privy Councillors, no consorts of male monarchs or heirs have been admitted to the council until yesterday,

Sunday, 5 June 2016

My latest articles: The Thai succession and Queen Silvia's 40 years

This month is high season for royal jubilees, and I mark two of them with articles in the June issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 6).
While the official celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain's ninetieth birthday will take place next weekend, the world's longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, will have been on the throne for seventy years on Thursday. His diamond jubilee in 2006 saw splendid celebrations attended by royals and heads of state from around the world, but Thursday's celebrations will be rather low-key and without the King's presence. Both he and Queen Sirikit are in hospital, and the bulletins published during the last days and weeks give cause for concern. In one article, I investigate the issue of the succession to King Bhumibol, and how this thorny issue has become entangled with the political struggle that has engulfed Thailand in recent years. Indeed, it seems that if the military junta is still in power when King Bhumibol dies, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn may be passed over.
My second article in this issue deals with Queen Silvia of Sweden, who married King Carl XVI Gustaf on 19 June 1976 and can therefore look back at forty years as Queen this month, while I look back at her life, how she has shaped her role and her contribution to the Swedish monarchy.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Prince Oscar of Sweden's christening

At noon today, Prince Oscar of Sweden, Duke of Scania was christened in the Palace Church in Stockholm. He was baptised by Antje Jackelén, the first female Archbishop in the history of the Church of Sweden, and his godparents were Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, his aunt Princess Madeleine, his mother's first cousin Oscar Magnuson (Princess Christina's eldest son) and his father's first cousin Hans Åström. At the end of the ceremony, his grandfather King Carl XVI Gustaf invested him with the Order of the Seraphim, Sweden's highest honour.
Among the guests in the Palace Church were family members, friends of the family, courtiers, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other members of the cabinet, Speaker Urban Ahlin and other representatives of Parliament, some ambassadors and county governors as well as representatives of organisations and institutions.
Prince Oscar's parents, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, were joined by his sister Princess Estelle, his maternal grandparents King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and his paternal grandparents Olle and Ewa Westling. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit also attended. Princess Madeleine was accompanied by her husband Christopher O'Neill and their children, Princess Leonore and Prince Nicolas, while Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia did not bring their newborn son, Prince Alexander.
Of the King's four sisters, Princesses Margaretha and Christina attended, the latter accompanied by her husband Tord Magnuson, their three sons Oscar, Gustaf and Victor Magnuson, their daughters-in-law Vicky and Emma Magnuson and Victor's partner Frida Bergström. Princess Désirée's eldest daughter, Baroness Christina De Geer and her husband Hans also attended. Other members of the extended royal family present were Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, the widow of the late former Prince Sigvard, Dagmar von Arbin, the 100-year-old granddaughter of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, and Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg, a grandson of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, with his wife Jill.
Queen Silvia's two surviving brothers, Walther L. Sommerlath and Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath, were also present, the former accompanied by his wife Charlotte. The Queen's nephews Thomas de Toledo Sommerlath and his partner Bettina Aussems and Patrick Sommerlath and his wife Maline Sommerlath were joined by Patrick's three children, Leopold Lundén Sommerlath, Chloé Sommerlath and Anaïs Sommerlath.
Prince Daniel's sister, Anna Westling Söderström, brought her husband Mikael Westling Söderström, her daughters Hedvig and Vera Blom, the former's boyfriend Oliver Dackell, and her step-children Casper and Caisa Söderström. Other relatives of Prince Daniel present were Tommy Henriksson, Hans and Marika Henriksson, Nils and Ann-Catrin Westling, Sara Westling and Jesper Carlsson, Frida and Rickard Westling, Hasse and Anna-Britta Åström, Hans and Helena Åström, Anders Åström, Anna-Karin Åström and Christer Wigren, Erik and Birgitta Westling, Ove and Yvonne Westling, Bo and Carina Westling, and Per and Rose-Marie Westling.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

First great-grandchild for King Albert II

The former Belgian monarch King Albert II, who abdicated in 2013, and his wife Queen Paola became great-grandparents for the first time yesterday, when their grandson Prince Amedeo and his wife Elisabetta "Lilli" became the parents of a girl, who saw the light of day at St Peter's Hospital in Brussels at 3.30 a.m. She was 52 centimetres long and weighed 3.3 kg. Prince Amedeo is the eldest son of Princess Astrid and was, until his uncle Philippe's late marriage in 1999, often thought to be a future Belgian monarch but is now sixth in line to the Belgian throne.
He did not seek royal consent ahead of his marriage to Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein in July 2014, but later received it retroactively. King Philippe's decision to restrict the title Prince(ss) of Belgium to children and grandchildren of the monarch and heir apparent means that the newborn will not be a Princess of Belgium. However, she may use those titles Prince Amedeo has got from his father, a grandson of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor, i.e. Archduchess of Austria-Este and Princess of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Modena.
Postscript: It was announced the next day that the newborn's name will be Anna Astrid, the names of her two grandmothers.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Falling support for Dutch monarchy

Yesterday was the 49th birthday of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, which since his accession in 2013 is also the country's national day. On this occasion, broadcaster NOS published an opinion poll conducted by polling institute Ipsos, which shows that support for the Netherlands remaining a monarchy has fallen to 65 percent. In 2008, 80 percent were in favour of the monarchy, while 78 % supported it in 2013, the year of Queen Beatrix's abdication and King Willem-Alexander's accession. However, only 16 percent favour a republic, which obviously means that rather many are undediced.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

My latest article: Crown-wearings

The May issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 5) was published on Thursday, the ninetieth birthday of Europe's only crowned monarch, and contains and article by me about crown-wearings. Nowadays the British State Opening of Parliament, which this year will take place on 18 May, is the only time apart from a coronation when a crown is actually worn and Queen Elizabeth II puts on the crown as if it were a hat, but in the middle ages, crown-wearings were in themselves a solemn ritual. Kings wore crowns on the great religious feast days to stress not only their power and sacred elevation but their likeness to Jesus and crowns were placed on the monarchs' heads by high prelates in a ritual based on coronations. The article explores the roots of crown-wearings, how the ritual fell into abeyance and how the tradition of wearing a crown to Parliament was revived by King George V in 1913.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Service of thanksgiving for Prince Alexander

In keeping with tradition, a Te Deum was sung in the Palace Church in Stockholm at noon today to celebrate the birth of Prince Alexander on Tuesday.
These services of thanksgiving are usually held the day after the birth, but it had now been postponed by two days, apparently to allow Queen Silvia, who was attending a conference in New York when her fifth grandchild was born, to be able to attend.
Princess Madeleine, who lives in London with her family, was, however, still in New York and thus unable to attend, and as usual the newborn and his mother were not present. The new father Prince Carl Philip was joined by his parents, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and his eldest sister, Crown Princess Victoria, and her husband, Prince Daniel. His aunt Princess Christina was also there with her husband Tord Magnuson, as well as his great-aunt, Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, and his grandfather's second cousin Dagmar von Arbin, who celebrated her 100th birthday less than two weeks ago.
Other family members present were Queen Silvia's nephew Patrick Sommerlath, who partly grew up in Sweden and is therefore particularly close to his Swedish cousins, with his wife Maline, the newborn Prince's maternal grandparents Erik and Marie Hellqvist, his great-grandmother Britt Rotman, and his maternal aunts Lina and Sara Hellqvist.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

HRH Prince Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil of Sweden, Duke of Sudermania

In a formal meeting with the cabinet at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has just announced that his newborn grandson will be named Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil and be a Prince of Sweden and Duke of Sudermania (Södermanland). Prince Alexander, the first child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, was born at Danderyd Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Alexander is of course a very royal name, but has not previously been used by the Swedish royal family, except that Queen Christina after her abdication and conversion to Catholicism added Alexandra to her name in honour of Pope Alexander VII.
Erik is on the other hand a name with a long royal tradition in Sweden, although it has been little used in recent years. The first King Erik was Erik the Victorious, who reigned from about 970 to 995. Very little is known about early medieval Sweden, which was deeply divided between warring factions, but around 1067 there were two rival kings, both named Erik, who were both killed around that year. In the twelfth century, two rival dynasties who have later come to be known as the Sverker and Erik families, fought each other. The latter drew its name from Erik Jedvardsson, who was King of a part of Sweden around 1158 and died a violent death a year or two later. He was subsequently considered a saint, although never officially canonised, and although the cult was for a long time only local, he was eventually promoted into Sweden's national saint. The promotion of St Erik's cult also meant that his name became rather popular among Swedish royals.
The next Erik was his grandson, Erik Knutsson, who reigned from 1208 to 1216 and was the first Swedish King known to have been crowned. His son, uncharitably known as Erik the Lisp and Lame, won back the crown from the rival Sverkers and reigned from 1222 to 1229 and from 1234 to 1250. The next Erik was Erik Magnusson, who challenged his father Magnus Eriksson in 1356 and reigned as joint monarch for a few months before his death in 1359.
His sister-in-law, Margareta Valdemarsdatter, who succeeded in uniting all three Scandinavian realms and being elected monarch, adopted her great-nephew Bugislav of Pomerania and had him made King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway under the name Erik. He was elected King of Sweden in 1396 and crowned in Kalmar the following year, the event which is traditionally held to mark the foundation of the so-called Kalmar Union, but his reign was conflict-filled and he was eventually deposed in 1439.
Thereafter, the name did not reappear until King Gustaf I, the founder of the Vasa dynasty, named his eldest son Erik. Erik succeeded his father upon his death in 1560 and assumed the name Erik XIV (a number of fictional Eriks were inventend to make the line of Swedish kings look longer and more prestigious). He was deposed by his brother, Johan III, in 1568 and poisoned nine years later.
Since then, there seems to have been some sort of stigma related to the name borne by at least two unfortunate monarchs, but the Bernadottes revived it in 1889, when the future King Gustaf V and Queen Victoria became the parents of their third son. However, this prince was another unfortunate Erik. He was mentally challenged and lived most of his life away from his family and the public eye, dying from the Spanish flu at the age of 29 in 1918.
A more recent connection is Prince Alexander's maternal grandfather, Erik Hellqvist. Hubertus derives from his other grandfather, Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, who received the name in honour of his mother's brother, Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was killed fighting for Nazi Germany in 1943. Bertil is in honour of the King's late uncle, Prince Bertil, to whom Prince Carl Philip was very close.
As for the dukedom, Sudermania is often seen as one of the more prestigious ducal titles. It was most recently held by Prince Wilhelm, the second son of King Gustaf V. Prince Wilhelm resided at Stenhammar Palace in Flen, which was left to the state by the courtier Robert von Kraemer, who willed that it should be made available to a prince of the royal house, preferably a Duke of Sudermania (the province in which the estate is located). Since Prince Wilhelm's death in 1965 it has been used by King Carl Gustaf, but Prince Carl Philip has been groomed to take it over and it was therefore no surprise that the dukedom connected to it was given to his firstborn.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Princess Christina publishes book on Drottningholm Palace

Today Princess Christina, the youngest of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden's four sisters, makes her literary debut with a book on Drottningholm Palace. Dagar på Drottningholm, which is co-authored by Carl Otto Werkelid and illustrated by the photographer Ralf Turander, is published by Bonnier Fakta and is also available in an English version titled Days at Drottningholm.
Drottningholm Palace, which is situated on an island just west of Stockholm, was built by the great baroque architects Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and the Younger for Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora, the widow of Carl X Gustaf, who was a great patron of the arts. Since 1981 it is the home of King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and since 1991, the domain is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Princess Christina has celebrated all her Christmases there and always loved Drottningholm, which was also where her and Tord Magnuson's wedding dinner and dance was held in 1974. According to the publisher, she has been particularly fascinated by the strong women who have put their mark on Drottningholm and uses historical dates as starting points for bring to life "royal figures, rooms, details and memories".
The photo is a courtesy of Ralf Turander/Bonnier Fakta.

President of Iceland to stand for sixth term

At a press conference on Monday, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland announced that he will after all stand for a sixth term in the presidential election to be held on 25 June. In his New Year's Speech, the President announced that he would retire at the end of his fifth term, but the uncertainty caused by the developments of the last weeks has made him reconsider. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was felled by the Panama Papers revelations and parliamentary elections will now be held in the autumn of this year rather than next year as previously planned. In this situation, a wish for the experienced president to continue grew into a "wave of pressure". As the formation of a new government may prove difficult, the President wants to ensure that the country is not without leadership, he said.
The office of President of Iceland is largely ceremonial, but unlike his predecessors, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who has led Iceland through difficult times, has repeatedly used the powers vested in the President. In 2010, he vetoed the so-called Icesave deal whereby the government had agreed to compensate Britain and the Netherlands for the financial losses suffered by citizens of those countries when the Icelandic banks collapsed. The President's veto led to a referendum being held, in which the majority endorsed his veto. In February the following year, he vetoed another similar deal, a veto which was again supported by the people in the referendum that followed. Recently he also refused the scandalised Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson's request for a dissolution of Parliament.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the fifth President of Iceland since the country abolished the monarchy in 1944 and is already the longest-serving. For decades, no incumbent president was challenged for re-election, but in 1988, President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was challenged when she stood for a third time. Having won a resounding victory, she served until 1996, when she decided to stand down and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson won the election to succeed her. He was challenged when he stood for re-election in 2000, but was unopposed in 2004 and then again challenged in 2008. In 2012, he announced he would not stand for re-election, but changed his mind after being petitioned by 30,000 citizens and was eventually elected with 52.78 % of the vote against 33.16 % for his closest opponent. This year he seems likely to face at least ten contenders who have already announced their candidacies.
Postscript: A few weeks later, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson again changed his mind and announced that he would after all not stand for a sixth term. This decision came after it was revealed that his wife Dorrit Mousaieff and her family were mentioned in the Panama papers. A spokesperson for the President said that the couple live completely independent lives and that he had no knowledge of her or her family's financial affairs.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Princess Sofia of Sweden gives birth to a son

Earlier tonight, the Swedish royal court announced that Princess Sofia gave birth to a child at Danderyd Hospital in Danderyd outside Stockholm at 6.28 tonight. At a press conference which is right now taking place at the hospital, Prince Carl Philip disclosed that it is a "little guy" who measures 49 centimetres and weighs 3595 grams.
The newborn child is King Carl XVI Gustaf's and Queen Silvia's fifth child and fifth in line of succession to the Swedish throne. The Prince's name and dukedom will be announced by the King in a council meeting with the government at 11.15 a.m. on Thursday. The traditional service of thanksgiving for the birth of a new member of the royal family will be held in the Palace Church at noon on Friday.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Title issues: Prince Henrik renounces Prince Consort title

Yet another chapter was added to the ongoing saga of the title of the husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark during yesterday's state banquet for the President of Mexico at Fredensborg Palace. Several television viewers noticed that the Queen in her speech referred to her husband not as "the Prince Consort" but as "Prince Henrik", and today the royal court confirmed that he has renounced the title of Prince Consort. This comes as a consequence of his decision to more or less retire from royal duties, which was announced by the Queen in her New Year's Speech on 31 December last year. The court's head of communication, Lene Balleby, told the tabloid Ekstra Bladet that "It is His Royal Highness's own decision to alter his title to the less formal Prince Henrik. Prince Henrik finds this more fitting for his present situation after his retirement".
When he married the then Heiress to the Throne in 1967, Henri de Laborde de Monpezat received the title "His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark". When his wife succeeded to the throne in 1972, it was considered creating him Duke of Fredensborg, but this idea was dropped and he was thereafter officially referred to as "the Prince" and informally as "Prince Henrik". However, in 2005, the Queen let it be known that he would from now on be known as "the Prince Consort". He subsequently claimed that this was his own decision and that he had taken the new title as being just "Prince Henrik" or "the Prince" obscured the fact that he held a special position and was not just a prince like one of his young grandsons but the monarch's consort. He has, however, on many occassions voiced his opinion that he ought to be King Consort as the wives of kings are always queens. Now he is back where he started as plain "Prince Henrik".
The court has not given any date for when the change of title happened, but the last time he was referred to as "the Prince Consort" on the royal website seems to have been on 22 March in a press release stating that "HM the Queen and HRH the Prince Consort" had sent their condolences to the King and Queen of the Belgians following the terrorist attacks on Brussels (in the Danish version, they are however referred to as "Regentparret", i.e. "the Regent Couple" - which is in itself a very quaint term as Queen Margrethe is not regent but monarch). He was, however, still called "the Prince Consort" on the wreath the Queen and he sent to the funeral of former Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen on 2 April.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

On this date: A Bernadotte turns 100!

The Bernadottes are known for their longevity, but although several of them have lived well into their nineties, so far only one has made it to her centenary. But today another Bernadotte reaches the age of 100.
Dagmar von Arbin, née Countess Dagmar Bernadotte af Wisborg, is a great-granddaughter of King Oscar II of Sweden and of Norway and thus a second cousin of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s father and a stalwart of Swedish royal family events. She is also a second cousin of King Harald V of Norway. Her mind is as sharp as ever and she walks without the aid of a stick, but like most elderly Bernadottes her hearing is somewhat impaired. Five years ago she gave up driving after her old car broke down.
Born on 10 April 1916, Countess Dagmar Ebba Märta Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg was the eldest of the four children born to Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg and his first wife, Baroness Marianne De Geer af Leufsta, who later left him for Marcus Wallenberg of the powerful financier dynasty. (Her mother was also the maternal aunt of Countess Gunnila Bernadotte, the widow of King Carl Gustaf’s and Queen Margrethe’s uncle, Carl Johan).
Her father was the eldest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, who was himself the second child of King Oscar II and Queen Sophie but forfeited his rights to the Swedish and Norwegian thrones in 1888 when he married Ebba Munck af Fulkila, a former lady-in-waiting to his sister-in-law, Crown Princess Victoria. In 1892, he received the title Count(ess) of Wisborg for his children from Queen Sophie’s half-brother, Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg.
Dagmar Bernadotte grew up on the estate Frötuna near Norrtälje (not far from Uppsala), which her mother had inherited but which her father continued to run even after their divorce.
Despite an age difference of ten years, Dagmar became a good friend of her second cousin, Prince Gustaf Adolf, the current King’s father, and was a bridesmaid when he married Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Coburg in 1932.
Because of her friendship with the King’s parents, Dagmar von Arbin has, unlike her siblings, remained close to the current royal family and is a fixture at family events – not only bigger events such as weddings, christenings and funerals but also events for the inner circle, such as the private engagement dinner the King and Queen gave for Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling.
Dagmar herself married, at the age of 20, on 16 October 1936, the naval (later air force) officer Nils-Magnus von Arbin. Ten years later, he was appointed air attaché at the Swedish Embassy in London, a position he held until 1950. He reached the rank of colonel in 1953. Dagmar herself did not have a career, but stayed at home raising their five daughters, Marianne, Louise, Cathrine, Jeanette and Madeleine.
Dagmar von Arbin was widowed in 1987 and lost her eldest daughter, Marianne Flach, to cancer in 2006, but has thirteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
Dagmar von Arbin has never enjoyed being the centre of attention and it was only a few months ago that she gave her first ever interview, to Kungliga Magasinet (later republished in English in Royalty Digest Quarterly), followed by another with Svensk Damtidning. In the latter, she insisted that she did not like all the fuss being made about her 100th birthday, which she will celebrate only with her family.
The only Bernadotte before her to reach 100 was her aunt, Elsa Cedergren, who was born on 3 August 1893 and died on 17 July 1996, just shy of her 103rd birthday. Dagmar von Arbin’s younger brother, Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg, will be 95 in July, while her sister, Catharina Nilert, will turn ninety on Thursday.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Prince Oscar to be christened on 27 May

The Swedish royal court has announced that Prince Oscar, the second child of Crown Princess Victoria, who was born on 2 March, will be christened in the Palace Church in Stockholm on Friday 27 May.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

My latest article: Retired monarchs and King Carl Gustaf at 70

The April issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 4), which is now out, is an unusually large issue of 84 pages, much of it marking the upcoming 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain on 21 April. My contributions are an article looking at how her four European counterparts who have chosen to take things easier in old age, i.e. Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Albert of the Belgians and King Juan Carlos of Spain, are faring in their retirement, and a profile of this month's other birthday boy, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who will turn seventy on 30 April.
While Queen Elizabeth's official birthday celebrations have been postponed until June, King Carl Gustaf will mark his milestone with a series of events at the end of this month, starting with a performance at the Royal Dramatic Theatre on the 25th and a concert by the army's orchestra in the Palace Church the next day. On the 28th and 29th, the King will receive congratulatory deputations and on the 29th King Carl Gustaf will also present scholarships at the Royal Opera and attend a concert at the Nordic Museum.
On his actual birthday, Saturday 30 April, there will be a service of thanksgiving in the Palace Church before the customary military event at the Palace's Outer Courtyard, which is held every year. Thereafter, the King will be serenaded by a multitude of singers on the northern side of the Palace and thereafter travel by carriage to a lunch in the City Hall before receiving well-wishers from Parliament, the government and the county governors at the Palace. In the evening there will be a banquet in the Palace's Hall of State. (Fans of the Swedish court's penchant for "glitter" may perhaps be disappointed to hear that the dresscode for the latter is black tie).

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Parliament votes in favour of monarchy

Norway remains a monarchy. That is the outcome of today's parliamentary vote on a proposal to amend the Constitution to introduce a republic.
The amendment of several articles of the Constitution, subject to approval by a referendum, which had been suggested by Hallgeir H. Langeland and Snorre Serigstad Valen of the Socialist Left Party and Eirin Sund, Truls Wickholm, Marianne Marthinsen and Jette F. Christensen of the Labour Party, received only 26 votes, while 137 MPs voted against it.
Among the 26 republicans, six belong to the Socialist Left Party, three to the Liberal Party, one to the Conservative Party and sixteen to the Labour Party. Most prominent among the latter was Hadia Tajik, the party's deputy leader.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Seraphim honours for Prince Johann Georg

At noon today, the funeral of Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, who died on 2 March, took place in the Church of Our Saviour at the Hedingen Monastery in Sigmaringen, his family sepulchre. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden were among the mourners at their brother-in-law’s funeral. Among the guests were also Prince Carl Philip, Princess Désirée and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, Princess Christina, Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, Margrave Maxmilian and Margravine Valerie of Baden, and Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
As I happen to be in Stockholm, I had the chance to watch the ceremonial observed on the day of the funeral of a Knight of the Order of the Seraphim, Sweden’s highest honour. At 11.55 a.m., his Seraphim coat of arms was carried from the Royal Palace to the former royal burial church at Riddarholmen, escorted by grenadiers.
In the former church, the coat of arm was placed on a table at the entrance to the chancel together with two candles, a bouquet of flowers and a photo of the late Prince. An official of the Order Chancellery gave a short speech (in German) recording the vita of Prince Johann Georg, two pieces of music were performed by an army band and the bells tolled for an hour.
Prince Johann Georg was made a Knight of the Seraphim by King Gustaf VI Adolf on 23 May 1961, two days before his civil marriage to the King’s granddaughter, Princess Birgitta. Although the princely branch of the House of Hohenzollern had not been sovereign since 1849, King Gustaf Adolf chose to treat his granddaughter’s marriage on the same level as if she had married a prince of a reigning house, i.e. making the groom and his nearest male relatives Knights of the Seraphim.
After the order was founded in 1748, there were for a long time very few Swedish princesses. Princess Sophia Albertina, the daughter of King Adolf Fredrik, and Princess Eugénie, the daughter of King Oscar I, remained unmarried, and it was indeed only in 1869 that a princess married, namely Lovisa, the daughter of King Carl XV.
Lovisa married Crown Prince Frederik (VIII) of Denmark, who had already received the Order of the Seraphim in 1862. His father, King Christian IX, was also already a knight since 1848 and his younger brother, King Georgios I of the Hellenes, since the previous year, but King Carl gave the order to his uncle, Prince Hans of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.
The next Swedish Princess to marry was Margaretha, who wed Prince Axel of Denmark in May 1919. The groom received the order on the occasion of the engagement, while his father Prince Valdemar had received it in 1875 and his elder brother Prince Aage in 1913.
When Margaretha’s youngest sister, Princess Astrid, became engaged to Prince Léopold, the heir to the Belgian throne in September 1926, he received the Seraphim, while his brother Prince Charles received it two days before the civil wedding on 4 November 1926. Their father, King Albert I of the Belgians, had been made a knight in 1910, but received the collar two days before the civil wedding.
When Princess Märtha married Crown Prince Olav of Norway in March 1929, there was however no presentation of orders. The groom himself had received it when attending the wedding of Princess Astrid and Prince Léopold, while his father, King Haakon VII, had received it back in 1893, when he was still Prince Carl of Denmark and called on his great-uncle Oscar II.
Crown Prince Frederik (IX) of Denmark, who married Princess Ingrid in 1935, was also already a knight (since 1917), while his father had received the Seraphim in 1888 and his younger brother Knud also as a guest at the 1926 wedding. The groom’s maternal uncle, ex-Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was however made a Knight of the Seraphim three days before the wedding.
When Prince Johann Georg married Princess Birgitta, King Gustaf VI Adolf gave the Seraphim not only to him but also to his older brother, Hereditary Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. Their father, Prince (Fürst) Friedrich, had received the Order in 1936, but was given the collar on the same days as his two eldest sons were made knights.s

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Prince Johann Georg to be buried on Saturday

According to an announcement appearing in today's edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung, the requiem mass and funeral of the art historian Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern will take place in the Church of Our Saviour at the Hedingen Monastery on the outskirts of his hometown Sigmaringen at noon on Saturday. The church is the family sepulchre of the princely House of Hohenzollern.
Prince Johann Georg was married to Princess Birgitta of Sweden, and the Swedish royal court has announced that King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Princess Désirée and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, and Princess Christina will attend their brother-in-law's funeral. Princess Margaretha, who is unable to attend, will be represented by her daughter, Baroness Sybilla von Dincklage.
On the occasion of their wedding in 1961, Prince Johann Georg was made a Knight of the Order of the Seraphim, Sweden's highest honour, by King Gustaf VI Adolf. As tradition dictates, the funeral of a Knight of the Seraphim will be observed in Stockholm by the tolling of the bells of the Riddarholmen Church between noon and 1 p.m. At 11.55 a.m., his Seraphim coat of arms will be carried from the Royal Palace to the church.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

My latest articles: Royal Trieste & Princess Ashraf

I have written two articles in the March issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 3), which went on sale in Britain last week. The first one deals with the Italian city of Trieste, once the Habsburg Empire's thriving, cosmopolitian port on the Adriatic but now something of a backwater.
The article focuses on the many royals who made Trieste their home, more often than not as exiles, among them two of Louis XV's daughters who escaped the Revolution, Napoléon I's youngest brother ex-King Jérôme of Westphalia, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Sicily and the Carlist pretenders to the Spanish throne, several of whom are buried in Trieste's Cathedral. On the other hand, two princes - Archduke Maximilian of Austria and Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta - spent their happiest years in Trieste, where they resided at Miramare Palace, but both these princes would die in captivity on another continent.
The second article is about Princess Ashraf of Iran, the last Shah's powerful twin sister, who died in January at the age of 96.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

HRH Prince Oscar Carl Olof of Sweden, Duke of Scania

In a State Council at the Royal Palace in Stockholm today, King Carl XVI Gustaf informed the government that the son Crown Princess Victoria gave birth to last night will be named Oscar Carl Olof and that his dukedom will be that of Scania (Skåne). The King also notified the government of the death of his brother-in-law, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, which also occurred yesterday.
In keeping with tradition, the newborn was "inspected" by the Speaker of Parliament, Urban Ahlin, the Prime Minister, Urban Ahlin, the Marshal of the Realm, Svante Lindqvist, and the Mistress of the Robes, Kristine von Blixen-Finecke (who succeeded Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister in that position in November). The Prince's birth was marked by a 21-gun salute and a service of thanksgivings in the Palace Church, which was attended by, among others, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Prince Daniel, Princess Estelle, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill, Princess Christina and Tord Magnuson, the King's aunt by marriage Countess Marianne Bernadotte and two of his father's second cousins, Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg and Dagmar von Arbin (who will celebrate her 100th birthday next month) and Prince Daniel's parents, sister and brother-in-law.
The dukedom of Scania was last held by the future King Gustaf VI Adolf from his birth in 1882 to his accession in 1950, and before that by the future King Carl XV from his birth in 1826 to his accession in 1859.
The name Oscar arrived in Sweden with Oscar Bernadotte, the only child of the imperial French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who was elected Crown Prince in 1810. While Jean-Baptiste changed his name to Carl Johan, Oscar kept his foreign name also after he ascended the thrones of Sweden and Norway in 1844 (although his wife wanted him to reign under his two other names, Frans Joseph). His third son was given the same name and eventually came to the thrones in 1872 as Oscar II. Oscar II's second son was another Oscar, while Carl XV's only son, who died in infancy, was named Carl Oscar. It has also been among the names of Kings Gustaf V and Gustaf VI Adolf and of Princes Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil, Carl, and Carl Junior. It has, however, not been used in the royal family since 1912, but these days it is one of the most popular boys' names in Sweden.
Unlike his elder sister, Princess Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, Prince Oscar has thus received a name firmly anchored in Swedish royal history - indeed three names firmly anchored in Swedish royal history. The name Carl is of course borne by his grandfather King Carl XVI Gustaf and his uncle Prince Carl Philip, and has been borne by ten Swedish kings: Karl Sverkersson, Karl II Knutsson, Carl IX, Carl X Gustaf, Carl XI, Carl XII, Carl XIII, Carl XIV Johan, Carl XV and Carl XVI Gustaf. (Some may wonder why the list jumps from Karl II to Carl IX; the answer is that the six first Karls were invented in the sixteenth century). There have also been almost countless Swedish princes named Carl, among them the third son of Oscar II.
Olof is the first name of the newborn's father (Olof Daniel) and of the first Christian Swedish king, known as Olof Skötkonung, who reigned from about 995 to 1022. It is also the Swedish name of the perhaps most popular saint in medieval Sweden, the martyred Norwegian king Olav Haraldsson, who died in the Battle of Stiklestad in or around 1030 and was declared a saint a year later and whose cult was as great in Sweden as in Norway.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

A son for Crown Princess Victoria

At a press conference at the Caroline Hospital in Solna, Prince Daniel of Sweden has just announced that Crown Princess Victoria has given birth to a son at 8.28 p.m. The baby is 52 centimetres long and weighs 3,655 grams. The name and dukedom of the newborn prince, who is third in line to the Swedish throne, will be announced by King Carl Gustaf in a state council, which will be held tomorrow.

At the road's end: Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016), art historian

The Swedish royal court today announced that Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, the husband of King Carl Gustaf's second oldest sister, Princess Birgitta, died in a hospital in Munich today. Prince Johann Georg, who was himself a renowned art historian, was 83 and had apparently been suffering from cancer for some years.
Born on 31 July 1932, Johann Georg Carl Leopold Eitel-Friedrich Meinrad Maria Hubertus Michael Prinz von Hohenzollern was the sixth child of Prince (Fürst) Friedrich of Hohenzollern and Princess Margarete of Saxony, a daughter of that country's last King. Prince Johann Georg, who was known as "Hansi", studied art history and gained a doctorate on a dissertation on the royal galleries on the facades of French cathedrals in 1964.
From 1986 to 1991 he served as director general of the Bavarian National Museum before becoming head of the Bavarian State Collection of Paintings, a post he held until his retirement in 1998.
On 25 May 1961, Prince Johann Georg married Princess Birgitta of Sweden in a civil ceremony at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. A religious blessing took place in his hometown Sigmaringen five days later. The Vatican had opposed a Protestant ceremony in Stockholm and the bride had to sign a promise to raise the children as Catholics, which she has never ceased resenting.
Three children were born of the marriage - Carl Christian in 1962, Désirée in 1963 and Hubertus in 1966, but when the children moved out, the parents realised they had little in common, and in 1990 Princess Birgitta moved to Majorca, while Prince Johann Georg remained in Munich. However, the couple never formally separated and the Princess used to visit her husband in Munich once a month and vented his anger in public when he appeared in the press with another partner.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Regent appoints female Chief Justice

In the weekly Council of State at the Royal Palace on Friday, the Crown Prince Regent appointed Toril Marie Øie Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. She will take up the post on 1 March, succeeding Tore Schei, who turned seventy on Friday.
Toril M. Øie will be the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, meaning that women will now have presided over all three estates. Gro Harlem Brundtland became the first female Prime Minister, while Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl became the first female Speaker of Parliament in 1993.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

My latest articles: Georg and Anne of Denmark & the Mexican empire

I have forgotten to mention that the February issue of Majesty has been on sale since 21 January, this time containing two articles by me. The first one deals with Prince Georg and Princess Anne of Denmark. A career diplomat, Prince Georg was the eldest son of Prince Axel and Princess Margaretha of Denmark and as such closely related to the royal houses of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg and Sweden, while his wife, née Anne Bowes-Lyon, was a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. Their close relationships with many royal houses made them stalwarts of royal events, but since their early deaths they have been mostly forgotten. Their story is, however, well worth telling.
The second article is about Maximilian of Austria and Charlotte of Belgium and their short-lived Mexican Empire, which ended in death and madness. It will be followed up by an article on Trieste's royal exiles in the March issue, which will be out on 25 February.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

My latest articles: Coronations and solemn blessings

My new book on the role of coronations in Norwegian history, Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid, is of course of some relevance to the King's Silver Jubilee, and in connection with the jubilee I have had several related articles published.
In this year's first issue of the history magazine Aftenposten Historie, which is on sale from today, I have an eight-page article on the origins of the rites of coronation and anointing. The last Norwegian coronation was that of Haakon VII in 1906, but his son, Olav V, instituted a new tradition to replace coronations, namely a solemn blessing, making Norway the only European monarchy besides Britain that still marks the accession of a new monarch with a solemn religious ritual. On Saturday, I had an article in the newspaper Vårt Land about the transition from coronations to solemn blessings and its significance to King Olav, which is now also available online (external link). On the same day, I also wrote a piece in the newspaper VG on King Olav's struggle to introduce this new ritual, looking in particular at how he clashed with Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen, who wanted at most a much simpler service. This is also available online (external link), but only to subscribers, I am afraid.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

King Harald's silver jubilee celebrated today

Thousands of people came out on a freezing cold day in Oslo today to help celebrate the silver jubilee of King Harald's accession to the throne on 17 January 1991, thereby fulfilling the King and Queen's wish to celebrate the jubilee with their people. The extended royal family were joined by the Queen of Denmark and the King and Queen of Sweden for the celebrations.
The day started with a service of thanksgivings and commemoration in the Palace Chapel. Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien, Primate of the Church of Norway, preached the sermon, while the lessons were read by Princess Märtha Louise, Princess Astrid's grandson Sebastian Ferner Johansen and the late Princess Ragnhild's granddaughter Sophia Anne Lorentzen.
Later, the royal family took part in a very well-attended winter sports event in the Palace Square, and later walked downhill to the University, where the government hosted a gala performance in its great hall. This evening there is a private, black-tie dinner at the Palace. Outside, hundreds of candles burn in the snow, just as they did on the dark winter night 25 years ago when King Olav died.
To mark the jubilee, the King has struck a new medal, King Harald V's Jubilee Medal 1991-2016, which has been given to the Queen and the other members of the royal family, the foreign royal guests, courtiers, equerries and bodyguards, former courtiers, representatives of the authorities and former prime ministers.
This weekend's events were only the first part of the jubilee celebrations, which will continue in June, when the King and Queen embark on an 11-day-long journey along the coast onboard the Royal Yacht, which will include visits to six major towns and a service of thanksgivings in Nidaros Cathedral on 23 June, the 25th anniversary of their solemn blessing. There will also be another large event in Oslo in late August or early September.

Celebrations of King and Queen's silver jubilee kick off

We have now entered 17 January, the 25th anniversary of King Olav V's death and Harald V's accession to the Norwegian throne. The celebrations began on Friday, when the King and Queen received official deputations at the Palace and continued last night with a dinner for family and foreign guests at Skaugum, the crown princely couple's home in Asker outside Oslo.
The Queen of Denmark and the King and Queen of Sweden joined the Norwegian royal family for the black tie event, which was also attended by all King Olav's living descendants and their partners except for Princess Ragnhild's youngest daughter, Ragnhild Lorentzen Long, and her husband and daughters. Princess Ragnhild's widower, Erling S. Lorentzen, who will be 93 in less than two weeks, brought along his new girlfriend, Ebba Løvenskiold, 25 years his junior and daughter of the late Herman Leopold Løvenskiold, who was head of the former noble family Løvenskiold and owner of Fossum Manor, and of the Swedish Countess Catharina De la Gardie.
The other guests were the Queen's nephews Karl-Otto Haraldsen and Dag Swanstrøm with their wives and her niece Ian Swanstrøm with Carl Christian Dahl, and the Crown Princess's mother Marit Tjessem with her partner Magnar Fjeldvær. The Crown Princess's son, Marius Borg Høiby, was away, apparently attending a school ball.
Tomorrow, or rather later today, the celebrations continue with a service in the Palace Chapel at 11 a.m., followed by a large winter sports event in the Palace Square, a performance in the University's great hall and a private dinner at the Royal Palace.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

At the road’s end: Princess Ashraf of Iran (1919-2016)

On Thursday, the funeral of a now mostly forgotten but once highly visible royal took place in Monaco. Princess Ashraf of Iran, who died on 7 January, was the twin sister of the last Shah, is thought to have wielded great influence during his reign, was a prominent advocate of women’s right and made a career at the UN.
Born five hours after her twin brother Mohammed Reza on 26 October 1919, Princess Ashraf considered their bond ‘the strongest sense of family that I would ever know’. The two of them ‘were like faces in a mirror’, she wrote in her autobiography, which was titled just that: Faces in a Mirror: Memoirs from Exile (1980).
When their father, Reza Shah, was forced to abdicate and sent into exile in Johannesburg in 1941, Princess Ashraf was the only family member who stayed behind in Teheran with the new young Shah. The Princess would play an important political role throughout his reign. In 1946, she was sent to Russia to negotiate with Stalin, who allegedly told her that is her brother “had ten like you, he would have no worries at all”. She also played a role in the downfall of one prime minister and the appointment of at least another.
However, she saw an enemy in the charismatic left-wing politician Mohammad Mosaddegh, who ordered her into exile on the very day he became Prime Minister in 1951. Two years later, the Princess was approached by agents of Britain and the USA, who had decided to remove Mosaddegh, and played a key role in convincing her brother to go along with the coup which removed Mosaddegh and restored the Shah’s power.
Princess Ashraf was closely involved in social issues and in particular in women’s rights. She headed the Women’s Organisation of Iran, whose greatest success was a 1975 act which ‘gave Iran’s women the most sweeping civil rights in the Islamic Middle East’. For seven years she headed Iran’s delegation to the UN general assembly and also served on several UN committees, including the preparatory committee for the International Women Year’s Conference in Mexico in 1975.
The Princess’s high profile made her a controversial figure and the subject of many rumours about her financial and romantic affairs. Having been forced by her father at the age of seventeen to marry Ali Qavam, to whom she claimed to have taken an instant dislike, she divorced him after her father’s abdication. They had one son, Shahram. Her second husband was the Egyptian businessman Ahmad Shafiq, with whom she had a son, Shahriar, and a daughter, Azadeh. The marriage was dissolved in 1960, and Princess Ashraf married Mehdi Bushehri. The Princess and her third husband would eventually lead separate lives but it seems they never formally divorced.
In 1977, Princess Ashraf survived an assassination attempt, but the following year the Shah advised her to leave Iran. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Princess Ashraf was included in the Khomeini regime’s death list and her son Shahriar was assassinated while carrying groceries into his sister’s apartment in Paris in December 1979. Her only daughter died from leukemia in 2001.
Princess Ashraf eventually faded from public view, but always remained fiercely protective of her twin brother’s regime and an apologist for its crimes.
A longer obituary by my hand will appear in the March issue of Majesty, which will be on sale in a month.