Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My latest article: The origins of the Norwegian monarchy

I was abroad when the official celebrations of the King and Queen's 80th birthdays took place on 9-10 May, but to mark the occasion Aftenposten asked me to write an essay on the origins of the ancient Norwegian monarchy. The article appeared in the newspaper on Saturday 6 May and may also be read online (external link) if anyone might be interested.

Monday, 1 May 2017

My latest article: The three Dutch male consorts

For more than a century gender roles were reversed within the Dutch monarchy as three condecutive queens reigned and their husbands filled the traditionally female role of consort to the monarch. In an article in the May issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 5), I look at the very dissimilar ways in which Princes Hendrik, Bernhard and Claus shaped the role as male consorts. The magazine went on sale in Britain on 20 April and will probably be on sale in Norway from Thursday of this week.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Celebrations for King and Queen's 80th birthdays

The royal court has announced the programme for the official celebrations of the King and Queen's eightieth birthdays, which will take place on 9 and 10 May.
On 9 May there will be some sort of entertainment in the Palace Square at 5.30 p.m. The King and Queen and their European guests will appear on the balcony at 6.30 p.m. At 8 p.m. there will be a gala banquet at the Royal Palace (which usually means white tie).
The next day the King and Queen will give a luncheon onboard the Royal Yacht "Norge" at 11 a.m., while the cabinet will host a dinner for 300 guests at the Opera House at 7 p.m. Government dinners usually take place at Akershus Castle, but this time it has been decided to hold it at the Opera as this will make it possible to seat all 300 guests in the same room, whereas they would have to be divided between several rooms at the old castle. While white tie in the twentieth century, government dinners for the royal family have been black tie affairs since the turn of the century.
Aftenposten reports that between 30 and 40 foreign royals are expected to attend, but contrary to what the newspaper claims this is neither a record nor the largest royal gathering in Norway since the Crown Prince and Crown Princess's wedding in 2001, as fifty foreign royals attended the celebrations of the King's seventieth birthday in 2007.
The Queen of Denmark will attend with her two sons and daughters-in-law, who will stay onboard the Royal Yacht "Dannebrog", while the King and Queen of Sweden will be accompanied by Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia. Two of King Carl Gustaf's sister, Princesses Désirée and Christina, usually attend family events in Norway, but are unlikely to attend this time as Princess Christina is undergoing treatment for leukemia while the funeral of Princess Désirée's husband, Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, takes place the day after the Norwegian celebrations come to an end. Other royal guests are yet to be announced.
The King was eighty on 21 February, but spent the day privately in South Africa together with his wife, children, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, while the Queen will be eighty on 4 July.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

At the road's end: Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld (1934-2017), landowner and royal brother-in-law

The court of Stockholm has announced the death of King Carl Gustaf's brother-in-law, Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, the husband of Princess Désirée, at the age of 82. Princess Désirée was at his side.
The son of Baron Carl-Otto Silfverschiöld and his wife Madeleine Bennich, Baron Nils-August Otto Carl Niclas Silfverschiöld was born on 31 May 1934. He married Princess Désirée, the third of the present King's four elder sisters, in the Cathedral of Stockholm on 5 June 1964 and had three children: Carl, Christina and Hélène.
The couple kept a very low profile and rarely figured in the press. In recent years Niclas Silfverschiöld suffered from cancer and therefore missed several royal family events. The couple lived at Koberg Palace near Sollebrunn in Västergötland, a 40-room-palace surrounded by 20 000 acres of land which had come into the noble Silfverschiöld family through female inheritance in 1776. King Carl Gustaf as well as the King of Norway have been regular visitors to Koberg during the shooting season.
In a statement released by the royal court, King Carl Gustaf says that he and the rest of the royal family have received the news of Niclas Silfverschiöld's passing with deep grief and their thoughts are with Princess Désirée and her family.
Niclas Silfverschiöld's death comes thirteen months after the death of Princess Birgitta's husband, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, while Princess Margaretha's estranged husband, John Ambler, passed away in 2008. The fourth sister, Princess Christina, who is battling leukemia, remains married to Tord Magnuson.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

My latest article: Fabergé eggs and King Willem-Alexander

Easter will soon be upon us, and in the April issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 4) I mark the occasion with an article on the imperial Fabergé eggs, the splendid works of art that were created as Easter eggs for the Russian empresses Maria Fyodorovna and Alexandra Fyodorovna, a tradition that, along with the Russian monarchy, came to an end 100 years ago this year.
As April will also see the fiftieth birthday of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands (on 27 April) I have also contributed a profile of him. The magazine went on sale in Britain two weeks ago and is on sale in Norway from today.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

My latest article: Schleissheim Palace

I have forgotten to mention that the March issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 3) is now on sale. In this issue I continue my occasional series on European palaces and this time I write about Schleissheim just outside Munich, which is the site of three palaces. The largest of them is a splendid baroque palace that Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria built to glorify the House of Wittelsbach, who held great ambitions at the time, and to commemorate his own military prowess as a commander in the wars against the Ottomans. However, his involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession not only almost cost him Bavaria as he was driven into exile, but also meant that work on the palace stood still for many years. Nevertheless the result is arguably one of Germany's most splendid palaces, which would probably have been known as "the Bavarian Versailles" were it not for the fact that "mad" King Ludwig II built a replica of Versailles further south.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

On this day: The King's eightieth birthday

Time flies, and today the King is suddenly eighty. While his seventieth birthday was the occasion of a major round of celebrations, he is spending his eigtieth (like his 75th) birthday on a private holiday abroad with the Queen, their children, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren.
The official celebration of his and the Queen's upcoming eightieth birthday will take place on 10 May, when the government will host a dinner in the foyer of Oslo's opera house (a departure from the usual practice of holding government dinners at Akershus Castle). The details are not yet known, but according to the Prime Minister foreign royals have been invited.

Monday, 20 February 2017

81 % support for Norwegian monarchy

On the occasion of the King's eightieth birthday tomorrow, state broadcaster NRK has commissioned an opinion poll (external link) from Norstat on whether Norway ought to be a monarchy or not. The poll finds that 81 % favour a monarchy, while 15 % want a republic and 4 % are undecided. Interestingly, support for the monarchy is highest among younger people. 85 % of those in their thirties support the monarchy, while 82 % of those under thirty do so.
This may be compared with the result of a similar poll undertaken by Norstat for NRK at the time of the bicentenary of Norway's independence in the spring of 2014, which found 82 % in favour of the monarchy (the decrease from 82 to 81 % is within the margin of error). If I recall, an opinion poll around the time of King Olav's death and King Harald's accession in 1991 found 87 % in favour of the monarchy, while the lowest support measured was 59 % in 2000, when there had been a number of controversies during the preceding years.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

My latest articles: The King and Princess Astrid & the artistic Princess Louise

The February issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 2) has been on sale since last week and as February will see the King's 80th birthday as well as Princess Astrid's 85th I have written an article on the two siblings and the close relationship they have enjoyed since childhood.
In the same issue I also write about Queen Victoria of Britain's daughter Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll who broke with conventions by becoming an accomplished sculptor and by marrying a commoner, something which caused quite a lot of problems for him.

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.