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, ex-Queen Anne-Marie and Swedish royal dukedoms

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.
Meanwhile this year's second issue of Royalty Digest Quarterly has also been published, including an article by my hand on the royal dukedoms that are bestowed on junior Swedish princes and princesses.

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,