Saturday, 16 September 2017

My latest article: Innocent IV, the Pope who legitimised the House of Sverre

In today’s issue of the newspaper Klassekampen I write about Pope Innocent IV and his role in Norwegian history, inspired by a recent archaeological find. In connection with railway construction work in Oslo’s old town, archaeologists discovered something as rare as a medieval Papal seal. The seal was found folded, but on Wednesday an attempt was made to open it. This was abandoned because of the risk of breaking it, but the examination revealed that it was Pope Innocent IV who had sent the letter to which the seal was once affixed.
This was an interesting find because this Pope, who reigned from 1243 to 1254, played a small but interesting part in Norwegian history as the Pope who eventually gave permission for Håkon Håkonsson, the illegitimate grandson of the excommunicated usurper King Sverre, to be crowned. Thereby he brought the conflict between the church and the so-called Birchlegs to its conclusion and legitimised the House of Sverre as Norway’s rightful royal house, apparently in the hope that Håkon would go on a crusade and help recover Jerusalem, which had been lost to the Muslims in 1244.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

My fourth book: Holy War for the Crown of Norway

Today I am pleased to announce the upcoming publication of my fourth book, Hellig krig om Norges krone – Tronstrid, borgerkrig og korstog fra Sigurd Jorsalfare til kong Sverre (i.e. “Holy War for the Crown of Norway: Wars of Succession, Civil Wars and Crusades from Sigurd the Crusader to King Sverre”), which will be published by Forlaget Historie & Kultur in early October.
The book deals with the 12th century wars for the Norwegian throne (the Norwegian answer to the War of the Roses – or Games of Thrones, except that this story is true) and how the influence from crusading ideas turned them into a holy war. It starts with the crusade of King Sigurd the Crusader in 1108-1111 and ends with the Battle of Fimreite in 1184. By looking at how the wars for the Norwegian throne became intertwined with the Danish civil wars and the conflict between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope the book also attempts to place them in a Scandinavian and European context rather than the narrow Norwegian context they are usually seen in.
The main protagonists are much-loved King Magnus Erlingsson, who while still a child became the first Norwegian King to be crowned; his talented father Erling Wryneck, who with biblical fervour exterminated his son’s rivals; his grandfather Sigurd the Crusader, who was the first European King to go on a crusade to Jerusalem; and the friendly but ambitious King Inge the Hunchback.
On the way from Jerusalem to Fimreite we also meet Kristin Sigurdsdatter, one of the most significant women of medieval Norway; “the devil’s priest” King Sverre and his Birchlegs; the castrated monk Magnus the Blind; the immigrant King Harald Gilchrist; the power broker Queen Ingerid Ragnvaldsdatter and her many men; the last Viking King Øystein Haraldssen; the rapist King Sigurd the Mouth; the mighty Margareta Fredkolla, who became Queen twice; Valdemar the Great, who made Denmark a great power; the reforming Popes Hadrian IV and Alexander III and their bellicose opponent, Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa; the church builder Archbishop Øystein Erlendsson; the rejected child bride Queen Kristin Knudsdatter; and St Olav, the eternal King of Norway.

Monday, 4 September 2017

HRH Prince Gabriel Carl Walther of Sweden, Duke of Dalecarlia

In a Council of State at the Royal Palace in Stockholm at 11.15 a.m., King Carl XVI Gustaf officially informed the cabinet of the birth of Prince Carl Philip's and Princess Sofia's second child, a son who saw the light of day at Danderyd Hospital on Thursday 31 August at 11.24 a.m. The newborn has received the name Gabriel Carl Walther and the titles Prince of Sweden and Duke of Dalecarlia (Dalarna in Swedish).
From what Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said, it seems the parents have chosen the name Gabriel, which has no royal traditions in Sweden, because they believe it fits their newborn baby. The name Carl, on the other hand, is perhaps the most frequently used male name in Swedish royal history, borne by, among many others, the child's father and paternal grandfather, as well as nine Swedish kings before him (although he is called Carl XVI Gustaf, the first six Carls never existed). Walther is clearly in memory of Queen Silvia's father, the German businessman Walther Sommerlath, and the name is also borne by one of her brothers.
Many had guessed that the newborn baby would receive the dukedom of Dalecarlia, as that is the province from which Princess Sofia hails, but it is actually the first time that such personal connections are taken into consideration for the choice of dukedom. The dukedom of Dalecarlia was last held by King Carl Gustaf's youngest uncle, Prince Carl Johan, who received it at the time of his birth in 1916, but forfeited it when he married a commoner in 1946. Before that it was held by King Oscar I's youngest son, Prince August (1831-1873), whose widow Teresia, the Dowager Duchess of Dalecarlia, died only two years before the dukedom was created anew for Prince Carl Johan.
Prince Gabriel is King Carl Gustaf's and Queen Silvia's sixth grandchild and also sixth in line to the Swedish throne, following Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Estelle, Prince Oscar, Prince Carl Philip and Prince Alexander. However, the family will continue to grow in the near future, as it was announced only four days before Prince Gabriel's birth that Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill are expecting their third child in March.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

My lastest article: Swedish crown jewels and the mother-in-law of Europe

In the September issue of Majesty I embark on a new series on crown jewels, starting with the exquisite Swedish ones, which are the oldest of an extant monarchy. The series will continue next month with the Norwegian crown jewels.
In the same issue I also write about Queen Louise of Denmark, the consort of King Christian IX, an influential lady who arranged dynastic marriages in the mistaken belief that they would prevent wars. Known as "the mother-in-law of Europe", she was also the mother-in-law from hell, at least for her daughter-in-law Louise.
The magazine is already in sale in Britain and will go on sale in Norway on the coming Thursday, which happens to be the bicentenary of Queen Louise's birth.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

My latest article: The troubled history of kings consort

Earlier this month, Prince Henrik of Denmark caused quite an uproar when he announced that he no longer wants to be buried together with his wife of fifty years, Queen Margrethe II. In a series of interviews he also launched a personal attack on his wife, who he claimed makes a fool of him, and stated that he would be willing to reconsider the decision about his burial place if she would agree to make him King Consort.
It was explained that the Prince’s decision was made because of his dissatisfaction with his title and function, something a spokeswoman said had become more and more important for him in recent years. It is far from the first time Prince Henrik raises the issue of his title and the fact that he believes that as the wife of a king is queen, a queen’s husband ought to be king (i.e. king consort and not, as some ill-informed people have claimed, take over as monarch).
Many seem to think that this is an idea Prince Henrik has grasped out of thin air, but in a long article in today’s issue of the broadsheet Politiken (external link) I recount the history of kings consort, which began in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century and soon spread to Naples, Spain, Navarre, Portugal, Poland, England, Scotland and Cyprus. In fact, the husbands of queens regnant were actually usually (although not always) styled kings and many of them took part in the governance of the realm. The so far last king consort in Europe died as recently as 1902, and it is only during the last century and a half that it has become more common for male consorts not to be called kings. Thus, although Prince Henrik may have history and principles on his side, it seems highly unlikely that he will ever achieve his dream of becoming King Consort of Denmark.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

My latest article: A thousand years of queens

Today is the Queen's eightieth birthday and to mark the occasion I have written an essay on the history of Norwegian queens (external link) which appears in Aftenposten, the country's largest newspaper, today.
When Sonja became Queen in 1991, the position had been vacant for 52 years following the death of Queen Maud and therefore she had to carve out the role anew. However, Norwegian history is full of interesting and influential queens, such as Ælfgifu, Astrid Olavsdatter, Margareta Fredkolla, Ingerid Ragnvaldsdatter, Ingeborg Eriksdatter, Margareta Valdemarsdatter, Philippa of England, Blanca of Namur, Dorothea of Brandenburg, Josephine of Leuchtenberg and Sophie of Nassau.

Monday, 3 July 2017

My latest article: The Queen at 80

The Queen will be eighty years old tomorrow (or so her birth certificate claims), which I mark with an article in the July issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 7) that looks at her struggle to carve out a role that had been vacant for 52 years. The article also contains a photo report from the King and Queen's official birthday celebrations in May. The magazine is already on sale in Britain and will be available in Norway on Thursday.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

My latest article: Oscarshall Palace

My occasional series on great palaces continues in the June issue of Majesty (Vol. 38, No. 6) with an article on Oscarshall, the neo-Gothic summer palace in Oslo that was built by King Oscar I in 1847-1852. After his early death Oscarshall was often neglected, but in the present reign it has woken from its slumber. The article also contains a small revelation, i.e. a newfound source indicating that Crown Prince Olav at first turned down the offer of Skaugum as he would rather live at Oscarshall. The magazine is already on sale in Britain and will go on sale in Norway on Thursday.

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.