Birkebeiner ski race

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Prince Frederik will both be skiing the Birkebeiner race this Saturday – so of course the newspaper have titled it the duel of the Crown Princes.

The Birkebeiner ski race is 54 km long, and goes from Rena to Lillehammer. It commemorates the rescue in 1206 of the young Håkon Håkonsson – the heir to the Norwegian throne, according to the Birkebeiner faction. The rescue went on skis from Lillehammer to Østerdalen, as two warriors carried the young prince on his way to safety. To further symbolise the event, all the skiers will carry a backpack weighing 3.5 kgs, about the same as someone the age of the prince would have weighed.

Scandinavian royals to celebrate Norwegian constitution

The Norwegian constitution will celebrate its bicentenary on May 17. (Trust me, I will probably mention this a lot during the coming year…).

The committee, who is arranging the celebration, sent an invitation to the Swedish and the Danish court (in addition to the Norwegian, I would presume.) to invite them to the celebrations at Eidsvoll on May 17.

Eidsvoll is the place where the constitution was signed in 1814.

NRK revealed that the Danish Folketinget passed on the acceptance from  Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik.  They had accepted the invitation and would participate. Nobody from the Swedish royal house was listed as attending. The arrangement committee demurred, and said that they wouldn’t comment on it.

Acting PR person at the Swedish court said that the Swedish king has a principle, that he does not visit other countries on their special days, such as their national day.

Both the initial revelation and the Swedish court’s justification received criticism, on both sides of the border. An editorial in Expressen called the decision “lacking in history knowledge.” Especially, the writer points  out that since it was the King’s ancestor,  who invaded Norway in 1814, and ended up uniting the two countries…  It seemed particularly wrong to call the bicentenary celebration just a national day.

(Swedish politicians who were invited to the celebration accepted, citing the brotherhood between the two countries.)

After much back and forth in the media in the two countries, the Swedish court has made a historic turnaround. The King and Queen will be attending the celebration after all. The court is citing that they’ve received new information – it will  be a special event in the evening. And not part of the standard celebrations. Which of course, makes all the difference.

They’re also announcing that the royal palace in Stockholm will host a special seminar on May 5 about the 200 years of peace between Norway and Sweden.

Son of York! Richard III descendants allowed to challenge Leicester burial

A high court judge has given permission for descendants of Richard III to challenge plans to rebury the king’s remains in Leicester rather than York, but counselled both sides against engaging in an “unseemly, undignified and unedifying” legal rerun of the Wars of the Roses.

via Son of York! Richard III descendants allowed to challenge Leicester burial | UK news | The Guardian.

King Christian X and the jews (A 100 things #17)

During the German occupation of Denmark, Christian X kept up with his morning rides through Copenhagen. In 1943, the Independent Jewish Press Services, that the King, after hearing the news of the new Nazi laws to identify Jews in Denmark by the armband said: “When that happens, I will myself wear the yellow star on my uniform, and I will order my staff to follow my example.”

From this, the lore that he wore the yellow starred armband on his rides arose.

But research from 2001 showed that the Independent Jewish Press Services, Inc got it from The Jewish Telegraphic Agency in London who had a story in 1942.   allegedly got the “news” from either Danes in exile or  The National America Denmark Association , who wanted to improve Denmark’s reputation abroad after the weak fight against the German invasion – and it was fiction.

And the myth ended up living for a long time.

The truth ended up being that a large majority of the Danish Jews ended up escaping to Sweden in 1943, and survived the war thusly.

There is an examination of history by the Danish-Israeli doctor and historian, Dan Kaznelson, that describes this escape, and the part the Danish health service did to aid this escape. The hospital in Bispebjerg in Copenhagen was the coordinating force with a young doctor called Køster being the driving force.

Since there were so many Jews and so little time, there was a lack of funds to give to the fishermen (who would get the Jews over the Øresund strait to Sweden) and taxi-drivers (who would get them to the boats.) The ambulances from the hospital were not enough.

Køster then sent two nurses to Sorgenfri Palace where King Christian was in house-arrest. His health was not good, so two nurses would not arise suspicion. The nurses were sent to ask the King personally for funding. Køster’s written report was that “the nurses did not leave the palace disappointed,” leading Kaznelson to (according to Berlingske) conclude that the King did supply funds for the transport of Danish Jews to Sweden.

Norwegian independence day

Given the Norwegian media coverage of the Swedish wedding this weekend, it seems appropriate that today is the anniversary of the Norwegian independence from Sweden.

If we had celebrated this as a national day instead of May 17, there would have been a trifecta of Scandinavian national days in a row. Denmark on June 5, Sweden on June 6 and Norway on June 7.

Instead we celebrate the constitution and liberation from Denmark on May 17.

Europe’s grandparents : 100 things challenge #1

If you do any sort of genealogy on royal families in Europe today – the odds are fairly high that four names will show up over and over. In their time, and in history, they’ve received the title of “the grandmother of Europe2, “grandfather of Europe”, “Mother-in-law of Europe”… well, you get the gist.

The four names are:

The King of Denmark: Christian IX of Denmark, and his wife Louise
The Queen of the United Kingdom: Victoria, and her husband Albert.

Although Victoria and Christian IX were married to Albert and Louise, respectively, in speech, it usually tends to revert to the monarchs as the most important, so that’s what I’ve used in the section I discuss below.

Continue reading “Europe’s grandparents : 100 things challenge #1”

Book review: Vanished Kingdoms

Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies is a collection of historic accounts of several of the former kingdoms of Europe. It is based on the theory that it is the winner of a conflict who get to write the history, so Davies has decided to write the history of the losing part.

He accounts for Tolosa, Alt Clud, Burgundia, Aragon, Litva, Byzantium, Borussia, Sabaudia, Galicia, Etruria, Rosenau, Tsernagoar, Rusyn, Éire and CCCP.

Considering that the under title of the Rusyn chapter is “Republic for one day,” and the CCCP chapter is about the death of the Soviet Union without any royalty included as reigning in that demise… The title of the book could well be simply Vanishing countries, in my opinion.

Continue reading “Book review: Vanished Kingdoms”

Book review: Sophia of Hanover

Sophia of Hanover: From Winter Princess to Heiress of Great Britain, 1630-1714 by J.N. Duggan

This is the story of Sophia, Electress of Hanover. Honestly, I have been rather curious about her for a while. Looking into genealogy and the line of the British succession, her name seems to crop up quite a bit.  Finding this book on Amazon, therefore felt a bit like resolving my thirst for knowledge, to put it like that.

The story takes us from her birth to death, and a bit beyond that on both sides. The genealogy also explains why Sophia’s descendants became monarchs of an island far away from Hanover.

The book is full of facts and stories about Sophia, her family and the times in which she lived. I am not too familiar with the times, so for me it was good to get the setting around at the same time as I got the more personal stories.

Continue reading “Book review: Sophia of Hanover”

Jelling stones defaced

In Jelling, a small town in Jutland, Denmark, two massive rune stones stand on top of a huge hill. The stones are grave stones, or memorial stones.

One of the stones was put up by Gorm the Old, as a memorial for his wife, Thyra.  The other one was put up their son, Harald Bluetooth, both as a memory of his parents, and as a way to brag about his conquest of Denmark and Norway and his conversion of the Danes to Christianity.

I remember seeing the stones as a teenager, and thinking they were very impressive. Later, we also studied them in my Norwegian class.

Last night, someone with a spray can of green paint defaced a bit of Danish royal history. The stones, as well as the nearby church, have been tagged with graffiti. The signature tagged says Gelwan E.

You can see a picture of the stones before the graffiti here.

A case of old text tradition meeting new text tradition, but not a pretty mash-up, in my opinion.

How well do you know your English dynasties?

Sporcle has a timed quiz going on to see how many of the English royal dynasties you can name. Some of them may be self evident, whilst others may be hidden well within your mind. I got stuck with one remaining for what felt like ages, but eventually perservered.


It’s quite entertaining, and at most takes two minutes, so I suggest you give it a go and leave a comment with how you did. 🙂 


Good luck.

The mistresses of Danish Kings – book review

The mistresses are the darker side of the royals – they weren’t perfect, the mistresses are proof that they did not stick to their marriage vows. And as the book by Henning Dehn-Nielsen shows, it also happened in the Danish royal history. Repeatedly.

Continue reading “The mistresses of Danish Kings – book review”

Freud m’a dit – Freud har sagt – a book review

In 2006, Steen Kristensen published a triple biography in Danish on Prince George of Greece and Denmark, Princess Marie Bonaparte and Sigmund Freud. The result was definitely worth a read.

Continue reading “Freud m’a dit – Freud har sagt – a book review”