Royal Residences: Slottet – the Open Palace tour #22

Just before I left Oslo, I took the guided tour of the Palace. It was the first day it was open this season – which kind of showed in some aspects. (A television set in the Council of State room hadn’t been turned on, and our guide didn’t quite know how to do it, for example.)

I booked the ticket early, as soon as I noticed that it went on sale in March. (It seems to typically go on sale in the end of March/Beginning of April) The tour was in the end of June.

You enter the palace from the back, where they had put up a tent for checking tickets.



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Royal Residences: Oscarshall #21

A couple of weeks before I left Oslo, I took a trip to Bygdøy to visit Oscarhall. It is a pleasure palace built for King Oscar I of Sweden-Norway and his wife, Josephine of Leuchtenberg.

It is still in use today by the royal family for special occasions, and Queen Sonja has set up an art gallery in one of the side buildings.

The palace is beautiful on the outside, and the renovations inside have been done very nicely. The big surprise was the woodwork in the entrance hall that isn’t wood, but concrete painted to look like wood.

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Norwegian royal family and their national costumes (#20)

2014 is the bicentenary  of the Norwegian constitution. For a short period of time, in 1814, the Norwegian people chose to liberate themselves from foreign powers, elected a king, wrote a constitution, and then promptly were put in an union with Sweden. Until 1905. When we did it all again.

Over the coming year, since it will be a celebration in Norwegian-ness, I thought it would be interesting to pinpoint the Norwegian royals and their national costumes. I will (try) to cover the costumes owned by the royals, one per post.

From the time Queen Maud visited the country, while still being plain old Maud of Wales, and bought a national costume from Hardanger, to the costume worn by Princess Ingrid Alexandra. Five generations of  bunad-wearing Norwegian royals.


(In Norwegian, the word for national costume is a bunad.)

It feels rather appropriate, given that the promotion and reconstructions of the bunads  was one of the national-romantic methods for building a common, not-foreign, sense of nationality for the Norwegians that came out from the 19th century.

I hope you will enjoy it.

The Danish painting (100 things #18)

The big royal discussion of the past month ended up being the new painting of the Danish royal family done by painter Thomas Kluge. It can be viewed here.

It has been likened to the poster for a horror film, such as The Omen, and Huffington Post compared the image of Prince Christian to one of the twins from the Shining. Isabella’s placement playing by herself in the front has also not been commented on favourably, in some cases people say she looked like she was possessed. Ekstrabladet gathered some of the comments from Danish people and art critics, and one of them compared the royal family to looking like the Addams Family.

The painting was supposed to be the modern day replacement of the big family portrait from the 1880s by Tuxen. You can see the same image in the background on the older version as the newer version, which (I suppose) ties them together in a way. The problem with the comparison between the two images is that in the older version, though you have groups here and there, and they very well could have been sitting for the portrait in different times and been painted together, it still looks like they are in the same room at the same time and one somewhat cohesive family.

Technically, Kluge is a very good painter, but the use of lighting and placement of the people gives the image a dark and photoshopped feel that a family portrait, even a royal one, shouldn’t have had to have. He has been critiqued before, for the portrait he did of Queen Margrethe in 2000. In said portrait she ended up looking more distant and colder, than she is. (Incidentally, he also did one in 1996 of her, where she was bathed in light and looked rather warm and approachable.)

It should definitely have been possible to gather the family under one roof for the time it would take to pose them more naturally and have them in one place for the inspiration. When Kluge started the work with the painting in 2011, they were 11 people in the family. Then the twins and Athena came along, which must have upset the posing somewhat. But not to the degree it has ended up looking so photoshopped.

I feel that a lot could be rectified if they had just been in the same room together while posing.

Maybe then, Isabella wouldn’t be playing on her own on one of the sides and could have joined her cousins?


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.

The succession to the Belgian throne (A 100 things #16)

Now that we’ve had a Belgian abdication, and a new King of the Belgians, it is time to look at the Belgian line of succession.

Unlike in the Netherlands, the line of succession does not change overly much when the monarch ascends to the throne – everybody else just takes one jump ahead in the line at the same time.

The Belgian throne goes through the male-line descendant from Leopold I until Albert II, with those that have asked permission from the monarch for their marriage. Since women were also included in the line from 1991 when Belgium abolished the Salic law in the succession, it was mentioned that the King had given permission for Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz to marry, and Princess Astrid and her descendants jumped in between Prince Philippe and Prince Laurent in the line.

(There are voices that say that it was done in this way as King Baudouin did not want Prince Laurent to be as close to the throne as he was before 1991.)

To avoid all the offspring of the daughters of Belgian kings also inheriting the rights to the throne suddenly, it was added a codicil that the change first went in effect with Prince Astrid and her offspring. By the time the change came about, Princess Astrid and Princess Marie-Laura were the two first women with rights to the Belgian throne. When Princess Maria Louisa was born in 1995, she was the first Belgian princess who was born with rights to the Belgian throne.

After 1991, women have equal rights as men to the throne,  and since last Sunday, 12 year old Princess Elisabeth has held the title the Duchess of Brabant and is the first in line.

Should the King die while she is still under the age of 18, and a minor, the Belgian government will approve a regent. (Although, for the Belgian government to agree on anything can take time, as we’ve seen in the past, so Elisabeth could well reach the age of 18 before that happens.)

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Magasinet’s recent interview with Mette-Marit – a summary in English (100 things #14)

Before Princess Madeleine’s wedding, Crown Princess Mette-Marit stopped up in Burma on the way home from the Women deliver conference in Malaysia. She travelled around visiting humanitarian projects both with PSI, the Norwegian Red Cross and the Norwegian People’s Aid. Magasinet, the Saturday magazine that comes with Dagbladet, was invited to join in her trip and interview her. The interview is available in a paid Norwegian version online, but I’ve bought the paper version and is using that as my basis for the following English summary and translation.

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Abdication in Belgium (100 things #13)

Yesterday, King Albert II of the Belgians announced that he is abdicating. You can watch his speech in French in the YouTube video below. I’ve also been pondering a bit about this – I’m by no means a Belgium expert or follow the Belgian royals avidly, so feel free to chime in if you want.

2013 is really turning into the year of abdications, isn’t it? First the Netherlands, then the Emir of Qatar announces that he will be abdicating, and now the King of the Belgians follow suit.

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Education for the young Danish royals (100 things #12)

Princess Isabella 6 years
Photo credit: HRH The Crown Princess

Back in February, the news came that Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary had chosen that Princess Isabella would follow in her older brother’s footsteps and attend Tranegårdskolen in Gentofte. As I wrote over at Blog Royale back in May 2011, the decision that Christian should attend that school was not universally applauded.

I expect there has also been some rumbling around Isabella’s attendance – but it seems much more universally acceptable when the second one follows rather than when the first one breaks a barrier  of sorts.

At any rate, I thought it would be interesting to compare the education of these two with the Danish royals who have gone before them.

I think that it was generally assumed that when Prince Christian would start school that he would join his cousins, Princes Nikolai and Felix at Krebs school, a private school in Copenhagen.

After all, Krebs was also the school of Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim. And nobody had batted an eyelid when Nikolai and Felix had followed them there.

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Citizenship of Madeleine’s children (100 things #10)

Barbara D over at the Scandinavian Royals Message board had a question about the citizenship of the future offspring of Chris O’Neill and Princess Madeleine, as their children will be in line to the Swedish throne.

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Royal Guest Lists (100 things #9)

Can someone please explain to me the logic of the courts when they reveal their guest list to royal occasions? There is a mish-mash of languages involved, a miss-mash of titles and in the case of the Swedish court – the guest list (or any information, such as engagement announcements) seems to be leaked to the Swedish main press before the court can make a proper announcement about it themselves.

In the case of today’s wedding – Princess Madeleine to Christopher O’Neill (which I always remember to write with two L’s because of Stargate SG-1). The guest list was released on the wedding website. For cousins of the bride, plus their partners, we have “Mr James Ambler och Mrs Ursula Ambler” but we have “Herr Victor Magnuson och Fröken Frida Bergström”

No consistency in choosing one language. For relatives of the bride’s mother, we have “Fröken Chloé Sommerlath. Fröken Anaïs Sommerlath” but “Miss Helena Christina Sommerlath” and “Miss Vivien Nadine Sommerlath.”

One theory could be the country of residence.

Only, the Swedish court have translated the Danish titles, so it is “Kronprinsessan Mary”/”Prinsessan Marie” and not “Kronprinsesse Mary”/”Prinsesse Marie.” And, Scandinavian royals apart, they’re using English titles for the rest of them.

They have put Princess Benedikte under German royals, which technically is right, but have used Swedish translated title on her, whereas the other royals in that category have had their titles translated to English.

Another theory could be the language the guest understands… but it makes no sense when it is a document revealed to the Swedish press.

The Danish royal court is worse, mixing in French with the Danish and English, as seen in the guest list for Mary and Frederik’s wedding. And using French titles on royals who normally are not adressed by titles in French. Such as “S.A.R le Prince d’Orange” or “S.M. la Reine d’Espagne.”

I really wish they would be consistent. Either have it in the language of the person attending, English or have it in the language the guest list is released to.

The Dutch succession (100 things #8)

The announcement last night that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is abdicating on April 30 is also changing things further down in the line.  Unlike the most lines of succession, the Dutch line of succession deals with how closely related a person is to the monarch. As a party game, it is even fewer people who can play it, than Six degrees of Kevin Bacon. It is three degrees of consanguity from the current monarch, going up and down in the hierarchy counting the births between each level.
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The Dutch abdication (a 100 things #7)

Tonight, Queen Beatrix announced that she is abdicating and that her son, Willem-Alexander, is taking over the throne. The abdication will be final on April 30, The Queen’s Day, and Willem-Alexander will take over the throne on that day. (I presume this means that the day will be called The King’s Day for the duration of Willem-Alexander’s reign.)

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Things to see: The Royal Palace (100 things #6)

The Royal Palace in Brussels is open to the public, free of charge, during the summer until September. This was one of the things that weren’t mentioned on the list of things to do in Brussels – but I’m really glad we did.

We were actually looking for how to get into the underground parts of the city when we realized that the Royal palace was open, and free of charge.

They had put together an exhibit of “Faces” when we were there the first weekend of September, and there was also a science exhibit for kids.

Not that these things were strictly necessary – the rooms themselves are more than impressive, and it was cool to go from ball room to more personal-feeling sitting rooms and look around. (Yet, since the royals aren’t living there full time, I did not get the same feeling that I got at Alnwick Castle – that I was walking into someone’s home without permission.)

If you go to Brussels during the summer – check out the Palace. Well worth it, in my opinion, especially since it is free. Afterwards, check out the underground parts of the city next to it.

Book review: Dronningen (100 things #5)

There is a new Norwegian book out, about Queen Sonja. Dronningen by Ingar Sletten Kolloen.

Already last week, the papers were filled with news from the book (some of which were definitely known before) her two miscarriages, that Mette-Marit served her potential mother-in-law pasta with canned tuna the first time they met, (the book specifies that both Haakon and Mette-Marit were serving the dinner) her sister’s suicide, and that the Queen mentions that she sometimes has trouble understanding her daughter’s alternative route.

It is a fairly hefty book, clocking in at over 500 pages. It is a beautifully designed book, and, although I could have wished for more glossy photos, the ones that are in it aren’t just photos that we’ve seen a thousand times before.

The book touches slightly on Sonja’s upbringing and her background, but the main focus is from the night she meets the Crown Prince at a party hosted by a mutual friend and up until today.

What I appreciate about this particular retelling of the story are the details; some details that haven’t been told before publicly, some have, perhaps, been held back in previous books about Sonja out of the respect of other persons, leads to a book that is more frank than both her previous biographies have been.

Her sister’s suicide (Queen Sonja: One always thinks one could have done more, should have seen more), her own miscarriage just weeks after… it must have been a really tough year.

The focus is more on her difficulties in finding her place in the organization, being a working mother, the differences between being born into the royal family vs. marrying into it,  and the role she now fulfils. She is also quite eager to leave an easy job for her successors, and most of her story as a Crown Princess and Queen seems to be also the stories of reforming the Norwegian court and making it into a corporation, where there are meetings with several people instead of just audiences for the King and he decides everything.

I also enjoyed hearing the stories about her grandchildren, and that first Christmas with Marius.

As a Norwegian, I also appreciate reading what goes on behind the scenes for the major events in promoting Norway abroad, and for the royal events such as the Silver Cruise.

I rather like that she isn’t painted with a perfect image, but that her flaws (too much perfectionist at times, didn’t have enough time for her children as they were growing up) also appears. The author had around 40 talks with the Queen in the preparation for the book, and he also talked to those close to her, and I think that thoroughness really shines through.

There are a couple of minor things here and there which made me stop up when I was reading it, such as naming Princess Alexandra of Berleburg #5 in the line to the Danish throne until she married (p. 353). As far as I know, (and feel free to help my understanding those who know better) there was a clause in her grandfather’s accept for Richard and Benedikte’s marriage – that the children should move to Denmark when they started school – and since neither of them did, none of them are in line to the Danish throne.

But, all in all, I find it a very well-written book, easy to read, despite the length (as long as you understand Norwegian) and I appreciate that new things about Sonja and her opinions are coming to light. If you don’t understand Norwegian, this is really not the book to get – the pictures don’t weigh up for the price if you can’t read any of the text.

Video: King Olav’s funeral: 100 things challenge #4

Of all the strange things you can find on the internet, I hadn’t expected someone to upload up this. It is the funeral procession, and funeral of King Olav of Norway, who died in 1991.

I remember watching this. I was just shy of seven and half years old when he was buried. I had started school that August, and we’d got the day off school to watch it. Since I had got the day off school for this, my mother decreed that I should also be watching it on television, instead of playing with my sisters.

This is a pretty somber, and long video – and it was not made easier by the fact that I had next to little understanding of what was going on.

Looking back, this was my first major royal occasion, and I was bored out of my mind. Rewatching it now, I can identify the royals, and be fascinated by the procedural of it all. Especially because I know the first framework of the ceremonial royal rituals in place was created by Crown Princess Märtha, as she was planning the funeral after Queen Maud’s death in 1938.

My interest in royalty: blogging challenge #3

It’s my 29th birthday today, and so it seemed like the perfect time to do a bit of retrospective. More specifically, tie it into the 100 things blogging challenge. (Since I’m only on #3…) Plus, being retrospective on other things, I’m going to save that for when I turn 30.

(Though, if anyone has any “I wish I’d done this before I turned 30” advice – feel free to share.)

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