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.

Review: Gin O’Clock

If you’re not following The Queen on Twitter, the title of this book will likely mean nothing to you.

The fictional Twitter account is usually a funny, running commentary on what the life in the UK is like from the throne, written in the royal “One”. (It usually involves a large consumption of gin, hence the name of the book, one presumes)

The book is a collation of some of the tweets from the past year, as well as expanded beyond Twitter’s limited set of character, so it reads more like a diary. It is not meant to be taken seriously, as it is a parody, but at the same time – it does give a rather nice overview of the past year for the British royal family, as well as with certain world events.

If you wanted to know what the Queen thought of the two royal weddings last year, her prime minister, or current events… look no further.

If you’re following her on Twitter, it will be a lot of the same things – but expanded. If you haven’t been following her, but enjoy a twisty parody – look no further. I enjoyed it.

Book review: Historic Atlas of dynasties and royal houses

Can someone tell me why the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are gracing the cover of The Historical Atlas of Dynasties and Royal Houses? Apart from the publisher believing that it might sell a few extra copies, that is?

Despite my initial misgivings of seeing someone who’re a year older than me featured on a historic atlas (and I’m not referring to Henry VIII here, in case you were wondering), I rather liked some of the bits and pieces of this.

I like the concept, obviously, since I bought it. I also like that they incorporate several historic royal mini-biographies and setting  into the mix, to show someone the era the maps depict.

I’m not crazy about the fact that the majority of the book is actually text. As this is an atlas, I would have wanted more maps. And, since this book is so big and glossy,  actually larger and higher quality at that.

Book review: Elizabeth by Sarah Bradford

I am rather late to the party on this one – Elizabeth : A Biography Of Her Majesty The Queen by Sarah Bradford was published the first time in the 90s, with an updated version in 2002. Given that I loved Bradford’s easy style of writing in the biography on George VI, I felt the need to pick up something else she had written as well. (I also have my eyes on her biography on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but haven’t taken the plunge there, yet)

It was also a good follow-up read to Our Queen, from last week. Curiously, there were a lot of passages in Elizabeth that sounded familiar, almost to the word from Our Queen, which I suppose means that Our Queen has used this for background material on some of the details.

Like George VI, Elizabeth is very informative, and easy to read. It clearly makes an effort to be as inclusive as possible on the Queen.

If you’re a Diana fan, Bradford’s biography here is probably best to avoid. Though, Diana’s part in the tome is limited, Bradford doesn’t appear to be overly fond of the late Princess of Wales, and it shows through in the text.

The problem with this book, compared to a newer one, is that though it was revised in 2002, that must only have been minor revisions. The years after 1996 is almost a footnote in the 500+ long book, and those years would have been a good way to round up the book. Bradford is coming with another book on the Queen in 2012.

Book review: Our Queen

With Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee in 2012, a lot of books and paraphernalia is sure to be released. Our Queen by Robert Hardman is first out of the gate, and there will likely be masses to follow.

What I found while reading, is that this is an incredibly touching book – funny at times, and sad at other times. And you learn quite a lot from it. (It is packed with trivia.)


Continue reading “Book review: Our Queen”

Book review: George VI

After having watched The King’s Speech at the cinema (like about a gazilion other people), I found myself intrigued by the story of George VI, and wanted to learn more. I picked up George VI by Sarah Bradford at Amazon, and forgot all about it, until I cleaned out my bookshelves.

I rather regret not reading it earlier, because this book is very well written and a joy to read. It is rather long (and did drag on a bit in the end) but the story just flows in a way that made me want to read on, and on, and on…

Continue reading “Book review: George VI”

Book review: Crown & Country

My latest read is Crown and Country: A History of England through the Monarchy. (Excellent for reading while biking on a spin bike, by the way).

The book goes from the time of the Roman times and its unification to current times.  It depicts the different rulers of the country, and the struggles they (and the country) have  gone through. This might just be me, but with the chapter on current times, Starkey starts using the personal pronoun “I” as he is discussing some events, and there seem to be a lot more speculation from his side on some of the events. I rather wish that chapter had been more objective and distanced from his own experience and opinions.

The book is excellent as an overview of the monarchy and English history since Roman times. However, a lot of the times, because it is an overview, it is not as detailed as one could have wished. Unfortunately, there  is a lack of footnotes, to give further reading, when there are interesting events that could have been expanded upon. There is a lengthy literature list in the back.

One noteworthy item for me is Starkey’s criticism of modern day historians. He often derides the recent research that doesn’t mesh with his ideas of history. One example is that the Vikings weren’t entirely as bad as have been suggested in earlier times.

The writing is easy to follow, for so many names and dates, and it flows well.

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”

Book Review: A throne in Brussels

I picked A Throne in Brussels by Paul Belien up in London this summer. I have been fascinated with Belgium and the internal struggle there for a while, and finding this seemed a great way to get a bit more thorough into the subject.

The book deals with the history of the Belgian monarchy – and the consequences for the European Union if it should model itself on being as constructed as Belgium.

The first thing to note about this book, and to bring with into the reading of it, is that the author is quite pro-Flemish, is quite seemingly against unified Belgium, and thus also rather against the monarchy.

It starts with Leopold and his first wife, and what happened when she died – and Leopold was put into the monarch’s role in Belgium (with a large subsidy from the British government), and continues through the generations to today’s royal family.

If Belien is to be believed, the monarchs and politicians of Belgium have been a corrupt bunch through the ages. About the only passable one seems to have been Baudoin.

With all its foibles and possible flaws in objectivity, I still found it an interesting read from one of the sides, as it is well-written and compelling.

If anyone has any good books on Belgian history to recommend, I’m up for reading more.

Book review: Young Prince Philip

Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade

The book’s prologue is the story of  the death of the Duke’s sister, Cecile, in 1937. From there, Eade goes back to the origin of the Greek monarchy, to give a bit of background, and to bring it out from obscurity, or so he says. He continues onto the house of Battenberg, and takes that to the point of Prince Philip’s birth.

Continue reading “Book review: Young Prince Philip”

Book review: The final curtsey

Prior to this release, there were a couple of articles in the Telegraph, about revelations from this book. I don’t know if it was just me, but the articles made it seem like it would be quite a substantial book in size. It isn’t. Just over 150 pages, the book is actually rather small. But, it is packed with information and stories

The Final Curtsey is the autobiography of Margaret Rhodes – she is the niece to the late Queen Mother, and cousin to the current Queen.

I am always wary when there are spelling errors as early as the family tree in the first pages of the book. True, it looks like a mere typing error, but one would have hoped that such minor trifles could have been caught prior to the book going to press. It makes me wonder how many other things I am not catching.

Continue reading “Book review: The final curtsey”

Book review: Haakon og Mette-Marit i 10 år

The last book reviewed for now in the category of books released for Haakon and Mette-Marit’s 10th anniversary is this book: Haakon og Mette-Marit i 10 år, by Liv Berit Tessem.

Unlike the other two books, this one is chronological. It has one chapter for each of the ten years they have been married.

I rather like this approach. It makes it easy to follow the changes and progress made over ten years. The thematic division in the other two books was good, but in a commemorative book like this, I do think this approach is a tad more interesting.

The drawback to it, however, is that each chapter just scratches the surface on much of what has happened over the years – and does not go into as much detail on some of the topics as the other books have done.

Continue reading “Book review: Haakon og Mette-Marit i 10 år”

Book review: Mette-Marit – Prinsesse av folket

As I said in my review the other day – there have been three books released to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Haakon and Mette-Marit’s marriage.

This is the second one I’m reviewing. It is called Mette-Marit: Prinsesse av folket. En illustrert feiring av Norges kronprinspar, (Translation: Mette-Marit, Princess of the people. An illustrated celebration of the Norwegian Crown Prince Couple) with pictures by Aasta Børte and text by Monica Aafløy Hansen.

This is a an album of pictures from the ten years Mette-Marit has been in the spotlight as the Norwegian Crown Princess. But, it is not just a pictorial – in some of the chapters, the text also feels as though it is an integral part of the book and not an afterthought.

At 127 pages, the content  and quality of pictures makes it feel like a lot more pages than it actually is.

I really enjoyed reading the anecdotes from the photographer that sometimes accompanied the text, or the pictures. It gives another dimension to the book – I might have seen the pictures before, but the photographer’s description adds an extra value to the pictures.

Continue reading “Book review: Mette-Marit – Prinsesse av folket”

Book review: 10 år med Kronprinsparet

This August, ten years have passed since Crown Prince Haakon married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby in Oslo Cathedral. A slew of books (okay, three, so far) are coming out, two television specials are coming later this month, and the couple are also being interviewed left and right about the past ten years, and their causes.

The first book I picked up is 10 år med Kronprinsparet by Elsebeth Danielsen. It is published on Aller forlag, and part of the proceedings from the book will go to the Crown Princely Couple’s Humanitarian Foundation.

It is not a huge book by any means; at 118 pages, most of the chapters are about 1-2 pages, and the majority of the book consist of pictures. Great pictures, but almost all of them have been seen before in some context or other. Similarly, the text feels more like a synopsis of other sources (listed in the back) than original interviews with the couple.

It starts out with that defining day in the Cathedral, a chapter on the wedding gown, and then moves on to Mette-Marit’s adaption to royal life, the causes she’s taken up, the family life, fashion, her work with the religious CD and at the end there is a list of the patronages and orders of Haakon and Mette-Marit. The focus is chiefly the beginning, the trip to Malawi in 2005 and the last years.

The book gives a neat overview of ten years in 118 pages, but for most of those pages, the person covered is Mette-Marit only. Haakon’s Wedding speech, his Dignity Day cause, and his interview about what kind of music he listens to… are the really stand out issues about him in the book, which isn’t a lot for ten years.

The one thing about the book that I actually really liked was that in a lot of the chapters, people associated with Mette-Marit’s causes (or once or twice from their common causes) had written messages to the couple on their anniversary, in conjunction with the cause/relevant picture in the book. This was published next to the picture/description of the cause.

It is a nice enough little  book, but given the amount of pages, it doesn’t go into much depth. Thus, if you’ve followed them over the past ten years on forums or in the news… I think you can probably save your money for something else.

First royal book

In 1996, I received my first copy of a book that would prove to give ample fruit to the interest in future investigations on the subject. The city was London, with its many bookshops, and in one of those… I received my first copy of Kings and Queens of England and Great Britain, by Eric R Delderfield.

The edition of the book, which I acquired, may not be quite up to date today – after all, Charles and Diana are no longer married; the Queen has two more grandchildren; Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother have passed away, et cetera. However, it is still an interesting book to rummage through, for the longer historic lines, and details… even if the more current history is not quite up to date.

Today, for basic information, I suspect one would just go to Wikipedia, instead of to an actual book.