I picked this book up in October 2007, as something to read on a long train ride. It was a substitute for the gossip magazines I would buy on other occasions when I am on a journey. As a substitute for that, it works just fine. The style is similar to the style of Ekstrabladet, Billedbladet, Hello, etc. There is nothing new there – it’s not the work of a Nobel laureate, but the work of a journalist who has had the focus on the royals for some time.
The Danish newspapers were quite negative to the book; Berlingske Tidende wondered if anything would surpass it in terms of badly done work.
After having read it, I find that I don’t fully agree with the reviews I’ve read. Undoubtedly there are more verifiable facts in there other than the year of Margrethe’s ascension, and whatever the rest was. Villemann does not just use the anonymous sources for her book, but also the things the royals have said themselves in authorized biographies and interviews. But at the same time, the whole book should also be taken with pinch of salt because of all the anonymous sources.
Especially events where I doubt there were many present – such as Ingrid’s conversation with Margrethe on Henrik (Oh, Daisy, you’ll think about it – won’t you?) – I find reason to take with an extra pinch of salt, even if a servant might have overheard.
Something I found jarring – but that undoubtedly won’t matter to anyone but me – was her tendency to refer to Crown Prince Haakon as Håkon. It is indeed true that his name is pronounced with an Å – but it is written with a double a. It’s the same sort of miniscule errors that I find in Hello profiles, that make me wonder how much else hasn’t been caught as errors. One hopes it is corrected in the English version.
On the positive side – for me as a Norwegian – I think this book has to be one of the few times in Danish media where Mette-Marit and Haakon are compared to Mary and Frederik – and actually come out on top. Nothing bad about Frederik and Mary, but given Mette-Marit’s past, it is interesting to note that Villemann thinks she is finally getting ahead in her role as a Crown Princess.
And while Haakon and Mette-Marit’s oldest daughter, quite verifiably, is called Ingrid – she was not named for Queen Ingrid of Denmark, but Mette-Marit’s grandmother as well as a former Norwegian queen.
But back to the Danish royals. Margrethe’s role as a mother is heavily touched upon, and given the many other discussions on the subject, I’m inclined to think that at least some of Villemann’s assertations might be correct – i.e. Margrethe herself mentioning that she is not much for smaller children, and she prefers to be able to talk to them, as well as Henrik and Frederik’s various interviews on the topic of the childhood of the princes.
I think Henrik’s role as a father falls somewhere between Villemann’s pictures, and what he, himself has mentioned earlier.
Villemann mentions that Joachim seems to have weathered the way they were raised in a different way than Frederik – and while she does comment that the lack of parental presence in their lives can be worked into their current lives. She mentions Frederik’s perceived laziness and reluctantness to be king, to use her words, but also points out that Joachim received the same upbringing, and he works royal duties in addition to running his own farm. It is indeed true that Joachim is one of the “heroes” in this book.While the trips to the discos he engaged in before and while the process of the separation and divorce from Alexandra was a fact, are mentioned – they are not critiqued as heavily as Frederik’s similar trips on town while being out on official missions abroad.
Villemann seems to admire Joachim’s abilities in regards to improving his public image. The divorce is touched upon – but I found it unclear whether the alleged secret that everybody in the circle of friends know about actually was Joachim’s or Alexandra’s secret – but it is of little consequence in the long run – the divorce happened, and both of them are remarried.
I also found it interesting to note the so-called coldness between Margrethe and Benedikte – Benedikte taking after her mother and being the “most royal” in the royal family (Ingrid was called the most royal in the Swedish royal family) – while Margrethe being more creative. It is difficult to know what is the case and what isn’t – Margrethe herself notes the two of them having problems as kids, as Margrethe was an only child for a lengthy time – but that it was resolved as adults. Of course, spats are normal in every family.
It is interesting that something I perceive as would have been problematic if anyone else had tried it – Ingrid manipulating the politicians around the time of the new constitution – isn’t critiqued as much in the book as I think it would’ve been if someone other than Queen Ingrid had tried it today.
Ingrid is also noted for being an amazing grandmother, who gathered her grandchildren around her on Gråsten, and ensured that they would be friends and connected to each other as adults. It is also noted that she allegedly didn’t care much for the Miller family when Marie-Chantal married her grandson – and how they flaunted their wealth. (Marie-Chantal is, allegedly, not very popular in the circle of cousins, either).
Villemann also touches base on the trouble between King Frederik and his younger brother, Knud, and how this touches onto the families even today. One of Knud’s children (it doesn’t say who) talks about it. I think an important thing here today in regards to the old fight and the family trees growing apart – how many of us keep in touch with our cousins and second cousins after the parent generation passes away? From personal experience, I would say that you mostly keep in touch with the ones who you either like a lot, or live close to. It isn’t mandatory to keep in touch with everyone who shares DNA with you.
As for Mary – Villemann seems to have a philosophical approach to her. She is here – and she gives Frederik what he wants – a family. It is mentioned that up until that point, Frederik relates to his girlfriends as a family while he has them, and were friendly with their fathers/brothers, and when the relationship ends he is still friendly with them. I don’t think there is anything really bad written about Mary in the Danish version of the book (for those who wondered) except for her Danish, on the other hand, Prince Henrik’s level of Danish is somewhat put to its right in there.
It is mentioned that Frederik is fantastic in audiences with one or two people, or smaller groups – but become a bit more uncertain and fumbling when he stands in front of an audience, while Mary is the opposite.
Villemann thinks that Mary might have a perception as to how a princess should appear, either from before the marriage, or from the “princess school” she was put through, and that shines through on occasions.
Until the last chapter, I saw it as a relatively enjoyable read and an excellent way to spend an hour or two on the train if one has nothing else to do. In the last chapter, however, Trine Villemann seems to have gone through various discussion forums critiquing the Crown Prince and Crown Princess – and the book appears to be more about voicing personal opinion than writing the story.
It isn’t because she’s critiquing the royal family in that chapter – just so we’re getting that out of the way – but more how she turns a book that has been mainly a “biographical” account of unknown sources, articles, and royal accounts in connection with biographies et. al. up until that point, to something more reminiscent of a poster on a message board – or a blog. It simply lacks the relative objectivity of the previous chapters. Villemann begins to mix in her personal opinions, which have been relatively absent in the previous chapters.
I am not a fan of that in this context. It feels messy. She could have settled for doing the reporting from the actual sources – Ekstrabladet on the amount of work Frederik and Mary does – and so on, instead of dragging her opinion on the fact that she thinks there are too many people in the Danish succession into the mix – and how to resolve it – by cutting out Elisabeth, Benedikte, Nikolai & Felix. Into the mix she throws some claims that Benedikte should be allowed to live full-time in Germany with her husband, Elisabeth should be allowed to live in southern Europe if she wants to, and Nikolai & Felix should be allowed to live wherever they want. I’ve done some research – and I can’t find anywhere that says these four people have to live in Denmark. Lex Regia says that they have to ask the monarch for permission when going abroad – but not that they can’t do it, which is what I get from Villemann’s statements. As a Norwegian I do get cutting down on the royal family, but two of these people will disappear from the list from natural causes in not too long (although one does not wish them ill). It seems rather pointless to cut them at this point. It also seems a bit pointless to try to regulate the DRF in who can be in line to the throne and who cannot.
History has shown that the DRF by way of the monarch mandating the marriages, have been perfectly able to control itself in that regard. I also fail to see what the public needs with a complete accounting of the royal bookkeeping – as long as we get the general overview over how much they get, and how much goes where – I really don’t care what Joachim personal’s portion goes to. I would recommend this book – simply to get a more alternative perspective. It isn’t very sugary, but I wouldn’t say it is overly speculative either. I seem to use the word “relatively” a lot in this post, but I think it is a word that fits it. It is relatively enjoyable book – much like reading a bit more critical version of Billedbladet, but not as critical as Ekstrabladet, to put it in a comparison to the two outlets of royal news in Denmark.
(This review was first published on The Royal Forums, and later on Blog Royale. It deals with the Danish version of 1015 København K.)