11 November 2015

John Van der Kiste: Dictionary of Royal Biographers (2015)

John Van der Kiste, the well-known author of more than 60 books, the majority being historical or royal biographies, is out with yet another book, Dictionary of Royal Biographers (A & F Publications, 2015, ISBN 9781517115272).

I think it will be a most useful addition to my library, as it will help me with background information on various authors when blogging or writing other articles. It has not always been easy to find information about authors, especially those still living - not everything can be found on the Internet, and it is not always easy to plan ahead and stop by a library before you go home to finish a blog article (you don't always know what you need of information before you start writing).

The dictionary includes presentations of more than 500 authors who have written and published books in English about British or European royalty from the 11th century to the present day. You will find well-known authors like Arturo Beéche, Greg King, Marlene Eilers Koenig, Ted Rosvall, Robert Lacey, Hanna Pakula, Ingrid Seward, Charlotte Zeepvat and Philip Ziegler to mention a few, and lesser known – at least to me – like Adolf Koch and Joachim Kurenberg. Many of the biographers will be presented with birth year (and death year), a short CV and a list of the biographies they have written. Some entries are of course longer and more detailed than others. Not all entries include a birth year, though. This could because Van der Kiste has failed to find it, or that he has been asked by the author to omit it, as he admits in his foreword to have done on some occasions. It is not that the birth year is really needed in all cases, but for the sake of consistency I think he should not have given in to the requests. Some people are taking desire for privacy a bit too far.

The dictionary also includes a section with royal authors of memoirs. Even Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, whose memoirs I did it my way was launched during the conference Royal Gatherings in the Hague last Saturday (7 November 2015), as far as I understand several weeks before the dictionary was published, has got an entry. Quite impressive!

Some times I wonder, though, about how one arranges dictionary entries alphabetically in English. In Norwegian I would for instance have listed Marlene Eilers Koenig under K, not E. Did any of my university teachers mention the alphabetization rules at all, I wonder ...

When limiting the dictionary to biographies published in English one misses out on many biographers who have given important contributions to the genre in the last 10 years, like for instance Tor Bomann-Larsen, Trond Norén Isaksen and many others, but of course one has to limit the extent somehow. The dictionary would need several volumes if also biographies written in other languages should be included. Two Norwegian biographers have been included, though (please tell me if I have overlooked someone) – Tim Greve (1926–1986), author of Haakon VII of Norway: Founder of a New Monarchy (1983), and Clara Tschudi (1856–1945) – as both have got some of their works translated into English. In the dictionary Greve is incorrectly listed as having been born in 1928, though. The death announcements in Aftenposten didn't state his birth year, and even the cemetery register for Haslum, Bærum only gives the death and burial information, but the church book (Johannes, Bergen) states 1926, as also confirmed by the entry in Norsk Biografisk Leksikon. I don't know which source John Van der Kiste has used, but in case he has leaned himself on the English version of Wikipedia, it can explain his mistake.

Concerning King Haakon VII mentioned above, the dictionary does not include Philip Paneth, who wrote the book Haakon VII. Norway's Fighting King in 1944. Not the most important work on King Haakon, though, but worth mentioning.

All in all, I think the dictionary includes the most important biographers and their books on European royalty. Even with some mistakes and omissions, I am confident that the dictionary will be helpful to many writers as well as readers in the years to come.

Updated on 12 November 2015 at 09.32 (word missing in one sentence).

22 October 2015

Eurohistory. The European Royal History Journal, Vol. 18.3, June 2015

I received issue CV of Eurohistory. The European Royal History Journal earlier in October and finished reading it this week. The issue was delayed due to the printer having a "major press malfunction", as told by Eurohistory's blog on 22 September this year. I hope the magazine will come back on track soon. There is at least no reason to complain much about the magazine's contents, as I really enjoyed reading it.

The front cover shows a photo of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and his family. Most, if not all, of the family members can be identified by comparing with other photos in the article Crown Prince Rupprecht. The Best King Bavaria Never Had (Part I) by Coryne Hall, but I still wish the editor could have given a photo caption on the following page.

The second article is titled  Frederica of Hanover.  A Passionate & Obstinate Princess (Part II) written by Marlene A. Eilers Koenig. The first part was published in issue CIV (Vol. 18.2, April 2015). Frederica (Friederike) (1848–1926) was the 2nd child of King Georg V of Hannover and Queen Marie, née Princess of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1880 she married Baron (Freiherr) Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen (1843–1932) against the wishes of her  family. The marriage was, however, supported by Queen Victoria and other members of the British royal family. All in all a well-researched and well-written article about a princess I would say belong to the group of "lesser-known royals".

Ilana D. Miller is another more or less permanent contributor to the magazine, and this time she continues her series Who Is In The Photograph with the subtitle A Gathering in Hesse, showing Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret of Hesse and by Rhine, née Campbell-Geddes, Landgrave Moritz of Hesse(-Kassel) and Princess Sophie of Hannover, née Princess of Greece and Denmark. The latter is of course an elder sister of Prince Philip, while Moritz was the nephew of Princess Sophie's first husband. Miller then goes on to give a presentation of the said persons and how they are related and interacted.

I have earlier commented that I would like more variation in topics in both the ERHJ and the Royalty Digest Quarterly, as I sometimes have felt that the topics are just circulated. There are so many people from so many royal, princely and mediatised houses to write about! So all of a sudden, Greg King and Janet Ashton appear with the brilliant article The Extraordinary Life of Princess Catherine Radziwill. Perfect Liar. The princess was born as Countess Ekaterina Adamovna Rzewuska in St. Petersburg in 1858 and died in New York City in 1941. She was twice married, first to Prince Wilhelm Radziwill and secondly to Karl Emile Kolb-Danvin, and is known first of all for her many books filled with behind-the-scene details and some times gossips about the various courts of Europe as well as for her extramarital affairs. I have come across her name from time to time due to her writings, but I have never read anything about her, so it was such a thrill so learn so much. Now, Radziwill is of course a well-known princely family, but articles about the family appears less often than articles about the Romanovs and the Windsors, so I was very pleased about the topic. Both well-written and well-researched. And it is only the first part! The authors' analysis of Princess Catherine Radziwill's writings is interesting: "In the last few decades [...] it has become fashionable to dismiss her as completely unreliable. But what is the truth? These books are, by turns, sympathetic, controversial, illuminating and outrageous, and many reflect Catherine's changing views and motivations. Caution is certainly advisable when considering Catherine as a source, yet contrary to current opinion careful analysis now reveals that many do contain accurate information and informed views. Outright rejection of Catherine's books and some of their more uncomfortable content as mere vituperative gossip, as we'll discuss in the second part of this article, does her, and history, a disservice." We really have something to look forward to!

The last article of the present issue, written by the magazine's editor and publisher, Arturo E. Beéche, covers the wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist on 13 June 2015. (Princess Sofia's pregnancy was, by the way, announced by the court on Thursday 15 October while I was on a work trip to Brussels and unable to write about it.) The author mixed up Prince Carl Philip's birth date (9 June 1979) with that of his christening (31 August 1979), but that belongs to the kind of mistakes which one is bound to make from time to time with so many details having to be pressed into two pages. You think one thing and write another. It happens to everyone, including me! The magazine might spend more resources on proof-reading, though, for in the Royal News section we are told that Princess Madeleine's second child, born on 15 June 2015, was named Paul Gustaf. The main name Nicolas was in other words left out. But such mistakes are far from representative when we look on the magazine as a whole.

Then there are book reviews! All written by Coryne Hall:
  • 17 Carnations. The Windsors, the Nazis and the Cover-up by Andrew Morton (Michael O'Mara Books, 2015)
  • Henry VIII's Last Love. The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby, Lady-in-Waiting to the Tudors by David Baldwin (Amberley Publishing, 2015)
  • Towards the Flame. War and the End of Tsarist Russia by Dominic Lieven (Allen Lane, 2015)
Finally, the traditional Royal News section, and this time the imperial, royal or princely families of Austria-Este, Hannover, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ysenburg and Büdingen as well as Osuna (Spanish ducal family) are covered.

The publisher of The European Royal History Royal can be reached at erhj [at] eurohistory.com.

For earlier articles on the magazine, please go here.

Updated on Wednesday 28 October 2015 at 11 p.m. (typos corrected).

11 October 2015

Åmot Church and Cemetery, Norway

My Hoelseth family has its name from the farm Holset in Åmot in Østerdalen, Hedmark fylke (county). All the Hoelseths living today, both the agnatic and the cognatic lines, descend from my great-great-great-grandfather Tollef Olsen Hoelseth (18251876). Buried together with him are his first wife, Valborg Gudmundsdatter, née Waal (Vål) (18231873) and three of his eight children from his first marriage Anne Tollefsdatter Hoelseth (18541883), Helge Tollefsen Hoelseth (18611875) and Thorvald Victor Tollefsen Hoelseth (18631868).

The photos were taken on the last Saturday of September 2015 when my family and I made a short stop on our way up Østerdalen to Trondheim. I have visited the cemetery several times over the years, but this was my first visit after I bought my present digital camera in 2004. Genealogically speaking there are many interesting graves on the cemetery, so I hope to return some time later to take more photos.

The current church building was set up in 1901 and consecrated the year after. Older photos of the church can be found on Wikipedia. According to a brochure which I received on a previous visit, the old church from 1768, situated at the same place, was demolished in 1899 to make room for a bigger one. Two even older churches were situated on a hill south of the pastoral farm in Åmot.

There are several churches in Norway named Åmot kirke (church), by the way. The church mentioned here is situated at Rena in Åmot municipality. The others Åmot churches are in Nordre Land and Modum.

For more details about my Hoelseth family, see my website.

4 October 2015

Royalty Digest Quarterly no. 3, 2015

The last issue of Royalty Digest Quarterly arrived in my mailbox sometime this week while I was on vacation. I haven't read much of it yet, so this will be a short presentation rather than a review. The front cover shows a photo of Queen Marie of Yugoslavia with her sons Tomislav, Andrej (Andrew) and Petar (Peter). The photo is obviously printed because the magazine's historical consultant, Charlotte Zeepvat, this time has chosen Yugoslavia/Serbia as the topic for the traditional photo album. Her article is titled The Royal House of Serbia and Yugoslavia. Two Family Albums, because the article covers both the Obrenovic and the Karadjordjevic dynasties. Besides a four pages long introduction, the article contains 92 illustrations as well as three pages with genealogial tables. The article starts on page 24 and ends on page 55. I have a soft spot for the Eastern European dynasties and I am therefore very pleased about the topic.

The editor and publisher, Ted Rosvall, uses his Editor's Corner to comment on the recent events in Romania, where the former King Michael in August removed the titles and succession rights from his grandson, Nicholas Medforth-Mills. I am not the only person who has questioned the king's decision to set up a new law of succession for his family. I will not comment further on that discussion here, but just want to express how sorry I am for all the mess and negative headlines the king, who earlier was loyal to the principles of a constitutional monarchy, has created in recent years. Well, Romania is a republic now, and the chances of restoration is close to zero, so it is only an academic discussion anyway.

Michael L. Nash has made many contributions to RDQ over the years, and this time he has written the article The Jewels of Portugal. Another well-known royal history author is Coryne Hall, and she has contributed with the article Princess Beatrice, the Isle of Wight's true friend.

Charlotte Zeepvat's second article of the present issue is titled The Terracotta Angel, which deals with sculptural presentations of various royals, a neglected form of portraiture according to the author.

Then follows her second article, the photo album on the Obrenovic and Karadjordjevic dynasties, which has already been mentioned above.

I am not familiar with the name Stefan Haderer, but he seems to come from Austria, and his contribution is titled A highly unusual affair. The topic is the intimate relationship between Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and actress Katharina Schratt.

Finally, the column The World Wide Web of Royalty gives a sample of royal news since the last issue was printed. This time we can read news about the Imperial, royal or princely houses of Altenburg, Austria, Bagration, Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Lippe, Oldenburg, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Solms-Hohensolms-Lich and Solms-Wildenfels. Oh I so much loves the names of the German dynasties!

I have in other words a great reading time waiting for me next week. The only column I miss is the book reviews, as I also commented on last time.

Information on Royalty Digest Quarterly can be found at its editor's website Royalbooks.se. See earlier presentation of RDQ here. See also its Facebook page.

25 September 2015

Princess Kristine Bernadotte's Swedish ancestry

The Norwegian-born Princess Kristine Bernadotte, née Rivelsrud, third wife of Prince Carl Bernadotte (1911–2003), died last year (4 November 2014) in Benalmadena, Spain. When the news of her death was announced on 8 November 2015, I started to explore her ancestry and published my findings at Slektshistoriewiki, the Norwegian genealogy wiki administered by Norsk Slektshistorisk Forening, the Norwegian Genealogical Society.

The article is far from finished, but during the weekend of 8–9 November 2014 (and later the same month) I found a lot of new information, among others details about Princess Kristine's Swedish ancestry. Her ancestor no. 20 was a Didrik Bergman, b. around 1804,* who had a child with Maria Jonsdotter Mellberg, b. around 1809.**

In the last issue of VärmlandsAnor, the newsletter of Värmlands Släktforskarförening (Värmland's Genealogical Society), the article Prinsessan Kristine Bernadottes härstamning från den värmlandska släkten Bergman was published («Princess Kristine Bernadotte's descent from the Bergman family of Värmland») (VärmlandsAnor 2015:3, pp. 12–15). The author is Johan R. Honkainen Gyllenspetz. The author says the article should only be regarded as a «delrapport» («part report», section). He has focused on the Bergman family and not the other Swedish lines, but might do more research on Princess Kristine's roots later.

Issue no. 2015/3 can be obtained from the Värmland's Genealogical Society (see link above). The Slektshistoriewiki article will soon be updated with the new details.

* The birth date was corrected in the said article to 1792 (!) (the source I used was incorrect).
** Corrected to 1805.

22 September 2015

New royalty magazine launched: The Crown

The Crown, which presents itself as the international royalty magazine, was launched earlier this month, and Majesty Magazine has finally got some real competition again. The Crown is a so-called spin-off of the Dutch magazine Vorsten, which has been published for more than 40 years in the Netherlands. I definately think it has made a promising start, with many interesting articles.

Having said that, I am not really sure if I am in the magazine's target group. The majority of its readers will most surely be women, and will therefore be expected to have more articles about fashion than I would like. I am not much interested in jewels and tiaras and diadems either, although I admit that these are important parts of a monarchy's history. I generally prefer to read magazines and periodicals with more text and less photos. After all, my main interests within the royalty world is history, especially the constitutional part, and genealogy.

Then again, The Crown needs to be more than a popular science magazine to sell, and certainly not a scholar one. Even though I prefer text to photos, I have to say that the illustrations are great to look at. The 148 pages long magazine is filled with as many as 319 pictures (according to the magazine's website). The photos of the king and queen of Bhutan are, for instance, just stunning.

The magazine can also boast of 25 royal stories, 30 crowns and tiaras, and covering as many as 107 royals. The front page shows the Duchess of Cambridge, followed by the article Catherine, the island princess, which among others deals with the fact that she has little contact with other royal spouses, in contrast to her Scandinavian and Benelux counterparts. I hope the future issues will also have other, non-British, royals on the front page, even if the UK and the USA probably will be the most important market.

In the first issue the current and former monarchies of the UK, Austria, Monaco, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Württemberg, Bhutan, Jordan, Belgium, Spain and Russia are covered. There are interviews with Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik of Denmark in connection with the former's 75h birthday celebrations earlier this year (the Prince Consort again insists on how unfair he thinks it is that he is titled Prince Consort and not King Consort!) and Princess Haya, née Princess of Jordan, now wife of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, about the princess's love for horses. The magazine has something to offer for the history interested as well – with articles about Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796–1817), who died in childbirth the year after marrying the future King Leopold of the Belgians, Empress Elisabeth «Sisi» of Austria (about her jewels ...), Napoleon, Josephine de Beauharnais and Czar Alexander I of Russia in the article 2 Emperors & 1 empress, as well as In the footsteps of Napoleon in Paris (and Amsterdam) and finally an article based on Helen Rappaport's book Four Sisters. The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses (Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, of course).

If we could have less articles like Palace Power Heels (!), Fashion: dresses for the little princesses, The Princess Royal's fashion sense, No tiara but ... (about royal brooches! – then again not a bad idea as an alternative to all the tiaras and diadems) and Fashionable queens and princesses and more articles like Bhutan's beautiful King & Queen (although there certainly are more to them than just beauty) and Three new kings within a year: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, then I would be happy. But again, I don't think I am in the target group. Still. can we hope for articles about the sultanates in Malaysia and the kingdoms of Morocco, Lesotho and Cambodia, at least once in a while? :-)

The idea behind the article When the spare becomes heir is a good one. If only the magazine had double-checked the Norwegian Constitution first. We are told that «In Norway, women were not entitled at all to the throne – until 1971. That year the law changed, but boys still came before girls. This is why Princess Märtha Louise (1971) had to give way to brother Haakon (1973). In the meantime, Norway has also caught up with modern succession laws – though not retroactively, meaning Haakon remains Crown Prince, but his daughter Ingrid Alexandra will become the Crown Princess once he is inaugurated».

No, the succession law was not changed in 1971, but in 1990. First then did women (but not those born before 1971) get equal succession rights. But because Haakon ever since birth had been raised to one day succeed his father as Crown Prince and later King, it was considered unfair if he should now be replaced by his elder sister. The last sentence of the fifth paragraph of article 6 of the Norwegian Constitution was therefore made as follows: «For those born before the year 1990 it shall nevertheless be the case that a male shall take precedence over a female.»

The nexzt issue, which will go on sale in early 2016, will contain among others articles about Queen Elizabeth II of the UK at 90 (the subject title The Queen at 90 annoys me, though), Empress Michiko of Japan, Queen Máxima, the Duke of Windsor, Diana, Princess of Wales as a jewellery trendsetter, the royal yacht Britannia as well as an interview with Princess Märtha Louise of Norway.

The magazine costs £8,50 (CAD 23,90, USD 20,99, NL/BE €9,95), and is planned to come out 4 times a year. The publishers is New Skool Media BV, with Justine Marcella as editor-in-chief. The Crown has already been established with its own website, http://www.thecrownmag.com, Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/thecrownmag) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/TheCrownTweets).

Updated last time on Friday 25 September 2015 at 9 a.m. (minor language correction).

20 September 2015

Vestre gravlund (Western Cemetery), Oslo, Norway, Part I

Vestre gravlund («Western Cemetery») in Oslo, Norway, or «Oslo Western Civil Cemetery», as referred to at Findagrave.com, is the largest cemetery in Norway (243 acres) and was inaugurated in 1902.
It is one of my favourite cemeteries and one I have visited many times to take grave photos, but so far I have only published two of them at my blog – the grave of Anne Lütken and the Ferner family grave. I also worked one summer at Vestre gravlund as a gardener in my student days in the 1990s.

I have recently received photo requests from other contributors at Findagrave.com and have added them earlier this evening (the photos were all taken yesterday, 19 September 2015). For the record I publish the photos here as well, and hope to return with more photos from Vestre gravlund (and other cemeteries) later this fall.

Ada Kramm, actress (1899–1981). Grave no.

Alfred Eriksen (1918–1991), Olympic fencer. Grave no.

Gunvor Hofmo (1921–1995), poet and writer. Grave no.

Johan Anker (1871–1940), Olympic sailor, and his 2nd wife Nini Roll Anker (1873–1942), author. Grave no. 20.318.00.076.

Kjell Hallbing (1934–2004), author of Western novels. Grave no.

Leif Normann Juster (1910–1995), comedian, singer and actor. Grave no.

I have, by the way, also published another photo from Vestre gravlund in my Slektshistoriewiki article about Cato Krag-Rønne. Slektshistoriewiki is the Norwegian genealogy wiki initiated by Norsk Slektshistorisk Forening (the Norwegian Genealogical Society).