19 January 2020

Håby Church and Cemetery, Munkedal, Sweden

I made a stop at Håby Church and Cemetery in Munkedal in Västra Götaland county in Sweden on my way home from Svenska Släktforskardagarna (the Swedish Genealogy Convention) in Borås in August 2019. I have passed the church several times before, but it is not always easy to make stops/detours like this, especially when you have other people in the car who might not share your interest in cemeteries and genealogy or think that is more important to reach the planned destination as soon as possible. But this time I was driving on my own and could do whatever I wanted! I still got back in time to spend some quality time with my daughter before she had to go to bed.

Håby Church (kyrka) is situated in the Foss parish in the diocese of Göteborg (Gothenburg). The present church building was finished in 1731, but there has been a church at the same spot since the 12th century. Some changes have been made under renovation work, among others in 1939. You can find more details on Wikipedia (Swedish version), which includes a photo of the interior (the altar).

Grave of riksdagsman (Member of Parliament) Johannes Andersson of Knarrevik (1821–1898). The Wikipedia article (in Swedish) has a portrait of him.

Smith family grave.

Grave of Hans J. Bryngelsson (1837–1919) and his nearest family.

Family grave of Olof Engelbrektsson and in front 3 Hallin graves.

All 12 photos: © 2019 Dag Trygsland Hoelseth.

It was a sunny day when I made the stop. A bit too sunny, perhaps, because it made it impossible to take photos of all angles of the church. It was well worth stopping by, though.

18 January 2020

UK: New statements released concerning the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

The following statements were released in the evening of 18 January 2020 concerning the arrangements agreed on after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had expressed their wish to step back as senior members of the royal family.
Statement from HM The Queen

Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.

I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.

Statement from Buckingham Palace

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are grateful to Her Majesty and the Royal Family for their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments. They will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties. 

With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations. While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.

The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home.

Buckingham Palace does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security.

This new model will take effect in the Spring of 2020.
This means that some of the questions that arised after their «independence statement» was made public now have been answered. They will no longer be styled Royal Highnesses, and they intend to pay back the money which was used for the renovation of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home. Of course there are still unanswered questions. The future will tell what kind of roles the Sussexes will actually play and how they will become financially indepentent, i.e. not only having to rely on their combined private fortune. There will of course be people who will argue about the costs of security. But that is, as said in the statement, not for the royal family to decide. The Duke of Sussex should not be blamed if those in charge of security arrangements believe police protection is needed also in the future, whether in the United Kingdom or in Canada. That is part of the deal when you have a monarchy, plain and simple.

Royalty Digest Quarterly no. 4, 2019

I am not completely done with 2019 yet, because I have left to make a few comments on the latest issue of Royalty Digest Quarterly (no. 4, 2019). The magazine was waiting for me when I returned to Oslo on Boxing Day (that is 26 December for those who don't know the expression), so it must have arrived on either the 23rd or 24th of December while I was away). I would normally have written this blog article earlier this month, but January has been rather hectic with many royal events to comment on.

Ted Rosvall is not happy about the Swedish king's decision to take away the style Royal Highness for the children of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia and of Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill, we learn when we read his Editor's Corner. Rosvall says that the title change is a breach of tradition and also finds it unneccessary. His main objection seems to be that the title changes are «retroactive or have retroactive effects» which are «contrary to all legal principles». Yes, I can see that objection, but I have argued earlier that the changes were bound to happen one day, and of course it would have been better if King Carl Gustaf had ruled out titles for his younger children's children before they were born. Constitutionally speaking it is much easier to give a title or another privilege than to take it away.

What about the front page? The photo shows Prince Victor Napoléon Bonaparte, his wife Princess Clémentine Bonaparte, née Princess of Belgium and their daughter Princess Marie Clothilde Bonaparte. The photo is the hint we need to know the topic of this issue's A Family Album. The magazine's historical consultant, Charlotte Zeepvat, is as always responsible for the introduction to the Bonapartes. In addition we get lots of photos - 80 portraits as well as two photos of  palaces and one of  St. Michael's Abbey in Farnborough, the last resting place of Emperor Napoléon III.

St. Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, England. Photo: Photochrom Print Collection/Wikimedia Commons.

The opening article, The Other Mrs. Simpson, is provided by Marlene A. Eilers Koenig. She tells the story of the American divorcee Romaine Simpson, née Pierce (1923–1975) and her marriage to David Mountbatten, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven (1919–1970), a first cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They married in 1950 and divorced four years later. 

The next article starts with the quote «Geneva is my favourite place – I am safe there among cosmopolitians». Empress Elizabeth was tragically enough very wrong about her own safety while in Geneva. Elizabeth Jane Timms has written the article Empress Elizabeth if Austria and Geneva. The Visit of 1898, which ends with her assassination.

Then it is Douglas Scott Brookes to continue his series of excerpts from the memoirs of Prince Philipp zu Eulenberg – Two Emperors and One King on the Waters.

When commenting on issue 3, 2019 back in November last year, I thought that we had now come to the end of Bearn Bilker's article series The November 1918 Abdications, but I had obviously lost track of how many monarchs he had actually presented. This time he covers the abdications in Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Reuss elder and younger lines, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen and Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Prince Günther Victor (1852–1925) was the reigning Prince of both Schwarzburg-Sondershausen and Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. On 23 November 1918 the prince gave consent to the abdication law passed in the Landtag of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, and two days later the time had come for Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, which, as the author points out, meant that the last monarchy to exist in Germany was in fact Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. This would also mean that we have come to the end of Bilker's very interesting series on the abdications in Germany in 1918.

Datiu Salvia Ocaña has made contributions to Royalty Digest Quarterly before, and now he has returned with the first part of The Six Stunning Infantas. The unexpexcted fortune of the daughters of exiled King Miguel I of Portugal. King Miguel also had a seventh daughter (actually his first), Maria da Assunçao de Bragança (1831–1887), who obviously will not get her story told in this series. But I like the idea of a presentation of the six infantas and look forward to reading the second part.

Another set of articles which returns regularly is Little-Known Royals, and in this issue Coryne Hall presents Prince Gustav of Denmark (1887–1944), the youngest son of King Frederik VIII and Queen Louise. I agree that Prince Gustav fits the bill, not many people today would know who he was or could tell much about him. Those of us who covers Europan royal history would know, but we are hardly representative.

Finally the readers are treated with genealogical news in the column The World Wide Web of Royalty. This time we get news from France (Bonaparte), Baden, Prussia, Two Sicilies and Württemberg.

Lots to read this time as well. If you are not a subscriber yet, I highly recommend you to join up! 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.

17 January 2020

UK: Intense days

It has been intense days for everyone involved – members of the British royal family and court, the media and the royalty-watching community – since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced last week that they wished to «step back as senior members of the Royal Family».

Members of the royal family – the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex – met on Monday this week to continue the discussions on finding solutions on how the more independent life for the Sussexes will look like. After the meeting the Royal Communications issued the following statement on behalf of Queen Elizabeth:


Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.

My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.

Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.

It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.

These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.
I have waited a bit before commenting on the developments. It has been many other events to write about since «the independence statement» was released, and I also thought it was a good idea to wait for more details. There was no reason to get carried away. As so often every newspaper claim to have sources close to the couple and to the other family members, and too many people seem to accept their stories as facts, especially if they fit their own views, and even if some of the stories seems very far out.

The media coverage and the discussions in the social media have been very intense and heated, and the Sussexes have received a lot of criticism, especially the Duchess, who has been labelled as the main villain. It seems to have become an established fact that the Sussexes didn't respect the Queen's request that they waited with making their decision public. It certainly showed poor judgment and disrespect to the Queen and other members of the family if that was the case. There might have been good reasons for making the decision public prematurely, but I can well understand the criticism on this point. I acknowledge how delicate the situation is, but I still feel the reactions to their decision to step back as senior members are far out of proportions. Allegations of «betrayal» etc. are really uncalled for. I also find many critical comments, especially in the social media, to be very one-sided.

I think Crown Prince Haakon of Norway put it so well when he earlier this week commented on «the Sussex drama»: – I think that everyone should «breathe with their stomach». And surely the will find good solutions.

Yes, I am personally both sad and disappointed about their decision. I think the Duke of Sussex has a great way of interacting and communicating with the public, and the Duchess and the Sussexes as a joint couple have made more than a promising start, even if there have been a few bumps in the way. One could of course have wished they waited this out a bit and that they would have overcome the challenges eventually. They clearly see it differently. And here we come to the very core: It is their life. They cannot be forced to live a life they are not happy about. In the end nothing would come out good for either parties – the royal family, the Sussexes and public. Yes, they live privileged lives, but they pay a high price for it, and they have found it to be too high and have decided for a different path.

Clearly there are complex issues to solve, and there are still many unanswered questions – about money, titles (which shouldn't be commercialised) and what kind of role they will play in the British society and abroad. Hopefully good solutions will be found.

The biggest question in my opinion is how the current and future senior members of the royal family will play their roles and how they will meet all the expectations. Most people had expected that the Sussexes would assist the Queen and her successors at least until the Cambridge kids were old enough to make engagements on their own. The number of working royals will in the future be lower, not only for natural reasons, but also because of the alleged decision to slim it down actively. How is this going to play out? The reduced number has to mean that the royal family cannot meet all the expectations and demands as today. Some changes are unavoidable, and the royals have to find their own way just like previous generations. I just hope that my reservations and feelings of uincertainty will prove me wrong.

Finally: Some people have wondered if it is now the time for the York princesses – despite the decisions of the Way Ahead Group that they should not be working royals – «to step up» to fill the gaps. But why would they wish to give up their rather independent lives now after so many years on the sideline?

15 January 2020

Norway: King Harald discharged from hospital

The Norwegian Royal Court released a short press statement earlier today informing that the king had been discharged from hospital, but that he was still on sick leave. King Harald was hospitalized on Wednesday last week after feeling dizzy and unwell. According to the court no serious illness has been found.

14 January 2020

Ari Behn's urn to be interred at Our Saviour's Cemetery in Oslo

Grave of Thomas Konow (1796–1881), member of the Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll in 1814, is buried at Our Saviour's Cemetery in Oslo. Photo: © 2016 Dag Trygsland Hoelseth.

Geir Håkonsund, who was the author and artist Ari Behn's manager and who has served as the family's spokesperson following Behn's death, informed yesterday that it has been the family's wish that the urn will be interred at Our Saviour's Cemetery (Vår Frelsers gravlund) in Oslo. The family didn't want to reveal the date of interment.

I can well understand that Behn's family wishes to keep the date to themselves, especially if the family wants a private ceremony in connection with the interment. Following Behn's tragic death, the family has shown a remarkable openness, so their wish to keep something private should be respected. The disclosure of the place of interment for a former member of the royal family could be described to be in the public interest to some extent. Unless the urn will be interred in an unnamed grave – something I doubt will happen in this regard – the information will appear in the public cemetery register after the interment. Usually when people die during winter time in Norway, the remains, if cremated, will be interred after the frost has gone out of the ground. Even if the winter has been quite mild so far, I suppose there will be a waiting period before the interment takes place. We will know in due time.

Our Saviour's Cemetery is perhaps the most famous cemetery in Norway and is often described as the «Père Laichaise» of Norway, the place where all the famous people are buried. The cemetery includes Æreslunden, the honorary burial ground, which has many notable interments – for instance the artist Edvard Munch and the authors Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Outside the honorary burial section there are also many other graves of historical interest. Even an ancestor of Hereditary Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein is bured in the cemetery. In general Our Saviour's Cemetery was the place to be buried for the upper-class and bourgeois, and there are many grand tombstones to see there. But there are many graves with «less-known» people interred there too. A great aunt and uncle of my wife are buried in Our Saviour's Cemetery as well, mainly because they used to live nearby.

The cemetery was opened in 1808 and was closed to new burials in 1911, the honorary section excepted. After 1911 one could only be buried at the cemetery if the lease of a grave had expired. According to the cemetery website as well as the booklet Her hviler ... Kjente personer på kirkegårdene i Oslo sentrum (by Øyvind Haaland, 1999) the practice of reusing graves after the lease had expired was stopped between 1952 and 2014. I am not sure if this description is entirely accurate, as there were many people interred in «expired graves» in that period, including my wife's relatives. Anyway, nowadays the cemetery allows urn interments in graves which lease has expired.

According to the website the cemetery has more than 4500 tombstones which are considered to be worth preserving and which cannot be removed after the lease of the grave has expired. In order to keep the cemetery's historical appearance it is not allowed to set up headstones with modern design. But one can reuse a grave including the old headstone and get the old inscription replaced by a new one.*

Earlier in January I wrote that «it is quite possible that the urn will be interred at Lommedalen Cemetery in Bærum», given that he resided in Bærum at the time of his death and given that his daughters still live there. No information was disclosed about interment was disclosed at the time. I can, however, well understand the choice of Our Saviour's Cemetery in Oslo. Not only because of the cemetery's historical value, but also for practical reasons. It will among others be easier for Ari's family in the Moss area to visit the cemetery, which is close to downtown Oslo, than to travel to Lommedalen in Bærum.

My earlier blog articles about Our Saviour's Cemetery in Oslo can be found here. More articles will follow later.

* Postscript 15 January 2020: I have to make an additional remark here. According to the Cemetery Administration in Oslo's annual report 2018, when the lease of a grave at Our Saviour's Cemetery has expired and is being reused, the headstone will be taken from an expired lease at another cemetery in Oslo. According to an e-mail from the cemetery administration today, there is an ethical explanation for this – former lease holders should not be exposed to recognizing the headstone which is being used.

Norway: King Harald still in hospital, expected to be discharged this week

King Harald of Norway, who was admitted to hospital last Wednesday for dizziness, is still in hospital, but is expected to be discharged this week. In a NTB interview published in Aftenposten on early Sunday evening, the Royal Court's head of communication, Guri Varpe, said that there were no changes since Friday, when the king's health was said to be improving. The head of communication told NTB that the Palace would release a statement when he was discharged.

When Crown Prince Haakon, who has been serving as Regent since his father was admitted to hospital, met the press in connection with his visit to the Norwegian Refugee Council's main office in Oslo on Monday, he said that the king was recovering and that they expeted that he would be home from hospital during the week. He added that his father was «quite well» considering the circumstances. – He was feeling dizzy and unwell, that was the reason why he was admitted to the hospital in the first place. There his health will be continually reviewed.