28 February 2011

Pretenders to the former monarchies of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya

It has been fascinating to witness through the media how the unrest in Tunisia, which ended with the fall of the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has spread to other Arab countries this winter. President of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was the next one out, and it is today obvious that it is only a question of time before the regime lead by the "Guide of the Revolution" and de facto head of state, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, goes into history too.

As of today most Arab monarchies seem to be safe, including the monarchy of Morocco. The weekly magazine Time published an interesting article on the subject on 22 February 2011, Protests in Morocco: Just Don't Call It a Revolution. But it is impossible to predict what could happen in the weeks and months to come.

Monarchists and "royalty watchers" are discussing the possibility of a restoration of the throne in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in various forums. I sincerely doubt that there is any considerable support of restoration in any of these countries, but the pretenders might play a role in their respective homeland if they should wish to.

As far as I know the former King of Egypt, (Ahmed) Fouad II, has not publically commented on the events in his home country since the Mubarak regime was toppled. He doesn't seem interested in the question of restoration at all, but its idea has at least some supporters, and two Facebook groups have been created, Restore the Egyptian Monarchy and King Fouad II. The Wall Street Journal's online version had an interesting interview with the former king last year, by the way.

I have not read any news about the pretender to the Tunisian throne, who according to the Royal Ark is Prince (Sidi) Muhammad Bey, b. 1928, but there could of course be articles in Arabic on the subject.

But the pretender to the Libyan throne, Crown Prince Sayyid Muhammad, b. 1962, a grand-nephew to the last King, Idris I, has got some media attention lately, including giving an interview to the TV channel Al Jazeera last week. He didn't rule out the question of restoration, but wisely enough wanted to focus on how to stop the bloodshed. He appeared to be a well-meaning and sympathetic man, although somewhat powerless. It is difficult to say how well-known he is in Libya and how large his contact net is, but if he really wants to build up a support base he needs to travel to the Eastern part of Libya, now controlled by the opposition, and start from there. The Sanussi dynasty has its roots in the Eastern part - Idris was Emir of Cyrenaica before he became King of Libya. Regardless of the chances of restoration, it is nice to see that the flag of the Kingdom of Libya now has become a symbol of freedom and will most likely replace the current flag in due time.

Updated on Monday 28 February 2011 at 23.00 (typo corrected).


23 February 2011

The Norwegian Royal Family and Court in the 1909 and 1910 censuses

1 December 2010 was a great day for all the genealogists in Norway. That was the day when the National Census of 1910 was finally released. A Christmas present in advance! The genealogists threw themselves into searching as soon as midnight had passed. 

For the first time in 50 years a national census became public. The 1900 census was made available already in 1960. But the 1907 statistics act contained a clause enforcing a 100-year census closure, hence the long wait.

The Digital Archives/National Archives of Norway informed prior to the release:
The National Census of 1910 contains over 2 million persons with residence in Norway. In this census one was particularly interested in the population’s nationality. The government also wanted numbers on Norwegians who had returned to Norway after they emigrated to USA. This census contains information on when they emigrated and when they returned, where they lived in USA and their occupation. 19.000 persons are registered as “returned emigrants”.
The online version of the 1910 Census will be published with all the information searchable, names, addresses, birth dates etc.
One important change compared to the 1900 census was that the complete birth date should be given and not only for those under 2 years as in 1900. It was the sixth national census to take place (earlier censuses took place in 1801, 1865, 1875, 1891 and as already mentioned in 1900). 

One of the first things I checked after the census release was the information about the members of the royal family. I discovered that it was impossible to find any of the royals – King Haakon VII, Queen Maud and Crown Prince Olav! The National Archives informed at its website that for Drammensveien 1, where the Royal Palace was situated (current address is Henrik Ibsens gate 1, the name changed in 2006), one of 3 family lists was missing! From the information given I gathered that the list would be added in February 2011, but on 2 February 2011 I was told that the situation with the missing family list for the royal family was permanent. Obviously lost for good. No particular reason was stated. 

Fortunately the lost family list can be compensated by the municipal censuses. The first municipal census in Kristiania was held in 1863, and between 1867 and 1954 censuses were conducted (with some exceptions) annually. The 1907 statistics act did not affect the municipal censuses, which only have a 60 years closure. 

In other words, we have for many years had access to information about the royal family in the municipal censuses, the only difference is of course that  it has not been digitalised (there is a digitalisation project going on for the 1923 census, see more information here). 

No municipal census was held in 1911 because the national census 1910 had just been carried out, so the closest thing would be the municipal census held in 1909. The Oslo City Archives has kindly provided scanned versions of the family lists for Drammensveien 1, 1909. The first list (pdf file, 161 kB) shows the members of the royal family and some of the staff members. No surprise there - the king is listed in the column «Fullt navn» («Complete name») as «H.M. Kong Haakon VII». Actually the Kristiania [Oslo] citizens were asked to state «Samtlige døpenavne og tilnavne. Det døpenavn, som brukes til daglig, understrekes» («All the given names and call names. The given name that is in daily use should be underlined»). The king obviously dropped to state the names he was given at his christening in 1872 (7 September, to be exact) – Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel). Same thing for Queen Maud (Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria) and Crown Prince Olav (Alexander Edward Christian Frederik). 

Other names on the lists included the butler, A.E. Searle (Arthur Edward Searle), who was born in 1864 and as I understand it worked for the then Prince Carl and Princess Maud of Denmark in Copenhagen before he moved to the Royal Palace in Kristiania when they became King and Queen of Norway in 1905. He died in 1953 and is buried in a common grave at Vestre gravlund (cemetery), cf. the cemetery register Disnorge.no/gravminner (id. 754191). The birth date given in the census (20 September 1864) differs from the date given in the cemetery register (19 September). If I have found the right Arthur Edward Searle in the England 1891 census (Ancestry.com), he was born at Haggerston, London and in 1891 he lived at 16 Portland Road, Marylebone, where he worked for Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar. I am certain that this is the same person listed in An Online Gotha as Prince Wilhelm August Eduard (1823-1902) of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, who was married to Lady Augusta Gordon-Lennox (1827-1904).

The list from the Kristiania 1909 census also shows the name of Annie Butler, b. 17 June 1869, who was the «Bonne» («nanny») of Crown Prince Olav. According to Jo Benkow’s biography Olav – menneske og monark, 1991, she was related to the later Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947), and according to Kjell Arnljot Wig’s interview book from 1977, Kongen ser tilbake, a nephew of her was stationed in Oslo after the war. In Halldis Bomhoff's published diary Sir Thomas Pierce Butler, Bt. (1910-1994), who according to Who’s Who (my notes from the late 1990s unfortunately don’t say which edition) was commander of a «Guards Composite battallion» in Norway in 1945-46. His regiment was the Grenadier Guards, which he later commanded. But this Sir Thomas Pierce Butler was the son of Sir Richard Pierce Butler, Bt. (1872-1955), who had no sister named Annie according to Burke’s, 1970. Anyway, in Halldis Bomhoff’s book Min lille prins. Dagbok fra kronprins Olavs første skoletid, 1992 (Bomhoff was Crown Prince Olav's first private teacher) one can read that Annie Butler left in February 1911. According to King Olav (Benkow: 1991), Miss Butler had to leave her post because she had become a suffragette. King Olav claimed it was his grandfather, King Edward VII, who had got involved and made sure that she had to leave, but this doesn’t match up if she left Kristiania in February 1911, several months after King Edward VII died. 

But I am way off track now! I mentioned that the family list which included King Haakon VII was missing from the 1910 national census. But other lists of people living at Drammensveien 1 survived, including the above-mentioned Arthur Edward Searle as well as Annie Butler. 

The other pdf file (2137 kB) which the Oslo City Archives has provided shows not only the royal family in the 1909 municipal census, but also the many other staff members some of them with families - living at different buildings on the property. Examples are the «slottsforvalter» («Palace Superintendent»), architect Hjalmar Welhaven (1850-1922), and coachman Johan Karlsen Omberg. All in all 57 persons had Drammensveien 1 as their address in 1909.

  • Information at Digitalarkivet.no or Arkivverket.no (direct links provided in the text above), including the National Census 1910
  • Information at the Oslo City Archives
  • An Online Gotha. Saxony
  • Who's Who
  • Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 1970
  • Hvem er hvem? 1912, 1934
  • Bomhoff, Halldis. Min lille prins. Dagbok fra kronprins Olavs første skoletid, Oslo: Gyldendal, 1992, pp. 18-22
  • Benkow, Jo. Olav - menneske og monark, Oslo: Gyldendal, 1991, pp. 53-54
  • Wig, Kjell Arnljot. Kongen ser tilbake, Oslo: Cappelen, 1977, p. 14.  
 Updated on Sunday 6 May 2012 at 00.10 (one half-finished sentence corrected), last time 7 November 2013 (link corrected).

22 February 2011

Senator John Thune not running for president

The Republican Senator John Thune from South Dakota has in a statement today informed that he will not run for president in 2012. Thune, who has Norwegian roots, has by many commentators been viewed as an outsider or dark horse candidate, and some have, although doubting his chances, viewed him as a potential vice president candidate for Mitt Romney, who currently has a very small lead in the polls.

RealClearPolitics believes that Thune's decision not to run will allow him "to move up in the Senate" by going for the whip position. A strengthened position in the Senate might give him a better chance in 2016, who knows?

I still hope to work more on his ancestry. His grandfather Nikolai Nilsen Gjelsvik was born at Gjelsvik in Vevring (today in Askvoll municipality) and emigrated to the United States in 1906. I have posted some notes on his ancestry at Digitalarkivet's users' forum and don't think it will be difficult to trace more of his ancestors.

See also The New York Times' and The Washington Post's articles on John Thune's decision to pass on the 2012 presidential run.


21 February 2011

UK: No official guest list for the royal wedding to be released

Clarence House issued a press release on Saturday 19 February 2011 by which we were told that the press office will not release "the names of individual invitees" in connection with the royal wedding on 29 April 2011. I checked the official website of the Prince of Wales before posting my last blog article yesterday, but obviously I must have overlooked the press release somehow. This means that there is no reason to look forward to the day when the guest list is finally released by the court, as I wrote in my first blog article yesterday.

The court did not give an explanation for the decision not to release the names of individual invitees, but I guess that security and/or privacy considerations could be the reason. I thought that security could be an issue also at other royal marriages in the past, but it didn't stop the respective courts from publishing a guest list. There might be more threats against the British royal family than against other royal families, but I still find it difficult to understand what difference a decision not to publish a guest list would make.

It will, however, not be too difficult to compile a guest list in connection with the royal wedding. Some courts will confirm the names of their representatives and the other names will be listed after they have been spotted on tv. People at Nobiliana.de and the other royalty discussion forums are usually very good at this, so we can expect that a full list of royals and other dignitaries will appear on several websites soon after the wedding has taken place.

The press release mentioned above says that "Over 40 Members of Foreign Royal Families" have been invited, which is quite different from Mail Online's headline, which says "40 crowned heads to attend William and Kate's big day". If Mail Online by "crowned heads" mean "royal heads of state", then they can not have spent much time on fact checking. Wouldn't 30 be more correct, cf. my Longest reigns survey? Anyway, I would gather that among the 40 or more members of foreign royal families there will be more heirs than monarchs. Well, time will show!


20 February 2011

UK: Invitations arrive for Royal wedding (Daily Telegraph)

Just when I had finished my last blog article about the guest list for the British Royal Wedding in April this year, I went to the website of the Sunday Telegraph and found a new article on the subject, Invitations arrive for Royal wedding.

The article says that 1900 people have been invited to the royal wedding. 600 of these have also been invited to the lunch time reception, while 300 will have the pleasure of attending the dinner at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Prince of Wales. According to the article, the numbers include 40 members of foreign royal families.

Updated on Sunday 20 February 2011 at 19.35 (minor correction concerning name).


Sarah, Duchess of York not invited to the British Royal Wedding after all?

In January this year, the British tabloid Daily Mail claimed to know that Sarah, Duchess of York, the former wife of the Duke of York (Prince Andrew), was to receive an invitation to the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. I wrote at the time that I would not be surprised if it was true (thankfully I made all the necessary reservations). Although the former duchess has no "right" to an invitation and has been an embarrassement to the British Royal Family too often, an invitation to the church ceremony would make the royal family look generous and one would avoid all the attention such a "non-invitation" would bring. Then again, I know that one should usually have other reasons for inviting someone to a wedding than to avoid negative press attention...

On Friday 18 February 2011 we were told by The Daily Telegraph that Sarah, Duchess of York has not been invited to the wedding, and the article - its source was a statement by a spokesman for the former wife of the Duke of York - seems more reliable than the Daily Mail's speculations last month. So now we have to live with headlines like "Princess Diana's close friend not invited to wedding" instead...

Earlier this month we were told by The Independent - which is not the most reliable newspaper in my opinion - that Princess Michael, wife of a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, was not going to be invited, on instruction by the Prince of Wales, even! If this is true, I would find it more strange than the possible decision not to invite Sarah, Duchess of York. Although Princess Michael is only the wife of Prince William's first cousin twice removed, she is after all a member of the royal family. I am still sceptical about the accuracy of the said article, though. There will surely be many speculations in the days and weeks ahead. I am looking forward to the day when the guest list is finally released by the court...

Updated on Monday 21 February 2011 at 12.15 (minor language mistake).


19 February 2011

Best men at Norwegian Crown Prince weddings

It did not come as a big surprise when the news arrived a few days ago (see Telegraph.co.uk 14 February 2011) that Prince William of Wales had asked his brother Prince Henry ("Harry") to act as his best man at the royal wedding on 29 April 2011. Kate Middleton's maid of honour will be her sister Philippa.

Also in Norway it has been the tradition that close family members have acted as best man, as we have seen at the 3 Crown Prince weddings that have taken place since Norway chose a new royal dynasty in 1905. It is no big news that the then Crown Prince Olav's first cousin - the then Duke of York, later King George VI - acted as his best man when he married Princess Märtha of Sweden in 1929. The Duke of York did his duty in Vår Frelsers kirke (Our Saviour's Church, today Oslo domkirke/Oslo Cathedral) on 21 March 1929. But formally it was Crown Prince Olav's aide-de-camp, Captain Nikolai Ramm Østgaard, who was the Crown Prince' "forlover" ("sponsor", as
the banns records 1929 states.

The marriage act 1918 (as the present 1991 act also does) required that "Each of the parties to the marriage shall provide a sponsor who shall solemnly declare that he or she knows the said party well, and shall inform whether the said party has previously contracted a marriage and whether the parties to the marriage are related to each other" (as described otherwise in the said act).
Each sponsor had to sign a declaration in this regard. Of course it was more practical that the aide-de-camp signed the papers. Just a formality, of course, and the Duke of York should still be referred to as Crown Prince Olav's best man in the history books. But Captain Østgaard's role is perhaps worth a footnote, or at least a blog article? :-)

Princess Märtha's "forlover" (sponsor) was her father Prince Carl's Kammarherre (Chamberlain) Friherre (Baron) Nils Fredrik Stiernstedt.

When then Crown Prince Harald, today King Harald V, married Sonja Haraldsen on 29 August 1968, he had chosen his first cousin Count Flemming of Rosenborg (formerly Prince Flemming of Denmark) as his best man. But the person who signed the sponsor declaration was his aide-de-camp, Stein Evju, as
the banns records 1968 shows (no. 21). Ilmi Riddervold was Sonja Haraldsen's maid of honour, and she also signed the declaration herself. Much easier when you live in the city.

When Crown Prince Haakon married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby in 2001, his best man was his third cousin, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Reading the banns in church was not compulsory by law then, and the "forlovererklæring" (sponsor declaration) is not (yet) a public record, so at present we do not know if Crown Prince Frederik actually signed the declaration himself, or if someone at the court did in his place.

The arrangements described above was not unusual for commoners as well. When Queen Sonja's uncle Rolf Ulrichsen (1892-1967) married Isborg Dahl in 1926, his friend Viggo Seaward acted as his best man (see Skien parish register copy no. 10
Marriage records 1926, p. 288 (no. 48), while his brother-in-law (?) Halvor Dahl had signed the declaration (banns records 1926 (no. 39)). The couple later divorced, by the way, and Rolf later remarried (a woman named Sonja!).

Banns records for the marriages of Princess Ragnhild and Erling Lorentzen in 1953 and Princess Astrid and Johan Martin Ferner in 1961 - both couples got married in Asker - don't seem to be available at
The Digital Archives.


UK: Consent of the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton

At the Privy Council meeting at Buckingham Palace held on 9 February 2011 HM The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland formally gave her consent of the marriage between HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton. I was abroad at the time and didn't have time to do anything on my blog this week until today. The declaration of consent has been posted on several discussion forums already, but just for the record I post it here as well:
At the Court at Buckingham Palace




Her Majesty in Council was this day pleased to make the following Declaration.

Judith Simpson


I declare My Consent to a Contract of Matrimony between My Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, which Consent I am causing to be signified under the Great Seal and to be entered in the Books of the Privy Council.


Counsellors present were the Rt Hon Nick Clegg (Lord President), the Rt Hon Michael Moore and the Rt Hon Chris Grayling. I suppose that the declaration of consent of the marriage between Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall will come at a Privy Council meeting in the spring.

I will also add the declaration to my website in due time.