torsdag 21 april 2011

Nils-Erik Landell: Svartsjö, sagoslottet som speglar Sverige ("the fairy-tale palace that mirrors Sweden")

Nils-Erik Landell's book about the Svartsjö palace goes back to the 1100s to trace its earliest origins. Since 1345, there's been (a bit on and off) a royal demesne at Svartsjö. In the 1400s, a stone building was erected there, and Gustav Vasa and his sons had that rebuilt into a renaissance castle – which burned down in 1687, 107 years after it was finished.

In the 1700s, king Fredrik I had a Jagdschloss built there for his queen, Ulrika Eleonora. Architect Carl Hårleman constructed a magnificent rococo palace for her, and set the standard for grand countryside buildings for the rest of the century. In the 1770s, Carl Fredrik Adlercrantz (who also designed the magnificent Adolf Fredrik church in Stockholm, which you owe it to yourself to visit if you pass by near it) added the wings that makes the palace really imposing.

After Lovisa Ulrika's death in 1782, the palace was allowed to fall into disrepair. In 1891, it was turned into a forced labor institution for alcoholics and poor people. Later it took in criminals, and part of it was divided into 300+ cells. After 1966 it was abandoned as a prison, and once again allowed to fall into disrepair. Fortunately, it's been restored again during 1994-2003.

So does Landell's book do the palace justice? Not quite. There are quite a bit of tidbits of historical info to be gleaned from it, but unfortunately, the narrative is diluted with bits about this or that lovely flower that the author has seen in the palace park or surroundings interspersed here and there. The master of this sort of literary historical infotainment, the historically interested journalist Jolo, could get away with this sort of digression, because they were always interesting and illuminating in their own right, but Landell isn't the writer Jolo was, so if you don't share his botanical interests, your out of luck for the remainder of the digression.

So, a nice enough book, but it doesn't quite make it to the recommended-list.

Photo of palace by HansM, of interior by Udo Schröter; both photos via Wikipedia.

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