Queen Maud – 150 years
Written by Communication Adviser Reidun Solheim
To many people, Queen Maud seemed haughty and aloof. But hiding behind this façade was a vivacious and energetic personality.
November 2019 marked 150 years since the birth of Queen Maud. It was an occasion to look back at her life and to admire the royal costume collection.
A reticent princess
In large crowds, the queen was generally reserved and self-conscious. She never gave a public speech, and as far as we know, no recording of her voice was ever made. Many people spoke of her as “Her Royal Shyness”, yet among her family and close friends Maud was considered quick-witted, exuberant and thoroughly unpretentious.
In 1891, restaurant guests were shocked to see a young woman light a cigarette in broad daylight. It is said that, when the royal household learnt that the woman in question was Princess Maud of Wales, it was too much for some of the ladies present. In the words of a correspondent for the Akershus Amtstidende:
After coffee, the unmarried woman took from her pocket an elegant cigarette case, lit a cigarette, and smoked it with complete nonchalance (…). Apparently, when news of this behaviour (…) reached the Palace, several of the older ladies-in-waiting fainted.
An outdoor queen
In 1896, Princess Maud married Prince Carl of Denmark. In 1905, Prince Carl was elected King of Norway and took the name Haakon VII. As his wife, Maud ascended the throne beside him, becoming the first queen of an independent Norway since 1319. Their son Alexander became crown prince and was named Olav.
The small family moved from Copenhagen to Kristiania, where for the first time the Royal Palace became the residence of a reigning monarch. The following year, the royal couple were crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
Queen Maud immediately fell in love with Norwegian nature. In a private letter dated 22nd March 1906, she wrote:
We lived more or less outdoors and went skiing, tobogganing and sleigh riding. It was wonderful to be out in the deep snow in bright sunshine.
Maud was very fond of outdoor activities. She danced, cycled, went horse-riding, and enjoyed gardening and walking her dogs. In the winter, she went tobogganing or skiing as often as she could, if possible twice a day.
The queen was also interested in interior design, fashion and photography. One of her favourite colours was pink. It is a recurrent colour in the so-called Queen’s Room at Stiftsgården in Trondheim and in many of the gala dresses she wore. Her daily life is captured in forty-four photo albums, now in the keeping of the Royal Palace.
Solicitous and fond of animals
Everyone who was close to Queen Maud described her as an exceptionally warm and generous person. She gave liberally to charitable causes, often with self-effacing discretion so as not to distract from the cause itself.
Maud loved dogs, of which she had a total of eleven. Several photos exist of her accompanied by miniature pinschers, her favourite breed. According to the Norwegian Kennel Club, it was Queen Maud who first introduced this breed to Norway in 1905.
With the approach of Christmas, Maud would prepare her presents well in advance. Christmas presents for family and friends were always chosen by her personally. When she died on 20th November 1938, that year’s gifts were ready and waiting.
Queen Maud’s wardrobe in the National Museum
Queen Maud’s coronation dress, evening gowns and gala dresses, leisure outfits, shoes and roller skates, bags and gloves together form a major segment of the National Museum’s costume collection. Many of these roughly 600 items are associated with stories about Maud’s life, the history of Norway or the world of international fashion.
During World War II, much of Maud’s wardrobe was moved to the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo. As the threat of German invasion drew closer, two courageous chamber maids, Hilda Cooper and Violet Wond, took it upon themselves to carry the items from the palace to the museum. Together with the clothes, they handed over invaluable written records of when the various garments had been used and where they came from. Since then, the royal family has made further generous donations, helping to build the museum’s royal costume collection into what it is today.
Several of the royal garments and accessories will feature prominently in the exhibition of the museum’s collection when the new National Museum opens in 2022.
By searching within the museum’s collection online you will find a range of items from the royal costume collection. To learn still more about Queen Maud and her wardrobe, you can read Style & Splendour: The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway 1896–1938 by Anne Kjellberg, former senior curator at the National Museum.