Tuesday 16 October 2007

Danish monarchy: Politiken interviews Trine Villemann

Still on the controversial book 1015 København K, Politiken has published an interview with Trine Villemann. This is a translated summary from the interview by Tommy Grøn titled 'Forfatter: Vi fortjener et bedre monarki' (15 October 2007)

Author: We deserve a better monarchy

Here a reporter from Politiken questions Trine Villemann about her new book:

“I call it a loving and critical portrait because it describes the DRF for better or for worse. It shows with some bite and grounding what the royals are like as people. It shows a side of them of which most Danes are not aware.

All in all I believe the DRF are doing well, but they could do much better. The Queen has been a formidable Regent who has done fantastic work for Denmark, but it’s time that she hands over 'the shop' to Crown Prince Frederik. She would serve the monarchy best by doing that,” says Trine Villemann, the Enlightened One, and adds that it should happen in 2012 at the latest.

”I don’t think the Queen was a particularly good mother. She had to raise a Crown Prince – to make him comfortable in the role that awaits him. I think she has failed as both mother and Regent and that failure is a major reason why today we have a Crown Prince who does not want to be king. In time he has come to terms with the idea of becoming king, but he is not at ease about it. He is 40 years old but he is lost in his role. He doesn’t know what to do.”

Trine Villemann asked for an interview with Frederik, but he declined, ostensibly because he didn't wish to discuss his future, because it corresponds with his own role in relation his mother's death.

The episode about Mary breaking down in tears on the dance floor is also mentioned.
“I tell that story to show how difficult it is to be a little, quite ordinary Australian girl from Hobart, who is catapulted into a royal menagerie. With all the expectations and all the pressure resting on her shoulders, it’s no wonder she breaks down. Who wouldn’t?”

Trine Villemann also describes Mary as a reserved, emotionless person presenting a facade and acting in a way she believes a princess should act.

Alexandra and Joachim are also treated lovingly.

”Alexandra is a very un-Danish, determined woman with pointed elbows. She wants something with her life and her family life. She comes from a tradition where you have responsibility for your parents. When she met Joachim, Hong Kong was in panic due to the Chinese take over. Stocks were crashing and many fled abroad. Alexandra saw Prince Joachim as a man who could secure her own and her parents' future.

On the other hand, was Alexandra just the right foreign girl Joachim knew they would love at Amalienborg? He had just ended a five year long relationship with a Danish girl (Iben Detlef), who would never become princess. I don’t say Alexandra and Joachim didn’t like each other, but the whole basis for the marriage was wrong. They should never have been married.”

Unfortunately Trine Villmann will not disclose the reason why Joachim and Alexandra got divorced out of concern for Nikolai and Felix. She will leave that to some other writer… But the divorce had to be mentioned after all, because people talk about it anyway.

As to the question about not finding sources willing to stand up [publically], she replies:

”I would bloody well have liked them to, and that has been my major concern about this book. It hasn’t been an easy decision to continue working with the project when it dawned on me that people would not stand up out in the open. But I decided to push on, because the Danes deserve to be told why we have the monarchy we have today.

However I must say – as a journalist – that I’ve been surprised about the indignation the use of anonymous sources has caused. All other journalists also use anonymous sources. No one is yelling about that, but because it’s the DRF, it’s a big scandal”.

”Listen now. The royals could just reply. It says nowhere in the Constitution that they cannot defend themselves. … It’s a myth that the royals cannot defend themselves. If the Crown Prince will say that he is not bone-idle, or if he will present his plans for the monarchy for the next 30 years – let him come out and say it. Let’s have a dialogue.”

”The Danes do not have the monarchy we deserve and I don’t understand why we tolerate it. While other monarchies develop and adapt, the Danish one stands still. Most other regents pay some sort of income tax and the Belgian king, for example, turns in a tax form every year. We give 200 million DKK to the monarchy, while there isn't money for hospital equipment and cancer treatment. Of course the DRF contributes something, but not enough.”.

”I cannot understand either why we tolerate the underhand payoffs in the monarchy. If for example you make sure that the royal wine cellar is full, you are invited to all the fancy parties. How can Danes tolerate those with economic interests buying their way into the monarchy? Why don’t the royals have to report the gifts they receive? (To the IRS) Why don’t they pay taxes? Why is that bad? And why don’t we have a debate about that? It’s like this, just because I use anonymous sources, you can’t take my book seriously and that’s a pity.”

The reactions to her book here on the day of publication have been harsh, but she claims she has also received ”sweet e-mails” commending her for the book. (written by Tommy Grøn, and summary translated by Muhler, thanks! and edited by lotte)

Some notes for context. Politiken is a newspaper with more or less a social democrat/republican viewpoint and is one of the 'serious' Danish newspapers. Danish humour can be very dry, most Australians will get that since their humour can be similar, but readers should keep that in mind since it is there in the way the journalist has written the piece.

Referring to Alexandra as "un-Danish" seems quite below the belt. To accuse someone of being un-fill-in-the-nationality is a common enough refrain from people in many countries with supposed "pure" notions of national identity. We know this from history and we know it in the present and its name is intolerance.

We at the blog are not Danish, so there are issues relating to ideas and debates in Denmark we cannot comment on. We can say the Queen is on record as having reflected on and being critical of her own mothering. At a common sense level, who is a perfect parent and who doesn't learn from their mistakes? The Queen has commented on these matters for all the world to hear. In her favour, it is not likely to be an easy job to raise a crown prince and king. Most of the rest of us do not have to do this or reveal our most intimate family matters to the world, so this would have to fall into that strange category of what it is to be royal in a constitutional monarchy. Likewise Frederik's reluctance to talk of being king. It only happens once his mother has died and it is a comfort somehow that he might find that a painful and difficult subject.

Paying tax is a political issue to be dealt with or not as Danes and their politicians see fit, just as it has been in other countries where this change has happened.

A difference between what Villemann says in Denmark and what she has said in Australia about Mary?

Today (5:38) interview in English with Trine Villemann on the Nine Network

Talking of humour, here's another Australian response at Crikey.com

'Princess Mary: Diana with a Dane'
Monday, 15 October 2007
Guy Rundle in Uppsala, writes:

Members of Scandinavia's Australian expat community are currently in training in a secret location for a daring raid to rescue one of our own - our Mary, Princess of Denmark, prisoner of the casttle.

According to Copenhagen 1015-K, an expose by veteran Danish royal watcher Trine Villemann (the title is the royals' postcode, it's a 90210 reference), Crown Prince Frederik never really wanted to be married, doesn't want to be King, and won't stop visiting his old girlfriends, a string of blonde, long-legged great Danes. Big women I mean, not dogs. This is Frederik, not Charles.

Mary hides in the castle from her dysfunctional in-laws, and from the Danish vowel pronunciation system, which even Danish children find impossible to learn.

According to reports in Denmark's Kvallposten, after being with Frederik when he met old girlfriend Bettin Odum at a fortieth birthday, "Mary bröt samman av svartsjuka och började gråta inför alla gästerna."

Which either means she bought salmon and then was sick all over it, or broke down and began to cry in front of all the guests. The latter I think.

Apparently Fred just wants to hang out with friends, while his younger brother Prince Joachim is more kinglike.

Our Mary is being unfavourably compared to Joachim's regal ex-wife Alexandra, and it's all wearing her down Diana-style, which is why first Kon-Tiki force is going in. Mind you, she should have realised on first meeting that her future in-laws' family were the raw material for Hamlet - at which point it would have been smart to slip out of the Slip Inn.

Many are saying that contrary to tradition it might have been better if Frederik had chosen a wife from among the Danish. Person not pastry. Though Princess Neenish was much loved before the First World War before being tragically eaten by Edward VII.



Blogger Sternchen said...

Funny, why doesn't she live in Denmark and pay taxes, if she is soooo concerned about Denmark...

11:24 pm  
Blogger Mom In Heels said...

Clearly this is a dramatization by the author but realistically no marriage is perfect and couples have their moments of discontent. I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that while Mary and Frederick live in a fairytale setting they are real people with real life issues and a real marriage that has its ups and downs.

7:56 pm  
Blogger Sternchen said...

Exactly this is why I think you can't believe anything she wrote. If he really loved Katja, he would have fought for the love. Apparently he didn't.

Plus I don't think she knows anything about Alexandra and Joachim.

We are always told, that the friends are so good at keeping mum, and not disclosing anything, so I can't believe, that they would do an exception for her :)

9:06 am  
Blogger Trine Villemann said...

The translation of my Politiken interview is very fair, BUT the commentary afterwards is not. When I said, that Alexandra is very un-Danish, it was meant as a compliment and NOT as a reference to race. Having lived in many places around the world and depended on the kindness of other nationalities, I would never, ever make the kind of comment that your "translator" is suggesting.

8:49 pm  
Blogger lotte said...

Hi Trine,

Thank you for the praise of our translator, he does wonderful service in translating Danish texts. His contribution in getting the Danish news perspective into English for non-Danes to understand cannot be underestimated and has become an important feature of the blog. Thanking him is never done lightly here, since his hard work is a bridge from Danish to English and even more than just language, helps to give an insight into Danish culture.

The comments after the translation are mine. I accept you may be aggrieved by the comment on Alexandra being "un-Danish" - a comment which you nevertheless did make in Danish. "Alexandra er en meget udansk, målrettet kvinde med spidse albuer..." is translated, fairly as you say, as "Alexandra is a very un-Danish, determined woman with pointed elbows." Obviously there is something lost in translation if you see this as a compliment.

Your statement that it isn’t so is noted. It may well be that I have attached meaning to it from the English-speaking zeitgeist which you did not intend. However, my apology will be withheld for the time being. Should I find evidence of different thinking than that which is implied, I will be more than happy to say so here on the blog in future.

You must be aware that in many countries there is a well established political-speak, which refers to anyone who does not follow some ill-defined notion of being “un” some nation, is equated with being unpatriotic and a problematic citizen. The political-speak has been around for a long time and is a well-established, generalised notion in many national cultures on all sides of the global political, geographical and cultural divide. You must also be aware there are various nuanced sub-texts implicit in these kinds of labels.

Speaking of labels, you seem pretty happy to have written a book full of them, judging by the promotional stuff so far. Of course, I can’t presume to comment more extensively since I haven’t read the book. But going on your comments so far, cultural insensitivity isn’t only reserved for Alexandra. You have a Eurocentric view of Mary which is also problematic. Mind you, you are not the only one to have this viewpoint. I see it as a very prevalent view of Mary among the Danish media and royalty watchers generally and it is very telling.

You say “a little, quite ordinary Australian girl from Hobart” (“…en lille, helt almindelig australsk pige fra Hobart…) and in the Today interview you say of Mary “… you have this commoner girl, you know, from Hobart, Tasmania, who grew up in an ordinary family with an ordinary set of values…”. I for one do not see this as a problem, but it seems to be loaded with issues for you. Also from the Today interview: “…she is Mary Donaldson, she’s not Queen Ingrid, she was not born as a princess”. Yes, we know. (to see it, copy & paste: http://ninemsn.video.msn.com/v/en-au/v.htm?g=f4b73a63-50fe-40d4-9b15-5f8b86e287a2&f=39&fg=copy)

Another premise from the Today interview: Danish women are the only women who can be beautiful, intelligent, strong? Seems like a pretty insulting idea of Australian women in the first instance, or indeed any women who are not “born royal” or who are not Danish in the second. The Australian hosts of the show picked up on the “commoner” tag and that Mary is not accepted. Food for thought, although from my observation here at the blog, this is not an overwhelming problem.


10:40 am  

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