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Bygdø Royal Farm

Bygdø Royal Farm is situated on the Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo. It is owned by the state and is at the King’s disposal.

King Haakon VII and Queen Maud used to spend the summer there, and King Olav V followed the custom until his death in 1991. For a period after King Olav's death, Bygdø was not in use, but from 2007 King Harald and Queen Sonja resumed the tradition of using Bygdø Royal Farm as their summer residence.

History

Bygdø Royal Farm occupies a very special place in Norwegian history. No other country property has been in royal hands for such a long time; it has been owned or used by Norwegian monarchs almost continuously since 1305, when Haakon V Magnusson gave the property to his young Queen Eufemia. Thus for the last 700 years the farm’s history has reflected that of the changing royal houses – first the Norwegian, then the Danish-Norwegian monarchs, then Swedish-Norwegian house of Bernadotte; now, since 1905, it is back in purely Norwegian hands.

The farm dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was the property of the monastery on the island of Hovedøya, in the inner Oslo Fjord. At the beginning of the 19th century the Royal Family began spending time there, and King Christian Frederik resided here during the few months of his reign in 1814. It was in the Garden Room that he received the deputation from the Storting to whom he presented his abdication, on 10 October 1814. In 1837 King Carl Johan bought Bygdø Royal Farm from the state. He had the French Baroque garden re-landscaped in the more natural English style, and enlarged the lake to its current size. The property remained in royal hands until 1863, when King Carl IV sold it back to the state. The Storting then placed it at the king’s disposal.

Summer residence

A new era in the history of the farm began in 1905, when King Haakon VII and Queen Maud began using the farm as their permanent summer residence. They enjoyed the rural setting, and the Queen was able to pursue her interest in gardening. King Olav continued to spend the summer there throughout his reign. Rehabilitation of he main house with its interiors and the park was begun in 2003 and finished in summer 2007, and the present King and Queen will begin now using it as their summer residence.

A country estate

The park at Bygdø is one of the best examples of an upper class 17-18th-century country house in Norway. At that time it was the custom in all the Scandinavian countries for the upper classes to spend the winter in the city and move to estates in the surrounding countryside during the summer. The estates were actively farmed in order to supply the owner’s needs in town during the winter months. This custom was maintained at Bygdø from the beginning of the 17th century right up to King Olav’s death in 1991.

On 1 January 2004 the user rights to the farm and the estate were at King Harald’s request transferred to the Norwegian Folk Museum and the state respectively.

Architecture

The present main house was built by Count Christian Rantzau, Vice Regent from 1731 to 1739, as his summer residence. By 1734 the house was complete and the property had been redesigned in the contemporary Baroque style, in which the main house was the axis around which the rest of the estate was centred, including a Baroque garden close to the house.

The main house is a fine example of Norwegian early Baroque panel architecture, and although it has been renovated a number of times, the exterior has retained all the elements of this style. The most important rooms however, are in a slightly later style, from around 1750 to roughly 1810, while the arch rooms on the second and third floors, and the smaller rooms on the first floor, were brought up to date in the early 20th century.

The park

The main building and garden are designed to complement each other. The development of the garden reflects the history of Norwegian landscape gardening from the early 18th century to the first decades of the 20th.

There has probably been a garden on this location since the Middle Ages. The first written sources, from about 1700, mention a garden in the Renaissance style, but in 1780 Lord Lieutenant Albert Philip Levezau began redesigning it in the Baroque style. The work was completed by Count Fredrik Moltke in 1795. As the 19th century progressed, the style became increasingly Romantic, until in 1840 the whole garden had become Romantic parkland.

Queen Maud continued to develop the English landscape style during the period 1911-1938. From 1950 to 1980 new plants were sown but no structural changes were made.

After the death of King Olav the park was somewhat neglected and began to grow wild, but in 2003 restoration work begun that was completed by summer 2007, when the King and Queen resumed the tradition of using Bygdø as summer residence.

09.11.2012

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