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Haga: Sweden's 'royal nursery' preps for a new arrival

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Haga: Sweden's 'royal nursery' preps for a new arrival
10:52 CEST+02:00
With a garden measuring nearly eight hectares complete with play areas, woods and other assorted parkland, Haga Palace isn't a bad playground for the upcoming addition to the Swedish royal family, The Local's Geoff Mortimore explains.

When Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Daniel moved into to Haga Palace in November 2010, it once again elevated the building to the status of a royal residence.

Now that Victoria is pregnant, the palace, which served as the first home of her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, is also set to reclaim its position as Sweden's "royal nursery", as the new baby will be the first royal child to be raised there in over 60 years.

”What makes it so significant, is that first and foremost, it is a royal palace, with special meaning for the king himself, who is one of many generations of royals to have grown up there,” Roger Lundgren, an expert on the Swedish Royal Family tells The Local.

”His own memories, as well as his sisters' of the house, were of an idyllic place to be until the tragic death of their father.”

Set on the magnificent grounds of Haga Park on the northern edge of central Stockholm, Haga Palace was built in 1802 by architect Carl Christoffer Gjörwell at the behest of Gustav IV Adolf.

Originally, the palace was designed to be more of a grand house than an official place of work, which goes some way to explaining a lack of grandeur more apparent in other castles of the time.

Interestingly, the four main columns made of Finnish marble which decorate the entrance of the palace represent an early example of recycling: they were originally used for the German church in Karlskrona in southern Sweden but became redundant when a fire destroyed the church in 1790.

The columns were subsequently purchased by Gustav IV Adolf and brought to Stockholm for Haga Palace.

The history of the building is also tinged with personal tragedy, however.

In 1947, Prince Gustav Adolf, the father of the current king of Sweden and then resident at Haga with his family, was killed in a plane crash at Kastrup Airport in Denmark, making nine-month-old Carl Gustaf the successor to the throne.

Carl Gustaf's mother decided to move the family out of the grander house and into another building on the grounds, which became known as Sibylla's apartments.

The main house meanwhile, was left more or less uninhabited until 1966 when it was turned into temporary accommodation for the government's foreign guests.

In 2009, just when it looked like the royal disconnect from the palace would become permanent, the Swedish government transferred the right of disposal of the palace back to the Royal Court in what was viewed as a sort of an early wedding gift to Victoria and Daniel.

In an interview with TV4, the crown princess said that it felt "extremely special" to be moving into the castle where her father grew up.

In many respects, the coming royal baby couldn't ask for a more idyllic setting to spend its childhood.

The palace, nestled among the trees along the shore of a small lake, is suitably large to offer privacy, and has the added attraction of easy access to all the attractions of the Swedish capital (when he or she is old enough, of all the city's nightspots, so enamoured by auntie Madeleine, will be just a short taxi ride away).

By choosing the palace as their residence and making it a family home, Victoria and Daniel are reverting to a tradition that seemed to be on the way out.

In addition, Victoria seems to have made a universally popular choice of home, with an abundance of of projects around to create a fairytale playground for the baby.

In a book about the royal wedding, Victoria described the palace and its grounds as a “real Pippi Longstocking home,” referencing the popular children's literature character featured in books by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.

In reality, however, the furniture and surroundings will be a little better looked after, and any royal pets are unlikely to enjoy the kind of free rein that Sweden's favourite cartoon character allowed her pet monkey Herr Nilsson.

Outside, the playhouse used by Gustav V still stands today.

At the time the palace was handed back to the Royal Court, it been barely been touched since 1966, and bearing in mind how long it's been since the pitter-patter of tiny feet has been heard around the grounds, there were likely a legion of reality TV producers positively drooling over the idea of a royal makeover series.

However, Victoria plumped for a more traditional renovation instead and it now enjoys the distinction of being the only playhouse in the country classified as a protected national monument.

Access to the playhouse is also probably one of few similarities in upbringing the pending royal child will share with its grandfather.

”We live in a very different time to the one when the last children grew up here. Because Haga Palace is so close to Stockholm it means that the media interest will be very intense at all times and security will of course also be an issue,” says Lundgren.

”When the current king was a child, to look after him, a single policeman sufficed. Now it will take full time security guards and 24-hour camera surveillance, but I suppose that's a sign of the times. What the family took for granted then, is simply unthinkable today.”

While Victoria and her family will undoubtedly have tighter security than her father did, that doesn't mean they will be totally cut off from the public in their new home.

As Haga Palace sits in a popular public park, it's still not unthinkable that anyone going for a stroll next spring along Haga Park's tree-lined paths might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Victoria and Daniel and the newest addition to the Royal Family.

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