- The original property purchased by then Crown Prince Charlse John burned down in 1819
- Current palace was completed in 1827
- On the northern side of the palace there is the world’s biggest porphyry vase
- Most of the original furnishing is still displayed in Rosendal Palace today
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on Rosendals Garden (Rosendals trädgård) that was built as a park worthy of the royal property which stands nearby. I have not given much attention to the palace at Rosendal in the aforementioned post, but only because in this one we are going to discover when, how, and why Rosendal Palace on the northern edge of Djurgården was built.
The summer royal residence is not the first property standing on the land. When then Crown Prince Charles John (Karl Johan), born Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, decided to acquire the property, there had already been multiple buildings standing including residential buildings, a separate kitchen, and stables. The prince purchased the property for 16,000 riksdaler in 1817 and during the same year expanded it by acquiring two neighbouring properties known as Sirishov and Övre Manilla. To give you an idea about the density of population on Djurgården at the time, it is enough to say that Manilla stands roughly 1.4 kilometres from Rosendal Palace.
In May 1817, there was a total of 86 people working on turning the property into a royal residence. The working hours were from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening, six days a week. Thanks to the rigorous accounting of the prince himself, we also know that the salaries ranged from 10 to 40 skilling (1 skilling was equivalent of 1/48 riksdaler). In summer of the same year, even more workers were hired to speed up the works.
There are many possible reasons why Charles John would want to purchase the property. It is clear that the main reason was so that he would have a place where he could take a break from the duties that awaited him daily at the Royal Palace while still being close to the city. It is not so clear, though, why he purchased Rosendal in particular. Historical sources speculate about several possible reasons that might have affected the prince’s decision and one of them is especially intriguing. Some suggest that the proximity of the army exercise field called Ladugårdsgärdet together with the ‘Royal tent city’ Borgen were what attracted the prince mostly. These places were known for their tradition of organising large festivities with great consumption of tobacco, beer, and herring in summer months.
Only a few months after the main building of the newly acquired property had been furnished for the new King Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan), it burned down completely in early 1819. While other buildings at Rosendal remained untouched, only a handful of movables could be rescued from the one inhabited by the king.
It took a couple of years before first architectural proposals for a new palace were ready. The first one created by architect Fredrik Blom consisted of a single-floor building with pavilions on both sides of the main building. However, this plan was redesigned, extended and modified several times during 1823. It is possible that the king’s decision to build a larger palace was affected by the arrival of Queen Desideria and Crown Princess Josefina in Stockholm in June of the same year. We can reasonably believe that this event made Charles John change his mind and have a family summer residence built instead of a king’s pavilion.
Eventually, works on the new palace started sometime in late summer of 1823 and the exterior was completed about two years later. When it was entirely completed, in 1827, the palace was evaluated by an insurance company for over 30,000 riksdaler. According to the king’s books, architect Blom received more than 57,000 riksdaler for his work over the entire period.
Visitors from around the world, as well as locals, appreciated the new palace on Djurgården and many known individuals expressed their admiration publicly. French author Xavier Marmier described the property as ‘simple, but graceful and tasteful; looking rather like a villa of a nobleman than a royal palace.’ Christian Molbeck, a Danish writer and historian, complimented Rosendal Palace as ‘the most elegant summer residence he had visited.’
Charles XIV John was known as a man who had amassed a huge fortune even before he became the crown prince of Sweden. Consequently, he financed many projects and investments from his own pocket and Rosendal Palace was not an exception. As he supported local artists and manufacturers, too, most of the furnishings at Rosendal have Swedish origins. It may come as a surprise that even at that time, around the 1820s, similar furniture could be imported, for instance, from France for roughly half the price. Acts such as this one earned the king significant recognition.
Apart from Rosendals Garden, the palace is mostly surrounded by nature. However, there is at least one monumental element standing outside that deserves particular attention. Early in 1823, before any plans for the new palace were presented, the king ordered an enormous porphyry vase that was meant to be put at Rosendal. Everything we know suggests that Charles XIV John did not have any plan as to where or how the vase would be displayed at the time he ordered it. To understand why this vase is so important, you should know that it is the world’s largest porphyry vase ever made. It took two years and about 3,500 man working days to complete. The vase still stands on the northern side of the palace today.
In the present day, Rosendal Palace houses a museum of Charles XIV John and the Empire style in which the palace was originally furnished. In Sweden, this style is also known as Charles John’s style and as the furnishing in the palace is mostly original, it gives you an authentic look at the period during which the king lived. Keep in mind that the museum is only open during summer months, though. You can, however, admire the exterior of the palace all year round and as you will likely be one of a very few people around, you can enjoy it as much as you want.
If you think Rosendal Palace alone is not worth your trip to Djurgården, Trevl has got you covered. Check out my earlier post for all beautiful places you can see outside on the Djurgården island.
We have more travel inspiration waiting for you on our Instagram account, which I invite you to check out while you wait for our next post. You can also sign up for our newsletter or join us on Facebook to keep yourself updated on the latest news from Trevl. I can hint that in the next post, we are going to dig deeper into the history of Stockholm and discover the origins of the beautiful city on the water.
Laine, Christian, 2003. Rosendals slott.