Haga: Sweden’s ‘royal nursery’ preps for a new arrival

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.

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

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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Power points: What I learned driving 1,777km through France in an electric car

France is a land of many inventions including the cinema, cricket (a disputed claim admittedly) and the electric car, writes John Lichfield.

Power points: What I learned driving 1,777km through France in an electric car
The French government offers big subsidies to people who buy electric cars. Photo: AFP

Unfortunately, the French invented the electric car a century and a half too early.

In late 19th century, many French cars were electric-powered. They operated on giant batteries which could not be recharged. In the first decade of the 20th century, they were run off the road by the Model-T Ford and by cheap, untaxed petrol.

The second French coming of the electric car, post circa-2014, has been slow – despite government subsidies of €6,000 a car, raised to €7,000 from June.

Sales have jumped in the last two years. There are now reckoned to be over 80,000 private, electric cars on French roads – about 2 percent of the national fleet.

This month, I did my bit for the revolution. I drove a Renault Zoe for 1,777 kilometres from Normandy to the Atlantic Coast to Occitanie and back to Normandy.


The experience was, by turns, wonderful and frustrating.

Wonderful because we limited ourselves almost entirely to two-lane roads, rediscovering the vastness of France and its endless variety and beauty, often unknown or forgotten.

Wonderful, also, because the secondary road network in France has been so improved and is so well-maintained (whatever the Gilets Jaunes may say). Some of us recall the crumbling and dangerous N and D roads of the 1970s and 1980s.

Almost all of the roads that we travelled – many of them D-roads – were well-surfaced and had expensively remodelled junctions. France has become, overnight it seems, a land of one million roundabouts.

But what of electric travel in France in 2020? Is it a viable alternative to petrol or diesel?

Is it cheaper? How easy is it to find and use the public recharging points?

This is where the frustrations start.

Much depends on what kind of electric car you use. There are now 43 models available for sale in France, ranging from the expensive to the very expensive.

A Renault Zoe on the production line at Flins-sur-Seine in Yvelines. Photo: AFP

A top of the range Tesla costs €90,000; a bottom of the range Zoe costs €32,000 if you buy, rather than lease, the battery. This is between two and three times more than the equivalent petrol or diesel cars.

The government and regional subsidies help but they apply in full only to the cheaper models.

The cheapest Tesla gives you 500 kilometres of travel before you need to stop and recharge. My 2019 Zoe gives, in theory, 300km (actually it can be less, or more, depending on the ambient temperature, average speed and steepness of the terrain). The new version 2020 Zoe gives 395km.

I’ve had my Zoe for just over a year. It is intended as a city or local rural run-about. In that role, it is excellent.

It’s not a car for long-distances, unless you decide, as we did, to re-create the experience of “motoring” through France in the 1960s.

As soon as you travel at over 90kph, battery power melts alarmingly. Ditto when you go up steep hills but at least your battery recharges when you come down the other side.

Teslas, as I understand it, can travel at full autoroute speed without losing too much range. Other, cheaper (but not cheap) electric cars are more like the Zoe.

What about recharging when far from home? This is, in theory, simple. There are over 28,000 charging points in France. Most small towns and many large villages have them.

A charging point in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Photo: AFP

The problem is that they are operated by local or regional networks – or in the case of the super-fast ones, national or international networks. The prices vary. So do the connecting cables. So do the charging speeds.

Some order and common-sense has been brought to this jumble in the last year or so by badges or cards which give access to most (not all) of the charging bornes. I have joined Chargemap. Other cards are available.

In our Travels with Zoe, the cost of recharges at public bornes ranged from €10.26 to zero. The expensive one was in Perigueux in Dordogne. The free one was at a supermarket south of Limoges.

Free is good but we earned it by spending two hours of our Sunday in an empty supermarket carpark.

Lengths of re-charging time vary with the power of the borne. With our Zoe, a complete recharge at the most common points varied from four hours to two hours. At home it takes 12 hours. The new fast points claim to be able to recharge half a Tesla battery in half an hour.

Finding the bornes is, in theory, easy. There are several apps which list and locate them. In practise, they can be hard to spot. Once found, they are occasionally out of order or closed. In one town we visited, two charging stations were out of action and one had the wrong kind of connection.

For 1,777 km, I spent €26.54 on electricity. Of this €24.44 went on public charging points. The rest – €2.10 – is the estimated cost of three charges on house mains. By my estimate, a similar trip would cost €180 to €220 in petrol or diesel, depending on the size of the car. My estimated saving in autoroute tolls was €90.

On the other hand, the need to recharge for long periods meant that we spent three nights in hotels that we might otherwise have avoided. Cost: €300.


Conclusion one: The Zoe is not a car for speeding through France – and does not claim to be. It is a wonderful little car for care-free wandering carelessly La France Profonde (care-free but range-anxious).

For comparison, someone sent me an example of an 832 km Tesla journey in France which took ten hours with two recharges and cost €25.

Conclusion two: Buying an electric car – any electric car – is expensive and probably a bad idea. Their re-sale value is likely to be small as subsequent models improve.

Consider leasing instead. I did not buy my Zoe, I leased it – and its battery – for three years. I reckon that the saving in diesel alone has paid for the lease.

Conclusion three:  This time around, electric cars are here to stay.