Category Archives: In Sweden

Royal history in Edinburgh

Ylva in Edinburgh 2 July 2017On a weekend visit to Edinburgh, your blogger enjoyed the extensive exhibition “On the trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites”.  In fact it was well into the second half before Bonnie Prince himself arrived but the ground had been thoroughly prepared. There were no less than five challenges to the united English/Scottish throne (first occupied by the Stuarts through James I from 1603 but lost in the Glorious Revolution when the Prince’s grandfather James II was exiled).  The Prince also known as the Young Pretender (born in exile) led the last of these in 1745.  He and his followers landed in Scotland and with the support of Highland clansmen, they marched on Edinburgh and occupied Holyrood Palace.

After various battles they headed south in 1746 and took Carlisle and then on towards London but halting fatally at Derby.  Lacking the expected support from French and English volunteers, Prince Charlie then turned north again, with the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II and his troops hot on his heels.  The Duke became known as “the Butcher” after the terrible battle at Culloden, when the Jacobites where not just defeated but slaughtered. Bonnie Prince Charlie survived, fled and hid in various places, including dressing up as a woman, before returning to France, where he declined into drunkenness and ignominy.  A sad story, well told.

PS The statue overlooking Princes Street Garden in the background of the photo is a memorial to the Royal Scots Grey soldiers who participated in the much later Boer War.

And what about the Hamiltons

My interest in all this is of course the Dukes of Hamilton, Hamilton Palace and the history of my painting as told in my book “Finding Veronese, Memoir of a Painting”.  The Hamiltons were in fact second in line to the Scottish throne, but managed for the most part to stay out of Jacobite politics.  The 1st Duke of Hamilton had been a clo1st Duke of Hamiltonse associate of King Charles I (son of James I) and had lost his head in the same way 100 years earlier.

So while I was in Edinburgh I went along to the National Portrait Gallery to see this outstanding painting of the 1st Duke of Hamilton, by Daniel Mytens. 

Venice comes to London

Can’t face the summer crowds in Venice?  Why not head to the Queen’s Gallery in London where Canaletto and the Art of Venice has just opened?  This beautifully presented exhibition includes not just HM The Queen’s works by Canaletto but many works of art by his contemporaries, such as Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Rosalba Carriera, Zuccarelli and Battista.Canaletto Ca-Rezzonico

The common factor apart from Venice itself is Joseph Smith who, as British Consul in Venice, put together an extraordinary collection not just of paintings but also books and prints, which was sold to King George III in 1765.  As a result the Royal Collection has one of the world’s most outstanding works from this golden age of Venetian art.

So it was with a particular interest in Joseph Smith that I visited the exhibition, as it displays Canaletto’s work in the context of other artists in Venice at the time, many of whom were supported by Joseph Smith. In my book Finding Veronese – Memoir of a painting, I followed one of these works, a copy of a Veronese altarpiece probably by Sebastiano Ricci, and its journey across Europe from Venice to London, to Scotland and finally to Sweden.

I have spent many hours looking through auction catalogues, books and documents in search of evidence for my painting’s origin.  Was it once part of the Joseph Smith collection?  At the Queen’s Gallery I found one or two further leads.  So the search continues.

In the meantime, my book is still available as an E-book on Amazon.

A Swedish discovery in an English castle

At the end of March I visited Longford Castle near Salisbury, having booked a tour some time ago.  It was only when I looked for more information the day before that I discovered an amazing Swedish connection. 

As a young Swedish noblewoman, Elin or Helena as she became, travelled with Princess Cecilia, daughter to Gustav Vasa, on a visit to the English court at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth in 1564.  They had to avoid Denmark and the North Sea due to previous hostilities and the roundabout journey through the Baltic and German states took almost a year! 

Once arrived in London they settled at Bedford House. Queen Elizabeth took a liking to the young red-haired Helena and when Cecilia returned to Sweden, Helena stayed as Maid of Honour.  Soon she was spotted by an elderly nobleman, Sir William Parr, brother of the former queen Catherine Parr.  They were married and Helena became Marchioness of Northampton.  Within a year she was a wealthy widow, and returned to court, where she was attracted to the much younger Thomas Gorges, second cousin of Anne Boleyn.  They married and settled at his estate at Longford.  By chance a Spanish galleon was beached at Hurst Castle not far away in 1588 and Elizabeth, still favouring her “royal” relative, allowed the couple to benefit from the treasures on board.  So their ambitions for the new castle could now be matched by gold – and a grand building not unlike Gripsholm Castle in Sweden took shape.Helena Snakenborg

Helena and Thomas had eight surviving children and several properties, one near the Queen at Sheen, Richmond, and continued to be part of the court until Queen Elizabeth died in 1603.  Helena, still Marchioness of Northampton, served as chief mourner at her funeral.  Helena died at the age of 86 in 1635 and joined her husband in the elaborate marble tomb in Salisbury Cathedral.  At that time it was said there were over 90 living descendants.  (according to Wikipedia)

(A few weeks before I had seen this portrait at Tate Britain of a young red-haired women, “probably Helena Snakenborg, later Marchioness of Northampton”.)  (Picture courtesy Tate)



A gripping read…..

The first review of my new book has appeared on Amazon, describing the book as a “gripping read”.  And goes on to say…

“A most enjoyable read that keeps you on tenterhooks throughout. Living on the flight path covered in the book brings home the reality of the dreadful consequences should such a disaster occur. The author is to be congratulated for her research into the local areas involved and the creation of some very plausible characters.”

The Go Around”, is now on Amazon as an E-book.  Set in London it’s a fictional account of what could happen one day when the elaborate systems we create to avoid air accidents break down. This is a tragic drama of course but the focus is on those on the ground – how do Londoners cope as part of the suburbs is engulfed by the catastrophe. Go to to download and read on your Kindle, Ipad or PC.

November 2016 – Update on Family book

My family history book has been well received by cousins and others across Sweden and elsewhere.

Comments include cousin Leif writing from Brazil:
…..ett fantastiskt arbete…. En historia, som ju ger en bild av livet i Sverige på den tiden. (a great job…A story which gives a picture of life in Sweden at that time)

My nephew, Christian, emailing from Stockholm, said:
Kul med boken, har läst hela och tyckte den var mycket intressant och lärorik. (What a book, have read all of it and thought it was very interesting and instructive.)

My friend from school, Birgitta, wrote:
Jag har nu läst den och tycker den är ett härligt dokument för sin tid. Känner igen mycket från mina far och morföräldrar. (I have now read it and thought it was a great document for its time. Recognise much from my grandparents….)

My friend in London, Pia Helena Omerod, emailed:
Tack för att jag fått ta del av din familjs spännande äventyr….. Så mycket forskning du gjort och så välskrivet. Delimitace . (Thank you for sharing your family’s exciting adventure….so much research and well written).

There are still copies available. So get in touch…..

My new book about the Grönstedt family from Dalarna

My latest book – the story of the Grönstedt family from Dalarna who made their home in Saltsjöbaden – in Swedish – is now available from the author See below.

The book tells the story of Karl and Maria Grönstedt who settled in Saltsjöbaden where Stockholm meets the Baltic Sea in the early years of the 20th century. They found a large house called Majgården and soon filled it with many children. It is also the story about their ancestors from Dalarna, generations of soldiers, who later made the journey from the countryside to the big city in the 19th century, when times were hard for many Swedish people and millions emigrated. It is difficult for us, Karl and Maria’s grandchildren, to understand and appreciate how close we came to not being here at all.

I am one of those grandchildren and my interest was first of all in a painting which is now in my home here in London. I inherited this picture from my mother Karin and she from her mother, Maria Grönstedt. My research was from the beginning focused on the painting’s journey from Venice sometime in the early 18th century to London and then to a palace in Scotland, back to a huge auction in London and then onwards in the world until it ended up in the house in Saltsjöbaden 1927. How had that happened?

There was much to research regarding the painting’s journey, this took me to Venice and Verona, and led to many days of reading in the library at the Victoria and Albert Museum and on the internet. The result was the book about the painting, Finding Veronese, still available as an E-book on Amazon. The trail had finally led to Stockholm and among my cousins’ photographs and their memories I discovered more about our grandparents’ life. So this became my next project and the more I found out, the more I realised that their life story reflected a period of Swedish history when many people were poor and sickly but some were brave and adventurous, taking risks and finally prospering. There was much in the story of our family that we could be proud of and that many others would recognise as their own.

I found inspiration among my cousins, and siblings, from photographs and church archives, some letters, and also from the books about Stockholm, written by Per Anders Fogelström, which my mother had given me when I left my home city. I read the books again and again during this time and learnt a lot. It became clear during my research that Maria’s father Alfred and Karl’s father Frans Knut came to Stockholm around 1870 with nothing, but with some advantages that others did not have. This made it possible for them to establish themselves in the growing city, seek inspiration from the increasing population, meet their needs for clothes, food and housing, and thus create capital for the future. My admiration for them and for the women who supported them is immeasurable.

Från Dalarna till Saltsjöbaden – Familjen Grönstedts historia (64 pages) is available by post from Ylva French, – price 150 Swedish kronor or £15 including postage and packing.

Finding Veronese – looking forward

An amazing year has passed in the story of My Painting. After so much research involving sources and people in Italy, Sweden, Germany, Scotland, the United States and here in London the book was published in March 2014. This was in time for the major Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery which transformed the great rooms of the gallery to provide the best setting for paintings in the collection already and from overseas. The critics agreed that it marked a milestone in our appreciation of Paolo Veronese and his work.

In August I travelled to Verona, on an opera tour, but took the opportunity, of course to see the Veronese exhibition again in the town where he was born. While the exhibition in Verona did not have the magnificent setting of the National Gallery, it added further to our understanding of Veronese with many drawings.

The altarpiece from San Zaccaria in Venice was one of many wonderful paintings in the exhibition and stood up well among the many later paintings where Veronese excelled at his art as he got older. My book about the painting, published on Kindle as an E-book, was well received by those who read it but did not reach the larger readership that I had hoped for, partly due to its E-book format.

So I am now working on the second edition, which will be in print as well as an E-book. So the research continues, focusing on several areas: Veronese’s childhood in Verona and the art he would have seen in the city’s churches at the time; More about Joseph Smith and the many visitors who came to Venice during his time; How did the painting reach the Hamiltons in Scotland? And what happened when my grandfather travelled to Switzerland?

If you are reading this for the first time and have comments or information to share, do get in touch. I am aiming for Spring 2015 for the second edition. Watch this space!

Ylva French
December 2014


Finding Veronese….. in London

As Veronese fever hits London later this month, when the Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery opens, my new book has reached the Amazon digital shelves. This has been a labour of love as they say which started with a small painting, which I inherited from my mother. For the last year and a half I have traced its history through various owners until it arrived in my grand-father’s home nearly 100 years ago.

In pursuit of its history I visited Venice last Spring to find out more about the original, a Veronese altarpiece. Martin Randall Tours as some people know are the experts at this sort of thing. Lots of culture, good food and plenty of wine! I walked all over the city in the footsteps of the great man, no not Martin Randall, but Paolo Veronese. site name generator . We went by boat to Torcello and there I made an interesting discovery, as well as getting very cold!

I spent several weeks in Sweden pursuing my story in archives and in the suburb of Saltsjobaden where my grand-parents lived. I also met up with many of my numerous cousins, discovering a treasure trove of photographs taken in the 1920s and ’30s. And made another important discovery.

I spent a week in Scotland, visiting the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton at Lennoxlove, as well as their original home at Hamilton. This small painting was once part of the great collection. Of course there is nothing left of the great Hamilton Palace except for the Mausoleum. And that was another interesting visit!

Several eminent curators have offered advice and opinions on the origin of the small painting, is it a study or is it a later copy? Back home in London, I came to the final chapter of the book after months of writing. I had to provide some answers after all this searching. And I have, for now…..

The original of my painting – the Altarpiece from San Zaccaria Chuch in Venice now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia – will be in the National Gallery exhibition, starting on 19th March. More information here

Download the book, Finding Veronese: Memoir of a Painting at or  v. Search under
Ylva French