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The Swedish Royal Family
Many (most?) non-Scandinavians seem to think that a country that should be egalitarian, democratic like Sweden should be a republic, so I guess the first point I should make is that Sweden has a royal family. The country has been a kingdom for over 1,000 years and its official name is Kungariket Sverige (or The Kingdom of Sweden in English). Like the UK, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy in which the King is the Head of Government without power and ceremonial duties: power rests with the Head of Government, the Statsminister (Prime Minister).
I am always amused when I read or hear anti-monarchists or would-be republicans in the UK argue that no modern, successful, democratic country can have an unelected head. My answer is that, apart from the UK itself and the other commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, what is not democratic in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium? Don’t forget Spain: it wasn’t long ago that they re-established the monarchy as the best guarantee that the country would remain democratic after years of fascist dictatorship. Others say Greece and several Balkan countries would benefit from doing the same. And I’m sure Japan and Malaysia also consider themselves modern and successful. All these countries are monarchies!
Another argument these people use is cost. However, in the UK, the money spent on the Queen’s duties as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth is paid from the public purse so that the Queen pays the Government money from the Crown Estate. In the financial year to 31 March 2005 the excess income from the Crown Estate paid to the Treasury was £184.8 million, while the Head of State’s income for 2005-06 was only £37.4 million. And governing every 50 years is cheaper than elections every five years.
One problem with being a republic (assuming you keep the model of the Prime Minister as Head of Government and the position of President) is, who do you want to be your President? A very divisive choice for a former politician (Maggie Thatcher or Tony Blair, anyone?). Or ‘famous celebrity’? What about President Beckham? Otherwise you get a non-controversial decision that no one knows about – especially outside of their country. No? Well then, name the President of Germany. (If you said Angela Merkel, you just proved my point).
Well, back to Sweden and its royal family, the House of Bernadotte. Is he, I hear you say, called Bernadotte and not Svensson? Yes, because of history, they are. The current king of Sweden is Carl XVI Gustaf, who was born in 1946 and has reigned since 1973 and is the seventh king from the royal family of Bernadette. In 1976 he married his queen, Sylvia, who is half German and half Brazilian whom he met while attending the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He was the first king of Sweden to marry in more than 200 years, but it was necessary for him to wait until his coronation to marry because Sylvia was a commoner and, according to Swedish law at the time, she should have lost. throne. He succeeded his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, who was an expert in sign language and closely associated with the English court. She married not one, but two, English kings. The first was Queen Margaret of Connaught, daughter of Prince Arthur, third son of Queen Victoria, who sadly died at the age of forty. The second was Lady Louise Mountbatten, formerly Queen Louise of Battenberg. She was the sister of Lord Louis Mountbatten and the aunt of the Duke of Edinburgh. Lady Louise later became Queen of Sweden.
I lived in Sweden in the 1970s and I remember that King Gustaf VI Adolf was a very popular and respected king, knowledgeable and known for his interest in antiquities and plants. His five children (both Queen Margaret) were able to make this succession question even more difficult. The eldest and heir to the throne, also known as Gustaf Adolf, was killed in January 1947 when his DC-3, on a KLM flight scheduled from Holland, crashed into Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen, killing everyone on board. He was the father of the present king, who was 1 year old at the time.
The second and fifth children, both male, restrained themselves by marrying commoners. The third child was a girl, Ingrid, who married the Crown Prince of Denmark and was the mother of the Queen of Denmark, Margaretha II. Only the fourth child, Bertil, protected his interests by not marrying his lover, a peasant from Swansea named Lilian Davies; they were sitting together in silence. If Gustaf VI Adolf had already died, Bertil would have been the ruler of the infant king, or the king himself if the child died. However, when the current king grew up, Bertil and Lilian got married. Princess Lilian is still alive and a member of the Swedish royal family.
In some circles in Sweden in the mid-1960s there was something of a republican movement, although there was no question of doing anything while the old king was still alive. However, I seem to remember that there was an attempt to use the fact that his successor was still a teenager. The idea was that the minimum age for accession to the throne should be raised from 21 to 25, in anticipation that the old king would die before his grandson reached the age of 25. The new king was 27 years old. Also, the young prince was not very popular, and it was believed that he was not bright. very much. He is known to have mispronounced his name and there were rumors about his school exam results to allow him to complete his studies. Only in the 1990s was it confirmed that he had dyslexia.
His marriage to Queen Sylvia, who quickly learned Swedish and settled in the country, confirmed the monarchy’s position in the country, although new laws removed the king’s final powers. The royal family has three children, and the law was changed in 1980 so that the first born, regardless of sex, succeeds to the throne. The heir to the Swedish throne is now Crown Princess Victoria, who was born in 1977 and was named after her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Yes, Bernadette. Well, to cut a long story (fairly) short, in 1809 Sweden lost Finland, which was the eastern half of the country. Resentment against King Gustav IV Adolf led to his abdication by his uncle, the childless Karl XIII. At that time King Napoleon ruled most of Continental Europe through client kingdoms led by his brothers. So the Swedish parliament decided to find a solution that worked for a long time by choosing a king that was acceptable to Napoleon. In 1810 he chose Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s Marshals, as his heir. It probably helped that Bernadette was married to Désirée Clary, and thus was the sister-in-law of Joseph, Napoleon’s brother.
As Crown Prince of Sweden, Bernadotte assumed the title of Carl Johan and served as Regent for the remainder of Karl XIII’s reign. He also secured a binding treaty between Sweden and Norway in 1814. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte ruled as King Carl XIV of Sweden and Carl III Johan of Norway from 1818 until his death in 1844. Let’s not forget that he assumed his new role as king. seriously, favoring the interests of Sweden over those of his native France.
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