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The Political Ploys of the Royalty

Published onsdag 16 juni 2010 kl 15.50
How does the Swedish monarchy retain its power?

Sweden is known for its sense of equality and its democratic principles. But its official name is still the Kingdom of Sweden, and its head-of-state is a man who just happens to be related to a French military officer, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, who was brought in to fill the role of Swedish king starting in 1818. And the current king, Carl XVI Gustaf, wasn’t elected to his post—he was simply born to it.

The seeming disconnect between a democracy and an institution determined by heritage has not gone unnoticed in the run-up to Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding, not least because of her future husband’s commoner roots. Does such a thing as “royal blood” have a place in a democratic society? And if it does, can mixing the blood of a small-town son of civil servants water down the royal line? And how much does it all matter if the Swedish line’s “royal blood” actually originated in a decidedly non-royal French military officer?

They are all valid questions, many of which have been making their way into the public debate in light of the wedding. The Swedish Republican Association has seen a jump in their membership numbers, and polls suggest that a greater proportion of the Swedish population would like to see the monarchy disappear compared to six years ago. But still, the latest poll doesn’t put that number any higher than 28 percent. That means that more than two in three Swedes want the monarchy to stick around.

But let’s take a step back. Where does this hereditary monarchy come from? In a country like Sweden, where farmers won a right to sit in parliament as early as the 15th century, it’s no matter of course.

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