The Swedish king visits Eskilstuna. Poto: Andreas Berglund/Sveriges Radio.

A reluctant king marks 40 years on the throne

"He'd rather have been a farmer."
3:28 min

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf is celebrating 40 years on the throne. But with low approval ratings and criticism of what some see as arrogance and irritation with the media, will the anniversary be a happy one for Sweden's head of state?

Carl Gustaf was thrust into the role of king at the age of 27, after the death of his grandfather. Carl Gustaf's father, Gustaf Adolf, died in a plane crash when he was just a baby.

Speaking to Swedish Radio's P1, Karin Lennmor, editor of Svensk Damtidning, says that she thinks the problem was that he became king so young.

"This meant that his grandfather and uncle were closely involved in his upbringing and they could not have foreseen in 1973 that modern-day media holds people in public life - be they royalty or politicians - to the extent they do today," Lenmor explains.

She says that this is what the king hasn't understood and this is why he gets frustrated with the media.

Lenmor adds that in his heart of hearts, the king would have preferred to have been a farmer.

As a young man, Carl Gustaf had a reputation as a playboy prince - enjoying the company of models and a taste for fast cars.

Rumours surrounding his private life have persisted, and were brought to light anew in the 2010 book The Reluctant Monarch.

The book was criticised for lacking credible sources, but it clearly further affected the way the king treats the media.

The book also sparked a fall in the king's personal approval ratings which have never fully recovered.

That said, approval ratings for the monarchy as a whole remain very high.

Lenmor says that 78% of Swedes still want to have a monarchy, and approval ratings for Crown Princess Victoria are sky-high. She also says that it's likely that Viktoria will make a far better monarch than Carl Gustaf.

The king also made several embarrassing slip-ups. In one incident, widely criticised by human rights groups, the king praised the Sultan of Brunei for openness during an official visit.

He did however gain widespread praise for a speech he delivered after the tsunami of December 2006, in which 554 Swedes lost their lives.

While the king might be getting tired of his role, we're unlikely to see an abdication any time soon.

Lenmore says that there's no tradition of abdication in Sweden - and hopes that the king might start handing over his official duties to his three children in due course.

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