The Swedish King’s daughter married Daniel Westling in Stockholm yesterday. Daniel’s a pretty normal sort of bloke and has a pretty normal sort of background; you’d describe him as a ‘commoner’ in this context. Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding was an eagerly-awaited occasion after an eight-year courtship that was formalised with the announcement of a wedding in February last year. Sveriges Television [SVT], the Swedish version of the BBC, provided an excellent live webcast so Mission Control was able to indulge herself in the events of the day, which started with interviews of middle-aged ladies on deckchairs in a sunny Nybroplan and finished with a fairytale waltz in the Drottningholm Palace. By that time, yours truly was fairytaled-out and seeking solace in a glass of J&B but I saw enough to have been pretty impressed with both the sensitivity and restraint that had been shown in what might be one of the last big royal weddings we see in the civilised world.
The wedding took place after an opinion poll in April when Swedes were asked if they saw merit in maintaining a constitutional monarchy. Well, the outcome was something of a goalless draw with about half wanting to keep it and half wanting a republic. Around 28% wanted it abolished altogether, which is of increasing significance in the long-term – if they can come up with a palatable alternative. Mind you, knowing Sweden as I do I’d need a clearer definition of what the Swedes perceive as a republic in a country where there is still a statute obliging you to report a neighbour to the authorities if you think he is living beyond his means. At the moment it’s a bit like Communism with Tesco. But the public interest and widespread enthusiasm made it clear that the Royals in Sweden still engender a fair amount of respect and a lot of affection; a reported throng of half-a-million turned up to cheer and wave the blue and yellow flags yesterday.
There was less respect shown by the Sunday Times this morning. Gracious enough to report the event they headlined the front-page picture with a caption describing the groom as a gym coach. This was supercilious and dismissive in the worst of English tradition as the guy has built personal training into a successful business and holds several board positions. King Carl XVI Gustaf, showing a great deal more perception and magnanimity than the sneering ST, made it clear in his wedding speech that his daughters’ happiness – Victoria’s sister is Madeleine – was paramount and that they should remain free to choose their life-partners without being burdened by the shackles of tradition and protocol. After all, look what that did for Prince Charles.
Sweden changed with the Constitution Act 1974 when it reduced the Monarch’s power to ‘rule the country alone’ and provided that ‘All public power in Sweden derives from the People’. The Swedish Republican Association wants rid of the monarchy altogether even though its diminishing power has been further eroded by virtue of having a popular and egalitarian female heir to the throne who is ‘normal’ and now married to a lowly gym coach. She’s much liked and respected for it and, through being less aloof and separate from the proletariat, moves Sweden further away from the governing structure that the Republicans find so distasteful.
As is so often the case, the interesting aspect is that a Princess has demonstrated that she has more vision and perspicacity than the Republicans who want to remove her. As they say on their forum ‘All state functions answers to democratic legislations’[sic], which sounds like good news for Sweden, the state-control of alcohol, maternity leave for men and, er, Tesco.
As for me, they seem a blissfully happy couple; I wish them a long, happy and healthy life with not too much trouble from the comrades.