It was a lazy morning on the bus to work. The box on wheels empty because of the summer break. I looked out of the window towards the street, it was quiet most stalls still shuttered and hours away from opening with mannequins posing along the glass windows underneath large SALE signs. The streets of Odenplan were beautiful but my eyes grew tired and the scene before me become a blur. I turned back into the bus and looked around the bus. The words on the LED light mentioned something about bus times changing on the 14th of July for the Crown Princess.
I whipped out my phone, the 14th July 2017 is the 40th birthday of the Crown Princess of Sweden, Victoria, one of the most loved royal family members in Sweden.
Crown Princess Victoria (Source)
I awoke from my slumber, the chance of a public holiday shining more brightly than the shine. Did that mean a public holiday? What goes on on the Crown Princesses’ birthday?
“Well, that’s the day you stuff yourself with Princess cake (prinsesstårta),” came the deadpan reply from a colleague at the office.
Princess Cake (Source)
“Awesome! I haven’t had that cake in a while!”
She cracked a grin as I responded, it was more an grin and an incredulous smile*. Did he actually believe it, here eyes said…
It sounded like it could be true (this is the land of Cinnamonbun day and Sweets day and Semla day), then it struck me this didn’t make sense, what if the Crown was to be to a Prince not a Princess…
I really need to get be better at identifying Swedish humour.
A day of celebration for the royals may come as a surprise to a person who grew up in a republic, and I sometimes have to constantly remind myself that Sweden is a kingdom with a democratic parliament and a constitutional monarchy. Royalty matters in monarchies.
The first time I came across a Royal Birthday being a public holiday was when my Dutch colleagues spoke about King’s Day on 27th April. It is a public holiday in the Netherlands and a massive carnival and street parade and party.
The date changes based on who the ruling monarch is, it was 30th April in the Netherlands under the former Queen Beatrix, the mother of the current Dutch king, who abdicated in 2013. Even if someone is a republican, this is as good an excuse for a party as any.
In contrast, in Sweden there is no major public holiday for King’s Day, let along the Crown Princesses’, but there is a televised party with celebrities performing.
Or at least, that’s what I’m told will happen.
In the run up to today, there have been television shows in both Sweden and nearby Germany about the life and times of Crown Princess Victoria.
And to think she wasn’t even supposed to be the Crown Princess. Her birth in 1977 as the eldest child put her in the royal family, but Sweden then practiced a system of agantic primogeniture meaning the closest male would take the throne and soit was her younger brother Carl Phillip when he was born 2 years later. This law was changed in 1980 into an absolute primogeniture, meaning the first born child regardless of sex would become the future reining monarch and first in line.
In fact the current royal family (the House of Bernadotte) is descended from a French line that first had a reigning king in Karl XIV Johan in 1818. King Karl XIV Johan was born Jean Bernadotte and was a Marshall in Napolean’s military. The then Swedish king, Karl XIII of the House of Holstein-Gottorp was decrepit and had no heirs ending the line of the royal family. The successor to his line was a major problem for years, and his original heir-presumptive from Denmark died a few months upon arrival in Sweden. The chalice was then offered to Bernadotte who was seen as a good candidate by the Swedish Army in view of their potential future clashes with the Russians (things don’t really change do they) as well as the fact that he was popular with Swedes as a commander for protecting Swedish people in Lubeck. An individual of high rank personally approached him with the offer, to which Bernadotte responded that he would not reject if offered. Napolean saw this as an absurd joke and didn’t not bother to respond. Strangely the idea caught on and Bernadotte was elected heir by the Swedish parliament. Bernadotte’s first decision was to reconquer Norway to make a Scandanavian Union. Something that after much resistance became reality in the century long reign of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway.
But public support is a fickle thing, and monarchies go through highs and lows. Karl XIV Johan went through it and so does the royal family today. In fact just in 2010 before the public wedding of the Crown Princess, a public survey showed that less than half of the Swedish public wanted the royal family to remain and more than a quarter wanted the abolition of the monarchy. Many calls had been made since the 1970s when the current king, King Carl Gustav ascended to the throne for the end of the monarchy or the abdication of the king. According to the Swedes I spoke to, it was the younger generation of royals that reversed things. Since the lows of the early 2010s, support for the institution has climbed back to just under 70 percent.
Swedish Royal Family today (Source)
How did the younger royals, especially Crown Princesss Victoria win back support?
The reasons it seems as many as the people I spoke to. For one, in the most socially progressive country on earth, the decision to make Crown Princess Victoria the Crown Princess instead of her younger brother (Carl Phillip) was seen as a socially progressive and correct step. Then came the fact that the family is opens about their humanity (and don’t make a show and tell about sameness as the average person) and is not a closed/snobby one. The current Queen Sylvia was born a commoner from Germany of Brazilian ancestry, the husband of Crown Princess Victoria – Daniel – was her personal trainer, and a self-made businessman,
the spouses of the Prince Carl-Philip and Princess Madeleine, the younger sibling were a TV star and financier. The latter is not even Swedish and not officially a royal.
The humanization of Crown Princess Victoria, who has been open about formerly facing anorexia – a common mental health disorder facing especially young women that goes ignored and shamed, as well as her support for LGBTQ rights, setting up foundations for disabled children and the chronically ill to be able to live and have recreational activities among other official duties (like representing Sweden overseas as one of the most important permanent diplomats for the country)
All that leaves me is to wish the Crown Princess a happy birthday!
Time to get that Princess Cake…
*All in good fun of course